Luke 2:46
And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
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(46) Sitting in the midst of the doctors.—A chamber of the Temple was set apart as a kind of open free school. The “doctors” or teachers—famous “doctors of the Law” (Acts 5:34)—sat “in Moses’ seat;” the older students on a low bench; the younger on the ground, literally “at the feet” of their instructor. The relation between master and scholar was often one of affectionate reverence and sympathy, and was expressed by one of the famous scribes in a saying worth remembering, “I have learnt much from the Rabbis, my teachers; I have learnt more from the Rabbis, my colleagues; but from my scholars I have learnt most of all.” It is interesting to think that among the doctors then present may have been the venerable Hillel, then verging upon his hundredth year; his son and successor, Simeon; his grandson, the then youthful Gamaliel; Jonathan, the writer of the Chaldee Targum or Paraphrase of the Sacred Books; and Shammai, the rival of Hillel, who “bound” where the latter “loosed.”

Both hearing them, and asking them questions.—The method of teaching was, we see, essentially and reciprocally catechetical. The kind of questions current in the schools would include such as, What is the great commandment of the Law? What may or may not be done on the Sabbath? How is such a precept to be paraphrased; what is its true meaning? As the Targum of Jonathan included the books of Joshua, Judges 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve Minor Prophets, the questions may probably have turned also on the meaning of prophecies, the expectations of the Christ, and the like. The legends of the Apocryphal Gospels make the wisdom of the child Jesus take a wide range over astronomy and other sciences.

2:41-52 It is for the honour of Christ that children should attend on public worship. His parents did not return till they had stayed all the seven days of the feast. It is well to stay to the end of an ordinance, as becomes those who say, It is good to be here. Those that have lost their comforts in Christ, and the evidences of their having a part in him, must bethink themselves where, and when, and how they lost them, and must turn back again. Those that would recover their lost acquaintance with Christ, must go to the place in which he has put his name; there they may hope to meet him. They found him in some part of the temple, where the doctors of the law kept their schools; he was sitting there, hearkening to their instructions, proposing questions, and answering inquiries, with such wisdom, that those who heard were delighted with him. Young persons should seek the knowledge of Divine truth, attend the ministry of the gospel, and ask such questions of their elders and teachers as may tend to increase their knowledge. Those who seek Christ in sorrow, shall find him with the greater joy. Know ye not that I ought to be in my Father's house; at my Father's work; I must be about my Father's business. Herein is an example; for it becomes the children of God, in conformity to Christ, to attend their heavenly Father's business, and make all other concerns give way to it. Though he was the Son of God, yet he was subject to his earthly parents; how then will the foolish and weak sons of men answer it, who are disobedient to their parents? However we may neglect men's sayings, because they are obscure, yet we must not think so of God's sayings. That which at first is dark, may afterwards become plain and easy. The greatest and wisest, those most eminent, may learn of this admirable and Divine Child, that it is the truest greatness of soul to know our own place and office; to deny ourselves amusements and pleasures not consistent with our state and calling.After three days - This means, probably, "on the third day" after they had left Jerusalem - that is, the first day they went toward Galilee, on the second they returned to Jerusalem, and on the third they found him. Compare Matthew 27:63; Mark 8:31.

In the temple - In the "court" of the temple, for Jesus, not being a Levitical priest, could not enter into the temple itself. See Matthew 21:12.

In the midst of the doctors - The "teachers," the "rabbis," who were the instructors of the people in matters of religion.

Asking them questions - Proposing questions to them respecting the law and the prophets. There is no reason to suppose that this was for the purpose of perplexing or confounding them. The questions were doubtless proposed in a respectful manner, and the answers listened to with proper deference to their age and rank. Jesus was a child, and religion does not teach a child to be rude or uncivil, even though he may really know much more than more aged persons. Religion teaches all, and especially the young, to treat others with respect, to show them the honor that is due, to venerate age, and to speak kindly to all, 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Peter 3:8, 1 Peter 3:9; Exodus 20:12; Matthew 23:3; Romans 13:7.

46. hearing … asking—The method of question and answer was the customary form of rabbinical teaching; teacher and learner becoming by turns questioner and answerer, as may be seen from their extant works. This would give full scope for all that "astonished them in His understanding and answers." Not that He assumed the office of teaching—"His hour" for that "was not yet come," and His equipment for that was not complete; for He had yet to "increase in wisdom" as well as "stature" (Lu 2:52). In fact, the beauty of Christ's example lies very much in His never at one stage of His life anticipating the duties of another. All would be in the style and manner of a learner, "opening His mouth and panting." "His soul breaking for the longing that it had unto God's judgments at all times" (Ps 119:20), and now more than ever before, when finding Himself for the first time in His Father's house. Still there would be in His questions far more than in their answers; and if we may take the frivolous interrogatories with which they afterwards plied Him, about the woman that had seven husbands and such like, as a specimen of their present drivelling questions, perhaps we shall not greatly err, if we suppose that "the questions" which He now "asked them" in return were just the germs of those pregnant questions with which He astonished and silenced them in after years: "What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He? If David call Him Lord, how is He then his Son?" "Which is the first and great commandment?" "Who is my neighbour?" See Poole on "Luke 2:44"

And it came to pass, that after three days,.... From their first setting out from Jerusalem, when Jesus tarried behind; or on the third day, which may be reckoned thus; the first day was spent in journeying, and the second in coming back the same journey, and the third day they sought all Jerusalem for him, when

they found him in the temple; his Father's house, the house of God, a figure of a Gospel church, where the word and ordinances are duly administered, and where Christ is to be found. What part of the temple Christ was in, is not easy to say; it was not in the holy of holies, for none but the high priest went into that, and that only on the day of atonement; nor in the court of the priests, for he was not among them, but the doctors; nor in the court of the Israelites, where the common people worshipped: it may be best judged of, by observing where their several consistories, or courts of judicature were (a); the grand sanhedrim sat in the sanctuary, in the room Gazith; the lesser sanhedrim, which consisted of twenty three persons, and the bench of three; the one sat in the gate of the court (of the Israelites); and the other in the gate of the mountain of the house (or court of the Gentiles); it seems most likely, that he was in the room Gazith, where the grand sanhedrim sat; for here was the largest number of doctors; and it was the more amazing to his parents, to find him here; unless it should be rather thought, that he was in the synagogue in the temple, for such an one there (b) was there; where, after service was over, he might be admitted to a conversation with the learned doctors that belonged to it: it follows,

sitting in the midst of the doctors: the principal doctors in being at this time, were Hillell and Shammai, the one the president, and the other vice president of the council; and Rabban Simeon, the son of Hillell, who succeeded him in his office; and R. Judah, and R. Joshua, the sons of Bethira; Jonathan ben Uzziel, the author of the Chaldee paraphrase; and R. Jochanan ben Zaccai. The sanhedrim sat in a semicircular form, like the half of a round corn floor; so that they could see one another, and the prince, and the father of the court, could see them all; and before them sat three rows of the disciples of the wise men, or scholars; and in each row there were three and twenty men: the first row was next to the sanhedrim, and the second row below that, and the third row below that; and in every row they sat according to their superiority in wisdom (c): on a seat, in one of these rows, I think, Christ sat among the scholars; and this may be called sitting among the doctors, because these seats were just before them, and were in a semicircular form; at least he might be here at first; when upon the questions he put, and the answers he made, he was taken particular notice of by the doctors, who might call him up, and place him between them; for this, in some cases, was done to scholars. Thus, it is said (d),

"if one of the disciples, or scholars, say, I have something to say in favour of him, (one that is on his trial,) they bring him up, and "cause him to sit in the midst of them"; and he does not go down from thence all the whole day.

Both hearing them: their debates and decisions about points in the law of Moses:

and asking them questions; upon those points. Had this been a "Midrash", or school, there would be no difficulty of producing instances of putting questions to the doctors there; but there was no such place in the temple, or synagogue, where teachers were interrogated by their hearers; for which reason I think the passages, produced by Dr. Lightfoot, are not so pertinent, since they refer to such a place: it is very likely, since there were such a number of scholars admitted to sit before the sanhedrim to hear their controversies, and determinations, and were allowed, in some cases, to speak; so they might be suffered to put questions, in order to gain knowledge,

(a) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 10. sect. 2. Maimon. Hilch. Sanhedrin, c. 1. sect. 3.((b) Jarchi in Misn. Yoma, c. 7. sect. 1.((c) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 4. sect. 3, 4. Maimon. Hilch. Sanhedrin, c. 1. sect. 7. (d) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 5. sect. 4.

And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
Luke 2:46. ἡμέρας τρεῖς, three days, measured from the time they had last seen Him, not implying three days’ search in Jerusalem. The place where they had lodged and the temple would be among the first places visited in the search.—ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ: probably in a chamber in the temple court used for teaching and kindred purposes. Some think it was in a synagogue beside the temple.

46. after three days] This, in the Jewish idiom, probably means ‘on the third day.’ One day was occupied by the journey to Beeroth; on the second, they sought him in the caravans and at Jerusalem; the next day they found him in the Temple. The unsettled state of the country would add to their alarm.

in the temple] Probably in one of the numerous chambers which ran round the Court, and abutted on the actual building.

sitting] Doubtless at the feet of the Rabbis, as was the custom of Jewish boys when sitting began to be permitted.

in the midst of the doctors] Rather, teachers. The most eminent Rabbis of this period—some of whom may have been present—were Hillel, his rival Shammai, and his son Rabban Shimeon, Babha ben Butah, Nicodemus, Jochanan ben Zakkai, &c.

hearing them, and asking them questions] Obviously with all modest humility. The Apocryphal Gospels characteristically degrade this scene, and represent the boy Christ as behaving with a forwardness which most flagrantly contradicts the whole tenor of the narrative, and would have been specially displeasing to Jewish elders (Pirke Abhôth, V. 12. 15).

Luke 2:46. Τρεῖς, three) A mystical number. It was the same number of days that, whilst lying dead, He was regarded by His disciples as lost; ch. Luke 24:21. See Ord. Temp., p. 234.—ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ, in the temple) in the outer courts of the temple.—καθεζόμενον ἐν μέσῳ, sitting in the midst) for the sake of dignity, and not in the fashion of one who was learning, or of one who was teaching, but of one holding a conference with others: comp. Luke 2:47.—ἐπερωτῶντα, asking questions) He was proposing the questions, and solving them in His answers: Luke 2:47.

Verse 46. - And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple. According to the common way of reckoning among the Hebrews, this expression, "after three days," probably means "on the third day." One day was consumed in the usual short pilgrim-journey. His absence at first would excite no attention; on the second, as they missed him still, they sought him in the various pilgrim-companies; and on the day following they found him in the temple courts, with the doctors of the Law. Sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. In the temple enclosure, says the Talmud, there were three synagogues - one at the gate of the court of the Gentiles, another at the entrance of the court of the Israelites, a third in the south-east part of the inner court: it was in these that the rabbis expounded the Law. Among the famous doctors, or rabbis, then living and teaching in Jerusalem, were the famous Hillel, then very aged, verging, we are told, on his hundredth year; his almost equally illustrious rival, Shammai; Gamaliel, the master of Saul of Tarsus; Jonathan, the compiler of the Chaldee Paraphrase of the sacred books; Simeon, the son and successor of Hillel; Nicodemus, who, some years afterwards, came to Jesus by night, and, when the end was come, reverently assisted in laying the King's Son with all honor in his tomb in Joseph of Arimathaea's garden. We may, with great probability, assume that amongst those "doctors" whom the Boy questioned at that Passover Feast, some if not all of these well-known men were sitting. The apocryphal Gospels, as usual, profess to give us details where the true story is reverently silent. The 'Gospel of Thomas' (second century), for instance, tells us that Jesus, when on the road to Nazareth, returned of his own accord to Jerusalem, and amazed the rabbis of the temple by his solution of the hardest and most difficult questions of the Law and the prophets. In an Arabic Gospel of somewhat later date than that of Thomas, we find the Boy even teaching the astronomers the secrets of their own difficult study. Probably Stier's simple words approach the nearest to the truth here, when he suggests that his questions were "the pure questions of innocence and of truth, which keenly and deeply penetrated into the confused errors of the rabbinical teaching." Luke 2:46After three days

From the time of separation.

In the temple

"We read in the Talmud that the members of the Temple-Sanhedrin, who, on ordinary days, sat as a court of appeal from the close of the morning to the time of the evening sacrifice, were wont, upon Sabbaths and feast-days, to come out upon the terrace of the temple, and there to teach. In such popular instruction the utmost latitude of questioning would be given. It is in this audience, which sat upon the ground, surrounding and mingling with the doctors, and hence during, not after, the feast, that we must seek the child Jesus" (Edersheim, "Life and Times," etc., 1:247). From this, Edersheim argues that the parents set out for home before the close of the feast.


Not occupying a teacher's place, but sitting in the circle among the doctors and their hearers. See above. Compare Acts 22:3.

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