In 1945, a pair of Egyptian brothers in Nag Hammadi - an area on the lower Nile - uncovered the initial set of Gnostic gospels about Jesus. Over the next 15 years, more scrolls turned up at the site, where researchers discovered a set of codices comprising the largest identified collection of extra-Biblical Christian documents. There were over 50 texts, most of which were Gnostic gospels removed from the original Bible, remaining hidden since the church's infancy.
Long before the religious conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, the early church was divided over Christianity's basic tenets and beliefs. Factions with differing beliefs bickered and occasionally tussled over the nature of God, His relationship with humanity, and how people should worship Him. Of all the branches, the Gnostics were considered one of the greatest perils to Orthodox Christianity.
Many Gnostic documents were lost during the subsequent power struggle between the differing theologies. Since then, much of the Bible has changed, including how Jesus is depicted. Thus, Gnostic beliefs remained a mystery, but the collection at Nag Hammadi revealed new information about early Christianity.
One of the most shocking texts from the Nag Hammadi site is called the Infancy Gospel Of Thomas, which contains a record about Jesus's childhood. This gospel portrayed the young prophet as someone unfamiliar to even the most devoted of Christians: Jesus punishes people for no reason and shows no respect for his parents. While the Infancy Gospel is not a canonical part of the New Testament, it is a fascinating glimpse into what some early Christians believed might have constituted Jesus's childhood.
Jesus Curses A Boy, Causing Him To Wither Away
According to the gospel, the 5-year-old Jesus gathers water from a brook into small ponds and performs a miracle. He fashions sparrows out of mud, which come to life and fly away. However, a young boy angers Jesus by using a willow branch to break up the pools of water Jesus had created.
"O evil, ungodly, and foolish one, what hurt did the pools and the waters do thee?" Jesus asks. "Behold, now also thou shalt be withered like a tree, and shalt not bear leaves, neither root nor fruit."
Jesus curses the boy who subsequently withers until he meets his end.
Jesus Slays A Child For Bumping Into Him, Then Blinds The Child's Parents
After cursing a boy to wither, Jesus glides through the village, where a child bumps against his shoulder. The young Messiah responds by cursing the child: "Thou shalt not finish thy course." The child falls down, becoming lifeless.
The late child's parents go to Jesus's father, Joseph, and complain that his son had slain two children in the village in a single day. Thus, Joseph attempts to discipline Jesus:
Joseph called the young child apart and admonished him, saying: "Wherefore doest thou such things, that these suffer and hate us and persecute us?"
But Jesus said: "I know that these thy words are not thine: nevertheless for thy sake, I will hold my peace: but they shall bear their punishment."
Jesus then blinds the child's parents.
Jesus Talks Back To Joseph For Attempting To Discipline Him
After Jesus's acting out, Joseph "took hold upon his ear and wrung it sore," but his attempt at discipline fails to deter the young Jesus. "It sufficeth thee (or them) to seek and not to find, and verily thou hast done unwisely: knowest thou not that I am thine?" Jesus says to Joseph. "Vex me not."
Throughout the Infancy Gospels, Jesus opposes various teachers and figures of authority. He continually contradicts and humiliates his teachers, causing Joseph later to say, "Who is able to restrain this child and teach him? Do not consider him to be a small cross brother."
Jesus Humiliates One Of The Teachers His Father Assigns Him
The Infancy Gospel follows a specific formula, which readers at the time may have considered typical. There is a series of three miracles, followed by a lesson. The miracles generally stand as allegorical structures, but in the lessons, the author verbalizes their points through Jesus's word.
The first teacher is Zacchaeus. Joseph specifically asks Zacchaeus to teach Jesus to "learn to love those his own age, honor old age, and revere elders." Zacchaeus does his best, trying to teach Jesus the alphabet, starting with the Greek alpha. Jesus then launches into a speech questioning his teacher's knowledge over what he is supposed to show the young boy.
"Not knowing the alpha according to its nature, how can you teach another the beta? Hypocrite!" he says before correcting the master's lettering and mocking him. Zacchaeus responds to Jesus:
Woe is me, wretch that I am, I am confounded: I have brought shame to myself by drawing to me this young child. Take him away, therefore I beseech thee, my brother Joseph: I cannot endure the severity of his look... I am even ready to faint and to [perish] because of the boy, for I am not able at this present hour to look him in the face.