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Jesus (8-2 BC – 29-36 AD), also known as Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Nazarene or even Jesus Christ of Nazareth, is the Son of God and God himself too in the means of prupose(John 10:30). Christ is a Greek title meaning One who is Anointed, corresponding to the Hebrew term Messiah. Therefore, the title "Jesus Christ" means Jesus the Anointed One.

The main sources of information regarding Jesus' life and teachings are the four canonical Gospels of the New Testament, generally dated after 60 AD. Most scholars in the fields of Biblical Studies and history agree that Jesus was a Jewish teacher from Galilee, was regarded as a healer, and on the orders of Roman Governor Pontius Pilate was sentenced to death by crucifixion for the alleged or implied crime of sedition against Rome.

Christian views of Jesus (known as Christology) are both diverse and complex. Most Christians are Trinitarian and affirm the Nicene Creed believing that Jesus is both the Son of God and God made incarnate, sent to provide salvation and reconciliation with God by atoning for the sins of humanity. Other Christian groups do not believe that the Nicene Creed correctly interprets Scripture, although they are not always recognized as Christians by Trinitarians. A resume of Jesus's life is that He was born of a virgin, crucified and entombed, resurrected on the third day of death and after 40 days He ascended into Heaven where he resides with God the Father until the Second Coming in the Last Days. During all of his time in Earth, Jesus fulfilled Biblical prophecy.

Chronology

The most detailed accounts of Jesus' birth are contained in the Gospel of Matthew (probably written between 60 and 80 AD) and the Gospel of Luke (probably written between 60 and 80 AD). There is considerable debate about the details of Jesus' birth even among Christian scholars, and few scholars claim to know either the year or the date of his birth or of his death.

Based on the accounts in the Gospels of the shepherds' activities, the time of year depicted for Jesus' birth could be spring or summer. However, as early as 354, Roman Christians celebrated it following the December solstice in an attempt to replace the Roman festival of Saturnalia (or more specifically, Sol Invictus). Before then, Jesus' birth was generally celebrated on January 6 as part of the feast of Theophany, also known as Epiphany, which commemorated not only Jesus' birth but also his baptism by John in the Jordan River and possibly additional events in Jesus' life. The traditional date of Jesus's birth is celebrated as "Christmas".

In the 248th year of the Diocletian Era (based on Diocletian's ascension to the Roman throne), Dionysius Exiguus attempted to pinpoint the number of years since Jesus' birth, arriving at a figure of 753 years after the founding of Rome. Dionysius then set Jesus' birth as being December 25 1 ACN (for "Ante Christum Natum", or "before the birth of Christ"), and assigned AD 1 to the following year—thereby establishing the system of numbering years from the birth of Jesus: Anno Domini (which translates as "in the year of our Lord"). This system made the then current year 532, and almost two centuries later it won acceptance and became the established calendar in Western civilization due to being championing by the Venerable Bede.

Based on a lunar eclipse that Josephus reports shortly before the death of Herod the Great (who plays a major role in Matthew's account), as well as a more accurate understanding of the succession of Roman Emperors, Jesus' birth would have been some time before the year 4 BC. Having fewer sources and being further removed in time from the authors of the New Testament, establishing a reliable birth date now is particularly difficult.

The exact date of Jesus' death is also unclear. The synoptic gospels describe the Last Supper, immediately before Jesus' arrest, as the Passover meal on Friday 15 Nisan. Some believe the Gospel of John to depict the crucifixion just before the Passover festival on Friday 14 Nisan, called the Quartodeciman. Further, the Jews followed a lunisolar calendar with phases of the moon as dates, complicating calculations of any exact date in a solar calendar. According to John P. Meier's A Marginal Jew, allowing for the time of the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate and the dates of the Passover in those years, his death can be placed most probably on April 7, 30 or April 3, 33.

Life and teachings based on the Gospels

In addition to their portrayal of Jesus as a teacher and healer, the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) make various additional claims about him:

  • that he is the Messiah Matthew 1:1, Matthew 26:64; Mark 1:1; Luke 2:11; John 1:41, John 20:31;
  • that he is the Son of God Mark 1:1; John 20:31;
  • that his birth by Mary was virginal Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:34;
  • that he was referred to as the 'King of the Jews' Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2
  • that he came specifically to Israel Matthew 15:24
  • that he came to uphold the Torah (Mosaic law) Matthew 5:17-18
  • and that after his crucifixion he rose from the dead Matthew 28:5-10; Mark 16:9; Luke 24: 12-16; John 20:10-17, and then ascended into heaven Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51.

Most Christians hold that the Gospels also teach that Jesus is divine and equal to God the Father as the second person of the Trinity John 1:1, John 8:58, John 10:30; however, other groups, citing John 14:28 and various other verses, adhere to different interpretions of the nature of Jesus.

Family and early life

Early life

Only two of the Gospels, Matthew and Luke, mention Jesus' birth. According to them, Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea to Mary, a virgin, by a miracle of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of Luke gives an account of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary to tell her that she was chosen to bear the son of God Luke 1:26-28. Catholics call this the Annunciation.

Jesus' childhood home is represented as Nazareth in Galilee. Aside from a flight to Egypt in infancy to escape Herod's Massacre of the Innocents described in Matthew Matthew 2:13-20, and a short trip to Tyre and Sidon Mark 7:31; Matthew 15:21, all other events in the Gospels are set in ancient Israel. The one incident between his infancy and his adult life, the Finding in the Temple, is only mentioned in Luke, although New Testament apocrypha fill in the details of this time, some quite extensively.

Family

Joseph, Mary's betrothed husband, is Jesus' foster father, and appears only in stories of Jesus' childhood. With Jesus commending Mary into the care of John the Apostle during his crucifixion, it is likely that Joseph had died by the time of Jesus' ministry. Both Matthew 13:55 and Mark Mark 6:13 tell of Jesus' siblings. Mark 6 reports that Jesus was "the son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judah, and Simon" and also states that Jesus had sisters. The 1st-century Jewish historian Josephus describes James as "the brother of Jesus who is called Christ", though this passage has been suggested as a very early interpolation (see Josephus on Jesus) before the Church Father Origen refers to it in the 3rd-century. Additionally, the Christian historian Eusebius (who wrote in the 4th century but quoted earlier sources that are now lost) refers to James the Just as Jesus' brother (See Desposyni). However, Epiphanius argued that they were "Joseph's children by his (unrecorded) first wife", while Jerome argued that these siblings were Jesus' cousins, which the Greek word for "brother" as used in the Gospels would encompass. This was based on the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox tradition that Mary remained a perpetual virgin, thus having no biological children before or after Jesus. The Gospel of Luke records that Mary was a relative of Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist Luke 1:36, though the exact relationship is unspecified.

Ministry

The Gospels describe the Baptism of Jesus by his kinsman John the Baptist as the beginning of his public ministry. According to Luke, he was about thirty years old at the time. The Gospel of John described three different passover feasts over the course of Jesus' ministry. This leads some to believe Jesus preached for a period of three years, but this is never mentioned explicitly in any of the four gospels, and some interpretations of the Synoptic Gospels suggest a span of only one year. Jesus' most common method of teaching was the parable (a story with metaphorical meaning). Some of his most famous teachings come from the Sermon on the Mount, which contained the Beatitudes and the Golden Rule. His most famous parables include the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son.

At the height of his ministry, Jesus attracted huge crowds numbering in the thousands, primarily in the areas of Galilee (in modern-day northern Israel) and Perea (in modern-day western Jordan). Though many of his followers were considered disciples, the focus of his ministry was toward his closest adherents, the twelve disciples (from the Latin word discipulus meaning "student"), later called the Twelve Apostles (from the Greek word apostolos meaning "to send out"), who were commissioned by Jesus to continue the work of his ministry on Earth.

According to the Gospels, Jesus also performed various miracles, including healings, exorcisms, walking on water, turning water into wine, and raising several people, such as Lazarus, from the dead. Jesus frequently put himself in opposition to the Jewish religious authorities, both in the synagogue (largely the domain of the Pharisees) and the Temple (largely the domain of the Sadducees). His teaching castigated the Pharisees primarily for their legalism Matthew 15:9 and hypocrisy Luke 18:10-14, although he also had followers among religious leaders such as Nicodemus. Jesus was also known as a social reformer.

Jesus introduced and preached the concept of agape (literally "[God kind of] love"). Jesus also preached about faith, service and humility, the forgiveness of sin, and attaining everlasting life in "The Kingdom of God." Many interpret the Gospels to suggest that Jesus was opposed to much of traditional Jewish law, advocating more the spirit than the letter of the law. Some contend, for example, that Jesus preached a "higher level" of morality than in Jewish law, since, for instance, he preached to love not only your "neighbor" but your "enemy" as well Matthew 5:43-48. But despite the many unique aspects of Jesus' teaching, recent Christian and Jewish scholarship have moderated the perception of opposition between Jesus and the Jewish teachers of his day by showing his substantial agreement with trends in the Jewish religious thinking.

Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the end of his ministry is usually associated with the Passover Feast (15 Nisan or spring), as stated in the New Testament, which indicates that the waving of palm fronds and other greetings from the crowd were intended to hail him as the Messiah John 12:13. The Hosanna shout and the waving of palm fronds, ordinarily a part of the feast of Sukkoth (15 Tishri or fall), appear to have been moved by the followers of Jesus to Passover because of their Messianic associations.

Arrest, trial and execution

("Behold the Man!"), Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Pontius Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus of Nazareth to the people of Jerusalem. According to the Gospels, Jesus came with his followers to Jerusalem during the Passover festival, and created a disturbance at the Temple by overturning the tables of the moneychangers there. He was subsequently arrested on the orders of the Sanhedrin and the high priest, Caiaphas, for blasphemy, because he claimed to be the Messiah Mark 14:62 and because, the Jews believed, he had made himself to be God John 10:33. He was identified to the guards by one of his apostles, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus by a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane, after which another apostle (identified as Simon Peter in John 18:10, used a sword to attack one of the captors, cutting off his ear, which, according to Luke, Jesus immediately healed Luke 22:51. After his arrest, Jesus' apostles went into hiding.

Jesus was condemned for blasphemy by the Sanhedrin and turned over to the Romans, charged with sedition for claiming to be King of the Jews. The usual penalty for sedition was a humiliating death by crucifixion, but, according to the Gospels, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate did not find Jesus to be guilty of any crime. So Pilate first had Jesus flogged, and then, remembering that it was a custom at Passover for the Roman governor to free a prisoner, Pilate offered the crowd a choice between Jesus of Nazareth and an insurrectionist named Jesus Barabbas (literally "Jesus son-of-the-father"). The crowd chose to have Barabbas freed and Jesus crucified. Pilate washed his hands to display that he himself was innocent of the injustice of the decision. All four Gospels say Pilate then ordered Jesus to be crucified with a charge placed atop the cross (called the titulus crucis) which read "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews". (The titulus crucis is often written as INRI, the Latin acronym.) According to Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, his last words were according to Matthew 27:46 "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?", according to John 19:30, "It is finished," and according to Luke 23:46, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit."

While it was common practice to let a body hang upon the cross for days and decay, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were allowed to take his body down and place it in a tomb.

Resurrection and Ascension

According to the New Testament, Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. This day is celebrated by Christians as Resurrection Sunday during Easter.

The Gospel of Matthew states that on the third day of death, an angel appeared near the tomb of Jesus and announced his resurrection to the women who had arrived to anoint the body, according to Luke it was two angels, and according to Mark it was a youth dressed in white. The sight of the same angel had apparently left the Roman guards unconscious Matthew 28:2-4. (According to Matthew 27:62-66, the high priests and Pharisees, with Pilate's permission, had posted guards in front of the tomb to prevent the body from being stolen by Jesus' disciples.) Mark 16:9 states that the morning of his resurrection, Jesus first appeared to his disciple, Mary Magdalene. John 20:11-18 states that when Mary (the mother of Jesus) looked into the tomb, two angels asked her why she was crying; and as she turned round she initially failed to recognize Jesus—even by his voice—until he called her by her name.

The Acts of the Apostles tell of several appearances of Jesus to various people in various places over a period of forty days before he ascended into heaven. Hours after his resurrection, he appeared to two travelers on the road to Emmaus. To his assembled disciples he showed himself on the evening after his resurrection. According to John 20:24-29}}, during one of these visits, Jesus' disciple Thomas initially doubted the resurrection, but after being invited to place his finger in Jesus's peirced side, said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Thereafter, Jesus went to Galilee and showed himself to several of his disciples by the lake and on the mountain. These disciples were present when he returned to Mount Olivet, between Bethany and Jerusalem, and was lifted up to heaven and a cloud concealed him from their sight. According to Acts, Paul of Tarsus also saw Jesus during his Road to Damascus experience.

Forensic reconstructions of Jesus's life

Most scholars agree the Gospels were written after the destruction of the Jewish Temple by the Romans. According to most critical historians, Jesus probably lived in Galilee for most of his life and he probably spoke Aramaic and Hebrew. Many have sought to reconstruct Jesus's life in terms of contemporaneous political, cultural, and religious currents in Israel, including differences between Galilee and Judea; between different sects such the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes, and in terms of conflicts among Jews in the context of Roman occupation.

Examining the New Testament account of Jesus in light of historical knowledge about the time when Jesus was purported to live, as well as historical knowledge about the time during which the New Testament was written, has led several scholars to reinterpret many elements of the New Testament accounts. Of special interest has been the names and titles ascribed to Jesus. Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name rendered Joshua in English. It literally means "God saves". Before the J written glyph was invented in the 16th century, Jesus was written as Iesus in English, as seen in the 1611 KJV Bible. Christ (which is a title and not a part of his name) is an Anglicization of the Greek term for Messiah, and literally means "anointed one". Historians have debated what this title might have meant at the time Jesus lived; some historians have suggested that other titles applied to Jesus in the New Testament (e.g. Lord, Son of Man, and Son of God) had meanings in the first century quite different from those meanings ascribed today: see Names and titles of Jesus. The Age of Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution brought skepticism regarding the historical accuracy of these texts. Although some critical scholars, including archeologists, continue to use them as points of reference in the study of ancient Near Eastern history. Craig S. Hawkins, "The Book of Acts and Archeology", Apologetics Information Ministry, accessed March 14, 2006. others have come to view the texts as cultural and literary documents, generally regarding them as part of the genre of literature called hagiography, an account of a holy person regarded as representing a moral and divine ideal. Hagiography has a principal aim of the glorification of the religion itself and of the example set by the perfect holy person represented as its central focus.

Historicity of the texts

Most modern Biblical scholars hold that the works describing Jesus were initially communicated by oral tradition, and were not committed to writing until several decades after Jesus' crucifixion. The earliest extant texts which refer to Jesus are Paul's letters, which are usually dated from the mid-1st century. Paul wrote that he only saw Jesus in visions, but that they were divine revelations and hence authoritative Galatians 1:11-12. The earliest extant texts describing Jesus in any detail were the four New Testament Gospels. These texts, being part of the Biblical canon, have received much more analysis and acceptance from Christian sources than other possible sources for information on Jesus.

Many other early Christian texts have surfaced detailing events in Jesus' life and teachings, though they were not included when the Bible was canonised due to a belief that they were pseudopigraphical, not inspired, or written too long after his death, while others were supressed because they contradicted what had become the Christian orthodoxy. It took several centuries before the list of what was and wasn't part of the Bible became finally fixed, and for much of the early period the Book of Revelation was not included while works like The Shepherd of Hermas were.

The books that didn't make it into the final list have since become known as the New Testament apocrypha, and the chief amongst them, heavily supressed by the Church as heresy and only rediscovered in the 20th Century, is the Gospel of Thomas, a collection of logia - phrases and sayings attributed to Jesus without a narrative framework. Other important apocryphal works that had a heavy influence in forming traditional Christian beliefs include the Apocalypse of Peter, Protevangelium of James, Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and Acts of Peter. A number of Christian traditions (such as Veronica's veil and the Assumption of Mary) are found not in the canonical gospels but in these and other apocryphal works.

Possible earlier texts

Some texts with even earlier historical or mythological information on Jesus are speculated to have existed prior to the Gospels, Henry Bettenson, Chris Maunder, Documents of the Christian Church (3rd edition), Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 0192880713 though none have been found. Based on the unusual similarities and differences (see synoptic problem) between the Synoptic GospelsMatthew, Mark and Luke, the first three canonical gospels — many Biblical scholars have suggested that oral tradition and logia (such as the Gospel of Thomas and the theoretical Q document) probably played a strong role in initially passing down stories of Jesus, and may have inspired some of the Synoptic Gospels.

Specifically, many scholars believe that the Q document and the Gospel of Mark were the two sources used for the gospels of Matthew and Luke; however, other theories, such as the older Augustinian hypothesis, continue to hold sway with some Biblical scholars. Another theoretical document is the Signs Gospel, believed to have been a source for the Gospel of John. Daniel Gaztambide, "So Sayeth The Lord... According to Who?", AramaicNT.org, accessed March 14, 2006. There is little consensus concerning how and when any of these documents were circulated, if they existed at all.

Questions of reliability

As a result of the several-decade time gap between the writing of the Gospels and the events they describe, the accuracy of all early texts claiming the existence of Jesus or details of Jesus' life have been disputed by various minority parties. However, most scholars accept many details of the Gospel narratives. Gary Habermas, "Resurrection Research from 1975 to the Present: What are Critical Scholars Saying?", accessed March 14, 2006. The authors of the Gospels are traditionally thought to have been witnesses to the events included in them. After the original oral stories were written down, they were transcribed, and later translated into other languages. However, several Biblical historians have responded to claims of the unreliability of the gospel accounts by pointing out that historical documentation is often biased and second-hand, and frequently dates from several decades after the events described. Some say that the Gospel accounts are neither objective nor accurate, since they were written or compiled by his followers and seem to exclusively portray a positive, idealized view of Jesus, whilst others point to the lack of contemporary non-Christian sources. Those who have a naturalistic view of history generally do not believe in divine intervention or miracles, such as the resurrection of Jesus mentioned by the Gospels (what is some kind of joke, considering the lots of miracles that happens in actual days due to the veracity of Jesus's existance). One method used to estimate the factual accuracy of stories in the gospels is known as the "criterion of embarrassment", which holds that stories about events with embarrassing aspects (such as the denial of Jesus by Peter, or the fleeing of Jesus's followers after his arrest) would likely not have been included if those accounts were fictional.

Modern textual criticism of the surviving early manuscripts of the Bible has highlighted several passages that are suspected to be later interpolations, such as the Comma Johanneum (first noticed by Isaac Newton) and Pericope Adulterae, as well as more important passages that were not originally present, like Mark 16.

Fragmentary survivals such as the Secret Gospel of Mark, Gospel of the Hebrews, the Unknown Berlin Gospel, the Naassene Fragment, the Egerton Gospel, the Oxyrhynchus Gospels, and the Fayyum Fragment, have suggested that some aspects of the original canonical gospels have been re-written over time, supressed, and otherwise altered, sometimes in theologically significant ways.

External influences on gospel development

Many scholars, such as Michael Grant, do not see significant similarity between the pagan myths and Christianity. Grant states in Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels that "Judaism was a milieu to which doctrines of the deaths and rebirths, of mythical gods seemed so entirely foreign that the emergence of such a fabrication from its midst is very hard to credit." Michael Grant, Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels, Scribner, 1995 p. 199. ISBN 0684818671

However, some scholars believe that the gospel accounts of Jesus have little or no historical basis. At least in part, this is because they see many similarities between stories about Jesus and older myths of pagan godmen such as Mithras, Apollo, Attis, Horus and Osiris-Dionysus, leading to conjectures that the pagan myths were adopted by some authors of early accounts of Jesus to form a syncretism with Christianity. While these connections are disputed by many, it is nevertheless true that many elements of Jesus' story as told in the Gospels have parallels in pagan mythology, where miracles such as virgin birth were well-known. Some Christian authors, such as C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, account for this with the belief that such myths were created by ancient pagans with vague and imprecise foreknowledge of the Gospels. It's also considerable in this matter that some of the Bible's histories, like Noah's Arch, was a knowladge not exclusive of the Bible/Torah, but also well known in other cultures. This lead to the interpretation that really could be perfect and normal a similarity between Jesus and mytologies not necessarily leading to the interpretation that Jesus's history was a myth too.

Religious perspectives

Main article: Religious perspectives on Jesus

Jesus has an important role in two religions, Christianity and Islam. Most other religions, however, do not consider Jesus to have been a supernatural or holy being. Some of these religions, like Buddhism, do not take any official stance on Jesus' life. Judaism rejects claims of his divinity and of his being the Jewish Mashiach which is Hebrew for Messiah.

Christian views

Modern Christian view

Main article: Christian views of Jesus


Generally speaking, most Christians believe that Jesus is a member of the Holy Trinity - that he is one of the three divine persons who are God (the other two being God the Father and the Holy Spirit). They believe Jesus is the Son of God, and the Messiah or Christ. Following John:1:1 Christians have also identified Jesus as "the Word" (or Logos).

Ever since Augustine of Hippo first proposed the idea, it has been believed by all non-Pelagian Christians that since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Book of Genesis (known to Christians and Jews as The Fall), people have been born flawed with the tendency to sin (original sin), and this "separated" humankind from God, making them liable to condemnation to eternal punishment in Hell. Romans 3:23 says "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

But most Christians believe that Jesus' death by crucifixion was the perfect sacrifice to reconcile humanity with God and save them from their sins. Hebrews 9:14,26 states, "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" Most Christians also believe that three days after Jesus's death, he rose from the grave and forty days later, he ascended into Heaven, and that his resurrection grants eternal life in heaven to the faithful. Jesus says in John 14:2-3, "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."

Most Christians — even those who do not hold to the literal truth of everything in the canonical gospel accounts — accept the New Testament presentation of the Resurrection as a historical account of an actual event central to faith. Belief in the resurrection is one of the most distinctive elements of Christian faith; and defending the historicity of the resurrection is usually a central issue of Christian apologetics. Conservative Christian scholars such as Gary Habermas, F.F. Bruce, Norman Geisler and William Lane Craig believe that Jesus was raised bodily from the dead and that he was raised in spiritual body. www.apologetics.com, www.worldinvisible.com, billcraig. Some liberal Christians such as John Shelby Spong and Tom Harpur, do not accept that Jesus was raised bodily from the dead, or that he still lives bodily. The manner of Jesus' resurrection is a central question of Christology.

There are several differing views within Christian groups as to whether or not Jesus was divine (and on other issues). The majority of Christian laypeople, theologians, and clergy hold that the Bible states Jesus to be divine, to claim divinity, and to claim equality with God the Father. Most also believe that Jesus' resurrection is additional proof that he is God. Contrarily, Jehovah's Witnesses maintain that the Bible states that Jesus was not equal with God, never claimed to be God, that the resurrection is additional proof that he is not God, and that other passages often used as "proof texts" are ambiguous about such claims. They view the term "Son of God" as an indication of Jesus' importance to the creator and his status as God's "only-begotten (unique, one and only) Son" John 3:16, the "firstborn of all creation" Colossians 1:15, the one "of whom, and through whom, and to whom, are all things" Romans 11:36.

Most Jehovah's Witnesses believe Jesus to be Michael the Archangel, who became a human to come down to earth. "Jesus The Ruler "Whose Origin Is From Early Times", The Watchtower, June 15, 1998, p. 22. (see also Jehovah's Witnesses and Jesus). Unitarians believe that Jesus was a prophet of God, and merely human, though this view produces many problems in relation to the Bible. Other nontrinitarian groups hold similar beliefs. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints maintains that Jesus is the very same as Yahweh of the Old Testament but is distinct from God the Father. (See also Jesus in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

Other views arising from early Christianity

The Ebionites, an early Jewish Christian community, believed that Jesus was the last of the prophets and the Messiah. They believed that Jesus was the natural-born son of Mary and Joseph, and thus they rejected the Virgin Birth. The Ebionites were adoptionists, believing that Jesus was not divine, but became the son of God at his baptism. They rejected the Epistles of Paul, believing that Jesus kept the Mosaic Law perfectly and wanted his followers to do the same. However, they felt that Jesus' crucifixion was the ultimate sacrifice, and thus animal sacrifices were no longer necessary. Therefore, some Ebionites were vegetarian and considered both Jesus and John the Baptist to have been vegetarians. Bart D. Ehrman, Lost Christianities, Oxford, 2003, p. 102. Shemayah Phillips founded a small community of modern Ebionites in 1985. These Ebionites identify as Jews rather than as Christians, and do not accept Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.

In Gnosticism, Jesus is said to have brought the secret knowledge (gnosis) of the spiritual world necessary for salvation. McManners, John, ed., The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990, pp. 26-31. Their secret teachings were paths to gnosis, and not gnosis itself. While some Gnostics were docetics, most Gnostics believed that Jesus was a human who became possessed by the spirit of Christ during his baptism. Bart D. Ehrman, Lost Christianities, Oxford, 2003, p. 124-125. Many Gnostic Christians believed that Christ was an Aeon sent by a higher deity than the evil demiurge who created the material world. Some Gnostics believed that Christ had a syzygy named Sophia. The Gnostics tended to interpret the New Testament as allegory, and some Gnostics interpreted Jesus himself as an allegory. Modern Gnosticism has been a growing religious movement since fifty-two Gnostic texts were rediscovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945.

Marcionites were 2nd century Gentile followers of the Christian theologian, Marcion of Sinope. They believed that Jesus rejected the Mosaic Law, or at least the parts that were incompatible with his teachings Wace, Henry, Commentary on Marcion. Seeing a stark contrast between the vengeful God of the Old Testament and the loving God of Jesus, Marcion came to the conclusion that the Jewish God and Jesus were two separate deities. Like some Gnostics, Marcionites saw the Jewish God as the evil creator of the world, and Jesus as the savior from the material world. They also believed Jesus was not human, but instead a completely divine spiritual being whose material body, and thus his crucifixion and death, were divine illusions. Marcion was the first known early Christian to have created a canon, which consisted of ten Pauline epistles, and a version of the Gospel of Luke, possibly with the first two chapters missing, and Jewish references removed. Bart D. Ehrman, Lost Christianities, Oxford, 2003, p. 103, p. 104-105, p.108

Other modern ideas about Jesus

The New Age movement entertains a wide variety of mostly heretical views on Jesus, with some representatives (such as A Course In Miracles) going so far as to trance-channel him. Many recognize him as a "great teacher" (or "Ascended Master") similar to Buddha, and teach that Christhood is something that all may attain. At the same time, many New Age teachings, such as reincarnation, appear to reflect a certain discomfort with traditional Christianity. Numerous New Age subgroups claim Jesus as a supporter, often incorporating contrasts with or protests against the Christian mainstream. Thus, for example, Theosophy and its offshoots have Jesus studying esotericism in the Himalayas or Egypt during his "lost years".

There are also those draw a distinction between Christianity and the moral principles attributed to Jesus by the gospels. Garry Wills makes this argument from a Christian perspective. Wills, Garry, What Jesus Meant (2006) ISBN 0670034967 Many secular writers agree that Jesus was an itinerant preacher who taught peace and love, rights for women and respect for children, and who spoke out against the hypocrisy of religious leaders and the rich. Many humanists, atheists and agnostics empathize with these moral principles. Thomas Jefferson, a supposed deist, edited a Jefferson Bible to include only Jesus's ethical teachings.

Cultural Impact of Jesus

According to most Christian interpretations of the Bible, the theme of Jesus' preachings was that of repentance, forgiveness of sin, grace, and the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus extensively trained disciples who, after his death, interpreted and spread his teachings. Within a few decades his followers comprised a religion clearly distinct from Judaism. Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire under a version known as Nicene Christianity and became the state religion under Constantine the Great. Over the centuries, it spread to most of Europe, and around the world.

Jesus has been drawn, painted, sculpted, portrayed on stage and in films in many different ways, both serious and humorous. Many of the sayings attributed to Jesus have become part of the culture of Western civilization. There are many items purported to be relics of Jesus, of which the most famous are the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo.

Other legacies include a view of God as more fatherly, merciful, and more forgiving, and the growth of a belief in an afterlife and in the resurrection of the dead. Jesus and his message have been interpreted, explained and understood by many people. Jesus has been explained notably by Paul of Tarsus, Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, and more recently by C. S. Lewis.

For some, the legacy of Jesus has been a long history of Christian anti-Semitism, although in the wake of the Holocaust many Christian groups have gone to considerable lengths to reconcile with Jews and to promote inter-faith dialogue and mutual respect. For others, Christianity has often been linked to European colonialism (see British Empire, Portuguese Empire, Spanish Empire, French colonial empire, Dutch colonial empire); conversely, Christians have often found themselves as oppressed minorities outside of Europe and the Americas.

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