Saturday, 7 May 2011

The historical Jesus - A summary

Following my recent posts on the career and teachings of the historical Jesus, it is time to sum up.

The picture of Jesus (Yeshua bar Yosef) that I believe emerges from the sources is as follows.  To give greater authenticity, I have decided to use the Aramaic and Greek forms of names and places rather than their more familiar Anglicised equivalents - hence, for example, Galil rather than Galilee, and Yohanan the Baptiser rather than John the Baptist.

Jesus of Nazareth, based on the Turin Shroud


•  He was born roughly around 5 BC and died in or around 30 AD.
•  His ministry was confined to the years leading up to his death, from around 28 AD onwards.


•  His father was called Yosef and his mother was called Miryam.
•  He had several siblings, including brothers called Yakov, Yosef, Shimeon and Yehuda.


•  He was born and raised in the small village of Nazareth in Galil.
•  He spent time during his ministry in Kfar Nahum, a nearby fishing town.  He seems generally to have avoided pursuing his ministry in urban areas.
•  He spoke Aramaic, and possibly also a little Greek (which was an international lingua franca at the time).
•  The people of Galil were regarded as backward, hotheaded and patchy in their knowledge of the Jewish law.  However, they prided themselves on their devotion to Judaism.


•  Yeshua was a committed Jew and a strong believer in the enduring authority of the Torah.
•  He was familiar with the Torah and the other Jewish scriptures.
•  He greatly admired Yohanan the Baptiser, and was baptised by him.


•  He did not explicitly define what he perceived his identity to be.  However, he appears to have seen himself as God's son or vicegerent, and as a messianic figure.
•  He was described during his lifetime as the messiah, the 'son of God' and (at the end of his life) 'king of the Jews'.


•  He appointed 12 disciples and told them that they would judge the 12 tribes of Israel.
•  He also had women in his entourage, including one Miryam of Magdala.
•  He was a preacher who spoke in pithy, memorable sayings and stories.
•  He had a reputation as a healer and exorcist.
•  On the night before his death, he identified some bread and wine with his body and blood, and invited his disciples to eat and drink them.
•  He was executed by crucifixion, a death which he anticipated.


•  The "Kingdom of Heaven" was central to Yeshua's preaching.  This seems to have been the utopian world of the end times.
•  He believed that he was living in the end times.  He declared that the Kingdom was currently starting to manifest itself in Palestine, and believed that it would spread throughout the world.
•  The Kingdom would mean lavish rewards for some, while many others would be cast out or punished.
•  He adopted something of an anti-establishment stance, and was associated with marginal or lower-class social groups.
•  He affirmed the validity of the Torah, but held his followers to ethical teachings which went beyond the letter of the Law.  He also had a rather liberal view of some Jewish practices (e.g. in relation to the Sabbath).
•  He had a strong belief in the power of faith and prayer.
•  He asked for complete commitment to the Kingdom, including the renunciation of worldly goods and family ties.
•  He had rather limited interest in and regard for Gentiles.

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