Jesus is born. Then one mention in only one gospel of his teenage years – an incident at the temple. Then nothing until a few months before his death. It drove people nuts in the Middle Ages that nothing was written about the childhood of Jesus so….they invented it.
Childhood of Jesus depicted on medieval tiles
On a recent visit to the British Museum’s medieval gallery, I almost missed a group of wall tiles from the 1300s in a glass case to the left hand side of the gallery entrance. People drifted past them without giving the innocuous tiles a second glance but to me, they’re the most interesting objects in that room.
Bought in a shop years ago, they detail stories about Jesus that you won’t find in the bible. All of them related to his childhood – the period of his life largely ignored by the gospel writers. The stories, it has to be said, are very odd.
Jesus kills bullies
There is a recurring theme of boys who bully Jesus falling dead. So in one tale depicted on a tile, Jesus is making pools by the river Jordan but a bully destroys one of them. He promptly falls down dead. But Jesus brings him back to life by touching his foot. Another boy leaps on Jesus’ back and also dies immediately but after the boy’s parents complain to Joseph, Jesus brings him back to life.
This one might stretch your imagination to try and visualise – but a man locks up his son in a tower to stop Jesus playing with him. So Jesus pulls him out through the lock! Seems there’s quite a few parents who don’t want their kids to play with the youthful Messiah – well, they do appear to run the risk of dying for a start. One Mum and Dad even shut their children in an oven to stop them hanging out with Jesus.
Fortunately, Jesus didn’t retaliate by turning the oven on….though one begins to wonder what he’s capable of.
DISCOVER MORE: The defleshing of bodies in the Middle Ages – why?
One adult who crosses the Saviour’s path but doesn’t get killed in the process is his teacher Levi who we see slapping Jesus across the face. Unless of course there is a missing tile which show poor Levi falling down dead. Then one has to wonder if Jesus brings him back to life.