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The Dispute in the Temple
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This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.

Simon Bening
Flemish, Bruges, about 1525 - 1530
Tempera colors, gold paint, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
6 5/8 x 4 1/2 in.
MS. LUDWIG IX 19, FOL. 53V

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The twelve-year-old Jesus sits on a chair in the center of an octagonal edifice set inside the enormous Temple, visible through the arches. As a group of older men gathers around him listening intently, he holds up his hand with an authority beyond his years. The two full-length sculptures on either side of the central roundel above Jesus represent Moses and David, placing the young Jesus in the context of wise Old Testament leaders. This miniature depicts the story, recounted in the Gospel of Luke, of Jesus in the Temple. When Jesus was twelve, his family set out for Jerusalem, where they journeyed every year at Passover. Soon after their departure from the city, Mary and Joseph realized that their child was not with them and returned to search for the boy. On the third day they discovered him in the Temple conversing among the doctors, who were all impressed with his wisdom. When asked by his mother why he had caused his family worry, Jesus responded, "Did you not know that I must be about my father's business?"