There is a surprising amount of information about Jesus for which no
consensus has been reached:
Many questions have been raised about Jesus' earthly ministry:
Did Jesus exist? This may seem like an unusual question. Surely
everyone agrees that he roamed the hills of Galilee and Judea in the first third of the
1st century CE. However, there are skeptics who assert that he is a
mythical character whose life story is made up from ancient legends.
Others suggest that the stories of two or more wandering prophets in
Palestine were combined to form the gospels. Still others suggest
that he really lived much earlier, in the 1st or 2nd century
His conception: Most Christians and Muslims believe that he was born of
the virgin Mary. Roman Catholics believe that Mary was conceived free of original sin, so
that she could, in turn, conceive Jesus without sin. Many liberals consider the virgin birth to be a myth derived from Pagan sources; some feel
that it is demeaning, both to Jesus and to women.
His year of birth:Common estimates range
from 4 to 7 BCE. A few suggest centuries earlier. The second millennium anniversary
of his birth already passed years before the new millennium started in 2001.
His name: His name "Jesus"
was derived from the German version of his name which came from Latin
which came from Greek which originated in the Hebrew name "Yeshua" --
short for Yehoshua which is normally translated "Joshua."
His birthday: A surprising number of people believe that he was born on
DEC-25. His actual birthday is unknown, although there are
some indicators in the Gospels that it happened in the springtime or fall.
Where was he born? Both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke record that Jesus was born in
Bethlehem, in Judea, south of Jerusalem. Conservative Christians
accept this as the "gospel truth; they believe in the inerrancy
of the entire Bible and that God inspired its
authors." The Christian Scriptures (New Testament) leave no
room for debate. However, most liberal theologians believe that he was born and raised in
Nazareth. One suggests another Bethlehem, a small town less than ten
miles from Nazareth in the Galilee.
His siblings: Roman Catholics believe that Mary was a life-long virgin
and that Jesus was the only child that she gave birth to; he was her first-born and
last-born child. The Bible identifies four "brothers" of Jesus: James, Joseph, Judas and
Simon. He also had at least two "sisters." However, their exact number and names were never
recorded. Some Catholics believe that Jesus' brothers and sisters were in fact half-siblings;
they were children of Joseph by a previous marriage. Other Christians believe that the 6 siblings were
really cousins or close friends.
His physical characteristics: We do not know whether he was tall or
short. The image on the Shroud of Turin (believed
by many to be the burial shroud of Jesus) is of a man variously estimated to be 5' 11½" to 6' 2" tall. Jews who lived in
the 1st century CE were much shorter than this. Writer William Harwood
comments: "According to a medieval writer, [the Jewish
historian] Josephus described Jesus as an old-looking man, balding,
stooped, with joined eyebrows and approximately 135 cm (4ft 6 in.)
tall." 2 This is based on the standard 46
cm. long regular cubit -- an ancient unit of distance. Using the 53 cm. special cubit, Jesus' height
would have been about 156 cm (5ft 1in.). Harwood also makes the point
that if Jesus were really 6 feet high, his height would have been so
remarkable that he would certainly have been described as a very tall
person by the writers of the
Being Jewish, he had undoubtedly been circumcised. He presumably had a powerful
voice because he preached to large crowds. He probably had fairly
black hair and dark
skin, typical of 1st century Palestine citizens. He probably wore a beard, because that
was the custom of the time. He was probably in good physical shape, because he survived
the scourging before his crucifixion. Many prisoners died during the beating. But this is
all speculation, because his appearance was never described.
His sexual orientation: Some have
claimed that he was gay, because
there is no record of him every having been married. In 1st century Judaism, to remain
single into adulthood would have been severely criticized - and there is no record of such
reproach in the Christian Scriptures. But if he was openly gay, there would have been even
more criticism heaped on his shoulders, because 1st century Palestine culture was very
Some theologians believe that the Gospel of Mark had been circulated in two versions: the
edited version that we have today, and a full , "secret"
version which was reserved for those who "had attained a higher degree of
initiation in to the church than the common crowd."1
The latter describes Jesus spending the night with a young man who was naked except for a
linen cloth. Needless to say, this passage has not been accepted as legitimate by all
The overwhelming belief among Christians is that Jesus was heterosexual.
His marital status: Almost all Christians believe that he
never married. This would have been very unusual for a Jewish male in
the 1st century CE. During that era, almost all Jewish males married
early in life. Although there is no direct evidence that he was
married, some liberal theologians have pieced together a scenario that
suggests that he did marry Mary Magdalene -- perhaps at the marriage
in Cana in the Galilee, as described by the author(s) of the Gospel of
John. They note that the early
Church taught that she was a prostitute, even though there is no
evidence of this in the Bible. Some of the writings of the early
Church that never made it into the Christian Scriptures described Mary
as playing a major role as a leader of the disciples. The theologians
speculate that the Pauline church was trying to cover up Mary's
actual role by degrading her status.
The length of his ministry: Estimates range from 1 year (as described
in the Synoptic gospels) to 3 years (in the gospel of John). None of the events of his
life can be dated with any accuracy.
The location of his ministry: The synoptic gospels describe most of his
travels as being within Galilee; the Gospel of John places him mainly in and
Where he was buried: The Gospels say that he was buried in a newly
constructed tomb. Some liberal theologians assume that the Romans threw his body on a
garbage heap to be eaten by scavengers. This was a near-universal practice
for the victims of execution.
Resurrection: Most Christians believe that he was bodily resurrected
on a Sunday morning, about a day and a half after his death. Some very liberal
Christians reject the concept of a bodily resurrection, believing that
the idea was imported into Christianity from
Pagan religions in the Mediterranean region. Muslims believe
neither in the crucifixion nor the resurrection of Jesus. They believe
that he ascended bodily up to heaven.
How he viewed himself: Conservative Christians generally
believe that he looked upon himself as:
A member of the Godhead; the second personality of the Trinity;
the Son of God, and
The long-predicted Jewish Messiah, and
Responsible for announcing the imminent arrival of the Kingdom
of God to the world, and
The founder of a new religion, Christianity
Individual liberal Christians hold many diverse beliefs about how
Jesus saw his role. Many hold one or more of the following beliefs,
believing Jesus to be:
A promoter of a syncretistic religion combining Judaism and
A native healer and miracle worker.
A Greek cynic philosopher.
A liberal reformer within Judaism.
A social radical who wanted to remake Palestinian society into a
more egalitarian culture.
A follower of the liberal Hillel school of Judaism.
An individual, much like John the Baptist, whose task was to
alert people to the coming Kingdom of God, and lead them to
Religious liberals have been involved in a two-century long quest
for the historical Jesus. They are convinced that much of the
Gospel text does not describe the life of the man who trod the hills and valleys
of the Galilee. It was fictional material that was created in order to
convert Jesus into a deity. They believe that lurking within the
gospels is some hint of Jesus as he really was. They are dedicated to
catching a glimpse of Yeshua of Nazareth.