Before the Cross: 17 Unknown Facts About Jesus’s Early Life

About 2.4 billion people across the globe follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and call themselves Christians. Many know about His life shortly before His death and the great miracles attributed to Him, but do you know these 17 tidbits about Jesus?

Jesus’s Name Was Common

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The name “Jesus” was a common first-century name, akin to “John Smith” today, reflecting His humble beginnings despite His divine mission. Jesus Film Project doesn’t think a common name made Him common: “The name of Jesus means Savior and is virtually the same as the Old Testament name Joshua. Both names communicate the fact that it is God who saves people from their sins.”

Jesus’s Last Name Wasn’t Christ

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In first-century Palestine, people didn’t have last names. Christ comes from the Greek for Christos, which means “anointed one.” People identified others by referencing their parents:

“They said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven”’?” (John 6:42)

Jesus’s Birth Likely Wasn’t on December 25th

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The entire world celebrates Christ’s birth on December 25, but it’s unlikely to be His actual birthday. Early Christian leaders began observing Christ’s birth on this date, offering an alternative to many pagan festivals happening at this time. Jesus’s birth narratives were written with theology, not history, in mind.

Unknown Years

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From about age 13 to 30, Jesus is absent from the biblical records, leading to much speculation and mystery about His activities during these years. Dale Martin, a religious studies professor at Yale University, said that “one of the reasons why so little is said about Jesus’s teenage years is that He didn’t really become ‘famous’ until 100 to 200 years after His crucifixion.”

Birthplace Debate

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The Church of the Nativity inside Bethlehem, built by St. Helena, contains the cave-manger site traditionally venerated as the birthplace of Jesus. While believed to be born in Bethlehem, some scholars suggest Nazareth or other locations could have been His actual birthplace due to varying historical accounts.

Birth Year

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Jesus’s significance is seen in how His presence divides history. However, He was probably born before 4 B.C., which contradicts the A.D. system.

Family Escape to Egypt

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An angel instructed Joseph to take his wife and young son and flee to Egypt because Herod the Great was searching for Jesus to kill him. So early in His life, Jesus’s family fled to Egypt, only returning after Herod’s death. 


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The Gospels mention Jesus having brothers and sisters, suggesting He grew up in a larger family, although their exact number and roles are not detailed in the scriptures. According to Mark, Jesus had four brothers: James, Joses, Judas, and Simon. He also had at least two sisters, although they are unnamed.

Jesus’s Parents Were Conscientious Jewish Believers

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Jesus’s parents were conscientious Jewish believers who went from Nazareth to Jerusalem annually for the Passover festival.

First Public Appearance

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At age 12, Jesus impressed scholars with His understanding during a Passover visit to the Temple in Jerusalem, an event that marks His only recorded public act during His childhood.

Language Skills

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Jesus likely spoke Aramaic as His primary language. Still, He also knew Hebrew, used in religious contexts, and possibly had some familiarity with Greek, the lingua franca of the Eastern Mediterranean, according to Catholic Identity.

Living in Nazareth

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Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a small and relatively obscure village in Galilee, influencing His parables and teachings. Strangely, this was never even mentioned in the Old Testament.

Physical Appearance

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“What did Jewish Galileans look like 2,000 years ago?” Robert Cargill, assistant professor of classics and religious studies at the University of Iowa, asks on History. “That’s the question. They probably didn’t have blue eyes and blond hair.” Contrary to many Western depictions, historical and cultural evidence suggests Jesus likely had dark skin, brown eyes, and short hair, typical of Middle Eastern Jews of His time.

Legal Son of David

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Through His adoption by Joseph, who was descended from David, Jesus held a legal claim to the Davidic line, an essential aspect of His messianic role.

Early Miracles

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The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, an apocryphal text, attributes several miraculous acts to Jesus during His childhood, though these are not recognized in canonical scriptures.

Herod’s Massacre

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The Magi, or wise men from the East, visited Jesus during His early years, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which symbolize His roles as king, priest, and prophet. King Herod’s order to kill all boys in Bethlehem, two years old and under, indicates that Jesus could have been as old as two at the time of the visit by the Magi. 

Early Understanding of His Mission

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At a young age, Jesus already deeply understood His spiritual mission, famously stating to His parents that He must be about His Father’s business during a visit to Jerusalem.

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17 Things That Used to Be Highly Respected But Isn’t Anymore

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Many things in the world used to be well-respected before turning into complete jokes for various reasons. An internet survey recently asked people, “What is something that was once highly respected but is now a complete joke?” Here are the top 20 answers:

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17 Fairy Tales That Are Now Considered Racist

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While fairy tales weave magical narratives that span generations, many emerge from historical and cultural contexts tinged with biases. Hiding in many of these tales, racial undertones can be found. Let’s look at 17 fairy tales that have deeper implications.

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17 Things Society Can No Longer Do Because Gen Z Said So

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18 Common Traits Found in Adults Who Had Unhappy Childhoods

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