Q. How did Jesus obtain his knowledge of Jewish history as displayed by his theological exchanges? Did he have a mentor within the temple?
A. Nothing in early Christianity indicates to us that Jesus had a mentor in the temple. Only one text from the first century C.E. places Jesus in the temple before his public ministry as an adult—
I argue in my book Jesus’ Literacy: Scribal Culture and the Teacher from Galilee (T&T Clark, 2011) that it is highly unlikely that Jesus was educated, while Craig A. Evans in Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence (SPCK, 2013, pp. 63–88) argues for the possibility of a literate Jesus. Both of us agree that there is no hard evidence for a literate education for Jesus, however. Most likely, Jesus, like most Jews of the first century C.E., obtained most of his knowledge of Jewish history by listening to the sacred texts read weekly at synagogue. Interestingly, the question of Jesus’ education and mentorship was intriguing to Christians in the late second century. One of the main themes of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (circa 185 C.E.) is that Jesus remained uneducated but was also well beyond the education that any of his would-be teachers could provide him.