عیسی مسیح یا عیسی ناصری (۲-۷ (پیش از میلاد) - ۲۶-۳۶ (پس از میلاد)) شخصیت مرکزی مسیحیت بزرگترین دین دنیاست. در باور مسیحیان عیسی تجسّم خدا در جسم انسانی و آغازگر جریان مسیحیت است. او در شهر بیتلحم از شهرهای ایالت ناصره منطقه یهودیه به دنیا آمد. مسلمانان به عیسی به عنوان یک پیامبر باور دارند و برخی از دیگر مذاهب نیز او را شخصیت مهمی در نظر میگیرند.
منابع اصلی برای بررسی زندگی عیسی چهار انجیل رسمی هستند، هرچند برخی محققان معتقدند که متنهای دیگر چون انجیل توماس نیز به اندازه چهار انجیل سنتی برای ترسیم تاریخی عیسی اهمیت دارند. اکثر پژوهشوران معتقدند که عیسی یک یهودی از ناحیه «جلیل» در شمال فلسطین بود که از او بهعنوان یک معلم و شفابخش یاد میشد. محققان اغلب اتفاق نظر دارند که او توسط یحیی غسل تعمید یافته و در اورشلیم تحت فرمان پنطیوس پیلاطس و به جرم آشوبگری علیه امپراتوری روم مصلوب شد. قطع نظر از اندک اتفاق نظرها و نتایج اینچنینی، مطالعات آکادمیک در گاهنگاری وقایع، پیام مرکزی تعلیمات عیسی، طبقه اجتماعی وی و یا دلیل مصلوب شدنش تاکنون به نتایج قطعی نرسیدهاند. گرچه خیلی از محققان به انجیلها به عنوان منابع تاریخی با احتیاط نگریستهاند، ولی اکثر محققان منتقد معتقدند حداقل بخشهایی از آنچه در انجیلها در خصوص زندگی عیسی بیان شده صحیح است.
نگاه مسیحیت به عیسی بر پایه اعتقاد به الوهیت عیسی، مسیح بودن او همان گونه که در عهد عتیق پیشگویی شدهاست و زنده شدن او پس از مصلوب شدنش است. مسیحیان غالباً عیسی را پسر خدا میدانند (که معمولاً اینطور تعبیر میشود که او خدای پسر، رکن دوم تثلیث است) که برای رستگاری و آشتی با خدا به روی زمین آمد. آنان همچنین به تولد معجزهوار عیسی از یک باکره، انجام معجزات، عروج به آسمان، و بازگشت مجدد او در آینده باور دارند. در حالی که اعتقاد به تثلیث بهطور گسترده توسط مسیحیان پذیرفته شدهاست، گروه کوچکی، دیدگاههای غیر تثلیثی راجع به الوهیت عیسی دارند.
در آیین اسلام، عیسی یکی از پیامبران مهم خدا در نظر گرفته میشود که انجیل را به همراه خود آورده و برای اثبات نبوتش معجزاتی را به نمایش میگذاشت. عیسی همچنین عنوان مسیح دارد ولی از نقطه نظر اسلامی این به معنی خداگونه بودن او نیست. اسلام مصلوب شدن و سپس برخاستن او پس از مرگ را انکار کرده و بر این نظر است که او جسماً به آسمان عروج نمودهاست. همچنین مسلمانان نیز مانند مسیحیان باور دارند که عیسی از یک دختر باکره و برگزیدهٔ خداوند به نام مریم به دنیا آمدهاست.
سال دقیق تولد عیسی از نگاه باستانشناسان مشخص نیست. نظر یوسیبیوس، مورخ قدیمی کلیسا، این است که او ۵۲۰۰ سال پس از خلقت به دنیا آمد.  انجیلهای متی و لوقا آن را در زمان هیرودیس، که سال ۴ قبل از میلاد مرد، قرار میدهند. لوقا همچنین عنوان میکند که تولد همزمان با سرشماری یهودیه، سال ۶ میلادی، بودهاست. دانشوران معاصر تولد عیسی را بین ۴ و ۶ قبل از میلاد تخمین میزنند.
مرگ وی در انجیلها در زمان استانداری پیلاتس، ۲۶ تا ۳۶ میلادی، عنوان شدهاست. بر اساس اناجیل متی، مرقس و لوقا، مرگ عیسی پس از عید فصح (یک عید یهودی) اتفاق افتاد. بر اساس انجیل یوحنّا، اعدام عیسی زودتر و در روز آماده شدن برای عید فصح اتفاق افتاد. اعتقاد بهاییان«... و حضرت مسیح وقت شهادت و صعود سی و سه سال داشتند ...»
عیسی در زبان عبری به معنی «خدا کمک میکند» ( بعدها به معنی «خدا نجات میدهد») است.
زندگی بر اساس متن انجیلها[ویرایش]
روایت کلیسا از عیسی به طور عمده بر پایه چهار انجیل تصویب شده است. محققان مختلف نظرات بسیار مختلفی راجع به صحت تاریخی این انجیلها دارند. هر انجیل زندگی عیسی و معنی اش را به نحو متفاوتی از بقیه انجیلها به تصویر میکشد.  انجیل یوحنا زندگی نامه نبوده بلکه به زندگی عیسی از دید الهیات نگاه کرده و او را کلام(Logos) ازلی خدا و خود خدا و آفرینندهٔ جهان میداند.  ترکیب این داستانها در یک داستان همانند ساختن یک داستان پنجم بوده که از هرکدام از چهار داستان اصلی متفاوت خواهد بود. بعضی از مدافعان مسیحیت اختلاف ها و ناسازگاری هایی که ظاهراً بین اناجیل وجود دارد را یک دلیل قاطع برای صحت انجیلها میدانند؛ زیرا به گفته آنها تفاوتها احتمال توطئه و همدستی را از بین برده و شباهتها به مبدا مشترک آنها گواهی میدهد.
تبارنامه و خانواده[ویرایش]
در دو انجیل متی و لوقا شجرهنامه عیسی آمدهاست. این دو شجرهنامه تفاوت های اساسی با هم دارند. و جالب این است که هر دو به جای اشاره به تبار مریم مادر مسیح، شجرهنامه یوسف نجار شوهر مریم که مردم او را پدر مسیح میدانستند را بیان کردهاند. هر دو تبارنامه نیاکان عیسی را به داوود پادشاه رسانده و از آنجا آن را به ابراهیم میرسانند. انجیل متی از پسر داوود به نام سلیمان آغاز کرده و از پادشاهان اسرائیل گذشته تا به آخرین پادشاه به نام جکونیاه میرسد (پس از جکونیاه بنی اسرائیل به تبعید در بابل میرود). تبارنامهٔ لوقا طولانی تر از متی بوده و تا آدم ابوالبشر ادامه یافته، افزون بر این نامهای بیشتری هم میان داوود و عیسی میآورد. در لوقا ۳:۲۱ نسب نامهٔ عیسی چنین آمدهاست:
نویسندگان مسیحی در طول تاریخ نظریههای مختلفی جهت آشتی دو تبارنامه پیشنهاد کردهاند:
مورخین آکادمیک معاصر عموماً بر این نظر توافق دارند که این شجره نامهها را نمیتوان با هم آشتی داد و آنها را «ساختهای الهیاتی» (theological constructs) در نظر میگیرند. به صورت مشخصتر، بعضی گفتهاند که متی میخواسته تولد عیسی را به عنوان تولد یک پادشاه مسیح-گونه بیان کند و بخاطر همین اجداد او را از طریق خط سلطنتی دنبال کرده و سلیمان را در آنها قرار داده، ولی لوقا اجداد عیسی را از طریق خط کاهنی دنبال کرده و لیوای را در آنها قرار میدهد.
یوسف شوهر مریم در داستان بچگی عیسی ظاهر میشود. ولی در ادامه زندگینامه عیسی نامی از او برده نمیشود.
کتابهای عهد جدید مانند متی، مرقس، و غلاطیان صحبت از اعضای خانواده عیسی کرده که شامل آنچه ممکن است خواهران و برادران عیسی بوده میباشد.
تعمید یکی از هفت آیین مقدس (هفتراز) است که کلیساها و مسیحیان آن را برگزار میکنند. این عمل از قواعد مقدس دینی بود که قبل از حضرت مسیح رواج داشت و توسط حضرت عیسی جزء فرایض قرار داده شد. تعمید عبارت است از یک نوع شستوشوی خاص که بر حسب نوشته قاموس کتاب مقدس، از وظایف کلیساست که باید در مورد پیروان خود انجام دهد; ولی، چگونگی این عمل از نظر کاتولیکها و پروتستانها متفاوت است، پروتستانها، آن را وسیله توفیق و سبب وقف در راه خدمت به خدا می دانند، اما کاتولیکها معتقدند که این شستشو، گناه موروثی را از انسان پاک میکند و شیطان را از وی دور میسازد و اگر طفلی بدون تعمید از دنیا برود روح شیطان در وجود او باقی میماند. تعمید برای اموات نیز مسئلهای است که به اعتقاد برخی مسیحیان انجام میشود و آگاهی فردی زنده به جای مردهای تعمید داده نشده، تعمید داده میشود.
طبق متن انجیل متی، زرتشتیان تولد عیسی را تشخیص داده و از پی آن به اورشلیم رفتند. در انجیل متی چنین آمدهاست: «و چون عیسی در ایّام هیرودیسِ پادشاه در بیتْ لَحِم یهودیه تولّد یافت، ناگاه زرتشتی چند از مشرق به اُورْشلیم آمده، گفتند: کجاست آن مولود که پادشاه یهود است زیرا که ستاره او را در مشرق دیدهایم و برای پرستش او آمدهایم؟» سپس به راهنمائی هیرودیس به بیت لحم راهی میشوند و «روانه شدند که ناگاه آن ستارهای که درمشرق دیده بودند، پیش روی ایشان میرفت تا فوق آنجایی که طفل بود رسیده، بایستاد. و چون ستاره را دیدند، بینهایت شاد و خوشحال گشتند و به خانه درآمده، طفل را با مادرش مریم یافتند و به روی در افتاده، او را پرستش کردند و ذخایر خود را گشوده، هدایای طلا و کُنْدُر و مُّر به وی گذرانیدند.»
در الاهیات مسیحی[ویرایش]
طبق تعالیم مسیحی، مسیح شخصیت دوم تثلیث اقدس و بعد حلولی یا درونباشندهٔ خداست. دکتر مهرداد فاتحی در این باره مینویسد: «این حلول، حلولی است در تاریخ. خدای مسیحیان در عین حال که بینهایت از همهٔ مخلوقات خود برتر و با همهٔ آنها متفاوت است، ولی با آنها بیگانه نیست. بلکه چون ذات او محبت است، عار ندارد به مخلوق خود نزدیک شود وحتی با او یگانه گردد. انجیل بیپروا و کاملاً بر خلاف انتظار انسان اعلام میدارد که خدا در یک شخصیت تاریخی یعنی عیسای ناصری حلول کرده است. خدا بشریت را به خود گرفته و در سیمای یک انسان به جهان ما قدم گذاشتهاست. مسیحیان به پیروی از انجیل، این بُعد دوم از وجود خدا را که در تاریخ حلول میکند، «پسر» میخوانند.»
او همچنین مینویسد:
نوشتار اصلی: عیسی در اسلام
به عقیده مسلمانان عیسی از پیامبران اولیالعزم و صاحب شریعت است. نام و داستان وی به کرّات در قرآن و احادیث اسلامی آمدهاست. مسلمانان برای عیسی معجزاتی قائلاند، از جمله سخنگفتن در گهواره در دفاع از مادر و نیز زندهکردن مردگان و شفای بیماران و کوران مادرزاد، و دمیدن حیات در گِلِ بیجان. با این حال قرآن عیسی را فقط بنده و فرستادهٔ خدا میشناسد و هرگونه اعتقاد به تثلیث یا تجسد خدا در عیسی در نزد مسلمانان شرک است. نظر مسلمانان پیرامون مرگ عیسی نیز با آنِ مسیحیان متفاوت است. طبق گفتهٔ قرآن این عیسی نبود که مصلوب شد، بلکه امر بر آنان مشتبه شد. به روایتی خدا صورت عیسی را بر یکی از دشمنان وی افکند و وی به جای عیسی مصلوب شد و در نهایت عیسی به آسمان عروج کرد و از نظر ها غایب شد. به اعتقاد مسلمانان شیعه عیسی در آخرالزمان همراه مهدی ظهور خواهد کرد. پشت مهدی نماز خواهد خواند و دجال یا ضد مسیح بر دست عیسی کشته خواهد شد.
عیسی ناصری از دیدگاه تاریخی[ویرایش]
دانشوران از روشهای تاریخپژوهی برای بازسازی زندگانی عیسی بهره بردهاند. در طی دو قرن تصویر عیسی که توسط تاریخنگاران به دست آمده بسیار متفاوت با تصویر مرسومی است که از عیسی در انجیلها بدست میآید. محققان عیسی تاریخی موضوع تحقیق خود را از عیسی مسیح مسیحیان متمایز میسازند. محققین دیگری نیز می گویند که عیسی تنها در صورتی میتواند تغییراتی که شاهد آن هستیم را باعث شده باشد که عیسی ذکر شده در انجیلها صحیح باشد. منبع اولیه در مورد زندگی عیسی مسیح و تعالیم او انجیلها بخصوص انجیل مرقس، متی و لوقا است. به همراه انجیلها، هیچ گواه تاریخی از عیسی، چه در زمان حیاتش و چه تا سی سال پس از مرگش موجود نیست. اکثریت انجیل پژوهشان وجود تاریخی عیسی را قبول دارند. هرچند دیدگاه آنانی که وجود تاریخی عیسی را قبول ندارند نیز طرفدارانی دارد اما این تئوری بحث برانگیز بوده و نتوانسته بسیاری از دانشوران را متقاعد نماید.
در منابع رومی[ویرایش]
همچنین فِلهگون، تالوس و سویتونیوس نیز اشاراتی به عیسی داشتهاند.
در منابع یهودی[ویرایش]
در تَلْمود بابِلی چنین میخوانیم:
 «او قرار است سنگسار شود، زیرا مرتکب جادوگری شده، اسرائیل را گمراه کردهاست. اگر کسی چیزی دارد که در دفاع از او بگوید، بیاید و شهادت خود را ارائه دهد.» اما چون چیزی به نفع او یافت نشد، او را در شب عید فِصَح به دار آویختند.»
گفته یوسفوس مورخ یهودی قرن یک:
محققین پیرامون این مطالب اتفاق نظر ندارند. چرا که یوسفوس مورخی یهودی بوده و نه مسیحی و نکاتی دربارهٔ عیسی گفته که از یکی یهودی دیندار بعید است. به نظر میرسد بخشهایی از این نوشته که به قیام مسیح اشاره میکنند، بعدها توسط مسیحیان به پاراگراف فوق اضافه شدهاند. با این حال اگر این عبارات را از متن حذف کنیم، از نوشتهٔ یوسِفوس کاملاً آشکار است که او عیسی را یک مرد دانا میدانسته که معجزه میکرده و تعالیم عمیقی میدادهاست.
Jesus (//; Greek: Ἰησοῦς Iesous; 7–2 BC to 30–33 AD), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth, is the central figure of Christianity, whom the teachings of most Christian denominations hold to be the Son of God. Christianity regards Jesus as the awaited Messiah of the Old Testament and refers to him as Jesus Christ, a name that is also used in non-Christian contexts.
Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed historically,[e] although the quest for the historical Jesus has produced little agreement on the historical reliability of the Gospels and how closely the biblical Jesus reflects the historical Jesus. Most scholars agree that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi from Galilee who preached his message orally, was baptized by John the Baptist, and was crucified in Jerusalem on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate. Scholars have constructed various portraits of the historical Jesus, which often depict him as having one or more of the following roles: the leader of an apocalyptic movement, Messiah, a charismatic healer, a sage and philosopher, or an egalitarian social reformer. Scholars have correlated the New Testament accounts with non-Christian historical records to arrive at an estimated chronology of Jesus' life. The most widely used calendar era in the world (abbreviated as "AD", alternatively referred to as "CE"), counts from a medieval estimate of the birth year of Jesus.
Christians believe that Jesus has a "unique significance" in the world. Christian doctrines include the beliefs that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born of a virgin, performed miracles, founded the Church, died by crucifixion as a sacrifice to achieve atonement, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, whence he will return. The great majority of Christians worship Jesus as the incarnation of God the Son, the second of three persons of a Divine Trinity. A few Christian groups reject Trinitarianism, wholly or partly, as non-scriptural.
In Islam, Jesus (commonly transliterated as Isa) is considered one of God's important prophets and the Messiah, who was sent to guide the Children of Israel. To Muslims, Jesus is a bringer of scripture and was born of a virgin, but neither divine nor the victim of crucifixion. Judaism rejects the belief that Jesus was the awaited Messiah, arguing that he did not fulfill the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh.
Etymology of names
A typical Jew in Jesus' time had only one name, sometimes supplemented with the father's name or the individual's hometown. Thus, in the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as "Jesus of Nazareth"[f] (Matthew 26:71), "Joseph's son" (Luke 4:22), and "Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth" (John 1:45). However, in Mark 6:3, rather than being called the son of Joseph, he is referred to as "the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon".
The name Jesus is derived from the Latin Iesus, a transliteration of the Greek Ἰησοῦς (Iesous). The Greek form is a rendition of the Aramaic ישוע (Yeshua), which is derived from the Hebrew יהושע (Yehoshua). The name Yeshua appears to have been in use in Judea at the time of the birth of Jesus. The first-century works of historian Flavius Josephus (who wrote in Koine Greek, the same language as that of the New Testament) refer to at least twenty different people with the name Jesus (i.e. Ἰησοῦς). The etymology of Jesus' name in the context of the New Testament is generally given as "Yahweh is salvation".
Since early Christianity, Christians have commonly referred to Jesus as "Jesus Christ". The word Christ is derived from the Greek Χριστός (Christos), which is a translation of the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Masiah), meaning the "anointed" and usually transliterated into English as "Messiah". Christians designate Jesus as Christ because they believe he is the awaited Messiah prophesied in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). In postbiblical usage, Christ became viewed as a name—one part of "Jesus Christ"—but originally it was a title. The term "Christian" (meaning "one who owes allegiance to the person Christ" or simply "follower of Christ") has been in use since the first century.
Most scholars agree that Jesus was a Galilean Jew, born around the beginning of the first century, who died between 30 and 36 AD in Judea. The general scholarly consensus is that Jesus was a contemporary of John the Baptist and was crucified by Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who held office from 26 to 36 AD. Most scholars hold that Jesus lived in Galilee and Judea and did not preach or study elsewhere.
The gospels offer several clues 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's ministry, itself recorded in Luke 3:1–2 to have begun in the 15th year of Tiberius' 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 between 6 and 4 BC for Jesus, but some propose estimates that lie in a wider range.[g]
The years of Jesus' ministry have been estimated using several different approaches. One of these applies the reference in Luke 3:1–2, Acts 10:37–38 and the dates of Tiberius' reign, which are well known, to give a date of around 28–29 AD for the start of Jesus' ministry. Another approach uses the statement about the temple in John 2:13–20, which asserts that the temple in Jerusalem was in its 46th year of construction at the start of Jesus' ministry, together with Josephus' statement that the temple's reconstruction was started by Herod in the 18th year of his reign, to estimate a date around 27–29 AD. A further method uses the date of the death of John the Baptist and the marriage of Herod Antipas to Herodias, based on the writings of Josephus, and correlates it with Matthew 14:4 and Mark 6:18. Given that most scholars date the marriage of Herod and Herodias as AD 28–35, this yields a date about 28–29 AD.
A number of approaches have been used to estimate the year of the crucifixion of Jesus. Most scholars agree that he died between 30 and 33 AD. The gospels state that the event occurred during the prefecture of Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea from 26 to 36 AD. The date for the conversion of Paul (estimated to be 33–36 AD) acts as an upper bound for the date of Crucifixion. The dates for Paul's conversion and ministry can be determined by analyzing Paul's epistles and the Book of Acts. Astronomers since Isaac Newton have tried to estimate the precise date of the Crucifixion by analyzing lunar motion and calculating historic dates of Passover,[h] a festival based on the lunisolar Hebrew calendar. The most widely accepted dates derived from this method are April 7, 30 AD, and April 3, 33 AD (both Julian).
Life and teachings in the New Testament
The four canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are the main sources for the biography of Jesus, but other parts of the New Testament, such as the Pauline epistles, which were probably written decades before the gospels, also include references to key episodes in his life, such as the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23–26. Acts of the Apostles (10:37–38 and 19:4) refers to the early ministry of Jesus and its anticipation by John the Baptist. Acts 1:1–11 says more about the Ascension of Jesus (also mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:16) than the canonical gospels do.
Some early Christian and Gnostic groups had separate descriptions of the life and teachings of Jesus that are not included in the New Testament. These include the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, and the Apocryphon of James, among many other apocryphal writings. Most scholars consider these much later and less reliable accounts than the canonical gospels.
Canonical gospel accounts
The canonical gospels are four accounts, each written by a different author. The first to be written was the Gospel of Mark (written 60–75 AD), followed by the Gospel of Matthew (65–85 AD), the Gospel of Luke (65–95 AD), and the Gospel of John (75–100 AD). They often differ in content and in the ordering of events.
Three of them, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are known as the Synoptic Gospels, from the Greek σύν (syn "together") and ὄψις (opsis "view"). They are similar in content, narrative arrangement, language and paragraph structure. 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 some events (such as Jesus' baptism, transfiguration, crucifixion and interactions with the apostles) are shared among the Synoptic Gospels, incidents such as the transfiguration do not appear in John, which also differs on other matters, such as the Cleansing of the Temple.
Most scholars agree that the authors of Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source when writing their gospels. Matthew and Luke also share some content not found in Mark. To explain this, many scholars believe that in addition to Mark, another source (commonly called the "Q source") was used by the two authors.
According to the majority viewpoint, the Synoptic Gospels are the primary sources of historical information about Jesus. However, not everything contained in the New Testament gospels is considered to be historically reliable. Elements whose historical authenticity is disputed include the Nativity, the Resurrection, the Ascension, some of Jesus' miracles, and the Sanhedrin trial, among others. Views on the gospels range from their being inerrant descriptions of the life of Jesus to their providing no historical information about his life.
In general, the authors of the New Testament showed little interest in an absolute chronology of Jesus or in synchronizing the episodes of his life with the secular history of the age. As stated in John 21:25, the gospels do not claim to provide an exhaustive list of the events in the life of Jesus. The accounts were primarily written as theological documents in the context of early Christianity, with timelines as a secondary consideration. One manifestation of the gospels as theological documents rather than historical chronicles is that they devote about one third of their text to just seven days, namely the last week of the life of Jesus in Jerusalem, referred to as the Passion. Although the gospels do not provide enough details to satisfy the demands of modern historians regarding exact dates, it is possible to draw from them a general picture of the life story of Jesus.
The gospels include a number of discourses by Jesus on specific occasions, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the Farewell Discourse. They also include over 30 parables spread throughout the narrative, often with themes that relate to the sermons. Miracles performed by Jesus make up a large portion of the gospels. In Mark, 31 percent of the text is devoted to Jesus' miracles. The gospel descriptions of Jesus' miracles are often accompanied by records of his teachings.
Genealogy and Nativity
Accounts of the genealogy and Nativity of Jesus appear in the New Testament only in the gospels of Luke and Matthew. Outside the New Testament, documents exist that are more or less contemporary with Jesus and the gospels, but few shed any light on biographical details of his life, and these two gospel accounts remain the main sources of information on the genealogy and Nativity.
Matthew begins his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus, before giving an account of Jesus' birth. He traces Jesus' ancestry to Abraham through David. Luke 3:22 discusses the genealogy after describing the baptism of Jesus, when the voice from Heaven addresses Jesus and identifies him as the Son of God. Luke traces Jesus' ancestry through Adam to God.
The Nativity is a prominent element in the Gospel of Luke, comprising over 10 percent of the text and being three times as long as Matthew's Nativity text. Luke's account emphasizes events before the birth of Jesus and centers on Mary, while Matthew's mostly covers those after the birth and centers on Joseph. Both accounts state that Jesus was born to Joseph and Mary, his betrothed, in Bethlehem, and both support the doctrine of the virgin birth, according to which Jesus was miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb when she was still a virgin.
In Luke 1:31–38 Mary learns from the angel Gabriel that she will conceive and bear a child called Jesus through the action of the Holy Spirit. Following his betrothal to Mary, Joseph is troubled (Matthew 1:19–20) because Mary is pregnant, but in the first of Joseph's three dreams an angel assures him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, because her child was conceived by the Holy Spirit. When Mary is due to give birth, she and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Joseph's ancestral home in Bethlehem to register in the census ordered by Caesar Augustus. While there Mary gives birth to Jesus, and as they have found no room in the inn, she places the newborn in a manger (Luke 2:1–7). An angel announces the birth to some shepherds, who go to Bethlehem to see Jesus, and subsequently spread the news abroad (Luke 2:8–20). After the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, Joseph, Mary and Jesus return to Nazareth. In Matthew 1:1–12, wise men or Magi from the East bring gifts to the young Jesus as the King of the Jews. Herod hears of Jesus' birth and, wanting him killed, orders the murder of young male children in Bethlehem. But an angel warns Joseph in his second dream, and the family flees to Egypt—later to return and settle in Nazareth.
Early life, family, and profession
Jesus' childhood home is identified in the gospels of Luke and Matthew as the town of Nazareth in Galilee. Mary's husband Joseph appears in descriptions of Jesus' childhood, but no mention is made of him thereafter. His family members—his mother, Mary, his brothers James, Joses (or Joseph), Judas and Simon and his unnamed sisters—are mentioned in the gospels and other sources. Some early Christian writers, concerned that mention of Jesus' brothers and sisters contradicted the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, argued that these represented either older children of Joseph by a previous marriage, or that the reference was actually to "cousins". Both interpretations are discounted by modern scholars.
Originally written in Koine Greek, the Gospel of Mark calls Jesus in Mark 6:3 a τέκτων (tekton), usually understood to mean a carpenter, and Matthew 13:55 says he was the son of a tekton. Although traditionally translated as "carpenter", tekton is a rather general word (from the same root that leads to "technical" and "technology") that could cover makers of objects in various materials, including builders. Beyond the New Testament accounts, the association of Jesus with woodworking is a constant in the traditions of Early Christianity. Justin Martyr wrote that Jesus made yokes and ploughs. The gospels indicate that Jesus could read, paraphrase, and debate scripture, but this does not imply that he received formal scribal training.
Baptism and temptation
The Gospel accounts of the baptism of Jesus are all preceded by information about John the Baptist and his ministry. They show John preaching penance and repentance for the remission of sins and encouraging the giving of alms to the poor (Luke 3:11) as he baptized people in the area of the River Jordan around Perea at about the time when Jesus began his ministry. The Gospel of John (1:28) initially specifies "Bethany across the Jordan", that is Bethabara in Perea, and later John 3:23 refers to further baptisms in Ænon "because water was abundant there".
In the gospels, John had been foretelling (Luke 3:16) the arrival of someone "more powerful" than he, and Paul the Apostle also refers to this (Acts 19:4). In Matthew 3:14, on meeting Jesus, the Baptist says "I need to be baptized by you", but Jesus persuades John to baptize him nonetheless. After he does so and Jesus emerges from the water, the sky opens and a voice from Heaven states, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). The Holy Spirit then descends upon Jesus as a dove. This is one of two events described in the gospels where a voice from Heaven calls Jesus "Son", the other being the Transfiguration.
After the baptism, the Synoptic Gospels describe the Temptation of Christ, in which Jesus resisted temptations from the devil while fasting for forty days and nights in the Judaean Desert. Jesus' baptism and temptation serve as preparation for his public ministry. The Gospel of John does not mention either event, but does include a testimony by the Baptist whereby he saw the Spirit descend on Jesus (John 1:32).
The gospels present John the Baptist's ministry as the precursor of that of Jesus. Starting with his baptism, Jesus begins his ministry in the countryside of Judea, near the River Jordan, when he is "about thirty years old" (Luke 3:23). He then travels, preaches and performs miracles, eventually completing his ministry with the Last Supper with his disciples in Jerusalem.
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 (Matthew 4:18–22, Mark 1:16–20). 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 (Luke 6:17). Also, in Luke 10:1–16 Jesus sends seventy or seventy-two 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.
Scholars divide the ministry of Jesus into several stages. The Galilean ministry begins when Jesus returns to Galilee from the Judaean Desert after rebuffing the temptation of Satan. Jesus preaches around Galilee, and in Matthew 4:18–20, his first disciples, who will eventually form the core of the early Church, encounter him and begin to travel with him. This period includes the Sermon on the Mount, one of Jesus' major discourses, as well as the calming of the storm, the feeding of the 5,000, walking on water and a number of other miracles and parables. It ends with the Confession of Peter and the Transfiguration.
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 (John 10:40–42). 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 Temple and Judas bargains to betray him. This period culminates in the Last Supper and the Farewell Discourse.
Teachings, preachings, and miracles
Commentaries often discuss the teachings of Jesus in terms of his "words and works". The words include a number of sermons, as well as parables that appear throughout the narrative of the Synoptic Gospels (the Gospel of John includes no narrative parables). The works include the miracles and other acts performed during Jesus' ministry. Although the canonical gospels are the major source of the teachings of Jesus, the Pauline epistles provide some of the earliest written accounts.
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."
The Kingdom of God (also called the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew) is one of the key elements of Jesus' teachings in the New Testament. Jesus promises inclusion in the Kingdom for those who accept his message. He calls people to repent their sins and to devote themselves completely to God. Jesus tells his followers to adhere strictly to Jewish law, although he is perceived by some to have broken the law himself, for example regarding the Sabbath. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus replies: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind ... And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37–39). Other ethical teachings of Jesus include loving one's enemies, refraining from hatred and lust, and turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:21–44).
In the gospels, the approximately thirty 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 (Luke 15:11–32), are relatively simple, while others, such as the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26–29), are more abstruse.
In the gospel accounts, Jesus devotes a large portion of his ministry performing miracles, especially healings. The four accounts together record about 35 or 36 miracles. The miracles can be classified into two main categories: healing miracles and nature miracles. The healing miracles include cures for physical ailments, exorcisms, and resurrections of the dead. The nature miracles show Jesus' power over nature, and include turning water into wine, walking on water, and calming a storm, among others. Jesus states that his miracles are from a divine source. When Jesus' opponents accuse him of performing exorcisms by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, Jesus counters that he performs them by the "Spirit of God" (Matthew 12:28) or "finger of God" (Luke 11:20).
In John, Jesus' miracles are described as "signs", performed to prove his mission and divinity. However, in the Synoptics, when asked to give miraculous signs to prove his authority, Jesus refuses. Also, in the Synoptic Gospels, the crowds regularly respond to Jesus' miracles with awe and press on him to heal their sick. In John's Gospel, Jesus is presented as unpressured by the crowds, who often respond to his miracles with trust and faith. One characteristic shared among all miracles of Jesus in the gospel accounts is that he performed them freely and never requested or accepted any form of payment. The gospel episodes that include descriptions of the miracles of Jesus also often include teachings, and the miracles themselves involve an element of teaching. Many of the miracles teach the importance of faith. In the cleansing of ten lepers and the raising of Jairus' daughter, for instance, the beneficiaries are told that their healing was due to their faith.
Proclamation as Christ and Transfiguration
At about the middle of each of the three Synoptic Gospels, two related episodes mark a turning point in the narrative: the Confession of Peter and the Transfiguration of Jesus. They take place near Caesarea Philippi, just north of the Sea of Galilee, at the beginning of the final journey to Jerusalem that ends in the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. These events mark the beginnings of the gradual disclosure of the identity of Jesus to his disciples and his prediction of his own suffering and death.
Peter's Confession begins as a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples in Matthew 16:13, Mark 8:27 and Luke 9:18. In Matthew, Jesus asks his disciples, "who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answers, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus replies, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven." With this blessing, Jesus affirms that the titles Peter ascribes to him are divinely revealed, thus unequivocally declaring himself to be both Christ and the Son of God.
The account of the Transfiguration appears in Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2–8, and Luke 9:28–36. 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" (Matthew 17:1–9). The Transfiguration reaffirms that Jesus is the Son of God (as in his baptism), and the command "listen to him" identifies him as God's messenger and mouthpiece.
Final week: betrayal, arrest, trial, and death
The description of the last week of the life of Jesus (often called Passion Week) occupies about one third of the narrative in the canonical gospels, starting with a description of the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ending with his Crucifixion. The last week in Jerusalem is the conclusion of the journey through Perea and Judea that Jesus began in Galilee. Just before the entry into Jerusalem, the Gospel of John includes the Raising of Lazarus, which increases the tension between Jesus and the authorities.
Final entry into Jerusalem
In the four canonical gospels, Jesus' final entry into Jerusalem takes place at the beginning of the last week of his life, a few days before the Last Supper, marking the beginning of the Passion narrative. The day of entry into Jerusalem is identified by Mark and John as Sunday and by Matthew as Monday; Luke does not identify the day. After leaving Bethany Jesus rides a young donkey into Jerusalem, an event prophesied in the Book of Zechariah. People along the way lay cloaks and small branches of trees (known as palm fronds) in front of him and sing part of Psalm 118:25–26. The cheering crowds greeting Jesus as he enters Jerusalem add to the animosity between him and the establishment.
In the three Synoptic Gospels, entry into Jerusalem is followed by the Cleansing of the Temple, in which Jesus expels the money changers from the temple, accusing them of turning it into a den of thieves through their commercial activities. This is the only account of Jesus using physical force in any of the gospels. John 2:13–16 includes a similar narrative much earlier, and scholars debate whether the passage refers to the same episode. The Synoptics include a number of well-known parables and sermons, such as the Widow's mite and the Second Coming Prophecy, during the week that follows.
The Synoptics record conflicts that took place between Jesus and the Jewish elders during Passion Week in episodes such as the Authority of Jesus questioned and the Woes of the Pharisees, in which Jesus criticizes them and calls them hypocritical. Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles, approaches the Jewish elders and strikes a bargain with them, in which he undertakes to betray Jesus and hand him over to them for a reward of thirty silver coins.
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, and Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (11:23–26) 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" (Luke 22:19–20). The Christian sacrament or ordinance of the Eucharist is based on these events. Although the Gospel of John does not include a description of the bread-and-wine ritual during the Last Supper, most scholars agree that John 6:58–59 (the Bread of Life Discourse) has a eucharistic character and resonates with the institution narratives in the Synoptic Gospels and in the Pauline writings on the Last Supper.
In all four gospels, Jesus predicts that Peter will deny knowledge of him three times before the rooster crows the next morning. In Luke and John, the prediction is made during the Supper (Luke 22:34, John 22:34). In Matthew and Mark, the prediction is made after the Supper, and Jesus also predicts that all his disciples will desert him (Matthew 26:31–34, Mark 14:27–30). The Gospel of John provides the only account of Jesus washing his disciples' feet before the meal. John also includes a long sermon by Jesus, preparing his disciples (now without Judas) for his departure. Chapters 14–17 of the Gospel of John are known as the Farewell Discourse and are a significant source of Christological content.
Agony in the Garden, betrayal and arrest
After the Last Supper, Jesus, accompanied by his disciples, takes a walk to pray. Matthew and Mark identify the place as the garden of Gethsemane, while Luke identifies it as the Mount of Olives. Judas appears in the garden, accompanied by a crowd that includes the Jewish priests and elders and people with weapons. He kisses Jesus to identify him to the crowd, which then arrests Jesus. In an attempt to stop them, one of Jesus' disciples uses a sword to cut off the ear of a man in the crowd. Luke states that Jesus miraculously heals the wound, and John and Matthew report that Jesus criticizes the violent act, enjoining his disciples not to resist his arrest. In Matthew 26:52 Jesus says, "All who take the sword will perish by the sword". After Jesus' arrest, his disciples go into hiding, and Peter, when questioned, thrice denies knowing Jesus. After the third denial, he hears the rooster crow and recalls the prediction as Jesus turns to look at him. Peter then weeps bitterly.
Trials by the Sanhedrin, Herod and Pilate
After his arrest, Jesus is taken to the Sanhedrin, 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, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, 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 questions of the priests, 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".
Taking Jesus to Pilate's Court, the Jewish elders ask Roman governor Pontius Pilate to judge and condemn Jesus, accusing him of claiming to be the King of the Jews. The use of the word "king" is central to the discussion between Jesus and Pilate. In John 18:36 Jesus states, "My kingdom is not from this world", but he does not unequivocally deny being the King of the Jews. In Luke 23:7–15 Pilate realizes that Jesus is a Galilean, and thus comes under the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas. Pilate sends Jesus to Herod to be tried, but Jesus says almost nothing in response to Herod's questions. Herod and his soldiers mock Jesus, put an expensive robe on him to make him look like a king, and return him to Pilate, who then calls together the Jewish elders and announces that he has "not found this man guilty".
Observing a Passover custom of the time, Pilate allows one prisoner chosen by the crowd to be released. He gives the people a choice between Jesus and a murderer called Barabbas. Persuaded by the elders (Matthew 27:20), the mob chooses to release Barabbas and crucify Jesus. Pilate writes a sign that reads "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews" (abbreviated as INRI in depictions) to be affixed to Jesus' cross (John 19:19), then scourges Jesus and sends him to be crucified. The soldiers place a Crown of Thorns on Jesus' head and ridicule him as the King of Jews. They beat and taunt him before taking him to Calvary, also called Golgotha, for crucifixion.
Crucifixion and burial
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 concoction usually offered as a painkiller. According to Matthew and Mark, he refuses it.
The soldiers then crucify Jesus and cast lots for his clothes. Above Jesus' head on the cross is Pilate's inscription, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews"; soldiers and passers-by mock him about it. Jesus is crucified between two convicted thieves, one of whom rebukes Jesus, while the other defends him. The Roman soldiers break the two thieves' legs (a procedure designed to hasten death in a crucifixion), but they do not break those of Jesus, as he is already dead. In John 19:34, one soldier pierces Jesus' side with a lance, and water flows out. In Matthew 27:51–54, when Jesus dies, the heavy curtain at the Temple is torn and an earthquake breaks open tombs. Terrified by the events, a Roman centurion states that Jesus was the Son of God.
On the same day, Joseph of Arimathea, with Pilate's permission and with Nicodemus' help, removes Jesus' body from the cross, wraps him in a clean cloth and buries him in a new rock-hewn tomb. In Matthew 27:62–66, on the following day the chief Jewish priests ask Pilate for the tomb to be secured, and with Pilate's permission the priests place seals on the large stone covering the entrance and post a guard.
Resurrection and ascension
New Testament accounts of Jesus' resurrection state that on the first day of the week after the crucifixion (typically interpreted as a Sunday), his tomb is discovered to be empty and his followers encounter him risen from the dead. His followers arrive at the tomb early in the morning and meet either one or two beings (men or angels) dressed in bright robes. Mark 16:9 and John 20:15 indicate that Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene first, and Luke 24:1 states that she is one of the myrrhbearers.
After the discovery of the empty tomb, Jesus makes a series of appearances to the disciples. These include the Doubting Thomas episode and the appearance on the road to Emmaus, where Jesus meets two disciples. The catch of 153 fish is a miracle by the Sea of Galilee, after which Jesus encourages Peter to serve his followers.
Before he ascends into heaven, Jesus commissions his disciples to spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. Luke 24:51 states that Jesus is then "carried up into heaven". The Ascension account is elaborated in Acts 1:1–11 and mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:16. In Acts, forty days after the Resurrection, as the disciples look on, "he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight". 1 Peter 3:22 states that Jesus has "gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God".
The Acts of the Apostles describes several appearances of Jesus in visions after his Ascension. Acts 7:55 describes a vision experienced by Stephen 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" (Acts 9:5). In Acts 9:10–18, Jesus instructs Ananias of Damascus to heal Paul. It is the last conversation with Jesus reported in the Bible until the Book of Revelation, in which a man named John receives a revelation from Jesus concerning the last days.
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. Scholars have studied and debated a number of issues concerning the historical Jesus, such as his existence, the origins and historical reliability of the gospels and other sources, and the precise portrait of the historical figure.
The Christ myth theory, which questions the existence of Jesus, appeared in the 18th century. Some of its supporters contend that Jesus is a myth invented by early Christians. Supporters of the theory point to the lack of any known written references to Jesus during his lifetime and to the relative scarcity of non-Christian references to him in the 1st century, which they use to challenge the veracity of the existing accounts of him. Beginning in the 20th century, scholars such as G. A. Wells, Robert M. Price and Thomas Brodie have presented various arguments to support the Christ myth theory. However, today virtually all scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed and regard events such as his baptism and his crucifixion as historical. Robert E. Van Voorst and (separately) Michael Grant state that biblical scholars and classical historians now regard theories of the non-existence of Jesus as effectively refuted.
In response to the argument that the lack of the contemporary references implies that Jesus did not exist, Van Voorst has stated that, "as every good student of history knows", such arguments from silence are "specially perilous". Arguments from silence generally fail unless a fact is known to the author and is important enough and relevant enough to be mentioned in the context of a document. Bart D. Ehrman argues that although Jesus had a large impact on future generations, his impact on the society of his time was "practically nil". It would therefore be unsound to expect contemporary accounts of his deeds.
Ehrman says that arguments based on the lack of physical or archeological evidence of Jesus and of any writings from him are poor, as there is no such evidence of "nearly anyone who lived in the first century". Teresa Okure writes that the existence of historical figures is established by the analysis of later references to them, rather than by contemporary relics and remnants. A number of scholars caution against the use of such arguments from ignorance and consider them generally inconclusive or fallacious. Douglas Walton states that arguments from ignorance can only lead to sound conclusions in cases where we can assume that our "knowledge-base is complete".
Non-Christian sources used to establish the historical existence of Jesus include the works of first-century historians Josephus and Tacitus. Josephus scholar Louis H. Feldman has stated that "few have doubted the genuineness" of Josephus' 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.
Historicity of events
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.
Most modern scholars consider Jesus' baptism and crucifixion to be definite historical facts. 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 the painful death of their leader, or a baptism that might imply that Jesus committed sins and wanted to repent. Scholars use a number of criteria, such as the criterion of multiple attestation, the criterion of coherence, and the criterion of discontinuity to judge the historicity of events. The historicity of an event also depends on the reliability of the source. Mark, the earliest written gospel, is usually considered the most historically reliable. John, the latest written gospel, differs considerably from the Synoptic Gospels, and thus is generally considered less reliable. For example, many scholars do not consider the Raising of Lazarus to be historical, partly because it appears only in John. Amy-Jill Levine states that there is "a consensus of sorts" on the basic outline of Jesus' life, in that most scholars agree that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, debated with Jewish authorities on the subject of God, performed some healings, taught in parables, gathered followers, and was crucified on Pilate's orders.
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. Ben Witherington states that "there are now as many portraits of the historical Jesus as there are scholarly painters". Bart Ehrman and separately Andreas Köstenberger contend that 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.
The mainstream profiles in the third quest may be grouped according to whether they portray Jesus primarily as an apocalyptic prophet, a charismatic healer, a cynic philosopher, the true Messiah, or an egalitarian prophet of social change. Each of these types has a number of variants, and some scholars reject the basic elements of some portraits. However, the attributes described in the portraits sometimes overlap, and scholars who differ on some attributes sometimes agree on others.
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 first century AD include Jewish Palestinian Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek, with Aramaic being predominant. Most scholars agree that in the early first century, Aramaic was the mother tongue of virtually all women in Galilee and Judea. Most scholars support the theory that Jesus spoke Aramaic and may also have spoken Hebrew and Greek. Dunn states that there is "substantial consensus" that Jesus gave most of his teachings in Aramaic.
Modern scholars agree that Jesus was a Jew of first-century Palestine. The term Jew (Ioudaios in New Testament Greek),[i] in the contemporary context may refer to religion (Second Temple Judaism), ethnicity (of Judea), or both. However, 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. The Book of Revelation describes the features of a glorified Jesus in a vision (1:13–16), but the vision refers to Jesus in heavenly form, after his death and resurrection. Jesus probably looked like a typical Jew of his time and according to some scholars was likely to have had a sinewy appearance due to his ascetic and itinerant lifestyle. James H. Charlesworth states Jesus' face was "most likely dark brown and sun-tanned", and his stature "may have been between five feet five [1.65 m] and five feet seven [1.70 m]".
Despite the lack of specific archaeological remains unambiguously associated with Jesus, 21st-century scholars have become increasingly interested in using archaeology to seek greater understanding of the socio-economic and political background to Jesus' life. Charlesworth states that few modern scholars would now ignore the archaeological discoveries that cast light on life in Galilee and Judea during the time of Jesus. Jonathan Reed states that the chief contribution of archaeology to the study of the historical Jesus is the reconstruction of his social world.
David Gowler states that an interdisciplinary scholarly study of archaeology, textual analysis and historical context can shed light on Jesus and his teachings. An example is the archaeological studies at Capernaum. Despite the frequent references to Capernaum in the New Testament, little is said about it. However, recent archaeological evidence shows that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Capernaum 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.
Perspectives on Jesus
Apart from his own disciples and followers, the Jews of Jesus' day generally rejected him as the Messiah, as do the great majority of Jews today. Christian theologians, ecumenical councils, reformers and others have written extensively about Jesus over the centuries. Christian sects and schisms have often been defined or characterized by their descriptions of Jesus. Meanwhile, Manichaeans, Gnostics, Muslims, Baha'is, and others have found prominent places for Jesus in their religions. Jesus has also had detractors, both past and present.
Jesus is the central figure of Christianity. Although Christian views of Jesus vary, it is possible to summarize the key beliefs shared among major denominations, as stated in their catechetical or confessional texts. Christian views of Jesus are derived from various sources, including the canonical gospels and New Testament letters such as the Pauline epistles and the Johannine writings. These documents outline the key beliefs held by Christians about Jesus, including his divinity, humanity, and earthly life, and that he is the Christ and the Son of God. Despite their many shared beliefs, not all Christian denominations agree on all doctrines, and both major and minor differences on teachings and beliefs have persisted throughout Christianity for centuries.
The New Testament states that the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15:12–20). Christians believe that through his death and resurrection, humans can be reconciled with God and are thereby offered salvation and the promise of eternal life. Recalling the words of John the Baptist on the day after Jesus' baptism, these doctrines sometimes refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God, who was crucified to fulfill his role as the servant of God. Jesus is thus seen as the new and last Adam, whose obedience contrasts with Adam's disobedience. Christians view Jesus as a role model, whose God-focused life believers are encouraged to imitate.
Most Christians believe that Jesus was both human and the Son of God. While there has been theological debate over his nature,[j] Trinitarian Christians generally believe that Jesus is the Logos, God's incarnation and God the Son, both fully divine and fully human. However, the doctrine of the Trinity is not universally accepted among Christians. Christians revere not only Jesus himself, but also his name. Devotions to the Holy Name of Jesus go back to the earliest days of Christianity. These devotions and feasts exist in both Eastern and Western Christianity.
Mainstream Judaism rejects the idea of Jesus being God, or a mediator to God, or part of a Trinity. It holds that Jesus is not the Messiah, arguing that he neither fulfilled the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh nor embodied the personal qualifications of the Messiah. According to Jewish tradition, there were no prophets after Malachi, who delivered his prophesies in the fifth century BC. A group known as Messianic Jews considers Jesus to be the Messiah, but whether this body is a sect of Judaism is disputed.
Judaic criticism of Jesus is long-standing. The New Testament states that Jesus was criticized by the Jewish authorities of his time. The Pharisees and scribes criticized Jesus and his disciples for not observing the Mosaic Law, for not washing their hands before eating (Mark 7:1–23, Matthew 15:1–20), and for gathering grain on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23–3:6). The Talmud, written and compiled from the third to the fifth century AD, includes stories that some consider to be accounts of Jesus. In one such story, Yeshu ha-nozri ("Jesus the Christian"), a lewd apostate, is executed by the Jewish high court for spreading idolatry and practicing magic. There is a wide spectrum of opinion among scholars concerning these stories. The majority of contemporary historians consider that this material provides no information on the historical Jesus. The Mishneh Torah, a late 12th-century work of Jewish law written by Moses Maimonides, states that Jesus is a "stumbling block" who makes "the majority of the world to err and serve a god other than the Lord".
In Islam, Jesus (Isa) is considered to be a messenger of God (Allah) and the Messiah (al-Masih) who was sent to guide the Children of Israel (Bani Isra'il) with a new scripture, the Gospel (Injil). Muslims regard the gospels of the New Testament as inauthentic, and believe that Jesus' original message was lost or altered and that Muhammad came later to restore it. Belief in Jesus (and all other messengers of God) is a requirement for being a Muslim. The Quran mentions Jesus by name 25 times—more often than Muhammad—and emphasizes that Jesus was a mortal human who, like all other prophets, had been divinely chosen to spread God's message. Jesus is however regarded as one of four immortal prophets in Islam, along with Idris (Enoch), Ilyas (Elias), and Al Kidhr. Islam considers Jesus to be neither the incarnation nor the son of God. Islamic texts emphasize a strict notion of monotheism (tawhid) and forbid the association of partners with God, which would be idolatry (shirk). The Quran says that Jesus himself never claimed divinity, and predicts that at the Last Judgment, Jesus will deny having ever made such a claim (Quran 5:116). Like all prophets in Islam, Jesus is considered a Muslim.
The Quran does not mention Joseph but does describe the Annunciation to Mary (Maryam) by an angel that she is to give birth to Jesus while remaining a virgin. It calls the virgin birth a miracle that occurred by the will of God. The Quran (21:91 and 66:12) states that God breathed His Spirit into Mary while she was chaste. In Islam, Jesus is called the "Spirit of God" because he was born through the action of the Spirit, but that belief does not include the doctrine of his pre-existence, as it does in Christianity.
Jesus is sometimes called the "Seal of the Israelite Prophets", because Muslims believe that Jesus was the last prophet sent by God to guide the Israelites. To aid in his ministry to the Jewish people, Jesus was given the ability to perform miracles, by permission of God rather than by his own power. Jesus is seen in Islam as a precursor to Muhammad and is believed by Muslims to have foretold Muhammad's coming. Muslims deny that Jesus was crucified, that he rose from the dead, and that he atoned for the sins of mankind. According to the Quran, Jesus was not crucified but was physically raised into the heavens by God. It only appeared to those who tried to crucify him that he was. His Ascension and elevation to God was part of his vindication as a prophet, and inline with other prophecies found in the Quran. Thus to Muslims it is the Ascension rather than the Crucifixion that constitutes a major event in the life of Jesus. Ahmadiyya Muslims (less than 1% of the global Muslim population) believe that Jesus was a mortal man who survived his crucifixion and died a natural death at the age of 120 in Kashmir. Most Muslims believe that Jesus will return to earth at the end of time and defeat the Antichrist (ad-Dajjal).
Bahá'í teachings consider Jesus to be a manifestation of God, a Bahá'í concept for prophets—intermediaries between God and humanity, serving as messengers and reflecting God's qualities and attributes. The Bahá'í concept emphasizes the simultaneous qualities of humanity and divinity; thus, it is similar to the Christian concept of incarnation. Bahá'í thought accepts Jesus as the Son of God. In Bahá'í thought, Jesus was a perfect incarnation of God's attributes, but Bahá'í teachings reject the idea that divinity was contained with a single human body, stating that, on the contrary, God transcends physical reality.
Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, wrote that since each manifestation of God has the same divine attributes, they can be seen as the spiritual "return" of all previous manifestations of God, and the appearance of each new manifestation of God inaugurates a religion that supersedes the former ones, a concept known as progressive revelation. Bahá'ís believe that God's plan unfolds gradually through this process as mankind matures, and that some of the manifestations arrive in specific fulfillment of the missions of previous ones. Thus, Bahá'ís believe that Bahá'u'lláh is the promised return of Christ. Bahá'í teachings confirm many, but not all, aspects of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels. Bahá'ís believe in the virgin birth and in the Crucifixion, but see the Resurrection and the miracles of Jesus as symbolic.
In Gnosticism (now a largely extinct religion), 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 Christ at his baptism. The spirit left Jesus' body during the crucifixion but later raised the body from the dead. Some Gnostics, however, were docetics, believing that Jesus did not have a physical body, but only appeared to have. Manichaeism, a Gnostic sect, accepted Jesus as a prophet, along with Gautama Buddha and Zoroaster.
Some consider Jesus to be an avatar or a sadhu and point out similarities between Krishna and Jesus' teachings. Paramahansa Yogananda, a guru, taught that Jesus was the reincarnation of Elisha and a student of John the Baptist, the reincarnation of Elijah. Some Buddhists, including Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, regard Jesus as a bodhisattva who dedicated his life to the welfare of people. The New Age movement entertains a wide variety of views on Jesus. Theosophists, from whom many New Age teachings originated, refer to Jesus as the Master Jesus and believe that Christ, after various incarnations, occupied the body of Jesus. Scientologists recognize Jesus (along with other religious figures such as Zoroaster, Muhammad, and Buddha) as part of their "religious heritage". Atheists reject Jesus' divinity, but many hold a positive estimation of him; Richard Dawkins, for instance, refers to Jesus as "a great moral teacher".
Jesus had detractors, both past and present, as well. Early critics of Jesus and Christianity included Celsus in the second century and Porphyry in the third. In the 19th century, Nietzsche was highly critical of Jesus, whose teachings he considered to be "anti-nature" in their treatment of topics such as sexuality. More contemporary notable critics of Jesus include Sita Ram Goel, Christopher Hitchens, Bertrand Russell, and Dayananda Saraswati. In the 20th century, Russell wrote in Why I Am Not a Christian that Jesus was "not so wise as some other people have been, and He was certainly not superlatively wise". Russell called Jesus’ vindictive nature a defect in his moral character:
Some of the earliest depictions of Jesus at the Dura-Europos church are firmly dated to before 256. Thereafter, despite the lack of biblical references or historical records, a wide range of depictions of Jesus appeared during the last two millennia, often influenced by cultural settings, political circumstances and theological contexts. As in other Early Christian art, the earliest depictions date to the late second or early third century, and surviving images are found especially in the Catacombs of Rome.
The depiction of Christ in pictorial form was controversial in the early church. The Byzantine Iconoclasm acted as a barrier to developments in the East, but by the ninth century, art was permitted again. The Transfiguration was a major theme in Eastern Christian art, and every Eastern Orthodox monk who had trained in icon painting had to prove his craft by painting an icon depicting it. 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.
The Protestant Reformation brought a revival of aniconism in Christianity, but total prohibition was atypical, and Protestant objections to images have tended to reduce since the 16th century. Although large images are generally avoided, few Protestants now object to book illustrations depicting Jesus. The use of depictions of Jesus is advocated by the leaders of denominations such as Anglicans and Catholics and is a key element of the Eastern Orthodox tradition.
Relics associated with Jesus
The total destruction that ensued the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD made the survival of items from first century Judea very rare and almost no direct records survive about the history of Judaism from the last part of the first century through the second century.[k] Margaret M. Mitchell writes that although Eusebius reports (Ecclesiastical History III 5.3) that the early Christians left Jerusalem for Pella just before Jerusalem was subjected to the final lock down, we must accept that no first hand Christian items from the early Jerusalem Church have reached us. However, throughout the history of Christianity a number of relics attributed to Jesus have been claimed, although doubt has been cast on them. The 16th-century Catholic theologian Erasmus wrote sarcastically about the proliferation of relics and the number of buildings that could have been constructed from the wood claimed to be from the cross used in the Crucifixion. Similarly, while experts debate whether Jesus was crucified with three nails or with four, at least thirty holy nails continue to be venerated as relics across Europe. Some relics, such as purported remnants of the Crown of Thorns, receive only a modest number of pilgrims, while the Shroud of Turin (which is associated with an approved Catholic devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus), have received millions, including Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. There is no scholarly consensus in favor for the authenticity of any relic attributed to Jesus.[l]