Who Was Jesus?
Through the ages there has been much
debate on whether God exists and if so, in what form. Since there is no quantifiable or historical
record, we must rely on empirical evidence to determine our belief in an
Almighty Power. In contrast, few people would
question whether Jesus existed. Most
people you ask will accept that he was indeed a real person who lived in Israel
roughly 2000 years ago. There are
continuous references in the New Testament to Jesus, the man. Someone asking this question, though, is
perhaps asking if there is any evidence outside
the Bible, since many stories in the Bible have been determined to be
allegorical rather than historical.
However, the Epistles of Paul are generally accepted by the vast
majority of religious scholars as having been written in the middle of the
first century, A.D., providing “extraordinarily strong proof of the existence
of a man named Jesus in Israel in the early first century A.D.” (GotQuestions.org). Other historical records are more difficult
to come by, since much eyewitness evidence of Jesus’ existence was likely
destroyed in the Roman invasion of Israel in 70 A.D., when entire cities were
burned and their inhabitants slaughtered.
Nevertheless, there is still significant
secular historical evidence. There is a
passage in Antiquities by the famous
Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus that says, “Now there was about this time
Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising
feats….He was (the) Christ…he appeared to them alive again the third day, as
the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things
concerning him.” (Josephus 18:3) The
Babylonian Talmud relates the accusations of “practicing sorcery and
encouraging enticing Israel to apostacy,”
and confirms the crucifixion on what would be the eve of Passover
(Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a). There is
further evidence in the Gnostic writings – The
Gospel of Truth, The Treatise on
Resurrection, etc. – all of which mention Jesus. Perhaps the most overwhelming evidence of
Jesus’ existence is that his twelve apostles, as well as thousands of
Christians in the first century following his death, were willing to sacrifice
their lives as martyrs for his teachings.
One has to have an overwhelming belief or faith in something or someone
to be willing to die for it.
The Franciscan Media (website) posted this
humorous question: “When did Jesus become a Christian?” Or better still, “When
did Jesus become a Catholic?” Chuckles
aside, they were one and the same thing until the Protestant Reformation in 16th
century. Jesus was born a Jew and died a
Jew. His mother was a Jew; he worshipped
in synagogues, he attended Jewish festivals.
Many times the Bible refers to him as a rabbi; he taught in the Temples. Did Jesus fit into any of the main sects of
Judaism in the first century– the Pharisees, Sadducees, or Essenes? Or something altogether different?
The Sadducees were the wealthy
aristocracy, well-educated and part of the priestly ranks. Since Jesus was
neither an aristocrat nor a priest, he would not be considered part of the
Sadducean sect. Perhaps the most worthy
distinction, however, is that the Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife,
which Jesus spoke of as the Kingdom of God and resurrection.
Comparing Jesus to the Essenes is more
complex. The Essenes appeared to oppose
Temple Sadducee leadership, as did Jesus.
Many of the Essenes led monastic lives and “are known for their
connection to the Qumran community and the Dead Sea Scrolls ” (Mamula). Some did live in cities, but all kept strict
laws. Jesus, like the Qumran, encouraged
his followers to travel without supplies, relying on God and strangers for
support, but unlike the Qumran he did not require a pure lifestyle (Mamula).
Jesus’ being somewhat monastic and his willingness to live somewhat of a
communal life could potentially classify him as an Essene.
Often in religious literature, Jesus is
called a Pharisee. Although this is the
group he has the most in common with, he still doesn’t fit neatly. The Pharisees were small in number compared
to the Sadducees; they developed primarily as an opposition group to the high
priest and Judean ruler Hyrcanus. They
sought to maintain purity and specific codes of conduct in the “real world,”
not just the temple cult. Contrary to
the Sadducees, they believed in resurrection for the righteous and punishment
of sinners (Mamula).
I don’t think one can categorize Jesus in
any one of these sects, nor could the religion “Christianity” which arose after
his death be classified as a Jewish sect.
Although he died a Jew, the fact that he “replaced the image of the
temple with his body” (Mamula) would have been condemned by the Jews and
particularly offensive to the Sadducees.
He reinterpreted the law in his teachings. John 19:6 says, “We have a
law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son
of God.” And the monotheistic Jewish sects would not accept the Trinity as one God
in three persons.
If history portrays Jesus as a rabbi, a
great teacher, a “man without sin,” is he a mere mortal, or is he the Son of
God? C. S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, writes of the acts
and words attributed to Jesus: “I am
trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people
often say about him (Jesus Christ): ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral
teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ …Either this man was, and is,
the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse” (Lewis 31).
Did Jesus claim to be God? How
does the Bible approach that?
In John 10:30, Jesus says, “I and the
Father are one.” That may not
necessarily be interpreted as a claim to be God, but this is the way the Jews
interpreted it, since he never specifically says that he did NOT claim to be
God. Some of the most powerful evidence
of Jesus as God is found in the Old Testament.
In Isaiah 40:3, referring to
John the Baptist’s preparation for the coming of Christ, it is written: “Prepare the
way of the Lord (Yaweh); make straight in the desert a highway for our God
(Elohim).” This is also confirmed in John 1:23: He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in
the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah
After years of reading
and assimilating both religious and secular material, including the most recent
developments in quantum physics, this is my personal belief at this time: That Jesus was an Ascended Master. Do I believe that he was God? Yes, in the way I believe that each of us is God on earth. We are all at different levels; Jesus had
mastered the laws of quantum physics. He
had become one with that power and force governing the universe that we know as
God, by many different names. There are
numerous Bible references to God-within-us.
He claimed that it was the Father working through him, not he, the man,
who performed miracles. In John 14:10 it is written, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father,
and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself:
but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” And in response to a question from the
Pharisees about when the Kingdom of God would
come, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will
they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is
within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
Do I pray to Jesus? Yes, because I personally believe that the
Holy Spirit that was in Jesus (like the spirit that is within each of us, a
consciousness apart from our physical bodies) is immortal and available to us
today. It isn’t necessary for him to
“come again,” but if he does, it will be in the form of a new Ascended Master,
not the man Jesus of Nazereth from 2000 years ago. This is The Truth….for me. You….everyone…must
find your Truth… within you.