Howard Ingham: Unholy Writ

October 2000
Juvenile Jesus
Other Unholy Writs

AMONG THE QUESTIONS that are often asked about the life of Jesus are: why is it that the only thing we know about Jesus as a child is the time when he went missing in Jerusalem and amazed all the academics? What happened when they got him home? And what about the next 18 years? Did he just stay indoors?

There's a whole body of literature which didn't quite make it into the Bible that has a lot to say on these matters, and some of the most... um... illuminating stories can be found in two books, one of them Latin and the other Arabic.

The Latin book is called "The Gospel of Matthew" but it's not the one in the Bible, so it gets called "Pseudo-Matthew" so as not to be confusing. Meanwhile, the Arabic book is simply called "The Childhood of the Saviour". Both books, unsurprisingly, deal with Christ's childhood.

AFTER RETURNING FROM Egypt (where Joseph and Mary seem to spend most of their time hiding from the lions and other wild beasts that kept wandering over to see how Jesus was doing), Jesus' parents do the right thing by sending Jesus to school.

It doesn't work out, mainly because Jesus ends up teaching the teachers. So they send him to a different school...

"Then the master began to teach him in an imperious tone, saying: 'Say Alpha'. And Jesus said to him: 'Do thou tell me first what Beta is, and I will tell thee what Alpha is.' And upon that the master got angry and struck Jesus; and no sooner had he struck him than he fell down dead. And Jesus went home again to his mother."

School is abandoned, meaning that Jesus has a lot of free time. Does this mean he grows up normal?

Don't be daft. Jesus again proves how different he is while at play. One time, he's making figures out of clay – little model sparrows, and another kid tells him that he shouldn't be doing that. Jesus replies by breathing on the birds, which come to life and fly away. The other child gets annoyed and hits Jesus, at which point he is struck down dead.

The final straw comes when Jesus is walking down the street with his mum, and another kid bumps into him and knocks him over. Jesus says: "As thou hast thrown me down, so thou shalt fall and not rise again," and the child is struck down and dies.

A PATTERN EMERGES, which draws us to the heart of the matter. Basically, it turns out that Jesus ends up smiting so many people (in a righteous kind of way) that the concerned parents of Nazareth beg Mary and Joseph to keep Jesus in.

Why, then, do we know nothing about Jesus between the ages of 12 and 30? The answer is simple.

It's because he was grounded.

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