What did Jesus talk about at the temple when he was a child?


2:46-47 It happened that, three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies.

Do you think he was speaking about the Bible and other things like that?

Was it assumed that a carpenter’s son shouldn’t be able to read and write?

The Jehovah Witnesses believe Jesus received his power/knowledge when he was baptised, is this a good verse to refute that?



I do not think this would necessarily be a good verse to refute the JW position. There is no one interpretation, but my understanding is that Jesus was not the instructor here. Typically, a Rabbi would be teaching in the Temple, asking questions of the audience around him. What is most likely happening here is that the Rabbi asked a question, and twelve year old Jesus replied to the question with wisdom beyond what anyone would expect of a twelve year old carpenter’s son from Galilee. It may not have been a short answer. He may have tied different verses of scripture together or spoken on different schools of Jewish thought at the time or offered his own insight. Maybe he engaged on more than one question. Whatever it was, he was definitely surprising everyone with his wisdom.



Consider what the passage is stating:

  • Jesus is twelve years old
  • He is in the Temple
  • the teachers (religious elite) surround Him
  • He is asking questions
  • He is responding to their queries
  • all who heard Him were astounded by both His questions and His replies

The Jehovah Witnesses might not want to accept the Revelation of the Scriptures (who wants to be at the losing end?) and many will suggest that it was a day in the park (nothing notable) but the masters of the law were stumped by the Child Jesus!

…and (you did not include this part on the passage you’ve cited) when His mom catches up to Him, He queries His parents, ‘why were you worried? Didn’t you know that I must Be at my Father’s Business?’ (paraphrased)

…I don’t think that talking about the merits of carpentry would astound anyone other than a consummate carpenter.

Jesus is Revealing His Awareness and His Wisdom.

Maran atha!




…could be your exercising hindsight; who knew that Jesus was the Son of a carpenter from Galilee?

…and the passage does not say ‘Jesus jumped at the chance to make a comment.’ The passage actually states that the twelve year old Jesus was amongst the religious, listening to them and asking them questions; clearly there’s a formidable exchange happening… these same religious elite where astonished by His questions and His answers; clearly, it was an ample exchange: the two parties were dishing it out!

Maran atha!



There was no Bible then.


Jehovah’s Witnesses are not real Christians. For instance, they do not believe Jesus rose from the grave physically/bodily. They do not believe there is any resurrection body of Jesus. They will say the body vanished from the grave, never to be seen again.

The evangelists went to great length to refute gnostic ideas like this.


Yes, he could of surprise them with accurate quotes and exegesis of the known scripture then. He probably would talk of some unconventional theology, especially if it was around a Messiah who fulfilled the scripture as what we know today. He probably would be able to answer all the cross-examinations of his idea logically and convincingly that the rabbis and the audience could not find any fault with his reply.

If it is like today, the incident at the temple would probably make him famous but there was no media then. It would be carried on by word of mouth about the unusual boy at the temple and perhaps was soon forgotten as he stayed with his parents mainly in Galilee away from Jerusalem.


Even as a small boy, Jesus was literally the living God in human form!

Personally I believe he could have probably engaged in extremely complex discussions, even as a toddler.


Yes. Technically speaking, there was no Bible then. But since He was in the Temple amongst the wise men, He was probably speaking about theology.

Was it assumed that a carpenter’s son shouldn’t be able to read and write?

I think Jews have always been amongst the most literate people. But that probably has something to do with it. Remember that even when He was an adult, the people wondered:

Matthew 13:54 And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?

The Jehovah Witnesses believe Jesus received his power/knowledge when he was baptised, is this a good verse to refute that?

Since it illustrates that He was already showing His wisdom as a youth, this probably wouldn’t hurt.


You’re welcome.


I think this is a good verse to re-enforce true Christian belief, that Jesus was and remained God, from the instant of His Incarnation. However to those whose eyes are shut (or blinded) there is no proof.

I have often thought about this exchange. After all, it is one of the Joyful mysteries of the Rosary. It is possible that Jesus was asking questions that were so perspicacious as to astonish the Jewish teachers in the temple. Those questions, of course, were not meant to show off his brilliance, but to lead the teachers themselves into deeper truths, so much in debate just then (the imminent appearance of the Messiah.) These doctors (in my own imagination) may have been the teachers of Gamaliel or even Gamaliel himself (who taught St. Paul) and others who would be fertile ground for the Gospel, when it was finally revealed twenty years later!



…as I was reading through the post I thought about Nicodemus… could he not have been there, at that Beginning or heard of that young man from Nazareth that displayed great wisdom and understanding?

Maran atha!



what they were discussing is pure speculation we will never know but one can guess probably talking about the law or torah


I would say very likely, for what else they could talk in the temple?

Yes, they, the Jews of that time, already had scripture (Jesus later on often mentioned the scripture; in Lk4 he quoted what was similar to the book of Isaiah 61:1-2), so Jesus could refer to their scripture, maybe explained them in a way that was different to their common understanding especially if he talked about the Messiah (himself) who fulfilled the Scripture.

But being a young boy, they were amazed at how he could have all the knowledge – the wisdom and answers that he gave to them.


true they certainly had a “bible” during the time of Jesus but I wasn’t called that. In todays day and age we know it as the Septuagint



While it is true that we do not know what the specifics were; we cannot but understand that it had to do with God’s Revelation; unless one would want to surmise that religious Jews, while at the Temple, engaged in current events discussions and were usually amused by dialogues with children–let alone judging that such mundane conversations were astounding.

Maran atha!



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