Jesus Learned from Earthlings?

The scene of a young Jesus in the temple has always troubled me.

In this story, Jesus is separated from His parents as they return to Nazareth from Jerusalem. They find Him in the temple. We are given the impression that Jesus was learning from the teachers by “listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46 ESV). It is also implied that Jesus learned to submit to Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:51). God’s sinless Son learning obedience? What’s happening here? What does the resident alien from heaven need to learn from earthlings? The church father Origen, who is often credited as being the first “modern” biblical interpreter, offers an explanation.

Because he was a small child, he is found “in their midst,” not teaching them but “asking questions” (Luke 2:46). He did this because it is appropriate to his age … [Boys] should rather hear their teachers than want to teach them and not show off with a display of knowledge. He interrogated the teachers not to learn anything but to teach them by his questions. From one fountain of doctrine, there flow both wise questions and answers. It is part of the same wisdom to know what you should ask and what you should answer. It was right for the Savior first to become a master of learned interrogation. Later he would answer questions according to God’s reason and Word. … So each one [of us] should realize that often a lesser man is put in charge of better men.1

Origen (ca. AD 185–254) pioneered biblical interpretation by first studying the original meaning of the biblical text. However, when it came to application, Origen focused on the symbolic and metaphorical meanings of passages. His cutting edge interpretative methods eventually got him in trouble with church authorities.2

  1. Adapted from Fathers of the Church: A New Translation (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1947) by Arthur A. Just, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Luke (New Testament, Vol. 3; Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), pgs. 54–55. Learn more about the early church fathers with the resources at []
  2. Adapted from Bible Study Magazine. Copyright 2009. Used with permission. []

John is the publisher of Raysd, and the editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. He is currently writing a book titled The Infinite in Everything. Visit John's blog, The Infinite in Everything.