Who Was Jesus? Through the ages there has been muchdebate on whether God exists and if so, in what form. Since there is no quantifiable or historicalrecord, we must rely on empirical evidence to determine our belief in anAlmighty Power. In contrast, few people wouldquestion whether Jesus existed. Mostpeople you ask will accept that he was indeed a real person who lived in Israelroughly 2000 years ago. There arecontinuous references in the New Testament to Jesus, the man.
Someone asking this question, though, isperhaps asking if there is any evidence outsidethe Bible, since many stories in the Bible have been determined to beallegorical rather than historical. However, the Epistles of Paul are generally accepted by the vastmajority of religious scholars as having been written in the middle of thefirst century, A.D.
, providing “extraordinarily strong proof of the existenceof a man named Jesus in Israel in the early first century A.D.” (GotQuestions.org). Other historical records are more difficultto come by, since much eyewitness evidence of Jesus’ existence was likelydestroyed in the Roman invasion of Israel in 70 A.D.
, when entire cities wereburned and their inhabitants slaughtered.Nevertheless, there is still significantsecular historical evidence. There is apassage in Antiquities by the famousJewish historian, Flavius Josephus that says, “Now there was about this timeJesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprisingfeats….He was (the) Christ…he appeared to them alive again the third day, asthe divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful thingsconcerning him.” (Josephus 18:3) TheBabylonian Talmud relates the accusations of “practicing sorcery andencouraging enticing Israel to apostacy,” and confirms the crucifixion on what would be the eve of Passover(Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a).
There isfurther evidence in the Gnostic writings – TheGospel of Truth, The Treatise onResurrection, etc. – all of which mention Jesus. Perhaps the most overwhelming evidence ofJesus’ existence is that his twelve apostles, as well as thousands ofChristians in the first century following his death, were willing to sacrificetheir lives as martyrs for his teachings. One has to have an overwhelming belief or faith in something or someoneto be willing to die for it. The Franciscan Media (website) posted thishumorous question: “When did Jesus become a Christian?” Or better still, “Whendid Jesus become a Catholic?” Chucklesaside, they were one and the same thing until the Protestant Reformation in 16thcentury. Jesus was born a Jew and died aJew. His mother was a Jew; he worshippedin 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 ofJudaism in the first century– the Pharisees, Sadducees, or Essenes? Or something altogether different?The Sadducees were the wealthyaristocracy, well-educated and part of the priestly ranks. Since Jesus wasneither an aristocrat nor a priest, he would not be considered part of theSadducean sect. Perhaps the most worthydistinction, 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 morecomplex. The Essenes appeared to opposeTemple Sadducee leadership, as did Jesus. Many of the Essenes led monastic lives and “are known for theirconnection to the Qumran community and the Dead Sea Scrolls ” (Mamula). Some did live in cities, but all kept strictlaws.
Jesus, like the Qumran, encouragedhis followers to travel without supplies, relying on God and strangers forsupport, but unlike the Qumran he did not require a pure lifestyle (Mamula). Jesus’ being somewhat monastic and his willingness to live somewhat of acommunal life could potentially classify him as an Essene.Often in religious literature, Jesus iscalled a Pharisee. Although this is thegroup he has the most in common with, he still doesn’t fit neatly.
The Pharisees were small in number comparedto the Sadducees; they developed primarily as an opposition group to the highpriest and Judean ruler Hyrcanus. Theysought to maintain purity and specific codes of conduct in the “real world,”not just the temple cult. Contrary tothe Sadducees, they believed in resurrection for the righteous and punishmentof sinners (Mamula). I don’t think one can categorize Jesus inany one of these sects, nor could the religion “Christianity” which arose afterhis death be classified as a Jewish sect. Although he died a Jew, the fact that he “replaced the image of thetemple with his body” (Mamula) would have been condemned by the Jews andparticularly offensive to the Sadducees. He reinterpreted the law in his teachings.
John 19:6 says, “We have alaw, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Sonof God.” And the monotheistic Jewish sects would not accept the Trinity as one Godin three persons. If history portrays Jesus as a rabbi, agreat teacher, a “man without sin,” is he a mere mortal, or is he the Son ofGod? C. S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, writes of the actsand words attributed to Jesus: “I amtrying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that peopleoften say about him (Jesus Christ): ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moralteacher, 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? Howdoes the Bible approach that?In John 10:30, Jesus says, “I and theFather are one.
” That may notnecessarily be interpreted as a claim to be God, but this is the way the Jewsinterpreted it, since he never specifically says that he did NOT claim to beGod. Some of the most powerful evidenceof Jesus as God is found in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 40:3, referring toJohn the Baptist’s preparation for the coming of Christ, it is written: “Prepare theway 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 inthe wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiahsaid.”After years of readingand assimilating both religious and secular material, including the most recentdevelopments 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 hadmastered the laws of quantum physics.
Hehad become one with that power and force governing the universe that we know asGod, by many different names. There arenumerous 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 thePharisees about when the Kingdom of God wouldcome, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor willthey say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God iswithin you.” (Luke 17:20-21) Do I pray to Jesus? Yes, because I personally believe that theHoly Spirit that was in Jesus (like the spirit that is within each of us, aconsciousness apart from our physical bodies) is immortal and available to ustoday. 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…mustfind your Truth… within you.