There\’s probably a certain truth here

As Kentucky-based Sawyer, 58, points out: \”I scarcely think Jesus could have overturned the tables of the money-lenders and driven them from the temple if he was a wimp. The model I use for my paintings is a surfer guy who\’s built like a brick shithouse.\”

Historically, it would be very odd to think that someone who was a carpenter, in a time when it was all hard manual labour, was a wimp.

One of the little stories I\’ve heard (yes, ancedata) to illustrate this is the cuirasses worn by the Household Cavalry. I think I\’ve got that right, the metal chest and abdomen armour worn by them. They\’re all old gear, originally made for the Georgian and Victorian sons of the soil who made up the regular troops. They\’re big: not tall, but wide and deep. The sorts of chest created by a life on the farm, the hard physical labour of mucking out, ploughing, reaping, baling, beats anything you\’ll see nowadays except on the largest of prop forwards.

Modern physiques simply rattle around in them, they have to be padded out to make sure they don\’t slip and slide all over the place.

Another little piece of anecdata: those prop forwards. It wasn\’t all that long ago, only a few decades, that places like Hawick (the farmers) and Cambourne (the miners) were known as having the biggest and beefiest front rows. To say nothing of the Welsh front rows of the time, miners all.

14 thoughts on “There\’s probably a certain truth here”

  1. I agree. If any of the historical data is accurate then Jesus would have had to have been ‘eye-catching’ as well as being of ‘noble’ descent (from David). A charismatic revolutionary.

    I believe, if ever I believe, that the ‘message’ was merely being channeled. The Bible is fairly scarce from where, but the story of John the Baptist is crucially airbrushed (except by some).

    Jesus was no wimp. But he didn’t get where he is through invention.

    I don’t buy ‘the son of a carpenter’ humility either.

  2. You’re right about the strength of manual labourers back in the day. My grandfather had a worker on his farm who could lift a 17 gallon milk churn onto a cart single handed. That’s about 80kg. The same man could throw bales of hay (25kg) onto a trailer for stacking, up to 3m high by hand, with the aid of a pitchfork. These guys were STRONG!!!

  3. I remember seeing a demonstration where a modern olympic athlete was put in a medieval suit of armour and invited to take a few swings with a sword- after about 2 minutes he was knackered!

  4. As a New Zealander I would agree with you about rugby forwards. We used to think the Welsh the only serious opposition in Britain, because of the size of their miner forwards. The All Blacks of course drew on farmers.

  5. Interesting to see that – whether he was muscled, skinny, or even no more than a left-over morality tale – he’s still represented by artists as a fairly well scrubbed-up Caucasian who could pass for a Northern European any day of the week. Often enough, with blue eyes.

    Tim adds: This isn’t unusual. Statues of Lenin around the place used to take on local characteristics. Lenin in Udmurtia looked rather Udmurt, Lenin in Kazakhstan had a definite Kazakh cast to him etc…..

  6. @formertory: why, yes of course, as everyone knows, Jesus was an Englishman. Jerusalem etc etc. Probably opened the batting for his local team too…………….

  7. When my father was skipper of our town rugby club his great coup was to persuade some of the local fishermen to take up rugby. They hauled the nets by hand in them days.

    Oh, by the way, on the subject of “..the Georgian and Victorian sons of the soil who made up the regular troops”: I remember reading that sons of the soil made poorer troops than the sweepings of the slums – the country boys were too vulnerable to infectious diseases.

  8. I believe a few years back that the Greek navy attempted to match the speed and rowing rate of ancient oarsmen on their trireme reconstruction and failed, they used modern athletes. Then there were the medieval archers who could use a longbow with a draw of around 150 lbs, it takes exceptional strength to be able to do that at the rate they were firing. All of which makes me very glad that I’m alive today, being a weakling with a bad back I wouldn’t have lasted five minutes then. Another thing that needs pointing out to all those romantic fools who would like to see us return to an agricultural economy, the weakest really would go to the wall.

  9. Hmm – but was Jesus a carpenter at all? He’s not described as such – but as “the son of a carpenter”. Assumption being, that he followed Joseph into the family business. But that’s an assumption.
    Plus, describing someone as a “son of a carpenter” was the local jargon for “an uneducated man”.
    We don’t know his profession – but certainly people in those days were accustomed to effort and endurance more than we are today.

  10. Its worth rereading George Orwell – In “The Road to Wigan Pier” he talks about the working day of Lancashire Miners in the 30s – many working in seams too low to be able to stand hence shovelling coal over their heads into trucks from a kneeling position for 10 hours a day, six days a week. Try it sometime and see how long you can keep it up – no help from back or legs – absolutely knackering. Orwell describes them as “Somewhat under-tall from poor diet but muscled above the waist like Hercules” –

  11. Jim W, I have no idea where you get uneducated from. “Craftsman” is arguably a better translation, which would put him in the middle of a system that went labourer – craftsman – landowner. The implication is educated but not rich. The Bible contains several references to his erudition.

    But of course, rural people are tough. I live in rural Thailand and have neighbours that look like Bruce Lee’s granddad.

  12. Roue – thanks for that.
    His family was certainly not poor – his father paid Roman taxes, direct and not via the tax farmer. Must have been prosperous

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