According to the numerous New Testament witnesses, as well as contemporary critics of Jesus and unsympathetic historians, a man called Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph, Christ of God, was crucified by Roman procurator Pontius Pilate early in the fourth decade CE. The name Jesus is pronounced yah-shua in Hebrew, meaning YHWH’s Salvation – God’s salvation.
Scholarly views of Jesus
These days, most scholars believe, based on the available evidence from archaeology and history, including from references in the Talmud, Jewish historian funded by Rome Josephus, Roman historian Tacitus, that a man known as Jesus and called Christ by his followers really existed, and that he was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, and crucified by order of Roman procurator of Judea Pontius Pilate around the beginning of the fourth decade CE.
Most scholars also agree that he was a controverisal itinerant rabbi, and that he had followers, some of whom were persecuted and killed. Where there is much disagreement is over the reliability and accuracy of many of the New Testament accounts of his life and sayings.
Ancient extra-Bibical Jewish writings referencing Jesus
There are numerous references to Jesus in the Talmud, a collection of ancient Jewish writings. These are uniformly critical of Jesus and portray him in a negative light. The various records indirectly parallel and confirm many significant aspects of the Gospel accounts, such as commentary on the nature of Jesus’ conception; his character, nature and standing; his teachings; his execution and the reason for it; his existence in the afterlife; healings in his name.
For instance, according to commentaries recorded in the Talmud, Jesus was Mary’s bastard child by the Roman soldier Pandera [Pantera] or that she conceived by an evil spirit; he was a bad son and student; he was a teacher, sorcerer and/or trickster who practiced idolatry and deceived and misled the people with his acts and teachings; he was executed because of these things; that he was punished in the afterlife with boiling hot shit; and that some healed others in his name.
References to Christ in the Quran
The Quran references Jesus in dozens of passages, saying he was born of a virgin; healed the blind and lepers; gave life to dead people and clay birds; that he was a human prophet and not the Son of God or divine, but that he was the spirit of God and the word of God, and that he did not die a physical death.
Reports from Jesus’ followers
Some followers of Jesus, some of whom were apparently direct disciples and witnesses, while others were close to them and had other sources (such as ‘Q’or ‘Quelle’), wrote the letters and accounts of his life that form the New Testament, as well as the non-canonical texts such as the Gospel of Thomas. These followers claim he made statements to them that alluded to or declared his divinity, and they reported on other of his actions and words in private and public situations that give the same impression.
These sources also report that Jesus was born of a virgin; preached good news to the poor about God’s love, righteousness, justice, graciousness, mercy and salvation; healed sick, diseased and deformed people, including lepers, the blind, deaf, mute and mentally/physically challenged; made statements that make sense only coming from the mouth of a ‘liar, lunatic or the Lord’, as C.S. Lewis put it; walked on water; turned water into wine; fed thousands with a few loaves and fishes on two occasions; raised the dead; and was himself raised from the dead by God himself, his own nature and power, the same being that creates and sustains the Multiverse.
Jesus and his disciples used the Tanakh to prove he is the Christ
The book known as the Bible is two-volume collection of 66 books, divided into the so-called Old Testament (OT)(39 books) and the New Testament (NT)(27 books). The OT Jewish canon was settled a few hundred years before Jesus was born. This canon sometimes references other writings created and preserved by Jewish prophets and royal and religious authorities, some of which we have copies of, and of which others have been lost to history, though copies may still be discovered.
This Tanakh/Septuagint canon is the one that would have been available to and used as holy scripture by Jesus, his followers and their contemporaries. Christ and his followers used it to prove he was the messiah, referencing specific passages that were fulfilled in Jesus’ birth, life, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.
See these external links for examples and analysis of Tanakh references by Jesus:
- Parallel Passages in New Testament Quoted from Old Testament
- Which Old Testament Book Did Jesus Quote Most?
- Jesus’ References to Old Testament Scriptures
- Which Old Testament text did Jesus prefer and quote from?
Why was Jesus executed?
Jesus’ execution is accepted as fact by scholars, atheists and religious people. According to the Gospels, Jesus of Nazareth son of Joseph was plotted against by the Jewish religious authorities and reformers, the Sadducees and Pharisees, because his actions and words exposed as fraudulent their claims to religious authority, wisdom, godliness and moral high ground, thus threatening their social, political and economic power, to the great delight of many Jewish members of the public.
In the Gospel accounts, Jesus was attracting public curiosity, fascination, popularity, support and followers. In many places and on many occasions he criticized and insulted the Jewish religious authorities (Sadducees) and corrupt ‘reformers’ (Pharisees), exposing them as hypocrites, thieves and selfish, brutal tyrants exploiting the poor. He was provoking them, testing him, facing them with their sins, giving them opportunities for honesty, humility and repentance – they didn’t accept.
Instead, they plotted how to have Jesus killed, settling on a plan to compel Pilate to execute him for treason, because he claimed to be a king, a rival to Caesar. After a Jewish midnight court convicted him of blasphemy for claiming to be Messiah, God the Son of God, they turned him over to Pilate.
The Gospels all contend the crucifixion of Jesus was the killing of the Christ, God the Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords. According to their reports, it was an act participated in by numerous human beings, who were motivated by a variety of ungodly and normal human values, which most people seem to reflect in one degree or another, from indifference and avoidance to gladly embracing anything else on the spectrum of evil, of less-than-good, from unkind beliefs and attitudes to organizing, ordering, cheering on or participating in the malevolent torment of a human being and the destruction of a human life, even one that was credibly innocent of any sin or crime, other than acknowledging, under questioning, his own deity – honest if true, blasphemy if not.
These accounts also agree that Jesus is alive today and forever, that he was resurrected, has ascended to the right hand of God, is here with us in the form of His Holy Spirit, and in the future will return to establish a permanent reign of peace and love on Earth, as in Heaven.
So who was Jesus and why was he crucified?
God’s relationship with humanity and human beings
The world’s major religions are divided into thousands of sects, and each adherent has their own views and priorities. No one believes, worships, serves or lives for God in exactly the same way, and most of us fail by even our own standards now and then, let alone those around us judging us.
But no one can seriously dispute that the religion called Christianity has grown tremendously in his name throughout the world, even though it has splintered into thousands of sects based on myriad and sometimes contradictory interpretations of the alleged teachings and truths of Christ. Again, there is little scholarly consensus on how much of what Jesus is reported to have said and done is true. In my own view, some things are dubious, while others have a stunning and profoundly-moving ring of truth.
In addition to the other witnesses in the New Testament, the world has the four accounts of Jesus’ life, character, actions and words known as the Gospels. Most scholars agree these were written by people who were there, or by others close to them, some of whom had other sources. Whoever these writers were, the portraits of Jesus painted by these Christians differ in both minor and significant ways, while agreeing and harmonizing in other important ways.
We all, every human being, animal, plant and atom, have our own relationship with our Creator. Those of us who can, who have minds, souls, ‘free will’ and responsibility for our actions, will give an account of our own lives when we meet our maker on the other side of life in this world. We will not be asked for an account of other’s lives as a reason for ours – we’ll be asked about what we did with our life, talents and circumstances, and if it was worth it.
Jesus said his sheep know his voice – I recommend reading the Bible to see what it says, and contemplate it, God and Jesus in prayer. See what happens – see what the spirit says to you.
What do you think of Jesus? Who is he?