CHAPTER 4


    And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus,

    which is how he was named by the angel of God before he was conceived in the womb.

    And when the days of Mary's purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought

    him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord;

    As it is written, Every male that opens a womb shall be called holy to the Lord.

   And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is written in the law, A pair of turtle-doves, or two young

   pigeons.

   And, behold, there was a just and devout man in Jerusalem, Simeon by name.

   When he saw the child, he took him from his parents in his arms and blessed God and said, Behold, this

   child is set for the fall and rise of many in Israel and for a sign for the people.

   He shall prepare the way for a light to lighten the nations. (Note 1)

   And after some time, Joseph and Mary returned with the boy Jesus to Nazareth.

    And there he grew and waxed strong in spirit, being filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was with

    him. (Note 2)

    And none but a few knew that he was not Joseph's son but was created by God without a father, even as

    Adam was created without father or mother. (Note 3)

    Now Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem every year of the Passover.

    And when Jesus was twelve or thirteen years old, they went up to Jerusalem with him, to make him a son

    of the law, after the custom of the Jews. (Note 4)

    This meant that Jesus was now responsible for the commandments of the law.

    And when the ceremony was completed, and the days were fulfilled, (Note 5) the caravan missed Jesus,

   and he was left behind in Jerusalem, but Joseph and his mother knew not of it.

    And they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among

    their kinfolk and acquaintances.

    And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.

    And it came to pass that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors,

    both hearing them and asking them questions.

    And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. (Note 6)

    And when he went with Joseph and Mary, his mother said to him, Son, why have you thus dealt with us:

    Behold, your father and I have sought you sorrowing.

    And he said to them, You knew that I have to be in these matters that are God's. (Note 7)

    And the family returned to their home in Galilee.

    And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.

Go to Chapter 5

Notes (Chapter 4)

1Luke 2:21-25, 28, 34. By a phenomenon rather frequent in the Gospels, this incident is duplicated in Luke 2:36-38, where it is an eighty-four years old woman, Anna, who acclaims the infant Jesus the future Savior. Although none of the incidents is mentioned by any other gospel, they are not implausible since there must have been quite a few poor old people roaming among the temple visitors and heaping adulations on infants in the hope of flattering their parents into greater alms. However, what Luke puts in the mouth of Simeon and Anna reflects in large measure his own view of Jesus as a universal messenger. But as modern critical scholarship has shown, such a view was not shared by Jesus himself. For if he hesitated even to heal a non-Jewish girl (Mark 7:24-28) and did not want to throw bread (i.e., teaching) to the Gentile dogs, and if he instructed the apostles to restrict their mission only to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 10:5-6), it cannot be maintained that he presented himself as a light to lighten the Gentiles. Here the historical validity of the two Gospel reports cited is immaterial; for in any case they point to a serious conflict among Christians concerning the Gentile mission, and such a conflict could not have arisen if Jesus was as clear of his universal role as Simeon and Luke are.

The conclusion of critical scholarship that Jesus did not direct his teachings to the Gentile world is consistent with the Quran, which presents Jesus as "a messenger of God to Israel" (3:49, etc). However, the Qur`an does not lose sight of the fact that Jesus' story came to be told among all the nations but takes it into account by saying that God made Mary and "her son a sign for all the nations" (21:91), a description that is also applicable to Noah's story (29:15) and does not mean that Mary or Jesus or Noah was a universal Savior in the sense the Gentile Christianity came to regard Jesus. [return]

2Luke 2:40. [return]

3Qur`an 3:59. [return]

4The incident is reported by Luke only (2:41-51), who says that Jesus was twelve when it took place. But the ceremony of making a young Israelite a son of the law (bar mitzvah), for which Jesus was most probably taken to the temple, took place at thirteen. [return]

5The pilgrims were not obliged to spend the entire week of the Passover in Jerusalem. Luke's statement that Joseph and Mary "fulfilled the days" means that they completed the whole week or at least stayed until the day of matsoth when the ceremony of investing a boy as a son of the law takes place. [return]

6It is not unusual for great men to show signs of extraordinary intelligence in their youth or even childhood. Indeed, greatness always goes back to a deep childhood involvement with some issues. This deep personal involvement gives them a very special type of knowledge about these issues that escapes the learned and "the doctors." The fact, therefore, that the great Jewish historian of the New Testament times, Flavius Josephus, also showed extraordinary intelligence at age fourteen is not sufficient ground to attribute the incident we are reporting from Luke to Josephus' influence on that Gospel. [return]

7Luke's text is, "Know you not that I had to be in these that are of my Father's." Jesus' preoccupation with religious matters must have started earlier than his first Passover since only then could he have had ideas to express to "the doctors." And his parents must have known of their son's deep interest in that area. What Jesus is saying in his answer to Mary is that a compelling, deep involvement with religious matters, of which Mary and Joseph are well aware, had made him forget about the caravan and get sheathed in religious discussions. [return]