(Even if the traveling party containing their relatives and acquaintances wasn't the entire contingent from their small village, as it very well may have been, any other travelling groups would almost certainly have been gone by that time, as well. -- Please note, I am arguing this point completely on top of the fact that it already seems to be Luke's clear implication.)
In Luke's Gospel it's a short span (Baptism - Geneaology - Temptation) between that childhood episode and Jesus' first return to Nazareth. With the above episode still fresh in his reader's mind, Luke tells us the grown up Jesus surprises his family and old friends primarily because of his words. To that, Luke immediately adds 'their graciousness', but the emphasis is on the words themselves. Primarily, they were surprised by his [public] speaking. Evidently - all things considered - the natural conclusion here feels pretty strong. The Nazarenes had never heard him speak publicly in the Synagogue, before that day.
How solid a conclusion is this? Luke tells us they'd heard Jesus had been speaking in Synagogues, recently. This explains why they were not surprised to see him stand and read, or to imagine that he was about to speak, but only after the words themselves came out. Still, most translations avoid the NASB's italicized "began teaching in the Synagogues" - because it's not in the text and I suppose also because, technically, we can't we can't absolutely prove that he had never taught in any Synagogues anywhere, before... not that the ultra-cautious won't admit their strong leanings when pressed.
In deference to that traditional caution, we must admit that no evidence explicitly states such a thing. However, very few historical conclusions are ever 100% airtight and christian scholarship should not eschew probabilities of very strong liklihood. Instead, I believe we must begin to find profit in acknowledging them for what they are - probabilities of very strong liklihood.
We are neither adding to nor taking away from the words of scripture - certainly not any more than theologians have been doing for centuries - we are reconstruting the most likely course of events. Probability is simply how History works. So I'll say it again, and qualify the statement historically.
Luke's strong implication is that Jesus had never spoken publicly in the Nazareth Synagogue before this occasion and his collection of facts, put together and judged on their own merit, shows this is most likely true. At the very least, he had never spoken anything of significance or consequence, so as to leave a memorable impression.
Now I'll say it more plainly.
It seems Jesus never spoke any memorable words in the Synagogue, while growing up in Nazareth.
Why am I taking such pains for what seems like the obvious conclusion? First, because I am trying very hard not to make any 'easy' assumptions. Second, because I'm trying to make a point of acknowledging the aspect of probability. And third, because we actually do need to be pretty sure this view is solid before we stake any further claims about Jesus' time in Nazareth during the so-called "silent years"... which we absolutely should attempt to do.
If we truly believe the Gospels are historically reliable, it feels irresponsible and possibly two-faced not to analyze them historically. (Oh, okay. Perhaps it is merely being "ultra-cautious". But I think that caution comes from a misguided and unnecessarily defensive mindset.)
That said, don't think I'm trying to go way out on any limbs, here. My goal is only to say what seems perfectly reasonable - but not until we've exhausted all the available evidence on the Nazareth Synagogue.
To be continued...
Series Update: The Nazareth Synagogue