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How Did the Boy Jesus Learn the Scriptures? — 39 Comments

  1. I think it's reasonable to assume that since John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth (Luke 1:15), that Jesus too was "educated" by the Spirit of Truth (Isaiah 11:2; Acts 10:38). Moreover, while Jesus was surely taught by His parents and the scriptures, He was also educated and blessed by his relationship with our Heavenly Father with Whom Jesus communed often (Luke 2:40).

    • Sieg, certainly one must agree that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come" (Jn. 16:13 NKJV). To me what this means is that there are times when new information is given, mostly through prophets, but the bulk of what the Spirit does is through what is already written. That is how the Holy Spirit "guides" us. I don't think that He operates outside the Bible in a vacuum all on His own. Nor do I believe that He operates in some sort of loose cooperation with the other two members of the Godhead. They are all of one mind and purpose and have communicated their purpose through the written Word.

      I strongly believe that the Bible is our source of all wisdom for, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17 NKJV). As Jesus said, "It is written,`Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4 NKJV). Jesus is that word (Jn 1:1) of which the Old Testament Scriptures testified (Lk 24:27).

    • If we apply the same methods as Jesus did, the bible told us we can become like Him in character. Look at the times Jesus met with His father: early morning, during the day, evening, the 4th watch of the night (3-6am). You call a night/day prayer and fasting, see how many turns up, or call a week of prayer for the youth, and wait for the audience. People want to be like Jesus but do not want to pick up thier cross and follow Jesus, this christian life and a constance battle even for the youth.

    • You wrote "I think it's reasonable to assume that since John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth that Jesus too was "educated" by the Spirit of Truth" and provided some good bible quotes for the support of your statement. But I have a little difficulty accepting the implication from your statement that intellectual prowess in spiritual themes is "magically" induced by the presence of the Holy Spirit. According to 1st Corinthians 13, the love chapter, and Galatians 5: 22, and Ephesians 5:9, possession of a sharp intellect is not one of the fruits of the Spirit. Jesus demonstrated a very sharp intellect numerous times which was sharpened by studying the scriptures based on the intellectual capacity given to him at the union of the sperm generated by the Holy Spirit and the egg from his mother.

      All I am trying to say is that it is NOT the possession of "truth" that is the evidence for the working of the Holy Spirit in a person, but how that "truth" is wielded.

      • Neven, although Jesus clearly possessed prodigious intellect and spiritual wisdom, these are two entirely different things in my view.

        I think we sometimes go to exceedingly great and unreasonable lengths to argue that we are all just like Jesus (or have the opportunity to be). We know that Jesus knew of His divine nature at least by age 12 and that He was thus not like other children, something He had to remind even his own mother about (Luke 2:49-50). I can't imagine that by age 12, Mary and Joseph hadn't had numerous conversations with Jesus about the circumstances surrounding His birth and Christ's earthly origin as revealed to His parents by angels.

        Why, after all of this, do we insist on claiming that Jesus was just like any other child? What other child was told these things by his parents?

        I believe it unnecessary to raise up numerous speculations about how Jesus came to know about His Father or about heavenly things. Jesus and God together planned for Jesus' earthly life long before earth was here. How did Jesus afford to have access to the scrolls? How did He know so much about His Father from such a young age? How about God made it happen? Just like God sent Gabriel to talk to Mary. Just like God sent angels to tell the shepherds about Baby Jesus. Just like God showed the 3 wise men the way to the manger. Just like God caused a human virgin to become pregnant with His son. Just like God protected baby Jesus from Herod (Matt. 2:16) and Satan. Why must we speculate about how God accomplished these things?

        I hope we can avoid putting Jesus into a box defined by our personal existence. He is the Son of God. Many people knew this long before Christ's birth and Jesus undoubtedly knew it soon afterwards.

        • Sieg, I agree with a lot of what you say. I do think we need to see the point that the article was making and that is the value that Jesus put on Scripture and the value that it has to us. Jesus’ whole life was based on “it is written.” During the temptations in the wilderness His answer to Satan was rooted in scripture. Quite often when confronted by those attempting to trap Him he used scripture in rebuttal. And certainly He knew who He was and what His mission was through the study the Word (Lk 4:18-21).

          I don’t think His parents or anyone else really understood who He really was or what His mission was. That seems to be obvious when we see the reaction His disciples had on many occasions (for instance, Lk 8:25; Jn 11:23-27) and when we see the interaction of Mary and Jesus at the temple (Lk 2:49-50).

          I am quite sure that as a prophet His was privileged information the ordinary person does not have but that does not lessen the importance Jesus had concerning the word nor was it the basis of His knowledge. There are also major considerations concerning the great controversy which we will simply have wait until Heaven to learn about but one thing is sure. If the only thing that needed to be done was for Him to die a substitutionary death then He would have come to earth as an adult and entered into the sacrifice immediately – but He didn’t. He lived through 30 very trying, tough years for reasons we seem to have but a dim view about. It all has a purpose and one of the main things seems to be the centrality of Scripture and faith in God which is our anchor in this turbulent world where anything is believed and anything goes.

        • Thanks for sharing your thoughtful insights Tyler. We had a wonderful Sabbath School class this week exploring a number of the ideas presented here (SSNET). This forum is such a blessing and I really learn a lot from my brothers and sisters in Christ. I agree it is impossible to overestimate the importance of scripture as Jesus so aptly demonstrated. And what a blessed assurance that we will have eternity with Him to learn what Paul Harvey would have termed "the rest of the story."

  2. Moses like Jesus was taught in his home and when he was released at age 12, no world and teaching were able to influence him but he clung to the truth he learned in his childhood. But why did the priests and prophet of God like Eli, Aaron and Samuel not able to do the same to their children. Has it something to do with the trainer, A MOTHER?

    One meaning of Discipling Children I believe is how to retain our children in the church. We have taught all our children with the Word of God since their childhood AND BECAME EVEN BETTER THAN US but WHY are many of them now out of the church. Still the big question to answer is, HOW TO MAKE OUR CHILDREN DISCIPLES? Until when will we be accountable for the acts of our children?

    • Merwin,
      Retaining children in the church (are you talking about the SDA church?) is not as important as presenting the correct picture of God. It seems to me that adults are more interested in maintaing a certain behavior in children than presenting the character of God. Therefore if God is presented as a God who is going to kill you if you perform badly, the children are going to run. If God is presented as one who is wanting to save and not kill, then it makes a lot more sense that the children are going to be drawn and not pushed.

  3. Jesus had no advantage over the poorest of men, and God will provide us all we need if we will only seek it with our whole heart. God has placed a perfect knowledge of Himself and Christ in His word, where we will find it. I have seen this happen once a person became convicted of the need. It is marvelous what God can and will do for those of simple faith.

    Keep in mind, Jesus did not have a child's version of the bible, and my personal opinion is that God will open the most "mature" version to whomever will search it to find a knowledge of God. I personally have used the KJV (other versions are fine if preferred)since a child and know it well because of this constant exposure. I have been blessed in every effort as God has promised. He has promised to "instruct you and teach you in the way thou shalt go...", we only need to believe and act upon it. All would benefit from memorizing and praying passages like Ps 119:33-40, etc. Fill your prayers with God's promises, expecting His blessings. No one else you could know is more trustworthy or faithful.

    I enjoyed this article very much.

    • Hi Robert, it seems I did not make clear that The Good News Bible/Today's English Version is a not "a child's version of the Bible." It is a responsible dynamic translation using a smaller vocabulary than most other translations to facilitate understanding by those for whom English is a second language. And because of its smaller vocabulary, it is also more comprehensible for children.

      As Thursday's lesson points out, "In [Christ's] teaching He came down to their level. He, the Majesty of heaven, did not disdain to answer their questions, and simplify His important lessons to meet their childish understanding." (From Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 512-515. )

      I think we would do well to imitate the attitude of Christ towards children and teach the great truths of Scripture in a manner comprehensible to their understanding. A simple, clear and attractive translation is helpful for that purpose and allows children to feel that they can actually read and understand the Word of God for themselves, rather than having to depend on adults to act as translators.

      • I agree as well, although I think children can handle more than we allow them to.

        Be that as it may, I grew up with a fear of the NIV that is still hard to shake to this day. The things we were told about that Bible...

        Nevertheless, I enjoy the following now: NIV, Good News, NLT and Phillips--along with the KJV of course.

  4. I once heard a saying: "When the child cursed, Mohamed slapped the father."
    Parents have the commandment of God regarding their children, and none are free from the responsibility. As for the outcome, remember Lucifer, and the possibilities that freewill brings with it. God knew that few would receive the salvation offered and we cannot control another mind, but can only train it with the best of our ability and God's promised blessings. Beyond this, the mind is free to choose.

  5. Inge, I think your article is thought provoking and insightful. It also raises a challenge to me concerning my time in the Bible which I don't think I get enough of.

    There is only one thing I would like to raise a question about and that is your statement, "A Hebrew child of 12 years old was considered an adult and expected to know the sacred writings and take responsibility for living according to them." As far as I know the age of 12 was a milestone in a child's development socially where he/she became a young adult (Bar Mitzvah for boys) very roughly equivalent to teenager in secular society today. While a boy took on more responsibilities he was still not considered on his own at that point as we can see from the event at the temple in Jerusalem (Lk 2:51).The reason why I say that is because Jesus didn't begin His ministry until, "about thirty years of age" (Lk. 3:23 NKJV). That is when He was considered a full adult, independent of His parents and able to be called Rabbi.

    • Thank you for your comment, Tyler. It seems I did not make my intent clear enough. I understand that a Hebrew child was considered an adult in terms of moral responsibility either by the time he or she turned 12 or 13, if we go by current Jewish standards re the bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah. I did not intend to imply that at that age they were to be financially independent or married.

      By contrast, today's American teenager has many privileges and liberties but few responsibilities. In pioneer days, there was no time of irresponsibility between childhood and adulthood, and it appears that there was no such time of irresponsibility in the Hebrew culture either. But perhaps that is another discussion. (Let's not get into a discussion of teenagers, please. I realize that even today there are some very responsible and God-fearing teenagers who do not conform to the culture of irresponsibility.)

      I believe we expect too little of our young people and thus do them a disfavor. We should keep in mind that by the age of 12 or 13 they are fully able to understand the truths of God's Word and be morally responsible. And we should give them responsibilities in our churches, rather than treat them as children to be entertained. But of course that implies that it is our responsibility to teach them to know God in an intelligent way before they reach that age. The boy Jesus provides an example of the knowledge of God and moral character that is possible to every child of God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

    • Tyler, you have touched on a point that had crossed my mind, and that was when did Jesus start his recorded ministry? At approximately 30 years of age. I also think about the statement made by one of the original 12 disciples. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? This does not necessarily project a picture of much time spent at His mothers knee or reading scrolls. When Jesus was in the temple just after the wilderness temtaion and they gave the scroll to read. I have assumed that all the scrolls were in the temple. Unfortunately even though if this was the case, we are left with much opinion and speculation, due to lack of Biblical accounts of His life till His early ministry. One thing that has been a puzzlement in my mind, was the answer that Jesus gave his mother when she found him after serching for three! days, in the temple reasoning. This was a frantic mother who expected Jesus to be with relatives or friends as usual. Maybe the Jewish manner of speaking was a question that Jesus thought His mother would know. However the length of time and effort spent, would indicate otherwise. It would be said a bit differently perhaps in our english construction. I think Jesus loved and respected his parents.

  6. There is one other thing I would like to say and that is that I appreciate people who read their Bible daily and commit portions of the Bible to memory but I think there is a caution we need to be aware of. The Pharisees committed large portions of scripture to memory yet crucified the Messiah - so much for rote memorization.

    The fact is that many will be lost, "because they did not receive the love of the truth" (2 Thess. 2:10 NKJV). As Jesus said, "Many will say to Me in that day,`Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them,`I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matt. 7:22-23 NKJV). "Prophesy" here means to speak for God, to preach, to testify, or to witness. But Jesus says that many of those will not make it. I think that is probably because it was only so many words to them, just facts that never took root in the heart. So to me we not only need to read those words but to live them as well (Mat 7:24-27).

  7. [Moderator's Note: Please use full names when commenting. Thank you.]

    Perhaps they just purchased a full set of scriptures with some of the money provided by the three wise men.

  8. Today I was giving a personal Bible study on the Scriptures and read Acts 17:11 Like I always do when giving this study. It says the people heard Paul preach and then went home to search the Scriptures to see if those things were so. It hit me today that if they were doing that, the Scriptures must have been more readily available than I thought, since everyone was reading them at home.

    Also now today with the Bible on cell phones and Tablets, I hear people say they still like to read the Bible in book form and not on an electronic device. Makes me wonder, when books were first coming out, were there people who said they still preferred reading the scrolls? 🙂

    • The scripture does not say they went home to search the Scriptures. The context clearly supports the cultural practice of the day. the synagogue was a community centre. One should not think of a synagogue as synonymous with church; nor should one think of them in the same form as modern synagogues. They were more like a community meeting place. In communication terms they were more like the first century equivalent of Facebook for the Jews. Both Jesus and Paul did a lot of their teaching in Synagogues, not because it was just a place of worship, but it was where people were. Synagogues were often quite humble places, although there is archeological evidence for some very well appointed ones as well. The crowning glory of a synagogue was to own scrolls of the law and the prophets.

      One of the issues for Christians in early times was that they would be thrown out of the synagogue. This was more than just a religious censure because they were cut off from communicating with people in their community. This explains some of the strange things that Paul got up to in an apparent attempt to appease the Jewish authorities.

      • From what I read Acts 17:11 says, “they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (NKJV). So I think Maurice is correct here but whether or not Paul was teaching daily in the synagogue is a question. The chapter starts out describing what went on in Thessalonica where it says, “Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Act 17:2 NKJV). It does not say daily so I think we can assume the synagogue was not used as a “community center” as we understand it where people loitered about during the week. Besides Paul was a tent maker and we are told that that is where he did most of his witnessing.

        I think we should also throw into the whole thing that Jewish communities had schools of the prophets that were held in the synagogue or someplace associated with it where children could learn Jewish custom and law from scripture and traditional writings. If Maurice is right about those buildings being simple, and I think he is, then it would have been annoying if not downright rude for him to interrupt the education of children to argue his theology. We also need to remember that life was hard back then and the vast majority were working long hard hours to secure a reasonable living just like Paul did with his tent making (2 Thess 3:8) and that would not have left them much time for idle gossip whether in the synagogue or not.

        Therefore, it is my belief that the men would have discussed issues mostly while doing their trade while women had to go to the local market daily to buy food and probably had some socializing there and certainly some congregating took place at the community well. For the women I think most of the day was probably spent at home caring for the family needs. That doesn’t mean that they had no extra time but I don’t think it is like it is today where we work a normal eight hours then have hours of leisure after.

        • Keep in mind that there were plenty who had time to spare. Many had servants to do the chores while they attended to business and socializing. Abundance of idleness (Eze 16:49) has always been a problem in this sinful world and has never been lacking in many classes of all societies. As a minister of the gospel first, Paul used every opportunity to find and share with an audience as the Holy Spirit led him. I believe he was a tent-maker 2nd, not 1st. They reached many souls in a short period after the Holy Spirit descended upon the Church. God can open doors where we don't even see them existing. Games, live theater, taverns and markets were crowded daily and I know Paul was diligent in seeking to save any who would listen to the gospel he lived to share. Remember how the people flocked to be with Jesus, often for days at a time.

        • Robert, those that had servants were the wealthy who could afford such luxuries. It took a lot to have an employee, even a slave has to be fed, clothed, and housed. I do think that basically the rest of what you say is true except idleness or being lazy which I will somewhat disagree with because that usually always leads to poverty (Prov 24:30-34) and they didn’t have the welfare systems we have today.

      • Maurice,
        Let us say Mary took Jesus to the synagogue daily. How would you account for the mountainside or forest access as noted in EGW quote from Signs of The Times, September 19, 1906, below? If Jesus had God's Word (scriptures) alone on the mountainside might he also have access alone at home, or with His mother at home?

        "In childhood, youth, and manhood, Jesus studied the Scriptures. As a little child, He was daily, at His mother’s knee, taught from the scrolls of the prophets. In His youth the early morning and evening twilight often found Him alone on the mountainside or among the trees of the forest, spending a quiet hour in prayer and in the study of God’s Word. During His ministry His intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures testified to His diligence in their study. And since He gained knowledge as we may gain it, His wonderful power, both mental and spiritual, is a testimony to the value of the Bible as a means of education."

        • One of the things that was much more common in those days than now was memorizing. I am old enough to remember that when I was at achool we used to learn poems and important speeches (quite long ones) off by heart. I had a friend who learned the value of PI off to 1000 decimal places. That tradition of memory learning has almost disappeared in the last 60 years. That is a direct result of the general availability of information in both paper and electronic form. But for most of the time previous to our age memorizing has been an essential and significant part of education.

          I have found the fact that I memorized a lot of scripture in my youth very useful. I spend a lot of time in the bush doing bird photography. This usually requires long periods of patience, waiting for birds to do their thing. I often spend the time going through ideas in my own mind and often I will think through a spiritual idea reminding myself of those scriptures that support (or refute) the idea.

          In Christ's time memorization was quite normal. "School learning" such as it was in those days was largely dedicated to rote learning - and in the Jewish context that meant learning the scriptures. So it would not be uncommon for Jewish youth to have learned a lot of scripture by the time they were teenagers. My perception of what Mrs White is saying is that Jesus learned the scriptures off by heart and went off into quite places to think about what he had learned.

          I think this view takes into account both the culture of the day and what Mrs White says. It is not necessary to create scenarios that would be odds with the standard practice of the day. Carrying the sacred scrolls into the forest would have been considered an act of sacrilege.

        • Maurice,
          One of the things we might be careful about is interpreting inspiration in the light of conventions. God does a lot that is unusual and if we maintain that the accounts of inspiration has to conform with culture or standard practice we may force a certain interpretation and could miss important messages.

          It is possible that scrolls could have been provided by means which escape us. Even if we say study really means meditate on what is already read we also have John the baptizer to contend with. In Humble Hero p. 39 by EGW, John is said to read alone in the night and search the scrolls, while He was being taught by God. John was living in the desert and only "from time to time went out to mingle with society." See also Testimonies for the Church vol. 8, p. 331.

          Besides, like Jesus he did not go to the school(s) of the synagogue, and it might be a little awkward (although possible) to show up regularly to study separately at the synagogue while school was in session. The likely hostility of the teachers and students might have become a distraction. The main point really is it is useful to leave room for the unusual working of God, which itself might communicate an important message. Apparently both John and Jesus were given special divine help, once they yielded to God and followed the Spirit's direction, help which may also be available to us when we really commit and submit.

        • Hugh, I agree with most of your post. However, the assertion that "Apparently both John and Jesus were given special divine help, once they yielded to God and followed the Spirit's direction, help which may also be available to us when we really commit and submit" is not supported by the fact that both John and Jesus received Divine help before they were born (e.g., Luke 1:15). Thus, your assertion that they received the Holy Spirit or other help from God only after they yielded or obeyed or whatever appears presumptuous (it makes Divine intervention conditional on things an unborn child could not possibly do).

  9. i think by reading a Bible in a book form, one will make some notes on the side so that when he read the Bible back, he or she can refer back to the scriptures and understand better.

  10. I found the known facts and conjecturing regarding the cost of and prevalence of scriptures in the homes of people living in the time and place of Jesus' childhood to be interesting. I agree that while Joseph and Mary were honored and blessed to parent both their and our Saviour, they certainly had to make sacrafices as well.

    But I was disappointed that the author did not recognize God's ability to plan in advance to provide something such as scriptures for His Son. To me it seemed so obvious that the gifts of the wise men could have been used to purchase copies of scripture that the family probably could not have afforded otherwise. I came back today to read this article again to see if I missed the author's mention of the wise men's gifts. Apparently she did not mention it, but I am glad to see one commenter did mention it.

  11. Thank tou so much about your effort in trying to understand God's plan by our Savior, Lord Jesus Christ. If we believe in Holy Spirit and that Jesus came from God, I am convinced to believe that Jesus knew the sriptures before he was born on earth. He displayed intimate acquaintance with scripture so as to preach the divine power of scriptures to feed our spiritual being and witness the existance of God and that the scriptures provide the true guidance and counsels. When jesus was alone in mountainside and among the trees he was interacting, negotiating and talking to god concerning the execution of God's plan.He was engaged in Heavenly congregation. In business terms 'charting the progress of the project, giving report on successes, challenges , deadlines, including scope, time,finance and resources'

  12. Jesus was taught by God the Father. Isa 50:4 The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.
    Isa 50:5 The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.
    Jesus knew who his father is Luk 2:49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
    at the age of 12 he knew who he is. Luk 2:51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
    Luk 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. Then in Jesus Ministry the Jews witnessed Joh 7:15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?
    and Jesus answers Joh 7:16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.

    • Yes. But when that Word "was made flesh", He had only the knowledge that He learned as we must. He had to study the Word of God to know it and to learn about God(Himself) and His mission as one of us to save sinners. As He grew, we are told He "increased in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and man". Just as we must.

  13. May I ask a question?
    In the beginning the Word is already existed. The Word was with God. and the Word was God.
    If Jesus Christ is the Word.
    Why He need to study the Word of God?
    He is the Word. Jesus Christ is the Word of God.
    I'm just confused.
    Can someone explain it,please.

    • If we want to know someone more closely we try to spend more time talking to him and listening to him. The living Word of God reveals Jesus to us more clearly than imaginations of our imperfect mind. Jesus talks to us personally through His Word.

    • Desiree, Jesus did not come as God, but as man. God begat Him through a woman in a fallen world. Jesus lived as we can live, and is our Example of how to live in perfect harmony with God. Jesus had to learn to walk, talk, tie his own shoes, read, etc. He came as a helpless babe and walked the path of life we must walk.


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