Jesus[edit | edit source]

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[edit | edit source]

Jesus of Nazareth
Born c. 4 BC/BCE
Bethlehem, Judea, Roman Empire (traditional); Nazareth, Galilee (historical Jesus)
Died c. 30 AD/CE
Calvary, Judea, Roman Empire (According to the New Testament, he rose on the third day after his death.)
Cause of death Crucifixion
Resting place Traditionally and temporarily, a garden tomb located in what is now the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.
Ethnicity Jewish

Jesus of Nazareth (c. 4 BC/BCE – c. 30 AD/CE), also known as Jesus Christ, is the central figure of Christianity, which views him as the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament, and within which most denominations recognize him as the Son of God and as God incarnate. Islam considers Jesus a prophet and also the Messiah, whereas Judaism rejects these claims. Several other religions revere him in some way.

The principal sources of information regarding Jesus' life and teachings are the four canonical gospels, especially the Synoptic Gospels, though some scholars argue that other texts (such as the Gospel of Thomas) are as relevant as the canonical gospels to the historical Jesus. Most critical scholars in the fields of history and biblical studies believe that some parts of the New Testament are useful for reconstructing Jesus' life, agreeing that he was a Jew who was regarded as a teacher and healer. They also generally accept that he was baptized by John the Baptist, and was crucified in Jerusalem on the orders of the Roman Prefect of Judaea, Pontius Pilate, on the charge of sedition against the Roman Empire. Aside from these few conclusions, academic studies remain inconclusive about the chronology, the central message of Jesus' preaching, his social class, cultural environment, and religious orientation. Scholars offer competing descriptions of Jesus as the awaited Messiah, as a self-described Messiah, as the leader of an apocalyptic movement, as an itinerant sage, as a charismatic healer, and as the founder of an independent religious movement.

Christian views of Jesus (see also Christology) center on the belief that Jesus is divine, is the Messiah whose coming was prophesied in the Old Testament, and that he was resurrected after his crucifixion. Theologian and bishop Lesslie Newbigin says "the whole of Christian teaching would fall to the ground if it were the case that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus were not events in real history but stories told to illustrate truths which are valid apart from these happenings." Christians do predominantly believe that Jesus is the "Son of God" (generally meaning that he is God the Son, the second person in the Trinity) who came to provide salvation and reconciliation with God by his death for their sins. Other Christian beliefs include Jesus' virgin birth, performance of miracles, ascension into Heaven, and a future Second Coming. While the doctrine of the Trinity is accepted by most Christians, a few groups reject the doctrine of the Trinity, wholly or partly, as non-scriptural.

In Islam, Jesus (Arabic: ‎, commonly transliterated as ) is considered one of God's important prophets, a bringer of scripture, and a worker of miracles. Jesus is also called "Messiah", but Islam does not teach that he was divine. Islam teaches that Jesus ascended bodily to heaven without experiencing the crucifixion and resurrection, rather than the traditional Christian belief of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Etymology[edit | edit source]

"Jesus" (pronounced ) is a transliteration, occurring in a number of languages and based on the Latin Iesus, of the Greek (Iēsoûs), itself a Hellenisation of the Hebrew (Yēšûă‘) or Hebrew-Aramaic (Yĕhōšuă‘, Joshua), meaning "Yahweh delivers (or rescues)". "Christ" (pronounced ) is a title derived from the Greek (Christós), meaning the "Anointed One", a translation of the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Messiah). A "Messiah" is a king anointed at God's direction or with God's approval, and Christians identify Jesus as the one foretold by Hebrew prophets.

Chronology[edit | edit source]

Scholars conclude that Jesus was born 7–2 BC/BCE and died 26–36 AD/CE.

There is no contemporary evidence of the exact date of Jesus' birth. The common Western standard for numbering years, in which the current year is 2009, is based on an early medieval attempt to count the years from his birth. The Gospel of Matthew places his birth under the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4 BC/BCE, and the Gospel of Luke describes the birth as taking place during the first census of the Roman provinces of Syria and Iudaea in 6 AD/CE. Scholars therefore generally assume a date of birth between 6 and 4 BC/BCE.{|style="" class="metadata plainlinks ambox ambox-content" |class="mbox-image"| |style="" class="mbox-text"|This article appears to contradict itself. Please help fix this problem. |}The earliest evidence of celebration on of the birth of Jesus is of the year 354 in Rome, and it was only later that the 25 December celebration was adopted in the East, with the exception of Armenia, where his birth is celebrated on 6 January. Indeed there is no month of the year to which respectable authorities have not assigned his birth.

Jesus' ministry followed that of John the Baptist, whose ministry is said to have begun "in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar",

According to the Gospels, the death of Jesus took place during the time that Pontius Pilate was the Roman procurator of Judea, i.e. between 26 and 36 AD/CE. Josephus and Tacitus also say that Pilate executed Jesus.

Most Christians commemorate Jesus' crucifixion on Good Friday and celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Life and teachings, as told in the Gospels[edit | edit source]

The four canonical gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are the main sources for the Christian biography of Jesus' life as the miraculous Son of God. Critical scholars find valuable historical information about Jesus' life and ministry in the synoptic gospels but more or less discount much of the miraculous and theological content. The Gospels (especially Matthew) present Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection as fulfillments of prophecies found in the Hebrew Bible. See, for example, the virgin birth, the flight into Egypt, Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14), and the suffering servant.

Similarities and differences among the Gospels[edit | edit source]

Three of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are known as the synoptic Gospels because they display a high degree of similarity in content, narrative arrangement, language, and sentence and paragraph structures. These Gospels are also considered to share the same point of view. The fourth canonical Gospel, John, differs greatly from these three, as do the Apocryphal gospels.

According to the two-source hypothesis, Mark was a source for Matthew and Luke, both of whom also independently used a now lost sayings source called the Q Gospel. Mark defined the sequence of events from Jesus' baptism to the empty tomb and included parables of the Kingdom of God.

Character of Jesus[edit | edit source]

Each gospel portrays Jesus' life and its meaning differently. The gospel of John is not a biography of Jesus but a theological presentation of him as the divine Logos. One modern scholar writes that to combine these four stories into one story is tantamount to creating a fifth story, one different from each original.

Mark presents Jesus as a heroic, charismatic man of action and mighty deeds. Matthew portrays him especially as the fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy and as a greater Moses. Luke emphasizes Jesus' miraculous powers and his support for the poor, women, and Gentiles. John views Jesus' earthly life as a manifestation of the eternal Word.

Logos[edit | edit source]

The Gospel of John opens with a hymn identifying Jesus as the divine Logos, or Word, that formed the universe.

Genealogy and family[edit | edit source]

Of the four gospels, only Matthew and Luke give accounts of Jesus' genealogy. The accounts in the two gospels are substantially different, and contemporary scholars generally view the genealogies as theological constructs. More specifically, some have suggested that Matthew wants to underscore the birth of a Messianic child of royal lineage (mentioning Solomon) whereas Luke's genealogy is priestly (mentioning Levi). Both accounts trace Jesus line though his human father Joseph back to King David and from there to Abraham. These lists are identical between Abraham and David, but they differ completely between David and Joseph.

Joseph, husband of Mary, appears in descriptions of Jesus' childhood. No mention, however, is made of Joseph during the ministry of Jesus. The New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, and Galatians tell of Jesus' relatives, including words sometimes translated as "brothers" and "sisters". Luke also mentions that Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, was a "cousin" or "relative" of Mary,

Nativity and early life[edit | edit source]

According to Matthew and Luke, Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea to Mary, a virgin, by a miracle of the Holy Spirit. The circumstances of the two gospels differ by 9 years, and are historically incompatible. In Luke, the angel Gabriel visits Mary to tell her that she was chosen to bear the Son of God.

In Matthew, the "Wise Men" or "Magi" bring gifts to the young Jesus after following a star which they believe was a sign that the King of the Jews had been born.

Jesus' childhood home is identified as the town of Nazareth in Galilee. Except for Matthew's "flight into Egypt", and a short trip to Tyre and Sidon (in what is now Lebanon), the Gospels place all other events in Jesus' life in ancient Israel. However, infancy gospels were popular in antiquity. According to Luke, Jesus was "about thirty years of age" when he was baptized.

Baptism and Temptation[edit | edit source]

All three synoptic Gospels describe the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, an event which Biblical scholars describe as the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. According to these accounts, Jesus came to the Jordan River where John the Baptist had been preaching and baptizing people in the crowd. After Jesus was baptized and rose from the water, Mark states Jesus "saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven saying: 'You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'".

Mark starts his narration with Jesus' baptism, specifying that it is a token of repentance and for forgiveness of sins. Matthew omits this reference, emphasizing Jesus' superiority to John. Matthew describes John as initially hesitant to comply with Jesus' request for John to baptize him, stating that it was Jesus who should baptize him. Jesus persisted, "It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness".

Following his baptism, Jesus was led into the desert by God where he fasted for forty days and forty nights.

The Gospel of John does not describe Jesus' baptism, or the subsequent Temptation, but it does attest that Jesus is the very one about whom John had been preaching—the Son of God. The Baptist twice declares Jesus to be the Lamb of God, a term found nowhere else in the Gospels. John also emphasizes Jesus' superiority over John. In John, Jesus leads a program of baptism in Judea, and his disciples baptize more people than John.

Ministry[edit | edit source]

In the synoptics as well as in John, Jesus has a ministry of teaching and miracles, at least part of which is in Galilee. In the synoptics, Jesus speaks in parables and aphorisms, exorcises demons, champions the poor and oppressed, and teaches mainly about the Kingdom of God. In John, Jesus speaks in long discourses, with himself as the theme of his teaching.

Jesus' purpose[edit | edit source]

Jesus said of his divine purpose, "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Mark says that Jesus came to "give his life as a ransom for many";

Duration and location[edit | edit source]

John describes three different Passover feasts over the course of Jesus' ministry, implying that Jesus preached for at least "two years plus a month or two". The Synoptic Gospels suggest a span of only one year. In the synoptics, Jesus' ministry takes place mainly in Galilee, until he travels to Jerusalem, where he cleanses the Temple and is executed. In John, Jesus spends most of his ministry in and around Jerusalem, cleansing the temple at his ministry's beginning.

Disciples[edit | edit source]

In the synoptic Gospels, Jesus calls some Jewish men to be his Twelve Apostles. None of them seems to have been a peasant (an agricultural worker). At least four are described as fishermen and another as a tax collector. Three of them are presented as being chosen to accompany Jesus on certain special occasions, such as the transfiguration of Jesus, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and the Agony in the Garden. Jesus speaks of the demands of discipleship, telling a rich man to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. He states that his message divides family members against each other.

In Mark, the disciples are strangely obtuse, failing to understand Jesus' deeds and parables. In Matthew, Jesus directs the apostles' mission only to those of the house of Israel,

Teachings and preachings[edit | edit source]

In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus speaks primarily about the Kingdom of God (or Heaven). In Matthew and Luke, he speaks further about morality and prayer. In John, he speaks at length about himself and his divine role.

At the height of his ministry, Jesus is said to have attracted huge crowds numbering in the thousands, primarily in the areas of Galilee and Perea (in modern-day Israel and Jordan respectively).

Some of Jesus' most famous teachings come from the Sermon on the Mount, which contains the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer. It is one of five collections of teachings in Matthew.

In the Synoptics, Jesus often employs parables, such as the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke) and the Parable of the Sower (all Synoptics).

His moral teachings in Matthew and Luke encourage unconditional self-sacrificing God-like love for God and for all people. During his sermons, he preached about service and humility, the forgiveness of sin, faith, turning the other cheek, love for one's enemies as well as friends, and the need to follow the spirit of the law in addition to the letter.

In the Synoptics, Jesus leads an apocalyptic movement. He preaches that the end of the current world will come unexpectedly, and that he will return to judge the world, especially according to how they treated the vulnerable. He calls on his followers to be ever alert and faithful. In Mark, the Kingdom of God is a divine government that will forcibly appear within the lifetimes of his original followers. Matthew describes false Messiahs, disasters, tribulations, and signs in the heavens that will portend Jesus' return, which is also described as unexpected.

Outreach to outsiders[edit | edit source]

Table fellowship is central to Jesus' ministry in the Gospels. He and his disciples eat with sinners (who neglect purity rules) and tax collectors (imperial publicani, despised as extortionists). The apostle Matthew is a tax collector. When the Pharisees object to Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, Jesus replies that it is the sick who need a physician, not the healthy.

Jesus' outreach to outsiders includes the Samaritans, who followed a different form of the Israelite religion, as reflected in his preaching to the Samaritans of Sychar

At various times, Jesus makes a point of welcoming sinners, children, women, the poor, Samaritans, foreigners.

Transfiguration and Jesus' divine role[edit | edit source]

In the synoptic gospels, Jesus leads three select disciples—Peter, John, and James—to the top of a mountain. While there, he is transfigured before them, his face shining like the sun and his clothes brilliant white; Elijah and Moses appear adjacent to him. A bright cloud overshadows them, and a voice from the sky says, "This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased". The Transfiguration is a turning point in Jesus ministry. Just before it and thereafter, Jesus warns that he is to suffer, die and rise again.

In Mark, Jesus' identity as the Messiah is obscured (see Messianic secret). Mark states that "this generation" will be given no sign, while Matthew and Luke say they will be given no sign but the sign of Jonah. In John, and not in the synoptics, Jesus is outspoken about his divine identity and mission. Here he punctuates his ministry with several miraculous signs of his authority.

In John, Jesus declares that belief in the Son brings eternal life, that the Father has committed powers of judgment and forgiveness to the Son, and that He is the bread of life, the light of the world, the door of the sheep, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth, and the life, and the real vine. Here Jesus uses the phrase "I am" in talking of himself

Arrest, trial, and death[edit | edit source]

In Jerusalem[edit | edit source]

According to the Synoptics, Jesus came with his followers to Jerusalem during the Passover festival where a large crowd came to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!" Following his triumphal entry, Jesus created a disturbance at Herod's Temple by overturning the tables of the moneychangers who set up shop there, and claiming that they had made the Temple a "den of robbers".

In Mark and Matthew, Jesus is anguished in the face of his fate. He prays and accepts God's will, but his chosen disciples repeatedly fall asleep on the watch. In Luke, Jesus prays briefly at the Mount of Olives, and his disciples fall asleep out of grief.

In John, Jesus has already cleansed the temple a few years before and has been preaching in Jerusalem. He raises Lazarus on the Sabbath, the act that finally gets Jewish leaders to plan his death. At the Last Supper, Jesus washes the disciples' feet and there is no new covenant of bread and wine. Jesus gives the farewell discourses, discussing the Paraclete, persecution of his followers, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and more. He says a long, final prayer with his disciples before heading to a garden where he knows Judas will show up.

Betrayal and Arrest[edit | edit source]

While in the Garden, Jesus is arrested by temple guards on the orders of the Sanhedrin and the high priest, Caiaphas. The arrest takes place clandestinely at night to avoid a riot, as Jesus is popular with the people at large.

Trials before the Sanhedrin and Pilate[edit | edit source]

[improper synthesis?]

Jesus affirms that he is the Messiah before the Sanhedrin,

Death[edit | edit source]

In Mark, Jesus is stripped, flogged, mocked, and crowned with thorns. He is crucified between two thieves, and his cross states that he is being executed for aspiring to be the king of the Jews. He begins to recite , "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me." He utters a loud cry and dies. According to all four Gospels, Jesus died before late afternoon at Calvary, which was also called Golgotha. In Luke, Jesus faces his crucifixion stolidly. He asks God to forgive those who are crucifying him, possibly the Romans and possibly the Jews. One of the thieves states that Jesus has done nothing wrong and asks Jesus to remember him in the Kingdom, and Jesus replies that the thief will be with him in Paradise. The Synoptic Gospels tell of the darkening of the sky from twelve until three that afternoon; Matthew also mentions an earthquake,

Resurrection and Ascension[edit | edit source]

The Gospels state that Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday. All the Gospels portray Jesus' empty tomb. In Matthew, an angel appears near the tomb of Jesus and announces his resurrection to Mary Magdalene and "another Mary" who had arrived to anoint the body.

The Gospels all record appearances by Jesus, including an appearance to the eleven apostles. In Mark, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, to two disciples in the country, and to the eleven, at which point Jesus commissions them to announce the gospel, baptize, and work miracles. In Matthew, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and to the eleven on a mountain, at which point he commissions them to enlist followers, baptize, and teach what Jesus taught. Although his own mission and his disciples' missions had been to the Jews,

In Mark and Luke, Jesus ascends to the heavens;

Historical views[edit | edit source]


Scholars have used the historical method to develop probable reconstructions of Jesus' life. Over the past two hundred years, the image of Jesus among historical scholars has come to be very different from the common image of Jesus that was based on the gospels. Scholars of historical Jesus distinguish their subject from the "Jesus Christ" of Christianity. Other scholars hold that Jesus as presented in the gospels is the real Jesus and that his life and influence only make sense if the gospel stories are accurate. The principal sources of information regarding Jesus' life and teachings are the Gospels, especially the Synoptic Gospels: Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Including the Gospels, there are no surviving historical accounts of Jesus written during his life or within three decades of his death. A great majority of biblical scholars and historians accept the historical existence of Jesus.

The English title of Albert Schweitzer's 1906 book, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, is a label for the post-Enlightenment effort to describe Jesus using critical historical methods. Since the end of the 18th century, scholars have examined the gospels and tried to formulate historical biographies of Jesus. Contemporary efforts benefit from a better understanding of 1st-century Judaism, renewed Roman Catholic biblical scholarship, broad acceptance of critical historical methods, sociological insights, and literary analysis of Jesus' sayings.

Constructing a historical view[edit | edit source]

Historians analyze the gospels to try to discern the historical man on whom these stories are based. They compare what the gospels say to historical events relevant to the times and places where the gospels were written. They try to answer historical questions about Jesus, such as why he was crucified.

Most scholars agree the Gospel of Mark was written about the time of the destruction of the Jewish Temple by the Romans under Titus in the year 70 AD/CE, and that the other gospels were written between 70 and 100 AD/CE. The historical outlook on Jesus relies on critical analysis of the Bible, especially the gospels. Many scholars have sought to reconstruct Jesus' life in terms of the political, cultural, and religious crises and movements in late Second Temple Judaism and in Roman-occupied Palestine, including differences between Galilee and Judea, and between different sects such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and Zealots, and in terms of conflicts among Jews in the context of Roman occupation.

Descriptions[edit | edit source]

Historians generally describe Jesus as a healer who preached the restoration of God's kingdom. Most historians agree he was baptized by John the Baptist, and was crucified by the Romans. Jewish and Roman authorities in Jerusalem were wary of Galilean patriots, many of whom advocated or launched violent resistance to Roman rule. The gospels demonstrate that Jesus, a charismatic leader regarded as a potential troublemaker, was executed on political charges.

John the Baptist led a large apocalyptic movement. He demanded repentance and baptism. Jesus was baptized and later began his ministry. After John was executed, some of his followers apparently took Jesus as their new leader. Historians are nearly unanimous in accepting Jesus' baptism as a historical event.

According to Robert Funk, Jesus taught in pithy parables and with striking images. He likened the Kingdom of Heaven to small and lowly things, such as yeast or a mustard seed, that have great effects. He used his sayings to elicit responses from the audience, engaging them in discussion.

Jesus placed a special emphasis on God as one's heavenly father.

Names and titles in the New Testament[edit | edit source]

Jesus lived in Galilee for most of his life and spoke Aramaic and possibly Hebrew and some Greek. The name "Jesus" comes from an alternate spelling of the Latin (Iēsus) which in turn comes from the Greek name Iesous (). In the Septuagint is used as the Greek version of the Hebrew name Yehoshua (, "God delivers" from YehoYahweh [is] shua` — deliverance/rescue) in the Biblical book of the same name, usually Romanized as Joshua. Some scholars believe that one of these was likely the name that Jesus was known by during his lifetime by his peers. Thus, the name has been translated into English as "Joshua".

Christ (which started as a title, and has often been used as a name for Jesus) is an Anglicization of the Greek term χριστός, christos. In the Septuagint, this term is used as the translation of the Hebrew:  Mašíaḥ  Māšîªḥ, "Anointed One" in reference to priests, and kings and King Cyrus.

Some have suggested that other titles applied to Jesus in the New Testament had meanings in the first century quite different from those meanings ascribed today. Geza Vermes has argued that "Son of man" was not a title but rather the polite way in which people referred to themselves, i.e. a pronominal phrase.

Many New Testament scholars view Jesus' frequent use of "I am" (e.g. Before Abraham was, I am),

Other names and titles[edit | edit source]

"Son of David" is found elsewhere in Jewish tradition to refer to the heir to the throne. "Son of God" was often used to designate a person as especially righteous.

"Emmanuel" or "Immanuel" derives from the Hebrew name Immanu-El, which translates as "God (is) with us" and is based on a Messianic interpretation of a verse in the Hebrew Bible, , "They shall call his name Immanuel".

Religious groups[edit | edit source]

Scholars refer to the religious background of the early 1st century to better reconstruct Jesus' life. Some scholars identify him with one or another group.

Pharisees[edit | edit source]

Pharisees were a powerful force in 1st-century Judea. Early Christians shared several beliefs of the Pharisees, such as resurrection, retribution in the next world, angels, human freedom, and Divine Providence. After the fall of the Temple, the Pharisee outlook was established in Rabbinic Judaism. Some scholars speculate that Jesus was himself a Pharisee. In Jesus' day, the two main schools of thought among the Pharisees were the House of Hillel, which had been founded by the eminent Tanna, Hillel the Elder, and the House of Shammai. Jesus' assertion of hypocrisy may have been directed against the stricter members of the House of Shammai, although he also agreed with their teachings on divorce.

Sadducees[edit | edit source]

The Sadducee sect was particularly powerful in Jerusalem. They accepted the written Law only, rejecting the traditional interpretations accepted by the Pharisees, such as belief in retribution in an afterlife, resurrection of the body, angels, and spirits. After Jesus caused a disturbance at the Temple, it seems to have been the Sadducees who had him arrested and turned over to the Romans for execution. After the fall of Jerusalem, they disappeared from history.

Essenes[edit | edit source]

Essenes were apocalyptic ascetics, one of the three (or four) major Jewish schools of the time, though they were not mentioned in the New Testament. Some scholars theorize that Jesus was an Essene, or close to them. Among these scholars is Pope Benedict XVI, who supposes in his book on Jesus that "it appears that not only John the Baptist, but possibly Jesus and his family as well, were close to the Qumran community."

Apocalyptic sect[edit | edit source]

Most scholars hold that the movement Jesus led was apocalyptic, expecting God to intervene imminently to restore Israel. John the Baptist's movement was apocalyptic, and Jesus began his public career as one of his followers. Scholars commonly surmise that Jesus' eschatology was apocalyptic, like John's.

"Nazarene"[edit | edit source]

The Gospels record that Jesus was a Nazarene, a term commonly taken to refer to Nazareth, his boyhood home, but sometimes understood as a religious title.

Zealots[edit | edit source]

The Zealots were a revolutionary party opposed to Roman rule, one of those parties that, according to Josephus inspired the fanatical stand in Jerusalem that led to its destruction in the year 70 AD. Luke identifies Simon, a disciple, as a "zealot", which might mean a member of the Zealot party (which would therefore have been already in existence in the lifetime of Jesus) or a zealous person. The notion that Jesus himself was a Zealot does not do justice to the earliest Synoptic material describing him.

Christian scripture as historical texts[edit | edit source]

Historians examine Christian scripture for important clues about the historical Jesus. They sort out sayings and events that are more likely to be genuine and use those to construct their portraits of Jesus. The Gospel tradition has certainly preserved several authentic fragments of Jesus' teaching.

The New Testament was at least substantially complete by 100 AD, making its books, especially the synoptic gospels, historically relevant. The Gospel tradition certainly preserves several fragments of Jesus' teaching. The Gospel of Mark is believed to have been written c. 70 AD. Matthew is placed at being sometime after this date and Luke is thought to have been written between 70 and 100 AD.

Biblical scholars hold that the works describing Jesus were initially communicated by oral tradition, and were not committed to writing until several decades after Jesus' crucifixion. After the original oral stories were written down in Greek, they were transcribed, and later translated into other languages. Contemporary textual critic Bart D. Ehrman cites numerous places where the gospels, and other New Testament books, were apparently altered by Christian scribes.

Critical scholars consider scriptural accounts more likely when they are attested in multiple texts, plausible in Jesus' historical environment, and potentially embarrassing to the author's Christian community. The "criterion of embarrassment" holds that stories about events with aspects embarrassing to Christians (such as the denial of Jesus by Peter, or the fleeing of Jesus' followers after his arrest) would likely not have been included if those accounts were fictional. Sayings attributed to Jesus are deemed more likely to reflect his character when they are distinctive, vivid, paradoxical, surprising, and contrary to social and religious expectations, such as "Blessed are the poor." Short, memorable parables and aphorisms capable of being transmitted orally are also thought more likely to be authentic.

The earliest extant texts which refer to Jesus are Paul's letters (mid-1st century), which affirm Jesus' crucifixion. Some scholars hold that the Gospel of Thomas, a collection of 114 sayings of Jesus, predates the four orthodox gospels, and was composed around mid-first century.

Mythical view[edit | edit source]

A few scholars have questioned the existence of Jesus as an actual historical figure. Among the proponents of non-historicity was Bruno Bauer in the 19th century. Non-historicity was somewhat influential in biblical studies during the early 20th century. (The views of scholars who entirely rejected Jesus' historicity then were summarized in the chapter on Jesus in Will Durant's Caesar and Christ (in 1944); they were based on a suggested lack of eyewitness, a lack of direct archaeological evidence, the failure of certain ancient works to mention Jesus, and similarities early Christianity shares with then-contemporary religion and mythology.)

More recently, arguments for non-historicity have been discussed by authors such as George Albert Wells and Robert M. Price. Additionally, The Jesus Puzzle and The Jesus Mysteries are examples of popular works promoting the non-historical hypothesis.

Classicist Michael Grant stated that standard historical criteria prevent one from rejecting the existence of an historical Jesus. Indeed, the historicity of Jesus is accepted by almost all Biblical scholars and classical historians. The New Testament scholar, James Dunn describes the mythical Jesus theory as a 'thoroughly dead thesis'.

Religious perspectives[edit | edit source]

By and large, the Jews of Jesus' day rejected his claim to be the Messiah, as do Jews today. For their part, Christian Church Fathers, Ecumenical Councils, Reformers, and others have written extensively about Jesus over the centuries. Christian sects and schisms have often been defined or characterized by competing descriptions of Jesus. Meanwhile Gnostics, Mandaeans, Manichaeans, Muslims, Baha'is, and others have found prominent places for Jesus in their own religious accounts.

Christian views[edit | edit source]

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Though Christian views of Jesus vary, it is possible to describe a general majority Christian view by examining the similarities between specific Western Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and many Protestant doctrines found in their catechetical or confessional texts. Almost all Chistian groups regard Jesus as the "Savior and Redeemer", as the Messiah (Greek: Christos; English: Christ) prophesied in the Old Testament, who, through his life, death, and resurrection, restored humanity's communion with God in the blood of the New Covenant. His death on a cross is understood as the redemptive sacrifice: the source of humanity's salvation and the atonement for sin which had entered human history through the sin of Adam. Christians profess that Jesus suffered death by crucifixion, and rose bodily from the dead in the definitive miracle that foreshadows the resurrection of humanity at the end of time, when Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead, resulting in either entrance into heaven or damnation.

Christians profess Jesus to be the only Son of God, the Lord, and the eternal Word (which is a translation of the Greek Logos), who became man in the incarnation, so that those who believe in him might have eternal life. They further hold that he was born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit in an event described as the miraculous virgin birth or Incarnation. Current religious groups that do not accept the doctrine of the Trinity include the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Jehovah's Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals and the Christadelphians. (See also Nontrinitarianism)

Islamic views[edit | edit source]

Mainstream Islam denies that Jesus was God or the son of God, stating that he was an ordinary man who, like other prophets, had been divinely chosen to spread God's message. Islamic texts forbid the association of partners with God (shirk), emphasizing the notion of God's divine oneness (tawhīd). As such, Jesus is referred to in the Qur'an frequently as the "son of Mary" ("Ibn Maryam"). Jesus is seen in Islam as a precursor to Muhammad, and is believed by Muslims to have foretold the latter's coming. According to the Qur'an, believed by Muslims to be God's final revelation, Jesus was born to Mary (Arabic: Maryam) as the result of virginal conception, and was given the ability to perform miracles. However Islam rejects historians assertions that Jesus was crucified by the Romans, instead claiming that he had been raised alive up to heaven. Islamic traditions narrate that he will return to earth near the day of judgement to restore justice and defeat al-Masīḥ ad-Dajjāl (lit. "the false Messiah", also known as the Antichrist) and the enemies of Islam. As a just ruler, Jesus will then die.

Ahmadiyya views[edit | edit source]

Similar to Islamic views, the Ahmadiyya Movement consider Jesus was a mortal man, but go a step further to describe Jesus as a mortal man who died a natural death – as opposed to having been raised up alive to Heaven. According to the early 20th century writings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement) , Jesus survived his ordeal on the cross, and after his apparent death and resurrection, he fled Palestine and migrated eastwards to further teach the gospels. Jesus eventually died a natural death of old age in India – Kashmir Although the view of Jesus having migrated to India has also been researched in the publications of independent historians with no affiliation to the movement, the Ahmadiyya Movement are the only religious organization to adopt these views as a characteristic of their faith. The general notion of Jesus in India is older than the foundation of the movement, and is discussed at length by Grönbold and Klatt.

The movement also interpret the second coming of Christ prophecised in various religious texts would be that of a person "similar to Jesus" (mathīl-i ʿIsā). Thus Ahmadi's consider that the founder of the movement and his prophetical character and teachings were representative of Jesus and subsequently a fulfilment of this prophecy.

Judaism's view[edit | edit source]

Judaism holds the idea of Jesus being God, or a person of a Trinity, or a mediator to God, to be untrue. Judaism also holds that Jesus is not the Messiah, arguing that he had not fulfilled the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh nor embodied the personal qualifications of the Messiah. According to Jewish tradition, there were no more prophets after Malachi, who lived centuries before Jesus and delivered his prophesies about 420 BC/BCE. Judaism states that Jesus did not fulfill the requirements set by the Torah to prove that he was a prophet. Even if Jesus had produced such a sign that Judaism recognized, Judaism states that no prophet or dreamer can contradict the laws already stated in the Torah, which Jesus did.

The Mishneh Torah (an authoritative work of Jewish law) states in Hilkhot Melakhim 11:10–12 that Jesus is a "stumbling block" who makes "the majority of the world err to serve a divinity besides God". According to Conservative Judaism, Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah have "crossed the line out of the Jewish community". Reform Judaism, the modern progressive movement, states "For us in the Jewish community anyone who claims that Jesus is their savior is no longer a Jew and is an apostate".

Bahá'í views[edit | edit source]

The Bahá'í Faith, founded in 19th-century Persia, considers Jesus, along with Muhammad, the Buddha, Krishna, and Zoroaster, and other messengers of the great religions of the world to be Manifestations of God (or prophets), with both human and divine stations.

Hindu views[edit | edit source]

Ramakrishna, a mystic of 19th century, believed that Jesus was an Incarnation of God and reportedly had a vision of Jesus. Swami Vivekananda has praised Jesus and cited him as a source of strength and the epitome of perfection. Though Vivekananda became one of the prominent Hindu missionaries, he would often exhort his disciples "to become like Jesus Christ, and to aid in the redemption of the world." Paramahansa Yogananda taught that Jesus was the reincarnation of Elisha and a student of John the Baptist, the reincarnation of Elijah.

Buddhist views[edit | edit source]

Buddhists' views of Jesus differ. Some Buddhists, including Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama regard Jesus as a bodhisattva who dedicated his life to the welfare of human beings. The 14th century Zen master Gasan Jōseki indicated that the sayings of Jesus in the Gospels were written by an enlightened man.

Sikh views[edit | edit source]

Sikhism has no connection to Jesus religiously, but there is respect for him. Jesus is mentioned in the Sikh Holy Book, The Sri Guru Granth Shaib as "Issa" as with Allah and the Buddha. Jesus is not believed to be a God, as Sikhism does not think God comes in the form of a man. Sikhism specifically says that salvation can be reached through either the path of the Sikh Religion or through any other religion including Christianity.

Other views[edit | edit source]

Mandaeanism, a very small Mideastern, Gnostic sect that reveres John the Baptist as God's greatest prophet, regards Jesus as a false prophet of the false Jewish god of the Old Testament, Adonai, and likewise rejects Abraham, Moses, and Muhammad. Manichaeism accepted Jesus as a prophet, along with Gautama Buddha and Zoroaster.

The New Age movement entertains a wide variety of views on Jesus. The creators of A Course In Miracles claim to trance-channel his spirit. However, the New Age movement generally teaches that Christhood is something that all may attain. Theosophists, from whom many New Age teachings originated (a Theosophist named Alice A. Bailey invented the term New Age), refer to Jesus of Nazareth as the Master Jesus and believe he had previous incarnations.

Many writers emphasize Jesus' moral teachings. Garry Wills argues that Jesus' ethics are distinct from those usually taught by Christianity. The Jesus Seminar portrays Jesus as an itinerant preacher who taught peace and love, rights for women and respect for children, and who spoke out against the hypocrisy of religious leaders and the rich. Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and a deist, created the Jefferson Bible entitled "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth" that included only Jesus' ethical teachings because he did not believe in Jesus' divinity or any of the other supernatural aspects of the Bible.

Legacy[edit | edit source]

According to most Christian interpretations of the Bible, the theme of Jesus' teachings was that of repentance, unconditional love

Jesus has been a popular subject in drawing, painting, and sculpture. He is popularly depicted as having long brown hair and a full beard, wearing robes. He is often crucified and wearing a crown of thorns, such as on a crucifix. The resurrected Jesus has the wounds he suffered on the cross (see stigmata). He appears as the Christ Child in Christmas nativity scenes. He has been portrayed on stage and in films in many different ways, both serious and humorous. The figure of Jesus features prominently in art and literature. A number of popular novels, such as The Da Vinci Code, have also portrayed various ideas about Jesus, and a number of films, such as The Passion of the Christ, have portrayed his life, death, and resurrection. Many of the sayings attributed to Jesus have become part of the culture of Western civilization. There are many items purported to be relics of Jesus, of which the most famous are the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo.

Other legacies include a view of God as more lovingly parental, merciful, and more forgiving, and the growth of a belief in a blissful afterlife and in the resurrection of the dead. His teaching promoted the value of those who had commonly been regarded as inferior: women, the poor, ethnic outsiders, children, prostitutes, the sick, prisoners, etc. For over a thousand years, countless hospitals, orphanages, and schools have been founded explicitly in Jesus' name. Thomas Jefferson considered Jesus' teaching to be "the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man".

Jesus and his message have been interpreted, explained and understood by many people. In his influential epistles, the earliest writing of the New Testament, Paul of Tarsus founded salvation on Jesus alone, making the Torah unnecessary. The Church Fathers of the early centuries further defined Jesus' identity as fully God. Ancient and medieval thinkers, such as Augustine of Hippo, further defined Jesus' divine and human natures. Enlightenment and Reformation theologians concerned themselves less with defining Jesus' identity as with understanding his work in redemption. In the 1800s, German scholars questioned Jesus' miracles and some, such as David Strauss, portrayed him as merely a man. C. S. Lewis and Pope John Paul II have defended the Jesus of faith against historical critics.

For some Jews, the legacy of Jesus has been a history of Christian antisemitism, although in the wake of the Holocaust many Christian groups have gone to considerable lengths to reconcile with Jews and to promote interfaith dialogue and mutual respect. Christianity has often been linked to European colonialism. But others have argued that through Bartolomé de las Casas's defense of the indigenous inhabitants of Spain's New World empire, one of the legacies of Jesus has been the notion of Universal human rights.

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