Jesus: The Early Years

And did those feet, in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the Holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

It's often remarked upon that The Bible goes into very little detail on the life of Jesus Christ between his birth and the last few years of his life. There's a few snippets about his childhood and a fairly important bit when he's 12, but after that we get a huge Time Skip to his early 30s.

Naturally, as with all unexplained mysteries about famous people, fiction writers have pounced on this period. Maybe he was a bit of a party animal? Maybe he sheltered himself away in a Shaolin monastery to learn how to fight evil? We deserve to know!

The missing years are often treated as the result of a Vatican cover-up, especially as some of the Gnostic Gospels, which weren't deemed worthy of inclusion in the Bible, contain stories about Jesus' youth. It's more likely that his early life was much like anyone else's at the time, working in his father's carpentry business, and just wasn't interesting enough to mention in a tale about a great prophet. The fascination with great people working their way up from humble origins is a much more recent phenomenon.

Even if this isn't the setting for the story, it's ripe grounds for Conversational Troping between characters.

Related to Beethoven Was an Alien Spy. Subtrope of Stock Unsolved Mysteries.

As with any religious topic, the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement applies, so play nice.


  • Dogma explains that the Metatron told Jesus who he was at the age of 12; the gap is the result of one enormous Heroic BSOD as he tries to come to terms with that fact. However, Rufus reveals that the books talking about it were left out of the New Testament because they dealt heavily with Jesus's younger, non-divine brothers and sisters - of which, one is Bethany's ancestor.
  • The book Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore, is all about this. "Josh" travels to India, China, and The Middle East to visit The Three Wise Men, where they in turn teach Jesus one different facet of his later teachings. (In the afterword, Moore is specific in mentioning that Buddhism didn't reach China in the lifetime of Jesus. For him to study under a Buddha in Tibet would have been anachronistic.)
  • The non-canonical Infancy Gospel of Thomas (not to be confused with the completely different, also non-canonical Gospel of Thomas) covers this. Including a young Jesus killing another child before bringing him back, and Jesus making insects and snakes out of mud and bringing them to life.
  • A Kids in the Hall skit showed examples of Jesus' carpentry work - it turns out he wasn't a particularly skilled one.
  • An episode of Family Guy shows him as a teenager, trying to deal with God being an absentee father who's shacked up with a bimbo.
    Jesus: Uhh, Hey dad, so um.. Things aren't working out too well here. Can I come stay with you for a while?
    God: Gosh, you know, I'd love to, son, but this isn't a very good time right now. *Hangs up, and returns to the girl in his bed*
    God: Alright then, now where were we?
    Girl: Right about here. *Holds up a condom*
    God: Aww come on baby, it's my birthday!
    Girl: No.
  • The book The Breath of God, by Jeffrey Small, is a suspense novel that follows an American graduate student who journeys to the Himalayas in search of proof that Jesus travelled through India during his lost years. Although the majority of the novel takes place in the present day, several chapters tell the story from the perspective of a teenage Jesus as he struggles with culture and teachings so different from his own.
  • Yeshua: A Personal Memoir of the Missing Years of Jesus, by Stanislaw Kapuscinski, is a fictional account of Jesus's journey to India and his preparation there for his later Palestinian mission. Kapuscinski weaves his own philosophy into the story.
  • There is an Arthurian legend that Jesus travelled to Britain during his lost years — this perhaps explains the idea that Joseph of Arimathea brought the Holy Grail to England after Jesus' death, and thus why the Knights of the Round Table are seeking it there. William Blake's poem "And did those feet in ancient time" (better known as the lyrics to "Jerusalem") was inspired by this story.
  • QI discussed the Infancy Gospels in one episode. Stephen Fry shared a story about a confrontation between the child Jesus and a group of many dragons that had suddenly sprung from a nearby cave.
    • Another episode discussed the story about Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea coming to Glastonbury.
  • The Tribune by Patrick Larkin tells of the adventures of a Roman officer named Lucius as he investigates murders and uncovers conspiracies in Judea. He encounters many Young Future Famous People from the New Testament, including Jesus, Paul, and Mary Magdalene. He himself turns out to be Luke.
  • The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman creates an account of Jesus' childhood in which he had an Evil Twin named Christ. Jesus was a well-meaning but naive philosopher and revolutionary while Christ was a politically savvy schemer who eventually used his brother to create a powerful church.
  • The Christ the Lord series by Anne Rice is about this.