A teacher and prophet whose life and teachings form the basis of Christianity. Christians believe Jesus to be Son of God and the Christ.
Jesus of Nazareth
Born: c. 5 B.C.
Birthplace: Bethlehem, Judea
Died: c. 30 A.D. (crucifixion)
Best Known As: In the Christian religion, the Son of God
Jesus of Nazareth is the central figure of the Christian religion, a savior believed to be both God incarnate and a human being (the term "Christ" meaning anointed or chosen one). Most of the details of his life are unclear, and much of what is known about his life comes from the four Gospels of the Bible; some believe him to be an entirely fictional figure. The date of Jesus's birth is celebrated as Christmas and was used as the base year for the modern Christian calendar, though researchers now believe that earlier estimates were inexact and that Jesus was actually born between 4 B.C. and 7 B.C. The Gospels tell the story of Jesus's birth in a stable in Bethlehem, and then of his life as an adult, a teacher with miraculous powers who foretold his own death to his closest followers, called apostles. Jesus, betrayed by the apostle Judas, was crucified by the Romans, and his resurrection three days after his death was taken as proof of his divinity. The date of the crucifixion is now marked as Good Friday, and the resurrection celebrated as Easter.
Jesus or Jesus Christ, 1st-century Jewish teacher and prophet in whom Christians have traditionally seen the Messiah [Hebrew; anointed one, whence Christ from the Greek] and whom they have characterized as Son of God and as Word or Wisdom of God incarnate. Muslims acknowledge him as a prophet, and Hindus as an avatar (see avatara). He was born just before the death of King Herod the Great (37 B.C.–4 B.C.) and was crucified after a brief public ministry during Pontius Pilate's term as prefect of Judaea (A.D. 26–36).
Primary Sources of Information on Jesus
The primary sources for Jesus' life and teaching are the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (see articles on the individual books, e.g., Matthew, Gospel according to), though these are not biographies but theologically framed accounts of the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, i.e., of the basic subject matter of Christian preaching and teaching. Other books of the New Testament add few further details. Among non-Christian writers of antiquity, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger refer to Jesus, as does Josephus (Joseph ben Matthias) in at least one passage. The 2nd-century Gospel of Thomas sheds light on the development of the tradition of Jesus' sayings.
Jesus' Life and Teaching
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke contain narratives of Jesus' birth and infancy, which disagree in many points but concur in asserting that he was the miraculously conceived son of Mary, the wife of Joseph, and that he was born at Bethlehem in Judaea. All four Gospels agree in dating his call to public ministry from the time of his baptism at the hands of John “the baptizer,” after which he took up the life of an itinerant preacher, teacher, and healer, accompanied by a small band of disciples (see apostle). The central theme of Jesus' teaching, often conveyed in the form of a parable, was the near advent of God's Reign or Kingdom, attested not merely by his words but by the “wonders” or “signs” that he performed. The chronology of this period in Jesus' life is entirely uncertain; what seems clear is that his activities evoked skepticism and hostility in high quarters, Roman as well as Jewish. After perhaps three years in Galilee, he went to Jerusalem to observe Passover. There he was received enthusiastically by the populace, but was eventually arrested and, with the cooperation of the Jewish authorities, executed under Roman law as a dangerous messianic pretender. The Gospels give relatively detailed and lengthy accounts of his last days, suggesting that the story of Jesus' Passion was a central element in early Christian oral tradition. They close with accounts of his empty tomb, discovered on the “third day,” and of his later appearances to Mary and Mary Magdalene and to the circle of his disciples as risen from the dead.
Genealogy of Jesus
Luke's genealogy of Jesus, from the Book of Kells transcribed by Celtic monks circa 800The genealogy of Jesus through his legal father Joseph is given by two passages from Gospels, Matthew 1:2-16 and Luke 3:23-38. Both of them trace his line to King David and from there on to Abraham and Adam. These lists are identical between Abraham and David, but they differ radically between David and Joseph.
Matthew starts with Solomon and proceeds through all kings of Judah up and including Jeconiah. Thus Jesus is established as legal heir to the throne of Israel. At Jeconiah the line of kings was terminated due to Israel being conquered by Babylonians. The names continue with Jeconiah's son and his grandson Zerubbabel, who is a notable figure in the Book of Ezra. The names between Zerubbabel and Joseph do not appear anywhere in the Old Testament or other texts, with a couple of exceptions.
Luke's list starts with Nathan, brother of Solomon, and contains 40 names between David and Joseph, almost none of which match Matthew or appear in any historical documents.
Several theories have been proposed to explain the discrepancy. The oldest one, ascribed to Julius Africanus, uses the concept of Levirate marriage. It suggests that Matthan, grandfather of Joseph according to Matthew, and Matthat, grandfather of Joseph according to Luke, were brothers, married to the same woman one after another. Matthan's son, Jacob, was Joseph's biological father, and Matthat's son (and Jacob's half-brother), Eli or Heli, was his legal father.
It is also theorized by some that, while Matthew gave the genealogy of Joseph, Luke gave the genealogy of his wife Mary. Thus, when Luke 3:23 says "Joseph, the son of Heli," it actually means "son-in-law." This theory makes more sense if we remember that Joseph was a de facto foster father to Jesus; therefore, it is only possible to establish blood connection between Jesus and David via his mother.
Most scholars today accept that one or both Gospels are not presenting literal history in their genealogies. Scholars are divided on which, if any, is more likely to be accurate. The names in Matthew's genealogy match the historical period in which they are meant to have lived. However, his list is far too short for the many centuries meant to be covered. Matthew's list of names contains 28 generations between David and Joseph, giving an approximate average length of generation of 35 years, extremely long for an ancient genealogy. Most egregious is the period of the Egyptian exile where only three names cover several centuries. Matthew also lacks the papponymic naming patterns expected in such lists.
Luke's genealogy is considerably longer than as Matthew's, presenting a far more plausible number of names. That Luke goes through David's much less acclaimed son Nathan and does not include the kings of Israel in Jesus' lineage is also seen as adding to Luke's credibility. However the names on Luke's list seem to lack the historical accuracy of Matthew. The names for figures who lived centuries earlier reflect those of the first century AD rather than the periods in which the people actually lived. Luke's genealogy also contains several repeated groups of closely similar names, perhaps indicating inadvertent duplication at some point.
Genealogy according to Matthew:
Genealogy according to Luke:
Who is Jesus?
Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God. And Christ became a human being and lived here on earth among us and was full of loving forgiveness and truth. (John 1:1-14)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever! Hebrews (13:8)
I am the Way--yes, and the Truth and the Life. No one can get to the Father except by means of me. (John 14:6)
Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father. Matthew (11:27)
Jesus carries out and fulfills all of God's promises, no matter how many of them there are. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. No one can kill me without my consent--I lay down my life voluntarily. For I have the right and power to lay it down when I want to and also the right and power to take it again. For the Father has given me this right. (John 10:11-18)
We despised him and rejected him--a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised and we didn't care. Yet it was our grief he bore, our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, for his own sins! But he was wounded and bruised for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace; he was lashed--and we were healed! We--every one of us--have strayed away like sheep! We, who left God's paths to follow our own. Yet God laid on him the guilt and sins of every one of us! \\ From prison and trial they led him away to his death. But who among the people of that day realized it was their sins that he was dying for--that he was suffering their punishment? He was buried like a criminal, but in a rich man's grave; but he had done no wrong, and had never spoken an evil word. But it was the Lord's good plan to bruise him and fill him with grief. However when his soul has been made an offering for sin, then he shall have a multitude of children, many heirs. He shall live again and God's program shall prosper in his hands. (Isaiah 53:2-6, 8-10)