Those Significant “Silent Years”
With the exception of the miraculous events concerned with his birth, the Bible student knows precious little of the events of the first thirty years of the life of Jesus Christ upon this earth. When the Lord was eight days old, he was circumcised according to Jewish law (Luke 2:21). Thirty-three days later, he was presented in the temple (Luke 2:22-39).
Then there is the account of the visit of those wise men from the east who came to worship the holy child (Matthew 2:1-12), and the subsequent flight into Egypt to escape the wrath of the vicious Herod (Matthew 2:13-23). There is a general reference to the settlement of Joseph and Mary, along with the young Jesus, at Nazareth (Matthew 2:23; Lk. 2:39-40). There also is that isolated account of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus’ visit to the city of Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, when the Lord was twelve years old (Luke 2:41-50).
Following that episode, however, there is a blank space in the divine record that covers eighteen years in the life of Christ. Other than the generic allusion that Jesus advanced in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52), the historian knows nothing of this time span.
Grasp the significance of this. Probably more than 90% of the Savior’s earthly life is missing from the sacred record! This is a most unusual feature; virtually any biographical work of significance will consume many pages covering the early years of the object of its focus, detailing the events of the formative era that contributed to the success (or lack thereof) of the principal subject.
Are we not curious? Would not a competent biographer have provided students of history with some interesting details of the youthful life of the carpenter from Nazareth? Were there no exciting adventures? These are normal expectations – yet they are conspicuously missing from the Gospel accounts.
It was this very circumstance that called forth a number of spurious writings, known collectively as the Apocryphal Gospels. These extra-canonical (i.e., not-meeting-the-standard for a divine writing) “Gospels” arose because of the common curiosity to have a fuller knowledge of certain periods in the life of Christ that are omitted by the genuine documents.
Consider, for instance, the work that is labeled, The Childhood Gospel of Thomas_. The is a fictional effort interspersed with certain gospel facts. The earliest manuscript of this work dates from about the 5th century A.D. – though it was not ascribed to “Thomas” until medieval times. It appears to be traceable, however, to an earlier source referred to by Irenaeus (c. A.D. 180) as one of the “spurious writings” that had been “forged” by those “ignorant of the Scriptures of truth” (_Against Heresies 1.20.1).
The work depicts Mary’s illustrious son as fashioning little birds out of clay1 and causing them to fly away. It also tells of an occasion when another boy accidentally bumped into young Jesus, causing the lad to strike dead the offending playmate. The Childhood Gospel tells of an incident when Joseph, the carpenter, cut a piece of wood too short, and young Jesus “stretched” it to the proper size!
No absurdities such as these mar the New Testament Gospel records.
This silence of the New Testament records, however, represents no accidental breach in the biblical account. The gap is there by design. The New Testament narratives were purposefully constructed to present only such information regarding Jesus as was relevant to the unfolding plan of redemption. What the holy lad did in the carpenter’s shop was wholly beyond the scope of divine intention.
The so-called “missing portion” of the biography of Jesus is, therefore, in a very important sense, one of the remarkable evidences of its divine origin. The lack of data sometimes speaks as eloquently as the actual presence of the same. There are numerous and thrilling testimonies to the heavenly character of the Holy Scriptures.
1 The fictitious story regarding “clay birds” was also incorporated into Islam’s Qur’an (Sura 5.115), and this is but another evidence of the bogus nature of the Muslim “holy” book.