What do we Know about Jesus of Nazareth?
Do you believe Jesus Christ, from Nazareth actually existed?
What Do We know about the Man called Jesus of Nazareth?
Who is Jesus of Nazareth and how can we know?
I have studied the scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments for a lot of my life. It started early on, when my mother put me into a private Christian School. I began learning from that point on. So below is my attempt to share with you what I think we can know of Jesus based on what we have been given about him. It is not meant to be exhaustive.
I think the best place to gather information about Jesus of Nazareth is from the gospels in the New Testament Bible. I consider them historical documents because they were written rather early on after Jesus lived, and because of the evidences found in copies of manuscripts over the centuries. Considering their early dating, the first half of the first century, and also the fact that many wanted to destroy any such evidences of Jesus in any way they could, it really is rather remarkable we have the documentation we have.
That aside, once one has studied how we can know anything from history at all, especially in ancient times, and understands textual criticism more fully, it begins to become rather clear why the gospels of the New Testament ought to more than fit the bill as historical documents. This is true especially when one comes to understand what other historical figures are considered real and having lived in history, and what accounts for that knowledge and how it came to us.
Example of Evidence for William Shakespeare
For instance, we don't tend to ever doubt that William Shakespeare existed and wrote the works he did, yet we don't have even one full copy of any of his works. Many don't realize this. This is significant because he lived in the 17th century, and I am comparing someone we don't doubt (Shakespeare), to a person many doubt that to textual support for his life and work.
The number of manuscript copies is one thing. An understanding of how precise the scribes were at even throwing away a copy that might be almost done into the trash if one mistake was made is something many might not know about as well. This accounts for the many very similar copies if not exact copies. You just don't find what we find with these documents in historical record keeping very often if ever. Yet it is found with New Testament documents.
So I just wanted to establish first why I think we have good reasons for thinking Jesus existed and that those that believe he did are more than in their right to do so. Once one understands all the finer details involved with how history comes to us at all, you will likely come to the same conclusion. So, moving from there to what I know, in answer to the question of what I know about Jesus of Nazareth.
What can we know about Jesus of Nazareth?
Jesus was known about by his mother and Joseph before he was born, due to angelic visitations. From there the miracles began as the scriptures share them in the gospels. From before his birth and even surrounding and soon after the birth of Jesus, we know there were miraculous things happening. We know that King Herod was intimidated by this tiny baby and the prophecies surrounding him, based on the wise men or magi that visited from the East. He acted on that knowledge in what we now know as the massacre of the innocents. That Jesus and his family escaped due to a warning in dream was one of the miracles I am talking about.
Jesus Growing Up
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but his family was from Nazareth and that was where he grew up. Jesus learned to be a carpenter like Joseph was. We know he had some kind of amazing knowledge as he amazed the teachers and people in the temples when he was lost once. He referred to the temple as his Father's house, and thought it odd his parents wouldn't have known to find him there. For young man, he amazed people with the knowledge he had of the ancient scriptures and things of God.
We know also that Jesus had other siblings. Mary and Joseph conceived children together after Jesus was born. Mary did not remain a virgin, it is not supported nor even suggested in scripture that I can find anywhere. The opposite is suggested and even stated outright, that Joseph and Mary waited until after Jesus was born.
Coming out into the Public Eye More
He came to see John the Baptist, who had been baptizing people. He allowed John to baptize him, though John didn't want to at first. He knew this was the One who he had been speaking of all this time that would be coming. God was pleased, and a dove alighted upon him.
Jesus came into this ministry part of his life about the age of 30 or so. We know most about him in those last three years of his life. He was reluctant to start showing his miracles but at the urging of his mother who knew him well, he started with turning the water to wine at a wedding feast.
Jesus became known for his teaching, for his mercy and grace and amazing healing power. He seemed to have power over all kinds of things that humans do not have power over. It seems clear that if indeed Jesus was the Son of God as he said, that he would do things that only God could do, by the very power of God was within him. This got attention and it was meant to. After all, who is this no name guy from Nazareth? If he was meant to be the ultimate revelation to mankind from God, he has stand out. There is no denying by anyone in any religion or worldview that I know of, that would deny that Jesus indeed made a statement out of his short life on this
planet. From then till now, he changed the face of this planet.
This is another reason perhaps to take him seriously, it is just as I would expect it to be if he indeed was who he said he was.
Jesus and His Followers
Jesus called twelve disciples early on in his ministry. He knew what lay ahead for them all, and knew what the cost was. They could choose to follow or not. They did and their lives were changed forever. Many died later on, after all was said and done, for what they knew to be true. They died martyr's deaths, they were so convinced. Jesus predicted much that would happen to them and to his message later on. It seems to be true when you know what he said, and observe all we have seen.
Jesus was Tempted
Jesus was tempted by Satan. I think the reasons are obvious if Jesus was who he said. Of course Satan would love to thwart the efforts to help save a lost and hurting humanity. You go after the thing that is against your cause is one way to describe what Satan did. Jesus showed in that, that there are ways to respond to such accusers and tempters. If Satan could convince Jesus to worship him, then he would have thrown it all away. He survived the temptation though nearly literally starving, at his weakest.
Jesus spoke to many and often in Parables
Jesus was very popular for his powers over death, nature, and the spiritual realm (with demons), so people followed him around a lot. He spoke to them often sharing many different things, often in parables. I think this was in part to cause them to think hard about things. He answered questions and taught many in different situations.
Jesus loved everyone equally, and had good ethics
Jesus showed he had mercy on people caught in dire sins, and wasn't too good to hang out with tax collectors and the worst of sinners. He taught people to love each other, even one's enemies. He taught them to care, consider others better than oneself, pray for others and give the coat off your back if asked. He encouraged going the extra mile for a friend. He cared more about people's hearts, than what they did in regards to religious observances. He exposed hypocrisy, and didn't like the message getting distorted or used for personal gain. He cared most about what was in a person's heart. He encouraged people turning from their wrong ways, for a better life.
Jesus died for the sin of humanity, to forgive those that wanted forgiveness, and be ready to face God one day and live in a perfect life forever. He won't force this on people that don't want it.
Jesus predicted and then died a horrible death. The point was to give one final perfect sacrifice, once and for all, to cover the sins before the greatest judge all will face one day, God. The death of Jesus covers the worst of sins to those that are sorry and ask for forgiveness. There could be nothing worse to me than having my truly innocent and perfect only child dying a criminal's death for a sinful humanity. This is what God did. They both agreed to it because of their great love of their creation. They loved sinful humans more than they hated their choice to sin against God and break his laws. Jesus prayed for those killing him, knowing full well that they couldn't have possibly understood the gravity of what they were carrying out.
Jesus Rose from the Dead
Jesus rose from the dead which is what makes any of it relevant at all for us today. Otherwise, he would have just been a great teacher and moral person that might be nice to learn about. That he rose from the dead is what seals the deal, that makes his words matter now. Its now put to all mankind that knows, to accept or reject this great gift of life to those that want it or not.
Jesus raised physically from the dead, and went up into heaven after appearing to over 500 people, and eating fish on the beach with people, etc. He promised a comforter that would come after him, and promised that he would come back in the same way he left.
Why Does Knowing about Jesus Matter?
If Jesus was who he said he was, then he has the answers to the problems this life offers, and knows where we came from and where we are going. At the very least, he matters because being more like Jesus would make this world a much better place.
** So in a nutshell, that is what I think we know of Jesus of Nazareth based on the knowledge we have given to us in the gospel accounts. They weren't meant to be replicas of each other, but just as it would be if there were different eyewitnesses sharing what their view of what happened was. Three were first hand eyewitnesses, and one was a personal confidant and friend of a personal eyewitness. There is so much more that could be said, but I tried to keep it more concise than lengthy. Thanks for reading this and if you have any thoughts on what you know of Jesus and why you know it to be true, I would love to hear.
A Beautiful Field
Where is Nazareth?
Where Jesus grew up.