Child Jesus

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A 13th century Eleusa depiction in mosaic, Athens
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The Child Jesus (Divine Infant, Baby Jesus, Infant Jesus, Christ Child) refers to Jesus from his Nativity to age 12. At 13 he was considered to be adult, in accordance with the Jewish custom of his time. The canonical gospels say nothing of Jesus' childhood between his infancy and the Finding in the Temple at the age of twelve.

From about the third or fourth century onwards, the child Jesus is frequently shown in paintings, and sculpture. Commonly these are Nativity scenes showing the birth of Jesus, with his mother, Mary, and his legal father Joseph.

Child Jesus (left) with John the Baptist, painting by Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo

Depictions as a baby with his mother, known as Madonna and Child, are iconographical types in Eastern and Western traditions. Other scenes from his time as a baby, of his circumcision, presentation at the temple, the Adoration of the Three Magi, and the Flight to Egypt, are common.[1] Scenes showing his developing years are more rare.

The symbolism of the Child Jesus in art reached its apex during the Renaissance: the holy family was a central theme in the works of Leonardo da Vinci and many other masters.[2]

A number of apocryphal texts, the Infancy Gospels grew up with legendary accounts of the intervening period, and these are sometimes depicted. These stories were intended to show Jesus as having extraordinary gifts of power and knowledge, even from the youngest age. One common tale has the young Jesus fashioning sparrows out of clay. When admonished for doing so on the Sabbath, he causes the birds to fly away.[3]


  1. ^ Signs & symbols in Christian art, George Ferguson, 1966, Oxford University Press US, p.76
  2. ^ "Holy Family", Encyclopedia Britannica Online
  3. ^ Roten, J. and Janssen, T., "Jesus as a Child"

See also[edit]