Like Mark 3:20–21, this episode is not a late redactional creation. It antedates the composition of Luke 1–2 because (a) it does not know of the virgin birth—note “his parents” (v. 43) and “your father and I” (v. 48; contrast “the supposed son of Joseph” in Luke 3:23); and (b) the parents have not profited (v. 50) by the revelations of Luke 1:32–35, 2:11, 17, 19 regarding the identity of Jesus. See in particular Baas Van Iersel, “The Finding of Jesus in the Temple: Some Observations on the Original Form of Luke ii 41–51a, ” Novum Testamentum 4 (1960), pp. 161–173. This is not to say, however, that the editor of the gospel did not make additions.

Commentators are extremely coy about the historicity of this event. Fitzmyer is typical in concentrating exclusively on the role of the episode in Luke’s framework (Luke I-IX, pp. 434–39). As far as I am concerned, there is nothing implausible in the basic elements of the story, particularly if it is conceded that the source may have heightened the dramatic effect of certain aspects, e.g., lost for three days rather than a couple of hours.