Category:Jesus of Nazareth (subject)

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Portrait of Jesus (Ravenna, 6th cent.)
Portrait of Jesus (Sinai, 6th cent.)
Isa (Jesus) bringing down heavenly food for his disciples (Quran 5:111-115 [cf. John, ch. 6])
Yeshua (Jesus) preaching at the synagogue
Robert Henderson-Bland as Jesus in From the Manger to the Cross (1912 Olcott), film
A Jewish representation of Yoshua (Jesus) by Marc Chagall (1939)
Victor Garber as Jesus in Godspell (1973 Greene), film
Ahmad Soleimani Nia as Jesus in Mesih (2007 Talebzadeh), film


According to Christian (Jewish, and Islamic) traditions, Jesus of Nazareth (c.5 BCE - c.30 CE) was a Jewish religious leader and Messiah claimant, and the founder of the Christian movement.

< Jesus of Nazareth (sources) -- Jesus of Nazareth (fiction) -- Jesus of Nazareth (scholarship) >

Overview

Jesus was born a Jew in Galilee, most likely during the last years of the kingdom of Herod the Great. We know nothing about his youth until he joined the movement of John the Baptist in the expectation of the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God. Back to Galilee, he acquired fame as a miracle-worker and led a reform movement within Judaism that soon became a messianic movement, as Jesus claimed (or was claimed) to the Messiah, the Son of Man. Jesus preached mostly in small villages around the Lake of Galilee and avoid the larger (Hellenistic) towns of the region. At the end the confrontation with the authorities of the Jerusalem Temple in occasion of the Passover Feast, led to his execution by the Romans as a troublemaker.

After his death on the cross, his disciples claimed he had been raised by God and was now in Heaven at the right hand of the Father, waiting for the time of his return at the end of times as the final Judge. By the end of the 1st century, Christianity spread far beyond the boundaries of the Jewish people, attracting many Gentile members and Jesus was seen as the divine Son of God, or God incarnated. What was at its inception a Jewish messianic movement gradually became an autonomous religion, which had its center in the faith in Jesus as the universal Savior.

Jesus remained a controversial figure in Judaism, where he came to be seen as a heretic or a failed messiah. While denying his divinity, Islam saw in Jesus a great prophet and messenger of God, who came to completed the Torah and announce the coming of Mohammad as the final prophet.

While Christianity, Judaism and Islam have argued (and often clashed) about the religious interpretation of the figure of Jesus, interest in the "historical" dimension of this figure has arose since the Enlightenment, generating new questions and new interpretations about his life and preaching, both in scholarship and in popular culture, inside and outside religious communities.

Jesus of Nazareth, in ancient sources

Early Jewish Sources: (a) Opinions about Jesus

Mark 8:27–30 (NRSV) [see Peter's Confession] -- 27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" 28 And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." 29 He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Early Jewish Sources: (b) The Testimony of Gamaliel (according to the Acts of Apostles)

Acts 5:34-39 -- The high priest rose up, and all they that were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy, and laid hands on the apostles, and put them in public ward…. A Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up and… said: Fellow Israelites… some time ago Theudas stood up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So is the case [of Jesus]

Cf. Josephus, Ant 18:3-10, 23 (Judas the Galilean) -- At the time of the census… Judas (with the support of Saddok) threw himself into the cause of rebellion… He urged people that Heaven would be their zealous helper… if with high devotion in their hearts they stood firm and did not shrink from the bloodshed that might be necessary… Judas and Saddok started among us a new school which in all other aspects agrees with the opinion of the Pharisees, except that they have a passion for liberty that is almost unconquerable, since they are convinced that God alone is their leader and master.

Cf. Josephus, Ant 20:97-98 (Theudas) -- During the period when Fadus was procurator of Judea, a certain impostor named Theudas persuaded the majority of the masses to take up their possessions and to follow him to the Jordan River. He stated that he was a prophet and that at his command the river would be parted and would provide them an easy passage. With this talk he deceived many. Fadus, however, did not permit them to reap the fruit of their folly, but sent against him a squadron of cavalry. They fell upon them unexpectedly, slew many of them and took many prisoners. Theudas himself was captured, whereupon they cut off his head and brought it to Jerusalem.

Cf. Josephus, Ant 18:85-89 (the Samaritan Prophet) -- A Samaritan rallied the mob, bidding them go in a body with him on Mount Gerizim, which in their belief is the most sacred of mountains. He assured that on their arrival he would show them the sacred vessels which were buried there, where Moses had deposited them. His hearers, viewing this tale as possible, appeared in arms… But before they could ascend, Pilate blocked their projected route up the mountain with a detachment of cavalry and heavy-armed infantry… Some were killed, the other dispersed. Many prisoners were taken, of whom Pilate put to death the principal leaders.

Cf. Ant 20:167-172 (the Egyptian Prophet) -- At this time there came to Jerusalem from Egypt a man who declared that he was a prophet and advised the masses of the common people to go out with him to the mountain called the Mount of Olives… For he asserted that he wished to demonstrate from there that at his command Jerusalem’s walls would fall down, through which he promised to provide an entrance into the city. When Felix heard of this, he ordered his soldiers to take up their arms… He fell upon the Egyptian and his followers, slaying four hundred of them and taking two hundred prisoners. The Egyptian himself escaped from the battle and disappeared.

Cf. War 6:300-305 (Jesus ben Ananias) -- As he stood in the Temple, he suddenly began to shout: “…A voice against the Jerusalem and the sanctuary…” Day and night he uttered this cry as he went through all the streets. Some of the more prominent citizens [were] very annoyed at these ominous words…The Jewish authorities… took him before the Roman procurator. There, though scourged till his flesh hung in ribbons, he neither begged for mercy nor shed a tear but lowering his voice to the most mournful of tones answered every blow with “Woe to Jerusalem!” When Albinus – for that was the procurator’s name – demanded to know who he was, where he came from and why he uttered such cries, he made no reply whatever to the questions but endlessly repeated his lament over the city, till Albinus decided that he was a madman and released him.

Early Jewish Sources: (c) The Testimony of Josephus (Testimonium Flavianum) (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities)

Ant 18:63-64 -- About the time (of Pilate) lived Jesus, a wise man [if indeed it be lawful to call him a man]. He was a doer of wonderful things and a teacher of men who delight in accepting the truth. He attracted many Jews and also many from the Greek world. He was called the Christ [He was indeed the Christ]; and when, on the accusation of our leading men. Pilate condemned him to the cross, those who loved him from the first did not cease to do so. [For he appeared to them again alive on the third day, the divine prophets having foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things about him.] The race of Christians named after him has survived to this day

Cf. Ant 20:199-203 -- [The High Priest Ananias] was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who were very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews... He assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some of his companions; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the Law, he delivered them to be stoned

Early Jewish Sources: (d) The Testimony of Rabbi Trypho (according to Justin Martyr)

Justin, Dialogue with Trypho -- Rabbi Trypho said: It would be better for us to have obeyed our teachers who warned us not to listen to you Christians, nor to converse with you on these subjects, for you have blasphemed many times in your attempt to convince us that this crucified man was with Moses and Aaron, and spoke with them in the pillar of the cloud; that he became man, was crucified, and ascended into Heaven, and will return again to this earth, and that should be worshipped.

Early Christian sources

Classical sources

Mara bar Serapion (after 73 CE) -- What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that their Kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; He lived on in the teaching which He had given.

Suetonius (ca. 120 CE) -- (Claudius) expelled the Jews from Rome, since they were always making disturbances because of the instigator Chrestus (Judaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantis Roma expulit).

Tacitus -- Christus, from whom the name (Chrestians) had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular.

Lucian of Samosata (ca. 125 – ca 185; late second century CE) -- “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day — the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account… You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws” (Lucian, The Passing of Peregrinus 12, 13)

Celsus (late second century CE) -- Jesus was born in a certain Jewish village, of a poor woman of the country, who gained her subsistence by spinning, and who was turned out of doors by her husband, a carpenter by trade, because she was convicted of adultery. [Jesus’ father was a certain soldier named Panthera]. After being driven away by her husband, and wandering about for a time, she disgracefully gave birth to Jesus, an illegitimate child. Jesus, having hired himself out as a servant in Egypt on account of his poverty, and having there acquired some miraculous powers, on which the Egyptians greatly pride themselves, returned to his own country, highly elated on account of them, and by means of these proclaimed himself a god.

Later Christian sources

Later Rabbinic sources

Tosefta (3rd cent. CE) -- Rabbi Eliazer [end of the first cent. CE] said: Once I was walking on the street of Sepphoris. I chanced upon Jacob of Kefar Sikhnin, and he said a word of minut [=heresy] in the name of Yeshua ben Pantira [=Jesus], and it gave me pleasure. I was arrested on charge of minut [=heresy], for I have transgressed the words of the Torah: Keep your path far from her and do not draw near to the entrance of her house [Prov 5:8] (Tosefta, Hullin 2:24).

Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a -- On the [eve of the] Sabbath day of the Passover festival Yeshu of Nazareth was hanged. For forty days before execution took place, a herald went forth and cried: “Here is Yeshu of Nazareth, who is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Anyone who can say anything in his favor, let him come forth and plead on his behalf.” But since nothing was brought forth in his favor, he was hanged on the eve of Passover.

Toledot Yeshu -- At the time of King Jannaeus [around 90 BCE] a great misfortune befell to Israel. A certain disreputable man of the tribe of Judah arose, whose name was Joseph Pandera… He lustfully gazed at Miriam… and betrayed her by pretending that he was her betrothed husband, Yohanan… She submitted only against her will... Yohanan left to Babylon. Miriam gave birth to a son and named him Yehoshua, after her brother… On the eight day he was circumcised… He was instructed in the Jewish tradition… When it was known, that he was the illegitimate son of Joseph Pandera, Yeshu flew to Upper Galilee… Yeshu claimed: “I am the Messiah”… His disciples worshipped him as the Messiah, the Son of the Highest. When word of these things came to Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin decided to arrest Yeshu… with the accusation: “This man is a sorcerer and entices everyone”… Yeshu was arrested and put to death on the sixth hour before the Passover, which that year was also the Sabbath… On the first day of the week his bold followers reported that he was not in his grave; he had ascended to heaven as he had prophesied…

Karaite sources: Yaqub al-Qirqisani (10th cent.)

There is great disagreement over Jesus among the Jews. Some assert he claimed to be a prophet, while others deny it. The Rabbinites [=the Rabbis] deal with this in the Talmud, where they acknowledge that he worked miracles and claim that this was effected by magic and by the Hidden name… Some of the Qaraites say that Jesus was a good man and that his way was the way of Zadok, Anan and others; and that the Rabbinites conspired against him and killed him just as they sought to kill Anan also, but without success. This is their way with all who would oppose them. Jesus forbade divorce, just as the Sadducees forbade it.

The Christian religion as practiced now was invented and proclaimed by Paul: it was he who ascribed divinity to Jesus and claimed to be himself the prophet of Jesus his Lord. He introduced no duties and imposed nothing at all. He asserted that religion is nothing but humility.

Islamic sources

Jesus of Nazareth, in the arts

Portraits of Jesus

Jesus, the Suffering Man ("Man of Sorrows," or, Ecce Homo)


  • 1971 - E Johnny prese il fucile interpretato da Donald Sutherland >Immagine
  • 1980 - Il ladrone interpretato da Claudio Cassinelli > Immagine
  • 1987 - Secondo Ponzio Pilato interpretato da Carlo Panchetti
  • 1999 - Jesus interpretato da Jeremy Sisto > Immagine
  • 2000 - Maria,Figlia del suo Figlio interpretato da Nicholas Rogers >Immagine
  • 2001 - Gli amici di Gesù, interpretato da Danny Quinn
  • 2001 - Gli amici di Gesù - Giuseppe di Nazareth interpretato da Jurij Gentilini all'età di 11 anni
  • 2005 - San Pietro interpretato da Johannes Brandrup >Immagine
  • 2006 - L'inchiesta interpretato da Fabrizio Bucci Immagine
  • 2012 - Maria di nazareth interpretato da Andreas Pietschmann > Immagine

Young Jesus

Jesus in scholarship

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Pages in category "Jesus of Nazareth (subject)"

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