Why do we know very little about Jesus's childhood?
In the gospels, there is only one account of Jesus’s life during the 30-year period between his birth and his baptism, a story in Luke that tells of him teaching in the temple. Given the majestic spectacle of his birth that included a star, a visitation of kings, and an area-wide massacre of infant children, it would seem that Jesus would have been quite famous even as a child growing up. There should have been myriad accounts of his childhood, not just in the gospels, but in other accounts as well.
The absence of childhood stories in the gospels points to the probable fact that Jesus was just a regular boy growing up in a small town working as a carpenter. Not until he began his ministry, probably as a disciple of John the Baptist, did the local populace begin to take notice. This presents a problem for Christianity. The spectacular features of his birth would seem to be nothing more than myths. Then there is the problem of God roaming the earth for 30 years without calling attention to himself. It all points to the highly likely fact that Jesus was just a normal human being who at around the age of 30 decided he wanted to become a preacher.
- 3 years agoFavorite Answer
The real reason we know very little--actually NOTHING--about the childhood of Jesus is that the Jesus of the NT is a mythologizing of the actual Jesus. See my answer here concerning that.
The fact is that the birth stories of Jesus in Matthew and Luke are "pious fabrications", which is clear from the fact that they completely contradict each other.
According to Matthew the family of Jesus lived in Bethlehem when Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great (Herod died in 4 B.C.). Matthew relates of a threat to Jesus and a trip to Egypt and that, when they returned to Palestine after the death of Herod, the family of Jesus bypassed their original home in Bethlehem and settled in Nazareth so that Jesus would fulfill a prophecy (a prophecy that is non-existent in the Old Testament, by the way).
According to Luke, Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth before the birth of Jesus and went to Bethlehem during the Syrian governorship of Cyrenus (that's the Greek spelling; Quirinius is the Latin, and he began his governorship in 6 A.D.) because of an enrollment for taxes that required that everyone had to go to the city of their ancestors. Not long after the birth of Jesus the family returned to their home in Nazareth.
In attempting to reconcile the two accounts, apologists try to place the enrollment for taxation mentioned in Luke to the time of Herod the Great's reign. However, there was no such enrollment during that time. The Romans taxed only the provinces they had direct control of, such as Egypt and Syria. They did not tax the provinces controlled by client rulers such as Herod the Great.
Furthermore, there is no evidence that there was a Roman enrollment for taxation in Judea during Herod's reign, and attempts to prove otherwise are without basis. In addition, Saturninus was Governor of Syria from 9 BC to 6 BC, and Varus from 6 BC until after the death of Herod. Again, Quirinius was not governor of Syria until 6 A.D.
When Herod died in 4 BC, the Romans divided up his territory of Palestine and gave Judea, Idumea, and Samaria to his son Archelaus to rule, and the other parts of Palestine to his other two sons. Archelaus was brutal as ruler and his subjects appealed to Rome. As a result, Rome deposed Archelaus in 6 AD and took over direct rule of Archelaus's territory. In so doing they instituted taxation of that territory, and Quirinius, as the newly installed governor of Syria, was tasked to oversee the taxation, hence the enrollment.
That taxation did not include Galilee, which was ruled by Herod's son Antipas, so Joseph, as a resident of Galilee (according to Luke's story) would not have been required to go to Bethlehem for the enrollment. (Contrary to Luke's exaggeration, the taxation was not world wide and did not require everyone to return to the city of their ancestors. The practical Romans would never have required such a return because there would have been absolutely no reason for it, and it would have disrupted commerce. The Romans taxed on the basis of residency, not ancestry). But Luke needed to make up a way to get Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem in Judea where Jesus would be born, so he exaggerated and changed the requirements for the enrollment as a device to accomplish that.
In Matthew's story, Joseph originally lived in Bethlehem, and that some time after the birth of Jesus, Herod posed a threat to Jesus. Joseph and his family therefore went to Egypt (which Matthew made up to appear to fulfill prophecy), returning after the death of Herod. Using the brutal reign of Archelaus as an excuse, Matthew had Joseph and his family bypass their home in Bethlehem and instead settle in Nazareth. As the KJ Bible says, "And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene." That indicates that Joseph was making a new home for himself and his family there. Again, there was no such prophecy. Matthew just made it up to give a reason for Joseph to settle in Nazareth.
Near the beginning of his story, Luke refers to "Herod King of Judea" (Luke 1:5), which would have been Herod Archelaus, not Herod the Great (upon their father's death, both Archelaus and Antipas took on their father's name as a title for themselves). Herod the Great, referred to in Matthew, was king of all of Palestine, not just Judea.
It seems that Luke was familiar with the history of Palestine and he used that history as the framework for his fabrication of the birth story of Jesus. In that context, it is therefore clear that the events described in chapter one of his gospel were supposed to have occurred near the end of Herod Archelaus's reign (which I described above), and that the beginning of chapter two is referring to events just after Archelaus was deposed and the Romans took direct rule over Judea and initiated the enrollment for taxation. Because he wove his fabricated story into the historical events, the time frame of Luke's story is therefore self-consistent, and the attempts by apologists to place Luke's story during Herod the Great's reign are without foundation. Thus the contradiction with Matthew's fabricated account still exists.
Luke continues his story in chapter two by relating that Joseph and Mary traveled from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem because of the enrollment for taxation. Not long after their arrival in Bethlehem, Jesus was born, and after performing the ritual requirements according to the law of Moses, which was forty days, Joseph and his family returned to their home in Nazareth.
There is simply no way that the two fabricated stories can be reconciled.
- AltheaLv 63 years ago
MATTHEW 13:55, 56 MARK 6:3
JOSEPH AND MARY’S FAMILY GROWS
JESUS LEARNS A TRADE
Jesus is growing up in Nazareth, a rather small, unimportant city. It is located up north, in the hill country of an area called Galilee, to the west of the large lake known as the Sea of Galilee.
When he is perhaps two years of age, Jesus is brought here from Egypt by Joseph and Mary. It seems that at this time, he is their only child. Later, however, his half brothers are born—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. Joseph and Mary also become parents to girls, Jesus’ half sisters. Yes, Jesus has at least six younger brothers and sisters.
Of course, Jesus has other relatives. We already know about Elizabeth and her son, John. He lives many miles to the south, in Judea. Living close by in Galilee is Salome, who is apparently Mary’s sister and thus Jesus’ aunt. Salome’s husband is Zebedee. Their two sons, James and John, would seem to be Jesus’ first cousins. We do not know whether Jesus spends much time with these boys while they are growing up, but eventually they become his close companions, serving as two of Jesus’ apostles.
Joseph has to work very hard to support his growing family. He is a carpenter. Joseph raises Jesus as his own son, so Jesus is called “the carpenter’s son.” (Matthew 13:55) Joseph teaches Jesus to be a carpenter too, and he learns well. In fact, people later say about Jesus: “This is the carpenter.”—Mark 6:3.
The life of Joseph’s family is centered on the worship of Jehovah. In keeping with God’s Law, Joseph and Mary give their children spiritual instruction ‘when they sit in their house and when they walk on the road and when they lie down and when they get up.’ (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) There is a synagogue in Nazareth. We can be sure that Joseph regularly takes his family along to worship there. It is later said that “according to his custom on the Sabbath day,” Jesus went to the synagogue. (Luke 4:16) The family also finds great enjoyment in regular trips to Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem.
- DavidLv 73 years ago
Boy, do you have YOUR story confused.
- SofiaLv 63 years ago
Because most of the events of his childhood had nothing to do with his ministry on earth.
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- Anonymous3 years ago
Courtesy of modern atheistic science, people have become accustomed to being 'spoon fed' information while being strongly discouraged to think for themselves. Jesus' childhood is fully unveiled by systematic thought, as long as we understand where He was being raised, by whom, and that we also unquestioningly believe scripture when it claims that Jesus never sinned according to the ordinances of holy Torah.
Scripture tells us, even by His name, that Jesus was a 'Nazarite' following a strict version of Torah called the 'Nazarite Torah.' The holy prophets describe Messiah has having the traits of a Nazarite. In Hebrew, Jesus is called 'Y'heshua 'eth Naziyr' which literally means, 'Jesus who dwells among the Nazarites.'
The Nazarites were a separate community who lived in the wilderness surrounding the main settlements of Israel. They had their own 'town' where anyone who wished to take the more pious approach to Torah could settle and live. They not only followed every ordinance of Torah, but attached a 'kumrah' to each ordinance which made it more difficult to commit violations. For example, Torah commands that we never allow a careless worker or guest to fall from our rooftop. It does not instruct us how to prevent it, just not to let it ever happen. So a 'kumrah' would be to always install a parapet, (low wall, railing, or fencing), around the entire area of the roof's edge, (a practice which is common today on flat 'walkable roofing systems). Being this thorough requires additional resources, so life was simplified back to nature itself and all resources went to the 'kumrot,' (the collective body of protective 'cushions' maintained within this small society). Torah also prescribes a very specific schedule of daily activities based on season, agricultural requirements, shepherding, fishing, hunting, and all other required arts. From this, we can actually know exactly what Jesus was doing not only at each age of childhood but during each season, week by week. The only reason this might become obscured is if we fail to believe scripture when it claims that Jesus always obeyed Torah and practiced the Nazarite Torah, specifically.
At age thirteen, He began a spiritual practice with attached traditions called 'cabala,' (not to be confused with the medieval occult Jewish 'kabalah'). 'Cabala' simply means, 'oral traditions.' We know Jesus entered this spiritual practice because we are given a glimpse of its culmination as the student is tested by Moses and Elijah during a type of 'final examination' set of visions, (recorded as the 'transfiguration' Matthew 17, Mark 9), during which Messiah's glory was unveiled for three of His closest disciples to directly witness
From this we then know what Jesus was doing between the ages of thirteen and thirty, since cabala is a very specific practice involving the arts of 'tabernacle' construction and visions, (known as 'succot'). Each tabernacle, (called a 'succah'), is constructed from natural materials, becoming increasingly elaborate and eventually including masonry. This is why Jesus was known as a 'carpenter.' It is more likely that He taught Joseph and other men carpentry while learning this tabernacle construction under inspiration than that Jesus was actually taught by Joseph or anyone else. Joseph lived in the Nazarite community with Him, as did John his cousin, later known as the 'Baptist.' Each tabernacle represented a 'tent of meeting' which taught Jesus elements of Torah through angelic visitation. This all was possible because of the 'gifts' He had received as an infant from the Babylonian Magi, of gold, frankincense and myrrh, which are requirements of this practice.
The gold allowed Him to provide basics for His family and Nazarite community over thirty years, (as long as they lived only as Nazarites and obeyed the Torah, using the gold only for this purpose). The frankincense was burned during the visions to elevate the mind to attention, while the myrrh was bitter and was sipped as a drink called 'gall,' which returned the mind to the mundane elements of life after each vision. This supply lasted right up until Jesus' public ministry began.
Once this is all fully imagined together, we can see that GOD found a way to tell us everything that Jesus ever did, (at least in the most superficial and physical sense), every day of His life, all without saying more than a few words about it. We can even 'simulate' elements of it ourselves by following the same practices, if we choose, delving into these practices until we truly understand.
GOD rarely does more than He needs to do and always sees His creations in the best possible light. He sees us as perfectly capable of thought, as hard working and as creative people, not as robots or spoon fed aristocrats.
- Isaiah 3018Lv 53 years ago
2:41 Now his parents were accustomed to go from year to year to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover.+ 42 And when he was 12 years old, they went up according to the custom of the festival.+ 43 When the days of the festival were over and they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, and his parents did not notice it. 44 Assuming that he was in the group traveling together, they went a day’s journey and then began to search for him among the relatives and acquaintances. 45 But not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem and made a diligent search for him. 46 Well, after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers and listening to them and asking them questions. 47 But all those listening to him were in constant amazement at his understanding and his answers.+ 48 Now when his parents saw him, they were astounded, and his mother said to him: “Child, why did you treat us this way? Here your father and I have been frantically looking for you.” 49 But he said to them: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in the house of my Father?”+ 50 However, they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down with them and returned to Nazʹa·reth, and he continued subject* to them.+ Also, his mother carefully kept all these sayings in her heart.+ 52 And Jesus went on progressing in wisdom and in physical growth and in favor with God and men.
- Anonymous3 years ago
Jehovah God sent His Son Jesus to make His Name known and preach and teach about the Kingdom good news and warning msg then make disciples-John 3:16; Psalms 83:18;John 17:3;Matt 28:19,20. There are many things Jesus did while on earth that JEHOVAH didn't have His inspired Bible writers to record!-2 Tim 3:16,17. What HE wanted recorded He made sure thru His Holy spirit that it was.
- 3 years ago
Personally (it is my personal opinion), I believe that after Jesus began his public ministry, the apostles began to ask Mary (the mother of Jesus) details on the birth of Jesus, when he was born, etc. If you love someone you want to know about their birthday, etc. so I think that is what happened. And Mary probably told them a couple of stories about Jesus' childhood that made it into the bible. That's how the apostles knew the detials of Jesus' birth to put it into the bible. Because if you think about it the only person that survived from nativity to Jesus' death and resurrection would have been the Virgin Mary (other than Jesus)
- SolusLutrinaeLv 73 years ago
The most likely possibilities:
1. It wasn't that important.
2. Nothing of interest happened.
3. Books telling the stories didn't make it in the Bible -- like the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.
4. Jesus was a mythical figure with no childhood to talk about who was euhemerized (an ancient form of literature where a mythical figure has a story written where they are alive in Earth and interact with real historical figures).
5. There once was or maybe still is such materials, but they were or are damaging to the Catholic Church, so they've been hidden.
6. Jesus is a blending of two or more real people whose childhoods were radically different and couldn't be reconciled.
7. Maybe Jesus never talked about it, so his followers couldn't write down anything about it.
8. Maybe it took him many years to come to terms with it and he was off doing distinctly unchristian things that would have detracted from the message.
Or maybe some combination of those reasons.
- JeaLv 73 years ago
That isn't part of the fiction they promote.
Remember, christianity depends solely on magic to make it all work. And we all know (or should) that magic is a parlor trick.
- Bulky_BobLv 73 years ago
"Why do we know very little about Jesus's childhood?" Because it has no bearing on what He did for us.
"Then there is the problem of God roaming the earth for 30 years without calling attention to himself." Problem? Problem for the Creator of the universe to wait until He is 30 in order to start His ministry? Please do not tell us that you are staking your eternal hat on such foolish illogic.