What kind of child was Jesus? The Bible tells us almost nothing about His childhood – just His birth, His first trip when eight days old to the Temple, a second trip perhaps as a six-month-old, the visit by the Wise Men and then an incident when he was 12. Here contemporary artist Liz Lemon Swindle portrays him as a very normal toddler, doted on by his parents and the visitors from the East.  



From babyhood to age 12, the Bible is silent about Him other than Luke 2:40, which tells us “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon Him.” Here an unknown artist imagines a pre-school Jesus – a sturdy youngster, being raised as a carpenter.

Throughout the last 2,000 years, artists have tried to portray the Christ Child – who loved His mother, learned carpentry at Joseph’s side and respected His loving parents.

At what point did He realize He was the Son of God? We don’t know. Did He learn to pray at His mother’s knee? Did He go to school? Did Joseph teach Him in the Law and the Prophets? We don’t know.

However, at age 12, there was an extraordinary incident. Luke 2:41-47 tells us that His parents took Him to the Temple in Jerusalem where He astonished the great scholars with His knowledge and wisdom. But still, we don’t know what He looked like. Was He a small boy?

Or was he a rugged 12-year-old? Here three different artists over hundreds of years try to imagine the budding adolescent.

William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) depicts Him in “Finding Jesus in the Temple” as a somewhat awkward, normal 12-year-old – obviously a little embarrassed that His mother had come to get Him in front of the Temple scholars.

Early Renaissance master Simone Martini in 1342 portrayed the young Christ in the classic “Jesus Summoned From His Fathers House” somewhat differently. Notice how irked both parents look – and a touch of irritation on the face of the young Jesus.

In “Christ in the House of His Parents,” English artist Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896) shows a slim 12-year-old assisting in the carpentry shop.



Actually, there is some disagreement about what Millais was trying to do in that painting. Here is a smaller youngster – who is much more the traditional Christ Child.




Was Millais trying to depict three different periods in young Jesus’ life? Here is the full  “Christ in the House of His Parents” – is the teen on the left also Jesus? The child in the middle the pre-schooler? And the helper on the right the budding young man?


Other artists take a completely different direction. Carlo Dolci (1616-1686) in his “Christ Child with Flowers” paints a very romanticized Son of God.

On the other hand French artist  James Tissot (1836-1902) portrays the young 12-year-old in the Temple as a fun-loving youngster.


But all the artists are just using their imaginations. On the left, an unknown artist shows the young Jesus helping His mother retrieve water from the village well. On the right, Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1617-1682), in his famed “Jesus Boy” paints an 8-year-old helping out with the family’s livestock.

An unknown Indonesian artist shows the toddler Jesus with His parents.

Modern-day Quebec artist Colette Isabelle offers her rendition.


This engraving is attributed to Martin Luther – and shows the 12-year-old sitting on a throne as He talks with the scholars in the Temple.

An unknown artist shows the pre-teen perched on a table, holding His own with the scribes and Pharisees of the Temple.

Here are two more unknown artists’ works. At left, notice that the irked young man at left is not Jesus – who is at the top of the stairs debating. The boy at the foot of the steps is seemingly annoyed that nobody is buying his turtledoves – instead giving all their attention to some kid from Nazareth.

An unknown engraver depicts Jesus teaching the Temple elders.

A halo-wearing Jesus appears in this work by an unknown 18th century artist.

Contemporary artist Brian Jekel’s “Jesus at the Temple,” shows young Jesus sitting on the floor with the amazed scribes, Pharisees and Saducees.

In this sketch, the boy’s face is not seen, but the Temple scholars are obviously intrigued by their young visitor.


French artist Gustave Doré (1832-1883) produced hundreds of quality Bible story illustrations in his lifetime. Here, his “Young Jesus in the Temple” portrays the youngster as a young prophet.


In “Jesus Amidst The Doctors In The Temple,” William Hole (1846-1917) shows young Jesus as the center of attention.

Adolphe von Menzel (1815-1905) painted “Twelve-Year-Old Jesus in the Temple” almost glowing – a young light in the darkness.

German-Jewish painter and printmaker Max Lieberman (1847-1935) depicts the young Son of God as a small, almost effeminate 12-year-old – still baffling the great scholars.

Here is “Jesus in the Temple,” a stained-glass window in the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church of Downers Grove, Illinois.


An unknown artist shows a strapping young Jesus leaving the Temple with His concerned parents.


















































































































Famed artist Heinrich Hofmann painted many well-known portraits of Jesus, including his classic “In the Garden.” Here is Hofmann's “The Boy Jesus in the Temple.”


Hofmann’s classic is portrayed here in stained glass at the Calvary Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.


An unknown artist shows young Jesus sitting on the floor, surrounded by the Temple scholars. At right, Renaissance master Vittore Carpaccio ( 1465-1525) envisions the boy experimenting with a medieval stringed instrument.

So, what did the young Jesus look like? We simply do now know. We can imagine.

Did He work in Joseph’s carpenter shop? It was the custom of the day.

We know He “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon Him”  and that when His parents tracked Him down in the Temple, they found Him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, He responded, "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?" as He prepared for an adult life that would change the world.






















































































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