Number 12 - Meaning - Symbolism - Fun Facts - 12 in Religion and Myth (2023)

Table of Contents – Number 12

  • Meaning of Number 12
  • The 12 Year Cycle in Asia
  • The 12 Signs of the Zodiac
  • The Twelfth Card of the Tarot
  • Twelve Sage Leaves
  • The 12 Tribes of Israel
  • Bat Mitzvah
  • The Flag of the European Union
  • Cleopatra’s Needle and the 12 Beautiful Women
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
  • 12 Grapes for Good Luck
  • Apollo 12
  • The Twelfth President
  • The Twelfth
  • Sonnet 12 By William Shakespeare
  • Number 12 in the Bible
    • The 12 Sons of Jacob
    • Twelve Pillars – Twelve Tribes
    • The 12 Sons of Ishmael
    • The12 Apostles of Jesus
    • Twelve years of blood
    • The12 stars of the crown
    • The12 Gates of Jerusalem
    • Mary Magdalene
  • 12 in Islam – The Twelvers – Shi’a Islam
    • Who were the Twelvers?
  • Number 12 in Mythology
    • The Twelve Olympians – Greek mythology
    • The Twelve Labours of Heracles – Greek Mythology

Meaning of Number 12

Number 12 - Meaning - Symbolism - Fun Facts - 12 in Religion and Myth (1)

Twelve is a symbol of cosmic order.

Twelve is the number of space and time.

There are 12 months in a year.

Time is measured in two groups of 12 hours

The 12 Year Cycle in Asia

Number 12 - Meaning - Symbolism - Fun Facts - 12 in Religion and Myth (2)

The twelve Animal-Signs of the Chinese Zodiac are:

Rat – Ox – Tiger – Rabbit – Dragon – Snake – Horse – Goat – Monkey – Rooster – Dog – Pig

Cat Lovers will appreciate that in the Vietnamese Zodiac the rabbit is replaced with the cat.

The year 2011 was the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac and the Year of the Cat in the Vietnamese zodiac.

The 12 Signs of the Zodiac

There are twelve signs in the Zodiac. Pisces is the twelfth astrological sign in the Zodiac. (February 18 to March 20

Number 12 - Meaning - Symbolism - Fun Facts - 12 in Religion and Myth (3)

Fire Signs: Aries Leo Sagittarius

Earth Signs: Taurus Virgo Capricorn

Air Signs: Gemini Libra Aquarius

Water Signs: Cancer Scorpio Pisces

The Twelfth Card of the Tarot

Number 12 - Meaning - Symbolism - Fun Facts - 12 in Religion and Myth (4)

In the Tarot twelve is the card of the hanged man.

The Hanged Man is symbolic of self-sacrifice and meditation.

Reversed it represents selfishness.

Twelve Sage Leaves

There was an old saying in England that if a young maiden wanted to see her future husband she must pick twelve sage leaves as the clock strikes 12 o’clock midday on St. Mark’s day (April 25th).

The 12 Tribes of Israel

Jacob had twelve sons; they are considered the ancestors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

The names of Jacob’s sons were: Ruben – Simeon – Levi – Judah – Dan – Naphtali – Gad – Asher – Issacher – Zebulun – Joseph – Benjamin

Bat Mitzvah

Number 12 - Meaning - Symbolism - Fun Facts - 12 in Religion and Myth (5)
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In Judaism is girl becomes Bat Mitzvah when she is twelve years old. Bat Mitzvah means “Daughter of the Commandment”.

She is now obligated to keep the mitzvah which is related to Jewish women.

The Flag of the European Union

Number 12 - Meaning - Symbolism - Fun Facts - 12 in Religion and Myth (6)

The flag has 12 stars. The number of stars does not have anything to do with any number of countries that are members.

The number 12 was chosen for the symbolism it represents.

The number 12 is found in cultures and religion in all of Europe.

The number 12 reflects to the ancient meaning of 12 being the number of perfection.

The number 12 is the result of 4×3, 4 elements – 4 corners of the earth – 4 cardinal points. When these are multiplied 4 x 3, three being the sacred number of God, the result is 12 – the perfect number.

The official description states:

“Against the blue sky of the western world, the stars represent the people of Europe in a circle, a symbol of unity. Their number shall be invariably set to twelve, the symbol of completeness and perfection.”

The design of the flag seems to be enthused by the Bible verse in Revelation 12:1:

“And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;” Revelation 12:1

Number 12 - Meaning - Symbolism - Fun Facts - 12 in Religion and Myth (7)

The Italian painter, Carlo Dolci (1616-1686) was inspired by the same Bible verse and painted “Madonna in Glory” in 1670.

Reading the Bible verse and looking at Dolci’s painting may answer some questions about the design of the flag.

The European flag was officially adopted on December 8, 1955. It may just be a coincidence, but December 8th is also the Catholic Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Cleopatra’s Needle and the 12 Beautiful Women

Number 12 - Meaning - Symbolism - Fun Facts - 12 in Religion and Myth (8)

When Cleopatra’s Needle was raised on the Embankment in London (1878), a time capsule was buried at its base.

The time capsule contains among other things: newspapers, Bibles in different languages, coins, railway timetables, a box of hair pins, a razor and pictures of the twelve most beautiful women in England.

The identities of these twelve gorgeous women are kept a secret.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

In Christian tradition there are twelve days of Christmas. These are from Christmas Day (December 25th) to Epiphany.

The end of the twelve days is often marked by the feast of Epiphany, usually on January 6.

Epiphany is the celebration of the arrival of the wise men. They were the first people outside the Jewish world, to see and believe in the infant Jesus Christ.

There are twelve gifts that “my true love” sent in the traditional Christmas song: The Twelve Days of Christmas.

The song came in printed form about 1780.

12 Grapes for Good Luck

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If you want to ensure good luck for the coming year, you must eat twelve grapes as the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve.

Each grape represents one month of the coming year.

This tradition is found in Spain as well as in South America.

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Apollo 12

Number 12 - Meaning - Symbolism - Fun Facts - 12 in Religion and Myth (10)

Apollo 12 was the second manned spacecraft to land on the moon. It launched November 14, 1969 (Lunar landing November 19, 1969)

Twelve people have walked on the moon.

Apollo 11: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin

Apollo 12: Peter Conrad and Alan Bean

Apollo 14: Edgar Mitchell and Alan Shepard

Apollo 15: David Scott and James Irwin

Apollo 16: John W. Young and Charles Duke

Apollo 17: Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt

There are usually twelve people (jurors) on a jury.

The Hawaiian alphabet has twelve letters; 5 vowels (a – e – i – o – u) and 7 consonants (h – k – l – m – n -p – w).

Magnesium has the Atomic number 12.

North Carolina became the 12th state of the United States. (November 21, 1789)

The Twelfth President

Number 12 - Meaning - Symbolism - Fun Facts - 12 in Religion and Myth (11)

Zachary Taylor was the twelfth president of the United States. 1849 – 1850.

Taylor was the last President to hold slaves while in office.

He was only President for 16 months. He died of stomach flu.

The Twelfth

The Twelfth is celebrated among the Protestants in Northern Ireland. It is also called the “Orange Fest” and “Orangemen’s Day”.

It is in remembrance of the Battle of Boyne on July 12, 1690. William of Orange (Protestant) won over King James II (Roman Catholic). William of Orange was married to King James II’s daughter Mary, making him the King’s son-in-law

King James II (known as King James II in England and Ireland and as King James VII in Scotland) was a Roman Catholic, his daughter Mary was a Protestant. He was the last Catholic King.

William and Mary would later reign was King William III and Queen Mary II.

Sonnet 12 By William Shakespeare

Number 12 in the Bible

The 12 Sons of Jacob

Number 12 - Meaning - Symbolism - Fun Facts - 12 in Religion and Myth (12)

Jacob was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham.

He was the twin brother of Esau.

Jacob had two wives, Leah and Rachel.

He loved Rachel the most.

Jacob had twelve sons and one daughter. The name of his daughter was Dinah and her mother was Leah.

The twelve sons of Jacob would become the ancestors of the well-known Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Genesis Chapter 29-30 and Chapter 35

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DanBilhah(Rachel’s maid)
NaphtaliBilhah(Rachel’s maid)
GadZilpath(Leah’s maid)
AsherZilpath(Leah’s maid)
BenjaminRachel – Rachel died during childbirth

Twelve Pillars – Twelve Tribes

“And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.” Exodus 24:4

The 12 Sons of Ishmael

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Ishmael was the first born son of Abraham. Abraham was married to Sarah. The mother of Ishmael was Hagar, she was Sarah’s maid.

Later Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Sarah then demanded that Abraham should cast out Hagar and her son, Ishmael. Abraham sent them away.

Hagar and Ishmael ran out of water in the desert. When Hagar thought they were dying, God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. Genesis Chapter 21.

Ishmael had twelve sons who became princes according to their tribes. They dwelt from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria. Genesis 25:12-18

The Twelve Sons of Ishmael:

The names of Ishmael’s sons were: Nebaioth – Kedar – Adbeel – Mibsam – Mishma – Dumah – Massa – Hadad – Tema – Jetur – Naphish – Kedemah

The story of Ismael and Hagar has an important role in Islam. Muslims will drink from the Zam Zam well (near Mecca) in memory of Hagar. See Number 7

Jesus was twelve years old when he went to Jerusalem with his parents to celebrate the feast of Passover. His parents lost him and searched for three days.

They found him in the temple among the teachers. All who heard the twelve year old boy were astonished. Luke 2:41-52

The12 Apostles of Jesus

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Peter (birth name: Simon)

Andrew (brother of Simon/Peter)

James (son of Zebedee)

John (brother of James)





James (son of Alphaeus)


Simon of Zealot

Judas Iscariot

“The Twelve Apostles” from the Siysky Gospel – 1339

Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and killed himself.

Matthias became one of the twelve after Judas was gone.

Twelve years of blood

“And a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years and could not be healed by any one, came up behind him (Jesus), and touched the fringe of his garment; and immediately her flow of blood ceased.” Luke 8:43

The12 stars of the crown

The twelve stars of the crown on the women in Revelation 12:1 is the foundation for the design of the European Union flag.

The12 Gates of Jerusalem

“It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed;

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on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates.

And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

Revelation 21:12-14″..through the middle of the street of the city, also on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit yielding its fruit every month..” Revelation 22:2

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene is mentioned by name twelve times in the Bible.

1. “among who were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee” Matthew 27:56

2. “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulcher.” Matthew 27:61

3. “Now after the Sabbath, towards the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulcher.” Matthew 28:1

4. “There were also women looking from afar, among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.” Mark 15:40

5. “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.” Mark 15:47

6. “And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that them might go and anoint him.” Mark 16:1

7. “Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.” Mark 16:9

8. “and some of the women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,” Luke 8:2

9. “Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles;” Luke 24:10

10. “So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” John 19:25

11. “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” John 20:1

12. “Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. John 20:18

12 in Islam – The Twelvers – Shi’a Islam

Number 12 - Meaning - Symbolism - Fun Facts - 12 in Religion and Myth (15)

The Twelve Imams are successors to Muhammad, the profit of Islam.

They are infallible and have a close relationship with God.

They keep the Devine Law and therefore they are able to guide believers.

Each of the Imams was the son of the previous Imam except Husayn ibn Ali, who was the brother of Hasan ibn Ali.

There are special prayers for each of the infallible Imams during the weekdays. Shi’a Muslims believe that pilgrimage to their tombs will bring favorable rewards.

The first eleven Imams were murdered.

The last and twelfth Imam disappeared as a young child.

The Twelvers believe he is still alive and is in occultation.

When the twelfth Imam returns he will bring justice and peace to the world.

The Twelvers do wait for the promised return of the twelfth Imam, the Promised Mahdi.

Who were the Twelvers?

1. Ali (600 – 661)Ali was the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad.He was married to Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad.Sunni Mulims consider him the fourth Caliph. Shi’a Muslims consider him to be the first Imam.He was slashed with a poisoned sword while praying in the mosque of Kufa . He died from the wounds.
2. Hasan (625 669)He was the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, the son of Fatima and Ali.Both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims regard him as a martyr.He was poisoned by his fourth wife, Ju’da.
3. Husayn (626 – 680)He was the grandson of Fatima and the Prophet Muhammad.He was the brother of the second Imam, Hasan ibn Ali.Husayn was beheaded in the Battle of Karbala.
4. Zayn al Abidin (659 – 712)Aayn al Abidin was the great-grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, son of Husayn ibn Ali.He survived the Battle of Karbala because he was too sick to fight. He became the fourth Imam.He was murdered by poisoning.
5. Muhammad al-Baqir (676- 743)He was the son of the previous Imam.He was well respected among Muslims for his Islamic scholarship.He was murdered by poisoning.
6. Ja’far al-Sadiq (702 – 765)He was the son of the former Imam.He is known among other things as the founder of the Shia fiqh, an expansion of the Sharia Islamic law.He was murdered by poisoning.
7. Musa al-Kazim ( 745 – 799)He was the son of the sixth Imam.He was murdered by poisoning.
8. Ali al-Rida ( 765 – 818)He was the son of Ali al-Rida.It is believe he was murdered by poisoning.
9. Muhammad al-Taqi ( 811 – 835)He was only eight years old when he became Imam.He died at the age of 25.He was poisoned by his wife.
10. Ali al-Naqi (828 – 868)He was only a young boy when he became Imam.The son of Muhammad al-Taqi.He was murdered by poisoning.
11. Hasan al-Askari ( 846 – 874) He died by poisoning only 28 years old.
12. Muhammed Mahdi (873 – ???)The son of Hasan al-Askari. He went into hiding as a young child.Shi’a muslims believe he is still alive and they are waiting for his return.

Number 12 in Mythology

The Twelve Olympians – Greek mythology

The twelve Olympians were the twelve principle gods that resided on Mount Olympus.

Zeus(Roman=Jupiter)The supreme god. God of the sky
Hera(Roman =Juno)Sister and wife of Zeus. Queen goddess.Hera means “Lady”. Goddess of marriage.
Poseidon(Roman=Neptune)Brother of Zeus. God of the ocean, earthquakes and horses.
Ares(Roman=Mars)Son of Zeus and Hera.God of war.He was violent and aggressive.
Hermes(Roman=Mercury) Son of Zeus and Maia (one of the Seven Pleiads, daughter of Atlas).Messenger god.Enjoyed playing tricks.He protected travelers, merchants and thieves.He also guided the dead to the underworld.
Hephaistos(Roman=Vulcan) Son of Hera.God of craftsmanship, metal and fire. He was the smith god.He was a crippled, deformed god.Married to Aphrodite.
Aphrodite(Roman=Venus) Goddess of love and beauty.Aphrodite emerged from of the foam made from the genitals of Uranus (the first ruler of the universe) and the waves, on the shores of Cyprus.Married to Hephaistos.
Athena(Roman=Minerva)Daughter of Zeus and Metis (wisdom).Goddess of wisdom and science.Also goddess of war.
Apollo(Roman=Apollo)Son of Zeus and Leto.God of the sun, the arts, music, fortune-telling.He could spread diseases, but could also cure illness.
Artimis(Roman=Diana)Daughter of Zeus and Leto. Twin sister of Apollo.Goddess of hunting and the countryside.Patron of the wild animals.
Demeter(Roman=Ceres)Sister of Zeus.Goddess of agriculture, the earth and grain.
Hestia(Roman=Vesta)Sister of Zeus. Goddess of the home and the hearth.

The Twelve Labours of Heracles – Greek Mythology

Heracles was the son of Zeus (the chief god) and the mortal woman, Alcmene.

He was a great hero in Greek mythology.

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At one time Heracles was set to do twelve tasks that seemed to be impossible.

He managed to complete all the twelve tasks using wit and strength.

The 12 Labours of Heracles were:

1.Kill the Lion of Nemea.This was a lion that had a pelt that could not be wounded by metal or stone.
2.Kill the Hydra of Lerna.The Hydra was a water-snake with nine heads and it was extremely poisonous.
3.Capture the Cerynian Hind.The Hind was sacred to Artemis, the goddess of hunting.
4.Capture the Erymanthian Boar.He was to bring the wild and fierce boar back to Mycenae.
5.Clean the Augean Stables in one day.These stables had not been cleaned for years.
6.Drive away the Birds of Stymphalus.The birds had feathers with metal tips and they attacked humans.
7.Capture the Cretan Bull.The bull had been terrorizing the island of Crete.
8.Capture the Mares of Diomedes.The king of Diomedes had fed these mares with human flesh.
9.Fetch the girdle of Hippolyta. She was the queen of the Amazons, the female warriors.
10.Herd the Cattle of Geryon. Geryon was a giant with three heads, three upper bodies and six arms.
11.Fetch the golden apples in the Garden of the Hesperides.
12.Capture Cerberus. Cerberus was the three-headed dog that guarded the Underworld.The dog belonged to Hades, god of the underworld.


What is the ancient symbolism of the number 12? ›

number symbolism

The number 12 is strongly associated with the heavens—the 12 months, the 12 signs of the zodiac, and the 12 stations of the Moon and of the Sun. The ancients recognized 12 main northern stars and 12 main southern stars.

What is the biblical meaning of number 12? ›

The number 12 is mentioned often in the New Testament of the Bible, such as Jesus' selection of 12 apostles, he said. That choice was deliberate, with each apostle representing one of the 12 tribes of Israel, said Reed, a professor emeritus of pastoral theology and research.

What does the number 12 mean in Greek mythology? ›

In many religions, such as the Greeks, the number 12 is considered holy and sacred for many generations. There are 12 main gods in Greek mythology, Odin had 12 sons in Norse mythology, 12 disicples of Christ in Christinaity, and 12 Imams in the Islam religion.

What does it mean when you see 12 12 spiritually? ›

The angel number 1212 serves as a powerful message from the Universe and one's guardian angels. It can be interpreted to mean that you're on the right path, or that a significant change is about to impact your life in a positive manner.

What does the number 12 mean to Jews? ›

12. Ritual items frequently came in twelves to represent the role of each tribe. The high priest's breastplate (hoshen) had twelve precious stones embedded within them, representing the 12 tribes.

What religion has 12 gods? ›

In ancient Greek religion, the 12 gods of Olympus were the principal gods of the Greek pantheon and so named because of their residency on Mount Olympus. The canonical number of Olympian gods was twelve, but besides the principal Olympians listed above, there were many other gods.

What does 12 mean in religion? ›

Religion. The number twelve carries religious, mythological and magical symbolism, generally representing perfection, entirety, or cosmic order in traditions since antiquity.

What is the Hebrew letter for 12? ›

The Letter Lamed. The twelfth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is called "Lamed" (pronounced "lah-med") and has the sound of "l" as in "look."

What is the 12th tribe of Israel? ›

The tribes were named after Jacob's sons and grandsons. They were Asher, Dan, Ephraim, Gad, Issachar, Manasseh, Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, Zebulun, Judah and Benjamin. Of these 12, only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin survived.

Are the 12 gods related? ›

They were a family of gods, the most important consisting of the first generation of Olympians, offspring of the Titans Cronus and Rhea: Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Demeter and Hestia, along with the principal offspring of Zeus: Apollo, Aphrodite, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Dionysus, Hephaestus, and Hermes.

Who is the twelfth God? ›

Dionysus - The God of Wine. He was the god of wine and strong drinks, the grapevine, fertility, festivity, ecstasy, and madness, as well as resurrection. He was fathered by Zeus and the mortal Theban princess, Semele was her mother.

What are all 12 Greek gods? ›

Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Hestia and Demeter, Hades, and later on Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Athena, Hephaestus, Aphrodite and Ares. Over the years, the Demi-god Dionysus became part of their group on Olympus. It is very common to refer to the Greek pantheon as “the 12 Olympian Gods”.

What did the number 12 symbolize When Jesus chose his 12 apostles? ›

The 12 apostles represent the 12 fundamental aspects or faculties that embody our divine nature. Peter represents faith -- our ability to perceive God's power regardless of circumstances or evidence.

What does the Bible say about the 12th month? ›

Esther 9:1-5: Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day, the time came for the king's command and his decree to be executed. On the day that the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, the opposite occurred, in that the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them.

How did Jesus choose his 12? ›

Jesus chose twelve Apostles to lead His Church. He prayed all night so that He could choose the right men. The next morning He chose and ordained twelve men, giving them the priesthood and the authority to be Apostles.

What was special about the 12 disciples? ›

Jesus chose Twelve Apostles because they represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel, thus showing a link between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The number twelve appears in other parts of Scripture, each of which symbolizes a perfection of governance.

Who was the 12th disciple in the Bible? ›

Saint Matthias, (flourished 1st century ad, Judaea; d. traditionally Colchis, Armenia; Western feast day February 24, Eastern feast day August 9), the disciple who, according to the biblical Acts of the Apostles 1:21–26, was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot after Judas betrayed Jesus.

What is Revelation 12 in the Bible? ›

John saw a woman (the Church), her child (the kingdom of God), and a great red dragon (Satan). He saw the War in Heaven, Satan's continuation of that war against the Church established by Jesus Christ in the meridian of time, and Satan's war against all mortals who keep the commandments of God.

What did Jesus do when he was 12? ›

Jesus at the age of twelve accompanies Mary and Joseph, and a large group of their relatives and friends to Jerusalem on pilgrimage, "according to the custom" – that is, Passover.

What happen to Jesus when he was 12? ›

Joined the Annual Feast of Passover

In the second story, he entered Jerusalem at 12 years of age for the family's annual Feast of Passover visit (Luke 2:41-51). Every year Jesus went to the Feast with his parents, family, and friends. However, when his parents left to go home to Nazareth, he stayed behind in Jerusalem.


1. The myth of Prometheus - Iseult Gillespie
2. The 12 Olympians: The Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greek Mythology
(World History Encyclopedia)
3. The myth of Hades and Persephone - Iseult Gillespie
4. The myth of the moon goddess - Cynthia Fay Davis
5. The Egyptian myth of Isis and the seven scorpions - Alex Gendler
6. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave - Alex Gendler
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