1. Jesus Christ was only a mythical figure
Although part of the Bible story, virtually all modern scholars studying antiquity say that Jesus did exist historically. Most of them agree that Jesus was a Galilean, Jewish rabbi who preached his message orally, and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate.
2. Jesus Christ was founder of a world religious tradition
Most people think of him as an eminent religious leader pointing to the importance of spiritual rather than material things.
For example in relation to what Buddhism calls attachment, and what the Jewish tradition refers to as coveting, Jesus said:
“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world but lose his soul?”
This is similar to the teachings of the leaders of other religions:
“You use all your vital energy on external things and wear out your spirit” (Chuang Tzu, a Taoist sage)
“It is difficult for a person laden with riches to climb the steep path that leads to bliss.” (The Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam)
Actually, Jesus Christ was a founder of a restoration movement within Judaism. Only after his death, did the community his followers formed eventually became the Christian church.
3. Jesus Christ was a very good man
He has been seen as a religious ascetic holy man and thus a symbol of perfect goodness and virtue. A role model we can aspire to copy. In washing the feet of others he revealed his humility, he showed care for the sick, and he asked for the forgiveness of those who were crucifying him.
“Jesus Christ. I mean, not only was He the greatest human being to ever walk the earth, He’s everything that I want to strive for. He’s everything that anyone should ever want to strive for.” (Sam Bradford, American football player)
4. Jesus Christ was a great moral teacher
The sayings attributed to Jesus, e.g. those known as Sermon on the Mount, are to do with forgiveness and compassion. They have been seen to have a healing quality directed not merely to some particular disease or misfortune but to the vital core of the individual, focusing as they on love and humility rather than demand and penalty.
“We should live our lives as though Christ was coming this afternoon.” (Jimmy Carter, ex-President USA)
5. Jesus Christ was God’s messenger and prophet
This is the idea that Jesus was Divinely inspired, differing from the wisdom of other men, not in kind, but only in degree. For example Muslims considered Jesus to be one of God’s important prophets chosen to spread God’s message.
If he indeed was a prophet some of his parables of judgment make uncomfortable reading about our destiny. The wheat was to be stored but the weeds were to be burned, the foolish virgins were to be excluded from the wedding banquet, the worthless servant who buried his talent was to be thrown outside into the darkness.
“Those who meet Jesus always experience either joy or its opposites, either foretastes of Heaven or foretastes of Hell. Not everyone who meets Jesus is pleased, and not everyone is happy, but everyone is shocked.” (Peter Kreeft, author of Jesus-Shock)
6. Jesus Christ was a miracle maker
The possibility of supernatural events is accepted by those who believe Jesus, like some other Bible figures such as Elisha and Peter, was able to use what they see as God’s omnipotent power. For example he is said to cause a huge number of fish to be caught, make a storm cease, and turn water into wine at a wedding. Whether seeing these stories as literally true or merely symbolic, Christian authors view them as works of love and mercy, performed to show compassion for sinful and suffering humanity.
7. Jesus Christ was a manifestation of God
Those following the Bahá’i faith see Jesus as serving as one of several manifestations of God reflecting God’s qualities and attributes and possessing simultaneous qualities of humanity and divinity.
Some Hindus consider Jesus to be an appearance or manifestation of the Supreme Being and point out similarities between Krishna and Jesus’ teachings. Some Buddhists, including Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, regard Jesus as a bodhisattva (i.e. a being with enlightenment motivated by great compassion) who dedicated his life to the welfare of people.
8. Jesus Christ is the Son of God
In his time the religious authorities in Judea asked for his death because they didn’t believe in his claim to be the Son of God which they saw as a great blasphemy.
Likewise today Muslims do not believe Jesus was the son of God. Islamic texts emphasise a strict notion of monotheism forbidding the association of partners with God which would be idolatry.
However the cornerstone of the Christian faith has been a belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ. At the same time Christians ask how could a divine Jesus have been an ignorant baby who had to learn slowly by way of experience and instruction, as all children do? How could Jesus have prayed to his Father as if to another?
Today mainstream Christians respond by believing that Jesus was the Son of God. They point out that this was his own claim about himself. They think of him as a separate person of the divine trinity alongside God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Their idea of atonement by the sacrifice of the cross would be impossible apart from the concept of the Son as a person distinct from the Father.
9. Jesus Christ is God himself
This is the view that, although as to his body Jesus Christ was a person like other people, nevertheless his inner character was infinite and divine. According to this view, he was the one God himself, in human form, who came at a point in history as the infant child of Mary to grow and learn on earth, experience the natural side of life, overcome its allurements, and thus cause all evil influences in the world to be curtailed.
In other words he wasn’t the Son of God in the sense of a separate Divine person. He saw himself in this way because unless he felt apart from his own self as God, he couldn’t have experienced temptation. And so he wasn’t conscious of his full identity even when praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest and trial, and when dying in agony nailed to the cross when he cried out to ask why God had forsaken him. For a fuller explanation
Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author Heart, Head & Hands
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