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Jesus: The Early Years

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"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 between His birth and the last few years of His life. There's a few snippets about His childhood and a fairly important bit at the age of 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 fairly mundane, probably involving working as an apprentice carpenter in the Nazareth area, and it 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.


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    Anime and Manga 

  • Shaman King implies that Jesus was the winner of his era's Shaman fight. It can be implied this was the period where he was a participant in the tournament.


  • 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 - one of which is Bethany's ancestor.
    Rufus: Imagine you're a twelve-year-old boy. Then one day, you're told you're God's only son; but more than that, you're God. How long do you think it would take you to come to grips with something that huge? Maybe, say, eighteen years? In the Bible, Jesus suddenly goes from age twelve to thirty. Twelve to thirty! Now, that's some pretty bad storytelling. Where are the volumes of text dealing with the missing eighteen years? I'll tell you where! They were offered up as a sacrifice to the god of ecumenical politics!
    Bethany: (laughing) You make it sound like there's some church conspiracy to cover up "the truth about Christ." (notices Rufus is NOT laughing) Oh, bullshit. Any important material about Christ would give people a better understanding of the nature of God. Why would they leave any of it out?
    Rufus: Because it's all closely tied in with his family.
    Bethany: His mother and father?
    Rufus: His brothers and sisters.
    Bethany: Jesus didn't have brothers and sisters! Mary was a virgin.
    Rufus: Mary gave birth to Christ without having known a man's touch, this is true. But she did have a husband. And do you really think he would've stayed married to her for all those years if he wasn't getting laid? The nature of God and the virgin birth, those are leaps of faith. But to believe a married couple never got down, well that's just plain gullibility!


  • 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.
  • The Christ The Lord series by Anne Rice focuses on this period.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action Television 

  • A The Kids in the Hall skit showed examples of Jesus' carpentry work - it turns out he wasn't a particularly skilled carpenter.
  • QI:
  • Red Dwarf
    • The episode "Lemons" has the time-traveling crew come across who they think is Jesus in this period, but it turns out to be a different young man also named Jesus. Another identical-looking man also named Jesus appears at the very end, but after all the trouble they caused with the first guy, the crew chooses not to investigate.
    • It's also a relatively plausible historical scenario. Yeshua (the Hebrew name from which English speakers ultimately derive the names Jesus and Joshua) was the sixth most popular male name in Roman Judea. And there were lots of religious teachers and itinerant preachers wandering around as well at the time. This is likely why he's called Jesus of Nazareth, to differentiate him from other ones.


    Mythology and Religion 

  • There is an Arthurian Legend that Jesus traveled to Britain during his lost years — specifically, visiting Cornwall and the Isle of Avalon (ie. Glastonbury) in the company of Joseph of Arimathea, who according to this particular legend was the Virgin Mary's uncle (which would make him Jesus's great-uncle note ). Joseph, described as a rich merchant in the Bible, is in this legend a metal trader with business links extending to Britain note  so their journey would have been something of an extended business trip. As a follow-up to this, Joseph of Arimathea returned to Britain after the Crucifixion (establishing one of the first churches anywhere in the world on the site of what would become Glastonbury Abbey) and brought the Holy Grail with him, which explains 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 ("Jerusalem" is an unofficial national anthem in England).
  • One Japanese village claims that Jesus studied theology in Japan during the missing years. Not only that, but when he was going to be killed by the Romans, he pulled a Twin Switch with his brother Isukiri, who sacrificed himself for Jesus. Jesus then returned to Japan, married, had a family, and lived as a farmer in said village until dying peacefully at 106. It should be noted that most of the residents aren't Christians and treat the story more like a beloved local legend.


  • Tomics uses this premise as a plotline for many strips. A lot of them focus on the life of young Jesus, and how he interacts with people like his parents Mary and Joseph and with his cousin John the Baptist.

    Western Animation 

  • 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 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 cartoon in now-defunct Punch! magazine showed the young Jesus inexpertly butchering a piece of carpentry. Joseph is seen shaking his head and remarking to Mary
    I hope he finds another trade soon, Mary. He's useless at carpentry!
  • The Urantia Book, a lengthy tome first published in 1955, claiming to be a collection of revelations about religion and cosmology channeled from celestial beings, has an entire section called "The Life and Teachings of Jesus" that includes an extremely detailed account of his birth and childhood, starting with an exact day and time of his birth (the 7th of August, 7 BCE, at noon).