The CarpenterBy Nathan Mates
One of the lies about Christianity that's become more popular (among non-Christians) this century is the idea that Jesus spent years growing up among other religions. This lie usually comes in the form that Jesus went to the Indian subcontinent and learned various things including their philosophy, meditation, and more. More dangerously, these lies are usually presented as "proof" that Jesus could have merely fainted while on the cross, and came to in the cool of the tomb.
Such a lie that Jesus did not die steals Christianity of its central component: Jesus died as a perfect sacrifice to take away our sins; he was resurrected by God as proof that God accepted the sacrifice and God will do the same to us who believe.
Jesus's own words in many places predicted his own death: "Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!" [Matthew 20:17-19]
Further, if Jesus merely "fainted" on the cross, he certainly did not react when a sharp spear would have provided a real incentive to wake up: "But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water." [John 19:33-34]
These soldiers were a set of hardened veterans, charged with turning condemned men into corpses, and very familiar with death. It is unlikely that all of them would be fooled, but they took no chances. Their spear did not act like a scalpel to cut the skin; the head of that spear penetrated far enough to reach the internal organs, most likely the heart-- to the soldiers, if that was pierced, there'd be no chance of recovery.
The other part of this lie is more subtle, that Jesus spent time growing up and learning in other countries. This lie is based on the idea that other religions had teachings that Jesus needed to hear to be able to become such a figure in history. Sorry, but Jesus, as the Son of God, didn't need to learn from any human about how to live. Jesus's innate knowledge of scriptures was evident early on: at age twelve, "After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers." [Luke 2:46-47]
The idea that Jesus spent time in other countries is also propagated as a way to "explain" how very little is said about Jesus's life between the above incident at age twelve and the beginning of his public ministry almost two decades later. But, the Bible does say what Jesus did in that time: "Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. "Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him." [Mark 6:1-3]
In Jesus's own hometown, neighbors and passers-by all identified Jesus, not as someone given to international travel and other flights of fancy, but a carpenter. Joseph, Jesus's father, was a carpenter [Matthew 13:55], and Jesus followed the family trade growing up. Career-hopping was rarely practiced at that time; most sons, especially the firstborn, followed in their father's profession. Jesus was no different, at first. Joseph and Mary were hardly rich, and Nazareth was a small, remote, town full of backwater hicks. The family of at least 5 sons needed money, and woodworking is honest business.
Jesus's years as a carpenter was what made his neighbors remember him. If he'd taken years off to study in foreign lands, he wouldn't be recognized or remembered in such a way. Even though the neighbor's reactions are wrong here-- their disbelief that a homeboy carpenter could make good in the world as a prophet-- their identification with him points out that Jesus hadn't left them.
It has been suggested that these years as a carpenter were necessary so that Jesus would be of sufficient age (25, according to Numbers 8:24, though Numbers 4:3 is more restrictive at 30-50 years old) to be a high priest under the Mosaic law, even if the religious authorities of the time didn't honor that. At least this suggestion is biblical in nature, instead of chosen to deny Jesus's godly nature or death on the cross.
In the history of the gospel, people have chosen to add or remove parts to fit their own preconceptions. The gnostics denied Jesus's humanity-- he was only a spirit that didn't have anything to do with the flesh of this world. These modern heresies deny Jesus's deity, in claiming that he needed to learn from others, and also that he didn't die on the cross. But, Jesus was fully God-- working miracles and living a sinless life-- and fully man-- doing the drudge work of a day job as a carpenter. For those stuck in boring jobs, look to Jesus once again as a model of patient service at work in an unglamorous job.