Historical Jesus

Historical Jesus

Overview
The term historical Jesus refers to scholarly reconstructions of the 1st-century figure Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 of Nazareth
Nazareth
Nazareth is the largest city in the North District of Israel. Known as "the Arab capital of Israel," the population is made up predominantly of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel...

. These reconstructions are based upon historical method
Historical method
Historical method comprises the techniques and guidelines by which historians use primary sources and other evidence to research and then to write histories in the form of accounts of the past. The question of the nature, and even the possibility, of a sound historical method is raised in the...

s including critical
Biblical criticism
Biblical criticism is the scholarly "study and investigation of Biblical writings that seeks to make discerning judgments about these writings." It asks when and where a particular text originated; how, why, by whom, for whom, and in what circumstances it was produced; what influences were at work...

 analysis of gospel texts as the primary source
Primary source
Primary source is a term used in a number of disciplines to describe source material that is closest to the person, information, period, or idea being studied....

 for his biography, along with consideration of the historical and cultural context
Cultural and historical background of Jesus
Most scholars who study the Historical Jesus and Early Christianity believe that the Canonical Gospels and life of Jesus must be viewed as firmly placed within his historical and cultural context, rather than purely in terms of Christian orthodoxy...

 in which he lived.

The historical Jesus is believed to be a Galilean
Galilee
Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

 Jew who undertook at least one pilgrimage
Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

 to Jerusalem, then part of Roman Judaea, during a time of messianic
Messiah
A messiah is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to...

 and apocalyptic expectations in late Second Temple Judaism
Second Temple Judaism
Second Temple Judaism refers to the religion of Judaism during the Second Temple period, between the construction of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 515 BCE, and its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE This period witnessed major historical upheavals and significant religious changes that...

.
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Encyclopedia
The term historical Jesus refers to scholarly reconstructions of the 1st-century figure Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 of Nazareth
Nazareth
Nazareth is the largest city in the North District of Israel. Known as "the Arab capital of Israel," the population is made up predominantly of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel...

. These reconstructions are based upon historical method
Historical method
Historical method comprises the techniques and guidelines by which historians use primary sources and other evidence to research and then to write histories in the form of accounts of the past. The question of the nature, and even the possibility, of a sound historical method is raised in the...

s including critical
Biblical criticism
Biblical criticism is the scholarly "study and investigation of Biblical writings that seeks to make discerning judgments about these writings." It asks when and where a particular text originated; how, why, by whom, for whom, and in what circumstances it was produced; what influences were at work...

 analysis of gospel texts as the primary source
Primary source
Primary source is a term used in a number of disciplines to describe source material that is closest to the person, information, period, or idea being studied....

 for his biography, along with consideration of the historical and cultural context
Cultural and historical background of Jesus
Most scholars who study the Historical Jesus and Early Christianity believe that the Canonical Gospels and life of Jesus must be viewed as firmly placed within his historical and cultural context, rather than purely in terms of Christian orthodoxy...

 in which he lived.

The historical Jesus is believed to be a Galilean
Galilee
Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

 Jew who undertook at least one pilgrimage
Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

 to Jerusalem, then part of Roman Judaea, during a time of messianic
Messiah
A messiah is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to...

 and apocalyptic expectations in late Second Temple Judaism
Second Temple Judaism
Second Temple Judaism refers to the religion of Judaism during the Second Temple period, between the construction of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 515 BCE, and its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE This period witnessed major historical upheavals and significant religious changes that...

. He was baptized by John the Baptist
Baptism of Jesus
The baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of Jesus Christ's public ministry. This event is recorded in the Canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. In John 1:29-33 rather than a direct narrative, the Baptist bears witness to the episode...

, whose example he may have followed, and after John was executed, began his own preaching in Galilee
Ministry of Jesus
In the Christian gospels, the Ministry of Jesus begins with his Baptism in the countryside of Judea, near the River Jordan and ends in Jerusalem, following the Last Supper with his disciples. The Gospel of Luke states that Jesus was "about 30 years of age" at the start of his ministry...

 for only about two to three years prior to his death. He was an eschatological
Eschatology
Eschatology is a part of theology, philosophy, and futurology concerned with what are believed to be the final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world or the World to Come...

 prophet and an autonomous ethical teacher. He told surprising and original parables, many of them about the coming Kingdom of God
Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is a foundational concept in the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.The term "Kingdom of God" is found in all four canonical gospels and in the Pauline epistles...

. Some scholars credit the apocalyptic declarations of the Gospels to him, while others portray his Kingdom of God as a moral one
Realized eschatology
Realized eschatology is a Christian eschatological theory popularized by C. H. Dodd that holds that the eschatological passages in the New Testament do not refer to the future, but instead refer to the ministry of Jesus and his lasting legacy...

, and not apocalyptic in nature. He sent his apostles
Apostle (Christian)
The term apostle is derived from Classical Greek ἀπόστολος , meaning one who is sent away, from στέλλω + από . The literal meaning in English is therefore an "emissary", from the Latin mitto + ex...

 out to heal and to preach the Kingdom of God. Later, he traveled to Jerusalem where he caused a disturbance at the Temple
Jesus and the Money Changers
The narrative of Jesus and the money changers, commonly referred to as the cleansing of the Temple, occurs in all four canonical gospels of the New Testament....

. It was the time of Passover
Passover
Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt...

, when political and religious tensions were high in Jerusalem. The Gospels say that the temple guards (believed to be Sadducees
Sadducees
The Sadducees were a sect or group of Jews that were active in Ancient Israel during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century BC through the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. The sect was identified by Josephus with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society...

) arrested him and turned him over to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilatus , known in the English-speaking world as Pontius Pilate , was the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, from AD 26–36. He is best known as the judge at Jesus' trial and the man who authorized the crucifixion of Jesus...

 for execution. The movement he had started survived his death and was carried on by his brother James the Just
James the Just
James , first Bishop of Jerusalem, who died in 62 AD, was an important figure in Early Christianity...

 and the apostles
Apostle (Christian)
The term apostle is derived from Classical Greek ἀπόστολος , meaning one who is sent away, from στέλλω + από . The literal meaning in English is therefore an "emissary", from the Latin mitto + ex...

 who proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus
Resurrection of Jesus
The Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus states that Jesus returned to bodily life on the third day following his death by crucifixion. It is a key element of Christian faith and theology and part of the Nicene Creed: "On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures"...

. After splitting with Rabbinic Judaism, it developed into Early Christianity
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

.

The quest for the historical Jesus
Quest for the Historical Jesus
The quest for the historical Jesus is the attempt to use historical rather than religious methods to construct a verifiable biography of Jesus. As originally defined by Albert Schweitzer, the quest began in the 18th century with Hermann Samuel Reimarus, up to William Wrede in the 19th century...

 operates under the premise that the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 does not necessarily give an accurate historical picture of the life of Jesus. The biblical description of Jesus is sometimes referred to as the Christ of Faith
Religious perspectives on Jesus
The religious perspectives on Jesus vary among major world religions. Jesus' teachings and the retelling of his lifestory have significantly influenced the course of human history, and have directly or indirectly affected the lives of billions of people, even non-Christians.Christian consider Jesus...

 in this context. The Historical Jesus is thus based on the ancient evidence for his life such as fragments of the Gospels.
The purpose of research into the Historical Jesus is to examine the evidence from diverse sources and critically bring it together in order to create a composite picture of Jesus. Use of the term the Historical Jesus implies that the figure thus reconstructed will differ from that presented in the teaching of the ecumenical council
Ecumenical council
An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice....

s ("the dogmatic Christ").

Scholarly methods


The historical Jesus is believed to be a historical figure, to be understood in the context of his own lifetime in 1st-century Roman Judaea, not of Christian doctrine of later centuries. Historical research reconstructs Jesus in relation to his 1st-century contemporaries, while theological interpretations relate Jesus to those that gather in his name, thus the historian interprets the past while the theologian interprets tradition. Historians and Bible scholars analyze the Canonical Gospels, Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

, Gospel according to the Hebrews, Gnostic Gospels
Gnostic Gospels
The Gnostic Gospels are a collection of about fifty-two texts supposedly based upon the ancient wisdom teachings of several prophets and spiritual leaders including Jesus, written from the 2nd to the 4th century AD. These gospels are not part of the standard Biblical canon of any major Christian...

, Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

, Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name...

 and other early documents attempting to find the Historical Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

. A number of methods have been developed to critically analyze these sources:
  • Older sources. Many historians prefer the oldest sources about Jesus; and as a rule of thumb they tend to disregard sources written more than a century after Jesus' death.

  • Criterion of embarrassment
    Criterion of embarrassment
    The criterion of embarrassment, also known as criterion of dissimilarity, is a critical analysis of historical accounts in which accounts embarrassing to the author are presumed to be true because the author would have no reason to invent an embarrassing account about himself...

    . Statements contrary or dissimilar to the author's agenda, but still included by the author, are likely to be reliable. For example, if the crucifixion was a cause of embarrassment to early Christians, they would be unlikely to claim that Jesus had been crucified unless he actually had been.

  • Multiple attestation. When two or more independent sources present similar or consistent accounts, it is often the case that oral accounts pre-date written sources. Multiple attestation is not the same as independent attestation. If one account used another account as a source, then a story present in all of these is in fact attested in only one independent source. The mainstream viewpoint is that Mark's account was used as a source for Matthew and Luke. See the Historicity of Jesus
    Historicity of Jesus
    The historicity of Jesus concerns how much of what is written about Jesus of Nazareth is historically reliable, and whether the evidence supports the existence of such an historical figure...

     for a list of sources pertaining to this question.

  • Historical context. A source is more credible if the account makes sense in the context of what is known about the culture in which the events unfold. E.g., some sayings from the Coptic-language "Gospel of Thomas
    Gospel of Thomas
    The Gospel According to Thomas, commonly shortened to the Gospel of Thomas, is a well preserved early Christian, non-canonical sayings-gospel discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in December 1945, in one of a group of books known as the Nag Hammadi library...

    " make sense in a 2nd century Gnostic-beliefs context, but not in the context of 1st century Christians, since Gnosticism is assumed to have appeared in the 2nd century.

  • Linguistic analysis. There are certain conclusions that can be drawn from linguistic analysis of the Gospels. For example, if a dialogue makes sense only in Greek, it is possible that it is worded in that text in a way that is different from original Aramaic. E.g., the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus from John ch. 3 is believed by some to make sense in Greek, but not in Aramaic. According to Bart Ehrman, this criterion is included in the analysis of contextual credibility, because he believes that Jesus and Nicodemus were speaking in Aramaic.

  • Author's agenda. This criterion is the flip side of the criterion of dissimilarity. When the presented material serves the supposed purpose of the author or redactor, it is suspect. For example, various sections of the Gospel accounts, such as the Massacre of the Innocents
    Massacre of the Innocents
    The Massacre of the Innocents is an episode of infanticide by the King of Judea, Herod the Great. According to the Gospel of Matthew Herod orders the execution of all young male children in the village of Bethlehem, so as to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn King of the Jews whose birth...

    , portray Jesus' life as fulfilling prophecy; and in the view of some scholars, this could reflect the agenda of the account authors rather than historical events.


Currents within contemporary research typically take the historical criterion of plausibility as their foundation rather than the criterion of dissimilarity. Accounts, therefore, that fit the Jewish context and make sense of Christianity's rise may be historical.

Birth



Jesus was probably born in the last years before Herod's
Herod the Great
Herod , also known as Herod the Great , was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis." He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his...

 reign ended in 4 BCE, in the Galilean village of Nazareth
Nazareth
Nazareth is the largest city in the North District of Israel. Known as "the Arab capital of Israel," the population is made up predominantly of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel...

. Geza Vermes views the different accounts of Jesus' birth given in the Gospel of Luke
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...

 and the Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

 as "pious fictions". E. P. Sanders
E. P. Sanders
Ed Parish Sanders is a New Testament scholar, and is one of the principal proponents of the New Perspective on Paul. He has been Arts and Sciences Professor of Religion at Duke University, North Carolina, since 1990. He retired in 2005....

 describes them as "the clearest cases of invention in the Gospels". Raymond Brown
Raymond E. Brown
The Reverend Raymond Edward Brown, S.S. , was an American Roman Catholic priest, a member of the Sulpician Fathers and a major Biblical scholar of his era...

 notes that "it is unlikely that either account is completely historical", and suggests that the account in Matthew is based on an earlier narrative patterned on traditions about the birth of Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

. While the infancy narratives are considered problematic by critical scholars, particularly because they are laced with theology and are indebted to precursor texts, it has been suggested that they do contain some historical information about Jesus, such as when he was born and the names of his parents.

This first Herod, an Idumaean whom the Roman Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

 elected King of the Jews
Herodian Dynasty
The Herodian Dynasty was a Jewish dynasty of Idumean descent, client Kings of Roman Judaea Province between 37 BCE and 92 CE.- Origin :During the time of the Hasmonean ruler John Hyrcanus 134-104 BCE, Israel conquered Edom and forced the Edomites to convert to Judaism.The Edomites were integrated...

 over Idumea, Galilee, Judea, Samaria and neighboring lands, ruled from 37 to 4 BCE. Upon Herod's death, the Romans divided up his kingdom between his sons, and Herod Antipas
Herod Antipas
Herod Antipater , known by the nickname Antipas, was a 1st-century AD ruler of Galilee and Perea, who bore the title of tetrarch...

 ruled Galilee but not Judea (which became part of Iudaea province
Iudaea Province
Judaea or Iudaea are terms used by historians to refer to the Roman province that extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Israel...

 after Herod Archelaus
Herod Archelaus
Herod Archelaus was the ethnarch of Samaria, Judea, and Idumea from 4 BC to 6 AD. He was the son of Herod the Great and Malthace the Samaritan, the brother of Herod Antipas, and the half-brother of Herod Philip I....

 was deposed in 6 CE), while Jesus was still a boy.

Jewish background


Jesus mostly preached in Galilee
Galilee
Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

 (perhaps also Judea
Judea
Judea or Judæa was the name of the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, when Roman Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina following the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt.-Etymology:The...

) (modern-day Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and Palestine
State of Palestine
Palestine , officially declared as the State of Palestine , is a state that was proclaimed in exile in Algiers on 15 November 1988, when the Palestine Liberation Organization's National Council adopted the unilateral Palestinian Declaration of Independence...

) for one to three years in the first half of the 1st century.


Following the fall of earlier Jewish kingdoms
History of ancient Israel and Judah
Israel and Judah were related Iron Age kingdoms of ancient Palestine. The earliest known reference to the name Israel in archaeological records is in the Merneptah stele, an Egyptian record of c. 1209 BCE. By the 9th century BCE the Kingdom of Israel had emerged as an important local power before...

, the partially Hellenized territory was under Roman imperial rule, but there were ongoing hopes of a revival of independent sovereignty, just as the Hasmoneans had overthrown the earlier Seleucid Empire
Seleucid Empire
The Seleucid Empire was a Greek-Macedonian state that was created out of the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today's Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan.The Seleucid Empire was a major centre...

. The Roman Prefect’s first duty to Rome was to maintain order, but although the land was mostly peaceful (notably between 7 and 26), there were continued risks of rebellion, riots, banditry, and violent resistance (see also Zealotry
Zealotry
Zealotry was originally a political movement in 1st century Second Temple Judaism which sought to incite the people of Iudaea Province to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel it from the Holy land by force of arms, most notably during the Great Jewish Revolt...

). Four decades after Jesus’ death, the tensions caused by Jewish hopes for a restoration of the kingdom of David
Kingdom of David
Kingdom of David was a part of the Empire Series of history documentaries for the Public Broadcasting Service Public television stations produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting in joint venture with Red Hill Productions of Los Angeles, California.The documentary chronicles the story of how the...

 culminated in the first Jewish-Roman War
First Jewish-Roman War
The First Jewish–Roman War , sometimes called The Great Revolt , was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews of Judaea Province , against the Roman Empire...

 and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem
Siege of Jerusalem (70)
The Siege of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD was the decisive event of the First Jewish-Roman War. The Roman army, led by the future Emperor Titus, with Tiberius Julius Alexander as his second-in-command, besieged and conquered the city of Jerusalem, which had been occupied by its Jewish defenders in...

.

In the Judaic religion of Jesus' day, the Pharisees
Pharisees
The Pharisees were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought among Jews during the Second Temple period beginning under the Hasmonean dynasty in the wake of...

 were a significant party, espousing belief in the resurrection of the dead
Resurrection of the dead
Resurrection of the Dead is a belief found in a number of eschatologies, most commonly in Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Zoroastrian. In general, the phrase refers to a specific event in the future; multiple prophesies in the histories of these religions assert that the dead will be brought back to...

, divine retribution
Divine retribution
Divine retribution is supernatural punishment of a person, a group of people, or all humanity by a deity in response to some human action.Many cultures have a story about how a deity exacted punishment on previous inhabitants of their land, causing their doom.An example of divine retribution is the...

 in the next world, angels, human freedom
Free will
"To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy MorrisonA pragmatic definition of free willFree will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long...

, and divine providence
Divine providence
In Christian theology, divine providence, or simply providence, is God's activity in the world. " Providence" is also used as a title of God exercising His providence, and then the word are usually capitalized...

. The more conservative Sadducees
Sadducees
The Sadducees were a sect or group of Jews that were active in Ancient Israel during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century BC through the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. The sect was identified by Josephus with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society...

 held power in the Temple. The Essenes
Essenes
The Essenes were a Jewish sect that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE which some scholars claim seceded from the Zadokite priests...

 lived ascetically and looked for an imminent apocalypse. According to scholars such as Geza Vermes
Geza Vermes
Géza Vermes or Vermès is a British scholar of Jewish Hungarian origin and writer on religious history, particularly Jewish and Christian. He is a noted authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient works in Aramaic, and on the life and religion of Jesus...

 and E.P. Sanders, Jesus does not seem to have belonged to any particular party or movement.

Linguistic proficiency



Jesus almost certainly spoke Aramaic. Some scholars speculate that because the lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 under Roman occupation was Greek, which was replacing Aramaic, Jesus might have known at least some Koine Greek
Koine Greek
Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language spoken throughout post-Classical antiquity , developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from Ionic....

.

There are a number of passages from the Gospels which state or imply that Jesus could at least read. In Jesus' day, few people could read and fewer still could write. The question of Jesus's literacy has been much discussed in modern scholarship; the Jesus Seminar
Jesus Seminar
The Jesus Seminar is a group of about 150 critical scholars and laymen founded in 1985 by Robert Funk under the auspices of the Westar Institute....

 and others feel references in the Gospels to Jesus reading and writing may well be fictions. In the view of John Dominic Crossan
John Dominic Crossan
John Dominic Crossan is an Irish-American religious scholar and former Catholic priest known for co-founding the Jesus Seminar. Crossan is a major figure in the fields of biblical archaeology, anthropology and New Testament textual and higher criticism. He is also a lecturer who has appeared in...

, a peasant such as Jesus would not have been literate. James Dunn
James Dunn (theologian)
James D. G. Dunn was for many years the Lightfoot Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology at the University of Durham. Since his retirement he has been made Emeritus Lightfoot Professor. He is a leading British New Testament scholar, broadly in the Protestant tradition. Dunn is...

 observes that, given the importance of reading the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 in Jewish culture of the time, a Galilean villager such as Jesus might have learned to read. John P. Meier
John P. Meier
John Paul Meier is a Biblical scholar and Catholic priest. He attended St. Joseph's Seminary and College , Gregorian University [Rome] , and the Biblical Institute [Rome]...

 concludes that the literacy of Jesus probably extended to the ability to read and comment on sophisticated theological and literary works.

Work as a "carpenter"



Jesus is identified in Mark as a τεκτων (tekton) and in Matthew as the son of a tekton. Like most people at the time, he presumably was trained by his parent in the family trade. Tekton has been traditionally translated into English as "carpenter", but is a rather general word (from the same root as "technical" and "technology", derived from Greek) that at the time could cover makers of objects in various materials, and builders, from tent makers to stonemasons. The specific association with woodworking is a constant in Early Christian tradition; Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr, also known as just Saint Justin , was an early Christian apologist. Most of his works are lost, but two apologies and a dialogue survive. He is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church....

 (d. c. 165) wrote that Jesus made yoke
Yoke
A yoke is a wooden beam, normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs, as oxen usually do; some yokes are fitted to individual animals. There are several types of yoke, used in different cultures, and for different types of oxen...

s and plough
Plough
The plough or plow is a tool used in farming for initial cultivation of soil in preparation for sowing seed or planting. It has been a basic instrument for most of recorded history, and represents one of the major advances in agriculture...

s, and there are similar early references.

Crossan puts tekton into a historical context more resembling an itinerant worker than an established artisan, emphasizing his marginality in a population in which a peasant who owns land could become quite prosperous. Some scholars, following S. J. Case, have noted that Nazareth is only about 6 kilometres from the city of Tzippori
Tzippori
Tzippori , also known as Sepphoris, Dioceserea and Saffuriya is located in the central Galilee region, north-northwest of Nazareth, in modern-day Israel...

 (ancient "Sepphoris"), which was destroyed by the Romans in 4BC, and thereafter was expensively rebuilt. It has been speculated that Joseph and Jesus might have traveled daily to work on the rebuilding. Specifically the large theatre in the city has been suggested, although this has aroused much controversy over dating and other issues. Other scholars see Joseph and Jesus as the general village craftsmen, working in wood, stone and metal on a wide variety of jobs.

Ethnicity



Jesus lived in Galilee, north of Judea on the other side of Samaria (which was hostile to Judeans). Judeans did not hold Galileans in high regard as they were often of mixed blood and open to foreign influence. The Galilean dialect was clearly distinguishable from the Judean dialect.

Family background and childhood


Jesus' father might have been named Yosef, a common name at the time. Jesus' reputed descent from King David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

 would be consistent with an attempt by the authors of Matthew and Luke to show his identity as the Messiah
Messiah
A messiah is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to...

 and King of the Jews.

Jesus' mother was named Mary (Hebrew: Maryām), a common name at the time. Beyond the accounts in the Gospels and a few other early Christian sources, there is no independent or verifiable information about any aspect of Mary's life.

Jesus had "brothers and sisters", as reported in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55-56. However, whether the verse literally meant brother or another close family member is still debated to this day. Prior to the 4th century, the standard theory was that they were Jesus’ "brothers" who were sons of Joseph though not of Mary. According to this view, Joseph was a widower at the time he married Mary. He had children from his first marriage (who would be older than Jesus, explaining their attitude toward him). This is mentioned in a number of early Christian writings. One work, known as the Proto-evangelium of James (A.D. 125) records that Joseph was selected from a group of widowers to serve as the husband/protector of Mary, who was a virgin consecrated to God. When he was chosen, Joseph objected: "I have children, and I am an old man, and she is a young girl." Today, the most commonly accepted view among Catholics is that they were Jesus’ cousins. According to Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar
Jesus Seminar
The Jesus Seminar is a group of about 150 critical scholars and laymen founded in 1985 by Robert Funk under the auspices of the Westar Institute....

, the Catholic doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity has long obscured the recognition that Jesus had siblings. After Jesus' death, James, "the Lord's brother", was the head of the congregation in Jerusalem and Jesus' relatives seem to have held positions of authority in the surrounding area.

Ministry



The synoptic Gospels agree that Jesus grew up in Nazareth, went to the River Jordan to meet and be baptised by the prophet John (Yohannan) the Baptist, and shortly after began healing and preaching to villagers and fishermen around Luke's "Sea of Galilee
Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee, also Kinneret, Lake of Gennesaret, or Lake Tiberias , is the largest freshwater lake in Israel, and it is approximately in circumference, about long, and wide. The lake has a total area of , and a maximum depth of approximately 43 m...

" (which is actually a freshwater lake). Although there were many Phoenicia
Phoenicia
Phoenicia , was an ancient civilization in Canaan which covered most of the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. Several major Phoenician cities were built on the coastline of the Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550...

n, Hellenistic
Hellenistic civilization
Hellenistic civilization represents the zenith of Greek influence in the ancient world from 323 BCE to about 146 BCE...

, and Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 cities nearby (such as, Gesara and Gadara; Sidon
Sidon
Sidon or Saïda is the third-largest city in Lebanon. It is located in the South Governorate of Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast, about 40 km north of Tyre and 40 km south of the capital Beirut. In Genesis, Sidon is the son of Canaan the grandson of Noah...

 and Tyre; Sepphoris and Tiberias), the Gentile mission was, at most, peripheral to Jesus' ministry. He made no statements about gentiles (non-Jews). The center of his work was Capernaum
Capernaum
Capernaum was a fishing village in the time of the Hasmoneans. Located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It had a population of about 1,500. Archaeological excavations have revealed two ancient synagogues built one over the other...

, a small town (about 500 by 350 meters, with a population of 1,500-2,000) where, according to the Gospels, he appeared at the town's synagogue
Synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

 (a non-sacred meeting house where Jews would often gather on the Sabbath
Shabbat
Shabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judaism. Shabbat is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until a few minutes after when one would expect to be able to see three stars in the sky on Saturday night. The exact times, therefore, differ from...

 to study the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

), and performed a public reading of scripture
Lection
A lection is a reading, in this context, from Scripture.The custom of reading the books of Moses in the synagogues on the Sabbath day was a very ancient one. The addition of lections from the prophetic books had been made afterwards and was in existence at the time of Jesus, as may be gathered...

, but met with rejection
Rejection of Jesus
The Canonical Gospels of the New Testament include some accounts of the rejection of Jesus in the course of his ministry. Judaism's view of Jesus, Jesus in Islam, and the view of the Historical Jesus all differ from Christian views of Jesus.-Hometown rejection:...

.

Jesus gathered a following and achieved a measure of fame around Galilee. Then for Passover, he and his followers traveled to the Davidic capital of the United Monarchy
United Monarchy
According to Biblical tradition, the united Kingdom of Israel was a kingdom that existed in the Land of Israel, a period referred to by scholars as the United Monarchy. Biblical historians date the kingdom from c. 1020 BCE to c...

, the city of Jerusalem. However, Jesus left no instructions about founding a church.

Historians do not know how long Jesus preached. The synoptic Gospels suggest a period of up to one year. The Gospel of John mentions three Passover
Passover
Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt...

s, Jesus' ministry is traditionally said to have been three years long. In the view of Paul N. Anderson, John's presentation is more plausible historically than that of the Synoptics.

Jesus and John the Baptist



Jesus began preaching, teaching, and healing after he was baptized by John the Baptist
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure mentioned in the Canonical gospels. He is described in the Gospel of Luke as a relative of Jesus, who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River...

, an apocalyptic ascetic preacher who called on Jews to repent.

Jesus was apparently a follower of John, a populist and activist prophet who looked forward to divine deliverance of the Jewish homeland from the Romans. John was a major religious figure, whose movement was probably larger than Jesus' own. Herod Antipas
Herod Antipas
Herod Antipater , known by the nickname Antipas, was a 1st-century AD ruler of Galilee and Perea, who bore the title of tetrarch...

 had John executed. In a saying thought to have been originally recorded in Q, the historical Jesus defended John shortly after John's death.

John's followers formed a movement that continued after his death alongside Jesus' own following. John's followers apparently believed that John might have risen from the dead, an expectation that may have influenced the expectations of Jesus' followers after his own execution. Some of Jesus' followers were former followers of John the Baptist. Fasting and baptism, elements of John's preaching, may have entered early Christian practice as John's followers joined the movement.

John Dominic Crossan portrays Jesus as rejecting John's apocalyptic eschatology in favor of a sapiential eschatology, in which cultural transformation results from humans' own actions, rather than from God's intervention.

Historians consider Jesus' baptism by John to be historical, an event that early Christians would not have included in their Gospels in the absence of a "firm report". Like Jesus, John and his execution are mentioned by Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

.


John the Baptist
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure mentioned in the Canonical gospels. He is described in the Gospel of Luke as a relative of Jesus, who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River...

's prominence in both the Gospels and Josephus suggests that he may have been more popular than Jesus in his lifetime; also, Jesus' mission does not begin until after his baptism by John. Fredriksen suggests that it was only after Jesus' death that Jesus emerged as more influential than John. Accordingly, the Gospels project Jesus's posthumous importance back to his lifetime. One way Fredriksen believes this was accomplished was by minimizing John's importance by having John resist baptizing;
Jesus , by referring to the baptism in passing , or by asserting Jesus's superiority .

Scholars posit that Jesus may have been a direct follower in John the Baptist's movement. John Dominic Crossan
John Dominic Crossan
John Dominic Crossan is an Irish-American religious scholar and former Catholic priest known for co-founding the Jesus Seminar. Crossan is a major figure in the fields of biblical archaeology, anthropology and New Testament textual and higher criticism. He is also a lecturer who has appeared in...

 suggests that John the Baptist may have been killed for political reasons, not necessarily the personal grudge given in Mark's gospel. Going into the desert and baptising in the Jordan suggests that John and his followers were purifying themselves for what they believed was God's imminent deliverance. This was reminiscent of such a crossing of the Jordan after the Exodus (see Book of Joshua
Book of Joshua
The Book of Joshua is the sixth book in the Hebrew Bible and of the Old Testament. Its 24 chapters tell of the entry of the Israelites into Canaan, their conquest and division of the land under the leadership of Joshua, and of serving God in the land....

), leading into the promised land of their deliverance from oppression. Jesus' teachings would later diverge from John's apocalyptic vision (though it depends which scholarly view is adopted; according to Ehrman and Sanders, the apocalyptic vision was the core of Jesus' teaching) which warned of "the wrath to come," as "the axe is laid to the root of the trees" and those who do not bear "good fruit"
Good works
Good works, or simply works, within Christian theology are a person's actions or deeds, contrasting with interior qualities such as grace or faith.The New Testament exhibits a tension between two aspects of grace:...

 are "cut down and thrown into the fire." (Luke 3:7-9) Though John's teachings remained visible in those of Jesus, Jesus would emphasize the Kingdom of God not as imminent, but as already present and manifest through the movement's communal commitment to a relationship of equality among all members, and living by the laws of divine justice
Divine law
Divine law is any law that in the opinion of believers, comes directly from the will of God . Like natural law it is independent of the will of man, who cannot change it. However it may be revealed or not, so it may change in human perception in time through new revelation...

. All four Gospels claim that Jesus was crucified at the request of a Jewish Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
The Sanhedrin was an assembly of twenty-three judges appointed in every city in the Biblical Land of Israel.The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme court of ancient Israel made of 71 members...

 by Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilatus , known in the English-speaking world as Pontius Pilate , was the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, from AD 26–36. He is best known as the judge at Jesus' trial and the man who authorized the crucifixion of Jesus...

, but Christians still debate who was responsible. Crucifixion
Crucifixion
Crucifixion is an ancient method of painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead...

 was the penalty for criminals, robbers, traitors, and political insurrection, used as a symbol of Rome's absolute authority - those who stood against Rome were utterly annihilated.

Works and miracles


The gospels narrate various miracles
Miracles of Jesus
The miracles of Jesus are the supernatural deeds of Jesus, as recorded in Gospels, in the course of his ministry. According to the Gospel of John, only some of these were recorded. states that "Jesus did many other things as well...

 that Jesus performed in the course of his ministry. These mostly consist of miraculous healing, exorcism
Exorcism
Exorcism is the religious practice of evicting demons or other spiritual entities from a person or place which they are believed to have possessed...

s and dominion over other things in nature besides people.

As Albert Schweitzer
Albert Schweitzer
Albert Schweitzer OM was a German theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary. He was born in Kaysersberg in the province of Alsace-Lorraine, at that time part of the German Empire...

 showed in his Quest of the Historical Jesus, in the early 19th century, debate about the "Historical Jesus" centered on the credibility of the miracle reports. Early 19th century scholars offered three types of explanation for these miracle stories: they were regarded as supernatural events, or were "rationalized" (e.g., by Paulus), or were regarded as mythical (e.g., by Strauss).

Scholars in both Christian and secular traditions continue to debate how the reports of Jesus' miracles should be construed. The Christian Gospels states that Jesus has God's authoritarian power over nature, life and death, but naturalistic historians, following Strauss, generally choose either to see these stories as legend
Legend
A legend is a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history and to possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude...

 or allegory
Allegory
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

, or, for some of the miracles they follow the rationalizing method.

Jesus as divine


Some scholars interpret Jesus as a charismatic preacher who taught the principles of salvation, everlasting life, and the Kingdom of God. E.P. Sanders sees him as accepting a divine role as God's viceroy in the coming kingdom. It has been argued that Jesus' use of three important terms: Messiah, Son of God, and Son of Man, reveals his understanding of his divine role. Jürgen Becker sees Jesus taking his authority directly from God, in contrast to the prophets who revealed the future or will of God. M. de Jonge argues that Jesus saw himself as God's final envoy.

Burton Mack on the other hand supports the hypothesis of the Messianic secret
Messianic Secret
In Biblical criticism, the Messianic Secret refers to a proposed motif primarily in the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus is portrayed as commanding his followers to silence about his Messianic mission...

 first proposed by William Wrede
William Wrede
Georg Friedrich Eduard William Wrede was a German Lutheran theologian.Wrede was born at Bücken in Hannover. He became an associate professor at Breslau in 1893, and full professor in 1896. He died in office in 1906....

. This hypothesis holds that Jesus' instruction to his disciples not to reveal his identity as the Messiah was a later invention by the early Church to deal with the embarrassing fact that early traditions did not show Jesus as claiming to be the Messiah.

Messiah



In the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

, three classes of people are identified as "anointed," that is, "Messiahs": prophets, priests, and kings. In Jesus' time, the term Messiah was used in different ways, and no one can be sure how Jesus would even have meant it if he had accepted the term. Though Messianic expectations in general centered on the King Messiah, the Essenes
Essenes
The Essenes were a Jewish sect that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE which some scholars claim seceded from the Zadokite priests...

 expected both a kingly and a priestly figure in their eschatology
Eschatology
Eschatology is a part of theology, philosophy, and futurology concerned with what are believed to be the final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world or the World to Come...

.
The Jews of Jesus' time waited expectantly for a divine redeemer who would restore Israel, which suffered under Roman rule. John the Baptist
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure mentioned in the Canonical gospels. He is described in the Gospel of Luke as a relative of Jesus, who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River...

 was apparently waiting for one greater than himself, an apocalyptic figure. Christian scripture and faith acclaim Jesus as this "Messiah" ("anointed one," "Christ").

Son of God



Paul describes God as declaring Jesus to be the Son of God by raising him from the dead, and Sanders argues Mark portrays God as adopting Jesus as his son at his baptism, although many others do not accept this interpretation of Mark. Sanders argues that for Jesus to be hailed as the Son of God does not mean that he is literally God's offspring. Rather, it indicates a very high designation, one who stands in a special relation to God.

In the synoptic Gospels
Synoptic Gospels
The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories, often in the same sequence, and sometimes exactly the same wording. This degree of parallelism in content, narrative arrangement, language, and sentence structures can only be...

, the being of Jesus as "Son of God
Son of God
"Son of God" is a phrase which according to most Christian denominations, Trinitarian in belief, refers to the relationship between Jesus and God, specifically as "God the Son"...

" corresponds exactly to the typical Hasidean
Hasideans
The Hasideans were a Jewish religious party which commenced to play an important role in political life only during the time of the Maccabean wars, although it had existed for quite some time previous. They are mentioned only three times in the books of the Maccabees.- Account in Maccabees:In I...

 from Galilee
Galilee
Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

, a "pious" holy man that by God's intervention performs miracle
Miracle
A miracle often denotes an event attributed to divine intervention. Alternatively, it may be an event attributed to a miracle worker, saint, or religious leader. A miracle is sometimes thought of as a perceptible interruption of the laws of nature. Others suggest that a god may work with the laws...

s and exorcism
Exorcism
Exorcism is the religious practice of evicting demons or other spiritual entities from a person or place which they are believed to have possessed...

s.

Son of Man



The most literal translation here is "Son of Humanity", or "human being". Jesus uses "Son of Man" to mean sometimes "I" or a mortal in general, sometimes a divine figure destined to suffer, and sometimes a heavenly figure of judgment soon to arrive. Jesus' usage of son of man in the first way is historical but without divine claim. The Son of Man as one destined to suffer seems to be, according to some, a Christian invention that does not go back to Jesus, and it is not clear whether Jesus meant himself when he spoke of the divine judge. These three uses do not appear together, such as the Son of Man who suffers
Passion (Christianity)
The Passion is the Christian theological term used for the events and suffering – physical, spiritual, and mental – of Jesus in the hours before and including his trial and execution by crucifixion...

 and returns
Second Coming
In Christian doctrine, the Second Coming of Christ, the Second Advent, or the Parousia, is the anticipated return of Jesus Christ from Heaven, where he sits at the Right Hand of God, to Earth. This prophecy is found in the canonical gospels and in most Christian and Islamic eschatologies...

. Others maintain that Jesus' use of this phrase illustrates Jesus' self-understanding as the divine representative of God. This phrase is used in the bible in the book of Daniel, where the writer claims a sight of revelation when the 'son of man' will return to earth to judge the people according to their acts and is a representative of divine authority and power. Therefore, the pharisees and religious teachers despised Jesus for using the term of such prophetic and divine importance. The Bible does not mention anyone other than Jesus as using the term to refer to himself.

Laconic sage


The sage of the ancient Near East was a self-effacing man of few words who did not provoke encounters. A holy man offers cures and exorcisms only when petitioned, and even then may be reluctant. Jesus seems to have displayed a similar style.

The Gospels present Jesus engaging in frequent "question and answer" religious debates with Pharisees and Sadducees. The Jesus Seminar
Jesus Seminar
The Jesus Seminar is a group of about 150 critical scholars and laymen founded in 1985 by Robert Funk under the auspices of the Westar Institute....

 believes the debates about scripture and doctrine are rabbinic in style and not characteristic of Jesus. They believe these "conflict stories" represent the conflicts between the early Christian community and those around them: the Pharisees, Sadducees, etc. The group believes these sometimes include genuine sayings or concepts but are largely the product of the early Christian community.

Other depictions


The title Logos, identifying Jesus as the divine word, first appears in the Gospel of John, written .

The earliest Christians did not call Jesus, "God". New Testament scholars broadly agree that Jesus did not make any explicit claims to be God. See also Divinity of Jesus and Nontrinitarianism
Nontrinitarianism
Nontrinitarianism includes all Christian belief systems that disagree with the doctrine of the Trinity, namely, the teaching that God is three distinct hypostases and yet co-eternal, co-equal, and indivisibly united in one essence or ousia...

.

Pinchas Lapide
Pinchas Lapide
Pinchas Lapide was a Jewish theologian and Israeli historian. He was an Israeli diplomat from 1951 to 1969, among other position acting as Israeli Consul to Milan, and was instrumental in gaining recognition for the young state of Israel. He wrote more than 35 books during his lifetime...

 sees Jesus as a rabbi in the Hasid tradition of Hillel the Elder
Hillel the Elder
Hillel was a famous Jewish religious leader, one of the most important figures in Jewish history. He is associated with the development of the Mishnah and the Talmud...

, Yochanan ben Zakai
Yochanan ben Zakai
Johanan ben Zakai , also known as Johanan B. Zakkai was one of the tannaim, an important Jewish sage in the era of the Second Temple, and a primary contributor to the core text of Rabbinical Judaism, the Mishnah. He is widely regarded as one of the most important Jewish figures of his time...

 and Hanina Ben Dosa
Hanina Ben Dosa
Hanina ben Dosa was a scholar and miracle-worker, and the pupil of Johanan ben Zakkai . He is buried in the City of Arraba....

.

The gospels and Christian tradition depict Jesus as being executed at the insistence of Jewish leaders, who considered his claims to divinity to be blasphemous, see also Responsibility for the death of Jesus. Historically, Jesus seems instead to have been executed as a potential source of unrest.

Parables and paradoxes



Jesus taught in parables and aphorisms. A parable
Parable
A parable is a succinct story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive principles, or lessons, or a normative principle. It differs from a fable in that fables use animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as characters, while parables generally feature human...

 is a figurative image with a single message (sometimes mistaken for an analogy, in which each element has a metaphoric meaning). An aphorism is a short, memorable turn of phrase. In Jesus' case, aphorisms often involve some paradox or reversal. Authentic parables probably include the Good Samaritan and the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard is a parable of Jesus which appears in only one of the Canonical gospels of the New Testament....

. Authentic aphorisms include "turn the other cheek
Turn the other cheek
Turning the other cheek is a phrase in Christian doctrine that refers to responding to an aggressor without violence. The phrase originates from the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament.In the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says:...

", "go the second mile", and "love your enemies".

Crossan writes that Jesus' parables worked on multiple levels at the same time, provoking discussions with his peasant audience.

Jesus' parables and aphorisms circulated orally among his followers for years before they were written down and later incorporated into the Gospels. They represent the earliest Christian traditions about Jesus.

Eschatology


Jesus preached mainly about the Kingdom of God. Scholars are divided over whether he was referring to an imminent apocalyptic event or the transformation of everyday life.

Some critical Biblical scholars, going as far back as Albert Schweitzer, hold that Jesus believed that the end of history was coming within his own lifetime or within the lifetime of his contemporaries.

The evidence for this thesis comes from several verses, including the following:
  • In Mark 8:38-9:1, Jesus says that the Son of Man will come "in the glory of the Father with the holy angels" during "this adulterous generation." Indeed, he says, "there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the Kingdom of God has come in power."

  • In Luke 21:35-36, Jesus urges constant, unremitting preparedness on the part of his followers in light of the imminence of the end of history and the final intervention of God. "Be alert at all times, praying to have strength to flee from all these things that are about to take place and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man."

  • In Mark 13:24-27, 30, Jesus describes what will happen when the end comes, saying that "the sun will grow dark and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and ... they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory." He gives a timeline for this event: "Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place."

  • The Apostle Paul also seems to have shared this expectation. Toward the end of 1 Corinthians 7, he counsels Christians to avoid getting married if they can since the end of history was imminent. Speaking to the unmarried, he writes, "I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as your are." "I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short ... For the present form of this world is passing away." (1 Corinthians 7:26, 29, 31) In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Paul also seems to believe that he will live to witness the return of Jesus and the end of history.


According to Geza Vermes, Jesus' announcement of the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God "was patently not fulfilled" and "created a serious embarrassment for the primitive church". According to E.P. Sanders, these eschatological sayings of Jesus are "passages that many Christian scholars would like to see vanish" as "the events they predict did not come to pass, which means that Jesus was wrong."

Many scholars argue that since the Bible does not account for the destruction of Jerusalem, which would have been a critical and overwhelming event in Israelite and Christian history, that this event may have instead been the 'end of history' the church was looking for but did not recognize. This would be contrary to verses which state that all nations would know what was happening, and who was responsible for it. Yet a writer such as the Apostle John, responsible for Revelation, and who survived the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, would likely have documented the attack. Being that he did not, some presume he concluded that Jesus' words were thus fulfilled. The subsequent councils and churches which grew from this era then would have taken this outlook of 'end of world' and extended it for their own followers to look forward to.

Robert W. Funk
Robert W. Funk
Robert W. Funk , an American biblical scholar, was co-founder of the controversial Jesus Seminar and the nonprofit Westar Institute in Santa Rosa, California....

 and colleagues, on the other hand, wrote that beginning in the 1970s, some scholars have come to reject the view of Jesus as eschatological
Eschatology
Eschatology is a part of theology, philosophy, and futurology concerned with what are believed to be the final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world or the World to Come...

, pointing out that he rejected the asceticism
Asceticism
Asceticism describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals...

 of John the Baptist and his eschatological message. In this view, the Kingdom of God
Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is a foundational concept in the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.The term "Kingdom of God" is found in all four canonical gospels and in the Pauline epistles...

 is not a future state, but rather a contemporary, mysterious presence. John Dominic Crossan describes Jesus' eschatology as based on establishing a new, holy way of life rather than on God's redeeming intervention in history.

Evidence for the Kingdom of God as already present derives from these verses.
  • In Luke 17:20-21, Jesus says that one will not be able to observe God's Kingdom arriving, and that it "is right there in your presence."

  • In Thomas 113, Jesus says that God's Kingdom "is spread out upon the earth, and people don't see it."

  • In Luke 11:20, Jesus says that if he drives out demons by God's finger then "for you" the Kingdom of God has arrived.

  • Furthermore, the major parables of Jesus do not reflect an apocalyptic view of history.


The Jesus Seminar concludes that apocalyptic statements attributed to Jesus could have originated from early Christians, as apocalyptic ideas were common, but the statements about God's Kingdom being mysteriously present cut against the common view and could have originated only with Jesus himself.

Jesus' repeated declarations that the kingdom of God
Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is a foundational concept in the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.The term "Kingdom of God" is found in all four canonical gospels and in the Pauline epistles...

 was at hand echoed popular apocalyptic views. According to Geza Vermes and others, the use of the terms "messiah" and "son of God
Son of God
"Son of God" is a phrase which according to most Christian denominations, Trinitarian in belief, refers to the relationship between Jesus and God, specifically as "God the Son"...

" by Jesus' followers indicate that they believed he would assume the monarchy upon the restoration of the kingdom (see Names and titles of Jesus).

Asceticism


The fellows of the Jesus Seminar mostly held that Jesus was not an ascetic
Asceticism
Asceticism describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals...

, and that he probably drank wine and did not fast, other than as all observant Jews did. He did, however, promote a simple life
Simple living
Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one's lifestyle. These may include reducing one's possessions or increasing self-sufficiency, for example. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they need rather than want...

 and the renunciation of wealth.

Jesus said that some made themselves "eunuch
Eunuch
A eunuch is a person born male most commonly castrated, typically early enough in his life for this change to have major hormonal consequences...

s" for the Kingdom of Heaven . This aphorism might have been meant to establish solidarity with eunuchs, who were considered "incomplete" in Jewish society. Alternatively, he may have been promoting celibacy
Celibacy
Celibacy is a personal commitment to avoiding sexual relations, in particular a vow from marriage. Typically celibacy involves avoiding all romantic relationships of any kind. An individual may choose celibacy for religious reasons, such as is the case for priests in some religions, for reasons of...

.

A majority of the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar regard it probable that Jesus was not celibate but instead had a special relationship with Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus' most celebrated disciples, and the most important woman disciple in the movement of Jesus. Jesus cleansed her of "seven demons", conventionally interpreted as referring to complex illnesses...

. However, Ehrman notes the conjectural nature of the claims that Jesus and Mary were married, as "not a single one of our ancient sources indicates that Jesus was married, let alone married to Mary Magdalene."

John the Baptist
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure mentioned in the Canonical gospels. He is described in the Gospel of Luke as a relative of Jesus, who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River...

 was an ascetic and perhaps a Nazirite
Nazirite
In the Hebrew Bible, a nazirite or nazarite, , refers to one who voluntarily took a vow described in . The term "nazirite" comes from the Hebrew word nazir meaning "consecrated" or "separated"...

, who promoted celibacy like the Essenes
Essenes
The Essenes were a Jewish sect that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE which some scholars claim seceded from the Zadokite priests...

. Ascetic elements, such as fasting, appeared in Early Christianity
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

 and are mentioned by Matthew during Jesus' discourse on ostentation.

Table fellowship


Open table fellowship with outsiders was central to Jesus' ministry. His practice of eating with the lowly people that he healed defied the expectations of traditional Jewish society. He presumably taught at the meal, as would be expected in a symposium. His conduct caused enough of a scandal that he was accused of being a glutton and a drunk.

John Dominic Crossan identifies this table practice as part of Jesus' radical egalitarian program. The importance of table fellowship is seen in the prevalence of meal scenes in early Christian art and in the Eucharist, the Christian ritual of bread and wine.

Disciples



Some scholars believe Jesus recruited twelve Galilean peasants as his inner circle, including several fishermen. The fishermen in question and the tax collector Matthew would have business dealings requiring some knowledge of Greek. The father of two of the fishermen is represented as having the means to hire labourers for his fishing business, and tax collectors were seen as exploiters. The twelve were expected to rule the twelve tribes of Israel in the Kingdom of God.

The Jesus Seminar on the other hand believes that the number 'twelve'
in connection with an inner circle of disciples is a fiction.

The disciples of Jesus play a large role in the search for the historical Jesus. However, the four Gospels, use different words to apply to Jesus' followers. The Greek word "ochloi" refers to the crowds who gathered around Jesus as he preached. The word "mathetes" refers to the followers who stuck around for more teaching. The word "apostolos" refers to the twelve disciples, or apostles, whom Jesus chose specifically to be his close followers. With these three categories of followers, Meier uses a model of concentric circles around Jesus in order to create a distinction among those who were closer to Jesus than others.

Ochloi

The outer most circle surrounding Jesus are known as Ochloi, or "the crowds." This outer circle of Jesus' followers would have been the largest and least stable of the groups following Jesus. The criterion of multiple attestation of Mark, John, Q, Matthew, and Luke, supports the historicity of Jesus attracting large crowds. This argument is bolstered by the fact that Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem by the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, most probably on the charge of claiming to be "King of the Jews." How a Jewish preacher, teacher, and healer from Galilee would end up executed by Romans in Jerusalem could only be plausible if he did in fact attract large, enthusiastic crowds. We can see in the Gospels that Jesus' ability to attract large crowds through preaching and healing seemed to have lasted until his final days in Jerusalem. Meier notes that the success of his ministry probably led to his arrest and execution by the nervous authorities. Although the crowds were enthusiastic at times, the enthusiasm rarely translated in deep, enduring commitment from members of the crowds. Critical remarks by the evangelists, the unrepentant cities of Galilee (Matthew 11:20-24), and the relative failure of Jesus' followers to win over the majority of Palestinian Jews to "Christianity" is all evidence that most people in the crowds never crossed over from being just curious or sympathetic audiences to deeply committed disciples or supporters. Although, we will see as we move to the inner circles surrounding Jesus that some of his closest disciples came from the crowds that surrounded Jesus.

Mathetes

The second ring around Jesus consists of Mathetes, or "disciples." Meier simply uses the term "disciples". These are the people who stayed for Jesus' teaching. As Meier puts it, "Jesus' disciples are marked by obedience to his peremptory call, denial of self, and exposure to hostility and danger." However, since the members of this group were not individually called by Jesus to be his disciples like the Twelve were, Meier therefore refers to the followers and crowds as "pseudo-disciples." In other words, these groups simply were physical followers of Jesus but not necessarily committed followers who were with him all the time. In many cases, the term "disciples" is used to encompass both the "sympathetic audiences" and the Twelve. It is important that a distinction is made between the crowds and the disciples. On the other hand, some passages suggest that the Gospels use the terms "disciples" and "the Twelve" interchangeably. Jesus' ministry was primarily focused on his twelve disciples and not on the crowds and followers. It was the Twelve whom Jesus spent most of his time with and directed most of his teachings towards, as indicated by the accounts in the four Gospels.

Apostolos

Commonly referred to as "the Twelve" in both John and Mark, this group would have been the one group that was fairly fixed because of the set number of members. What set this group of followers apart from the other two groups was that they were a set group of committed disciples who had been individually called by Jesus. Although the Twelve appeared to be a set group, there is confusion about the actual names of all of the Twelve. For example, names like Nathanael and Judas son of James are not in the lists described in the Gospels. Out of "the Twelve" there seems to be an even closer group of "Four", or circle, that includes Simon Peter, James (son of Zebedee), John (brother of James), and Andrew (Simon Peter's brother). However, because the Gospels might mention these men more than the other apostles, does not necessarily mean that the other apostles were not just as close to Jesus. The Twelve holds the most significant standing among all of the groups following Jesus, as each member was individually called to follow him.

Women Disciples

Jesus controversially accepted women and sinners (those who violated purity laws) among his followers. Even though women were never directly called "disciples", certain passages in the Gospels seem to indicate that women followers of Jesus were equivalent to the disciples. It was possible for members of the "ochloi" to cross over into the "mathetes" category. However, Meier argues that some people from the "mathetes" category actually crossed into the "apostolos" category, namely Mary Magdalene. The narration of Jesus' death and the events that accompany it mention the presence of women. Meier states that the pivotal role of the women at the cross is revealed in the subsequent narrative, where at least some of the women, notably Mary Magdalene, witnessed both the burial of Jesus (Mark 15:47) and discovered the empty tomb (Mark 16:1-8). Luke also mentions that as Jesus and the Twelve were travelling from city to city preaching the "good news", they were accompanied by women, who provided for them out of their own means. We can conclude that women did follow Jesus a considerable length of time during his Galilean ministry and his last journey to Jerusalem. Such a devoted, long-term following could not occur without the initiative or active acceptance of the women who followed him. However, most scholars would argue that it is unreasonable to say that Mary Magdalene's seemingly close relationship with Jesus suggests that she was a disciple of Jesus or one of the Twelve. In name, the women are not historically considered "disciples" of Jesus, but the fact that he allowed them to follow and serve him proves that they were to some extent treated as disciples.

Missionaries


The Gospels recount Jesus commissioning disciples to spread the word, sometimes during his life (e.g., Mark 6:7-12) and sometimes during a resurrection appearance (e.g., Matthew 28:18-20). These accounts reflect early Christian practice and may reflect Jesus' original instructions, though some scholars contend that historical Jesus issued no such missionary commission.

According to John Dominic Crossan, Jesus sent his disciples out to heal and to proclaim the Kingdom of God. They were to eat with those they healed rather than with higher status people who might well be honored to host a healer, and Jesus directed them to eat whatever was offered them. This implicit challenge to the social hierarchy was part of Jesus' program of radical egalitarianism. These themes of healing and eating are common in early Christian art.

Jesus' instructions to the missionaries appear in the synoptic Gospels and in the Gospel of Thomas. These instructions are distinct from the commission that the resurrected Jesus gives to his followers, the Great Commission
Great Commission
The Great Commission, in Christian tradition, is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples, that they spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. It has become a tenet in Christian theology emphasizing missionary work, evangelism, and baptism...

, text rated as black (inauthentic) by the Jesus Seminar.

Travel to Jerusalem



Jesus and his followers left Galilee and traveled to Jerusalem in Judea. They may have traveled through Samaria as reported in John, or around the border of Samaria as reported in Luke, as was common practice for Jews avoiding hostile Samaritans. Jerusalem was packed with Jews who had come for Passover, perhaps comprising 300,000 to 400,000 pilgrims.

Jesus might have entered Jerusalem on a donkey as a symbolic act, possibly to contrast with the triumphant entry that a Roman conqueror would make, or to enact a prophecy in Zechariah. Christian scripture makes the reference to Zechariah explicit, perhaps because the scene was invented as scribes looked to scripture to help them flesh out the details of the gospel narratives.

Temple disturbance



Jesus taught in Jerusalem, and he caused a disturbance at the temple. This act seems to have been symbolic, related to Jesus' prediction that the Temple would be destroyed when the apocalypse came. Since Jesus was not arrested immediately, Bart Ehrman suggests that the event was not dramatic, but that it drew the authorities' attention to Jesus. The authorities arrested him later, Ehrman suggests, once they'd seen that he was popular with the people and that he was stirring up apocalyptic fervor in the restive Passover crowds.

Betrayal


Jesus' betrayal by Judas Iscariot
Judas Iscariot
Judas Iscariot was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. He is best known for his betrayal of Jesus to the hands of the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver.-Etymology:...

, one of his own disciples, is attested in early documents, but it does not appear in the Epistles of Paul, nor in the Q Gospel, nor in the Gospel of Thomas
Gospel of Thomas
The Gospel According to Thomas, commonly shortened to the Gospel of Thomas, is a well preserved early Christian, non-canonical sayings-gospel discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in December 1945, in one of a group of books known as the Nag Hammadi library...

, nor in the Gospel of Peter
Gospel of Peter
The Gospel According to Peter , commonly called the Gospel of Peter, is one of the non-Canonical gospels which were rejected by the Church Fathers and the Catholic Church's synods of Carthage and Rome, which established the New Testament canon, as apocryphal...

. In the gospel of Mark
Gospel of Mark
The Gospel According to Mark , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Mark or simply Mark, is the second book of the New Testament. This canonical account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one of the three synoptic gospels. It was thought to be an epitome, which accounts for its place as the second...

, Judas only appears in chapter 14, in connection with the betrayal of Jesus. By the criterion of embarrassment
Criterion of embarrassment
The criterion of embarrassment, also known as criterion of dissimilarity, is a critical analysis of historical accounts in which accounts embarrassing to the author are presumed to be true because the author would have no reason to invent an embarrassing account about himself...

, it would be unlikely that early Christians would fabricate such a story and as such is assumed to be historically accurate. It's not clear what information the traitor would have provided that the authorities would need. Bart Ehrman holds that Judas revealed that Jesus was secretly teaching the disciples that he would be the king of the coming kingdom. Theologian Aaron Saari, however, contends in his work The Many Deaths of Judas Iscariot that Judas Iscariot was the literary invention of the Markan community. John Shelby Spong
John Shelby Spong
John Shelby "Jack" Spong is a retired American bishop of the Episcopal Church. He was formerly the Bishop of Newark . He is a liberal Christian theologian, religion commentator and author...

 thinks that early Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

s compiled the Judas story from three Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

  Jewish betrayal stories. Tassos Kioulachoglou points to the multiple references to the number of twelve apostles after Christ's death, suggesting that Judas was still included in that number, in contradiction of the story of his suicide.

Trial and execution



Jesus was crucified by Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilatus , known in the English-speaking world as Pontius Pilate , was the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, from AD 26–36. He is best known as the judge at Jesus' trial and the man who authorized the crucifixion of Jesus...

, the Prefect
Prefect
Prefect is a magisterial title of varying definition....

 of Iudaea province
Iudaea Province
Judaea or Iudaea are terms used by historians to refer to the Roman province that extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Israel...

 (26 AD to 36 AD). Scholars suggest that Pilate executed Jesus as a public nuisance, perhaps with the cooperation of the Jewish authorities. E. P. Sanders
E. P. Sanders
Ed Parish Sanders is a New Testament scholar, and is one of the principal proponents of the New Perspective on Paul. He has been Arts and Sciences Professor of Religion at Duke University, North Carolina, since 1990. He retired in 2005....

 argued that the cleansing of the Temple
Jesus and the Money Changers
The narrative of Jesus and the money changers, commonly referred to as the cleansing of the Temple, occurs in all four canonical gospels of the New Testament....

 was an act that seriously offended his Jewish audience and eventually led to his death, while Bart D. Ehrman
Bart D. Ehrman
Bart D. Ehrman is an American New Testament scholar, currently the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill....

 argued that Jesus' actions would have been considered treasonous and thus a capital offense by the Romans. The claim that the Sadducee high-priestly leaders and their associates handed Jesus over to the Romans is strongly attested. Historians debate whether Jesus intended to be crucified.

The Jesus Seminar argued that Christian scribes seem to have drawn on scripture in order to flesh out the passion narrative, such as inventing Jesus' trial. Since none of Jesus' followers witnessed the trial, there is no way to know historically what took place. Scholars are split on the historicity of the underlying events.

John Dominic Crossan
John Dominic Crossan
John Dominic Crossan is an Irish-American religious scholar and former Catholic priest known for co-founding the Jesus Seminar. Crossan is a major figure in the fields of biblical archaeology, anthropology and New Testament textual and higher criticism. He is also a lecturer who has appeared in...

 points to the use of the word "kingdom" in his central teachings of the "Kingdom of God," which alone would have brought Jesus to the attention of Roman authority. Rome dealt with Jesus as it commonly did with essentially non-violent dissension: the killing of its leader. It was usually violent uprisings such as those during the Roman-Jewish Wars that warranted the slaughter of leader and followers. As the balance shifted in the early Church
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

 from the Jewish community to Gentile converts, it may have sought to distance itself from rebellious Jews (those who rose up against the Roman occupation). There was also a schism developing within the Jewish community as these believers in Jesus were pushed out of the synagogues after the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, see Council of Jamnia
Council of Jamnia
The Council of Jamnia or Council of Yavne is a hypothetical late 1st-century council at which it is postulated the canon of the Hebrew Bible was finalized....

. The divergent accounts of Jewish involvement in the trial of Jesus
Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus
The Sanhedrin trial of Jesus refers to the Canonical Gospel accounts of the trial of Jesus before the Jewish Council, or Sanhedrin, following his arrest and prior to his trial before Pontius Pilate...

 suggest some of the unfavorable sentiments between such Jews that resulted. See also List of events in early Christianity.


Aside from the fact that the Gospels provide different accounts of the Jewish role in Jesus's death (for example, Mark and Matthew report two separate trials, Luke one, and John none), Fredriksen and Catchpole argue that many elements of the gospel accounts could not have happened: according to Jewish law, the court could not meet at night; it could not meet on a major holiday; Jesus's statements to the Sanhedrin or the High Priest (e.g., that he was the messiah) did not constitute blasphemy; the charges that the Gospels purport the Jews to have made against Jesus were not capital crimes against Jewish law; even if Jesus had been accused and found guilty of a capital offense by the Sanhedrin, the punishment would have been death by stoning (the fates of Saint Stephen
Saint Stephen
Saint Stephen The Protomartyr , the protomartyr of Christianity, is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches....

 and James the Just
James the Just
James , first Bishop of Jerusalem, who died in 62 AD, was an important figure in Early Christianity...

 for example) and not crucifixion. Furthermore, talk of a restoration of the Jewish monarchy was seditious under Roman occupation. Further, Jesus would have entered Jerusalem at an especially risky time, during Passover, when popular emotions were running high. Although most Jews did not have the means to travel to Jerusalem for every holiday, virtually all tried to comply with these laws as best they could. And during these festivals, such as the Passover, the population of Jerusalem would swell, and outbreaks of violence were common. Scholars suggest that the High Priest feared that Jesus' talk of an imminent restoration of an independent Jewish state might spark a riot. Maintaining the peace was one of the primary jobs of the Roman-appointed High Priest, who was personally responsible to them for any major outbreak. Scholars therefore argue that he would have arrested Jesus for promoting sedition and rebellion, and turned him over to the Romans for punishment.

Burial and empty tomb


Scholars are split on whether Jesus was buried. Craig A. Evans
Craig A. Evans
Craig Alan Evans is a biblical scholar and author.He earned his Bachelor of Arts in history and philosophy from Claremont McKenna College, a Master of Divinity from Western Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon, and his Master of Arts and Ph.D...

 contends that, "the literary, historical and archaeological evidence points in one direction: that the body of Jesus was placed in a tomb, according to Jewish custom." John Dominic Crossan, based on his unique position that the Gospel of Peter
Gospel of Peter
The Gospel According to Peter , commonly called the Gospel of Peter, is one of the non-Canonical gospels which were rejected by the Church Fathers and the Catholic Church's synods of Carthage and Rome, which established the New Testament canon, as apocryphal...

 contains the oldest primary source about Jesus, argued that the burial accounts become progressively extravagant and thus found it historically unlikely that an enemy would release a corpse, contending that Jesus' followers did not have the means to know what happened to Jesus' body. Crossan's position on the Gospel of Peter has not found scholarly support, from Meyer's description of it as "eccentric and implausible", to Koester's critique of it as "seriously flawed". Other scholars write that at least one member of the Sanhedrin obtained the body of Jesus from Pilate and arranged for a dishonorable burial. In particular, Byron R. McCane writes that a new tomb as described in the gospel "would be the only culturally acceptable alternative to a criminal's burial place, for it would be the only other way to preserve the boundry of shame that separated Jesus from his people".

Bart Ehrman points out that historians try to determine which events most probably occurred. Even if Jesus' followers did find his tomb empty, any improbable explanation for its being empty is historically superior to the explanation that Jesus rose from the dead, which would be a virtual impossibility. Some scholars think that the story of the empty tomb is a late development and that Mark's account of the women telling no one explains why the story had not been widely or previously known. However, Michael Grant wrote: "[I]f we apply the same sort of criteria that we would apply to any other ancient literary sources, then the evidence is firm and plausible enough to necessitate the conclusion that the tomb was indeed found empty". Still, scholars Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz conclude that "the empty tomb can only be illuminated by the Easter faith (which is based on appearances); the Easter faith cannot be illuminated by the empty tomb."

Disciples abandon Jesus


When Jesus was arrested, the disciples fled (Mark 14:50, Matthew 26:56) and did not witness his crucifixion. The cowardly and disoriented behavior of the disciples suggests that Jesus had not foretold his own death and resurrection, as the gospels say he did. The gospels disagree on whether the disciples fled to Galilee (Matthew) or stayed in Jerusalem (Luke). In the opinion of E. P. Sanders, they fled to Galilee and later returned to Jerusalem.

Resurrection appearances



Since supernatural events cannot be reconstructed using empirical methods, the resurrection of Jesus
Resurrection of Jesus
The Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus states that Jesus returned to bodily life on the third day following his death by crucifixion. It is a key element of Christian faith and theology and part of the Nicene Creed: "On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures"...

 qualifies as a point of Christian dogma unamenable to the historical method.
What can be debated in scholarship is whether the accounts of the resurrection appearances have been present in the original gospel or whether they are later insertions.
The point of view that the accounts reflect historical visions by the followers of Jesus is known as the vision hypothesis
Vision hypothesis
The vision hypothesis is a term used to cover a range of theories that question the physical resurrection of Jesus, and suggest that sightings of a risen Jesus were visionary experiences. As the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus is a cornerstone of Christian belief, the vision hypothesis is...

. The alternative hypothesis assumes that the resurrection appearances are legendary and were inserted during the decades following Jesus' death.

Paul
Paul of Tarsus
Paul the Apostle , also known as Saul of Tarsus, is described in the Christian New Testament as one of the most influential early Christian missionaries, with the writings ascribed to him by the church forming a considerable portion of the New Testament...

 recorded his vision in an epistle and lists other reported appearances. He does not describe any of the appearances, and he makes no distinction between his and the others. Acts reports that Paul's vision did not involve seeing Jesus in the flesh. The oldest extant versions of the Gospel of Mark report Jesus' empty tomb, but Matthew, Luke, and John all include significant resurrection appearances. In general, the appearance stories from the last three gospels do not match each other.

The inconsistent resurrection stories probably arose from competition over who was first among the witnesses rather than from deliberate fraud.
The Jesus Seminar
Jesus Seminar
The Jesus Seminar is a group of about 150 critical scholars and laymen founded in 1985 by Robert Funk under the auspices of the Westar Institute....

 favors the vision hypothesis
Vision hypothesis
The vision hypothesis is a term used to cover a range of theories that question the physical resurrection of Jesus, and suggest that sightings of a risen Jesus were visionary experiences. As the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus is a cornerstone of Christian belief, the vision hypothesis is...

, that the appearance stories are based on visionary experiences of Peter, Paul, and Mary."

Theories of the historical Jesus


Current North American scholarship is dominated by the scholars of the so-called "third quest" for the historical Jesus. Important representatives of this group are E.P. Sanders, Geza Vermes, Gerd Theissen, and John Dominic Crossan. They see the historical Jesus as the founder and leader of a restoration movement within Judaism. They identify a continuity between the movement that Jesus started and the religion that would eventually define itself as the Christian Church. Scholarship has split into different trends, with the main point of contention over whether Jesus saw the Kingdom of God as an imminent apocalyptic, earthly victory undertaken by God or as something internal, enacted by believers. The latter, non-apocalyptic view is current primarily in North American scholarship.

Apocalyptic prophet


The gospels portray Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet, described by himself and by others as the Son of Man
Son of man
The phrase son of man is a primarily Semitic idiom that originated in Ancient Mesopotamia, used to denote humanity or self. The phrase is also used in Judaism and Christianity. The phrase used in the Greek, translated as Son of man is ὁ υἱὸς τοὺ ἀνθρώπου...

 - translated as the Son of Humanity - and hailing the restoration of Israel. Jesus himself, as the Son of God
Son of God
"Son of God" is a phrase which according to most Christian denominations, Trinitarian in belief, refers to the relationship between Jesus and God, specifically as "God the Son"...

, a description also used by himself and others for him, was to rule this kingdom as lord of the Twelve Apostles, the judges of the twelve tribes.

Albert Schweitzer
Albert Schweitzer
Albert Schweitzer OM was a German theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary. He was born in Kaysersberg in the province of Alsace-Lorraine, at that time part of the German Empire...

 emphasized that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, preparing his fellow Jews for the imminent end of the world. In fact, Schweitzer saw Jesus as a failed, would-be Messiah
Jewish Messiah claimants
The Messiah in Judaism has a number of interpretations, including any king chosen by God; a holy king who will lead Israel; and someone who will usher in an idyllic age of peace and justice...

 whose ethic was suitable only for the short interim before the apocalypse. Some scholars concur that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, most notably Geza Vermes
Geza Vermes
Géza Vermes or Vermès is a British scholar of Jewish Hungarian origin and writer on religious history, particularly Jewish and Christian. He is a noted authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient works in Aramaic, and on the life and religion of Jesus...

, Paula Fredriksen
Paula Fredriksen
Paula Fredriksen is a historian and a scholar of religious studies. She held the position of William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of the Appreciation of Scripture at Boston University through 2010 and is now the William Goodwin Aurelio Chair Emerita of the Appreciation of Scripture.She earned a Ph.D...

, Bart Ehrman, and John P. Meier
John P. Meier
John Paul Meier is a Biblical scholar and Catholic priest. He attended St. Joseph's Seminary and College , Gregorian University [Rome] , and the Biblical Institute [Rome]...

. E. P. Sanders portrays Jesus as expecting to assume the "viceroy" position in God's kingdom, above the Twelve Disciples, who would judge the twelve tribes, but below God. He concludes, however, that Jesus seems to have rejected the title Messiah, and he contends that the evidence is uncertain to whether Jesus meant himself when he referred to the Son of Man coming on the clouds as a divine judge (see also Daniel's Vision of Chapter 7
Daniel's Vision of Chapter 7
Daniel 7 is the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible. It is the last chapter written in Aramaic before it continues again in the Hebraic Masoretic text of the next chapter...

), and further states that biblical references to the Son of Man as a suffering figure are not genuine.

Wisdom sage


A common view in North American scholarship is that Jesus did not prophesy an imminent apocalypse.

Scholars associated with the Jesus Seminar
Jesus Seminar
The Jesus Seminar is a group of about 150 critical scholars and laymen founded in 1985 by Robert Funk under the auspices of the Westar Institute....

, such as John Dominic Crossan
John Dominic Crossan
John Dominic Crossan is an Irish-American religious scholar and former Catholic priest known for co-founding the Jesus Seminar. Crossan is a major figure in the fields of biblical archaeology, anthropology and New Testament textual and higher criticism. He is also a lecturer who has appeared in...

, are often associated with this view. They reject the view that Jesus was apocalyptic, but that the kingdom was present and accessible for all Jews. Crossan emphasizes that Jesus' movement did not have a head, as John the Baptist's movement had taken John as their leader. For Crossan, Jesus called people to emulate him, and travel as itinerant preachers. Jesus' eschatology
Eschatology
Eschatology is a part of theology, philosophy, and futurology concerned with what are believed to be the final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world or the World to Come...

 is one of personal action and social transformation, like Gandhi's, rather than apocalyptic. These scholars also explain Jesus' apocalyptic statements as later, Christian additions to the biblical narrative, likely introduced by followers of John the Baptist (who did prophesy an imminent apocalypse) who later joined Jesus' movement.

Marcus Borg maintains that three fifths to three quarters of North American scholars actively engaging in Jesus research no longer accept the apocalyptic viewpoint. Several other authors vindicate that consensus in current theological literature is that Jesus did not see the Kingdom of God
Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is a foundational concept in the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.The term "Kingdom of God" is found in all four canonical gospels and in the Pauline epistles...

 as a future apocalyptic event, but as a movement toward an ethical eschatology that had not been fully completed
Realized eschatology
Realized eschatology is a Christian eschatological theory popularized by C. H. Dodd that holds that the eschatological passages in the New Testament do not refer to the future, but instead refer to the ministry of Jesus and his lasting legacy...

. The apocalyptic view, however, seems to have enjoyed a revival.

Other views


There are many other interpretations of Jesus.

Scholars such as N. T. Wright and Luke Timothy Johnson
Luke Timothy Johnson
Luke Timothy Johnson is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Candler School of Theology and a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University...

, take the minority view that the image of Jesus presented in the gospels is largely accurate. They hold that dissenting scholars be more cautious about what we can claim to know about the ancient period, and see no problem in accepting traditional accounts when miraculous events
Miracles of Jesus
The miracles of Jesus are the supernatural deeds of Jesus, as recorded in Gospels, in the course of his ministry. According to the Gospel of John, only some of these were recorded. states that "Jesus did many other things as well...

, such as the resurrection
Resurrection appearances of Jesus
The major Resurrection appearances of Jesus in the Canonical gospels are reported to have occurred after his death, burial and resurrection, but prior to his Ascension. Among these primary sources, most scholars believe First Corinthians was written first, authored by Paul of Tarsus along with...

, are beyond the historical method to either prove or disprove. Scholars have considered other alternative possibilities on the issue that are in nature historical rather than theological, some of which do and some of which do not assume Jesus to also have been the Son of God.

Morton Smith
Morton Smith
Morton Smith was an American professor of ancient history at Columbia University. He is best known for his controversial discovery of the Mar Saba letter, a letter attributed to Clement of Alexandria containing excerpts from a Secret Gospel of Mark, during a visit to the monastery at Mar Saba in...

 argued that Jesus was best understood as a magician, a view based on the presentation of Jesus in later Jewish sources. In light of the Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

 representations of Jewish figures such as Hanina ben Dosa
Hanina Ben Dosa
Hanina ben Dosa was a scholar and miracle-worker, and the pupil of Johanan ben Zakkai . He is buried in the City of Arraba....

 and Honi the Circle Drawer Geza Vermes
Geza Vermes
Géza Vermes or Vermès is a British scholar of Jewish Hungarian origin and writer on religious history, particularly Jewish and Christian. He is a noted authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient works in Aramaic, and on the life and religion of Jesus...

 views Jesus as a pious and charismatic holy man known as a hasid. Some Marxists, like Kautsky
Karl Kautsky
Karl Johann Kautsky was a Czech-German philosopher, journalist, and Marxist theoretician. Kautsky was recognized as among the most authoritative promulgators of Orthodox Marxism after the death of Friedrich Engels in 1895 until the coming of World War I in 1914 and was called by some the "Pope of...

, see Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 as a forerunner of communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

, since according to and the Apostle
Apostle (Christian)
The term apostle is derived from Classical Greek ἀπόστολος , meaning one who is sent away, from στέλλω + από . The literal meaning in English is therefore an "emissary", from the Latin mitto + ex...

s founded a communist society. Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

 saw Jesus as championing Christian anarchism
Christian anarchism
Christian anarchism is a movement in political theology that combines anarchism and Christianity. It is the belief that there is only one source of authority to which Christians are ultimately answerable, the authority of God as embodied in the teachings of Jesus...

; although Tolstoy never actually used the term "Christian anarchism" in The Kingdom of God Is Within You, reviews of this book following its publication in 1894 coined the term.

Hyam Maccoby
Hyam Maccoby
Hyam Maccoby was a British Jewish scholar and dramatist specializing in the study of the Jewish and Christian religious tradition. His grandfather and namesake was Rabbi Hyam Maccoby , better known as the "Kamenitzer Maggid," a passionate religious Zionist and advocate of vegetarianism and animal...

 proposed the theory that Jesus was a Pharisee, arguing that the positions ascribed to the Pharisees in the Gospels are very different from what we know of them. In fact their opinions were very similar to those ascribed to Jesus. According to Maccoby the gospel stories were edited in an anti-Jewish direction by Pauline Christianity
Pauline Christianity
Pauline Christianity is a term used to refer to the Christianity associated with the beliefs and doctrines espoused by Paul of Tarsus through his writings. Most of orthodox Christianity relies heavily on these teachings and considers them to be amplifications and explanations of the teachings of...

. He believed that Jesus did not see himself as divine, but as a human Messiah who would trigger a prophesied divine intervention that would restore the Jewish monarchy in Israel and would lead to the Kingdom of God. In Maccoby's view Pauline Christianity was a completely distorted version of the teachings of Jesus which would have appalled Jesus himself had he known of it.

Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name...

 scholar Robert Eisenman
Robert Eisenman
Robert Eisenman is an American Biblical scholar, theoretical writer, historian, archaeologist, and "road" poet. He is currently Professor of Middle East Religions, Archaeology, and Islamic Law and director of the Institute for the Study of...

 controversially proposes that James the Just
James the Just
James , first Bishop of Jerusalem, who died in 62 AD, was an important figure in Early Christianity...

, who is traditionally believed to have been the brother of Jesus, was in fact the Teacher of Righteousness
Teacher of Righteousness
The Teacher of Righteousness is a figure found in some of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, most prominently in the Damascus Document. This document speaks briefly of the origins of the sect, probably Essenes, 390 years after the Babylonian exile and after 20 years of 'groping' blindly for the way...

 mentioned in the scrolls. This requires a later date for the scrolls than the current scholarly consensus. In Eisenman's theory Jesus and James were part of a movement to restore the sacred Jewish monarchy and a legitimate high priesthood
Kohen Gadol
The High Priest was the chief religious official of Israelite religion and of classical Judaism from the rise of the Israelite nation until the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem...

. The image of Jesus portrayed in the gospels would then be the work of pro-Roman propaganda by Paul of Tarsus
Paul of Tarsus
Paul the Apostle , also known as Saul of Tarsus, is described in the Christian New Testament as one of the most influential early Christian missionaries, with the writings ascribed to him by the church forming a considerable portion of the New Testament...

 and Pauline Christianity
Pauline Christianity
Pauline Christianity is a term used to refer to the Christianity associated with the beliefs and doctrines espoused by Paul of Tarsus through his writings. Most of orthodox Christianity relies heavily on these teachings and considers them to be amplifications and explanations of the teachings of...

. This viewpoint is supported by a popular book, originally a Master's thesis by history student Thijs Voskuilen, which basically says that Paul of Tarsus
Paul of Tarsus
Paul the Apostle , also known as Saul of Tarsus, is described in the Christian New Testament as one of the most influential early Christian missionaries, with the writings ascribed to him by the church forming a considerable portion of the New Testament...

 was a Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 secret agent and the Nemesis
Archenemy
An archenemy, archfoe, archvillain or archnemesis is the principal enemy of a character in a work of fiction, often described as the hero's worst enemy .- Etymology :The word archenemy or arch-enemy originated...

 of Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

.

Alvar Ellegård proposes a theory that is somewhat similar to that of Eisenman. He believes that the Jesus of the Pauline Epistles
Pauline epistles
The Pauline epistles, Epistles of Paul, or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen New Testament books which have the name Paul as the first word, hence claiming authorship by Paul the Apostle. Among these letters are some of the earliest extant Christian documents...

 goes back to the Essene Teacher of Righteousness. Unlike Eisenman, Ellegård believes in the traditional dating of the scrolls to the 1st and 2nd centuries BCE and explains the time difference between Jesus and James by assuming James was not in fact the brother of Jesus.

Quest for the historical Jesus



Traditionally, Western scholars considered the Gospel accounts of Jesus to be authoritative and inspired by God, but, starting in the late 18th century, scholars began to submit the Gospels to historical scrutiny. From 1744 to 1767, Hermann Samuel Reimarus
Hermann Samuel Reimarus
Hermann Samuel Reimarus , was a German philosopher and writer of the Enlightenment who is remembered for his Deism, the doctrine that human reason can arrive at a knowledge of God and ethics from a study of nature and our own internal reality, thus eliminating the need for religions based on...

 composed a treatise rejecting miracles and accusing Bible authors of fraud, but did not publish his findings. Gotthold Lessing published Reimarus's conclusions in the Wolfenbuettel fragments. D.F.Strauss's
David Strauss
David Friedrich Strauss was a German theologian and writer. He scandalized Christian Europe with his portrayal of the "historical Jesus," whose divine nature he denied...

 biography of Jesus set Gospel criticism on its modern course. Strauss explained gospel miracles as natural events misunderstood and misrepresented. Joseph Renan was the first to portray Jesus simply as a human person. Albrecht Ritschl
Albrecht Ritschl
Albrecht Ritschl was a German theologian.Starting in 1852, Ritschl lectured on "Systematic Theology". According to this system, faith was understood to be irreducible to other experiences, beyond the scope of reason. Faith, he said, came not from facts but from value judgments...

 had reservations about this project, but it became central to liberal Protestantism
Liberal Christianity
Liberal Christianity, sometimes called liberal theology, is an umbrella term covering diverse, philosophically and biblically informed religious movements and ideas within Christianity from the late 18th century and onward...

 in Germany and to the Social Gospel
Social Gospel
The Social Gospel movement is a Protestant Christian intellectual movement that was most prominent in the early 20th century United States and Canada...

 movement in America. Martin Kaehler protested, arguing that the true Christ is the one preached by the whole Bible, not a historical hypothesis. William Wrede
William Wrede
Georg Friedrich Eduard William Wrede was a German Lutheran theologian.Wrede was born at Bücken in Hannover. He became an associate professor at Breslau in 1893, and full professor in 1896. He died in office in 1906....

 questioned the historical reliability of Mark. Albert Schweitzer
Albert Schweitzer
Albert Schweitzer OM was a German theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary. He was born in Kaysersberg in the province of Alsace-Lorraine, at that time part of the German Empire...

 showed how modern histories of Jesus had reflected the historians' bias. Karl Barth
Karl Barth
Karl Barth was a Swiss Reformed theologian whom critics hold to be among the most important Christian thinkers of the 20th century; Pope Pius XII described him as the most important theologian since Thomas Aquinas...

 and Rudolph Bultmann repudiated the quest for historical Jesus, suppressing any real interest in the topic from c 1920 to c 1970. There was a brief New Quest movement in the 50s. The 80s saw the founding of the controversial Jesus Seminar
Jesus Seminar
The Jesus Seminar is a group of about 150 critical scholars and laymen founded in 1985 by Robert Funk under the auspices of the Westar Institute....

. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church states that historical efforts to construct a biography of Jesus are as strong as ever, thanks to better knowledge of 1st-century Judaism, a rebirth of Roman Catholic scholarship, the acceptance of historical methods across denominations, literary analysis of Jesus' sayings, and sociological insights. However, Scot McKnight
Scot McKnight
Scot McKnight is a New Testament scholar who has written widely on the historical Jesus, Christian spirituality, and the Emerging Church. He is the Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University. Prior to joining the NPU faculty in 1994, he was a professor at Trinity...

 has said that the latest quest for the historical Jesus is dead.

Criticism of reconstructing a historical Jesus


See also Confirmation bias
Confirmation bias
Confirmation bias is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true.David Perkins, a geneticist, coined the term "myside bias" referring to a preference for "my" side of an issue...



Critics variously characterize the historical reconstruction of Jesus as either an unwarranted a priori rejection of all supernatural elements in Jesus' true identity, or as ascribing historical status to a fictional character. John P. Meier wrote that in the past the quest for the historical Jesus has often been motivated more by a desire to produce an alternate christology
Christology
Christology is the field of study within Christian theology which is primarily concerned with the nature and person of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament. Primary considerations include the relationship of Jesus' nature and person with the nature...

 than a true historical search; as an example, he points out that the stated motivation of one of the Jesus Seminar
Jesus Seminar
The Jesus Seminar is a group of about 150 critical scholars and laymen founded in 1985 by Robert Funk under the auspices of the Westar Institute....

 members was to overthrow the "mistake called Christianity." The quest is also said to be too western, too white, too bourgeois, and too male.

The linguist Alvar Ellegård argued that theologians have failed to question Jesus' existence because of a lack of communication between them and other scholars, causing some of the basic assumptions of Christianity to remain insulated from general scholarly debate. According to the historian of religion Joseph Hoffman
R. Joseph Hoffmann
R. Joseph Hoffmann is a historian of religion, and was chair of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, Associate Editor of the journal Free Inquiry from 2003-2009. He was founding editor of CSER's Review, CAESAR: A Journal of Religion and Human Values...

, there has never been "a methodologically agnostic approach to the question of Jesus' historical existence." Donald Akenson
Donald Akenson
Donald Harman Akenson is a historian and author.Akenson received his B.A. from Yale University and his doctorate from Harvard University. He is Professor of History at Queen's University and Beamish Research Professor at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, and Senior Editor...

, Professor of Irish Studies, in the department of history at Queen's University, has argued that, with very few exceptions, the historians of Yeshua have not followed sound historical practices. He has stated that there is an unhealthy reliance on consensus, for propositions, which should otherwise be based on primary sources, or rigorous interpretation. He also identifies a peculiar downward dating creep, and holds that some of the criteria being used are faulty. He says that, the overwhelming majority of biblical scholars are employed in institutions whose roots are in religious beliefs. Because of this, more than any other group in present day academia, biblical historians are under immense pressure to theologize their historical work. It is only through considerable individual heroism, that many biblical historians have managed to maintain the scholarly integrity of their work. John Meier
John P. Meier
John Paul Meier is a Biblical scholar and Catholic priest. He attended St. Joseph's Seminary and College , Gregorian University [Rome] , and the Biblical Institute [Rome]...

, Professor of theology at University of Notre Dame
University of Notre Dame
The University of Notre Dame du Lac is a Catholic research university located in Notre Dame, an unincorporated community north of the city of South Bend, in St. Joseph County, Indiana, United States...

, has also said "...I think a lot of the confusion comes from the fact that people claim they are doing a quest for the historical Jesus when de facto they’re doing theology, albeit a theology that is indeed historically informed..." Dale Allison
Dale Allison
Dale C. Allison is a Christian theologian who currently serves as Errett M. Grable Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Early Christianity at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Prior to joining Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1997, Allison served on the faculties of Texas Christian University...

, Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Early Christianity at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, founded in 1794, is a graduate theological institution associated with the Presbyterian Church USA. It is located in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA and houses one of the largest theological libraries in the nation...

, too says, "...We wield our criteria to get what we want..." Biblical scholars have also been accused of having a strong disinclination towards communicating to the lay public things they know, but which would be unsettling to mainstream Christians. However, the Old Testament scholar Albrektson, while identifying some possible problems, says that a great many biblical scholars do practise their profession as an ordinary philological and historical subject, avoiding dogmatic assumptions and beliefs.

The New Testament scholar Nicholas Perrin
Nicholas Perrin
Nicholas Perrin is a scholar of New Testament and early Christianity. He is currently Associate Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, Illinois...

 has argued that since most biblical scholars are Christians, a certain bias is inevitable, but he does not see this as a major problem.

Albert Schweitzer accused early scholars of religious bias. Rudolf Bultmann argued that historical research could reveal very little about the historical Jesus. Some have argued that modern biblical scholarship is insufficiently critical and sometimes amounts to covert apologetics.

Christian criticism


Professor C. Stephen Evans
C. Stephen Evans
C. Stephen Evans is an American historian and philosopher, he is one of the United States' leading experts on Søren Kierkegaard having published six books on Kierkegaard over 25 years. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Baylor University. He holds a B.A. with...

 holds that the stories told by "scientific, critical historians" are based on faith convictions no less than is the account of Jesus as the Christ the Son of God, an account that he maintains can be reasonably accepted as historically true.

Criticism as myth



Some writers, such as Earl Doherty
Earl Doherty
Earl J. Doherty is a Canadian author of Challenging the Verdict , The Jesus Puzzle and Jesus: Neither God Nor Man...

, G. A. Wells and Robert M. Price
Robert M. Price
Robert McNair Price is an American theologian and writer. He teaches philosophy and religion at the Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary, is professor of biblical criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute, and the author of a number of books on theology and the historicity of Jesus, including...

 question whether Jesus ever existed, and whether attempts to use the Gospels to reconstruct his life give the Gospels too much credit. This position, put forward in works such as the 2005 documentary The God Who Wasn't There
The God Who Wasn't There
The God Who Wasn't There is a 2005 independent documentary written and directed by Brian Flemming. The documentary questions the existence of Jesus, examining evidence that supports the Christ myth theory against the existence of a historical Jesus, as well as other aspects of Christianity.- Jesus...

, is very rare among Bible scholars. Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins
Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL , known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author...

 writes that while Jesus probably existed, it is "possible to mount a serious, though not widely supported, historical case that Jesus never lived at all." The philosopher Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

 doubted the existence of Jesus: and Peter Gandy argues that Jesus was derived from pagan gods like Dionysus
Dionysus
Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete...

.

See also


  • Historicity of Jesus
    Historicity of Jesus
    The historicity of Jesus concerns how much of what is written about Jesus of Nazareth is historically reliable, and whether the evidence supports the existence of such an historical figure...

  • Biblical archaeology (excavations and artifacts)
  • Biblical manuscript
    Biblical manuscript
    A biblical manuscript is any handwritten copy of a portion of the text of the Bible. The word Bible comes from the Greek biblia ; manuscript comes from Latin manu and scriptum...

  • Cultural and historical background of Jesus
    Cultural and historical background of Jesus
    Most scholars who study the Historical Jesus and Early Christianity believe that the Canonical Gospels and life of Jesus must be viewed as firmly placed within his historical and cultural context, rather than purely in terms of Christian orthodoxy...

  • Depiction of Jesus in art
  • Higher Criticism
  • Jefferson Bible
    Jefferson Bible
    The Jefferson Bible, or The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth as it is formally titled, was Thomas Jefferson's effort to extract the doctrine of Jesus by removing sections of the New Testament containing supernatural aspects as well as perceived misinterpretations he believed had been added by...

  • Jesus bloodline
    Jesus bloodline
    A Jesus bloodline is a hypothetical sequence of lineal descendants of the historical Jesus and Mary Magdalene, or some other woman, usually portrayed as his alleged wife or a hierodule...

  • Jesus in India
  • Jesus Seminar
    Jesus Seminar
    The Jesus Seminar is a group of about 150 critical scholars and laymen founded in 1985 by Robert Funk under the auspices of the Westar Institute....

  • Jesusism
    Jesusism
    Jesuism is the personal philosophy encompassing the moral teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and commitment or adherence to those teachings. Jesuism is distinct from and sometimes opposed to mainstream Christianity. In particular, the term is often contrasted with the theology attributed to Paul of...

  • List of artifacts significant to the Bible
  • New Testament view on Jesus' life
    New Testament view on Jesus' life
    The four canonical gospels of the New Testament are the primary sources of information for the doctrinal Christian narrative of the life of Jesus. There is not a single New Testament "view" on the life of Jesus, the four Canonical gospels tell different but connected stories...

  • Religious perspectives on Jesus
    Religious perspectives on Jesus
    The religious perspectives on Jesus vary among major world religions. Jesus' teachings and the retelling of his lifestory have significantly influenced the course of human history, and have directly or indirectly affected the lives of billions of people, even non-Christians.Christian consider Jesus...

  • The Bible and history
    The Bible and history
    The Bible from a historical perspective, includes numerous fields of study, ranging from archeology and astronomy to linguistics and methods of comparative literature. The Bible may provide insight into pursuits, including but not limited to; our understanding of ancient and modern culture,...

  • Tacitus on Jesus
    Tacitus on Jesus
    The Roman historian Tacitus referred to Christ and the early Christians in Rome in his Annals , book 15, chapter 44....

  • Josephus on Jesus
    Josephus on Jesus
    This article is part of the Jesus and history series of articles.Josephus was a renowned 1st-century Jewish historian...

  • Lucian on Jesus

External links

  • "Jesus Christ". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2009. The first section, on Jesus' life and ministry, is by E. P. Sanders, perhaps the most renowned expert on historical Jesus.
  • The Historical Jesus at the New Testament Gateway
  • PBS Frontline: From Jesus to Christ
  • An Overview of The Quest for the Historical Jesus by ancient historian John Dickson
    John Dickson (author)
    John Dickson is an Australian writer, historian and Senior Research Fellowin the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University. He is co-founder and director of the Centre for Public Christianity, a media company that seeks to "promote the public understanding of the Christian faith"...

  • Articles about the historical Jesus by William Lane Craig
    William Lane Craig
    William Lane Craig is an American analytic philosopher, philosophical theologian, and Christian apologist. He is known for his work on the philosophy of time and the philosophy of religion, specifically the existence of God and the defense of Christian theism...

  • Unofficial page of N. T. Wright, including articles about the historical Jesus
  • Faculty page of Paula Fredriksen
    Paula Fredriksen
    Paula Fredriksen is a historian and a scholar of religious studies. She held the position of William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of the Appreciation of Scripture at Boston University through 2010 and is now the William Goodwin Aurelio Chair Emerita of the Appreciation of Scripture.She earned a Ph.D...

    , including articles about the historical Jesus