Jesus: From a Christian and Jewish Perspective

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His life was not the only aspect that would change the planet. His death is one of the biggest events in religious, a secular, and history. He was arrested and tried by the Roman government, and found guilty. He was crucified and his crucifixion would become one of the most widely known images in the world. After his death, if one were a member of the Christian faith, he would rise three days later to enter heaven with God. This act would be the final display of his divine nature. But, not everyone agrees on the figure presented by Christianity.  Different religions have different views on Jesus.  This is particularly true of Christianity and Judaism. These two faiths have radically different views on the nature of Jesus’ function as a religious figure. This paper will contrast the Christian view of Jesus with the Jewish one.

Before one looks at the religious aspect, it would be beneficial to examine Jesus from a historical perspective, in order to examine him without a religious lens. The historical examination of Jesus is harder than it would seem. The primary sources for the life and teachings of Jesus Christ are the gospels, which are obviously skewed to a Christian and religious perspective. So, one must look for sources independent of the gospels. Historians generally accept that Jesus existed, but outside of this fact there is not much that is known for certain. Outside of the fact that he existed, there are only two facts those historians are generally certain about. One is that Jesus was baptized, and the other is that he was crucified. He was most likely baptized by John the Baptist and he was a Jew from Galilee and that he mostly likely lived during the times referenced in the bible. He would begin his ministry in Galilee. He would teach about the kingdom of God, and he used parables to teach how one should live his or her life. Some scholars believe that the Kingdom of God may have been a moral one, and that it was a teaching tool. He accumulated followers, the chief of which were known as the Apostles. He would eventually leave Galilee and make his way to Jerusalem. Here, there would be an incident, and he would be arrested and turned into Pontius Pilate, and he would be crucified (Strauss 23). There is almost no archaeological evidence that Jesus existed, and the only evidence is documents and letters. However, Jesus is mentioned in some non-religious texts, including Josephus, a Jewish historian, and a Roman historian Tacitus. Tacitus, as Roman, did not hide his disdain for early Christians in his writings of Jesus’ trial and execution, and this makes it seem more authentic. Jesus also appears in a letter a Syrian writes to his son in prison, in which Jesus is referred to as the “King of the Jews” and compares his death to Socrates’ death in Athens. Jesus’ crucifixion is one of the main sources of evidence for his existence (Strauss 24). Most scholars agree that Christians would not have such a painful, excruciating death for their savior if it did not happen in real life. However, even though most scholars agree that Jesus was crucified, they do not agree on the reason for it. Some believe he was crucified for challenging Roman authority and not for the reasons stated in the bible. Even with the lack of evidence, modern historians have been able agree on several facts about Jesus’ life. He was a Galilean Jew, and his life can be narrowed down to around 7 to 2 BC and 30-36 AD. He only lived in Galilee and Judea, and never traveled outside of these places. Jesus spoke Aramaic and most likely spoke Greek and Hebrew, and while he gave his teachings in Aramaic, the Galilean and Judean dialects would have been substantially different. There is really no way to determine what Jesus looked like and that attempts to determine his ethnicity are almost always subjective attempts. Josephus’ historical accounts of John the Baptist, and the slightly embarrassing nature of them, lend credibility to his writings of Jesus. Jesus mostly taught about the Kingdom of heaven, and used parables and forgiveness was one of his main lessons. Finally, that based on the dates Pontius Pilate was a governor of Judea then he was crucified earlier than 36 AD (Strauss 25).

Now that one has looked at Jesus in a historical view of Jesus, and looked at Jesus without the historical context, one can examine Jesus through different historical lens. And, the Christian lens should be examined first. In the Christian religion, Jesus is the incarnation of the Son of God and that he is the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus birth and death are incredibly important to the Christian faith. His birthday is celebrated with Christmas. Good Friday honors the date he was crucified with his resurrection celebrated on Easter. Christianity also associates Jesus with the holy trinity; a concept explained in the article “The Holy Trinity” in which the author writes, “the dogma of the Trinity--three persons in one God-- was formulated by St. Augustine. Whenever the Christian speaks of “God.” St. Augustine wrote, he means “neither the Father nor the Son nor the Holy Ghost itself.” However, the Trinity--which, according to St. Bernard, it was ‘temerity to search into, piety to believe, and life eternal to know” (Francis 59). Christians believe that was born to the Virgin Mary and conceived by the Holy Spirit. When looking at Jesus from a religious perspective the best resources are the gospels. He taught the word of god and that if that people who accepted his message would get to live forever in the Kingdom of Heaven (Mark 10:13-27). Jesus wanted to people to repent for their sins and then devote themselves. He also had many teachings like turning the other cheek, forgiving people, and loving your enemies (Matthew 5-7). He also asserts in the Gospel of John that his words are not his own but the word of God (John 14:10). He would use parables in order to instruct his followers and give them life lessons. One of the most important aspects of Jesus from a religious perspective was his performance of miracles. He spent a large portion of his time performing miracles. Most of the time it was healing the sick. But, he would also perform nature miracles too. He would cure ailments and he would perform exorcisms on people suspected of demonic possession. Some of his most famous miracles are his accomplishments over the natural elements. He walked on water. He also raised the man Lazarus from the dead as one of the ultimate signs of his divine power. One of the most important even that Christians believe about Jesus is the Transfiguration. During the Transfiguration, Jesus took Peter and two other apostles to a mountain, and there he transformed in front of them and showed his divine presence. Jesus crucifixion is perhaps the most crucial element of the Christian faith. Many of the elements involve suffering and atonement for sins. Christians believe that Jesus died so that he could absolve them of all their sins. He carried his cross and refused a painkiller (John 19:26-27). Jesus’s side is pierced, and blood and water come out. He is then buried in a tomb and the tomb is sealed shut. Afterwards, his followers go to the tomb and find it empty. The different Gospels handle the resurrection differently. In Matthew, the tomb is guarded, and an angel descends to open the tomb and the guard faints and Jesus appears to the disciples and in Mark a man tells them that they will find Jesus in Galilee 14:26). In Luke, the followers do not believe the angels and then Jesus appears to them. These gospels are one of, if not the most, defining source for how Christian view Jesus. They firmly believe that he is divine and that he is the Son of God. The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of their faith (Corinthians 15:12-20) and that many believe that his sacrifice allows them to have eternal life. Also, sometimes Jesus is seen as the new and last Adam and an improvement over the original one because Jesus obeyed, 

and Adam did not. For this, Jesus is seen as the ultimate role model. Though there are some differing opinions among some sects of Christianity, many believe that Jesus was both human and the son of God. Now that one has looked at how Jesus was viewed in a historical context one needs to look at the differing religious perspectives. First, one should look at how Jewish people view Jesus. The fundamental difference is what religion Jesus actually was. Jewish people maintain that Jesus was a Jew for his whole life. But many Christians view Jesus as Christian even if he never said so himself (Crossman 2). Jewish people maintain that Jesus didn’t necessarily intend to start another religion and that he was merely just preaching Jewish principles. The next biggest difference that differs between Jewish people and Christians is the nature of the messiah (Herschel 28). The messiah is an important figure in both the Jewish and Christian religion. The messiah comes from writings in the Old Testament. The messiah is someone who would bring heaven to earth and about whom both religions disagree. The Jewish religion believes he has not come yet and Christians believe it was Jesus Christ.

 

 

Works Cited

Crossan, John Dominic. The historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. San 

Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.

Heschel, Susannah. Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus. University of Chicago Press, 1998.

The Bible (1998). Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP.

Francis, H. S. The Holy Trinity. The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 48(4), 

59-62.1986

Strauss, D. F. The Life of Jesus, critically examined. Cosimo, Inc. 2010