25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth

Larry Holzwarth - September 2, 2019

According to the biblical narratives and widely believed by western Christians, Jesus of Nazarus was born in Bethlehem, lived most of his childhood and early adult life in Nazareth, and established his itinerant ministry in Judea in the third decade of what came to be known as the Common Era. The gospels are remarkably thin regarding details of his life beyond the first twelve years until the beginning of his ministry. Only two of the gospels discuss his birth. None discuss his life from the age of twelve until the time of his baptism by John. At least eighteen years of his life are unknown to anyone, the years of his education, his early adulthood, and his family relationships as a youth.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
The Crucifixion of Jesus, from a wood engraving by Gustave Dore. Wikimedia

Did he go to school at temple, learning to read and write? The gospels imply that he could do both, reading scripture and at least once writing in the dirt, though what was written is not specified. The absence of historical fact has led to speculation; that he traveled to what became England, or Greece, or France, or India, or all of the above. Did he work as a carpenter with his father Joseph, as is implied in at least one verse in Matthew? Since none of the gospels was written by a contemporary, and since other documents exist but are designed heretical by Church dogma, speculation by other religious groups and scholars has led to many “facts” about the life of Jesus, none of them proved, all of them speculative, and all of them controversial. Here are just some of the beliefs about the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
Christian tradition has Jesus following in the footsteps of his stepfather, Joseph, as a carpenter. Wikimedia

1. Was Jesus the son of a carpenter?

According to the Christian view of the life of Jesus, he was the son, or rather the stepson, of a carpenter named Joseph. Joseph does not appear in Mark’s gospel, and he is likewise absent from the epistles of Paul. He disappears early in the story of Jesus as recounted in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, and besides the appearances in those gospels, and reference to Jesus being the son of an unnamed carpenter in John, there are no further references to the man known as Joseph, the husband of Mary. There are references to Jesus being the carpenter’s son in the New Testament, but it is in the books of the Apocrypha where Joseph is more specifically described, as the husband of Mary and the father of James, Simon, Jude, Joses, and at least two unnamed daughters.

The unknown years of Jesus’ youth are frequently referred to with him working as a carpenter, implying that it was a trade which he learned from his father. In Matthew (13:55) it is mentioned that the crowd asked each other in reference to Jesus, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” It is inferred that Jesus followed in the trade of his stepfather, which would have been common in the region at the time of his youth, though nothing in any of the gospels specifically states that Jesus was a carpenter himself. The Greek word in the ancient texts interpreted as carpenter is tekton, which refers to an artisan including, besides carpentry and wood-working, stonemasonry, general builders, or even building engineers, as well as teachers of those trades.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
Only one of the canonical gospels – Matthew – describes the flight of the Holy Family into Egyptian exile. Wikimedia

2. The flight to Egypt to escape the murderous wrath of Herod

Appearing only in the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible, though supported by stories in the Apocrypha, is the Flight of the Holy Family into exile in Egypt. According to the account in Matthew Joseph was warned by an angel of the impending danger to the infant Jesus. Joseph was instructed to flee with his wife and infant child to Egypt, where they remained safe from Herod’s murderous intent for an undefined period. According to Matthew, they remained there until after Herod’s death, which is widely accepted to have occurred in or about 4 BCE.

Nothing further is said of the years in exile, including how many were spent in Egypt. When the family returned it was to Nazareth, rather than Bethlehem, from which they presumably escaped (the account in Matthew is unclear). Luke does not include the story of the Egyptian exile, instead recounting Joseph’s return to Nazareth with his family following Jesus’ presentation at the temple. According to the law specified in Leviticus (12: 1-3), the presentation should have occurred 40 days after the birth of Jesus. Luke also specifies that the presentation took place at the Temple in Jerusalem, which obviously conflicts with the story of the Flight to Egypt and exile there recounted in Matthew.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
The biblical accounts have little to say regarding the childhood of Jesus, unlike other ancient texts. Wikimedia

3. The stories of Jesus’ childhood are disregarded by the Bible

Very little is told in the Bible about the youth of Jesus; that is, Jesus’ life as a boy and young man. The books of the Apocrypha contain more, but they are not accepted as part of the Christian canon. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is one such book, though it was labeled heretical in the third century. It provided the source for several stories of the young Jesus which are included in the Koran. Among them is a story of the young Jesus making sparrows from mud, and upon the clapping of his hands, they came to life and took flight. Another, included within the stories of the birds, has Jesus causing the death of a child who teased him, only to restore him to life after being chastised by his parents, Mary and Joseph.

Appearing in several apocryphal books, Jesus is identified as being seven years of age at the time of the story of the birds (Arabic Infancy Gospel, 36). Several other similar stories occur, including those in which other children, who have tormented the young Jesus (as children of that age will do) are caused to wither and die, only to be restored to life when the child Jesus is corrected by his patient parents. Mary and Joseph are described as being as puzzled by Jesus’ evident miraculous powers as are the parents of other children, and are exhorted to “at least teach him to bless and not to curse”.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
Ancient texts describe Joseph seeking out several teachers for his tempestuous son. Wikimedia

4. How and where was Jesus educated?

Again, where the biblical gospels are silent there are stories in the Apocrypha which refer to the young Jesus being taught what today would be called the three Rs. In the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, Joseph took his son to a noted teacher, Zacchaeus, with a request that he “teach him his letters” (Infancy Gospel of Thomas, 6-8). Zacchaeus quickly determined that there was little he could teach the young Jesus, after his student-to-be informs his teacher, “You say what things you know, but I understand more things than you; for before the ages I am…When you see my cross than you will believe that I speak the truth” (Infancy Gospel of Thomas).

As with countless frustrated fathers since, Joseph took his seemingly difficult son to another teacher, who promised to teach the youngster Greek and Hebrew. According to the apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas, Jesus said to the prospective teacher, “If you are indeed a teacher…tell me the power of the Alpha”. When the teacher responded by slapping the child on its head for his less-than-respectful attitude, Jesus cursed him, and the teacher collapsed to the ground, a story recounted in both the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Pseudo-Gospel of Matthew. Jesus, according to both accounts, returned to his mother and warned her about letting him out of the house.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
Joseph looks somewhat bemused by his son in this portrait of the Holy Family by Vasari and Del Sarto. Wikimedia

5. Mary and Joseph continued to seek teachers for their son

Undeterred by the bad conduct reports from school, Mary and Joseph continued to seek teachers for their son, according to the Apocrypha, with less than satisfactory results, at least from a parental standpoint. According to the Infancy Gospel, the young Jesus entered his new school, seized the book of lessons from his teacher, and began to read aloud, replacing the words of the text with those of his own. According to the Apocrypha, Jesus’ words were delivered with, “such power that the master himself fell to the ground and adored him” (Pseudo-Matthew 30-39). Joseph was informed that his son was not a student, but rather a master.

It should be noted that the Gospel of Luke refers to an incident during Jesus’ youth, when following a visit to Jerusalem his parents noticed that the boy had been left behind in Jerusalem. Returning to find their 12-years old boy, they discover him after three days teaching in the temple, where the masters were amazed at his knowledge and wisdom (Luke 2: 40-52). It is the only reference to Jesus’ education and training in the Bible accounts, and presents him as a figure of wonder, rather than as the precocious and somewhat temperamental child described in the Apocrypha.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
In the biblical accounts, Joseph departs from the Holy Family and subsequent events early in the recounting. Wikimedia

6. Jesus as a miracle worker during childhood

According to the books of the Apocrypha, the young Jesus quickly learned that his miraculous powers could be used to ease the burden of childhood chores. In one tale, Jesus is asked by his mother to fetch a pitcher of water, only to find the vessel broken. Jesus uses his “garment” which he spreads forth to carry the water, an act which can be determined to be of a miraculous nature by his mother’s decision to keep it a secret. At the time, according to the book, Jesus was six years old (Infancy Gospel of Thomas). A similar tale, in which Jesus uses his garment to carry water after another child breaks the pitcher occurs in Pseudo-Matthew, where Mary again decides to keep her son’s powers to herself.

Jesus also used his growing awareness of his powers to help his father in his work as a carpenter, according to the Apocrypha. In an incident in which Joseph is directed by a customer to build a bedframe from two unevenly cut lengths of wood, rather than shorten the one Jesus lengthens the other, stretching the piece with his hands. Another apocryphal book, the Arabic Infancy Narratives, has Jesus using this skill, which would surely be deemed a blessing by any carpenter at any age, as a habitual means of helping his father in his work. In some of the stories, Joseph shares his amazement with his wife, who responds with praise for her son.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
To this day, indigo is used as a source of blue color in dyes, though Jesus produced numerous colors from it according to ancient texts. Wikimedia

7. Jesus and the dyer of cloth

The Arabic Infancy Narrative contains a story of the young Jesus who visits a craftsman who dyes cloth for a living. Either out of mischief or for reasons untold, Jesus took a bundle of several cloths and tossed them into a vat of indigo, long used to dye cloth blue. The craftsman, a man named Salem, remonstrated with Jesus, referring to him as the son of Mary, and telling him that the cloths in the bundle were to have all been dyed varying colors, rather than the blue which was the result of immersion in indigo. Jesus responded by withdrawing the cloths one at a time, each having been dyed a different color.

There is another tale in which Jesus is in the company of other children, presumably at play, and he orders them to surround him as if he were a king. In accordance with his wishes, the children spread their outer garments upon the ground for Jesus to sit upon, which he does in the manner of a sovereign. He is then crowned by his “subjects” who gather other children to appear before him as he sits upon his “throne”, in a scene which could appear as readily in a tale by Mark Twain as where it does appear, in the Arabic Infancy Narrative. In another tale, a group of boys hides from Jesus, who loses his patience and turns them into goats. Reprimanded by witnessing women, he turns the goats back into boys, and resumes playing with them.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
The only mention of Jesus’ childhood in the gospels is when he is found teaching in the Temple. Wikimedia

8. Jesus in the Temple

The tale of Jesus in the Temple, drawing the admiration and awe of the scholars for his knowledge and wisdom despite being only twelve years of age, is reported in Luke, and is amplified upon in the Apocrypha. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas describes the event, and resounds on the importance of Mary, “Blessed are you among women, because God has blessed the fruit of your womb” (Infancy Gospel of Thomas). The Arabic Infancy Narrative also describes the twelve-year-old’s visit to the Temple, and provides much more detail into the specific subjects Jesus discussed, which included the Torah, the meaning of the Messiah and the house from which he would appear (David) and astronomy.

Jesus also discusses, according to the Arabic Infancy Narrative, the subject of medicine in response to questions from the scribes and scholars, demonstrating a knowledge vastly superior to theirs. The same holds true for the subjects of physics, metaphysics, human anatomy, psychology, and morals, as well as related subjects, and reveals a knowledge which vastly exceeded, “any created intellect”. As in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, a great deal of the credit for the intellectual capacity of her son is given to his mother, Mary, who is told, “Blessed are you, O Mary, who have brought forth such a son” (Arabic Infancy Narrative, 50-53).

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the latter two depicted here, do not relate to the story of Jesus’ adolescence, other than a brief line in Chapter 2 of Luke. Wikimedia

9. Jesus in his twenties is all but unknown

Although there are many stories of the young Jesus, mostly centered upon the years before he stunned the scholars in the temple with his knowledge and wisdom, there is a dearth of information in the Apocrypha of the years between his temple appearance and the onset of his ministry, which begins in the gospel accounts with his baptism by John. Following the appearance in the temple as described in Luke, the rest of what in most people would be called his formative years is summed up thus: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man”, (Luke 2: 52). From that point on, the biblical accounts leave nothing for posterity to consider.

From the age of twelve until his baptism is a period of roughly 18 years, known to scholars as the lost years. What occurred and what Jesus did during those years is unknown, at least as far as the ancient documents which comprise the Bible and those which were studied and rejected for inclusion in it are concerned. But there are clues. John 21:25 reads, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written everyone, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen” (John 21″25, King James Version). Here are what some believe some of those “many other things” may have been.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
Legend has Joseph of Arimathea carrying the young Jesus (his nephew) with him to England. Wikimedia

10. Enter the legends of the Holy Grail

Joseph of Arimathea appears in the authorized canon of the Bible – in all four of the gospels – as the rich man who took responsibility for the burial of the crucified Jesus after his death. According to the gospel of Mark, it was he who supervised the removal of the body from Golgotha and its entombment, assisted by Nicodemus, who brought with him the spices and oils with which the body was prepared. His role completed, Joseph vanishes from the text of the gospels and the subsequent books of the New Testament. According to just one of the four gospels, that of Matthew, it was a tomb meant for his own use where Joseph had Jesus’ body placed.

Though he vanished from the biblical accounts in the aftermath of the entombment, he quickly grew in legend, including in some books of the Apocrypha, such as the Acts of Pilate and the Gospel of Nicodemus. Works by early church leaders, including Hippolytus and Eusebius, exaggerated the legends, and he became accepted as one of the 70 Disciples, which according to the Gospel of Luke were appointed by Jesus and dispatched on their missions in pairs. By the beginning of the 12th century, through oral tradition and written legends, Joseph of Arithamea became the keeper of the Holy Grail, the cup or chalice which had been used by Jesus at the Last Supper. This position linked him with England’s King Arthur, the Knight’s Templar, and the Arthurian legends, and pre-supposed a youthful visit by Jesus to the British Isles.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
The reach of the Romans and their trading partners was throughout all of Europe, including the British Isles, by the time of the life of Jesus. Wikimedia

11. The Roman Empire in the decades before Jesus

Judea, the land of the biblical recantations of the lifetime of Jesus, was one of the furthest corners of the Roman Empire at the time of his birth and throughout his short life. Rome had exerted its influence across Europe and in Britannia under Julius Caesar, establishing friendly overlords in the latter and collecting tribute. Roman roads traversed the continent of Europe; Roman aqueducts crisscrossed the continent and Roman armies were based from the borders of modern-day Germany to the Iberian Peninsula. Specifically just before and during the life of Jesus, Rome and Britain traded with each other, and Roman diplomacy inserted itself in the affairs of the ruling tribes of Britain.

Trade meant travel, and though it was undoubtedly difficult, dangerous, and time-consuming, it was possible to travel from one end of the empire to the other. Travel was often by caravan ashore, and convoys at sea. The journey from Judea to Britannia could be achieved either via coastal vessels along the Mediterranean shores, the Iberian coastline, and across the British Channel, or by road across modern-day Europe, or in some combination thereof. In 2010 ORBIS (a tool developed by specialists at Stanford University) demonstrated that a trip from Rome to Londinium (London) could be achieved in as little as four weeks. Travel from Judea to Rome was common in the time of Jesus, both Peter and Paul made the journey, according to biblical accounts, shortly after Jesus’ death.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
William Blake, a British poet, painter, and philosopher. Wikimedia

12. And Did Those Feet in Ancient Times?

In 1808, British poet and painter William Blake wrote a poem entitled And Did Those Feet in Ancient Times? (later entitled Jerusalem) Blake, though a self-professed Christian, was a virulent opponent of all forms of organized religion, especially the Church of England. His poem, which languished in relative obscurity for more than a century, tells of Jesus, still a young boy, traveling to England in the company of Joseph of Arimathea. Today the poem is known as the song Jerusalem, sung at Royal Weddings and during the funeral service for Princess Diana. According to the poem and its writer Joseph of Arimathea was traveling on business (remember, Luke recorded him as a wealthy man).

According to the legend involved with the story, Joseph was Jesus’ great uncle, as Mary was his niece. After the death of Joseph, unrecorded in the gospels, Joseph of Arimathea assumed responsibility for the raising of his niece’s sons. They traveled together on at least one trip to Great Britain, with their destination being modern-day Glastonbury, the Avalon of the legends of King Arthur. The first Glastonbury visit was but one of many according to Arthurian legends, and some believe that there are cryptic clues in the gospel accounts, such as John the Baptist’s uncertainty over Jesus’ – his own cousin – identity, indicating the possibility of a long absence (John 1:33).

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
The connection between the legends of King Arthur and the story of Jesus has long been studied by scholars and philosophers. Wikimedia

13. Jesus and the legend of King Arthur and His Knights

Arthurian legends – that of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table – began to emerge in the twelfth century, based on legends and stories which had survived (with embellishments over time) since before the Dark Ages. Many were and are based on stories of Jesus, and bear many similarities. The Arthurian Round Table is similar to that of the Last Supper in that both contained seating for 13; in the case of Arthur himself and his twelve knights, while Jesus was joined at the table by his twelve disciples. Both contained a traitor in their midst. Both, according to some, contain the central character surrounded by twelve images reflecting the twelve signs of the zodiac.

This has led many scholars, students, and theorists to postulate that the Arthurian legends were based on earlier tales relating Jesus’ residence, albeit temporary, in the British Isles. The myths are inconsistent, some present Jesus in England at the start of his ministry, later carried to Judea. Others claim he returned to Great Britain he visited as a boy after escaping Judea in the aftermath of his crucifixion, which he either survived or avoided altogether, in each case aided by his great-uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. As in the case of the four gospels of the Bible, hard evidence, such as archaeological evidence, of Jesus’ life is hard to come by, whether in Capernaum or Glastonbury.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
Legends and stories of St. Issa throughout the Mideast and central Asia are said to refer to Jesus of Nazareth. Wikimedia

14. The Life of Saint Issa, the Best of the Sons of Men

High in the remote Himalayas, safely secured in a Buddhist monastery of indeterminate age, is an ancient manuscript, The Life of Saint Issa, which describes the life of Jesus in India during the years of which the gospels have no description. Or so some believe. Jesus living in India is a theory which has been condemned as nonsense and heresy by fundamentalist Christians for over a century. One argument against the theory of Jesus spending much of his life in India is based on the distance between the subcontinent and Palestine, an argument frequently put forth by Christian fundamentalists who conveniently forget that according to the Gospel of Matthew, the Magi visited the newly born Jesus, having presumably made a similar journey in the opposite direction (Matthew does not specify a number, it is accepted by tradition there were three).

The three are traditionally identified as Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, with Melchior coming from Persia, Balthazar from Arabia, and Gaspar from India. While it is true that the Magi so familiar as part of the Christmas story are likely mythological, their existence indicates that in the ancient world from which the tradition evolved, travel from the mysterious “East” was not out of the question. Neither was traveling in the opposite direction. During Jesus’ lifetime, the Silk Road was heavily traveled, and a journey to the East was not considered unusual, indeed it was mandatory for merchants needing products for their customers. Long-standing Christian tradition is that it was the Apostle Thomas (of doubting fame) who spread Christianity to India following Pentecost, spending the rest of his life and dying there.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
Prayer wheels in a monastery in Tibet. circa 1894. Wikimedia

15. Nicolas Notovitch and The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ

One problem with the document purported to be concealed in an ancient Buddhist monastery in the remote Himalayas is that few, if any, from the west have ever seen it, although some have claimed to have read the document. One such individual was a Russian war correspondent named Nicolas Notovitch, who published his story of seeing the original, and a translation of it in French, in 1894. According to his account, Jesus went to India at the age of 13, remaining there until he was 29, studying Buddhism at various locations. His account presented Jesus as studying in Tibetan monasteries, both under Brahmin priests and alone, including at Nalanda, the traditional seat of Buddhist reflection and learning.

Notovitch was immediately condemned as a fraud and huckster, an evaluation which time and further study strengthened. Even his visit to the monastery at which he claimed to have seen the manuscript was revealed to be a fabrication. Yet one of his most vocal debunkers, Swami Abhedananda, later (1922) claimed to have been to the same monastery and seen the same manuscript, though it was a copy of the original, written in Tibetan. After his death one of his students asked to see a copy of the manuscript allegedly studied by his master, to learn that it had disappeared and that the original was in a monastery near Lhasa. Swami’s recantation of his refutation of Notovitch reopened interest and speculation over whether Jesus of Nazareth had been a student in India prior to his ministry in Judea.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
Similarities in the stories of Jesus and Krishna caused a French scholar to postulate that the one was a myth based upon the other. Wikimedia

16. Was Jesus a myth based on Indian Bhagavan Krishna?

In the 1860s, a French legal scholar and lecturer named Louis Jacolliot published a work which he titled, La Bible dans l”Indie, Vie de Iezeus Christna (The Bible in India, the Life of Jesus Christna). Jacolliot had spent years living in India, where he compared the story of the life of Jesus, as recounted in the gospels, and that of Bhagavan Krishna, as part of a study he conducted searching for the links between Hindu mysticism and the occult in the west. His comparison was done from a legal scholarly viewpoint, rather than a theological one, and from it, he concluded that the gospel stories of Jesus were myths based on the story of Krishna. He further concluded that Christ was derived from Krishna, and wrote it as Christna as a consequence.

Thus Jacolliot postulated that Jesus hadn’t lived in India as a young man, but was instead a mythological creation based on Krishna, as the many similarities between the two attested. The myths evolved in Palestine over the years based on the stories shared by traders and travelers from the mysterious East. His work was immediately attacked as being fraudulent, heretical, divisive, and lacking in any scholarly value by Christian fundamentalists and the Catholic hierarchy in France, as are most writings which express doubt in biblical texts.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
Mary Magdalene, seen here at her conversion by Jesus, figures prominently in many of the stories of Jesus living in Europe. Wikimedia

17. What of Jesus’ life beyond the so-called unknown years?

In the absence of archaeological evidence, the discovery of additional ancient texts heretofore unknown, with flawless provenance, or an episode of divine revelation, Jesus’ whereabouts and activities during the years not described in the gospels will likely remain unknown. Those who accept the Christian teachings as unimpeachable will continue to do so, those that do not will continue to seek answers to their unanswered questions. The mystery will remain. Whether he resided in Nazareth, working as a simple carpenter, or in Capernaum, as some Bible verses assert, or elsewhere is immaterial to those for whom the question has no merit. For others, there are no provable answers.

There is however, a third unknown period for those disinclined to believe in the biblical account of the resurrection (the first being from infancy to the age of 12, the second from 12 to about 30). Some believe that Jesus of Nazareth survived the execution ordered by Pilate, and lived away from the jurisdiction of the Jews. Others believe (in accordance with the Koran) that he was raised bodily into heaven without dying, either on the cross or through any other natural means. Some believe that another was crucified in his place, allowing him to escape and continue his divine mission. For these, there is another period of the unknown in the life – or rather the story – of Jesus of Nazareth.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, are all seen being led in prayer by Muhammad in an ancient Persian depiction. Wikimedia

18. Jesus in the Koran

In Islam, Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus, son of Mary) is a prophet of Allah and the Messiah (al-Masih) of the Jewish people, whose earthly mission was as a messenger of Allah. Jesus is referred to in the Koran as Isa only 25 times, but additional mentions by other names, titles, references, or attributions make him the most often named person in the Koran. Like Christianity, there are many different sects of beliefs in Islam, some of them often in conflict with others, but in general, Islamic teaching is that Jesus did not die, not on the cross nor through any other means, but that Allah raised him bodily into heaven at the end of his ministry. The Islamic Second Coming has Jesus returning to fight and triumph over the False Messiah at the end of the world.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the only woman named in the Koran, and she is revealed as being a virgin, though her son, Jesus, is not granted any of the attributes of a deity. He is not regarded as the son of God as he is in Christianity, nor is he perceived as God in the form of Man. He does however retain the power to perform miracles in his Islamic presentation, and he performs several in the name of Allah. There is no Joseph to serve as either Mary’s husband or Jesus’ earthly father in the Koran, Mary is left to face her bearing and rearing of the child alone. Nor does Jesus wear the mantle of a simple carpenter in the Islamic presentation of his life and ministry.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
Some Muslims believe that Judas Iscariot, having betrayed Jesus, died in his stead on the cross for it and for other sins. Wikimedia

19. According to Islam, who died on the cross?

The Koran is clear, according to believers, that Jesus escaped crucifixion and was raised into heaven without first suffering the death of mortal humans. But it is equally clear that there was a crucifixion, and that those who witnessed it doubted whether the man crucified died on the cross. The generally accepted belief in Islam – that Jesus (Isa) was raised bodily into heaven and will return at the end of time – has led to three contending theories over the crucifixion described in the Koran. Some believe that Jesus was crucified, but not long enough for death to have taken place before being rescued. Others argue that such deceit is not possible for the Supreme Deity, and another was crucified in Jesus’ place.

One such replacement argument is that it was Judas Iscariot, the traitor of Christian belief, who died on the cross, deservedly since he was a liar, traitor, and thief. Another is that Simon the Cyrene, the spectator who helped Jesus carry the cross on his path to Calgary, was executed after the minds of the executioners were confused by divine action. Another belief is that Simon Peter was executed in place of Jesus. There are other theories, involving the deaths of others on the cross as well as Jesus being taken down from his supposed execution still alive (the Jesus swooned theory), none of which fully counter the Christian belief of the crucifixion, at the end of which Jesus’s death was confirmed by his being pierced in the side by a Roman soldier with his lance.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
There are those who believe that the body of Jesus was removed from the tomb and carried to France for burial there. Wikimedia

20. The belief that Jesus was entombed in France was widespread in the first and second century

The resurrection of Jesus was not widely accepted among the early followers of his teachings, whom in the first century were generally referred to as Nazarenes, rather than as Christians. The symbol with which they identified themselves was less that of the cross, and more widely that of a fish. Sects of the Nazarenes believed that the body of Jesus was removed from the tomb in which it had lain and transported elsewhere. One explanation of this belief, which is widely reported in apocryphal texts, is that Mary Magdalene had the body removed from the tomb and carried to an underground crypt prepared through the approval of Tiberius (the Roman Emperor), in the south of France.

The Avenging of the Savior is an eighth-century apocryphal text which recounts Mary Magdalene’s journey to Rome, under the name of Veronica, where she obtained the permission and support of the emperor to have Jesus interred in a crypt near today’s village of St. Thibery (itself a reference to the name Tiberius, rendered Thibere). The document, and others which describe the location of another tomb, to which the body of Jesus was later moved, are held by the French National Library in Paris.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
The Last Communion of Mary Magdalene, whom some believe (and cite evidence) lived in France with Jesus for decades following the events described in the four gospels. Wikimedia

21. Did Jesus travel to France while still alive?

For centuries legends and folklore have described Jesus surviving the crucifixion and fleeing, in company with Mary Magdalene and in some cases with his mother as well, to southern France. During his remaining lifetime, according to the legends, the church born of his followers in Palestine spread, including to the region in which he resided. One such legend is that Jesus died at the Church of Sainte Salyvre in Languedoc, and that his embalmed body was transported to a nearby chateau, where it was buried. It was later moved to a secret location at or near Pic de Bugarach.

Another church in the French region of Provence claims to have within its midst the tomb of Mary Magdalene. The church, the Basilica de Saint Maximin La Sainte Baume (Sainte Baume refers to Holy Balm) is dedicated to Mary Magdalene, and has been the destination of pilgrimages for centuries. Pic de Bugarach is the highest peak in the Corbieres. It has long been associated with not only religious pilgrimages by those who believe in the legends of Jesus’ life in southern France, but with visitations by extraterrestrials by those inclined to believe in such activity. Despite its height, the mountain is relatively easy to climb without the use of special equipment by those sufficiently physically fit to handle the decrease in oxygen.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
The Mormon Temple at Nauvoo, Illinois. Mormons believe that Jesus appeared among the Native Americans. Wikimedia

22. Some believe that Jesus visited North America

The Book of Mormon is just one source that describes Jesus visiting North America and Mesoamerica, appearing among the Israelite people who had traveled to the continents later known as the New World to escape the Babylonian captivity. Those Israelites, according to the belief, traveled to the Americas about six centuries before the events described as the life of Jesus in Judea occurred. But there were still older legends among the ancient peoples of Mesoamerica, including those of Quetzalcoatl and Viracocha, which indicated an appearance centuries before those described in the Book of Mormon.

In the Book of Third Nephi, Jesus appears before the people, identifies himself as Jesus Christ, and displays the wounds from the crucifixion in his hands and feet, as well as invites them to, “thrust your hands into my side…” Thus the presence of Jesus in the Americas would be one which followed the events of his death and resurrection described in the Christian gospels, though the appearances linked to the myths and legends of the ancient Mesoamerican tribes would have occurred centuries earlier.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
The Catholic Church has long denied the truth of ancient texts describing the “lost years” of Jesus, rejecting them as heretical. Wikimedia

23. The denial of the lost years of the life of Jesus

Attempts to discover and describe the life of Jesus outside of the events in the four gospels are blasphemous to most Christians, and the apocryphal books which do so were labeled as false by the Catholic Church centuries before the Reformation and the birth of Protestantism. Yet the banned books remain, many of them written contemporaneously with the earliest texts of the authorized gospels. The Gospel of Luke (2: 40) sums up the childhood of Jesus in a single verse, which reads, “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2: 40 KJV). The subsequent verses in Luke describe his awe-inspiring visit to the temple.

Despite numerous texts contained in the Apocrypha, life in the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and their children is reduced to the short description in Luke. The adolescent years of Jesus are not addressed at all, unless one considers the age of twelve to be part of adolescence. Interestingly the Infant Gospel of Thomas, Chapter 19, verse 5, contains a passage which is reflective of Luke 2:40. The passage in Thomas, which describes events following the appearance of the twelve-year-old Jesus before the temple scholars, reads: “…And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and grace.”

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
The martyrdom of James, described by many ancient texts as the brother of Jesus, and as his true successor as head of the church. Wikimedia

24. Jesus is described in the Apocrypha as being with his siblings

According to the Catholic faith and many Protestant religions, the persons described in the gospels as Jesus’ “brothers” were sons of Joseph by an earlier marriage, or perhaps cousins or other close relatives. The Apocrypha describes their relationships as children in more detail, perhaps the reason the books are not accepted as canonical. In the Infant Gospel of Thomas, for instance, an event which occurred during the lost years of Jesus is described in which he provides miraculous intervention for the benefit of James. Thomas 16: 1 contains the story of James and Jesus gathering wood at the request of Joseph, and also describes Jesus as the younger of the two children.

“And Joseph sent his son James to bind fuel and carry it into his house. And the young child Jesus also followed him”, reads the passage, which goes on to describe James being a bit on the hand by a presumably venomous snake. “Jesus came near and breathed upon the bite, and straightway the pain ceased, and the serpent burst, and forthwith James continued whole”. James later became one of the leaders of the early church following the events described in the gospels, with most of what is known of his life derived from passages in the epistles of Paul. The Gospel of John does not mention him at all.

25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, by Rembrandt. Wikimedia

25. The mystery of the lost years of Jesus of Nazareth

Possibly no other person in the collective history of humanity across the globe has been more closely studied by historians, archaeologists, theologians, and philosophers, than the itinerant Jewish teacher known as Jesus of Nazareth. Yet more than half of his generally accepted lifespan remains a mystery. Eighteen of his 33 years of life on earth are undocumented, or are documented in books labeled as heresies and falsehoods by Christian authorities. Despite the rejection of the books of the Apocrypha, many of the stories which they contain are included in the Koran, and many continue to be referenced as legends and folklore.

The decade between the ages of two and twelve, and the eighteen subsequent years leading up to Jesus being baptized by his cousin, John the Baptist, are blank. Outside of the books of the Bible and the Apocrypha, other records, including those of Josephus, record Jesus as having siblings, including James “the brother of Jesus who is called Christ”. For the Christian church, it seems that the mystery of faith is enough, but for historians, the details of the life of Jesus – his biography – remain a mystery both elusive and intriguing.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“The Apocryphal Gospels: Text and Translation”. Bart D. Ehrman, Zlatko Plese. 2011

“The Gospel According to Matthew”. King James Version. Online

“The Infancy Gospel of Thomas”. M. R. James, trans. Gnostic Society Library. Online

“The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew”. Ante-Nicene Fathers Trans. (1886). Gnostic Society Library. Online

“The Gospel According to Luke”. King James Version. Online

“The Arabic Infancy Gospel of the Savior”. Ante-Nicene Fathers trans. (1886). Gnostic Society Library. Online

“The Gospel According to John”. King James Version. Online

“The History of the Holy Disciple Joseph of Arimathea”. Unk. The University of Rochester Camelot Project. Online

“Travel in the Roman World”. Robert L. Cioffi, Oxford Handbooks Online. 2016

“Green and pleasant land?” Jeremy Paxman, The Guardian. March 6, 2007

“Did Jesus REALLY stay in England? Peter Stanford, The Daily Mail. November 27, 2009

“Jesus in Tibet: A Modern Myth”. Robert M. Price. Westar Institute, Religion is the Fourth R. May-June, 2001. Online

“The Post Truth Gospel: Why a Russian may have forged a tale about Jesus in India”. Marcel Theroux, The Times Literary Supplement. January 9, 2018

“What do Muslims believe about Jesus?” A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam. Online

“The Tomb of Christ”. Rennes-le-Chateau Research and Resource. Online

“Third Nephi” The Book of Nephi. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Online

“Antiquities of the Jews”. Flavius Josephus. Circa 93-94 CE. Online at Project Gutenberg