Historical Jesus

Historical Jesus

The "historical Jesus" Jesus has been called many things by many people, including a great man, a great teacher, and a great prophet. There's really no legitimate scholar today that denies that Jesus is a historic figure that walked on this earth about 2,000 years ago, that he did remarkable wonders and acts of charity, and that he died a horrible death on a Roman cross just outside Jerusalem. Like these "scholars", I guess I never had a problem with this "historical Jesus." Similar to Buddha, Confucius, Zoroaster or Muhammad, I viewed Jesus as just another profound religious leader in history.

I must say, as a "practicing atheist," I experienced a number of people that totally rejected Jesus as an historic figure. They staunchly defended their various myth and conspiracy theories. However, I found their arguments to be very weak. Come on, the entire English-speaking world divides history into two principle periods: BC ("Before Christ") and AD ("Anno Domini" -- Latin for "Year of Our Lord"). Whether one subscribes to the BC/AD labels or the new "politically correct" BCE/CE ("Common Era") labels, the birth of Jesus Christ has always been the dividing line in history.

Also, nobody can deny the fact that every leader of every major world religion has confronted the historical Jesus. Muslims recognize Jesus as a prophet, while Jews either see him as a blaspheming rebel or an exceptional rabbi elevated to deity by idolatrous Gentiles. Many Buddhists regard Jesus as a "bodhisattva" (a perfectly enlightened being who vows to help others), while there's a Hindu tradition that Jesus was actually a guru who learned yogic meditation in India. 1

OK, so the person known as Jesus of Nazareth was an historic figure. Again, I really didn't have a problem with that reality. But what about his life and death as recorded in the Bible? Oh, wait… what about all those Old Testament prophecies of a coming Messiah ("Christos" in Greek)…?

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1 Kenneth L. Woodward, "The Other Jesus," Newsweek, March 27th, 2000.

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