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-The First Words of Jesus in the Gospels?

by Dr. D ~

Q: Can you tell me the first spoken words of Jesus in the gospels.  What version you used? Thanks Brad

A: The first words of Jesus recorded in the Gospels are found in Luke 2:49. The context is Luke 2:41-52. 

Jesus was 12 years old at the time and he and his family went up to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When his family left to travel back home Jesus stayed behind and conversed with the teachers in the Temple for three days. His parents finally discovered that he was not traveling with their caravan and went back to Jerusalem looking for him.

The First words spoken by Jesus were his response to the query of his parents. basically Jesus told his parents that he is where he should be doing the things of his Father (God). Here’s two versions of the answer:

49 And He said to them, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? NKJV

49 And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?" ESV

After reading the two versions, you might be asking which is it? The Father’s business or his house? Actually if you look at the original Greek, either translation is correct. There is no specific Greek word in the phrase that identifies the subject. Literally the Greek reads:

“Not know that in –(that or the things)- of my Father I must be?”

This leaves the context to determine the meaning. Is the reference about “doing” the things of my father or being “in” that which my father owns?

In the vernacular of the day, the unstated reference in this verse usually would have meant the residence or business and most of the time in that culture they were one and the same. Therefore either house or business is correct.

Personally I prefer ‘business’ since that is the way I memorized the passage as a child. In that case he is doing the things or business of His Father.  However, the Early Church Fathers (2nd-4th century) understood the passage to be pointing to the Temple or House of God. The emphasis in that understanding is on location. In that case, Jesus is telling his earthly parents that they should have known where he would be- in His Father’s House-the Temple.

Most of the modern versions have chosen to interpret the passage as being “in” the Father’s house following the earliest understanding of the Church Fathers. It also makes the most sense in the context of the question Jesus poses to his parents- “Why did look for me?” -which naturally points to a subject of location rather than action. The KJV and NKJV interpret the context to be one of action or doing.

In final analysis, I believe that a possible double meaning here in the vernacular actually brings a fuller and more complete meaning to the passage. On one hand, Jesus was doing the things or business of his Father in his conversations with the Priests and Rabbis while at the same time he was literally in his Father’s House.            *Top

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