Jesus as a child

May I add my thanks to dozens of others’ for our last Wisdom School. A question which has excersized my mind for years (and which gets dismissed when I try to share it with others) is this: when Jesus was a child, many must have known that He was the unwitting “cause” of the massacre of the innocents. What might have been the psychological effect on Him? Do you know of anyone who has addressed this?

With love,


Hi David,

Thanks for your kind words. I think your question–like so many others speculating on the childhood and “lost years” of Jesus–is basically a wild goose chase because it starts with the assumption that the sketchy Biblical accounts we have of Jesus’ birth and childhood are historically true, according to standards of historicity in use today. They are in fact largely legendary, developed decades if not centuries after Jesus’ historical lifetime and in dialogue with the theological teachings already being promulgated about him. In point of fact, there were no records kept for peasants (which Jesus’ family were): no birth records (except for that occasional random census, yeah!), no school records, no track records. Nada. So his birth and childhood story we’re so familiar with today was reconstructed in a two-way dialogue between theological stipulations and historical cross-weavings. That doesn’t mean it’s not true; it’s simply not FACTUAL (or at least reliably so). These early stories we love so much are ICONS more than events: mirrors which allow us to peer deeply into the nature and cosmic significance of this Word-become-flesh. To push them into the historical or psychological realm, at least as we’re used to it, goes beyond the limits of the historical genre we’re dealing with, and pushes your own response into the realm of fanciful speculation. That’s good work, for sure, but you have to be aware of its limitations. So yes, Matthew has brilliantly connected a historical pogrom carried out by Herod against the young with some evidence (which certainly percolates through the esoteric tradition) that Jesus spent time in Egypt. IF Jesus had been old enough to recognize that he was the cause of the pogrom (a couple of big ifs), I suspect, he being who he was, that his response would not be so much to wallow in personal guilt as to “pay it forward”: by offering his own life as a reconciliation for the propensity for collective sinfulness so deeply stamped into the human heart. (Sound familiar?) I hope this is helpful.

Many blessings to you!