Weird History

8 Fascinating Theories About "The Lost Years" of Jesus Christ

The broad details of the life of Jesus Christ are almost universally known. He was a carpenter, later began preaching, and was ultimately crucified. But what was he doing during his childhood, and where was he in his twenties? No one knows for sure. The New Testament describes a 12-year-old Jesus visiting the Temple in Jerusalem; the narratives next see him reappear as a 30-year-old man. The 18-year period in between is known as Jesus's lost years.

Understandably, Jesus's unknown years have become a source of fascination to historians and religious scholars. Some have argued that he was simply in his hometown of Nazareth during this time, practicing his trade as a carpenter. But this explanation for the lost years of Jesus doesn't satisfy all curious researchers. Some theories see Jesus taking pilgrimages to Tibet, India, or even Britain, or becoming a disciple of other religious leaders of the time.

Whatever your personal religious beliefs, these theories about the missing years of Jesus make for fascinating reading. Keep scrolling to discover what other explanations history buffs have offered for this mysterious time period.

  • He Journeyed To Japan

    He Journeyed To Japan
    Photo: Ary Scheffer / via Wikimedia Commons

    Some history buffs theorize that Jesus traveled to Japan during his lost years. He is said to have arrived around the age of 21, landing on the west coast of the country before making his way to Mt. Fuji. There, he learned about religion, philosophy, and Japanese language and culture. Jesus may have remained in Japan for ten years before returning to his home in the Middle East.

    This story has an intriguing postscript as well. Residents of a Japanese town called Shingo claim that Jesus escaped crucifixion and settled in their small hamlet, and even raised a family and died there.

  • He Went To Britain

    He Went To Britain
    Photo: Louis Finson / via Wikimedia Commons

    Author Dennis Price posits that Jesus actually spent time in Britain in his book The Missing Years of Jesus: The Extraordinary Evidence That Jesus Visited the British Isles. He claims that around 30 CE - the time of Jesus's crucifixion - a British tribe produced coins of a prominent person named "Eisu."

    This theory likely has its roots in Arthurian legend, in which Christ's Holy Grail is prominently featured.

  • He Traveled The Silk Road

    He Traveled The Silk Road
    Photo: biblevector / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Maybe Jesus traveled throughout the Far East before beginning his ministry. The evidence for this theory comes from a theologist and archaeologist named Nicholas Roerich. In 1887, he traveled to a Tibetan monastery in Kashmir, where he claims to have found several ancient scripts describing the arrival of Jesus in the region.

    According to Roerich, Jesus traveled along the Silk Road, made his way to present day Afghanistan, headed south to India and various holy cities, and even reached Tibet. He then returned to Jerusalem through Kabul and Persia. Several other scholars would subscribe to this theory, and believe that Christ's teachings and philosophies were heavily influenced by his eastern wanderings.  

  • He Learned About Buddhism

    He Learned About Buddhism
    Photo: Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons

    Many of the fundamental concepts of Jesus's teachings and beliefs show parallels to Buddhist concepts. For example, the teaching in Luke 6:31, "Do to others as you would have them do to you," aligns neatly with the Buddhist teaching, "Consider others as yourself." Luke 6:29's famous assertion that, "If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also," conforms with Buddha's admonition, "If anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a stick, or with a knife, you should abandon any desires and utter no evil words."

    There are hundreds of such examples, causing some scholars to theorize that Jesus must have been exposed to the concepts of Buddhism at some point. However, other experts have concluded that there's no historical foundation for this assumption.