The Missing Years of Jesus

The Missing Years of Jesus


There is very little information about Jesus’ early life. Christian tradition suggests that Jesus simply lived in Galilee during the age of 14 to 29 and probably helped his father Joseph with their family business. However, Jesus was a well-known figure from birth. The gospels tell us that even Herod and his people were informed of the birth of the boy Jesus. In addition, Jesus was raised in a very small village where everybody knew each other. It is almost impossible not to record anything from his life.


According to the book of Matthew, the genealogy of Jesus comes from a royal descent. The Old Testament prophets foretold Jesus birth. He was prophesied by many people including Oracles of Delphi:
“A child has just been born, who is the king of future millennia, the true God of the world. He is of humble birth and of an obscure race. His divinity is unrealized; when he, at last, makes himself known, he will be persecuted. He will work miracles, he will be accused of trafficking with evil spirits, but I see him the victor in the end over death, rising from the place where his murderers entombed him. He will reunite all nations.” (Delphic Oracle)


Egypt 

Egyptian Church around AD 42 after his arrival in Alexandria

Egypt is identified in the Bible as a place of refuge that Jesus family sought in their flight from Judea after Herod the Great felt threatened and tried to find baby Jesus. Jesus’ family resided in Egypt until the death of Herod. (Matthew 2:12–23)

Many Egyptian Christians are called Copts where word “Copt” means “Egyptian”. St Mark was a founder of the Egyptian Church around AD 42 after his arrival in Alexandria. St. Mark was one of the four evangelists who wrote the oldest canonical gospels at the end of the first century, during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero. Prophet Isaiah wrote: (Isaiah 19:19)
"In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border." 

Christianity began to spread to the rural areas in the 2nd century where the scriptures were translated into the local Coptic languages.

India 

Saint Bartholomew in India

There are also claims that prior to his public ministry in Galilee Jesus spent his missing years in India. Christianity in India is the third most followed religion. It was originally introduced by Thomas the Apostle after he arrived in Tamilakam (an Indian state of Kerala) where he established the Seven Churches.

However, scholars admit that Christianity was definitely established in India much earlier than the 6th century AD, long before the appearance of the Thomas. Two ancient testimonies exist about the mission of Saint Bartholomew in India and the visit of Pantaenus in the 2nd century.

According to the Acts of Thomas, 3rd-century New Testament Apocrypha, apostle Thomas himself was at first reluctant to go to India, but Jesus pressured the stubborn disciple and forced him to accompany an Indian merchant, Abbanes, to his native place in northwest India. As a result, his ministry was very productive and resulted in many conversions that included the king and his brother.

Asia 

Magi/Wise Men of the Parthian Empire in Asia tend to worship Jesus, so it makes sense he visited Asia at some point in his life as well as other parts of the world such as New World.

Christianity in Asia was originated from the life and teachings of Jesus in 1st century Roman Palestine. The early reference to Christian communities in Central Asia was from Bar Daisan writings around 196 AD. Gospel's history in Asia includes the visitation of Asia Minor cities by apostle Paul. Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians were epistles written to Asian churches. Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and related churches mentioned in Revelation 2-3 were all in Asia Minor.

Essenes and the Judean Desert 

Essenes in the Judean Desert The Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran

There is some evidence that Jesus spent some time in the Judean Desert where he fasted for 40 days and nights. Very likely he practiced fasting on a daily basis and trained his body in a special way. In general, it is a bad idea for others to repeat what Jesus did because it can result in a death in malnutrition.

In 1947, few desert men accidentally discovered The Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran place. These scrolls are believed to have been written by a Jewish sect called Essenes between 350 BCE and 70 CE.

The Essenes were a Jewish philosophy sect that developed fully in 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD. There were a large number of them who lived mainly in Roman Judea, somewhere above Ein Gedi, next to the Dead Sea. The group was smaller than Pharisees and Sadducees sects. They lived mostly in an isolated community and practiced asceticism and celibacy, daily immersion, voluntary poverty and a commitment to a strict observance of the Sabbath.

It is hard to think that Jesus and his followers who lived in first-century Judea and Galilee for years without ever encountering – let alone learning from or being influenced by – the four thousand Essenes reported having been living there at the same time. Some researchers indicate that scrolls do speak directly to the origins of Christianity and even reflect a mirror image of the Gospels from the Jesus’ enemy’s perspective.

There is also a belief that Jesus was raised an Essene, but he refused to follow their orthodoxy. Jesus could be called an Essene whose main goal was not to create a new religion, but rather to reform Judaism.

Epiphanius gives an interesting description of each group:
“The Nazarean – they were Jews by nationality – originally from Gileaditis, Bashanitis and the Transjordan... They acknowledged Moses and believed that he had received laws. And so, they were Jews who kept all the Jewish observances, but they would not offer sacrifice or eat meat. They considered it unlawful to eat meat or make sacrifices with it. They claim that these Books are fiction and that the fathers instituted none of these customs. This was the difference between the Nazarean and the others.” (Epiphanius)

Fred Gladstone Bratton notes the following: “The Teacher of Righteousness of the Scrolls would seem to be a prototype of Jesus, for both spoke of the New Covenant; they preached a similar gospel; each was regarded as a Savior or Redeemer, and each was condemned and put to death by reactionary factions..” In Essene groups, there were few unidentified Teachers of Righteousness, the leaders of the Essenes at Qumran and other regions. One of them was identical to the original Jesus [Essa] about 150 years before the time of the Gospels.

Richard A. Freund writes:
"The difference of opinion over the positioning of the Teacher of Righteousness leads me to conclude that perhaps all of these researchers are correct. A Teacher of Righteousness did lead the group in the second century BCE when it was established. Another Teacher of Righteousness led the sect in the first century BCE and finally, another Teacher emerged in the first century CE."

The Saint Thomas Christians (“Nasrani") of southwestern India may have a connection with the Essenes, according to the Manimekalai, one of the great Tamil epic poems, which refer to a people called "Issani”.

Back to Galilee 

Some writers such as Steve Collins claim to find evidence that Jesus spent his missing years with Joseph of Arimathea, who was an international businessman.

Joseph of Arimathea (also known as Joseph de Marmore/Joseph of Glastonbury) was a wealthy merchant dealing with metals who lived in Marmorica in Egypt before moving to Arimathea. There was a speculation that Joseph was the uncle of Mary, mother of Jesus and a Great Uncle of Jesus. Some writers even claim that Joseph took the young Jesus with him on business trips around the world and they have visited India, England and even South America. Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned in all four gospels (Matthew: 27:57-60; Mark 15:43-46; Luke 23:50-55; John 19:38-42). Read more about Joseph in "St. Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury" book by Lionel Smithett Lewis (Glastonbury Vicar).

The ages of 13 and 29, have some significance in Judea: 13 is the age of the bar mitzvah, the age of secular maturity, and 30 the age of readiness for the priesthood, although Jesus was not of the tribe of Levi.

After his baptism and 40 days spent in the Judean desert, Jesus returned to Nazareth, and on the Sabbath day, he went into the synagogue, as was his custom (Luke 4:14-16). Some assume, if it was his “custom” to attend a synagogue, this may indicate he never leaves his small Nazareth town.

However, when Jesus began his teaching in the synagogue, many wondered who this Jesus was and where his wisdom came from. It looks like they didn’t see him in 10 years - "Is not this the carpenter's son?" (Matthew 13:55)

The eyewitnesses constantly tracked Jesus moves and even recorded his deeds:
  • He was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). 
  • Baby Jesus and his parents moved to Egypt (Hosea 11:1) and lived there for a while. 
  • 12-year-old Jesus accompanied his parents on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and became separated. He was found several days later in a temple, discussing affairs with some of Jerusalem’s elders Luke (2:41-52). 
  • He went round about the villages, teaching (Mark 6:6)

Since the Gospels were mostly “eyewitness accounts” (Luke 1:2, II Peter 1:6) and there are no eyewitness accounts of his post-age 12 exploits until age 30, it is highly likely he spent these years outside Judea.

During his life on earth, Jesus gave up the comforts of home and family in order to proclaim his kingdom to others. He sacrificed his time and energy to teach, heal, comfort, and challenge people.

Do you think Jesus spent his missing years in Judea, joined Essenes in Judean desert or traveled with his uncle Joseph?

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The Missing Years of Jesus
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