Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What was Jesus like as a child?

“Western culture is a Jesus-haunted culture, and yet one that is largely biblically illiterate. Almost anything can pass for knowledge of Jesus and early Christianity in such a culture.”—Ben Witherington

Have you ever wondered what Jesus was like as a little boy? The New Testament covers Jesus’ birth, but then skips ahead to when he is 12 years old in the temple sitting with the teachers (cf. Luke 2:42-51). What about all the years in between?

Enter the lost gospels. These writings, for various reasons, tried to fill in the gaps about two periods of Jesus’ life—his childhood and the three days between his death and resurrection.

Here are two passages from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas about his childhood (judge for yourself if they ring true):

Now the son of Annas the scribe was standing there with Joseph; and he took a willow branch and scattered the water that Jesus had gathered. Jesus was irritated when he saw what had happened, and said to him: “You unrighteous, irreverent idiot! What did the pools of water do to harm you? See, now you also will be withered like a tree, and you will never bear leaves or root or fruit.” Immediately that child was completely withered. Jesus left and returned to Joseph’s house. But the parents of the withered child carried him away, morning his lost youth. They brought him to Joseph and began to accuse him, “What kind of child do you have who does such things?”

Evidently Jesus didn’t play nice with the other children! Here is another interesting snap shot of Jesus’ childhood:

Somewhat later he has going through the village, and a child ran up and banged into his shoulder. Jesus was aggravated and said to him, “You will go no further on your way.” And right away the child fell down and died...The parents of the dead child came to Joseph and blamed him, saying “Since you have such a child you cannot live with us in the village. Or teach him to bless and not curse—for he is killing our children!”*

One thing is clear, “Don’t mess with Jesus!”

Anyone who has read the NT can easily distinguish the flavors of these writings. These 'accounts' are far too late to offer us anything historically solid. The Gospels and the other writings of the NT are the best and most accurate sources of knowledge about Jesus.

For more background substantiating the accuracy of the NT message, composition, and transmission, see the excellent book Reinventing Jesus by J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, & Daniel B. Wallace

*(Quoted From) Infancy Gospel of Thomas ch. 3 in Bart D. Ehrman, Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It into the New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 58.

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