Having withdrawn from normal life, they are free to concentrate on "explanations of the sacred scriptures [that] are delivered by mystic expressions in allegories."

The Social Reason. Under Herod the Great, in the generation before Jesus, Romanization hit Judea with full force. In two of that world's biggest building projects, Herod constructed a great all-weather port for commercial products at Caesarea and added a vast courtyard for pagan pilgrims to Jerusalem's Temple.

He also built Temples to Roma and Augustus, the twin deities of Rome's new world order, in the far north, the center, and the south of the country. But despite all that building activity, he never touched Lower Galilee. It was only under his son, Herod Antipas, in the generation of John the Baptist and Jesus, that Rome's economic boom hit that region. The rebuilding of Sepphoris in 4 BCE and the commercialization of its surrounding land led to the building of Tiberias in 19 CE and the commercialization of its surrounding lake. This meant that, by the 20s--during the time of Jesus' life--Antipas was ready to retry his earlier attempt to become King of the Jews.

None of that meant the impoverishment of Galilee--quite the reverse. It meant putting people to work in what amounted to early factories. But that meant a dislocation of peasant village life, and a loosening of the protective cocoons of extended families. If small family farms could no longer be sustained and were lost by foreclosure, family members were left to survive as best they could. Some must have done well in that cultural breakup, but others became dispossessed peasants looking for whatever work was available.

Think of those in the Parable of the Vineyard Workers who, at the height of the grape harvest, are still looking for work at 5 in the evening. Do you think they were all married? That is another reason why first-century Jewish males might not have a wife and children: poverty.

The Unmarried Jesus. Granted those three main options and granted that Jesus was unmarried, what is the likeliest reason? The first two options are out for a simple reason. Those who accused both John the Baptist and Jesus of being "weird" said they were so in opposite directions. John was an ascetic and therefore insane, they said.

But Jesus was neither of these things. Therefore, he was called a glutton and drunkard (Matt 11:18-19=Luke 7:33-34). That, of course, is simply nasty name-calling and need not be taken at face value. But even to work as name-calling, it must have been based on some kind of fact.

John was, and Jesus was not, an ascetic. It seems most likely, therefore, that Jesus wasn't married because he was a dispossessed peasant. As such, he could say to others like himself, "Blessed are the destitute." Some people say that, no, Jesus was a carpenter, a skilled member of the middle class. Mark 6:3 says Jesus was a "tekton," a Greek word better translated as "manual laborer" than "skilled carpenter."

Notice how Mark's first and most careful readers respond to that information. The writer of Matthew (who used Mark as a basis of his Gospel) calls Jesus "the carpenter's son." Luke (who also used Mark) omits any mention of occupation and simply call him "Joseph's son." They knew quite well it was not a compliment. It was what happened to a son dispossessed from his family farm and forced to find work as best he could. Under those circumstances, Jesus and many others like him would never have a chance to marry.

There remain, then these three--eschatology, asceticism, and injustice--but the likeliest of these is injustice.