There is very little known of Jesus as a youth. The earliest written gospel, St. Mark's (ca 75 CE), and the latest written gospel, St. John's (ca 100 CE), introduce him to their readers as an adult on the verge of beginning his  ministry. Neither of these gospel writers appear to be interested in his personal geneology as a Hebrew of the house of David. Quite the contrary, they both seem to want to distance him from his historical roots, each for his own reason. WE have already seen that Mark is uncomfortable with Jesus' non-Davidic ancestry. To him, Jesus is a man whom G-d adopted as His son on the occaision of his baptism. He thereafter becomes "Jesus Christ, the son of G-d", his nationality being more of a hinderance than a help. And although John has difficulty with Jesus' Galilean ancestry ("But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?") (7:41-42);

For the most part, to John, Jesus is almost completely OTHER THAN HUMAN. He is the pre-existent "word of G-d", or Logos, through whom all of creation came into being. As an emanation of G-d, he is almost IDENTICAL with Him. John's Jesus is the immediate pre-Trinity Christ, soon to be elevated to the posi- tion of Deity in the next Christological developmental stage. To John, Jesus temporarily takes on human form in order to accomplish his mis- sion of salvation ("And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" 1:14).

This leaves the two remaining gospels, Matthew (ca 80 CE), and Luke (ca 90 CE), both of which have included birth and infancy midrashim in their narratives. Matthew relates that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, David's city, and Luke adds additional material to this, informing his readers of the circumstances, namely, that due to the Roman census, each family must return to the city of its origin. Joseph and Mary, ostensibly both stemming from the royal city, return there at the point in time when Mary is due to deliver her child. Everyone is familiar with the main points of the Nativity tale. Jesus is born in a stable ans is visited by "wise men" who display their homage to him and offer him gifts. Later Christian tradition claim that there were three of these men but Matthew never mentions the number 3, and the story states specifically that they were "wise men" (perhaps astrologers). In the retelling- the wise men become kings, they become 3 in number, and, eventually, even get names!

King Herod, hearing that a baby has been born who is "king of the Jews", seeks to take the child's life, and Jesus' parents have to take him and flee to Egypt to escape Herod's wrath. When we next hear of Jesus, he is a lad of 12. His parents have come with him to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage. Jesus is separated from them and is later found in the Temple sharing his wisdom with certain "doctors" there.

This is all the New Testament tells of his pre-adult life. There are other childhood stories about him found in the non-canon- ical books of the Christian Apocrypha and Pseudipegrapha. These are later Christain midrashim, having very little bearing on our under- standing of a historical Jewish Jesus.

Matthew opens his gospel with an extensive geneology of Joseph, the husband of Mary, which traces his lineage back to king David. One has to wonder why Matthew goes through the trouble since he goes on to relate that G-d, not Joseph, is Jesus' father. Matthew reports that Jesus was born in Bethlehem "for thus it is written by the prophet" (2:5) that the messiah shall come from David's city. King Herod hears of the birth of Jesus from three eastern "magi" who are seeking the child in order to bring him gifts. On the night of his birth, a mov- ing star appears in the heavens which guides the kings to Bethlehem where they find the child and pay him homage. Herod seeks Jesus out, wishing to kill any pretender to the throne of Israel but an angel warns Joseph, and with Mary and the infant, they flee to Egypt. Herod, in his frustration at being unable to find Jesus, has all the infants below the age of two in the Bethlehem area killed. Upon Herod's death, an angel tells Joseph that his family may now return to the land of Israel. Still fearing the Herodian family, Joseph decides not to return to Judea, but instead goes to Galilee and settles in the city of Naza- reth. The story suggests that Jesus was really a Judean of Bethlehem and only was RAISED in Nazareth in Galilee. This is all Matthew re- lates of the pre-adult Jesus.

It is Luke who describes the family of Jesus travelling to Bethlehem to be part of a Roman census. A problem develops in determining WHEN the historical Jesus was actually born: The Census of Quirinus (Luke 2) was in 7 CE, whereas the death of Herod was in 4 BCE Some claim there were TWO Herods in order to bring the dates closer together, but there is no evidence to support this claim.

Luke's story of Jesus' boyhood is more elaborate. It is Luke alone who tells the full Christmas story with which the world is so familiar. Here, Mary is a young engaged woman living in the city of Nazareth. An angel appears to her to announce to her that she shall give birth to the messiah. In the later months of her pregnancy, she is forced to travel with her husband Joseph to Bethlehem to be count- ed in the Roman census. Finding no hotel vacancy, they find lodging in a stable where Jesus is born, and placed in a manger. An angel appears to shepherds in a nearby field, telling them of the birth of the messiah, and to the accompanyment of a heavenly choir, the shep- herds make their way to the stable in Bethlehem. Here, Luke has re- placed the gentile wise men by humble Jewish shepherds. The narrative moves through Jesus' circumcision and Mary's purification at the Temple in Jerusalem where Jesus' greatness is immediately recognized by a priest and a prophetess. The family then returns to Nazareth.

The next noteworthy episode about Jesus' childhood relates how his parents took him to Jerusalem at Passover time when he was 12 years old. While there, they are accidently separated from him, and after frantically searching for him several days, they encounter him in the Temple carrying on a learned discussion with certain "doctors" (didaskalen), and "all that heard him were astonished at his under- standing and answers" (2:47). Upon admonishing him for getting separ- ated from them, he in turn, chides them for not understanding that he "must be about my Father's business." However, they fail to grasp what he is saying. Leaving Jerusalem, they return to Nazareth where Jesus "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with G-d and man" (2:52). This is all that the texts of the New Testamenthave to tell about the young Jesus.

The major themes of these stories are not new. They are re-occurrung motifs which are encountered in the stories of the beginnings of all the world's heros.

The motifs are as follows:

The hero is, in reality, a king or prince, yet the circumstances of his birth and childhood are humble, and his royal state is known by only a few. His life, as an infant, is usually imperilled by the reigning monarch whom he has to outwit, usually by means of divine aid. His birth is marked by celestial phenomena, either the sudden appearence of a comet or of a bright star. In the intellectual realm, he shows him- self early in life to be quite gifted with intelligence and "under- standing". We see these motifs in old Jewish midrashim with which the gospel writers must have been familiar. A star appears in the heavens announcing the birth of Abraham. King Nimrod seeks to take the life of the baby Abraham who is saved from the king's wrath by a miracle. The baby Moses is also put through a life and death ordeal to show whether, as an adult, he will upset the power of Pharaoh, and has his life saved by an angel. As a young boy, Abraham shows his wisdom by engaging in controversy with the pagan theologians of his day who are bested by his astuteness and logical thinking. And so forth.

The material found in the pages of the New Testament relating to Jesus' pre-ministry life is scarce, and the material relating to it outside the New Testament is not very detailed either.

Jewish tradition tells us that he was a student of Rabbi Joshua ben Perahiah (Tractate Sanhedrin 107b). If this is historically correct, then Rabbi Joshua must have been a very old man when he taught Jesus since he was the NASI or president of the Sanhedrin during the middle of the first century BCE. We do not possess very many details of the life of Rabbi ben Perahiah. One of his sayings has been preserved for us in the Mishna:

     "Choose for yourself a rabbi; and get yourself a learning com-
      panion; and judge every person inclining to his merit."
                         Pirke Avot 1:6

The Talmud (Sotah 47a) brings down an incident concerning Rabbi ben Perahiah that illustrates how a master can do hisdisciple an injustice by not acting correctly towards him:

     "The left hand should always repel while the right hand beckons,
      ... not like Joshua ben Perahiah who repelled Yeshu the Nazarene
      with both hands... What was the incident involving Joshua ben
      Perahiah? ... he visited a certain inn where he was recieved with
      great honor. He was sitting and singing the praises of the lodging
      place when his disciple Yeshu said to him: 'My master, the hostess
      is bleary eyed'. He said: 'Villain! Is this with what you busy
      yourself?' ... He ostracized Yeshu. Every day Yesu would come
      before Joshua ben Perahiah, but he would not release him from his
      ostracism. One day Yeshu came before him while he was in the
      middle of reciting the Shema. He considered releasing him, and
      since he could not interrupt the Shema to speak, he clapped his
      hands together. Yeshu mistook this as a sign of rejection. He went
      off and errected a structure and worshipped at it. Joshua ben
      Perahiah said to him: 'Repent!' He replied:'This have I learned
      from you. Whoever sins and causes others to sin is not given the
      opportunity to repent.' And it was said (of Yeshu) that he
      instigated the Jewish people and led them astray."

In my opinion, this uncharitibale story reflects more poorly on ben Perahiah than on Jesus. And perhaps the Talmud's intent is to show how a harsh and unforgiving attitude on the part of a Sage of Israel can cause his disciple to sin to such an extent that he becomes lost to the Jewish people.

Of Jesus' family, we know that his father Joseph was a carpenter. He was not the only child of Mary. His brothers were James (Jacob), Joses (Joseph), Judah, and Simon (Mark 6:3). He also had sisters whose names are unknown.

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