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

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