The hidden life of Jesus

It was in the seclusion of Nazareth that Jesus spent the greatest part of His earthly life. The inspired records are very reticent about this period: Luke 2:40-52; Mark 6:3; John 6:42; 7:15, are about the only passages which refer to the hidden life.

Some of them give us a general view of Christ’s life: “The child grew, and grew in strength and wisdom; and the grace of God was in him” is the brief summary of the years following the return of the Holy Family after the ceremonial purification in the Temple. “Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men”, and He “was subject to them” form the inspired outline of Christ’s life in Nazareth after He had attained the age of twelve.

“When he was twelve years old” Jesus accompanied His parents to Jerusalem, ‘according to the custom of the feast’; When they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not.” After three days, they found him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions.” It was on this occasion that Jesus spoke the only words that have come down from the period of His hidden life: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know, that I must be about my Father’s business [or, “in my Father’s house”]?”

The Jews tell us that Jesus had not passed through the training of the Rabbinic schools: “How doth this man know letters, having never learned?”. The same question is asked by the people of Nazareth, who add, “Is not this the carpenter?” St. Justin is authority for the statement that Jesus specially made “ploughs and yokes’ (Contra Tryph., 88). Though it is not certain that at the time of Jesus elementary schools existed in the Jewish villages, it may be inferred from the Gospels that Jesus knew how to read (Luke 4:16) and write (John 8:6). At an early age He must have learned the so called Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4), and the Hallel, or Psalms 113-118 (Hebrew); He must have been familiar with the other parts of the Scriptures too, especially the Psalms and the Prophetic Books, as He constantly refers to them in His public life. It is also asserted that Palestine at the time of Jesus Christ was practically bilingual, so that Christ must have spoken Aramaic and Greek; the indications that He was acquainted with Hebrew and Latin are rather slight. The public teaching of Jesus shows that He was a close observer of the sights and sounds of nature, and of the habits of all classes of men. For these are the usual sources of His illustrations.

To conclude, the hidden life of Jesus extending through thirty years is far different from what one should have expected in the case of a Person Who is adored by His followers as their God and revered as their Saviour; this is an indirect proof for the credibility of the Gospel story.

The public life of Jesus: its duration