JESUS CHRIST, 2
The Founder of the Christian religion; the promised Messiah and Saviour of the world; the Lord and Head of the Christian church.
I. The Names.
(Iesous) is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Joshua" (yehoshua`), meaning "Yahweh is salvation." It stands therefore in the Septuagint and Apocrypha for "Joshua," and in Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8 likewise represents the Old Testament Joshua; hence, in the Revised Version (British and American) is in these passages rendered "Joshua." In Matthew 1:21 the name as commanded by the angel to be given to the son of Mary, "for it is he that shall save his people from their sins" (see below on "Nativity"). It is the personal name of the Lord in the Gospels and the Acts, but generally in the Epistles appears in combination with "Christ" or other appellative (alone in Romans 3:26; 4:24; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 11:4; Philippians 2:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; Hebrews 7:22; 10:19, etc.).
(Christos) is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Messiah" (mashiach; compare in the New Testament, John 1:41; 4:25, "Messiah"), meaning "anointed" (see MESSIAH). It designates Jesus as the fulfiller of the Messianic hopes of the Old Testament and of the Jewish people. It will be seen below that Jesus Himself made this claim. After the resurrection it became the current title for Jesus in the apostolic church. Most frequently in the Epistles He is called "Jesus Christ," sometimes "Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1,2,39; 1 Corinthians 1:2,30; 4:15; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:4,28 the King James Version; 1 Thessalonians 2:14, etc.), often "Christ" alone (Romans 1:16 the King James Version; Romans 5:6,8; 6:4,8,9; 8:10, etc.). In this case "Christ" has acquired the force of a proper name. Very frequently the term is associated with "Lord" (kurios)--"the (or "our") Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 11:17; 15:11 the King James Version; Acts 16:31 the King James Version; Acts 20:21; 28:31; Romans 1:7; 5:1,11; 13:14; 1 Corinthians 16:23, etc.).
II. Order of Treatment.
In studying, as it is proposed to do in this article, the earthly history of Jesus and His place in the faith of the apostolic church, it will be convenient to pursue the following order:
First, as introductory to the whole study, certain questions relating to the sources of our knowledge of Jesus, and to the preparation for, and circumstances of, His historical appearance, invite careful attention (Part I).
Next, still as preliminary to the proper narrative of the life of Jesus, it is desirable to consider certain problems arising out of the presentation of that life in the Gospels with which modern thought is more specially concerned, as determining the attitude in which the narratives are approached. Such are the problems of the miracles, the Messiahship, the sinless character and supernatural claims of Jesus (Part II).
The way is then open for treatment in order of the actual events of Christ's life and ministry, so far as recorded. These fall into many stages, from His nativity and baptism till His death, resurrection and ascension (Part III).
A final division will deal with Jesus as the exalted Lord in the aspects in which He is presented in the teaching of the Epistles and remaining writings of the New Testament (Part IV).
PART I. INTRODUCTORY
I. The Sources.
1. In General:
The principal, and practically the only sources for our knowledge of Jesus Christ are the four Canonical Gospels--distinction being made in these between the first three (Synoptic) Gospels, and the Gospel of John. Nothing, either in the few notices of Christ in non-Christian authors, or in the references in the other books of the New Testament, or in later Christian literature, adds to the information which the Gospels already supply. The so-called apocryphal Gospels are worthless as authorities (see under the word); the few additional sayings of Christ (compare Acts 20:35) found in outside writings are of doubtful genuineness (compare a collection of these in Westcott's Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, Appendix C; see also LOGIA).
2. Denial of Existence of Jesus:
It marks the excess to which skepticism has gone that writers are found in recent years who deny the very existence of Jesus Christ (Kalthoff, Das Christus-Problem, and Die Entstehung des Christenthums; Jensen, Das Gilgamesch-Epos, I; Drews, Die Christusmythe; compare on Kalthoff, Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, English translation, 313; Jensen is reviewed in the writer's The Resurrection of Jesus, chapter ix). The extravagance of such skepticism is its sufficient refutation.
3. Extra-Christian Notices:
Of notices outside the Christian circles the following may be referred to.
There is the famous passage in Josephus, Ant, XVIII, iii, 3, commencing, "Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man," etc. It is not unlikely that Josephus had some reference to Jesus, but most agree that the passage in question, if not entirely spurious, has been the subject of Christian interpolation (on the lit. and different views, see Schurer, Jewish People in the Time of Christ, Div II, volume II, 143; in support of interpolation, Edersheim on "Josephus," in Dictionary of Christ. Biography).
The Roman historian, Tacitus, in a well-known passage relating to the persecution of Nero (Ann. xv.44), tells how the Christians, already "a great multitude" (ingens multitudo), derived their name "from one Christus, who was executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate."
(3) Suetonius also, in his account of Claudius, speaks of the Jews as expelled from Rome for the raising of tumults at the instigation of one "Chrestus" (impulsore Chresto), plainly a mistake for "Christus." The incident is doubtless that referred to in Acts 18:2.
4. The Gospels:
The four Gospels, then, with their rich contents, remain as our primary sources for the knowledge of the earthly life of Jesus.
(1) The Synoptics.
It may be taken for granted as the result of the best criticism that the first three Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) all fall well within the apostolic age (compare Harnack, Altchr. Lit., Pref; see GOSPELS). The favorite theory at present of the relations of these Gospels is, that Mr is an independent Gospel, resting on the teaching of Peter; that Mt and Lu have as sources the Gospel of Mr and a collection of discourses, probably attributable to the apostle Matthew (now commonly called Q) ; and that Lu has a third, well-authenticated source (Luke 1:1-4) peculiar to himself. The present writer is disposed to allow more independence to the evangelists in the embodying of a tradition common to all; in any case, the sources named are of unexceptionable authority, and furnish a strong guaranty for the reliability of the narratives. The supreme guaranty of their trustworthiness, however, is found in the narratives themselves; for who in that (or any) age could imagine a figure so unique and perfect as that of Jesus, or invent the incomparable sayings and parables that proceeded from His lips? Much of Christ's teaching is high as heaven above the minds of men still.
(2) The Fourth Gospel.
The Fourth Gospel stands apart from the Synoptics in dealing mainly with another set of incidents (the Jerusalem ministry), and discourses of a more private and intimate kind than those belonging to the Galilean teaching. Its aim, too, is doctrinal--to show that Jesus is "the Son of God," and its style and mode of conception are very different from those of the Synoptic Gospels. Its contents touch their narratives in only a few points (as in John 6:4-21). Where they do, the resemblance is manifest. It is obvious that the reminiscences which the Gospel contains have been long brooded over by the apostle, and that a certain interpretative element blends with his narration of incidents and discourses. This, however, does not warrant us in throwing doubt, with so many, on the genuineness of the Gospel, for which the external evidence is exceptionally strong (compare Sanday, The Criticism of the Fourth Gospel; Drummond, Character and Authorship of the Fourth Gospel; and see JOHN, GOSPEL OF). The Gospel is accepted here as a genuine record of the sayings and doings of Jesus which it narrates.
II. The Preparation.
1. Both Gentile and Jewish:
In the Gospels and throughout the New Testament Jesus appears as the goal of Old Testament revelation, and the point to which all providential developments tended. He came, Paul says, in "the fullness of the time" (Galatians 4:4). It has often been shown how, politically, intellectually, morally, everything in the Greco-Roman world was ready for such a uersal religion as Jesus brought into it (compare Baur's Hist of the Church in the First Three Cents., English translation, chapter i). The preparation in Israel is seen alike in God's revelations to, and dealings with, the chosen people in the patriarchal, Mosaic, monarchical and prophetic periods, and in the developments of the Jewish mind in the centuries immediately before Christ.
2. Old Testament Preparation:
As special lines in the Old Testament preparation may be noted the ideas of the Messianic king, a ruler of David's house, whose reign would be righteous, perpetual, uersal (compare Isaiah 7:13-9:7; 32:1,2; Jeremiah 33:15,16; Psalms 2:1-10, etc.); of a Righteous Sufferer (Psalms 22, etc.), whose sufferings are in Isaiah 53 declared to have an expiatory and redeeming character; and of a Messianic kingdom, which, breaking the bounds of nationalism, would extend through the whole earth and embrace all peoples (compare Isaiah 60; Psalms 87; Daniel 2:44; 7:27, etc.). The kingdom, at the same time, is now conceived of under a more spiritual aspect. Its chief blessings are forgiveness and righteousness.
3. Post-exilian Preparation:
The age succeeding the return from exile witnessed a manifold preparation for the advent of Christ. Here may be observed the decentralization of the Jewish religious ideals through the rise of synagogue worship and the widespread dispersion of the race; the contact with Hellenic culture (as in Philo); but especially the marked sharpening of Messianic expectations. Some of these were of a crude apocalyptic character (see APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE; ESCHATOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT); many were political and revolutionary; but some were of a purer and more spiritual kind (compare Luke 2:25,38). To these purer elements Jesus attached Himself in His preaching of the kingdom and of Himself as its Lord. Even in the Gentileworld, it is told, there was an expectation of a great One who about this time would come from Judea (Tacitus, History v.13; Suet. Vespas. 4).
III. The Outward Situation.
1. The Land:
Of all lands Palestine was the most fitted to be the scene of the culminating revelation of God's grace in the person and work of Jesus Christ, as before it was fitted to be the abode of the people chosen to receive and preserve the revelations that prepared the way for that final manifestation. At once central and secluded--at the junction of the three great continents of the Old World, Asia, Africa and Europe--the highway of nations in war and commerce--touching mighty powers on every hand, Egypt, Syria, Assyria, kingdoms of Asia Minor, as formerly more ancient empires, Hittite and Babylonian, now in contact with Greece and Rome, yet singularly enclosed by mountain, desert, Jordan gorge, and Great Sea, from ready entrance of foreign influences, Palestine has a place of its own in the history of revelation, which only a Divine wisdom can have given it (compare Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, Part II, chapter ii; G.A. Smith, Hist. Geog. of the Holy Land, Book I, chapters i, ii; Lange, Life of Christ, I, 246).
Palestine, in the Roman period, was divided into four well-defined provinces or districts--Judaea, with Jerusalem as its center, in the South, the strong-hold of Jewish conservatism; Samaria, in the middle, peopled from Assyrian times by mixed settlers (2 Kings 17:24-34), preponderatingly heathen in origin, yet now professing the Jewish religion, claiming Jewish descent (compare John 4:12), possessing a copy of the law (Sam Pentateuch), and a temple of their own at Gerizim (the original temple, built by Manasseh, circa 409 BC, was destroyed by John Hyrcanus, 109 BC); Galilee--"Galilee of the Gentiles" (Matthew 4:15; compare Isaiah 9:1)--in the North, the chief scene of Christ's ministry, freer and more cosmopolitan in spirit, through a large infusion of Gentile population, and contact with traders, etc., of varied nationalities:
these in Western Palestine, while on the East, "beyond Jordan," was Peraea, divided up into Peraea proper, Batanea, Gaulonitis, Ituraea, Trachonitis, Decapolis, etc. (compare Matthew 4:25; 19:1; Luke 3:1). The feeling of bitterness between Jews and Samaritans was intense (John 4:9). The language of the people throughout was ARAMAIC (which see), but a knowledge of the Greek tongue was widely diffused, especially in the North, where intercourse with Greek-speaking peoples was habitual (the New Testament writings are in Greek). Jesus doubtless used the native dialect in His ordinary teaching, but it is highly probable that He also knew Greek, and was acquainted with Old Testament Scriptures in that language (the Septuagint). In this case He may have sometimes used it in His preaching (compare Roberts, Discussions on the Gospels).
2. Political Situation:
The miserable story of the vicissitudes of the Jewish people in the century succeeding the great persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes and the Maccabean revolt--a story made up of faction, intrigue, wars, murders, massacres, of growing degeneracy of rulers and nation, of repeated sackings of Jerusalem and terrible slaughters--till Herod, the Idumean, misnamed "the Great," ascended the throne by favor of the Romans (37 BC), must be read in the books relating to the period (Ewald, History of Israel, V; Milman, Hist of Jews; Schurer, History of the Jewish People in Time of Christ, Div I, Vol I; Stanley, Jewish Church, III, etc.). Rome's power, first invited by Judas Maccabeus (161 BC), was finally established by Pompey's capture of Jerusalem (63 BC). Herod's way to the throne was tracked by crime and bloodshed, and murder of those most nearly related to him marked every step in his advance. His taste for splendid buildings--palace, temple (Matthew 24:1; John 2:20), fortresses, cities (Sebaste, Caesarea, etc.)--and lavish magnificence of his royal estate and administration, could not conceal the hideousness of his crafty, unscrupulous selfishness, his cold-blooded cruelty, his tyrannous oppression of his subjects. "Better be Herod's hog (hus) than his son (huios)," was the comment of Augustus, when he heard of the dying king's unnatural doings.
Changes in Territory.
At the time of Christ's birth, the whole of Palestine was united under Herod's rule, but on Herod's death, after a long reign of 37 (or, counting from his actual accession, 34) years, his dominions were, in accordance with his will, confirmed by Rome, divided. Judea and Samaria (a few towns excepted) fell to his son Archelaus (Matthew 2:22), with the title of "ethnarch"; Galilee and Perea were given to Herod Antipas, another son, with the title of "tetrarch" (Matthew 14:1; Luke 3:1,19; 23:7; Acts 13:1); Herod Philip, a third son, received Iturea, Trachonitis, and other parts of the northern trans-Jordanic territory, likewise as "tetrarch" (Luke 3:1; compare Matthew 14:3; Mark 6:17). A few years later, the tyranny of Archelaus provoked an appeal of his subjects to Augustus, and Archelaus, summoned to Rome, was banished to Gaul (7 AD). Thereafter Judea, with Samaria, was governed by a Roman procurator, under the oversight of the prefect of Syria.
3. The Religious Sects:
In the religious situation the chief fact of interest is the place occupied and prominent part played by the religious sects--the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and (though unmentioned in the Gospels, these had an important influence on the early history of the church) the Essenes. The rise and characteristics of these sects can here only be alluded to (see special articles).
(1) The Scribes.
From the days of Ezra zealous attention had been given to the study of the law, and an order of men had arisen--the "scribes"--whose special business it was to guard, develop and expound the law. Through their labors, scrupulous observance of the law, and, with it, of the innumerable regulations intended to preserve the law, and apply it in detail to conduct (the so-called "tradition of the elders," Matthew 15:2), became the ideal of righteousness. The sects first appear in the Maccabean age. The Maccabean conflict reveals the existence of a party known as the "Assidaeans" (Hebrew chacidhim), or "pious" ones, opposed to the lax Hellenizing tendencies of the times, and staunch observers of the law. These in the beginning gave brave support to Judas Maccabeus, and doubtless then embraced the best elements of the nation.
(2) The Pharisees.
From them, by a process of deterioration too natural in such cases, developed the party of legalists known in the Gospels as the "Pharisees" ("separated"), on which Christ's sternest rebukes fell for their self-righteousness, ostentation, pride and lack of sympathy and charity (Matthew 6:2; 23; Luke 18:9-14). They gloried in an excessive scrupulosity in the observance of the externals of the law, even in trivialities. To them the multitude that knew not the law were "accursed" (John 7:49). To this party the great body of the scribes and rabbis belonged, and its powerful influence was eagerly sought by contending factions in the state.
(3) The Sadducees.
Alongside of the Pharisees were the "Sadducees" (probably from "Zadok")--rather a political and aristocratic clique than a religious sect, into whose possession the honors of the high-priesthood and other influential offices hereditarily passed. They are first met with by name under John Hyrcanus (135-106 BC). The Sadducees received only the law of Moses, interpreted it in a literal, secularistic spirit, rejected the Pharisaic traditions and believed in neither resurrection, angel nor spirit (Acts 23:8). Usually in rivalry with the Pharisees, they are found combining with these to destroy Jesus (Matthew 26:3-5,57).
(4) The Essenes.
The third party, the "Essenes," differed from both (some derive also from the Assideans) in living in fraternities apart from the general community, chiefly in the desert of Engedi, on the Northwest shore of the Dead Sea, though some were found also in villages and towns; in rejecting animal sacrifices, etc., sending only gifts of incense to the temple; in practicing celibacy and community of goods; in the wearing of white garments; in certain customs (as greeting the sunrise with prayers) suggestive of oriental influence. They forbade slavery, war, oaths, were given to occult studies, had secret doctrines and books, etc. As remarked, they do not appear in the Gospel, but on account of certain resemblances, some have sought to establish a connection between them and John the Baptist and Jesus. In reality, however, nothing could be more opposed than Essenism to the essential ideas and spirit of Christ's teaching (compare Schurer, as above, Div. II, Vol. II, 188; Kuenen, Hibbert Lects on National Religions and Uersal Religions, 199-208; Lightfoot, Colossians, 114-79).
IV. The Chronology.
The leading chronological questions connected with the life of Jesus are discussed in detail elsewhere (CHRONOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT; QUIRINIUS, etc.); here it is sufficient to indicate the general scheme of dating adopted in the present article, and some of the grounds on which it is preferred. The chief questions relate to the dates of the birth and baptism of Jesus, the duration of the ministry and the date of the crucifixion.
1. Date of the Birth of Jesus:
Though challenged by some (Caspari, Bosanquet, Conder, etc., put it as late as 1 BC) the usual date for the death of Herod the Great, March, 4 BC (year of Rome 750), may be assumed as correct (for grounds of this dating, see Schurer, op. cit., Div. I, Vol. I, 464-67). The birth of Jesus was before, and apparently not very long before, this event (Matthew 2). It may therefore be placed with probability in the latter part of the previous year (5 BC), the ordinary dating of the commencement of the Christian era being thus, as is generally recognized, four years too late. There is no certainty as to the month or day of the birth. The Christmas date, December 25, is first met with in the West in the 4th century (the eastern date was January 6), and was then possibly borrowed from a pagan festival. December, in the winter season, seems unlikely, as unsuitable for the pasturing of flocks (Luke 2:8), though this objection is perhaps not decisive (Andrews, Conder). A more probable date is a couple of months earlier. The synchronism with Quirinius (Luke 2:2) is considered in connection with the nativity. The earlier datings of 6, 7, or even 8 BC, suggested by Ramsay, Mackinlay and others, on grounds of the assumed Roman census, astronomical phenomena, etc., appear to leave too long an interval before the death of Herod, and conflict with other data, as Luke 3:1 (see below).
2. Date of Baptism:
John is said by Luke to have begun to preach and baptize "in the fifteenth year of Tiberius" (Luke 3:1), and Jesus "was about thirty years of age" (Luke 3:23) when He was baptized by John, and entered on His ministry. If the 15th year of Tiberius is dated, as seems most likely, from his association with Augustus as colleague in the government, 765 AUC, or 12 AD (Tacitus, Annals i.3; Suetonius on Augustus, 97), and if Jesus may be supposed to have been baptized about 6 months after John commenced his work, these data combine in bringing us to the year 780 AUC, or 27 AD, as the year of our Lord's baptism, in agreement with our former conclusion as to the date of His birth in 5 BC. To place the birth earlier is to make Jesus 32 or 33 years of age at His baptism--an unwarrantable extension of the "about." In accord with this is the statement in John 2:20 that the temple had been 46 years in building (it began in 20-19 BC) at the time of Christ's first Passover; therefore in 780 AUC, or 27-AD (compare Schurer, op. cit., Div. I, Vol. I, 410).
3. Length of Ministry:
The determination of the precise duration of our Lord's ministry involves more doubtful elements. Setting aside, as too arbitrary, schemes which would, with some of the early Fathers, compress the whole ministry into little over a single year (Browne, Hort, etc.)--a view which involves without authority the rejection of the mention of the Passover in John 6:4--there remains the choice between a two years' and a three years' ministry. Both have able advocates (Turner in article "Chronology," and Sanday in article "Jesus Christ," in H D B, advocate the two years' scheme; Farrar, Ramsay, D. Smith, etc., adhere to the three years' scheme). An important point is the view taken of the unnamed "feast" in John 5:1. John has already named a Passover--Christ's first--in 2:13,23; another, which Jesus did not attend, is named in 6:4; the final Passover, at which He was crucified, appears in all the evangelists. If the "feast" of John 5:1 (the article is probably to be omitted) is also, as some think, a Passover, then John has four Passovers, and a three years' ministry becomes necessary. It is claimed, however, that in this case the "feast" would almost certainly have been named. It still does not follow, even if a minor feast--say Purim--is intended, that we are shut up to a two years' ministry. Mr. Turner certainly goes beyond his evidence in affirming that "while two years must, not more than two years can, be allowed for the interval from John 2:13,23 to John 11:55." The two years' scheme involves, as will be seen on consideration of details, a serious overcrowding and arbitrary transposition of incidents, which speak to the need of longer time. We shall assume that the ministry lasted for three years, reserving reasons till the narrative is examined.
4. Date of Christ's Death:
On the hypothesis now accepted, the crucifixion of Jesus took place at the Passover of 30 AD. On the two years' scheme it would fall a year earlier. On both sides it is agreed that it occurred on the Friday of the week of the Passover, but it is disputed whether this Friday was the 14th or the 15th day of the month. The Gospel of John is pleaded for the former date, the Synoptics for the latter. The question will be considered in connection with the time of the Last Supper. Meanwhile it is to be observed that, if the 15th is the correct date, there seems reason to believe that the 15th of Nisan fell on a Friday in the year just named, 783 AUG, or 30 AD. We accept this provisionally as the date of the crucifixion.
These files are public domain.