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Yeshua: From Boy to Man

What happened as Jesus was growing up?

The Gospels tell us little of the life of Yeshua (Jesus) in the "missing years". This doesn't mean we are totally ignorant of those times. Here are a few facts.

Firstly, Yeshua and his education. The Mishnah, a third century collection of the oral "Traditions of the Elders" tells us that Jewish boys of the day would study the Torah (The first five books of the Bible) at the age of five, the oral "Traditions" at the age of ten and be trained in halachot, rabbinic legal decisions, at the ripe old age of fifteen! Sunday School was never harder! It was made harder still when one realises that reading material was scarce and a poor family like theirs would have, at best, just one or two Biblical scrolls, just a small part of the total breadth of Scripture. So much was committed to memory. In the schools, study of the Bible was often done by chanting out aloud. In that day people passing by such schools would remark on "the chirping of children".

The Talmud (more "Traditions of the Elders") sheds some light on techniques used to commit scripture to memory by describing the mnemonics used to teach small children the Hebrew alphabet. Children used the Sabbath day of rest to memorise material learned in the week. And if they ventured outside while memorising, there was a warning in the Mishnah.

"A person walking along the road repeating his lessons who interrupts his memorisation and exclaims: "What a beautiful tree!" or "What a beautiful field!" it is imputed to him as if he were guilty of a crime punishable by death".

The Talmud also sings the praises of memorisation. "A person who repeats his lesson a hundred times is not to be compared to a person who repeats it a hundred and one times" and "if a student learns Torah and does not go over it again and again, he is like a man who sows without reaping".

It was serious business being a 1st Century Jewish schoolkid! So what was Yeshua doing in those silent early years? He was hard at study, memorising scripture and rabbinical commentary, in common with most other Jewish youths of his day. By the time he had left his adolescent years he would have committed to memory most of the written Torah. Think of that! How difficult it is for us to remember just a few key verses, yet Jewish boys in Yeshua's day had to get Genesis to Deuteronomy word perfect!

From then on his mother, Miriam, kept one eye on him, as he 'grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.'

The boy became a man as Yeshua arrived by the banks of the river Jordan, where his relative, John the Baptist (Yochanan the Immerser) was "preparing the way". Baptise me, declared Yeshua. You've got to be kidding! responded John. Do I look like I'm kidding? Let it be so! The act of baptism, was, in the words of Alfred Edersheim, "the last act of his private life".

This was some beginning to this unique and awesome ministry. Heaven opens and the Spirit of God descends like a dove and a voice from heaven proclaims, "this is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased", a combination of Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1. The common interpretation of the symbolism here is of an expression of the Trinity; God the father commending God the Son in the presence of God the Holy Spirit, who takes the form of a dove. If we are to rely on purely Jewish sources then we get a different slant on the symbolism of the dove. Nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures is God symbolised by an animal or bird and the Talmud is similarly silent.

Yeshua had received his mandate for his mission to come. The hard work starts here ...

Steve Maltz
March 2012

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book 'Jesus Man of Many Names')

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