Paintings from the Renaissance and Middle Ages periods often depict the twelve apostles as middle aged men gathering around the comparatively youthful thirty year old Jesus. This depiction has stood for many years as the dominant narrative, while the marginalised narrative of youth gathers little interest. The essay seeks not only to re-examine the age identities of these disciples, but also to uncover the revolutionary youth ministry which is central to the teachings of the gospel Jesus and the early church. To investigate these claims, I will be examining the attitudes of first century Jews toward children and young men’s legal and hierarchical status in relation to their seniors as expressed in the Old Testament and by social anthropologists. This study will provide a foundation for the second part of my study which will focus on the revolutionary teachings of Jesus in relation to children and young people in contrast to traditional Hebrew and Roman values.
While determining a reliable age for Jesus the start of his ministry is problematic at best, there are at least a few signposts in the gospels (Luke 2:1-7; 3:1), tradition places his age at 30 at the beginning of his ministry based on a passage in Numbers (4:3), and at this stage I see no need to dispute this claim as it is only related to the age of the apostles relatively. Nobody knows for certain how old the apostles were as the Bible doesn’t give an exact age (Camille, 2006, p. 40; Lacobucci, 2001, p. 125). The traditionally older age of the disciples does significantly influence the reading of the gospels which can make some of the events described confusing. I propose that an age of between thirteen and twenty is more likely and also more congruous with the text.