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Jesus' Missing 18 years #1

More in history than you think!




by Steven Collins 

Much has been written about the life of Jesus Christ, the
historical person whose name is attached to the many different
denominations of Christianity which exist today. In fact, so much
has been written that one might wonder whether anything truly new
could be written about this one life. As the reader will see, new
information about the life of Jesus Christ can be ascertained by
combining biblical and secular historical accounts and traditions
about the time in which he lived. This chapter is not intended to
be a complete history of the life of Jesus Christ. It will cover
those aspects of his life and times which have not been generally

The prior chapter dealing with the Parthian Empire discussed
historical events which shaped the world into which Jesus Christ
was born. When some surprising information about his life is
added to the history contained in the previous chapter, it can be
seen that Jesus Christ actually played a role in the great power
politics which occurred between the empires of Parthia and Rome.
If he had chosen to do so, he could have had a much larger role
in the political affairs of that era, and the Bible hints at such
a possibility.

This chapter will begin by offering firm evidence that Jesus
Christ was a real, historical person. Josephus, a Jewish
historian of the first century A.D., regarded the life of Jesus
Christ as an established fact. In Antiquities of the Jews,
Josephus wrote:

"there was about this time [Josephus here refers to matters
concerning Pontius Pilate, Roman procurator of Judea], Jesus, a
wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of
wonderful works, - a teacher of such men as receive the truth
with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and
many of the Gentiles. He was Christ; and when Pilate, at the
suggestion of the principle men among us, had condemned him to
the cross ... he appeared to them alive again the third day, as
the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other
wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so
named from him, are not extinct at this day." 1

In this account, written shortly after Christ died, Josephus not
only gave us a powerful witness that Jesus Christ truly lived,
but also provided an independent corroboration of many of the
biblically discussed events of his life. Josephus refers to him
as "a wise man," and wonders whether he was more than a mere man
because of the "wonderful works" he did. That a non-Christian,
Jewish historian of the apostolic era writes of the miracles of
Jesus as actual facts offer of his miracles. Josephus agrees with
the testamental writings that Jesus was indeed sentenced to be
crucified by Pontius Pilate at the behest of the Jewish Sanhedrin
("the principle men among us"). Josephus acknowledges that Jesus
Christ fulfilled the many prophecies of the Hebrew prophets about
the Messiah, and even refers to his resurrection as a historical

Josephus' reference to Jesus as "the Christ" acknowledges that
Jesus was the Messiah ("the anointed"). Since a non-Christian
source so close to the actual time of Christ has confirmed these
facts of his life, the musings of modern skeptics questioning
Christ's existence are without merit. Josephus could speak with
eye-witnesses of Jesus' life; modern skeptics are almost two
millennia removed the events, and their writings are merely

Roman secular sources also agree with Josephus. Celsus, an
antiChristian writer of the Roman Empire in the second century
A.D., wrote: "It was by magic that he [Jesus] was able to do the
miracles which he appeared to have done." 2 In this statement, an
antagonist of Christianity grudgingly acknowledges the reality of
Christ's "miracles." However, Quadratus, writing in approximately
117-134 A.D. "urged people to believe in Jesus because the effect
of his miracles continued up to the present - people had been
cured and raised from the dead, and 'some of them ... have
survived even to our own day."`3 Tacitus, the famous Roman
historian, writing about the Christians several decades after the
death of Christ, stated: "their originator, Christ, had been
executed in Tiberius' reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius
Pilate." 4

Clearly, Roman records confirm that Jesus Christ lived, and that
he was executed in Judea during the administration of Pontius
Pilate. Even his detractors and non-Christian writers
acknowledged that he performed supernatural deeds, and one writer
recorded that some previously dead persons were known to be alive
as a result of being resurrected by Jesus Christ. Whatever one
thinks about Jesus Christ, we begin with the fact that he indeed
lived and died when the Bible states that he lived and died, that
he performed marvelous deeds, and that he made a major impression
on the civilization of his day.

Let us now review the historical setting into which Jesus Christ
was born. The Roman and Parthian Empires were both powerful,
well-established "superpower" rivals at the time Jesus was born.
Rome ruled the Mediterranean region, and Parthia ruled Asian
lands from modern Syria to India. Palestine was located within
the Roman Empire, but was close to the Parthian border (the
Euphrates River).

In the decades previous to the birth of Jesus, Rome and Parthia
fought several battles with one being fought near Antioch of
Syria (very close to Palestine). 5 in about 40 B.C., the
Parthians launched a major assault which swept the Romans out of
Asia for a short time. For three years (40-37 B.C.) Palestine was
within the Parthian Empire and was ruled by a Jewish vassal king
of the Parthians named Antigonus. At that time King Herod (the
Roman king of Judea) fled from the Parthians in fear of his life.
While the Parthiansponsored rule of Antigonus was brief, it was
apparently popular with the Jews. When the Parthians withdrew
across the Euphrates, Antigonus, with Jewish support, attempted
to maintain himself as king of the Jews, but was defeated by
Herod. Mark Antony (the Roman leader famous for his dalliance
with Cleopatra) ordered Antigonus beheaded, and Josephus records
that this was done to compel the Jews to reaccept the hated Herod
as their kings Mark Antony then led an massive invasion of
Parthia in 37-36 B.C., but his army was utterly defeated by the
Parthians. 7

To help modern readers gain a frame of reference for these
ancient events, these Roman-Parthian wars were more recent events
for the people in the period when Jesus was born than World War
II and the Korean War are to modern readers. Parthian rule over
Palestine was, therefore, vividly remembered by many in Jewish
society as being preferable to Roman rule.

Mark Antony's defeat led to a long period of "detente" between
the two empires, with the Euphrates River serving as the border
between their two vast empires. This prolonged period of peaceful
relations lasted from 36 B.C. until 58 A.D., 8 including not only
all of Jesus Christ's life, but also the early period of the
Apostolic church as well. Rawlinson records that it was an
established Roman policy not to provoke a Parthian war during
that period of time so long as both empires agreed to coexist on
separate banks of the Euphrates River. Rawlinson comments on this
peaceful interlude as follows:

"It is a well-known fact that Augustus left it as a principle of
policy to his successors that the Roman Empire had reached its
proper limits, and could not with advantage be extended further.
This principle, followed with the utmost strictness by Tiberius,
was accepted as a rule by all the earlier Caesars... " 9

Obviously, as long as the Caesars wanted peace with Parthia,
Roman officials along Parthia's border (such as King Herod and
Pontius Pilate) knew they would risk their positions and lives if
they entangled Rome in an unwanted war with Parthia.
Without this period of Parthian-Roman detente, it would have been
well-nigh impossible for some of the events of Jesus Christ's
life to have occurred, as we shall see. The first such event was
the coming of the Magi, or "Wise Men" to pay homage to Jesus. We
read of this event in Matthew 2:1-12, which becomes more
important when considered in the overall context of
Roman-Parthian relations.

The Magi were powerful members of one of the two assemblies which
elected Parthian monarchs and wielded great influence within the
empire. One assembly was composed of members of the royal family
(the Arsacids), and the other consisted of the priests (the
"Magi") and influential Parthians of non-royal blood (the "Wise
Men"). The Magi and Wise Men were jointly known as the
Megistanes. 10 The King James Version of the Bible states in
Matthew 2:1 that "wise men from the east" came to worship Jesus.
The term "Wise Men," can be seen as the proper title of Parthian
Megistanes. The Greek word translated "wise men" is "magian,"
literally meaning "Persian astronomer or priest."" Parthia had
long governed all Persian territory at the time of Christ, and
the "Wise Men" cited in the Bible were clearly members of the
Megistanes, very high Parthian officials. While traditional
Christian accounts of this episode celebrate the coming of "the
three wise men," the Bible does not limit the number of visiting
Magi/Wise Men to three men. Indeed, Biblical events and the
realities of that time argue for a much larger contingent of
Parthian Magi.

Since we saw in previous chapters that the Parthians were
descended from the ten tribes of Israel and that their priests
were likely descended from the tribe of Levi, this delegation of
Magi consisted of leading members of the ten tribes of Israel.
Since there were numerous members of the tribe of Judah in
Parthia's empire, they may have been represented as well.
Consequently, the delegation of Magi could easily have consisted
of at least ten or twelve men representing the various tribes of

Also, the Bible shows that the Magi did not visit the young Jesus
in the manger at Bethlehem (as most nativity scenes depict), but
rather visited Jesus in a house somewhat after his birth. Matthew
2:11 states that this visit of the Magi took place in a house
(not at the manger) when Jesus was old enough to be called "a
young child (no longer "an infant in swaddling clothes"). Luke's
version of Christ's birth (Luke 2:8-40) mentions the shepherds'
arrival at the manger, but makes no mention of any Magi visiting
Christ at that time.

Matthew 2:8 adds that Herod sent the Magi "to Bethlehem" after
conferring with the Jewish hierarchy about the prophesied
location of the Messiah's birth. They cited Micah 5:2 that the
Messiah would originate in Bethlehem, and they were likely
familiar with Daniel 9:25-26 which predicted that the arrival of
the Messiah was due at that time. Armed with this information,
Herod then privately met with the Parthian delegation, and
enquired when "the star" which they followed had first appeared.
He apparently learned that this period of time was almost two
years because he killed all male children in Bethlehem under two
years of age in an attempt to kill the Messiah (whom he regarded
as a competitor for his position as king of the Jews).

Although the Bible tells us that "the star" appeared to the Wise
Men almost two years prior to his birth, this offers inexact
information in determining how old Jesus was when the Wise Men
came to him. Since the Wise Men were prominent people in Parthia
at the time of the arrival of "the star," they had to make a very
time-consuming journey to reach Judea. Also, it took time to
prepare the costly gifts to present to the Messiah, set their
affairs in order for a long absence, organize a caravan (and
likely obtain an armed escort for protection) and make the
lengthy journey to Judea, a journey which moved at the speed of
the slowest pack animal in the caravan. Since the "star" may have
appeared to the Wise Men prior to Jesus' birth, Jesus may have
been a few months (or up to two years) old at the time of the
Magi's arrival.

Consider also that Matthew 2:1-3 states:

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of
Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to
Jerusalem. Saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? for
we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all
Jerusalem with him."

This account does not indicate that three wise men from the east
quietly visited Herod, then Jesus, and then just as quietly left
Judea to return to Parthia. Their arrival in Jerusalem was a very
public affair because "all Jerusalem" was "troubled" by their
arrival. This indicates that the Magi (a delegation of a dozen or
more high Parthian officials) came to Jerusalem in a caravan
loaded with costly treasures and escorted by a strong force of
armed Parthian soldiers! Since the Magi were high officials of
the Parthian government, they would customarily travel with a
substantial escort of Parthian soldiers to guarantee their
protection. Since they were traveling with many costly treasures
to present to the new-born Messiah, their escort may have been
unusually large.

Also, these high officials would have traveled with a large
entourage of servants, animal-handlers, cooks, etc. on such a
long journey. The entourage in this Parthian caravan may have
constituted many hundreds of people! Given the fact that many
high Parthian officials and very expensive treasures were in the
caravan, there may have been many thousands of Parthian soldiers
escorting the caravan. This is not an overstatement. Josephus
records that treasure caravans bringing expensive offerings to
Jerusalem from Jews living in Parthian territory did so with
"many ten thousand men" as escorts. l2 In ancient times,
traveling with expensive items was dangerous. There was danger
not only from brigands, but also from local satraps who might use
their armies to conquer a treasure train passing through their
territories. If Jewish commoners from Parthia were allowed to
travel to Jerusalem with the equivalent of several infantry
divisions as escorts, would an important delegation of Parthia's
ruling class and a treasure train of gifts have been accompanied
by fewer armed escorts?

The Wise Men who came to Jesus were not bringing just a few
samples of gold and other precious things that they carried in
their personal saddlebags. They were coming to worship he who was
born "king" of the Jews. This Parthian delegation was offering
tribute money to a "king," and therefore would more likely have
brought a whole train of pack-animals loaded with "gold,
frankincense and myrrh."

Their caravan was so big that their arrival quickly became a
"cause celebre" in Jerusalem. The whole city was in an uproar
over their arrival, and that argues for a very visible and
impressive Parthian caravan arriving in Jerusalem not long after
Jesus' birth in Bethlehem. The sheer size of the caravan, its
treasures and its escorts awed King Herod and the whole city to
the point they were all "troubled:" This indicates that the
Parthian caravan had so many armed escorts that many feared it
was an invasion force coming to besiege Jerusalem. However, their
announced reason for coming to visit the Messiah stunned a city
of Jews which intensely wanted the Messiah to come and free them
from Roman rule! It is clear that the Jewish hierarchy understood
the Parthians were looking for the Messiah as they quickly looked
for Messianic prophecies to locate the city of his birth.
After their consultations with Herod and high Jewish officials,
the Parthian delegation traveled to worship Jesus and present
their gifts to him (by this time, Matthew 2:11 states Jesus and
Mary were living in "a house," so they were no longer in the
manger). Their journey would have been closely followed by
Herod's spies.

Joseph was then warned by God in a dream to flee into Egypt
(Matthew 2:13) to avoid Herod's impending slaughter of
Bethlehem's young male children. Since Herod's edict applied only
to Bethlehem, there would have been no need for Joseph, Mary and
Jesus to flee unless they were still in Bethlehem. Going to Egypt
took them completely out of Herod's area of jurisdiction.
Herod made the mistake of assuming the Messiah would be born to a
family native to the Bethlehem area. However, Luke 2:4 shows that
although the family into which Jesus was born resided in Galilee,
they had to journey to Bethlehem at that time to comply with a
taxing edict because they were direct descendants of King David.
Since Luke 2:39 states that Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned to
Galilee not long after Jesus was born, and doesn't even mention
the Egyptian trip, it seems apparent that the stay of Joseph,
Mary and Jesus in Egypt was brief. Indeed, since history records
that Herod ("Herod the Great") died in 4 B.C., 13 and Matthew
2:14-19 states that Jesus and his parents returned from Egypt as
soon as Herod was dead (4 B.C.), Herod must have died soon after
he gave the order to slay the male children in Bethlehem.
Since Herod died in 4 B.C. and the date of Jesus' birth is
accepted to be around 4 B.C. by many historians, the events of
his birth, the arrival of the caravan of the Parthian Magi, the
flight to Egypt, the death of Herod and the return of Jesus'
family from Egypt occurred within a short time. Since Luke 2:39
indicates that Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned to Galilee soon
after Jesus' birth, the above events had to occur in a short
period of time.

It is significant that Jesus' parents were faithful to God's law
requiring circumcision on the eight day (Leviticus 12:2-3), and
to Jewish custom by making an offering to God at the Temple in
Jerusalem to consecrate their firstborn male child (Luke
2:21-24). This is an important observation as it shows Jesus was
raised and shaped in a family environment literally obeyed God
and devoutly observed Jewish customs.

History records that Roman-Parthian relations were peaceful at
the time that Jesus was born. The Bible confirms this was the
case as the Parthian Magi did not sneak into Roman territory to
look for the Messiah, but rather came directly to King Herod,
quite open about their reasons for being in Roman-occupied
Palestine. They informed Herod that they had come to worship "he
that is born king of the Jews."

It is a tribute to the power of Caesar's policy that the
RomanParthian peace be maintained that war did not result from
this statement, for Herod could easily have flown into a rage,
and yelled "How dare you ask to see another 'king of the Jews'
besides me; I am king of the Jews!" That Herod swallowed his
pride, and meekly answered the Parthians is quite noteworthy.
This is a tribute not only to Caesar's policy to maintain the
peace, but also to Herod's memory that the Parthians had
militarily controlled the throne of Judea a few decades earlier.
Herod's very meek response to the highly provocative question of
the Parthian officials may also indicate that he was intimidated
by the many Parthian soldiers who accompanied the Magi. Indeed,
since the whole city was "troubled" by the Parthians' arrival,
the presence of many Parthian soldiers may have sparked rumors
that a new Parthian-Roman war was imminent. Herod may even have
suspected that the Parthians' question was designed to provoke an
incident which would lead to an outbreak of hostilities and his
removal from the throne.

A comment must be made concerning the "star" which led the Magi
to Jesus. Some have proposed that this star was a comet or a
celestial phenomenon although the context shows that this was not
possible. The biblically-described star led the Magi over a long
east-towest route from Parthia to Judea, and Matthew 2:9 states
that it finally "stood over where the young child was." No comet
or celestial phenomenon could pinpoint a single city, much less
an individual child within a particular house. The Bible
periodically uses the word "star" to represent an angel (Job
38:7, Rev. 1:20), and there is every reason to believe that this
"star" which led a delegation of Parthian nobles to a specific
child in a specific house in Judea was an angel of God. Nothing
else makes sense. Only an angel (a spirit being) could literally
"stand over" the baby Jesus to designate one specific child to
the Parthian nobles.

Also, there is nothing in the biblical account which indicates
that this "star" was visible to anyone other than the Magi (Wise
Men)! Matthew 2:2 states that the Magi saw "the star," but the
context indicates no one else ever saw it. Verse 7 shows Herod
asking the Magi when "the star" appeared to them, indicating no
one in Judea was aware of any such "star." If there had been some
unusual celestial object in the sky, Herod and his astrologers
would already have known the exact date on which it had appeared.
After leading the Parthians to Judea, the angel ("star")
disappeared, forcing the Parthians to ask Herod for directions.
After the Magi left Herod, the "star" again appeared to them, led
them directly to Bethlehem (Mathew 2:9), and "stood over" the
young child, Jesus to set him apart from all others. Verse 10
states the Magi rejoiced that the star was again showing them the
way they should follow. Obviously, a "star" which appeared,
disappeared and reappeared for the Magi (but which was apparently
not seen by any other humans) was an angel. Supporting this fact
is that Luke 2:8-15 records that the birth of Jesus was announced
to shepherds by angels speaking to them out of a heavenly light
which accompanied their appearance. Since God used angels to
bring the shepherds to Jesus' manger, it follows he also used an
angel to lead the Magi to Jesus.

Having found Jesus, the Magi worshipped him, offering rich gifts
of gold, myrrh and frankincense. They then were warned by God in
a dream (Matthew 2:12) not to return to Herod, resulting in the
prompt exit of the Magi and their escorts from Judea. When Herod
realized that he had been fooled, he wrathfully killed all the
young male children of Bethlehem in a vain effort to kill the
Messiah. However, there is no record that he made any attempt to
overtake or punish the Magi. As high Parthian nobles, they had
"diplomatic immunity," and Herod dared not anger Caesar by
provoking the Parthians. Also, the size of the Magi's armed
escort apparently dissuaded Herod from attempting to pursue them.
There is another important aspect of this remarkable episode.
While it is not surprising that Jewish leaders during Herod's
reign were sufficiently familiar with the prophetic writings to
pinpoint for Herod where the Messiah would be born, it is
surprising that God was working more closely with members of the
Parthian ruling class than he was with the Jewish priests! This
makes no biblical sense unless (A) the Parthians were descended
from the exiled tribes of the House of Israel and (B) the Magi
(Parthian priests) were Levites. During his ministry Jesus Christ
himself asserted that he was not sent to the gentiles, but only
to the descendants of the Israelites. (Matthew 15:24-28 shows the
reluctance of Jesus to assist a gentile.) Throughout the Old
Testament God worked almost exclusively with the House of Israel
and the House of Judah; his involvement with other nations was
incidental (i.e. using them to punish his people when they
sinned). It was not until after the death of Christ that gentiles
were permitted equal access to the God of Israel. The fact that
God was working intimately with the Parthian nobility confirms
that the Parthians were the House of Israel in Asia, and supports
the conclusion that the Parthian Magi (their priests) were

The fact that some of the Parthian ruling classes were
worshippers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is most
revealing. That God himself sent an angel to lead them to Jesus,
and gave instructions to the Magi via dreams is further
revealing. God obviously considered these Parthians to be
"righteous" men under the terms of his laws or he would not have
been dealing with them so personally. That educated Parthians
were ready to visit and worship the Messiah at the time of
Christ's birth indicates they were also familiar with the
prophecies of the Old Testament. Who but transplanted Israelites
would have been looking for the Messiah at that time?
Although we are jumping ahead in the narrative, consider the
events of Acts 2 which state Parthians (verse 9) were among those
who made pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks (known
to Christians as Pentecost Sunday). Verse 9 also mentions "Medes,
Elamites, and dwellers in Mesopotamia" as being present at this
feast, and all these regions were provinces of the Parthian
Empire. We know that portions of the ten tribes had been
relocated to "the cities of the Medes," so the presence of devout
visitors from Media could easily designate people from the ten
tribes of Israel. Interestingly, verse 9 also mentions "dwellers
... in Asia" were present. The word "Asia" has clouded origins,
but the Encyclopaedia Britannica states that "It is probable that
it ["Asia"] has an Assyrian or Hebrew root, and was used first...
with a specific or restricted local application, a more extended
signification having eventually been given it..." 14

One of the Scythian tribes was called the "Ash" (or "Asiani"). 15
Since the "Asiani" were one of the Scythian tribes bearing the
name of Isaac (the Sacae or Saka), the Bible's reference to
"Asians" attending the Feast of Weeks could indicate that
Scythians were also present in Jerusalem at that time. This
further indicates that the Parthians and Scythians were the
displaced members of the "lost ten tribes of Israel." The gentile
populations of Asia had no cultural interest in the worship of
the God of Israel; only the ten tribes of Israel would retain
such a custom.

It was not unusual for large pilgrimages originating in Parthia
to travel to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel. We noted
that Josephus wrote of caravans (of offerings to the God of
Israel) from Parthian Mesopotamian arrived in Jerusalem under the
protection of "many ten thousand men." These must have been
magnificent treasure trains to have warranted the protection of a
sizeable army. Such huge "offerings" going to Jerusalem from
Parthia indicates that many people within the Parthian Empire
worshipped the God of Israel. This meant that, at the time of
Jesus and Herod, there was a great deal of travel and trade
between Judea and many regions of the Parthian Empire.

In an earlier chapter it was shown that the Magi were loyal to
one dynasty (the Arsacids), whose members continuously ruled
Parthia. It was shown that many rulers of Parthian (Saka)
kingdoms had names incorporating the word "Phares" or the
consonants of the Hebrew root word for that name (PH-R-S). This
indicates that the Arsacids were descended from the seed of
David, who was the first king of the Phares family (Matthew
1:2-6). I Chronicles 3:17-24 reveals that the royal lineage
continued to flourish after Judah's captivity. Indeed, this
dynasty was given high status in the Babylonian Empire (2 Kings
25:27-30). This post-exilic elevation of the Davidic dynasty in
Asia likely led to their serving as vassal kings (over captive
Israelites) under Babylonian and Persian masters. Their later
elevation to the throne of Parthia fulfilled the prophecy of
Jeremiah 33:17 that David's descendants would always rule over
the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel. This may explain the
unshakable loyalty of the Parthians to the Arsacids. With the
Parthians being Israelites, and the Arsacids being descended from
King David, the Arsacids were the only dynasty in Asia that was
racially, historically and culturally related to the Parthian

Since Matthew 1:3-17 tells us that Jesus Christ was also a
descendant of Phares and King David, Jesus was a blood relative
of the Parthian ruling dynasty, which also descended from Phares.
The relationship of Jesus to the Parthian Arsacids serves as a
further explanation for the homage paid to Jesus by the Parthian
nobility. It was customary for the Parthian Megistanes (the Magi
and Wise Men) to keep track of Arsacid relatives in foreign
nations. In some cases the Megistanes sent to foreign nations
(Scythia and Rome) to summon various relatives of the Arsacids to
come to Parthia to serve as their king. As mentioned in chapter
eight, some Parthian rulers killed every male relative they could
find in an effort to eliminate potential rivals to their throne.
This compelled the Magi to look for distant individuals who had
the bloodline of the Arsacids (the lineage of Phares and King
David). At the time of the birth of Jesus, the recent Parthian
emperor, Phraates IV (who reigned 37-2 B.C.), had killed many
male relatives, including his own father and almost thirty
brothers. 16 Male Arsacids at the time of Jesus' birth were in
short supply.

When the Magi were led by an angel of God to pay homage to the
young Jesus, they doubtless asked Joseph and Mary everything they
could think of concerning Jesus' background. They must have
learned that Jesus was a blood descendant of Phares and King
David. This relationship made Jesus an Arsacid, a blood relative
of Parthia's kings. In fact, since Parthia could offer the
kingship to any Arsacid, not just the oldest son or closest
relative of the previous king, Jesus Christ was technically
eligible for the Parthian throne. While the Bible does mention
Jesus' royal lineage (of the seed of David), it does not mention
his relationship to Parthia's dynasty. However, as we shall see
later in this chapter, the Bible twice implies that this
relationship existed.

Since the Magi who worshipped Jesus were members of the body
which selected the kings of Parthia and kept track of male
Arsacids, they must been ecstatic to learn that the young Jesus
was an Arsacid. While the Bible is silent on their future
contacts, Parthian Magi likely would have stayed in contact with
Jesus in future years and monitored the events of his life.
We will now examine the possibility that the visit of influential
Parthians to the young Jesus Christ almost led to a
Parthian-Roman war. Recall that from 40-37 B.C., Parthia had
ruled Palestine and Syria before the Romans drove them back
across the Euphrates River. That war ushered in a long period of
Parthian-Roman detente which included the entire lifetime of
Jesus Christ. However, a great Parthian-Roman war was barely
averted in 1 A.D. when (as discussed in chapter eight) a "summit
conference" was held between the Parthian emperor, Phraataces,
and Caius Caesar, the grandson of Augustus Caesar on an island in
the Euphrates River (i.e. neutral territory). Roman sources
record that:

"The armies of the two chiefs were drawn up on the opposite banks
of the river (the Euphrates), facing one another, and the chiefs
themselves, accompanied by an equal number of attendants,
proceeded to deliberate in the sight of both hosts." 17

This "summit conference" averted war, but how could the Magi's
visit have had a role in this crisis? Scholarship has documented
that Jesus Christ was apparently born in approximately 4 B.C.
Bible accounts of the Magi visiting Jesus cease when the Magi
left Judea and returned to Parthia, leaving the impression that
the issue was concluded. However, if we consider the geopolitical
realities of that time, there is no way that the Magi's exit from
Judea ended the matter.

Matthew 2:3 records that Herod and "all Jerusalem" were troubled
by the arrival of the Magi. Jerusalem was a commercial city at
the nexus of major trade routes, and it commonly received
caravans of many hundreds or thousands of people. Three tired
Magi arriving from the east wouldn't have made a ripple in the
city's calm. For that matter, caravans from Parthian territory
(as discussed in chapter eight) could arrive in Jerusalem with
many thousands of armed escorts, and such events did not trouble
the city. What was singularly different about the caravan that
brought the Magi? The Magi (perhaps ten, twelve, or more of them)
were Parthian nobility who selected the rulers of Parthia's
empire. Such a visit was unprecedented and unrepeated in the
history of the city of Jerusalem. Such prominent people did not
"sneak into town," but came with many attendants and perhaps
thousands of regular Parthian soldiers as escorts. This occurred
at a time when Parthia and Rome had a peace treaty, and no major
Roman or Parthian military forces had crossed the Euphrates River
in decades. The arrival of a significant Parthian military force
in Jerusalem escorting high Parthian officials was militarily
provocative and could justifiably be seen by Herod and the Romans
as a treaty violation.

When Parthia had occupied Palestine, it had crowned its own
vassal king, Antigonus, as ruler of Judea. When the Magi
(Parthia's official king-makers) came to Jerusalem looking for "a
new king of the Jews," it must have sounded to Herod and the
Romans that the Parthians were there to reassert their claim to
Judea and dethrone Herod. Their speaking directly to Herod (who
was Rome's king of the Jews) about wanting to find a "new king of
the Jews" could be seen by the Romans as close to a declaration
of war, given the region's history. The fact that King Herod "bit
his tongue" and made no rash statement to the Magi and treated
them with deference argues that the Parthians must have had an
intimidating number of troops at Jerusalem to compel Herod to be
so uncharacteristically meek. Since a major Roman-Parthian treaty
had been in effect for over three decades, Rome felt unthreatened
in the region, and would, consequently, have had a small garrison
in Jerusalem.

Caesar's decree that no Parthian war be provoked also put Herod
in an awkward position. While the Magi and Parthians were in
Judea with no harmful intent, there is no way the Romans could be
sure this "visit" was benign in nature. After the Parthians left,
reports had to be filed with Caesar about this highly unusual

Herod was justifiably fearful of Parthian intentions in the area.
Hadn't they come to anoint a replacement for him as "king of the
Jews?" Hadn't they also deceived him by leaving the area without
his knowledge or permission? Herod's murderous act in Bethlehem
would also have inflamed Jewish opinion, and rumors of revolt
against the hated Romans would have intensified. Faced with a
possible Parthian invasion and/or a Jewish revolt, Herod needed
more Roman soldiers in the region. In his reports to Caesar,
Herod undoubtedly put himself in a favorable light, and warned
Caesar that the Parthians had crossed the Euphrates, made a
military reconnaissance to Jerusalem to spy out the city's
weakness and were openly talking about crowning a "new king of
the Jews." Because the Parthians' arrival in Jerusalem had scared
the whole city, news of this extraordinary event would have
spread quickly along the trade routes connected to Jerusalem.
Also, in 2 B.C., Rome and Parthia were facing a possible conflict
in Armenia over succession to the throne of Armenia. In both
Armenia and Judea, the issue was whether Rome or Parthia would
choose the kings of those nations. While Parthia had not forced
the crisis in Armenia, Parthia's actions in Judea (the Magi's
visit) were provocative. Rome's response was to send a large army
"to the east" to prepare for a possible Parthian-Roman war.
Rawlinson records that the Roman army arrived in 1 B.C., delayed
by the retirement of Augustus Caesar's preferred commander, and
that the situation was further muddled by the death of Phraates
IV, Parthia's emperor during the visit of the Magi to Jerusalem.
l8 Herod the Great had also died by the time Roman reinforcements
arrived, so all the major principals had a fresh viewpoint by the
time Rome and Parthia had their "summit conference" at the
Euphrates River.

Historical accounts do not mention the Parthian visit to
Jerusalem as a factor in this near confrontation, but its
occurrence can now be seen as adding to Roman fears of a Parthian
invasion of its empire. Although the historical accounts mention
only the Armenian dispute, it is worth noting that the Parthian
and Roman armies did not confront each other in the mountains of
Armenia but rather along the Euphrates River (the invasion route
to Syria and Palestine). Since the Roman army arrived in 1 B.C.,
and the Roman-Parthian peace conference did not defuse the
situation until I A.D., there was a twoyear period of "war fever"
in the Mideast. Everyone in the region breathed a huge sigh of
relief when war was averted. As we shall soon see, if a war had
been fought (ending the Parthian-Roman detente), much of Jesus
Christ's ministry in Judea could not have occurred.

Very little else is said in the Bible concerning the early years
of Jesus Christ. Luke 2:40 states that Jesus grew up strong and
healthy, and that he was filled with wisdom and favored by God.
Luke 2:41-50 tells us that Jesus, at age twelve, amazed the
teachers in the Temple with his wisdom. This passage shows that
he was still being raised by his parents according to the Laws of
God, as his family annually attended the Passover in Jerusalem
(the location of the Temple). Jesus would have been seen by
others as a devout, brilliant son of a traditional Jewish family.
Luke's account mentions that Jesus was absent from his family for
a full day before they realized he was missing, and initiated a
search which located him in the Temple. How could Jesus, a twelve
year-old youth, be apart from his parents, and his parents not
know about it for a full day? How did a mere twelve year old lad
even come into the presence of the teachers of the Temple, the
religious hierarchy of the Jewish religion? There is more here
than meets the eye.

It would have been inappropriate for Joseph and Mary to have
allowed Jesus to be wandering around Jerusalem unescorted by an
adult. It seems apparent that Jesus was being escorted by an
adult relative. That they were unconcerned about Jesus' absence
for a full day before searching for him indicates that such
absences were commonplace. It is recorded in the Jewish Talmud
and in other sources that Joseph of Arimathea was the great-uncle
of Jesus Christ. l9 It is likely that Joseph of Arimathea was the
adult relative who was serving as Jesus' mentor and escort.
Joseph of Arimathea was a powerful figure in Jewish society, and
was apparently a member of the Sanhedrin itself. Years later,
when the Sanhedrin plotted the death of Jesus, Luke 23:50-51
asserts that Joseph of Arimathea had not consented to the deed
that was done to Jesus. That Joseph had not consented to the
Sanhedrin' s murderous plot indicates that Joseph was a member of
the body with the inherent right to consent to (or dissent from)
the actions of the Sanhedrin.

It is now clear how the young Jesus came to be involved in a
discourse with the Temple hierarchy. Since Jesus' great-uncle,
Joseph of Arimathea, had easy access to the highest echelons of
Jewish society, it is likely that Jesus simply accompanied Joseph
of Arimathea to the Temple, and eventually participated in a
discussion between his great-uncle and the Temple teachers.
Apparently, Jesus was with his great-uncle often enough that
Jesus's prolonged absence from Joseph and Mary at that time was
not a unique experience.

The remainder of Jesus' life until age thirty is a mystery. While
the Bible is silent on the subject, it does give us a clue. The
fact that Jesus was, by the age of twelve, spending more time in
the care of

Joseph of Arimathea and less time in the care of Joseph and Mary
is significant. It appears that a major transition was occurring
in Jesus' life. When Joseph and Mary found Jesus in the Temple
after a threeday search, (Luke 2:46) Mary reproved him with the
words: "Why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I
have been looking for you anxiously, " (RSV) Jesus replied: "How
is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my
Father's house?" Jesus, at the age of twelve, essentially told
them: "Why were you even bothering to look for me?" The phrase "I
must be in my Father's house" indicates that the Spirit of God
was now leading him away from the household of his human family
and into the work of his heavenly Father. The Bible adds that
Jesus went back to Nazareth with Joseph and Mary, so Jesus did
not yet make a "clean break" from his childhood home. However,
the event at the Temple and Jesus' own words indicated his
departure was imminent.


Is it not incongruous that while Jesus Christ is the central
character of the New Testament, nothing is written concerning the
majority of his life? The Bible tells us a little about his first
twelve years, a lot about his last three and one-half years, but
nothing about an eighteen year span between ages twelve and

Luke 3:23 observes that Jesus was "about 30" when he became a
public figure in Judea due to the advent of his ministry, but
where had he been and what had he done in the intervening
eighteen years? Since the Bible makes no direct comment about
this period of time, we must rely on non-Biblical sources for
information about these "missing years."

The New Testament's silence about these eighteen years of Jesus'
life is significant. Since Luke 1:2 states that the gospel
narratives of Jesus' life were eye-witness accounts, it implies
that the gospel writers had not witnessed any of the events of
Jesus' adult life before age thirty. This further implies that
Jesus was not even present in Palestine during the "missing"
eighteen years. If he had been living in Judea or Galilee, it
would have been impossible to hide such a precocious youth who
had been worshipped by foreign nobility as a child, and who had
awed the Temple's rulers with his brilliance at age twelve. Did
the spiritual power that was manifesting itself in Jesus at age
twelve go dormant for eighteen years? Did Jesus "quench the
spirit" at age twelve so he could live as an obscure Galilean
carpenter for eighteen years? That is highly unlikely. Indeed,

To be continued

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