18 Lost Years of Jesus

Many people have speculated about the ‘lost 18 years’ of Jesus because the gospels are silent about the time during his youth from the age 12 and early adulthood to the age of 30. Books have been written on the subject, with endless speculations (from both scholars and popular writers) about where our Lord was and what was he doing during that time period. Some speculate he traveled to the East, far beyond the control of the Romans, to Parthia, Persia, to Afghanistan or India. The following is this author’s explanation of what Jesus was doing during that time. First, let us look at what has been established in the gospels.

What the gospels tell us

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke say that Jesus was living in the town of Nazareth in Galilee. Luke writes that Jesus grew to maturity there until the age of 30 when he started his ministry.  Every year his parents and the children would go to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. It was during one of these visits that Jesus at the age of 12 was found sitting in the Temple with the learned scholars and questioning them on matters of religion.

In Nazareth with his family

The solution that is the most believable is that Jesus did not go anywhere in his missing years. He was right there in Nazareth, living at home with Joseph and Mary and his siblings. They were in Nazareth because God had spoken to Joseph in a dream, back in the time when Jesus was a young boy, when they were on their way back from Egypt where they had fled to keep Jesus safe from King Herod. God had said to go to Nazareth, and since Joseph was obedient to God, they settled in Nazareth.

What Jesus was doing

During this time Jesus grew both as a son of the carpenter Joseph and as a son of God. As the carpenter’s oldest son, Jesus learned the trade and was able to help support his family as his father Joseph aged. Jesus helped his younger brothers (see table below) to learn the carpentry trade, and as the younger brothers grew in skill, they were able to help support the family, as well.

As a son of God, as he studied the scriptures, his divinity revealed his true nature and what his purpose on this earth really was. Jesus didn’t need to travel to some far-off monastery, as some have speculated: his home was his monastery and training place. He was God incarnate, and as such did not have to go searching for knowledge. It was already embedded in the DNA of his brain. We know that during his childhood he was as any boy. He studied the Torah at the feet of the local rabbi, right alongside the other boys of the village. 

As he matured, however, his divine nature uncoiled and revealed to him that which he divulged and made known to his disciples, his followers, and the crowds who gathered around him with his power of healing, control over nature and his fresh approach to the Law of Moses. His message was about the new relationship of God and humans. It was about the Kingdom of God, and about eternal life. It was about the spirit of the law, emphasizing love and relationship over legal claims.

Jesus’ ministry begins

When Jesus was around 20-30, his father Joseph died. As any good son would do, Jesus took over as head of the household, finishing the training of his younger brothers so they could support the family. He only left home when his brothers were able to take care of the family without his help. He left his home and started his ministry at the age of 30. That is the true story of Jesus’ lost 18 years, which were not lost at all.

The following table gives more detail about Jesus and his family:

Chronological ages of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and His biological 4 brothers and at least 2 sisters till Jesus turned 30 years old.

Ages of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in years

Other information, and ages of Jesus siblings









Mary's age of marriage could be 12, 13 or 14 years, in which case subtract from the age.  We believe Joseph was at least 25 when he married Mary


Mary pregnant



Not born

Mary and Joseph marry in accord with the angel’s message, Mary pregnant with Jesus


Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem




Jesus  is the firstborn at Bethlehem,  Shepherds visit the newborn in a manger


Stay at Bethlehem




The Magi visit Jesus in a house at Bethlehem and present 3 gifts: Gold, frankincense, myrrh


Journey to Egypt



< 2

To avoid Herod’s massacre of children under the age of 2 at Bethlehem


Return to Nazareth




Return to Israel from Egypt and settle in Nazareth due to angel’s message


Reach Nazareth

21 +


4-5 +

Grows under the care of his loving parents



Joseph, Mary, and Jesus




Settle in Nazareth




James’  birth at Nazareth




Mary gave birth to her second son, James. Jesus is happy and he has a new young brother



Jesus plays with the brother, and carries him on the street of Nazareth when father and mother are busy


Joses’ birth




Mary gave birth to her second son named Joses. Jesus spends time with his father and his brother, and tries to attend to his second brother.



Now Jesus has two brothers to play with - one is 4 years, and the other is almost 2 years.  They are everywhere. 


Judas’ birth




May was pregnant and gave birth to her third son who was named Judas.  They wanted to make sure Joseph’s job was not endangering the children.  Jesus and his Mother kept them away from Joseph’s carpentry shop.  Jesus was happy over the birth of his third  brother



Jesus was busy helping his mother and caring for his 3 brothers.


Journey to Jerusalem




Joseph, Mary, and Jesus with James, Joses' and Judas travel with their friends in a caravan to celebrate Sabbath at the Jerusalem temple.

It is here Jesus gets lost for 3 day and reveals to his parents his mission at the temple.  At that time Joseph and Mother Mary reveal the angel’s message and agree with his mission.

He comes back to Nazareth with his parents and 3 brothers. 


Jesus as a teenager


Attending to fathers work.  Helping his mother care for his 3 brothers.


Simon’s birth




Jesus was busy with his father's work and helping him to earn a living.  He knew that she was pregnant and gave birth to a new brother whose name was Simon.  Joseph was helping Mother Mary and the children.  Jesus resumed many of the duties of the carpentry shop, while at the same time tried to control the other 3 children


Jesus, man of the house


He as teenager taking care of his siblings..  Helping his mother with a new baby, 4th brother.  His voice is changing. He is looking like a man. 


Hannah’s birth*




Once again, his mother was pregnant.  Jesus was carrying out some of the easy carpentry work of his father and at the same time helping to earn their living.  He knew that his family was not rich.  He made time to attend the synagogue and study the torah.  Mother Mary gave birth to a Hannah, the first girl in the family after giving birth to 5 males.  Mother Mary was happy to see her, and Hannah was the mirror image of her mother.



Jesus was attending to the family and worked as carpenter apprentice under the guidance of his father.


Abigail’s birth*




Mother Mary gave birth to Abigail. The family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus had their hands full caring for the young children. Jesus and Joseph started to train the next two brothers to learn the trade.  By then James was 12 and Joses' was 10 years old. Jesus included them to help him and his father in carpentry and masonry work. They made themselves useful with small tasks as they learned the skills they would need later.





Jesus continued to help the family and his siblings, at the same time studying the torah. He began the practice he continued the rest of his life, finding time to go apart from everyone else and pray to his heavenly father.





Joseph was unable to work as he did before. He needed rest every 3-4 hours. Jesus has taken over most of the carpentry family business.  He has gone out seeking construction jobs, both in Nazareth and in the surrounding area. The entire family of 7 members with the help of Jesus and neighboring houses journey to Temple. On the journey at nighttime, Joseph and Mother Mary tell Jesus about prediction of his birth, their marriage, and his mission.  Jesus tells them he remembers the message they revealed to him on their way back from Jerusalem when he was 12 and was missing for 3 days.





Jesus was busy; his father was getting sicker and unable to work all day. By then the rest of the siblings are getting older.  He continued the training of James  and Joses who are 15 and 13 years old. Joseph’s family was unable to make the pilgrimage every year due to Joseph’s health and the expanded family.  





Jesus is working in next settlement.  It gives good income to the family.





Jesus continues to work and help his siblings to learn the trade of carpentry. He studies the Torah when he finds the time. His father had difficulty getting out of bed and had to rest much more. Jesus had to give him a hand to get out of bed and getting him to lie down. He told Joseph not to work anymore in the shop, that he is capable of handling it.





Jesus has taken over earning for the family.  The 3 older brothers were now almost fully trained.  His two sisters helped to carry out the daily tasks of the house including cooking for 9 members of the family.



Jesus first three brothers were trained enough to take over carpentry and construction assignments.  Jesus only had to guide them.  Simon was 11 years old and attended to his mother’s and sisters’ needs



Jesus stayed in the carpentry shop at home, and his brothers went out on construction and carpentry assignments.  As their work brought in more money, Jesus got more time to study the Torah and attend to his father’s needs.



Jesus continued to spend time helping his father.





Jesus had to literally lift his father out of bed and provide bathing and helping in eating.  He studied scripture and talked about it with his mother and father.  Joseph tells Jesus about their journey to Egypt and how arduous was for him and his mother. How they used the gifts from Magi (gold, myrrh, frankincense) to support the family partly. 


Joseph's  death


55 Died


One Saturday, after Sabbath observance, (which began on Friday sunset and lasted till Saturday sunset) Jesus helped his father get into bed and kept him warm with sheets of cloth.  They prayed and the family went to bed.  This was the typical routine - they were happy to share their work stories with their father and mother, although their father often went to sleep during the narration.

 Sunday morning they got up. Jesus went to his father's room, and tried to wake him up.  He had died in his sleep.  Jesus made arrangements and buried him in his family burial area with full tradition.   


Jesus’ ministry begins

John the Baptist baptizes  Jesus


Not alive


After his father's death, Jesus continued to help his brothers in the trade of construction and carpentry. Months passed. He talked to his siblings and mother, telling them the time was right for him to go on the mission for which his heavenly father sent him. He had finished his father’s work on earth, and it was time to start  his heavenly father's work for which he came to the world. They did not understand, but Mother Mary nodded her head.  She knew what was happening, even if his brothers did not.  She had not told the message of the angels to them to keep their mind open.

One evening, as he was studying the Torah, he had an awakening of his spirit, and felt that it was time to leave the house and journey on his mission as the angel told his father and mother. He bade good night as usual, but the next morning his family saw that he had gone.

Jesus journeyed to Capernaum (Lk 3:23, Mt 4:13) from Nazareth, and then went to Judea. Before he left home at Nazareth, there was an invitation from a family in Cana to attend the wedding.  Joseph and his sons had helped their family building in Cana, and had become family friends. Everyone in the family had been invited. That family in Cana respected and adored the purity of Mother Mary very much and wanted her to attend the wedding, especially after the death of her husband. They were sad at the death of Joseph.  They wanted the family to have some joy and forget the sadness for a short time. Jesus knew about the wedding and the invitation for the whole family. 

From Capernaum, Jesus went to the River Jordon and was baptized by John the Baptist. This was followed by 40 days of hunger when he was tempted by Satan.

Then Jesus traveled to Galilee and selected 4 disciples (Peter, Andrew, Phillip and Nathaniel). He learned his mother was the wedding at Cana, to which Jesus and his disciples were also invited.  Here he performed his first miracle of converting water into wine. I am sure his 4 disciples were amazed at the feat and probably made them think that they are following the right Messiah. This is the beginning of Jesus’ miracle ministry.

From Cana, he journeyed to Capernaum with his mother, brothers and sisters.  The author believes that some of the brothers came and some were left in Nazareth to care for their two sisters.


Table copyright
© Dr. T.R. Shantha.  *= Given name by the author, not recorded in the gospels



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