What do we know about the real, historical Jesus? Who is Jesus?
"Who is Jesus?" is one of the most important questions you could ever ask. Yet many do not recognize the difference between the historical, biblical Jesus and the various views of Jesus presented today. For example, Jesus is mentioned in the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, yet is represented much differently than in the New Testament. Various religious groups and cultural commentaries offer a wide variety of perspectives regarding the true identity of Jesus. Who was the real, historical Jesus?
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A brief summary based on the biblical accounts notes that He was born to a virgin woman, Mary from Nazareth, who was betrothed (similar to engaged) to Joseph of Nazareth, a descendant of David from the tribe of Judah. When the couple traveled to Bethlehem for a census (Luke 2), Jesus was born and laid in a manger because there was no room for the family at the inn. His family was visited by shepherds who had been instructed by angels to go and see Jesus. Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day in accordance with Jewish law and custom. He was also presented at the Temple as required by the Law of Moses. Likely at least a year after his birth, wise men from the east came to visit the family. After their visit, Joseph was warned in a dream to take his family to Egypt to avoid Jesus' death at the hands of Herod. The family fled the city, later returning to Nazareth after Herod's death.
At about 30 years of age, Jesus was baptized and began His public teaching ministry (Luke 3—4). He taught in the local synagogues, healed people, cast out evil spirits, and worked many miracles. After three or so years of this activity and teaching His disciples, the religious leaders plotted to have Jesus killed. Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem during the time of the Passover. He was buried in a new tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, and rose from the dead on the third day. He appeared to many over a 40-day period before ascending to heaven and sending out His followers to make disciples.
On the Day of Pentecost the promised Holy Spirit empowered the disciples in Jerusalem who then shared the message of the resurrected Jesus with others. About 3,000 were baptized that day and the church began. Through both persecution and missionary expansion, the early church quickly grew and spread to many locations throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. By the fourth century, Christianity was recognized as the official religion of the Roman Empire. Still today, the message of Jesus goes forth across the world with the Bible being the world's most translated and best-selling book.
Unlike many other religions, the historical facts concerning Jesus Christ, the focus of Christianity, can be studied and verified through historical inquiry. Though salvation is by faith, it is not a blind faith. History and archaeology have frequently affirmed key facts noted in the New Testament that show the accurate nature of its contents. The historical Jesus is also mentioned in other ancient writings, ranging from those of the Jewish historian Josephus to the many early church fathers, to official Roman documents that refer to aspects of early Christianity. The historical Jesus was not a myth, but rather is the Messiah whom many follow as Savior today.
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