The Lost Years of Yahshua
Part 3 of 19

Dr. Jackson Snyder

 

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opisw mou ercetai anhr `oV emprosqen mou gegenon `oti prwtoV mou hn.

“A man comes after me who has become ahead of me for he was my first.” – Yochanon the Dunker, Yochanon 1:30b

 

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Archaeological evidence shifting views on site of Yahshua's baptism” Baptist Standard

Bethany beyond Jordan” CNEWA  excellent pictures

New Testament Parallels to Josephus  
Herod  Bethany beyond the Jordan   
An elder at the age of thirty  
The Lost Years

 

Luke 3:21-38  Now when all the people were baptized, and when Yahshua also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,  22.  and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, "Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased."   23.  Yahshua, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli,   24.  the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,   25.  the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai,   26.  the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda,   27.  the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri,   28.  the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,   29.  the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,   30.  the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,   31.  the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David,   32.  the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon,   33.  the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,   34.  the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,   35.  the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah,   36.  the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,   37.  the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan,   38.  the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of Yahweh. 

 

The Lost Years of Yahshua, Part 1: 
Here are today’s Scriptures.  You may check them off as we go.  When they’re all checked off, we’re done!

 

[  ]  “A man comes after me...”  Yochanon 1:30

[  ]  Sitting among the teachers ... Luke 2:46

[  ]  “Rise, take the child and his mother ... Matthew 2:1-2

[  ]  Herod was in a furious rage ...  Matthew 2:16

[  ]  Herods

        [  ]  Herod Antipater (55 BC)

        [  ]  The Great Herod (37 – 4 BC) Matthew 2:16

                [  ]  Herod Archelaus over Judea (4 BC – 6 AD)  Mat 2:22

                [  ]  Herod Antipas over Galilee (4 BC – 39 AD)  Mat 14:1
                [  ]  Herod Philip over parts north  (4 BC – 34 AD)  Mat 13:13
[  ]  The son of David ...  Luke 3:31

[  ]  This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan ...  Yochanon 1:28

[  ]  The poor ...  Matthew 26:11

[  ]  The way ... Acts 9:2

[  ]  At the end of eight days he was circumcised ...  Luke 2:21

[  ]  No mamzer shall enter the assembly ...  Deuteronomy 23:2

[  ]  Is not this the teknon, the son of Maryah ...  Mark 6:3

[  ]  They said to him, "Where is your Father?" ...  Yochanon 8:19

[  ]  When he was twelve years old, they went up ...  Luke 2:42

[  ]  “He on whom you see the Spirit ...” Yochanon 1:33

[  ]  “Who gave you this authority? ...”  Matthew 21:23

[  ]  “Stop robbing and violating ...”Luke 3:14

[  ]  “Father, hallowed be thy name ...” Luke 11:2

[  ]  The Holy Spirit descended ...  Luke 3:22

[  ]  “Today I have begotten you ...”  Psalms 2:7

[  ]  “Behold, the Lamb of Yahweh ...”  Yochanon 1:29

[  ]  “To fulfill all righteousness ...” Matthew 3:15

[  ]  “Where then did this man get all this?” Matthew 13:56

[  ]  “Repent!  For the Kingdom of Heaven ...”  Matthew 3:2

[  ]  “Repent!  For the Kingdom of Heaven ...”  Matthew 4:17

[  ]  “And I AM the Way ...” Yochanon 14:6

 

 

A Curious Saying

   There’s a curious quote in Scripture I’d like to share with you found in Yochanon 1:30.  It’s the spoken word of Yochanon (Yochanon) the Dunker as he refers to Yahshua; Yochanon says, “After me cometh a man that is preferred before me: for he was before me.”  When I was learning to translate, I started with this chapter.  This verse works out literally as, “A man comes after me who has become ahead of me for he was my first. Think of that for a moment.  Yochanon says of Yahshua, “He was my first.”  Could Yochanon be saying that Yahshua was his first disciple, and that he advanced above his teacher?  This discovery of fourteen years ago surprised me.  Yet now, as we consider the “lost years of Yahshua,” Yochanon’s saying, that “he was my first,” makes good sense.  You’ll see.

 

Prayer

   Father, to know your Son is the goal of our lives.  Grant us the courage and imagination to seek out the Yahshua of history as well as the Yahshua of faith, for it’s in his name we pray.  Amen.

 

Epiphany

   Epiphany means “manifestation,” and it refers to Yahshua’ manifestation to the world through the words of Yochanon when the Holy Spirit dove rests upon him.  Some folks have just celebrated Christmas, reminiscing yet again about Yahshua’ birth stories.  All of a sudden this Sunday, it’s 30 years later and Yahshua is waist-deep in a tributary of the Jordan river.  What happened to him between the ages of 12 and 30?  The “Lost Years” is one of the great mysteries that may now be revealed and understood. 

 

Lost Years

   The Bible doesn’t speak explicitly of Yahshua’s whereabouts during his “lost years.”  Sometimes we assume that Yahshua came into our world with full knowledge of his mission and purpose.  However, this can’t be the case if he came as a babe, was placed in the care of righteous parents, and grew to be a boy and then a man.  Humans are influenced by their nurture and environment: by the way they’re raised.  It was no different for Yahshua.  He didn’t spring from the head of Yahweh; he was born.  He came not only to teach, but to learn, evidenced by the three days he was “lost” in Jerusalem at age twelve, found on the temple steps, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46).

   There are many theories about the lost years.  The most popular notion is that he was studying religion in India with Buddhist holy men who kept a journal of his travels and teachings.  Yahshua is still known as Saint Issa of Buddhism and his teachings have been published and widely circulated today (in books such as The Lost Years of Yahshua and The Life of Saint Issa). 

   It’s too much of a stretch to believe that a youth with limited financial resources could wonder a thousand miles away from home, become a Buddhist saint in a few years then return back to Israel to teach, preach, heal, die and rise.  It taxes the intellect.  A superior assessment of the lost years may be made from the Gospels and historical and archaeological evidence.  Look:

 

Herod and the Slaughter of the Innocents

   Yahshua was born on the run.  He travels in the womb from Nazareth to Bethlehem where he’s born in a cave / stable, then Joseph is warned by the angel of dreams, “rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt; for Herod is about to destroy him” (Matthew 2:13), and off they go.  How long they stay, we don’t know.  When the great Herod dies, they return to Bethlehem, then Nazareth.  This trek was the result of the Wise Men reporting to the great Herod that a new king was born who would take his place!  ¿Herod’s response to that threat?

(Matthew 2:16) Herod was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under. 

   This great Herod, an Arab, had inherited his kingship from his father (Antipater), who’d been appointed by Rome (55 BC).  Herod had already ruled for thirty years and taken ten wives and made himself lots of threatening heirs to the throne.  Now, in the dusk of his reign, he’s insane.  Paranoid of losing command, he murders three of his sons (6 BC and 4 BC) as a prelude to the Bethlehem massacre of infants (4 BC).  At his death (4 BC), three other sons would split Palestine among them, sons with Bible names: Herod Archelaus (to 6 AD, Matthew 2:22), Herod Antipas (to 39 AD, “the tetrarch,” Matthew 14:1) and Herod Philip (to 34 AD, Matthew 14:13).

   But why would these children of David’s royal city need to be slaughtered en masse?  Herod knew the Scriptures, that one in David’s line would someday rise to be King.  That’s why Yahshua’ genealogy was read today.  Did you notice famous names, like Judah, Joshua, David and Solomon, in Yahshua’ ancestry?  Genealogies were public then and studied closely.  The Herods new Yahshua’ ancestry, even if the religious leaders didn’t.  The record was proof enough that a “son” of David, like Yahshua of Nazareth, or any of a hundred others in Bethlehem, could have made a claim to the throne, had the rival enough popular support to revolt.  And with the common people, the Herods certainly weren’t popular.  Many revolts had failed.

   After the great Herod died, his sons wouldn’t allow the matter to rest, for their thrones were likewise in jeopardy.  In those days, potential political rivals, even children, were murdered before they had the opportunity to ascend to power, as we see in the case of Herod’s older sons, dispatched by his own hand.  (The Herods ruled for 134 years, from 55 BC to 70 AD).  Yahshua, if he gained a following, would be rubbed out early on.  Many Messiahs had already gone on to the chopping block, stake or spear.

 

Yochanon the Dunker, Yahshua, The Poor and The Way

   Herod’s attempt on the children might also have destroyed Yochanon the Dunker had he not been sent into the desert at an early age.  We learned that Yochanon’s mother Elisabeth and Yahshua’ mother Maryah were kin, and that Maryah helped Elisabeth deliver Yochanon.  Like Yahshua, Yochanon had been dedicated to Yahweh from birth, and sent away to “Bethany beyond the Jordan” where he could safely be readied for a religious vocation.  This isn’t the same Bethany of Lazarus, but another Bethany, east of Judea, in the province of Perea (? or Nabatea), outside Israel.  There Yochanon led an austere life of poverty and prayer among men of a religious sect opposed to the Herods and the corruption they’d brought to the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem.  This sect was known as “The Poor” and their doctrine was known as “The Way.”  A famous teacher had once led the group into paths of righteousness, but years before a “Wicked Priest” of the Temple had assassinated him.  Now these men carried on in the Way they’d been taught, awaiting an Anointed One who would return Israel to the true worship of Yahweh.  And Yochanon was among them now.  “The Poor” were a lot like us: having all things in common, seeking scriptural holiness, awaiting the coming of a King and ready to fight for righteousness if need be.

 

The Questionable Birth

   We also recall that Yahshua was a firstborn son and taken to Jerusalem to be circumcised on the eighth day of his life, like Yochanon, dedicated to the service of Yahweh.  However, back in Nazareth in Galilee, where Maryah and Joseph lived, his birth was questionable; authorities thought him to be a mamzer, a person “of irregular, inferior, or dubious birth.”  He had no right to an education in Nazareth.  Evidence is found in Mark 6:3, where Yahshua is called a teknon (“builder”), the son of Maryah, not of Joseph, not of Elohim.  Also, in Yochanon 8:19, the religious taunt him about his origins, “We know who our father is!  Who’s your father?”  Boys who weren’t educated were put to work in the family trade as soon as they could walk.  Herod had lots of building projects going on all over Palestine and undoubtedly Yahshua was traveling in the construction business with his kin from his earliest years.

   By 6 or 7 AD, when Yahshua and Yochanon would have reached thirteen, the age of manhood, Herod Archelaus was dethroned, and the provinces of Judea and Perea came under the direct control of a Roman governor.  Years later, that governor would be Pontius Pilate.  It was about this same time, shortly after he’d made his first pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover at the age of twelve (Luke 2:42), that Yahshua, who’d grown in wisdom and stature and favor, left from Galilee, where Herod (Antipas) still ruled, and made his way southeast down the Jordan valley to Bethany in Perea to meet up with his kinsman Yochanon, to live among “The Poor” on “The Way.”

 

Learning Together 

   But that was their plan all along.  Though Yochanon and Yahshua were very different in temperament, they had much in common, were close in age, were kinsmen, loved Yahweh, and were his sons.  Lived the common life of “The Poor” in the desert on “The Way,” scratching for what they could, accepting alms from wealthy supporters of distant cities, working hard to earn their bread and keep among the older brethren of the group. 

   Besides working, they were learning – learning how to express godly love, how to share; they learned the meaning of true holiness and true worship.  There they spent large amounts of time in prayer and fasting and seeking.  They learned the Scriptures by heart, especially the Prophets.  There they dedicated their lives wholly to Father Yahweh and the cause of the poor, and they made disciples.  There they found how one might be reconciled, not through the blood of animals, but through repentance, the washing of baptism, then learning living by Yahweh’s instruction (Torah) and abiding in it. 

   They came to understand about the great unseen Kingdom, and the resurrection of the dead, and the judgments of the wicked, and the rewards of the righteous.  They studied the ancient scrolls together –hundreds have been rediscovered in our generation.  They were discussed and debated.  Yochanon and Yahshua excelled in their class because they’d planned their future ministry.  And in return, Yahweh spoke to them of the advent of an Anointed One who would not just baptize in water, as was their custom, but in the Shekinah Glory of fire. 

   And Yochanon and Yahshua came to these understandings together, though Yochanon was always a little ahead because he’d gotten a much earlier start.  Yahshua looked up to his older kinsman like a disciple respects his rabbi, or the younger brother respects the older.  Yahshua loved Yochanon because Yochanon had championed him all these years.  You might say that Yahshua was Yochanon’s very first disciple.

 

The Sign

   Once upon a time, when Yochanon was in the desert fasting and praying and meditating on all these things, he experienced an auditory vision about the Savior.  Yahweh spoke to him and said,

“He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (Yochanon 1:33). 

Yochanon had become a leader in the community after all these years and he had many followers already, but he didn’t have a clue who this one who would baptize in the Holt Spirit might be, nor could he have even imagined that it was someone close by; but he’d been given the sign that would reveal the Anointed when the time came, and he made it known to the others that their wait was coming to an end, that their redemption was nigh.

 

They Came Out   

   Among the sect of “The Poor,” a disciple could become an elder at the age of thirty, according to their ancient texts that survive today.  At thirty, Yochanon was consecrated an elder in the society of “The Poor” and sent forth to lead others onto “The Way,” leaving Yahshua, the younger, behind.  Yochanon was a quick success because Yahweh was with him, ordaining him to prepare the way then identify the Savior.  People came out of Judea to Perea, from Samaria and Galilee, even from the ranks of Roman soldiers and Temple officials, to hear Yochanon preach, to repent, to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins, to get right with their elohim, and to learn His sacred name.  Yochanon was a striking, legendary figure among the flat rocks, marl caves, and cold waters of that barren, arid oasis that’s known today as Wadi El Kharrar in Jordan. 

   Wearing animals skins and having the visage of an old time prophet, he wasn’t even fearful of the Temple potentates who dared the wilderness to ask him by what authority he baptized.  He railed at them, calling them “poisonous snakes”: vipers, and told them that the ax already had struck at their roots.  In their conviction, when they begged him to be saved, he replied, “repent and be baptized, then share all the loot you’ve taken with others.”  The despised tax collectors came to repent and be baptized, and he warned them, “Collect no more than appointed.”  Even soldiers came, Gentiles!  And he warned them, “Stop robbing and violating, and be content with your wages.”

   They all began to wonder if this Yochanon wasn’t the son of David, the Anointed One, that “The Poor” prophesied would come to save Israel – and Herod in Galilee also wondered – but Yochanon denied that claim, saying that the Anointed One would be along soon enough, for he’d been given a sign to recognize him by. 

 

The Anointed One Revealed

   Some months later, those thirty-year-olds from the latest graduating class of “The Poor” made their “way” to the waters to join with Yochanon.  These new priests and prophets were amazed to find hundreds of proselytes surrounding the place where Yochanon preached and baptized.  Yahshua also had just attained the ripe old age of eldership, thirty years, and he’s among them now, humbling himself before his predecessor Yochanon, paying him homage.  Yochanon spies his kinsman through the crowd and calls him into the water to welcome and congratulate his having endured on “The Way” these many years.  “What’s important is that we’re together again!  We’ll make a great team as we prepare the way for the Anointed One!” 

   After a brief conversation, Yahshua bathes and leaves the water for one of the great flat rocks of the embankment where some talk, others pray.  There, Yahshua raises his head and hands heavenward, and prays. 

Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.  Give us today our bread for tomorrow and forgive our sins, for we forgive all who are indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation  (Luke 11:2-4).

Yochanon, still in the cold water, glances up at his brother Yahshua there on the prayer stone, and his eyes become transfixed on him – glued to him by an unseen power.  Suddenly,

“the Holy Spirit descended upon [Yahshua] in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, saying” (Luke 3:22),

“You are my son, today I have begotten you.  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.  You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel” (Psalms 2:7-9). “With thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).

Only Yahshua and Yochanon hear the ominous voice that now trails off in echoes down the valley.  But the dove remains upon Messiah forever.  Yahshua descends from the prayer rock back into the water, head and hands still uplifted, and he moves slowly back through the murk toward Yochanon, who is spellbound.  Unexpectedly, everything everywhere goes quiet, everyone stops moving, even birds and wind stop.  As Yahshua approaches, Yochanon opens his mouth and cries out,

Behold, the Lamb of Yahweh, the sacrifice who takes away the sin of the whole world!  Look!  He’s the one!  Haven’t I said there is coming a man greater than myself?  This is the man.  Even I didn’t know it would be him; but on account of him I came out here to baptize and survey all people, that this One might be revealed to Israel.  And now I have seen him, and I bear witness that this man is the Son of Elohim” (adapted from Yochanon 1:29-31, 34).

The sound of Yochanon’s voice isn’t lost on the multitude as was the voice from the sky.  For Yochanon’s voice is the only sound heard for miles in that cavernous place, his words still retained in the caves there. 

   Startled by joy, and in the light of the heavenly word, Yahshua again comes forward to Yochanon to pay tribute, but

Yochanon prevents him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  But Yahshua answers him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:14,15)

The Anointed One is amazed at what’s just happened, but Yochanon’s far more incredulous.  He thinks,

“Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Maryah?  Where then did this man get all this?”  (Matthew 13:55,56)

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Taking Up the Standard

   Knowing now his mission is completed, that he’s made the pathway straight for the Anointed One in these previous eighteen “lost” years, surprised by the Holy Spirit and joy, and somewhat apprehensive, seeing as how the one which was to come had been so close for so long yet his identity kept so secret until his revelation, Yochanon knows no better than to preach on: “Repent!  For the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2)! 

   And when Yochanon dares takes his message north to Galilee, where Herod is still king, and when he calls on this lawless King to repent in furious, angry words, he finds himself caught up in the web of affliction and imprisonment; the ax, which he had once proclaimed to be laid at the root of the tree – now silences his voice forever, his head served up on the platter of derision.  But even as he drops the standard now on “The Way,” another comes along to snatch it up, likewise crying in a slightly younger voice,

“Repent!  For the Kingdom of Heaven is near (Matthew 4:17)!  And I AM the Way; I AM Truth and Life.  For if you know me, then you will know my Father also.  And if you have seen me, you have seen him.  Come now, my beloved, to your Father through me.” (Yochanon 14:6,7 based on NJB).

This new voice is that of the Anointed One, Yahshua of Nazareth; the son of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of David, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Noah, the son of Enoch, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of Yahweh.  Amein.