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Luke 3:23 (ESV)

23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli,

Why did Jesus begin his ministry when he was about 30 years old? Why not earlier? Why not later? What was he waiting for and why?

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  • Are you looking for a straight biblical response?
    – יהודה
    Mar 30 at 7:37
  • 1
    @יהודה - not necessarily Mar 30 at 11:10
  • There is essentially no record of Jesus's life between his birth and approximately this time, so it would be difficult to know. IMO he probably became a student of John the Baptist for a while and then started his own mission, but this was later revised by the evangelists, who wanted John to be subservient to Jesus.
    – user39728
    Mar 31 at 23:13
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Why did Jesus begin his ministry at age 30?

Jesus a sympathetic High Priest that can sympathize with our weaknesses. For this reason, he came to earth born as a man having flesh and blood, and experiencing life as a human, having feelings and emotions at first hand.

Hebrews 4:15 (NASB)

15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin.

Why 30 years?

The census of the Kohathites taken at Mount Sinai indicated that the service for priesthood included those between the ages of 30-50.

Numbers 4:2-3 (NET Bible)

2 “Take a census[a] of the Kohathites from among the Levites, by their families and by their clans, 3 from thirty years old and upward to fifty years old, all who enter the company[b] to do the work in the tent of meeting.

The following are from the footnotes Numbers 4:3 NET Bible.

The second census of Levites now will focus on those between 30 and 50 years of age, those who were actually in service. These are the working Levites. The duties here will be more specific for each of the families. The Kohathites, although part of the ordinary ministry of Levites, were a special group chosen to handle the most holy furnishings. J. Milgrom shows three aspects of their service: (1) skilled labor (מְלָאכָה, melaʾkhah) or “work,” (2) physical labor (עֲבֹדָה, ʿavodah) or “service,” and (3) assisting the priests (שָׁרֵת, sharet) or “ministering”

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  • Adam; Tks appreciated Mar 30 at 9:12
  • +1 good answer.
    – Tony Chan
    Mar 30 at 15:40
  • Good answer. Also remember that Job asked questions like this of God.
    – Youvan
    Mar 30 at 15:49
  • Peace and Blessings, I have three questions: Was that verse specifically speaking of the Priests or the Kohathites who were not descendants of Aaron? Why did the Levites begin their ministry at 30 years of age (and then have it changed to 20yers by King David). Also wasn't Christ a priest after the order of Melchizedek and under/after the Aaronic Priesthood, does that still suffice?
    – יהודה
    Mar 30 at 18:30
  • Gen. 46:11 " And the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.The service of the Levites at the sanctuary began at age 25 (reduced in King David’s time to 20). (Num. 8:24; 1 Chr 23:24) Mar 30 at 19:15
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The (currently accepted) answer by @OzzieOzzie is just plain wrong.

This has nothing to do with priesthood - but being a Rabbi

At this time, one had to be approximately 30 years of age to become a Rabbi. This recorded in the Code of Jewish Law (O.C. 581:1), which was being written at that time, along with the codification of the Talmud.

You can read more about this over at mi yodeya where the user GershonGold comments:

The Rashbam explains that at 30 one is worthy of leadership.... Orach Chaim 581:1 mentions that a Baal Tefila for the High Holy days should be at least 30. The Mishna Berura explains that at 30 one is humble and broken hearted.

Furthermore, in Jewish though, God had commanded people to "be fruitful and multiply" (you can read more about Talmudic ideas of this here and here), and although no one would want to forbid a man from becoming a Rabbi due to lack of being married and having children, it was strongly encouraged. Of course this required you to be of an age - mid to late twenties - whereby you at least had the opportunity to experience "first mitzvot of the Torah" (ie, "be fruitful and multiply"). (Reference: this is mentioned in Satlow's Jewish Marriage in Antiquity, but it's a big book and I'll have hunt it down later).

There are more reasons (such as having to have experienced a significant amount of life, etc). But ultimately one could not lead a Rabbinical school, nor lead services on one of the High Holy days unless they were 30.

Jesus - a Jewish Rabbi - would not have been accepted at all unless he was at that age.

The problem with the priesthood claim

Jesus' lineage shows him being of the tribe of Judah; He is in line for being king. He absolutely does NOT qualify as a priest, who are required to be sons of Aaron (ie, Levites).

The reference to Jesus as "High Priest" is clearly stated as something entirely separate from the Levitical regulations. Paul talks about this at length in Hebrews 5-7, and even the prophecies of the Messiah mention that Messiah would be a priest - but NOT of the sons of Aaron; Messiah would be "in the order of Melchizedek" (Psalm 110:4). In fact, Hebrews explicitly says Jesus was NOT of the Levitical order (Heb 7:11):

If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?

There are no such requirements for "being of the order of Melchizedek".

This distinction is crucial, because there are differences in the priesthoods. For example:

  • there is no maximum: Levites aged-out at 50; there is no maximum age for being in the order of Melchizedek (which means Jesus can be a High Priest forever)
  • the Levites were required to keep people away from God. Only the High Priest could enter God's presence (and then only one day a year). Anyone who tried was to be killed on-site (hence all the guards). But Jesus' role is to bring people into God's presence.
  • the Levites were forbidden from being king, and Jesus is described as the King of Israel
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  • cegfault:Heb 8 :1-3NET Better covenant 1 Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We have such a high priest, one who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. So this one too had to have something to offer. Num 4:3 KJV From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation.(tent of meeting(Ex 25:8-9) Apr 18 at 17:47
  • @OzzieOzzie you're quoting Heb 8. How about you go back to Heb 7:11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? We have "such a high priest" - what is "such" a high priest? one of the order of Melchizedek
    – cegfault
    Apr 21 at 9:48
  • cegfault:cegfault:Although the Law given by God was perfect, neither the Law, its priesthood, nor the sacrifices brought perfection to those under the Law, as the inspired apostle shows. (Heb 7:11, 19; 10:1) Rather than bring freedom from sin and death, it actually made sin more evident. (Ro 3:20; 7:7-13) All these divine provisions, nevertheless, served the purpose assigned them by God; the Law acted as a “tutor” to lead men to Christ, forming a perfect “shadow of the good things to come.” (Gal .3:19-25; Heb 10:1)Hence, when Paul speaks of “an incapability on the part of the Law, Apr 21 at 10:24
  • while it was weak through the flesh” (Rom 8:3), he is evidently referring to the inability of the fleshly Jewish high priest (who was appointed by the Law to be in charge of the sacrificial arrangements and who entered the Most Holy on Atonement Day with sacrificial blood) to “save completely” those whom he served, as Hebrews 7:11, 18-28 explains. Although the offering of sacrifices through the Aaronic priesthood maintained a right standing for the people before God, it did not completely or perfectly relieve them of consciousness of sin. Apr 21 at 10:26
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There are many factors to consider so I will make it short: Jesus Christ was the only begotten son of the father Jn 3:16, the father is the most high (elevation in rank) God (Melchisedec) Hebrews Chapter 7. No beginning or end of days.. there are (2) Jerusalem (Salem > Galatians 4:26 (above) and Melchisedec) is the king (elevation) of peace Jesus Christ is ascribed as the Prince of peace. Jesus Christ came from God John 1:14 and it is the word. And, the Son does (John 5:19) what see the father (God the father). And we know that God the Father is not only the father of spirits (HEBR 12:9); but also the priest of his own house as we are in the spiritual natural realm:

And we know that the father is the head (priest) of his household (all the angels and people made perfect); so who was responsible for slaying the lamb? The high priest which the father (God) (Isaiah 53:11) and the lamb was the son (Jesus) was born and conceived by God (Luke 1:35) is in the linage of a greater priesthood (Royal 1st Peter 2:9). Pattern/figures/ shadow of the old Testament will not be unfulfilled; since God himself gave us the pattern of when someone was fit for ministry. So to say that Jesus did not come from a line of Priest is not factual or correct.. his royal linage was a bit purer and higher. Does God in heaven have an altar? see Revelation 14.; Isa 9

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