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Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ)

Events in Jesus' life that people disagree about

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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:

bullet 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 BCE.
bullet 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.
bullet 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.
bullet 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."
bullet 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.
bullet 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.
bullet 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.
bullet 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' 11" 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 Christian Scriptures.

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.
bullet 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 homophobic.

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 scholars.

The overwhelming belief among Christians is that Jesus was heterosexual.
bullet 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


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