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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Boyhood of Jesus

BOYHOOD OF JESUS

1. The Biblical data.—The preceding article expresses the present writer’s ideas as to religious training, education, and recreation in the time of Christ. The Gospels tell us nothing except by inference. The complete absence of haggâdôth, i.e. such religious fiction as we find in the Talmud, from our Lord’s teaching, implies either want of training in it, or positive rejection of it. But Christ acquired such a knowledge of the Old Testament, and perhaps of some books outside the Palestinian canon, that the teachers in the temple ‘were astonished at his understanding and answers’ (Luke 2:47). We do not doubt that Scribism and Rabbinism had begun, and had a considerable following. But we doubt if it had made such progress that a good Israelite in the provinces, living in private life, was bound to live and to order his household according to the rules laid down and enforced by the leaders of the nation in the next and following centuries after the great upheaval of the Jewish war with Rome. Then, by political necessity, the ‘traditions’ of a sect became the life of a nation Perhaps, also, Christianity took out of Judaism those pious souls who were ‘zealous of the law,’ but not necessarily so of the ‘traditions,’ and there were left only those leaders and followers whose sayings supply us with the picture of 2nd century Judaism (cf. Schürer, HJP [Note: JP History of the Jewish People.] ii. i. § 25, ‘Scribism’—especially pp. 365–379). Yet it must be admitted, in favour of a contrary view, that Peter at least was guided by some rules which went beyond those of the OT, and which came from the scribes, Pharisees, and Rabbis (Acts 10:28; Galatians 2:12—eating with non-Jews). But if any pious persons and households were as yet free from the Rabbinical ‘yoke of bondage’ (Galatians 5:1), surely that freedom was to be found in the household of Nazareth. A protest is needed, because some writers illustrate (?) Christ’s early life entirely by Rabbinical rules. The many illustrations from Jewish books which are brought forward to prove that all Jewish boys learnt a trade are hardly needed to prove that Christ did so. Apart from Mark 6:3 (the only passage in which He is called ὁ τέκτων, and not merely ὁ τοῦ τέκτονος υἱός), common sense would teach us that He who deigned to live in a carpenter’s household, under real human conditions, in His youth, would help Joseph, and learn the art he practised. This is implied in His subjection to Joseph (Luke 2:51). Perhaps the parable of the Mote (chip or splinter) and Beam (Matthew 7:3-5) derives its outward form from the work of His youth (cf. Justin Martyr, e. Tryphon. 88).

During the stay at Nazareth, where Joseph and Mary settled after their return from Egypt (Matthew 2:23), the Babe (τὸ βρέφος, Luke 2:16) passed into the stage of young boyhood. He grew in bodily height (ηὔξανε, Luke 2:40) and in bodily strength (ἐκραταιοῦτο, Luke 2:40). The omission of πνεύματι in this verse by א BDL Vulgate and most crit. edd. [Note: editions or editors.] takes away any ground for discussing its meaning. The next words πληρούμενον σοφίας (or σοφίᾳ) imply a gradual, progressive filling.* [Note: The reading is doubtful. Treg. and WH prefer σοφίᾳ, and Lachmann gave it in his margin, supported by אc BL pl; and this, as the more unusual construction, may be right.] What does ‘wisdom’ mean? Just as any manifestation of ‘supernatural’ power was out of place in this stage of our Lord’s life, so would have been any such manifestation of knowledge, of adult acquirements, of power to instruct others, or of any other form of ‘wisdom’ which was clearly unsuitable to His age. He was the perfect child, with the perfection suited for each successive stage of childhood. And others recognized and valued this, no doubt (cf. ‘in favour … with men,’ Luke 2:52). But nothing occurred in His childhood (or later, up to the time of His beginning His ministry) to prevent His neighbours being astonished when His work began, and wondering at His words and works, which clearly were new to them and unexpected by them (Mark 1:27; Mark 2:12; Mark 6:2-6 etc.).

Had it been found that He knew all human knowledge (e.g. reading, writing, arithmetic) without any instruction, there would have been a contradiction to the above facts. The σοφία then was (as we should expect in this Hebraistic passage) the opposite to ‘folly’ in the OT sense. As each fresh experience of life, each external difficulty (perhaps temptation) from His environment came on, pari passu, with His growth, there was heavenly wisdom to meet it. Tact, gentleness, veracity, the ‘soft answer,’ were the sort of things which distinguished Him from other lads, and not miraculous knowledge, or miraculous power such as is described in the Apocryphal Gospels.

And the grace of God was upon him.’ God’s favour was clearly upon Him, as had been foretold in Isaiah 11:2-3. Men noticed (John 1:14) that He was full of grace and truth. But we must remember that it was a gift to His human nature, and therefore words are used which are used of His brethren (e.g. Acts 6:8 Στέφανος δὲ πλήρης χάριτος). At the end of the next section St. Luke (Luke 2:52) tells how He progressed in favour (χάρις) also with men.

And his parents went every year to Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover’ (Luke 2:41). From our Lord’s own presence at other feasts, both of Divine and human appointment, and from the large crowds at them, we are led to reject the idea that pious Jews at this time went to Jerusalem only for the Passover. No doubt the greatest attendance was at that feast, and those who could attend only one probably chose it. Jews resident outside the Holy Land seem, probably on account of the more favourable season for travelling, to have preferred Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11; Acts 18:21; Acts 20:16; Acts 21:27; Acts 24:18, 1 Corinthians 16:8). We think it probable, therefore, that the emphatic words of the sentence are οἱ γονεῖς. Joseph may have gone at other seasons; at this season Mary usually (ἐπορεύοντο, imperfect of ‘habit’) accompanied him. Women were not bound to attend any feast (Deuteronomy 16:16 ‘all thy males’). John 7:2; John 7:8-10 show that the ‘brethren of the Lord’ attended the feast of Tabernacles, which may be an indication of what Joseph’s custom was. But if women went to any one feast, it would be, if possible, to the Passover, partly because it was the most esteemed, partly because the Supper (both sacrificial and social) was an essential element in it, and partly because of the examples of Peninnah and Hannah (1 Samuel 1:3; 1 Samuel 1:7; 1 Samuel 1:21).

In Luke 2:42 we are told of Christ going with them, being twelve years old. Does this imply that He had never been with them before? We doubt it. The mention of His age may be made only in order to mark at what period of His life the incident which follows occurred. The commentators, etc., lay great stress on His having become a ‘son of the Law’ or a ‘son of the Precept,’ and represent this Passover visit to Jerusalem as a sort of ‘First Communion’ after a sort of ‘Confirmation.’ The whole of the legislation about the bar-mizvah dates after the destruction of the Jewish polity in a.d. 70 (cf. Schürer, HJP [Note: JP History of the Jewish People.] ii. ii. 51 f.). There may have been earlier traces of it in Pharisaic. Judaean circles. Besides, when a definite age for ‘full membership’ of the Jewish community was fixed, it was at thirteen, and not at twelve years of age. The current views would never have been brought forward, but for the assumption by the elder Lightfoot and others that in this Talmudic rule we find the explanation of the mention of our Lord’s age.

Moreover, are there any Biblical grounds for supposing that a child of five, or ten, or any other age, might not be present at the Passover, and eat of the Paschal lamb? Exodus 12:3-4 rather implies the contrary, for if all children under thirteen were excluded, few households would be large enough to consume a yearling lamb. If the custom of the present Samaritans is any guide, it is stated that even little girls eat of the lamb (cf. J. E. H. Thomson in PEFSt [Note: EFSt Quarterly Statement of the same.] , 1902, p. 91).

But if it was our Lord’s first Passover (which St. Luke does not say), we can find another reason than the age He had reached for the previous omission. Herod the Great had tried to kill the Child, Archelaus was considered by Joseph to be as dangerous, and therefore Jesus was kept out of his dominions. Now Archelaus was in exile; in 759 a. u. c. a Roman governor had been appointed over Judaea, and Roman law and justice, however defective at times, at least ensured safety for the Boy who had been sought for ten or eleven years before as an Infant. Of course, it is possible that the later Jewish rule prevailed in Christ’s day, but it does not appear to us to be proved, either from St. Luke’s words, or from any contemporary or earlier source.

What did our Lord do at Jerusalem? The Biblical accounts of the Passover ritual are mainly confined to the first or Egyptian Passover. This differed naturally from later ones in some respects, and in others a difference had been made by liturgical regulations. For instance, the eating of the lamb in a recumbent instead of a standing posture was a change (Exodus 12:11, 1 Samuel 1:9 ‘rose up,’ Luke 22:14-15 etc.). So were the psalms, the prayers, the blessings, the four cups of wine, and other well-known customs. One of the best popular accounts of the Jewish ritual is in Bickell’s Messe und Pascha, of which an English version by Dr. Skene has appeared. He rightly states that our oldest source is as late as the end of the 2nd cent. a.d., with large additions from the 11th to the 16th centuries (p. 112 f. English translation). Bickell also points out that ‘the Paschal Lamb was an actual offering. It was slain in the Temple, its blood was sprinkled by the priest on the altar, its flesh was consumed as a sacrificial meal. Therefore, after the destruction of Jerusalem, when the Temple service … came to an end, it could no longer be eaten.

‘The same thing is true of the Chagiga, the meat of a slain thank-offering, which was wont to be previously brought with the Passover Supper.’ And we must remember that the ritual was probably not written down while it was a ‘living rite.’* [Note: Compare the usual view of the earliest liturgies. We will not therefore dwell on the Jewish accounts of the ecclesiastical amplifications of the Scriptural order, and still less on modern Jewish use. But the present Samaritan customs (mode of dressing the lamb, the spit in form of a cross, the mode of roasting, etc.) are very probably similar to the Jewish rites before the destruction of the Temple. Cf. J. E. H. Thomson in PEFSt, 1902, Jan. pp. 82–92, and Expos. Times, xi. [1900] 375 (very interesting), and other accounts by Dean Stanley, Mills, Petermann, Vartan, in Baedeker’s Palestine and Syria, etc.] The earliest written sources are based on an oral tradition of what had been done a century before.

We may reverently conjecture our Lord’s meditations as He saw the lamb sacrificed, and sat down to the Feast. The death of the lamb was a figure of His own death. The feast shadowed forth His feeding His people. Did He as yet know of His destiny? Perhaps it was beginning to unfold itself to His human consciousness (1) by His growing knowledge of His nation’s religion, history, and sacred books; (2) by His mother’s telling Him some of the incidents of His birth and infancy; (3) by the inner unveiling of His Divine nature to His human nature. We can only conjecture. But His answer to Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:49) implies some self-knowledge, and perhaps a step in the acquirement of that self-knowledge and consciousness.

On another point we are on surer ground. At the Paschal feast it was customary for the youngest present to ask, ‘Why is this night different from all other nights?’ adding a mention of some of the ritual acts. ‘What mean ye by this service?’ (Exodus 12:26; Exodus 13:7-8, Deuteronomy 6:20). And the head of the household or company replied by a recapitulation of the history of the Exodus, which in later times was called the Eastern Haggâdâ. No doubt our Lord followed this custom, and no doubt also Joseph gave the explanation, either in the traditional words as handed down to the modern Jews, or in a freer, perhaps a fuller manner (cf. Exodus 12:27; Exodus 13:8, Deuteronomy 6:21-25; Deuteronomy 26:5-9; cf. Bickell, English translation pp. 118–120). Other details of the Passover ritual in the time of Christ, such as the sop, the cups of wine, and the singing of the Great (or third or final) Hallel, are vouched for by the accounts of the Last Supper given by the Evangelists and by St. Paul. [Note: Many writers who mention the Great Hallel ignore the various accounts as to the Psalms which composed it; cf. Bickell, pp. 126, 127. They are not justified in saying which Psalm or Psalms our Lord used. Psalms 136 has the general support. The Babylonian Gemara mentions Psalms 23. The 114th Psalm, which Christian tradition (cf. the name of its tune, ‘Peregrinus’) connects with the Passover, cannot have been the one mentioned (Matthew 26:30), as its use occurred before the actual supper (Bickell, p. 120). See art. Hallel.] See art. Passover.

When they had fulfilled the days’ (τελειωσάντων τὰς ἠμέρας). Our first impression is undoubtedly that the whole seven days of the Feast (Exodus 23:15 etc.) are meant. We should expect pious Jews, like Joseph and Mary, to remain the whole time, not because it was a precept, but out of devotion. ‘It was more laudable to remain the whole seven days, especially on account of the last day, which was a Feast Day’ (Lightfoot; cf. Exodus 12:16). Edersheim (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, i. 247) argues that Joseph and Mary set out for home before the close of the Feast, because the Talmud says that ‘during Feasts’ (not after them) ‘the members of the Temple Sanhedrin came out on to the terrace and taught the people, contrary to the usual custom of sitting as a court of appeal,’ and he thinks that Christ was there. In dealing with this suggestion we have to notice the expression τελειωσάντων τὰς ἡμέρας instead of the ὡς (ὅτε) ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι of Luke 1:23; Luke 2:6; Luke 2:21-22, and ἐπλήσθη ὁ χρόνος of Luke 1:57. The two words are sometimes synonymous in effect, but the distinction between them has been defined as follows: ‘τελειοῦν is to complete so that nothing remains to be done, but the thing or work is τέλειον; it implies an end or object (τέλος) to be looked forward to and fully attained. πληροῦν looks at the quantity to be done, not at the end to be reached, and so is to fill a thing full, so that it lacks nothing.’ St. Luke’s words are therefore perhaps compatible with Joseph and Mary having left on the third day, the so-called half-holiday, when it was lawful to return home, but we prefer (in spite of Edersheim’s Talmudical argument) to think that they ‘stayed to the end’ of the Feast. It might be said, however, by those who believe in the earlier return, that our Lord’s staying behind was a tacit rebuke, especially if ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μου (Luke 2:49) be taken in a local sense. St. Luke’s use of the simple μένειν in the Gospel and Acts should be noted: the compound occurs only here and in Acts 17:14 in his writings: and in the latter case it is also used in contrast to Paul’s departure. St. Luke, however, does not say that Jesus remained for any such reason, nor that Joseph and Mary lost sight of Him through any failure of duty. Popular books add much to the narrative.

All the pilgrims used to go to the Temple on the day of their departure, by a rule possibly based on 1 Samuel 1:19. There would be a great crowd, and the temporary separation of a family in the colonnades and on the steps would be (as in great public gatherings now) a natural occurrence, causing little alarm. Possibly Joseph and Mary joined their fellow-travellers from Galilee, in the belief that the Child, who would know the time and point of departure, was among the younger pilgrims. The little fear they felt on the first day (Luke 2:44) rather supports the view mentioned above, that it was not Jesus’ first Passover.

Our Lord’s ‘parents’ (γονεῖς, Luke 2:43—‘Joseph and his mother’ is a correction in the interests of orthodox dogma), being ignorant of His having stayed behind, went therefore a day’s journey towards home. As we do not know the route they travelled by, it is impossible to say that they went as far as Beeroth (Farrar, Life of Christ, and others). Jericho is quite as probable a resting-place.

The search among the kinsfolk and acquaintances being in vain, they returned to Jerusalem, and found Him ‘after three days’ (probably from the time of separation). We need not inquire whether this expression means ‘on the third day’ (μετὰ ἠμέρας τρεῖς, cf. Mark 8:31 μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας).* [Note: The mystical school of interpreters have pointed out several parallels to this period: (a) Bengel says: ‘For the same number of days, when He lay in the grave, He was considered as lost by His disciples (Luke 24:21).’

(b) Another writer says beautifully: ‘Seeing Mary sigh for three days for her Divine Son, I see again humanity during the 3000 years of paganism, wandering in search of God.’] The search on the road back to and in Jerusalem was a thorough one (ἀναζητοῦντες). There must have been many persons who could be inquired of with safety, persons in sympathy with the pious hopes of Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38), though these had probably passed away. It is St. Luke who tells us (Luke 2:38) that there was a group of pious persons, who looked for the redemption of Jerusalem. [Note: So RV with אB, etc., but cf. AV and AVm. The Vulgate has the more easy Israel; Amiatinus: , and so Peshitta.] As this refers to a period only twelve years previous, Joseph and Mary could easily find some of these residents of Jerusalem, even if the connexion had not been kept up in the yearly Passover visits (Luke 2:41). We think that the reason for Joseph and Mary spending at least a day in Jerusalem before going up to the Temple, was that they and our Lord were well known to this group of persons, and that they thought of Him as possibly among friends at Jerusalem, just as they had thought it possible on the first day of the separation that He was among the pilgrims.

Christ in the Temple.—‘And it came to pass, after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors ((Revised Version margin) ‘or teachers’), both hearing them, and asking them questions’ (Luke 2:48). By being present at the meeting of the Rabbis, Christ was obeying the counsel of Ben Sira (Sirach 6:34-36), which was possibly a commonplace piece of instruction in pious Israelite families.

‘Stand thou in the multitude of the elders;

And whoso is wise, cleave thou unto him,

Be willing to listen to every godly discourse;

And let not the proverbs of understanding escape thee.

If thou seest a man of understanding, get thee betimes unto him,

And let thy foot wear out the steps of his doors.’

A discussion has been raised as to the meaning of ‘in the midst’ (ἐν μέσῳ). It is usually thought that Christ sat, as scholars did, on the floor, with the Rabbis on a raised bench or divan, arranged perhaps in a semicircle, ἐν τῷ μέσῳ occurs in Acts 4:7, where it cannot mean more than ‘present in a central position where others could see and hear,’ yet apart from the members of the court. Kuinoel watered down the expression here to ‘in the same room with the teachers.’ It has, however, been suggested that the Rabbis, being struck by the searching power of the questions put by Christ, and the depth of knowledge of the Law which they displayed, invited Him to take a seat among themselves, as a mark of admiration, as well as for more convenience in the conversation. If this was so, their action would be somewhat similar to that in a British court of justice where a distinguished visitor, or even witness, is sometimes complimented by an invitation to ‘take a seat on the Bench.’ It is said that members of the Sanhedrin did sometimes, on extraordinary occasions, admit an inquirer to the same seat as themselves. It would be a probable thing to do, where the youth of the person made him, as in this case, liable to partial concealment among older and taller bystanders.

There is no ground for supposing that Christ disputed with the Rabbis. It is clear that He in nowise offended their prejudices on this occasion. All that He said, although remarkable for His age, was suitable to it. The mode of higher religious teaching among the Jews seems to have been neither didactic nor catechetical, but by mutual interrogation between the teacher and the scholar. Hence the freedom used by the disciples and others in questioning their Teacher. Christ answered some questions and put others, no doubt with all marks of respect to those who ‘sat in Moses’ seat’ (Matthew 23:2).

What led to Christ’s desire to interview the Rabbis at all, and what was the subject of His questions? We can understand His intense interest in the recently celebrated Feast, its history and its meaning. Or, building on His previous knowledge of the Law and the Prophets, and on the current Messianic hopes, He might desire to learn from the Rabbis about the Messiah and the Messianic kingdom. Questions such as those discussed in Matthew 2:4; Matthew 2:6, Mark 9:11, John 7:42 would be raised and would interest Him. Luke 20:22; Luke 20:28-33, Mark 10:2 give us other authentic instances of the points discussed by the Jewish teachers of that age. It has, moreover, been suggested that on the journey up to Jerusalem, Mary for the first time told Him the story of His birth, of the messages of the angels, of the Magi, of Simeon, of Anna, of the flight into Egypt, and of the dreams of Joseph. It would be an overpowering revelation, for which, however, as an exceptional, though true child, He would be ready.

We are in the realm of pure conjecture, but certainly it might be God’s way of revealing to the Divine Child a part of the truth about that Child’s nature and mission. That to Him, as to the Church, to the world, and to each of us, the truth should come ‘by divers portions and in divers manners’ (Hebrews 1:1) is a conceivable, and perhaps the most probable theory. And such a revelation, falling on an unusually gifted soul (Luke 2:40), on a soul infinitely more receptive, because of its sinlessness (Wisdom of Solomon 7:22-23 etc.), than any other soul could be, would quicken into energy His whole life. If this were so, we have an adequate exposition of our Lord’s desires, an adequate explanation of His action.

All that heard him were amazed (Authorized Version astonished) at his understanding and his answers’ (Luke 2:47). As, later on, ‘never man so spake’ (John 7:46), so now, never child so spake. Yet as in the later case there was nothing contrary to true manhood, so now we ought not to think of anything contrary to true boyhood. It is worth noting that while Authorized Version has ‘astonished’ for the feeling of the bystanders (Luke 2:47 ἐξίσταντο) and ‘amazed’ for that of Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:48 ἐξεπλάγησαν), Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 simply reverses the terms. The former word is often rendered ‘beside himself,’ ‘beside themselves,’ but it is difficult to express in English the difference between the two verbs.* [Note: For ἐξιστάναι, cf. Matthew 12:23, Mark 2:12; Mark 3:21; Mark 5:42; Mark 6:51, Luke 8:56; Luke 24:22, Acts 2:7; Acts 2:12; Acts 8:9; Acts 8:11; Acts 8:13; Acts 9:21; Acts 10:45; Acts 12:16, 2 Corinthians 5:13; and for ἐκτλήσσειν, Matthew 7:28; Matthew 13:54; Matthew 19:25; Matthew 22:23, Mark 1:22; Mark 6:2; Mark 7:37; Mark 10:26; Mark 11:18, Luke 4:32; Luke 9:43, Acts 13:12. The context sometimes offers no reason for the choice of one word rather than the other. The latter one may be the weaker of the two; in Matthew 19:25, Mark 10:26; Mark 7:37 it needs an adverb to strengthen it. Etymological arguments cannot be pressed with regard to the popular Greek of the 1st century.] See artt. Amazement, Astonishment.

In spite of the assembly of ‘grave and reverend signiors,’ Mary’s feelings were at once vented in audible address (εἶπε) to her Son: ‘Child! why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing!’ Her trouble overpowered her amazement. No doubt they were proud of Him in their hearts, but Mary thought it necessary mildly to chide Him for having caused them so much anxiety. We say ‘chide’ as the nearest expression of our thought, but few parents in the East or anywhere else would speak of what they deemed to be a child’s error so courteously and with such an absence of ‘temper.’ We notice that it was Mary who spoke, and this may possibly be urged as a point in favour of the orthodox view of the ‘Virgin Birth.’ If Joseph had been the natural father of Christ, he would have spoken to a son of that age at least in addition to the mother. His silence seems to us to balance such expressions as ‘thy father and I,’ or ‘his parents.’* [Note: Where did Alford And ground for saying, ‘Up to this time Joseph had been so called (‘father’) by the holy Child Himself, but from this time never’? It may be so, but it is not recorded.]

Mary joined Joseph with herself not only in her account of the continuous careful seeking (ἐζητοῦμεν), but also in her sorrow. [Note: ὁδυνᾱσθαι occurs four times in Luke (here, 16:24, 25, Acts 20:38) and nowhere else in NT. ‘Sorrowing’ (AV and RV) does not seem strong enough. ‘With intense anguish’ is rather the meaning. Farrar (St. Luke) suggests ‘with aching hearts.’ In Luke 16:24-25 AV has ‘to be tormented,’ but RV ‘to be in anguish,’ of the sufferings of the rich man in Hades. In Acts 20:38 it expresses the grief of the Ephesian elders at parting with St. Paul. The word used in the Peshitta here, is used for στενοχωρια in Romans 2:9. As ὁδυνα̈σθαι is frequent in Galen, Aretaeus, and Hippocrates, it may be one of St. Luke’s medical words. We are reminded by it of that later poignant sorrow, commemorated in the ‘Stabat Mater.’ She felt already the ‘sharp and piercing sword.’]

We now come to our Lord’s reply, which is a veritable crux interpretum. There is no variant in the Greek (Τί ὅτι ἐζητεῖτέ με; οὐκ ᾔδειτε ὅτι ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μου δεῖ εἶναί με;). Nor is there any doubt that the words were a reminder (with a slight touch of rebuke) that Joseph was not His father (cf. ὁ πατήρ σουκἀγώ, Luke 2:48), and that in any case the claims of His Divine Father were paramount. The principal interpretations of ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μου are: (a) ‘in my Father’s house’; (b) ‘about my Father’s business’; (c) ‘among my Father’s servants and friends’; (d) combinations of (a) or (b) implying an intended vagueness. The Vulgate is in his quae patris mei sunt; the Pesh. supports (a) ‘in my Father’s house,’ having ܕܒܷܝܬ ܐܴܒܝܝ [But does not both support (c) as much?; cf. 1 Samuel 2:30 etc., i.e. by Semitic idiom ‘house’ (as in English) may mean family, connexions].

In favour of (a) is the circumstance that τά τινος, which strictly means ‘that which is a person’s property,’ came to be used specially of his house, the word ‘house’ being omitted. Field and Humphrey compare the colloquialism ‘I am going to my father’s.’ In profane Greek cf. Herod, i. 111, ἐν Αρπάγου: Philostratus, Vita Apollon. ii. 28, ἐν τοῦ βασιλέως: Lucian, Philop. ἐν Γλαυκίου: and many other cases where οἶκος or rather οἰκήματα is to be understood. L. Bos, who collected many of these instances in his work on Greek Ellipses, held strongly that πράγμασιν (‘business’) was not the word to be supplied here. He gave (p. 193) the same explanation of John 1:11 (John 16:32; John 19:27) and Acts 21:6, but in these we find τὰ ἵδια. In the LXX Septuagint, cf. Esther 7:9 καἱ ὤρθωται ἐν τοῖς Ἁμὰν ξύλον, κ.τ.λ.: Genesis 41:51 where πάντων τῶν τοῦ πατρός μου represents the Massoretic Text ‘all my father’s house,’ and Job 18:19. On the other hand, the supporters of (a) say that no example has been produced in Biblical or profane Greek for ‘to be about a person’s business’ as a rendering of εἶναι ἐν τοῖς τινος, though it is admitted that ἐν τούτοις ἴσθι (1 Timothy 4:15) approaches it closely. Origen, Epiphanius, Theodoret, Theophylact, and Euthymius show a chain of commentators, explaining a passage in their own language, who take it in the sense of ‘house.’ Sirach 42:10 ἐν τοῖς πατρικοῖς αὐτῆς (Vulgate in paternis suis) also seems to support it.

Against this, and in favour of (b), it has been said that Christ did not mean to say ‘I could not return, I was in the Temple of God,’ but ‘My Father’s business is the most important thing for Me.’ It is also said that ‘the necessity of our Lord’s being in His Father’s house could hardly be intended by Him as absolutely regulating all His movements, and determining where He should be found, seeing that He had scarcely uttered the words in question before He withdrew with Joseph and Mary from that house, and spent the next eighteen years substantially away from it. On the other hand, the claim to be engaged in His Father’s concerns had doubtless both frequently been alleged explicitly in respect of the occupation of His previous home life, and continued to be so during the subsequent periods of His eighteen years’ subjection to the parental rule; His acknowledgment of that claim being in nowise intermitted by His withdrawal with His parents from His Father’s house. Intimations of a more general kind seem ‘easily capable of being read between the lines of the inspired narrative, which increase the probability that the Authorized Version, rather than the Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885, expresses the meaning of the Evangelist’ (Dr. R. E. Wallis). It should also be noted that the expression ‘my Father’s house’ occurs in John 2:16 in plain terms.

In favour of (c) we may quote the words of Jul. Döderlein (Neucs Jahrbuch für deutsche Theologie, 1892, i. 204): ‘ “In My Father’s house” is not correct: Christ soon leaves the Temple. “Business” is little better.… Joseph and Mary could hardly have been expected to understand that their child had special work to do for God’s kingdom’ (i.e. at that age).… ‘Had they sought Him among the good, they would not have needed to seek long. Instead of this, they sought Him ἐν τοῖς συγγενέσιν καὶ τοῖς γνωστοῖς, who afterwards tried to cast Him down from the hill (John 4:28-29), and therefore even then would converse little about God’s word: on the other hand, He was to be found ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μου, who held the office of the Word (Matthew 23:2), and as such gladly listened to His eager questions … the masculine, so to speak, has the first claim on the τοῖς, which is formed from οἱ, not from τά. There is no mention of things in the context.… In Romans 12:16 Luther, Authorized Version and (Revised Version margin) give the masculine, “them of low estate.” 1 Corinthians 12:6; 1 Corinthians 15:28, Colossians 3:11 πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν = “all things in all men,” not “all things in all things.” In Luke 2:44 no one would render ἐν τοῖς γνωστοῖς, “in the known places.” Again the με at the end of the phrase seems to be antithetical and emphatic. “Among those of My Father must I not be?” … Not in what place, but in what company He must be, the anxious ones are able to learn once for all … “where men speak of God, I shall surely be found” ’ (cf. a review in The Thinker, 1893, iii. 171 ff.). We think this explanation deserves more consideration than it has received.

The syncretic combination of (a) and (b), as, e.g., by Alford and others, does not commend itself to the present writer. Finally, we should not forget that this conversation is one of the most likely ones in the Gospels to have been held in Aramaic and not in Greek. It will therefore be wise not to lay too much stress on the analogies quoted above on various sides of the question. Even the Greek of these two chapters, as we have it, is noted as Semitic in style, not in St. Luke’s classical manner (except, of course, 1:1–3). The Pesh., as we noticed above, supports (a). The Sinaitic palimpsest has ‘Wist ye not that I must be with my Father?’ (Expos. Times, xii. [1901] p. 206).* [Note: Besides the works quoted above, the reader should consult Field’s Otium Norvicense, Pars Tertia; Expository Times, x. 484; Farrar, St. Luke in Cambridge Bible for Schools, 368, 369 (in which he abandons the view taken in Life of Christ, i. 78); and most reviews and criticisms on the Revised NT generally.]

Joseph and Mary ‘understood not the saying which he spake unto them’ (Luke 2:50). Therefore He had not learned this from them, nor from other teachers, nor had He previously spoken much, if at all, of the Father. Their difficulty, of course, was not the literal question of grammar which troubles us. It was that they did not so realize the spiritual force of His saying (οὐ συνῆκαν τὸ ῥῆμα).

Although Joseph and Mary understood neither His words, nor His actions, nor Himself, and although His words and actions show that He now knew more than He had done of His Father, of Himself and of His mission, yet ‘He went down with them, and came to Nazareth and was subject unto them.’ As W. R. Nicoll says: ‘He went their messages, did their work, humbled Himself, as if this episode at Jerusalem had never been’ (The Incarnate Saviour, p. 41). The twelve years of hidden life were followed by another eighteen years of retirement. Even Nathanael, living at Cana, a few miles off, had not heard of Him (John 1:46-47). We may be sure that He who would ‘fulfil all righteousness’ (Matthew 3:15) did not omit the yearly attendance at the Passover, and other feasts. He had at least to lead the life of example to His family and to His fellow-townsmen. Although we do not think that He or His were bound by all the rules of Pharisaic or of later Rabbinic Judaism, we may be sure that He did what was usual among pious Jews, partly because He would obey those who sat ‘in Moses’ seat’ (Matthew 23:2-3), and partly because, like His future Apostle (Romans 14:16, 1 Corinthians 8:13 etc.), He would put no stumbling-block in anyone’s way (Matthew 17:27).

We know that after Christ’s ministry began, He spent much time in prayer, usually secret and for secrecy’s sake, on the mountain (Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35; Mark 6:46, Luke 3:21; Luke 5:16; Luke 9:18; Luke 9:28-29; Luke 11:1). We cannot believe that this communion with His Father began with His ministry. Yet it seems unlikely that Christ in His early childhood would have followed this custom. May we date it from His return to Nazareth in His twelfth year? Then, His claim for liberty to be ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρὸς (ἀυτοῦ) would not seem to be a claim which either lay dormant for eighteen years (‘my Father’s business’) or which was at once relinquished (by His return) and only taken up at intervals (‘my Father’s house’), in which case no claim for liberty was needed. Moreover, ‘His Father’s business’ for the next eighteen years was, as the event proved, preparation. And this is just what Christ did, and the secret prayer and meditation were part of it. If this custom began, or at least took a larger part in His life then, we can reconcile His words in the Temple with His life in the following years. And if ‘house’ instead of ‘business’ be the word to be supplied, we can also believe that He knew that the whole Universe is the Father’s house (John 14:2), and not only the Temple ‘made with hands.’

It must also be noted that His growth ‘in wisdom’ implies not only learning by prayer and meditation, and learning from the written word, but also learning from observation of human life. We learn by these three sources, and He was made like unto His brethren. But for this last source of learning, time and the attainment of greater age are required. Did He know when His active work was to begin? Moses sinned by beginning too soon, but ignorance, and the thought that the right time might be sooner than it was, would be no sin. Yet He who ‘was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin’ (Hebrews 4:15), might conceivably be tempted as Moses was. We tread here on difficult ground, and our ignorance, our desire not to err from the Faith, and our reverence for our Lord, bid us say no more. Meanwhile He did His duty in retirement, passing from boyhood into manhood, and waiting for the call which came later. Was the non-appearance of the forerunner (Malachi 3:1) the sign that the time had not come, and his appearance the sign that the time was fulfilled (Mark 1:15)?

And his mother kept all these sayings in her heart’ (διετήρει occurs in NT only here and Acts 15:29; cf. Genesis 37:11 of Jacob concerning Joseph. ὁ δὲ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ διετήρησεν τὸ ῥῆμα, where E [Note: Elohist.] has the same tense as here διετήρει, perhaps by assimilation). But Jacob lost hope (Genesis 37:35), while Mary kept these sayings in her heart. It was a close, persistent, faithful keeping, but a keeping in silence, even when it might have changed the attitude of His kinsmen towards Him, or indeed have saved His life. She spoke, no doubt, when the right time came. Stress is laid on her faithfulness and meditation also in Luke 2:19. We may ask whether τὰ ῥήματα included other sayings than the ῥῆμα of

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Boyhood of Jesus'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/b/boyhood-of-jesus.html. 1906-1918.

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