|Born||c. 6 to 4 BC[a]|
|Died||AD 30 or 33 (aged 33–38)|
|Cause of death||Crucifixion[b]|
|Known for||Central figure of Christianity|
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Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that
Jesus is also revered in the
Since the early period of Christianity, Christians have commonly referred to Jesus as "Jesus Christ". The word Christ was a title or office ("the Christ"), not a given name. It derives from the Greek Χριστός (Christos), a translation of the Hebrew mashiakh (משיח) meaning "anointed", and is usually transliterated into English as "messiah". In biblical Judaism, sacred oil was used to anoint certain exceptionally holy people and objects as part of their religious investiture.
Christians of the time designated Jesus as "the Christ" because they believed him to be the messiah, whose arrival is
Life and teachings in the New Testament
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Some early Christian groups had separate descriptions of Jesus' life and teachings that are not in the New Testament. These include the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Peter, and Gospel of Judas, the Apocryphon of James, and many other apocryphal writings. Most scholars conclude that these were written much later and are less reliable accounts than the canonical gospels.
Authorship, date, and reliability
The canonical gospels are four accounts, each by a different author. The authors of the Gospels are all pseudonymous, attributed by tradition to the
According to the Marcan priority, the first to be written was the Gospel of Mark (written AD 60–75), followed by the Gospel of Matthew (AD 65–85), the Gospel of Luke (AD 65–95), and the Gospel of John (AD 75–100). Most scholars agree that the authors of Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source for their gospels. Since Matthew and Luke also share some content not found in Mark, many scholars assume that they used another source (commonly called the "Q source") in addition to Mark.
One important aspect of the study of the Gospels is the literary genre under which they fall. Genre "is a key convention guiding both the composition and the interpretation of writings". Whether the gospel authors set out to write novels, myths, histories, or biographies has a tremendous impact on how they ought to be interpreted. Some recent studies suggest that the genre of the Gospels ought to be situated within the realm of ancient biography. Although not without critics, the position that the Gospels are a type of ancient biography is the consensus among scholars today.
Concerning the accuracy of the accounts, viewpoints run the gamut from considering them
Comparative structure and content
Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels, from the Greek σύν (syn "together") and ὄψις (opsis "view"), because they are similar in content, narrative arrangement, language and paragraph structure, and one can easily set them next to each other and synoptically compare what is in them. Scholars generally agree that it is impossible to find any direct literary relationship between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John. While the flow of many events (e.g., Jesus' baptism, transfiguration, crucifixion and interactions with his apostles) are shared among the Synoptic Gospels, incidents such as the transfiguration and Jesus' exorcizing demons do not appear in John, which also differs on other matters, such as the Cleansing of the Temple.
The Synoptics emphasize different aspects of Jesus. In Mark, Jesus is the
The prologue to the Gospel of John identifies Jesus as an incarnation of the divine Word (Logos). As the Word, Jesus was eternally present with God, active in all creation, and the source of humanity's moral and spiritual nature. Jesus is not only greater than any past human prophet but greater than any prophet could be. He not only speaks God's Word; he is God's Word. In the Gospel of John, Jesus reveals his divine role publicly. Here he is the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the True Vine and more.
In general, the authors of the New Testament showed little interest in an absolute
Genealogy and nativity
Jesus was Jewish, born to Mary, wife of Joseph. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke offer two accounts of his genealogy. Matthew traces Jesus' ancestry to Abraham through David. Luke traces Jesus' ancestry through Adam to God. The lists are identical between Abraham and David, but differ radically from that point. Matthew has 27 generations from David to Joseph, whereas Luke has 42, with almost no overlap between the names on the two lists.[m] Various theories have been put forward to explain why the two genealogies are so different.[n]
Matthew and Luke each describe Jesus' birth, especially that Jesus was born to a virgin named Mary in
In Matthew, Joseph is troubled because Mary, his betrothed, is pregnant,
In Luke 1:31–38, Mary learns from the angel
Early life, family, and profession
Jesus' childhood home is identified in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew as the town of Nazareth in
The Gospel of Mark reports that at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus comes into conflict with his neighbors and family. Jesus' mother and brothers come to get him because people are saying that he is crazy. Jesus responds that his followers are his true family. In the Gospel of John, Jesus and his mother attend a wedding at Cana, where he performs his first miracle at her request. Later, she follows him to his crucifixion, and he expresses concern over her well-being.
Jesus is called a τέκτων (
When Jesus is presented as a baby in the Temple in Jerusalem per Jewish Law, a man named Simeon says to Mary and Joseph that Jesus "shall stand as a sign of contradiction, while a sword will pierce your own soul. Then the secret thoughts of many will come to light." When Jesus, at the age of twelve, goes missing on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, his parents find him in the temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions, and the people are amazed at his understanding and answers; Mary scolds Jesus for going missing, to which Jesus replies that he must "be in his father's house".
Baptism and temptation
In the Gospel of Mark, John the Baptist baptizes Jesus, and as he comes out of the water he sees the Holy Spirit descending to him like a dove and a voice comes from heaven declaring him to be God's Son. This is one of two events described in the Gospels where a voice from Heaven calls Jesus "Son", the other being the Transfiguration. The spirit then drives him into the wilderness where he is tempted by Satan. Jesus then begins his ministry in Galilee after John's arrest.
In the Gospel of Matthew, as Jesus comes to him to be baptized, John protests, saying, "I need to be baptized by you." Jesus instructs him to carry on with the baptism "to fulfill all righteousness". Matthew details three temptations that Satan offers Jesus in the wilderness.
In the Gospel of Luke, the Holy Spirit descends as a dove after everyone has been baptized and Jesus is praying. Later John implicitly recognizes Jesus from prison after sending his followers to ask about him. Luke also describes three temptations received by Jesus in the wilderness, before starting his ministry in Galilee.
The Gospel of John leaves out Jesus' baptism and temptation. Here, John the Baptist testifies that he saw the Spirit descend on Jesus. John publicly proclaims Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb of God, and some of John's followers become disciples of Jesus. Before John is imprisoned, Jesus leads his followers to baptize disciples as well, and they baptize more people than John.
The Synoptics depict two distinct geographical settings in Jesus' ministry. The first takes place north of Judea, in Galilee, where Jesus conducts a successful ministry, and the second shows Jesus rejected and killed when he travels to Jerusalem. Often referred to as "rabbi", Jesus preaches his message orally. Notably, Jesus forbids those who recognize him as the messiah to speak of it, including people he heals and demons he exorcises (see Messianic Secret).
John depicts Jesus' ministry as largely taking place in and around Jerusalem, rather than in Galilee; and Jesus' divine identity is openly proclaimed and immediately recognized.
Scholars divide the ministry of Jesus into several stages. The Galilean ministry begins when Jesus returns to Galilee from the
As Jesus travels towards Jerusalem, in the Perean ministry, he returns to the area where he was baptized, about a third of the way down from the Sea of Galilee along the Jordan River. The final ministry in Jerusalem begins with Jesus' triumphal entry into the city on Palm Sunday. In the Synoptic Gospels, during that week Jesus drives the money changers from the Second Temple and Judas bargains to betray him. This period culminates in the Last Supper and the Farewell Discourse.
Disciples and followers
Near the beginning of his ministry, Jesus appoints twelve apostles. In Matthew and Mark, despite Jesus only briefly requesting that they join him, Jesus' first four apostles, who were fishermen, are described as immediately consenting, and abandoning their nets and boats to do so. In John, Jesus' first two apostles were disciples of John the Baptist. The Baptist sees Jesus and calls him the Lamb of God; the two hear this and follow Jesus. In addition to the Twelve Apostles, the opening of the passage of the Sermon on the Plain identifies a much larger group of people as disciples. Also, in Luke 10:1–16 Jesus sends 70 or 72 of his followers in pairs to prepare towns for his prospective visit. They are instructed to accept hospitality, heal the sick, and spread the word that the Kingdom of God is coming.
In Mark, the disciples are notably obtuse. They fail to understand Jesus' miracles, his parables, or what "rising from the dead" means. When Jesus is later arrested, they desert him.
Teachings and miracles
In the Synoptics, Jesus teaches extensively, often in
Jesus calls people to repent their sins and to devote themselves completely to God.
John's Gospel presents the teachings of Jesus not merely as his own preaching, but as divine revelation. John the Baptist, for example, states in John 3:34: "He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure." In John 7:16 Jesus says, "My teaching is not mine but his who sent me." He asserts the same thing in John 14:10: "Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works."
Approximately 30 parables form about one-third of Jesus' recorded teachings. The parables appear within longer sermons and at other places in the narrative. They often contain symbolism, and usually relate the physical world to the spiritual. Common themes in these tales include the kindness and generosity of God and the perils of transgression. Some of his parables, such as the Prodigal Son, are relatively simple, while others, such as the Growing Seed, are sophisticated, profound and abstruse. When asked by his disciples why he speaks in parables to the people, Jesus replies that the chosen disciples have been given to "know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven", unlike the rest of their people, "For the one who has will be given more and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived even more", going on to say that the majority of their generation have grown "dull hearts" and thus are unable to understand.
In the gospel accounts, Jesus devotes a large portion of his ministry to performing
In John, Jesus' miracles are described as "signs", performed to prove his mission and divinity.
Proclamation as Christ and Transfiguration
At about the middle of each of the three Synoptic Gospels are two significant events: the Confession of Peter and the Transfiguration of Jesus. These two events are not mentioned in the Gospel of John.
In his Confession, Peter tells Jesus, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus affirms that Peter's confession is divinely revealed truth. After the confession, Jesus tells his disciples about his upcoming death and resurrection.
In the Transfiguration, Jesus takes Peter and two other apostles up an unnamed mountain, where "he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white." A bright cloud appears around them, and a voice from the cloud says, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him."
The description of the last week of the life of Jesus (often called
Activities in Jerusalem
In the Synoptics, the last week in Jerusalem is the conclusion of the journey through Perea and Judea that Jesus began in Galilee. Jesus rides a young donkey into Jerusalem, reflecting the tale of the Messiah's Donkey, an oracle from the Book of Zechariah in which the Jews' humble king enters Jerusalem this way. People along the way lay cloaks and small branches of trees (known as palm fronds) in front of him and sing part of Psalms 118:25–26.
Jesus next expels the money changers from the Second Temple, accusing them of turning it into a den of thieves through their commercial activities. He then prophesies about the coming destruction, including false prophets, wars, earthquakes, celestial disorders, persecution of the faithful, the appearance of an "abomination of desolation", and unendurable tribulations. The mysterious "Son of Man", he says, will dispatch angels to gather the faithful from all parts of the earth. Jesus warns that these wonders will occur in the lifetimes of the hearers. In John, the Cleansing of the Temple occurs at the beginning of Jesus' ministry instead of at the end.
Jesus comes into conflict with the Jewish elders, such as when they
The Gospel of John recounts two other feasts in which Jesus taught in Jerusalem before the Passion Week.
The Last Supper is the final meal that Jesus shares with his twelve apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The Last Supper is mentioned in all four canonical gospels; Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians also refers to it. During the meal, Jesus predicts that one of his apostles will betray him. Despite each Apostle's assertion that he would not betray him, Jesus reiterates that the betrayer would be one of those present. Matthew 26:23–25 and John 13:26–27 specifically identify Judas as the traitor.
In the Synoptics, Jesus takes bread, breaks it, and gives it to the disciples, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you". He then has them all drink from a cup, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood,"
In all four gospels, Jesus predicts that Peter will deny knowledge of him three times before the
Agony in the Garden, betrayal, and arrest
In the Synoptics, Jesus and his disciples go to the garden Gethsemane, where Jesus prays to be spared his coming ordeal. Then Judas comes with an armed mob, sent by the chief priests, scribes and elders. He kisses Jesus to identify him to the crowd, which then arrests Jesus. In an attempt to stop them, an unnamed disciple of Jesus uses a sword to cut off the ear of a man in the crowd. After Jesus' arrest, his disciples go into hiding, and Peter, when questioned, thrice denies knowing Jesus. After the third denial, Peter hears the rooster crow and recalls Jesus' prediction about his denial. Peter then weeps bitterly.
In John 18:1–11, Jesus does not pray to be spared his crucifixion, as the gospel portrays him as scarcely touched by such human weakness. The people who arrest him are Roman soldiers and Temple guards. Instead of being betrayed by a kiss, Jesus proclaims his identity, and when he does, the soldiers and officers fall to the ground. The gospel identifies Peter as the disciple who used the sword, and Jesus rebukes him for it.
Trials by the Sanhedrin, Herod, and Pilate
After his arrest, Jesus is taken late at night to the private residence of the high priest, Caiaphas, who had been installed by Pilate's predecessor, the Roman procurator Valerius Gratus. The Sanhedrin was a Jewish judicial body, The gospel accounts differ on the details of the trials. In Matthew 26:57, Mark 14:53 and Luke 22:54, Jesus is taken to the house of the high priest, Caiaphas, where he is mocked and beaten that night. Early the next morning, the chief priests and scribes lead Jesus away into their council. John 18:12–14 states that Jesus is first taken to Annas, Caiaphas's father-in-law, and then to the high priest.
During the trials Jesus speaks very little, mounts no defense, and gives very infrequent and indirect answers to the priests' questions, prompting an officer to slap him. In Matthew 26:62, Jesus' unresponsiveness leads Caiaphas to ask him, "Have you no answer?" In Mark 14:61 the high priest then asks Jesus, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?" Jesus replies, "I am", and then predicts the coming of the Son of Man. This provokes Caiaphas to tear his own robe in anger and to accuse Jesus of blasphemy. In Matthew and Luke, Jesus' answer is more ambiguous: in Matthew 26:64 he responds, "You have said so", and in Luke 22:70 he says, "You say that I am".
The Jewish elders take Jesus to
Crucifixion and entombment
Jesus' crucifixion is described in all four canonical gospels. After the trials, Jesus is led to Calvary carrying his cross; the route traditionally thought to have been taken is known as the Via Dolorosa. The three Synoptic Gospels indicate that Simon of Cyrene assists him, having been compelled by the Romans to do so. In Luke 23:27–28, Jesus tells the women in the multitude of people following him not to weep for him but for themselves and their children. At Calvary, Jesus is offered a sponge soaked in a concoction usually offered as a painkiller. According to Matthew and Mark, he refuses it.
The soldiers then crucify Jesus and
In John 19:33–34, Roman soldiers break the two thieves' legs to hasten their death, but not those of Jesus, as he is already dead. Instead, one soldier pierces Jesus' side with a lance, and blood and water flow out. The Synoptics report a period of darkness, and the heavy curtain in the Temple is torn when Jesus dies. In Matthew 27:51–54, an earthquake breaks open tombs. In Matthew and Mark, terrified by the events, a Roman centurion states that Jesus was the Son of God.
On the same day,
Resurrection and ascension
In the four Gospels,
The four Gospels then describe various appearances of Jesus in his resurrected body. Jesus first reveals himself to Mary Magdalene in Mark 16:9 and John 20:14–17, along with "the other Mary" in Matthew 28:9, while in Luke the first reported appearance is to two disciples heading to Emmaus. Jesus then reveals himself to the eleven disciples, in Jerusalem or in Galilee. In Luke 24:36–43, he eats and shows them his tangible wounds to prove that he is not a spirit. He also shows them to Thomas to end his doubts, in John 20:24–29. In the Synoptics, Jesus commissions the disciples to spread the gospel message to all nations, while in John 21, he tells Peter to take care of his sheep.
The Acts of the Apostles describes several appearances of Jesus after his Ascension. In Acts 7:55, Stephen gazes into heaven and sees "Jesus standing at the right hand of God" just before his death. On the road to Damascus, the Apostle Paul is converted to Christianity after seeing a blinding light and hearing a voice saying, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." In Acts 9:10–18, Jesus instructs Ananias of Damascus in a vision to heal Paul. The Book of Revelation includes a revelation from Jesus concerning the last days of Earth.
After Jesus' life, his followers, as described in the first chapters of the
Numerous quotations in the New Testament and other Christian writings of the first centuries, indicate that early Christians generally used and revered the
Early Christians wrote many religious works, including the ones included in the
Prior to the Enlightenment, the Gospels were usually regarded as accurate historical accounts, but since then scholars have emerged who question the reliability of the Gospels and draw a distinction between the Jesus described in the Gospels and the Jesus of history. Since the 18th century, three separate scholarly quests for the historical Jesus have taken place, each with distinct characteristics and based on different research criteria, which were often developed during the quest that applied them. While there is widespread scholarly agreement on the existence of Jesus,[f] and a basic consensus on the general outline of his life,[o] the portraits of Jesus constructed by various scholars often differ from each other, and from the image portrayed in the gospel accounts.
Approaches to the historical reconstruction of the life of Jesus have varied from the "maximalist" approaches of the 19th century, in which the gospel accounts were accepted as reliable evidence wherever it is possible, to the "minimalist" approaches of the early 20th century, where hardly anything about Jesus was accepted as historical. In the 1950s, as the second quest for the historical Jesus gathered pace, the minimalist approaches faded away, and in the 21st century, minimalists such as Price are a very small minority. Although a belief in the inerrancy of the Gospels cannot be supported historically, many scholars since the 1980s have held that, beyond the few facts considered to be historically certain, certain other elements of Jesus' life are "historically probable". Modern scholarly research on the historical Jesus thus focuses on identifying the most probable elements.
Judea and Galilee in the 1st century
In AD 6,
This was the era of
Jews based their faith and religious practice on the Torah, five books said to have been given by God to Moses. The three prominent religious parties were the Pharisees, the Essenes, and the Sadducees. Together these parties represented only a small fraction of the population. Most Jews looked forward to a time that God would deliver them from their pagan rulers, possibly through war against the Romans.
New Testament scholars face a formidable challenge when they analyze the canonical Gospels. The Gospels are not biographies in the modern sense, and the authors explain Jesus' theological significance and recount his public ministry while omitting many details of his life. The reports of supernatural events associated with Jesus' death and resurrection make the challenge even more difficult. Scholars regard the Gospels as compromised sources of information because the writers were trying to glorify Jesus. Even so, the sources for Jesus' life are better than sources scholars have for the life of Alexander the Great. Scholars use a number of criteria, such as the
Some scholars (most notably the Jesus Seminar) believe that the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas might be an independent witness to many of Jesus' parables and aphorisms. For example, Thomas confirms that Jesus blessed the poor and that this saying circulated independently before being combined with similar sayings in the Q source. However, the majority of scholars are skeptical about this text and believe it should be dated to the 2nd century AD.
Other select non-canonical Christian texts may also have value for historical Jesus research.
Early non-Christian sources that attest to the historical existence of Jesus include the works of the historians Josephus and Tacitus.[p] Josephus scholar Louis Feldman has stated that "few have doubted the genuineness" of Josephus's reference to Jesus in book 20 of the Antiquities of the Jews, and it is disputed only by a small number of scholars. Tacitus referred to Christ and his execution by Pilate in book 15 of his work Annals. Scholars generally consider Tacitus's reference to the execution of Jesus to be both authentic and of historical value as an independent Roman source.
Non-Christian sources are valuable in two ways. First, they show that even neutral or hostile parties never show any doubt that Jesus actually existed. Second, they present a rough picture of Jesus that is compatible with that found in the Christian sources: that Jesus was a teacher, had a reputation as a miracle worker, had a brother James, and died a violent death.
Archaeology helps scholars better understand Jesus' social world. Recent archaeological work, for example, indicates that Capernaum, a city important in Jesus' ministry, was poor and small, without even a forum or an agora. This archaeological discovery resonates well with the scholarly view that Jesus advocated reciprocal sharing among the destitute in that area of Galilee.
Jesus was a Galilean Jew,
The Gospels offer several indications concerning the year of Jesus' birth. Matthew 2:1 associates the birth of Jesus with the reign of Herod the Great, who died around 4 BC, and Luke 1:5 mentions that Herod was on the throne shortly before the birth of Jesus, although this gospel also associates the birth with the Census of Quirinius which took place ten years later. Luke 3:23 states that Jesus was "about thirty years old" at the start of his ministry, which according to Acts 10:37–38 was preceded by John the Baptist's ministry, which was recorded in Luke 3:1–2 to have begun in the 15th year of Tiberius's reign (28 or 29 AD). By collating the gospel accounts with historical data and using various other methods, most scholars arrive at a date of birth for Jesus between 6 and 4 BC, but some propose estimates that include a wider range.[q]
The date range for Jesus' ministry has been estimated using several different approaches.
A number of approaches have been used to estimate the year of the crucifixion of Jesus. Most scholars agree that he died in 30 or 33 AD.
Historicity of events
Many scholars agree that Joseph, Jesus' father, died before Jesus began his ministry. Joseph is not mentioned in the Gospels during Jesus' ministry. Joseph's death would explain why in Mark 6:3, Jesus' neighbors refer to Jesus as the "son of Mary" (sons were usually identified by their fathers).
According to Theissen and Merz, it is common for extraordinary charismatic leaders, such as Jesus, to come into conflict with their ordinary families. In Mark, Jesus' family comes to get him, fearing that he is mad (Mark 3:20–34), and this account is thought to be historical because early Christians would likely not have invented it. After Jesus' death, many members of his family joined the Christian movement. Jesus' brother James became a leader of the Jerusalem Church.
Géza Vermes says that the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus arose from theological development rather than from historical events. Despite the widely held view that the authors of the Synoptic Gospels drew upon each other (the so-called
According to E. P. Sanders, the birth narratives in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke are the clearest case of invention in the Gospel narratives of Jesus' life. Both accounts have Jesus born in Bethlehem, in accordance with Jewish salvation history, and both have him growing up in Nazareth. But Sanders points that the two Gospels report completely different and irreconcilable explanations for how that happened. Luke's account of a census in which everyone returned to their ancestral cities is not plausible. Matthew's account is more plausible, but the story reads as though it was invented to identify Jesus as like a new Moses, and the historian Josephus reports Herod the Great's brutality without ever mentioning that he massacred little boys. The contradictions between the two Gospels were probably apparent to the early Christians already, since attempts to harmonize the two narratives are already present in the earlier apocryphal infancy gospels (the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of James), which are dated to the 2nd century AD.
Sanders says that the genealogies of Jesus are based not on historical information but on the authors' desire to show that Jesus was the universal Jewish savior. In any event, once the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus became established, that tradition superseded the earlier tradition that he was descended from David through Joseph. The Gospel of Luke reports that Jesus was a blood relative of John the Baptist, but scholars generally consider this connection to be invented.
Most modern scholars consider Jesus' baptism to be a definite historical fact, along with his crucifixion. Theologian James D. G. Dunn states that they "command almost universal assent" and "rank so high on the 'almost impossible to doubt or deny' scale of historical facts" that they are often the starting points for the study of the historical Jesus. Scholars adduce the criterion of embarrassment, saying that early Christians would not have invented a baptism that might imply that Jesus committed sins and wanted to repent. According to Theissen and Merz, Jesus was inspired by John the Baptist and took over from him many elements of his teaching.
Ministry in Galilee
Most scholars hold that Jesus lived in Galilee and Judea and did not preach or study elsewhere. They agree that Jesus debated with Jewish authorities on the subject of God, performed some healings, taught in parables and gathered followers. Jesus' Jewish critics considered his ministry to be scandalous because he feasted with sinners, fraternized with women, and allowed his followers to pluck grain on the Sabbath. According to Sanders, it is not plausible that disagreements over how to interpret the Law of Moses and the Sabbath would have led Jewish authorities to want Jesus killed.
According to Ehrman, Jesus taught that a coming kingdom was everyone's proper focus, not anything in this life. He taught about the Jewish Law, seeking its true meaning, sometimes in opposition to traditions. Jesus put love at the center of the Law, and following that Law was an apocalyptic necessity. His ethical teachings called for forgiveness, not judging others, loving enemies, and caring for the poor. Funk and Hoover note that typical of Jesus were paradoxical or surprising turns of phrase, such as advising one, when struck on the cheek, to offer the other cheek to be struck as well.
The Gospels portray Jesus teaching in well-defined sessions, such as the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew or the parallel Sermon on the Plain in Luke. According to Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz, these teaching sessions include authentic teachings of Jesus, but the scenes were invented by the respective evangelists to frame these teachings, which had originally been recorded without context. While Jesus' miracles fit within the social context of antiquity, he defined them differently. First, he attributed them to the faith of those healed. Second, he connected them to end times prophecy.
Jesus chose twelve disciples (the "Twelve"), evidently as an apocalyptic message. All three Synoptics mention the Twelve, although the names on Luke's list vary from those in Mark and Matthew, suggesting that Christians were not certain who all the disciples were. The twelve disciples might have represented the twelve original tribes of Israel, which would be restored once God's rule was instituted. The disciples were reportedly meant to be the rulers of the tribes in the coming Kingdom. According to Bart Ehrman, Jesus' promise that the Twelve would rule is historical, because the Twelve included Judas Iscariot. In Ehrman's view, no Christians would have invented a line from Jesus, promising rulership to the disciple who betrayed him. In Mark, the disciples play hardly any role other than a negative one. While others sometimes respond to Jesus with complete faith, his disciples are puzzled and doubtful.
Sanders says that Jesus' mission was not about repentance, although he acknowledges that this opinion is unpopular. He argues that repentance appears as a strong theme only in Luke, that repentance was John the Baptist's message, and that Jesus' ministry would not have been scandalous if the sinners he ate with had been repentant. According to Theissen and Merz, Jesus taught that God was generously giving people an opportunity to repent.
Jesus taught that an apocalyptic figure, the "Son of Man", would soon come on clouds of glory to gather the elect, or chosen ones. He referred to himself as a "son of man" in the colloquial sense of "a person", but scholars do not know whether he also meant himself when he referred to the heavenly "Son of Man". Paul the Apostle and other early Christians interpreted the "Son of Man" as the risen Jesus.
The Gospels refer to Jesus not only as a messiah but in the absolute form as "the Messiah" or, equivalently, "the Christ". In early Judaism, this absolute form of the title is not found, but only phrases such as "his messiah". The tradition is ambiguous enough to leave room for debate as to whether Jesus defined his eschatological role as that of the messiah. The Jewish messianic tradition included many different forms, some of them focused on a messiah figure and others not. Based on the Christian tradition, Gerd Theissen advances the hypothesis that Jesus saw himself in messianic terms but did not claim the title "Messiah". Bart Ehrman argues that Jesus did consider himself to be the messiah, albeit in the sense that he would be the king of the new political order that God would usher in, not in the sense that most people today think of the term.
Passover and crucifixion in Jerusalem
Around AD 30, Jesus and his followers traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem to observe Passover. Jesus caused a disturbance in the Second Temple, which was the center of Jewish religious and civil authority. Sanders associates it with Jesus' prophecy that the Temple would be totally demolished. Jesus held a last meal with his disciples, which is the origin of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. His words as recorded in the Synoptic gospels and Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians do not entirely agree, but this meal appears to have pointed to Jesus' place in the coming Kingdom of God when very probably Jesus knew he was about to be killed, although he may have still hoped that God might yet intervene.
The Gospels say that Jesus was betrayed to the authorities by a disciple, and many scholars consider this report to be highly reliable.
After Jesus' death, his followers said he was restored to life, although exact details of their experiences are unclear. The gospel reports contradict each other, possibly suggesting competition among those claiming to have seen him first rather than deliberate fraud. On the other hand, L. Michael White suggests that inconsistencies in the Gospels reflect differences in the agendas of their unknown authors. The followers of Jesus formed a community to wait for his return and the founding of his kingdom.
Portraits of Jesus
Modern research on the historical Jesus has not led to a unified picture of the historical figure, partly because of the variety of academic traditions represented by the scholars. Given the scarcity of historical sources, it is generally difficult for any scholar to construct a portrait of Jesus that can be considered historically valid beyond the basic elements of his life. The portraits of Jesus constructed in these quests often differ from each other, and from the image portrayed in the Gospels.
Jesus is seen as the founder of, in the words of Sanders, a "renewal movement within Judaism". One of the criteria used to discern historical details in the "third quest" is the criterion of plausibility, relative to Jesus' Jewish context and to his influence on Christianity. A disagreement in contemporary research is whether Jesus was
Since the 18th century, scholars have occasionally put forth that Jesus was a political national messiah, but the evidence for this portrait is negligible. Likewise, the proposal that Jesus was a
Language, ethnicity, and appearance
Jesus grew up in Galilee and much of his ministry took place there. The languages spoken in Galilee and Judea during the 1st century AD include Jewish Palestinian Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek, with Aramaic being predominant. There is substantial consensus that Jesus gave most of his teachings in Aramaic in the Galilean dialect. Other than Aramaic and Hebrew, it is likely that he was also able to speak in Koine Greek.
Modern scholars agree that Jesus was a Jew of 1st-century Palestine. Ioudaios in New Testament Greek[r] is a term which in the contemporary context may refer to religion (Second Temple Judaism), ethnicity (of Judea), or both. In a review of the state of modern scholarship, Amy-Jill Levine writes that the entire question of ethnicity is "fraught with difficulty", and that "beyond recognizing that 'Jesus was Jewish', rarely does the scholarship address what being 'Jewish' means".
The New Testament gives no description of the physical appearance of Jesus before his death—it is generally indifferent to racial appearances and does not refer to the features of the people it mentions. Jesus probably looked like a typical Jewish man of his time and place; standing around 166 cm (5 ft 5 in) tall with a thin but fit build, olive-brown skin, brown eyes and short, dark hair. He also likely had a beard that was not particularly long or heavy. His clothing may have suggested poverty consisting of a mantle (shawl) with tassels, a knee-length basic tunic and sandals.
Christ myth theory
The Christ myth theory is the hypothesis that Jesus of Nazareth never existed; or if he did, that he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity and the accounts in the
Despite arguments put forward by authors who have questioned the existence of a historical Jesus, virtually all scholars of antiquity accept that Jesus was a historical figure and consider Christ myth theory fringe.
Jesus' teachings and the retelling of his life story have significantly influenced the course of human history, and have directly or indirectly affected the lives of billions of people, even non-Christians. He is considered by many people to be the most influential figure to have ever lived, finding a significant place in numerous cultural contexts.
Apart from his own disciples and followers, the Jews of Jesus' day generally rejected him as the messiah, as does Judaism today. Christian theologians, ecumenical councils, reformers and others have written extensively about Jesus over the centuries. Christian denominations have often been defined or characterized by their descriptions of Jesus. Meanwhile, Manichaeans, Gnostics, Muslims, Druzes, the Baháʼí Faith, and others, have found prominent places for Jesus in their religions.
Jesus is the central figure of Christianity.
The New Testament states that the
At present, most Christians believe that Jesus is both human and the Son of God.
Christians revere not only Jesus himself, but also
Judaic criticism of Jesus is long-standing, and includes a
Medieval Hebrew literature contains the anecdotal "Episode of Jesus" (known also as Toledot Yeshu), in which Jesus is described as being the son of Joseph, the son of Pandera (see: Episode of Jesus). The account portrays Jesus as an impostor.
Part of a series on Islam
A major figure in Islam,
The Quran describes the annunciation to Mary (
To aid in his ministry to the Jewish people, Jesus was given the ability to perform
According to the Quran, the coming of Muhammad was predicted by Jesus:
And ˹remember˺ when Jesus, son of Mary, said, “O children of Israel! I am truly Allah’s messenger to you, confirming the Torah which came before me, and giving good news of a messenger after me whose name will be Aḥmad.”1 Yet when the Prophet came to them with clear proofs, they said, “This is pure magic.”
Through this verse, early Arab Muslims claimed legitimacy for their new faith in the existing religious traditions and the alleged predictions of Jesus.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has several distinct teachings about Jesus. Ahmadis believe that he was a mortal man who survived his crucifixion and died a natural death at the age of 120 in Kashmir, India, and is buried at Roza Bal.
In the Druze faith, Jesus is considered and revered as one of the seven spokesmen or prophets (natiq), defined as messengers or intermediaries between God and mankind, along with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Muhammad and Muhammad ibn Isma'il, each of them sent in a different period of history to preach the message of God.
In Christian Gnosticism (now a largely extinct religious movement), Jesus was sent from the divine realm and provided the secret knowledge (gnosis) necessary for salvation. Most Gnostics believed that Jesus was a human who became possessed by the spirit of "the Christ" at his baptism. This spirit left Jesus' body during the crucifixion, but was rejoined to him when he was raised from the dead. Some Gnostics, however, were docetics, believing that Jesus did not have a physical body, but only appeared to possess one.
Some of the earliest depictions of Jesus at the
The depiction of Christ in pictorial form was highly
In Eastern Christian art, the Transfiguration was a major theme, and every Eastern Orthodox monk who had trained in icon painting had to prove his craft by painting an icon depicting it. Icons receive the external marks of veneration, such as kisses and prostration, and they are thought to be powerful channels of divine grace.
In Western Europe, the Renaissance brought forth a number of artists who focused on depictions of Jesus; Fra Angelico and others followed Giotto in the systematic development of uncluttered images. Before the Protestant Reformation, the crucifix was common in Western Christianity. It is a model of the cross with Jesus crucified on it. The crucifix became the central ornament of the altar in the 13th century, a use that has been nearly universal in Roman Catholic churches since then.
The total destruction that ensued with the
However, throughout the history of Christianity, a number of
Some relics, such as purported remnants of the
- Outline of Jesus
- Jesus in comparative mythology
- Jesus in Islam
- Jesus in the Talmud
- Language of Jesus
- Last Adam
- Liminal deity
- List of books about Jesus
- List of founders of religious traditions
- List of messiah claimants
- List of people claimed to be Jesus
- List of people who have been considered deities
- List of statues of Jesus
- Sexuality of Jesus
- Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera
- John P. Meier writes that Jesus' birth year is c. 7 or 6 BC. Karl Rahner states that the consensus among Christian scholars is c. 4 BC. E. P. Sanders also favors c. 4 BC and refers to the general consensus. Jack Finegan uses the study of early Christian traditions to support c. 3 or 2 BC.
- Traditionally, Christians believe that Mary conceived her son miraculously by the agency of the Holy Spirit. Muslims believe that she conceived her son miraculously by the command of God. Joseph was from these perspectives and according to the canonical gospels the acting adoptive father of Jesus.
- Ehrman writes: "The notion that the Gospel accounts are not completely accurate but still important for the religious truths they try to convey is widely shared in the scholarly world, even though it's not so widely known or believed outside of it."
Sanders writes: "The earliest Christians did not write a narrative of Jesus' life, but rather made use of, and thus preserved, individual units—short passages about his words and deeds. These units were later moved and arranged by authors and editors. ... Some material has been revised and some created by early Christians."
- A small minority of Christian denominations reject trinitarianism, wholly or partly, as non-scriptural
- Some medieval Muslims believed that Jesus was crucified, as do the members of the modern Ahmadiyya movement; see § Islamic perspectives.
- This article uses quotes from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
- Powell writes: "[Paul] does cite words or instructions of Jesus in a few places, but for the most part he displays little interest in the details of Jesus' earthly life and ministry."
- Compare Matthew 1:6–16 with Luke 3:23–31. See also Genealogy of Jesus § Comparison of the two genealogies.
- For an overview of such theories, see Genealogy of Jesus § Explanations for divergence.
- Amy-Jill Levine writes: "There is a consensus of sorts on a basic outline of Jesus' life. Most scholars agree that Jesus was baptized by John, debated with fellow Jews on how best to live according to God's will, engaged in healings and exorcisms, taught in parables, gathered male and female followers in Galilee, went to Jerusalem, and was crucified by Roman soldiers during the governorship of Pontius Pilate"
- Tuckett writes: "All this does at least render highly implausible any far-fetched theories that even Jesus' very existence was a Christian invention. The fact that Jesus existed, that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate (for whatever reason) and that he had a band of followers who continued to support his cause, seems to be part of the bedrock of historical tradition. If nothing else, the non-Christian evidence can provide us with certainty on that score."
- For example, John P. Meier states that Jesus' birth year is c. 7/6 BC, while Finegan favors c. 3/2 BC.
- In the New Testament, Jesus is described as Jewish / Judean (Ioudaios as written in Koine Greek) on three occasions: by the Magi in Matthew 2, who referred to Jesus as "King of the Jews" (basileus ton ioudaion); by both the Samaritan woman at the well and by Jesus himself in John 4; and (in all four gospels) during the Passion, by the Romans, who also used the phrase "King of the Jews".
- Ehrman writes: "In simpler terms, the historical Jesus did not exist. Or if he did, he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity." Further quoting as authoritative the fuller definition provided by Earl Doherty in Jesus: Neither God Nor Man. Age of Reason, 2009, pp. vii–viii: it is "the theory that no historical Jesus worthy of the name existed, that Christianity began with a belief in a spiritual, mythical figure, that the Gospels are essentially allegory and fiction, and that no single identifiable person lay at the root of the Galilean preaching tradition."
- Philip Schaff commenting on Irenaeus, wrote, 'This censure of images as a Gnostic peculiarity, and as a heathenish corruption, should be noted'. Footnote 300 on Contr. Her. .I.XXV.6. ANF
- Polarized conclusions regarding the Shroud of Turin remain. According to former Nature editor Philip Ball, "it's fair to say that, despite the seemingly definitive tests in 1988, the status of the Shroud of Turin is murkier than ever. Not least, the nature of the image and how it was fixed on the cloth remain deeply puzzling".
- Meier 1991, p. 407.
- Rahner 2004, p. 732.
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- Vermes 1981, pp. 20, 26, 27, 29.
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- Baden, Candida Moss (5 October 2014). "So-Called 'Biblical Scholar' Says Jesus a Made-Up Myth". The Daily Beast.
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Etymology: Medieval Latin, in the year of our Lord
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- Luke 2:8–20
- Luke 2:21
- Luke 1:5, 36
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- Mark 3:31–35
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