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Collen Moroney wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Why is there nothing recorded on the life of Jesus from the time he is a baby until He begins His public life?
  • Who recorded the events leading up to His birth?

Colleen

  { Why was nothing recorded of the life of Jesus from when he was a baby until His public ministry? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Colleen —

Thanks for the question.

I'll answer it the best I can.

You said:
Why is there nothing recorded on the life of Jesus from the time he is a baby until He begins His public life?

Well, I assume you are referring to non-Scriptural sources. As Catholics, we can't ignore what both St. Luke (Chapters 1 and 2) and St. Matthew (Chapters 1 to 3) have given to the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

One reference I use often is my 1954 Commentary on the Holy Scriptures. In the prologue to the commentary on Luke, the author states:

1954 Catholic Commentary on Holy Scriptures.

Sources [for the Gospel of Luke] - Luke indicates them himself: first many written accounts of the Gospel history, and secondly those persons 'who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word', Luke 1:1-2. Ancient commentators were inclined to interpret 'word' as the proper name of the Son of God after the fashion of John's prologue, but Luke and Acts commonly use it to mean the teaching of doctrine. We need not conclude (though some have done so) that Luke disapproves of the written documents to which he refers, hence we need not exclude Matthew and Mark from among them.

It is antecedently probable that there were a great many written accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus, in whole or in part, during the early years of the Church; it would be surprising if there were not. Knowing Luke as we do from his writings, it is also antecedently probable that such a careful writer and exact historian would neglect no opportunity of familiarizing himself with what had been written on a subject he had so much at heart. He tells us, in Luke 1:3, that he had been a diligent inquirer 'from the beginning'.

Origen of Alexandria says that 'from the beginning' should be translated 'now for a long time', i.e. the matter had been a preoccupation of Luke since the time of his conversion years before. His opportunities of consulting those who had come into contact with Jesus may be gathered from a consideration of Luke's own history. He spent long periods in Palestine, Antioch and Rome. It will be observed that whenever St. Paul mentions him, Mark is always in the company; Colossians 4:10; 14, Philemon 24,2. Timothy 4:11.

Luke mentions others who could have furnished him with information: Joanna, wife of Chusa, Herod's steward, Susanna, and 'many other (women) who ministered unto (Jesus) of their substance', 8:3. With regard to the Infancy Narrative it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the repeated remark of 2:19 and 2:51 is intended to indicate that the Mother of Jesus herself is the direct or indirect source of his information. Some modern scholars maintain that the Semitic character of the Infancy Narrative shows that Luke used an Aramaic written source; it is possible but there are other explanations of Luke's Semitisms.


The sources for Matthew's writings and the events of Jesus' childhood are a little more complex due to uncertainty over how Matthew's Gospel was composed but seeing that it was compose later than Luke's Gospel, I'm sure his sources, let alone, his own eyewitness, were similar to Luke's.

There were probably no detailed non-Scriptural historical sources because Jesus didn't start his public ministry until he was 30. Sure, the rabbis marveled at his knowledge in the temple but they had no reason to believe, at the time, He was the Messiah that was foretold in the
Old Testament Scriptures.

You said:
Who recorded the events leading up to His birth?

Another part of my Commentary answers that question titled "the Jewish World in the New Testament times".

1954 Catholic Commentary on Holy Scriptures.

The principal contemporary sources for the history of Judaism are:

  1. Flavius Josephus (born 38 A.D.), the Jewish historian; fought in the rebellion of 66-70 A.D.; was taken and pardoned by the Romans, and became a client of the Flavian house. In the Jewish Antiquities and the Jewish War, Josephus has preserved much information about pre-Christian Judaism not found elsewhere; but he is uncritical in his use of sources.

  2. Rabbinical Writings:

    1. The Mishnah, a collection of the oral traditions of the Rabbis by which the Law was interpreted, amplified, and applied to particular situations. These traditions are Halakhic (legal) or Haggadic (doctrinal). Since the collection was not made until the close of the second century A.D., it must be employed with caution to determine Jewish ideas of the New Testament period.

    2. Midrashim, or interpretations of the Scriptures.

  3. Apocalyptic Literature. A great number of works appeared during the period from 200 B.C. to 100 A.D. which, under the pseudonym of ancient figures (such as Henoch or Esdras), pretended to be predictions of the downfall of the great heathen powers and the establishment of the Jewish kingdom of God. It is uncertain how far these works represent the prevailing sentiments of Judaism of the time.

  4. The New Testament, especially the Gospels.

  5. (Profane|Pagan) historians. Tacitus (Historiae V) gives a brief sketch of Judaism. Other Roman historians (Suetonius), and satirists (Horace, Juvenal) allude to Jewish beliefs and practices. These works, which exhibit a profound anti-Jewish prejudice, are biased and inaccurate; but they indicate a common attitude towards Judaism among the Gentiles.


Here is some background on Josephus:

Here is an article on the early historical documents on Jesus from EWTN.
They mention several early pagan sources of information including:

  • Tacitus
  • Seutonius
  • Pliny the Younger, and
  • Lucian

I think you will find it interesting reading.

The following question on the EWTN web site also talks about the importance of Flavius Josephus for obtaining knowledge of early Church history.

Hope this helps,

Mike

Colleen replied:

Many thanks for your help.

Colleen

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
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