Hidden Years

The Bible is strangely silent concerning Jesus movements between the ages of 12 and 30. The only incident recorded is at the Age of 12 being taken to the Temple for the Passover and it could also have been His Barmitzva. We know how the story goes where he went missing and was found later among the Doctors and Rabbis of the Temple.  The last New Testament account of the boy Jesus is found in Luke 2:52, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Then eighteen years pass during which time the Scriptures are absolutely silent concerning the whereabouts and activities of the Divine Teenager. It has been the popular tradition for centuries that He lived in the village of Nazareth, Galilee, working as a carpenter until He took up His Galilean Ministry, at the age of thirty.

Although the Gospels offer no record of these so.-called ‘silent years’, they do contain several distinct implications that these eighteen years were not spent in Palestine. Consider the passage, “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been bought up... and the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him.. .And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son? (Luke 4:16-22). Two things strike us here. The usage of the expression, “where He had been bought up,” implies while Jesus had spent His childhood in Nazareth He had not continued to live there. His more recent days had been spent elsewhere. This impression is strengthened by the fact that His hearers ask the question,”is not this Joseph’s son?,” almost as though they were in doubt as to His identity. We also read that they asked, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters. are they all not with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?” (Matt.14:55-56) Was Jesus such a stranger to them that the people could not refer to Him by name, but only by His relationship to other members of His step family whose identity was not in doubt?  Now, notice another passage of Scripture. “And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money cane to Peter, and said, Doth not your Master pay tribute? He saith, Yes.” (Matt.17:24-25)

Now, we know that Jesus spent much of His time ministering in Capernaum. In fact, by comparing the account of the healing of the man sick with the palsy as recorded in Matt.9:1 with that of Mark 2:1, we find that Capernaum is described as His “own city.” Yet, here was an enquiry being made about Jesus’ liability to the ‘strangers tax’ (Roman poll-tax) which was levied on foreign visitors to Capernaum. Most often, these were traders and merchants who conducted their business there. Evidently, Jesus must have been considered a stranger by the custom officers of the city who should have known Him all His life. Some Bible scholars have held that the tax in question was the Temple tax. However, unless the authorities were uncertain as to Jesus nationality, which they surely were not, there could have been no doubt that Jesus was liable to pay the Temple tax. Moreover, the Temple tax would have been paid with a Jewish shekel, a coin especially minted for that purpose, whereas it was a Greek coin (stater) which Jesus provided. However one looks at this incident, there is more than a suggestion that Jesus had been absent from Palestine for some considerable time.

Consider this Bible incident: When Jesus appears upon the banks of the Jordan River where John was baptizing, the Baptist seems scarcely to recognize Jesus, even though they were first cousins and must have known each other during their early childhood. Finally, John recognizes who the stranger is and exclaims: Behold the Lamb of God!” Now if Jesus had been living in Nazareth all those years surely John would not have appeared puzzled as to His identity. Then, later, John sent two of his disciples to make a peculiar query: ‘Are you he who should come or look we for another?” Apparently, the two had not met for years since John displays a profoundly imperfect knowledge of the One whom he was proclaiming. Yet another Bible incident, suggestive of Jesus’ absence from His homeland is found in the story of Nathaniel. It is found in John 1:45-48 Philip findeth Nathaniel, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathaniel said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathaniel coming to him, and
saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathaniel saith unto him, Whence knowest thou
me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the
fig tree, I saw thee.”

Now, the facts are clear that Nathaniel lived in Cana of Galilee, which is located about 5 miles from the city of Nazareth. If Christ had live so close to him for eighteen years, it seems strange that Nathaniel would not have known Him. Nathaniel should have been acquainted with Jesus’ command of the Scriptures and His Divine character. Would the very Son of God have no effect for eighteen years upon the community in which He dwelt? In the light of these implications, the question could be asked: If Jesus was absent from Palestine then is there any evidence as to where He wasduring the eighteen years prior to beginning His ministry at the age of thirty? The answer is YES! Legends exist that Jesus travelled far and wide. The religious teachers of India assert He had dwelt among them studying there for three years before travelling on to what is now Tibet. (Possibly that is why St.Thomas went to India). Ancient religious books of India record Jesus visiting the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal.

Other traditions take Jesus to Egypt. While it is possible that Jesus as an adult did visit other countries, the strongest and most persistent traditions place the teeenage Jesus on the mystical Isle of Avalon, the little Somerset county town of Glastonbury, England. It is not difficult to believe that Jesus, having previously visited the area with His uncle Joseph, would have remembered the beauty and quiet of the Isle of Avalon as a retreat in which to spend some years in study, prayer and meditation before His Ministry and Passion. The rich moist soil was favourable for cultivation and copious amounts of water gushed forth from a spring. Today this well is known as the “Chalice Well or Holy Well.

There is another time of quiet and that if the period spent in Egypt where they went to fleeing the wrath of Herod. I remember hearing a Cowley Father preach on this. He invited us to think about Jesus cutting His first tooth, the rest of teething, taking His first step, and saying His first intelligible word. The speculation is endless and also the years up to the age of Twelve.
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I leave this for your consideration as a possibility.

© 2017 St. Peter & St. Paul Coptic Orthodox Church - Santa Monica, CA