Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
In the 15th year of the Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, when Herod was prince of Galilee, his brother Philip prince of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias prince of Abilene, during the High Priesthood of Annas and Caiphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.
In a patriarchal society being called the "son of ________(insert mother's name) " was the same as being called a bastard. They knew who his mother was.....she gave birth to him...but the son...first born...to be called after his mother was an insult suggesting no one knew who his father was.
I don't remember which gospel but it was suggested by the Pharisees that Jesus was born of fornication"....we are not born of fornication".
I think the rumor was spread in the first century that Jesus may have been the product of Mary's rape by a Roman soldier....Nazareth was after all just a few miles from Tiberius I think...Joseph may have been employed there as it was a new city being built....Joseph DID want to put Mary away quietly...he knew Jesus was not his.
In Jewish society a bastard child was not accepted in any way.....to me...that the man Jesus was God's disclosure to humanity and a bastard...one of the lowest of the low...."yet God highly exalted him...." At his baptism "You are my son, today I have begotten you".....makes Jesus even more accessible to me as the Word made flesh....humanities reject was God's Son.
Nazareth was on the direct route that Roman soldiers took when they (viciously) put down a Jewish 'rebellion' a few years 'BC'-- which is certainly within the range of dates for Jesus' conception-&-birth. They lined the main route for miles with thousands of crosses.
The Medieval Jewish legend we know about... can't be directly traced back-- and there are also less-credible Jewish references in the same sources, saying that he was a magician who'd learned a few tricks in Egypt, or who misused The Name to work miracles and lead Israel astray.
But yes, the passage in John you mention... suggests that nonChristian Jews some decades after Jesus' death were calling Jesus illegitimate.
If only that particular gospel weren't so dubious a source for his actual life.... we might conclude something. But we don't know if Jewish opponents had been saying this all along, or just took it up as a rejoinder to Christian claims. And unlike the later source, it says nothing of who his father was said to be.
I agree, it seems somehow right that Joseph's willingness to marry a woman who would ordinarily been subject to disgrace-- would be the occasion for God to send great mercy into the world. Whatever truth or error there might be in our speculations, that much seems clear.
Coming [Should this read, 'coming back?'-- In the last section, people were already talking about what he'd done there!] down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, he taught the people on the Sabbath, and they were astounded at his teaching, for what he said had the note of authority.
Returning to that story behind the story...
All this background is new to me and seems very interesting and helpful. I am as puzzled as you are about the plague of demons. Perhaps they were no more common 2000 years ago but Jesus and/or the apostles were more interested and more willing to spend time with the suffering "possesed" people.
I've wondered whether Jesus' success with people who were candidates for exorcism in his day, for diagnosis and medication in ours-- stems from his no-fault, harm-reduction outlook... pulling no punches in speaking of the rulers' conduct, while making misconduct and suffering... matters to be simply seen, repented, forgiven.
The wickedness of the rulers was not necessarily greater... but having more invested in maintaining and denying said wickedness, more to gain from it, they were less able to recognize or repent of it.
Crossan has speculated that occupation by a foreign power... makes for strong internal conflict between the spirit of one's national culture, and the spirit being inculcated by the invaders-- which can manifest generally whenever two irreconcilable identities are fighting for control of one small, overwhelmed person.
One day as he stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and the people crowded upon him to listen to the word of God, he noticed two boats lying at the water's edge; the fishermen had come ashore and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he went on teaching the crowds from his seat in the boat.
The fear of being up to here in strange fish? Oh no, we wouldn't want anybody peculiar in our Meeting!
I didn't think there was anything to say about this passage; it just wanted to come next so I let it. But something like what you say does seem to be going on between our M&O and Outreach committees. Big fuss about whether we should publicly call ourselves "Quakers" or "The [not very] Religious Society of Friends," and I think it's all about fear for our reputation(s).
Jesus wasn't worried about that, and collected an odd bunch of people. We started off trying to prove a 17th Century point about whether live people can give up Sin-- and now we're still washing the outside of the cup, hiding behind silence, functioning as a club for Good People.