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Return to Nazareth from Egypt



Jesus in the Temple at Age Twelve

   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.  Luke 2:46

















  1. Temple

  2. Childhood

  3. Adulthood


Quotes & Notes on:    Luke 2:46

  • John Wesley's Notes:
    After three days-The first day was spent in their journey, the second, in their return to Jerusalem: and the third, in searching for him there:

    they found him in the temple-In an apartment of it:

    sitting in the midst of the doctors-Not one word is said of his disputing with them, but only of his asking and answering questions, which was a very usual thing in these assemblies, and indeed the very end of them. And if he was, with others, at the feet of these teachers (where learners generally sat) he might be said to be in the midst of them, as they sat on benches of a semicircular form, raised above their hearers and disciples.

  • Treasury of Scripture Knowledge:

    • * after. Lu 2:44,45; 1Ki 12:5,12; Mt 12:40; 16:21; 27:63,64
      * the doctors. Lu 5:17; Ac 5:34
      * both. Isa 49:1; 50:4

  • Adam Clarke's Commentary:

    • Sitting in the midst of the doctors] The rabbins, who were explaining the law and the ceremonies of the Jewish religion to their disciples.

      Asking them questions.] Not as a scholar asks his teacher, to be informed; but as a teacher, who proposes questions to his scholars in order to take an occasion to instruct them.

      In the time of Josephus, the Jewish teachers were either very ignorant or very humble: for he tells us that, "when he was about fourteen years of age, the chief priests, and the principal men of the city, were constantly coming to him to be more accurately instructed in matters relative to the law." See his Life, sect. ii. If this were true, it is no wonder to find them now listening, with the deepest attention, to such teaching as they never before heard.

  • Family Bible Notes:

    •  (No comment on this verse)

  • 1599 Geneva Bible Notes:
      (No comment on this verse)

  • People's New Testament Commentary:

    •  In the temple. Probably in one of the porches of the court of the women, where the schools of the rabbis were held, and the law regularly expounded.

      In the midst of the doctors. The learned rabbins. Some of the greatest doctors of Jewish history lived about this period--Hillel, Rabbi Simeon and Gamaliel.

      Asking them questions. It was the custom in Jewish rabbinical schools for scholars to ask questions.

  • Robertson's Word Pictures:
      After three days (meta hêmeras treis). One day out, one day back, and on the third day finding him. In the temple (en tôi hierôi). Probably on the terrace where members of the Sanhedrin gave public instruction on sabbaths and feast-days, so probably while the feast was still going on. The rabbis probably sat on benches in a circle. The listeners on the ground, among whom was Jesus the boy in a rapture of interest. Both hearing them and asking them questions (kai akouonta autôn kai eperôtônta autous). Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel (Ac 22:3). Picture this eager boy alive with interest. It was his one opportunity in a theological school outside of the synagogue to hear the great rabbis expound the problems of life. This was the most unusual of all children, to be sure, in intellectual grasp and power. But it is a mistake to think that children of twelve do not think profoundly concerning the issues of life. What father or mother has ever been able to answer a child's questions?

  • Albert Barnes' Commentary:

    •  After three days. This means, probably, on the third day after they had left Jerusalem -- that is, the first day they went toward Galilee, on the second they returned to Jerusalem, and on the third they found him. Comp. Mt 27:63; Mr 8:31.

      In the temple. In the court of the temple, for Jesus, not being a Levitical priest, could not enter into the temple itself. See Mt 21:12.

      In the midst of the doctors. The teachers, the Rabbins, who were the instructors of the people in matters of religion.

      Asking them questions. Proposing questions to them respecting the law and the prophets. There is no reason to suppose that this was for the purpose of perplexing or confounding them. The questions were doubtless proposed in a respectful manner, and the answers listened to with proper deference to their age and rank. Jesus was a child, and religion does not teach a child to be rude or uncivil, even though he may really know much more than more aged persons. Religion teaches all, and especially the young, to treat others with respect, to show them the honour that is due, to venerate age, and to speak kindly to all, 1Pe 2:17; 3:8,9; Ex 20:12; Mt 23:3; Ro 13:7


  • Jamieson-Faussett Brown:

    • hearing ... asking--The method of question and answer was the customary form of rabbinical teaching; teacher and learner becoming by turns questioner and answerer, as may be seen from their extant works. This would give full scope for all that "astonished them in His understanding and answers." Not that He assumed the office of teaching--"His hour" for that "was not yet come," and His equipment for that was not complete; for He had yet to "increase in wisdom" as well as "stature" (Lu 2:52). In fact, the beauty of Christ's example lies very much in His never at one stage of His life anticipating the duties of another. All would be in the style and manner of a learner, "opening His mouth and panting." "His soul breaking for the longing that it had unto God's judgments at all times" (Ps 119:20), and now more than ever before, when finding Himself for the first time in His Father's house. Still there would be in His questions far more than in their answers; and if we may take the frivolous interrogatories with which they afterwards plied Him, about the woman that had seven husbands and such like, as a specimen of their present drivelling questions, perhaps we shall not greatly err, if we suppose that "the questions" which He now "asked them" in return were just the germs of those pregnant questions with which He astonished and silenced them in after years: "What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He? If David call Him Lord, how is He then his Son?" "Which is the first and great commandment?" "Who is my neighbour?"

  • Spurgeon Commentary:

    •  He did not set up for a teacher, but listened and eagerly enquired. No doubt there was more in his questions than in their replies, and when they catechized him in return, he gave such answers that they marveled at the wondrous boy, whose surprising intelligence and holiness beamed forth in his countenance, and spoke in every word.

  • William Burkitt's Notes:

    • Observe here, 1. The place where the child Jesus is found, In the temple: where could there be a more likely place to find the Son of God, than in the house of his Father? No wonder that his parents found him there; but that they went not first to seek him there.

      Observe, 2. At twelve years old our Saviour disputes in the temple with the doctors of the law: never had those great rabbies heard the voice of such a tutor. Thus, in our Saviour's non-age, he gives us a proof of his proficiency; even as the spring shows us what we may hope for of the tree in summer.

      Our Saviour discovered his accomplishments by degrees: had his perfections appeared all at once, they had rather dazzled, than delighted, the eyes of the beholders; even as the sun would confound all eyes, should it appear at its first rising in its full strength. Christ could now have taught all those great rabbies the deep mysteries of God; but being not yet called by his Father to be a public teacher, he contents himself to hear with diligence, and to ask with modesty.

      Learn hence, that parts and abilities for the ministerial function are not sufficient to warrant our undertaking of it without a regular call. Christ himself would not run, no not on his heavenly Father's errand, before he was sent, much less should we.

  • Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary:

    • (No comment on this verse)

  • The Fourfold Gospel:

    • And it came to pass, after three days. Each part of a day was reckoned as a day when at the beginning and ending of a series. The parents missed Jesus on the evening of the first day, returned to Jerusalem and sought for him on the second day, and probably found him on the morning of the third day. The disciples of Jesus also lost him in the grave for part of one day, and all of the next, and found him resurrected on the morning of the third day (Lu 24:21).

      They found him in the temple. Probably in one of the many chambers which tradition says were built against the walls of the temple and its enclosures, and opened upon the temple courts. The sacred secret which they knew concerning the child should have sent them at once to the temple to seek for him.

      Sitting. Jewish scholars sat upon the ground at the feet of their teachers.

      In the midst. The teachers sat on semi-circular benches and thus partially surrounded by their scholars.

      Of the teachers. These teachers had schools in which they taught for the fees of their pupils, and are not to be confounded with the scribes, who were mere copyists.

      Both hearing them, and asking them questions. He was not teaching: the God of order does not expect childhood to teach. He was among them as a modest scholar, and not as a forward child. The rabbinical method of instruction was to state cases, or problems, bearing upon the interpretation or application of the law, which cases or problems were to be solved by the pupils. For typical problems see Mt 22:15-46.





Sidebar Study:  Childhood Through Early Manhood of Jesus


Updated:   Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 03:52 AM



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