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Luke 2:41-51 contains the account of Jesus at the Passover and His famous phrase "I must be about my Father's business." Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem yearly for the feast of Passover.

Luke 2:42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.

This year, Jesus stays behind when they begin their journey home. They don't know and assume he is with relatives in the caravan.

Luke 2:49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? [All references KJV.]

He's only twelve. This seems to young to be considered an adult or even an apprentice in a trade. What does He mean by the statement and was Jesus too young to go about His Father's business at twelve?

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Apprenticeships began anywhere from age 7 to 14, with 12 being a rough average. This practice might seem odd to us now, but ask yourself what do you think children did all day? –  David H Jul 21 at 16:04
    
I think Luke, or later translators, had something different in mind by the word "Father." Christian Bibles capitalize the word whereas in this context, "my father" (describing birth father) would not be capitalized. –  Bruce James Jul 24 at 20:31

3 Answers 3

Under Jewish law, we could look to signs of puberty (e.g. the growth of two pubic hairs) as a sign that the boy has, for legal purposes, become a man and therefore can participate in business transactions and other responsible activites himself. See Babylonian Talmud, Nidah 45b - 46a (follow the link and use "find" and the words "two hairs" to quickly find the reference). He need not be 13 if those signs are apparent. In the Temple, this was the more common method for determining whether one was an adult than age.

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Samuel ministered to the LORD after being weaned, and at a very young age, which Josephus states was 12 years old, the LORD called on him and gave him his first vision. After this, the Bible says,

And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground.

And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord.

1 Samuel 3:19-20

Samuel was not too young, and neither was Jesus. We should be apprenticed to be about our Father's business from birth.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

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No, and I think a careful reading of several verses supports this reason.

I've taken the liberty of paraphrasing two key verses, Luke 2:40 and 52, in this regard

"Jesus kept on and continued increasing in wisdom [sophia], in stature [helikia], and continued to become strong. He increased in favor [charis] with God, and God's grace was upon Him. He also increased in favor [charis] with man."

In other words,

"The Child [paidivon] continued to grow and become strong, increasing in [and being filled to the brim with] wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him."

It would appear, then, that Jesus actually learned through his day-to-day experiences of being a human being what it means to live in the presence of God in the here and now, one day at a time.

At the same time, however, he likely acted like a normal boy. Jesus, I believe, ate and drank, slept, ran errands for His parents (and continued to be in subjection to them--ibid., v.51), attended shul and madrasah (until what age, we do not know), played with His friends and perhaps even His cousin, John, the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth, who would later become John the Baptizer, Jesus'--the Messiah's--forerunner, who prepared the Way of the Lord (John 1:23 and Isaiah 40:3).

At the same time, however, he likely acted like a normal boy. Jesus, I believe, ate and drank, slept, ran errands for His parents (and continued to be in subjection to them--ibid., v.51), attended shul and madrasah (until what age, we do not know), played with His friends and perhaps even His cousin, John, the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth, who would later become John the Baptizer, Jesus'--the Messiah's--forerunner, who prepared the Way of the Lord (John 1:23 and Isaiah 40:3).

If, then, Jesus grew physically, intellectually, spiritually, and socially, we can assume safely that this process mirrored the experience of virtually every human being who ever lived or ever will live. Just as a very small fraction of the strictly human (i.e., not human and divine) population of the world has the mixed blessing of being born geniuses, however--whether a Mozart, a Beethoven, a Bach, a Galileo, a Michelangelo, a Madame Curie, an Albert Einstein, a Lao-Tsu, a Socrates, or an Aristotle--and managed to accomplish remarkable feats which we attribute, rightly, to a divine endowment, why would Jesus be any different in this regard?

Unlike these other true geniuses I've mentioned, Jesus, according to at least one tradition, did not have a sin nature; consequently, there were no distractions, detours, and unwanted complications in His life attributable to even one single sin.

In John 8:46 KJV Jesus asked:

"'Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?'"

No one in His audience in John 8 took the "bait" of Jesus' question, at least according to the apostle John. In other words, from His childhood, on, and apart from sin, Jesus was constantly growing, maturing, and moving gradually but inexorably toward the cross and what He believed would be the partial fulfillment of His destiny. As Jesus said,

"'I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!'" (Luke 12:50 RSVA).

That baptism was His crucifixion where, before He had breathed His last and committed His spirit to the Father, He cried out with a loud voice,

"'It is finished [or, Accomplished]!'" (John 19:30).

Did Jesus at age 12 have a full grasp of what the Father wanted Him to accomplish in His all-too-brief life? Not likely. There was, however, an arc or trajectory to His short life, and it was constrained by all that was written concerning Him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:27 and 44 ff.).

One year shy of becoming a "man," which according to Jewish tradition was at age 13, Jesus was already at this tender age,

"in the temple sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers" (Luke 2:46-47).

Jesus not only listened (a good lesson for us all!), but He asked questions and even provided answers, indicating--to me, at least, that He indeed

"'had to be about [His] Father's business in His Father's house'" (a conflation of several versions).

As has already been suggested in the above comments, Jesus at age 12 may already have started working as an apprentice to His stepfather Joseph. Interestingly (to me), Jesus' famous comment recorded in Luke 2, came from the lips of a "boy" who was not only wise beyond His years, but a year before He would be considered a "man" by His family and community of faith!

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"Except for truly exceptional situations, never allow the garnish to be larger than the meat and potatoes of an answer" (meta). "Opinions and tangents should be garnishes, not the entire meal. If a post is essentially an opinion-based argument or testimony, it doesn't fit and will need to be removed or edited" (meta). I've edited this to remove the tangential content. –  maj nem ɪz dæn Jul 23 at 17:26
    
@Daи: My tongue was planted firmly in my cheek when I put the "AV" and the "RSV" cheek by jowl (to stay with the facial metaphor). There was a method to my madness, so to speak, and the method served its purpose. Don –  rhetorician Jul 23 at 18:47

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