Christ Among the Doctors (detail) by Albrecht Durer, 1506

Christ Among the Doctors (detail) by Albrecht Durer

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This is a close up scene from the Finding at the Temple scene in St. Luke's Gospel, depicting twelve year old Christ disputing with old, wise Pharysees matters of the Old Testament. The doctors are relying on the scriptures, bibles open or shut in their hands, whereas Jesus is citing from memory, and marking his arguments by counting his right hand's fingers, a gesture typical of debates and speeches in the Middle Ages. We see old white haired men listening to this child as if in amazement, surprised or even disturbed by his words.

Are they interpreting a topic about the soul, about God? It is a theologic disputation that has stirred the Pharysees around Jesus, even to the point where one of them is trying to gently stop his argumentation, by placing his hand on the child's arm; coincidentally, a blind "doctor", whose face here seems almost grotesque, maybe portraying a demonic figure (we're forced to think of Victor Hugo's Quasimodo, or Umberto Eco's Salvatore in "The Name of the Rose").

The subtle halo around Christ's head consists of short white rays, painted in the same fashion as the men's white beards and hair, a visual hint that even at twelve years of age, Jesus's wisdom was as that of a mature man. His expression is of pure peace, effortlessness, while the doctors seem surprised, pensive, or struggling to keep up with Jesus' exposition (as seen on the face of the left hand side man, with his eyes shut).

Note the air of sheer anxiety and distrust of the young man in the background, top left, struck by the apparent "abomination" of the scene, where a child teaches the old teachers on matters of theology. The bearded figure on the opposite side, top right, seems fascinated by the spectacle; possibly that figure belongs to Joseph; in other renderings of the "Finding in the Temple", Mary and Joseph are often depicted as walking in on the scene, and looking on as bystanders for a while.

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