The "hidden" years from age 12 leading
up to the start of Jesus' public ministry
8-29 AD


7 AD - (Jesus about 13 years old) - The year following the incident at the Temple Jesus became a "bar mitzvah" (son of commandment).From then on he was considered an adult, allowed to read the Torah in the synagogue and to ask questions about it.

9 AD (Jesus about 15 years old) - Emperor Augustus appointed Marcus Ambivius (9-12 AD) prefect of Judea to succeed Coponius, the original office holder after Herod Archelaus was exiled.

12 AD (Jesus about 18 years old) - Augustus appointed Antonius Rufus (12 -15 AD) prefect to succeed Marcus Ambivius.

14 AD (Jesus about 20 years old) - Augustus died and was succeeded by his adopted son, Tiberius (ruled 14-37 AD).

15 AD (Jesus about 21 years old) - Tiberius appointed Valerius Gratus (15-26 AD) as prefect. Subsequently Valerius appointed Ishmael son of Phabi (15-16 AD) as high priest, replacing the previous office holder, Annas, the son of Seth (who later played a part in the Passion narrative). One of the ways in which the prefects enriched themselves was by opening up the office of high priest to the highest bidder. Gratus, in fact, appointed several high priests in quick succession: Ishmael was followed by Eleazar* son of Annas (16-17 AD), and Simon son of Kami (17-18 AD).

* Eleazar - Perhaps the Alexander mentioned in Acts 4 in which Peter and John are brought for questioning before the Jewish officials (Alexander being the Greek form of Eleazar): "...Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them" (Acts 4:6-7).

18 AD (Jesus about 24 years old) - Gratus appointed his fourth high priest, Joseph bar Caiaphas (i.e., Joseph son of Caiaphas), who held office 18-36 AD; he is best known for his later role in the trial and condemnation of Jesus. The fact that Caiaphas was not deposed by Pontius Pilate when he became prefect eight years later, in 26 AD, suggests that it was profitable for Pilate to keep him in office rather than replace him. In fact, members of four families the House of Beothus, the House of Annas, the House of Kathros, the House of Ishmael dominated the office of high priest under Roman rule, and none had the respect of the people!

20 AD (Jesus about 26 years old) - Desiring to emulate his famous father, Herod "the Great," a man noted for his building activity, Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, founded a new city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. He created a showplace of his very own to replace Sepphoris as the capital of Galilee and named it in honor of the reigning emperor, Tiberius. It remained the capital through the remainder of Jesus' lifetime. For the site of his city, he chose a natural acropolis overlooking the activity around the freshwater lake and it was there, on the dark basalt rock above the town, that Antipas located his palace. He had a magnificent panorama: Magdala was two miles to the north and Capernaum was a few miles farther north across the arc of the lake; just northeast of the place where the Jordan River entered the lake was Bethsaida, while on the eastern shore, on a high hill opposite Tiberias, was the Decapolis city of Sussita (Hippos).

(Above left) looking north along the waterfront of the modern resort city of Tiberias (Hebrew Teverya) on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee; (Above right) artist's reconstruction of Tiberias around the time of Jesus (note, the gate at the south end of the long cardo maximus; also the theater).

When construction began on Tiberias (note the different spellings of the city name and that of the emperor Tiberias vs. Tiberius), it would have provided employment for many people in the region, possibly for some of Jesus' future disciples. Unlike other Galilean towns, Tiberias had white plastered walls, frescoes, mosaics and red roof tiles. At the southern end of the city stood a monumental gate with a pair of round towers, some 23 feet in diameter made of large hewn stones of native black basalt. The gate opened onto a 40-foot-wide cardo maximus (main north-south street) that ran the entire length of the city. It was flanked by 16-foot-wide covered colonnades, behind which were small shops.

A theater has been discovered and excavated, along with a later basilica and market area near the harbor. Apparently the theater (right) was erected at the time Tiberias was founded in 18 AD. During this phase it was 154 feet in diameter by 197 feet wide and had two blocks of seats facing north.

Ancient graves belonging to the cemetery of the popular hot-spring health resort of Hammath to the south were uncovered while Antipas' workmen were laying foundations for the new city. Thus orthodox Jews deliberately stayed away to avoid ritual contamination. The tetrarch had to settle his showplace with foreigners and landless poor, inducing them with free land and housing.

Tiberias is mentioned only once in the Bible, in John 6:

"Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks" (John 6:23).

But twice (John 6:1 and John 21:1) the Sea of Galilee is called the "Sea of Tiberias" reflecting the prominence of the city at the time of Jesus. There is, however, no mention in the gospels that Jesus ever visited or stayed in Tiberias. At that time there were no Jewish residents to whom he might have preached; it was wholly a Gentile city with Greek (Hellenistic) architecture, customs and religion. Perhaps, too, Jesus never came to Tiberias because he wished to avoid a direct confrontation with Antipas who, as some Pharisees warned him, was seeking to kill him (see Luke 13:31).

26 AD (Jesus about 32 years old) - At the recommendation of Sejanus, the anti-Semitic commander of the Praetorian Guard in Rome, emperor Tiberius appointed Pontius Pilate as the fifth prefect of Judea, succeeding Valerius Gratus. According to Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, he offended the Jews in many ways. Early in his governorship he attempted to bring military standards, bearing the emperor's image, into Jerusalem. His action almost caused a revolt because the Jews saw the images as a violation of the Second Commandment (the emperor was worshiped as a god as part of the emperor worship cult). Orders were issued by the emperor to remove the standards before entering the Holy City.

Additional insight

The full account of the Pontius Pilate "standards" incident, from The Wars of the Jews, by Josephus:

"Now Pilate, who was sent as procurator (actual title, prefect) into Judea by Tiberius, sent by night those images of Caesar that are called ensigns into Jerusalem. This excited a very among great tumult among the Jews when it was day; for those that were near them were astonished at the sight of them, as indications that their laws were trodden under foot; for those laws do not permit any sort of image to be brought into the city. Nay, besides the indignation which the citizens had themselves at this procedure, a vast number of people came running out of the country. These came zealously to Pilate to Caesarea, and besought him to carry those ensigns out of Jerusalem, and to preserve them their ancient laws inviolable; but upon Pilate's denial of their request, they fell down prostrate upon the ground, and continued immovable in that posture for five days and as many nights."

"On the next day Pilate sat upon his tribunal, in the open market-place, and called to him the multitude, as desirous to give them an answer; and then gave a signal to the soldiers, that they should all by agreement at once encompass the Jews with their weapons; so the band of soldiers stood round about the Jews in three ranks. The Jews were under the utmost consternation at that unexpected sight. Pilate also said to them that they should be cut in pieces, unless they would admit of Caesar's images, and gave intimation to the soldiers to draw their naked swords. Hereupon the Jews, as it were at one signal, fell down in vast numbers together, and exposed their necks bare, and cried out that they were sooner ready to be slain, than that their law should be transgressed. Hereupon Pilate was greatly surprised at their prodigious superstition, and gave order that the ensigns should be presently carried out of Jerusalem" (Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, book 2, chapter 9:2-3).

Jesus' Life Home n Jesus' baptism at the Jordan River