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Don Stewart :: What Do We Know of Jesus' Earlier Years?

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Don Stewart

The New Testament gives the account of the life of Jesus Christ. We are told of the events surrounding His birth and of His ministry to the world. But apart from one incident at age twelve, there is nothing told about His childhood or anything that happened to Him until about age thirty.

There Was The Need To Know More

Though the church viewed the gospels as the authoritative source for the life and ministry of Jesus, other felt the need to fill in the blanks of the things the Gospels do not speak of. This includes the childhood of Jesus, His physical appearance, and other sayings not recorded in the New Testament

Fanciful Stories Arose About Jesus' Early Years

Throughout history, fanciful accounts of Jesus' youth have been written but all of these have proven unreliable. The only firsthand source we have about the life of Jesus is the New Testament and it remains silent about Jesus' youth. Apocryphal sources attempt to fill in the gaps.

An Example Of An Apocryphal Story

For example, in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy there is the story that when Joseph and Mary were on their way to Egypt with the baby Jesus robbers met them. The robbers found nothing to steal from this couple that did not have any money. The robbers had compassion on the young couple with their child and gave them provisions and sent them on their way to Egypt. One of these helpful robbers appeared in the life of Christ many years later. He was the repentant robber on the cross next to Jesus! Though this charming story has no basis whatsoever in fact it illustrates the desire to fill in some of the missing elements in the story of Jesus.

There Were No Miracles Before His Public Ministry Began

Jesus did not perform any miraculous deeds before He began His public ministry. The Gospel of John testifies that the miracle of turning the water into wine was Jesus first miracle.

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him (John 2:11).

Why The Silence About Jesus' Earlier Years?

This brings up the question of the silence of the Gospels on the early years of Jesus. Why the silence? Why doesn't the Scripture give us more details on the childhood and youth of Jesus?

There Are A Number Of Possible Reasons

Although the Bible does not give us any specific information on Jesus' early years, we can surmise why it has remained virtually silent on the matter.

The Gospels Emphasized His Public Ministry

The four Gospels basically record the life and ministry of Jesus to the world. They were not written as biographies but as documents meaning to convey God's truth that Jesus was the Savior sent from heaven.

Jesus Did Not Begin His Public Ministry Until The Age Of Thirty

The Gospels record that Jesus did not begin His public ministry until He was about thirty years of age. Whatever happened to Him before that time was spent in preparation for this public ministry. The events of those years are not revealed in Scripture.

These Silent Years Were Not Unimportant

But let us not think that these years of silence were unimportant years. Without a doubt Jesus was doing whatever duty that was set before Him with the same dedication He would later have in His ministry. His faithfulness is acknowledged at His baptism when God the Father's voice was heard saying,

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).

There had been no miracles, no great discourses, nothing as yet on a grand scale. Yet we know that the Father was pleased with His Son. Whatever things Jesus did during those silent years He did them well, pleasing His heavenly Father. Though we may wish to know more, we can be satisfied with the knowledge that the youth of Jesus was spent faithful to His calling.


The Bible tells us very little about the life of Jesus before he began his public ministry. Apart from the narratives around his birth the only account we have of him before entering the ministry was at age twelve in the temple. Apart from that the Scriptures are silent. Others have attempted to fill in the gaps but their attempts cannot be taken seriously. We know that He did not perform any miracles before turning the water into wine at Cana of Galilee. Although the years were silent as far as ministry was concerned they were still important years - they were preparing him for the great things he was about to do.

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