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Jesus (//; Greek: Ἰησοῦς Iesous; 7–2 BC to 30–36 AD), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth, is the central figure of Christianity, whom the teachings of most Christian denominations hold to be the Son of God. Christians believe Jesus to be the awaited Messiah of the Old Testament and refer to him as Jesus Christ or simply Christ, a name that is also used by non-Christians.
Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that a historical Jesus existed, although there is little agreement on the reliability of the gospel narratives and their assertions of his divinity. Most scholars agree that Jesus was a Jewishteacher from Galilee, was baptized by John the Baptist, and was crucified in Jerusalem on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate. Scholars have constructed various portraits of the historical Jesus, which often depict him as having one or more of the following roles: the leader of an apocalyptic movement, Messiah, a charismatic healer, a sage and philosopher, or an egalitarian social reformer. Scholars have correlated the New Testament accounts with non-Christian historical records to arrive at an estimated chronology of Jesus' life.
Most Christians believe that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, performed miracles, founded the Church, died by crucifixion as a sacrifice to achieve atonement, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, from which hewill return. The majority of Christians worship Jesus as the incarnation of God the Son, who is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. A few Christian groups reject Trinitarianism, wholly or partly, as non-scriptural.
In Islam, Jesus (commonly transliterated as Isa) is considered one of God's important prophets. To Muslims, Jesus is a bringer of scripture and the child of a virgin birth, but neither divine nor the victim of crucifixion. Judaism rejects the belief that Jesus was the awaited Messiah, arguing that he did not fulfill the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh. Bahá'í scripture almost never refers to Jesus as the Messiah, but calls him a Manifestation of God.
A typical Jew in Jesus' time had only one name, sometimes supplemented with the father's name or the individual's hometown. Thus, in the Christian Bible, Jesus is referred to as "Jesus of Nazareth" (Matthew 26:71), "Joseph's son" (Luke 4:12), and "Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (John 1:45). The name Jesus, which occurs in a number of languages, is derived from the Latin Iesus, a transliteration of the Greek Ἰησοῦς (Iesous). The Greek form is a rendition of the Aramaic ישוע (Yeshua), which is derived from the Hebrew יהושע (Yehoshua). The nameYeshua appears to have been in use in Judea at the time of the birth of Jesus. The first-century works of historian Flavius Josephus refer to at least twenty different people with this name. The etymology of Jesus' name in the context of the New Testament is generally given as "Yahwehsaves", "Yahweh will save", or "Yahweh is salvation".
Since early Christianity, Christians have commonly referred to Jesus as "Jesus Christ". The word Christ is derived from the Greek Χριστός (Christos), which is a translation of the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Masiah), meaning the "anointed" and usually transliterated into English as "Messiah". Christians designate Jesus as Christ because they believe he is the awaited Messiah prophesied in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). In postbiblical usage, Christ became viewed as a name—one part of "Jesus Christ"—but originally it was a title. Since the first century, the term "Christian" (meaning "one who owes allegiance to the person of Christ") is used to identify the followers of Jesus.
Most scholars agree that Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was born around the beginning of the first century and died between 30 and 36 AD in Judea. Amy-Jill Levine states that the general scholarly consensus is that Jesus was a contemporary of John the Baptist and was crucified by Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who reigned from 26 to 36 AD. Most scholars hold that Jesus lived in Galilee and Judea and did not preach or study elsewhere.
The gospels offer several clues concerning the year of Jesus' birth. Matthew 2:1 associates the birth of Jesus with the reign of Herod the Great, who died around 4 BC, and Luke 1:5 mentions that Herod was on the throne shortly before the birth of Jesus. Luke's gospel also associates the birth with the Census of Quirinius. Luke 3:23 states that Jesus was "about thirty years of age" at the start of his ministry, which according to Acts 10:37–38 was preceded by John's ministry, which according to Luke 3:1–2 began in the 15th year of Tiberius' reign (28 or 29 AD). By collating the gospel accounts with historical data, along with using various other methods, most scholars arrive a date of birth between 6 and 4 BC, but some propose a wider range between 7 and 2 BC.
The years of Jesus' ministry have been estimated using several different approaches. One approach applies the reference in Luke 3:1–2, Acts 10:37–38 and the dates of Tiberius' reign, which are well known. This gives a date of around 28–29 AD for the start of Jesus' ministry. Another approach uses the statement about the temple in John 2:13–20, which states that the temple in Jerusalem was in its 46th year of construction at the start of Jesus' ministry, together withJosephus' statement that the temple's reconstruction was started by Herod in the 18th year of his reign, to estimate a date around 27–29 AD. Another method uses the date of the death of John the Baptist and the marriage of Herod Antipas toHerodias, based on the writings of Josephus, and correlates it with Matthew 14:4 and Mark 6:18. Given that most scholars date the marriage of Herod and Herodias as AD 28–35, this yields a date about 28–29 AD.
A number of approaches have been used to estimate the year of the Crucifixion of Jesus, leading most scholars to agree that he died between 30 and 36 AD. The gospels state that the event occurred during the prefecture of Pilate, who was the Roman governor of Judea from 26 AD until 36 AD. Scholars believe the Crucifixion occurred before the conversion of Paul, which is estimated at around 33–36 AD. Astronomers since Isaac Newton have tried to estimate the precise date of the Crucifixion, the most widely accepted dates being April 7, 30 AD, and April 3, 33 AD (both Julian).
The four canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are the main sources for the biography of Jesus, but other parts of the New Testament, such as the Pauline epistles, which were probably written decades before the gospels, also include references to key episodes in his life, such as the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23–26. The Acts of the Apostles (10:37–38 and 19:4) refers to the early ministry of Jesus and its anticipation by John the Baptist. Acts 1:1–11 says more about the Ascension of Jesus (also mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:16) than the canonical gospels do.
Not everything contained in the New Testament gospels is considered to be historically reliable. Elements whose historical authenticity are disputed include the two accounts of the Nativity, as well as the Resurrection and certain details about the Crucifixion. Views on the gospels range from their being inerrant descriptions of the life of Jesus to their providing no historical information about his life.
Three of the four canonical gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are known as the Synoptic Gospels, from the Greek σύν (syn "together") and ὄψις (opsis "view"). According to the majority viewpoint, the Synoptic Gospels are the primary sources of historical information about Jesus. They are very similar in content, narrative arrangement, language and paragraph structure. Scholars generally agree that it is impossible to find any direct literary relationship between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John.
In general, the authors of the New Testament showed little interest in an absolute chronology of Jesus or in synchronizing the episodes of his life with the secular history of the age. As stated in John 21:25, the gospels do not claim to provide an exhaustive list of the events in the life of Jesus. The accounts were primarily written as theological documents in the context of early Christianity, with timelines as a secondary consideration. One manifestation of the gospels as theological documents rather than historical chronicles is that they devote about one third of their text to just seven days, namely the last week of the life of Jesus in Jerusalem, referred to as Passion Week. Although the gospels do not provide enough details to satisfy the demands of modern historians regarding exact dates, it is possible to draw from them a general picture of the life story of Jesus.
The gospel accounts sometimes differ in the ordering of the parables, miracles, and other events. While the flow of the some events, such as the Baptism, Transfiguration, and Crucifixion of Jesus, and his interactions with the Apostles, are shared among the Synoptic Gospels, events such as the Transfiguration do not appear in John's Gospel, which also differs on other matters, such as the Cleansing of the Temple. Since the second century, attempts have been made to harmonize the gospel accounts into a single narrative, Tatian's Diatesseron perhaps being the first.
The gospels include a number of discourses by Jesus on specific occasions, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the Farewell Discourse. They also include over 30 parables spread throughout the narrative, often with themes that relate to the sermons. John 14:10 stresses the importance of the words of Jesus and attributes them to the authority of God the Father. The gospel descriptions of Jesus' miracles are often accompanied by records of his teachings.
Accounts of the genealogy and Nativity of Jesus appear in the New Testament only in the gospels of Luke and Matthew. Outside the New Testament, documents exist that are more or less contemporary with Jesus and the gospels, but few shed any light on biographical details of his life, and these two gospel accounts remain the main sources of information on the genealogy and Nativity.
Matthew begins his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus, before giving an account of Jesus' birth. He traces Jesus' ancestry to Abraham through David. Luke 3:22 discusses the genealogy after describing the Baptism of Jesus, when the voice from Heaven addresses Jesus and identifies him as the Son of God. Luke traces Jesus' ancestry through Adam to God.
The Nativity is a prominent element in the Gospel of Luke, comprising over 10 percent of the text and being three times as long as Matthew's Nativity text. Luke's account emphasizes events before the birth of Jesus and centers on Mary, while Matthew's mostly covers those after the birth and centers on Joseph. Both accounts state that Jesus was born to Joseph and Mary, his betrothed, in Bethlehem, and both support the doctrine of the virgin birth, according to which Jesus was miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb when she was still a virgin.
In Luke 1:31–38 Mary learns from the angel Gabriel that she will conceive and bear a child called Jesus through the action of the Holy Spirit. Following his betrothal to Mary, Joseph is troubled (Matthew 1:19–20) because Mary is pregnant, but in the first of Joseph's three dreams an angel assures him not be afraid to take Mary as his wife, because her child was conceived by the Holy Spirit. When Mary is due to give birth, she and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Joseph's ancestral home in Bethlehem to register in the census of Quirinius. There Mary gives birth to Jesus, and as they have found no room in the inn, she places the newborn in a manger (Luke 2:1–7). An angel visits some shepherds and sends them to adore the child (Luke 2:22). After presenting Jesus at the Temple, Joseph and Mary return home to Nazareth. In Matthew 1:1–12, wise men or Magi from the East bring gifts to the young Jesus as the King of the Jews. Herod hears of Jesus' birth and, wanting him killed, orders the murder of young male children in Bethlehem. But an angel warns Joseph in his second dream, and the family flees to Egypt, later to return and settle in Nazareth.
Jesus' childhood home is identified in the gospels of Luke and Matthew as the town of Nazareth in Galilee. Mary's husband Joseph appears in descriptions of Jesus' childhood, but no mention is made of him thereafter. The New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, and Galatians mention Jesus' brothers and sisters, but the Greek word adelphos in these verses has also been translated as "kinsman", rather than the more usual "brother".
Originally written in Koine Greek, the Gospel of Mark calls Jesus in Mark 6:3 a τέκτων (tekton), usually understood to mean a carpenter, and Matthew 13:55 says he was the son of a tekton. Although traditionally translated as "carpenter", tekton is a rather general word (from the same root that leads to "technical" and "technology") that could cover makers of objects in various materials, even builders. Beyond the New Testament accounts, the association of Jesus with woodworking is a constant in the traditions of the first and second centuries. Justin Martyr (d. ca. 165) wrote that Jesus made yokes and ploughs.
Gospel accounts of the Baptism of Jesus are always preceded by information about John the Baptist and his ministry. They show John preaching penance and repentance for the remission of sins and encouraging the giving of alms to the poor (Luke 3:11) as he baptized people in the area of the River Jordan around Perea at about the time when Jesus began his ministry. The Gospel of John (1:28) initially specifies "Bethany beyond the Jordan", that is Bethabara in Perea, and later John 3:23 refers to further baptisms in Ænon "because there was much water there".
In the gospels, John had been foretelling (Luke 3:16) the arrival of someone "mightier than I", and Paul the Apostle also refers to this (Acts 19:4). In Matthew 3:14, on meeting Jesus, the Baptist says, "I have need to be baptized of thee", but Jesus persuades John to baptize him nonetheless. After he does so and Jesus emerges from the water, the sky opens and a voice from Heaven states, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). The Holy Spirit then descends upon Jesus as a dove. In John 1:29–33, rather than a direct narrative, the Baptist bears witness to the episode. This is one of two events described in the gospels where a voice from Heaven calls Jesus "Son", the other being the Transfiguration.
After the baptism, the Synoptic Gospels describe the Temptation of Christ, in which Jesus resisted temptations from the devil while fasting for forty days and nights in the Judaean Desert. The Gospel of John omits the Temptation and proceeds directly to the first encounter between Jesus and two of his future disciples (John 1:35–37): on the day after the Baptism, the Baptist sees Jesus again and calls him the Lamb of God; two disciples of John the Baptist hear this and follow Jesus.
The gospels present John the Baptist's ministry as the precursor of that of Jesus. Starting with his Baptism, Jesus begins his ministry in the countryside of Judea, near the River Jordan, when he is "about thirty years of age" (Luke 3:23). He then travels, preaches and performs miracles, eventually completing his ministry with the Last Supper with his disciples in Jerusalem.
Scholars divide the ministry of Jesus into several stages. The Galilean ministry begins when Jesus returns to Galilee from the Judaean Desert after rebuffing the temptation of Satan. Jesus preaches around Galilee, and in Matthew 4:18–20, his first disciples, who will eventually form the core of the early Church, encounter him and begin to travel with him. This period includes the Sermon on the Mount, one of Jesus' major discourses. This period also includes the Calming the storm, Feeding the 5000, Walking on water, and a number of other miracles and parables. This period ends with the Confession of Peter and the Transfiguration.
As Jesus travels towards Jerusalem, in the Perean ministry, he returns to the area where he was baptized, about one-third the way down from the Sea of Galilee along the Jordan (John 10:40–42). The final ministry in Jerusalem begins with the Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. In the Synoptic Gospels, during that week Jesus drives the money changers from the Temple and Judas bargains to betray him. However, John's Gospel places the Temple incident during the early part of Jesus' ministry, and scholars differ on whether these are one or two separate incidents. This period culminates in the Last Supper and the Farewell Discourse.
Commentaries often discuss the teachings of Jesus in terms of his "words and works". The words include a number of sermons, as well as parables that appear throughout the narrative of the Synoptic Gospels (the Gospel of John includes no narrative parables). The works include the miracles and other acts performed during Jesus' ministry. Although the canonical gospels are the major source of the teachings of Jesus, the Pauline epistles provide some of the earliest written accounts.
The New Testament presents the teachings of Jesus not merely as his own preaching, but as divine revelation. John the Baptist, for example, states in John 3:34: "For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for he giveth not the Spirit by measure." In John 7:16 Jesus says, "My teaching is not mine, but his that sent me." He asserts the same thing in John 14:10: "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I say unto you I speak not from myself: but the Father abiding in me doeth his works." In Matthew 11:27 Jesus claims divine knowledge, stating: "no one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son".
The Kingdom of God (also called the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew) is one of the key elements of Jesus' teachings in the New Testament. Jesus promises inclusion in the Kingdom for those who accept his message. He calls people to repent their sins and to devote themselves completely to God. Jesus tells his followers to adhere strictly to Jewish law, although he has broken the law himself, especially regarding the Sabbath. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus replies: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind ... And a second like [unto it] is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:37–39). Other ethical teachings of Jesus include loving one's enemies, refraining from hatred and lust, and turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:21–44).
In the gospels, the approximately thirty parables form about one third of Jesus' recorded teachings. The parables appear within longer sermons and at other places in the narrative. They often contain symbolism, and usually relate the physical world to the spiritual. Common themes in these tales include the kindness and generosity of God and the perils of transgression. Some of his parables, such as the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32), are relatively simple, while others, such as theGrowing Seed (Mark 4:26–29), are more abstruse.
The gospel episodes that include descriptions of the miracles of Jesus also often include teachings, and the miracles themselves involve an element of teaching. Many of the miracles teach the importance of faith. In the cleansing of ten lepers and the raising of Jairus' daughter, for instance, the beneficiaries are told that their healing was due to their faith. When Jesus' opponents accuse him of performing exorcisms by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, Jesus counters that he performs miracles by the "Spirit of God" (Matthew 12:28) or "finger of God" (Luke 11:20).
At about the middle of each of the three Synoptic Gospels, two related episodes mark a turning point in the narrative: the Confession of Peter and the Transfiguration of Jesus. They take place near Caesarea Philippi, just north of the Sea of Galilee, at the beginning of the final journey to Jerusalem that ends in the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. These events mark the beginnings of the gradual disclosure of the identity of Jesus to his disciples and his prediction of his own suffering and death.
Peter's Confession begins as a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples in Matthew 16:13, Mark 8:27 and Luke 9:18. Jesus asks his disciples, "who say ye that I am?" Simon Peter answers, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:15–16). Jesus replies, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven." With this blessing, Jesus affirms that the titles Peter ascribes to him are divinely revealed, thus unequivocally declaring himself to be both Christ and the Son of God.
The account of the Transfiguration appears in Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2–8, and Luke 9:28–36. Jesus takes Peter and two other apostles up an unnamed mountain, where "he was transfigured before them; and his face did shine as the sun, and his garments became white as the light." A bright cloud appears around them, and a voice from the cloud says, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him" (Matthew 17:1–9). The Transfiguration reaffirms that Jesus is the Son of God (as in his Baptism), and the command "hear ye him" identifies him as God's messenger and mouthpiece.
The description of the last week of the life of Jesus (often called Passion Week) occupies about one third of the narrative in the canonical gospels, starting with a description of the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ending with his Crucifixion.The last week in Jerusalem is the conclusion of the journey through Perea and Judea that Jesus began in Galilee. Just before the entry into Jerusalem, the Gospel of John includes the Raising of Lazarus, which increases the tension between Jesus and the authorities.
In the four canonical gospels, Jesus' final entry into Jerusalem takes place at the beginning of the last week of his life, a few days before the Last Supper, marking the beginning of the Passion narrative. The day of entry into Jerusalem is identified by Mark and John as Sunday and by Matthew as Monday; Luke does not identify the day. After leaving Bethany Jesus rides a young donkey into Jerusalem. People along the way lay cloaks and small branches of trees in front of him and sing part of Psalm 118:25–26. The cheering crowds greeting Jesus as he enters Jerusalem add to the tension between him and the authorities.
In the three Synoptic Gospels, entry into Jerusalem is followed by the Cleansing of the Temple, in which Jesus expels the money changers from the temple, accusing them of turning it into a den of thieves through their commercial activities. This is the only account of Jesus using physical force in any of the gospels. John 2:13–16 includes a similar narrative much earlier, and scholars debate whether the passage refers to the same episode. The Synoptics include a number of well-known parables and sermons, such as the Widow's mite and the Second Coming Prophecy, during the week that follows.
The Synoptics record conflicts that took place between Jesus and the Jewish elders during Passion Week in episodes such as the Authority of Jesus questioned and the Woes of the Pharisees, in which Jesus criticizes their hypocrisy. Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles, approaches the Jewish elders and strikes a bargain with them, in which he undertakes to betray Jesus and hand him over to them for a reward of thirty silver coins.
The Last Supper is the final meal that Jesus shares with his twelve apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The Last Supper is mentioned in all four canonical gospels, and Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (11:23–26) also refers to it. During the meal, Jesus predicts that one of his apostles will betray him. Despite each Apostle's assertion that he would not betray him, Jesus reiterates that the betrayer would be one of those present. Matthew 26:23–25 and John 13:26–27 specifically identify Judas as the traitor.
In the Synoptics, Jesus takes bread, breaks it and gives it to the disciples, saying, "This is my body which is given for you". He then has them all drink from a cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood" (Luke 22:19–20). Although the Gospel of John does not include a description of the bread-and-wine ritual during the Last Supper, most scholars agree that John 6:58–59 (the Bread of Life Discourse) has a eucharistic character and resonates with the institution narratives in the Synoptic Gospels and in the Pauline writings on the Last Supper.
In all four gospels, Jesus predicts that Peter will deny knowledge of him three times before the rooster crows the next morning. In Luke and John, the prediction is made during the Supper (Luke 22:34, John 22:34). In Matthew and Mark, the prediction is made after the Supper, and Jesus also predicts that all his disciples will desert him (Matthew 26:31–34, Mark 14:27–30). The Gospel of John provides the only account of Jesus washing his disciples' feet before the meal. John also includes a long sermon by Jesus, preparing his disciples (now without Judas) for his departure. Chapters 14–17 of the Gospel of John are known as the Farewell Discourse and are a significant source of Christological content.
After the Last Supper, Jesus, accompanied by his disciples, takes a walk to pray. Matthew and Mark identify the place as the garden of Gethsemane, while Luke identifies it as the Mount of Olives. Judas appears in the garden, accompanied by a crowd that includes the Jewish priests and elders and people with weapons. He kisses Jesus to identify him to the crowd, which then arrests Jesus. In an attempt to stop them, one of Jesus' disciples uses a sword to cut off the ear a man in the crowd. Luke states that Jesus miraculously heals the wound, and John and Matthew report that Jesus criticizes the violent act, enjoining his disciples not to resist his arrest. In Matthew 26:52 Jesus says, "all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword". After Jesus' arrest, his disciples go into hiding, and Peter, when questioned, thrice denies knowing Jesus. After the third denial, he hears the rooster crow and recalls the prediction as Jesus turns to look at him. Peter then weeps bitterly.
After his arrest, Jesus is taken to the Sanhedrin, a Jewish judicial body. The gospel accounts differ on the details of the trials. In Matthew 26:57, Mark 14:53 and Luke 22:54, Jesus is taken to the high priest's house, where he is mocked and beaten that night. Early next morning, the chief priests and scribes lead Jesus away into their council. John 18:12–14 states that Jesus is first taken to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, and then to Caiaphas. All four gospels report the Denial of Peter, where Peter denies knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crows, as predicted by Jesus.
During the trials Jesus speaks very little, mounts no defense and gives very infrequent and indirect answers to the questions of the priests, prompting an officer to slap him. In Matthew 26:62 Jesus' unresponsiveness leads the high priest to ask him, "Answerest thou nothing?" In Mark 14:61 the high priest then asks Jesus, "Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?". Jesus replies "I am" and then predicts the coming of the Son of Man. This provokes the high priest to tear his own robe in anger and to accuse Jesus of blasphemy. In Matthew and Luke, Jesus' answer is less direct. In Matthew 26:64 he responds "Thou hast said", and in Luke 22:70 he says, "Ye say that I am".
Taking Jesus to Pilate's Court, the Jewish elders ask Roman governor Pontius Pilate to judge and condemn Jesus, accusing him of claiming to be the King of the Jews. The use of the word "king" is central to the discussion between Jesus and Pilate. In John 18:36 Jesus states, "My kingdom is not of this world", but he does not directly deny being the King of the Jews. In Luke 23:7–15 Pilate realizes that Jesus is a Galilean, thus coming under the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas. Pilate sends Jesus to Herod to be tried, but Jesus says almost nothing in response to Herod's questions. Herod and his soldiers mock Jesus, put a gorgeous robe on him to make him look like a king, and send him back to Pilate. Pilate then calls together the Jewish elders and says that he has "found no fault in this man".
As a Passover custom, Pilate allows one prisoner chosen by the crowd to be released. He gives the crowd a choice between Jesus and a murderer called Barabbas. Persuaded by the elders (Matthew 27:20), the mob chooses to release Barabbas and crucify Jesus. Pilate writes a sign that reads "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" (abbreviated as INRI in depictions) to be affixed to the cross of Jesus (John 19:19). He then scourges Jesus and send him to be cricified. The soldiers mock Jesus as the King of Jews by clothing him in a purple robe (which signifies royal status) and placing a Crown of Thorns on his head. They beat and taunt him before taking him to Calvary, also called Golgotha, for crucifixion.
Jesus' crucifixion is described in all four canonical gospels. After the trials, Jesus makes his way to Calvary by a route known traditionally as the Via Dolorosa. The three Synoptic Gospels indicate that Simon of Cyrene assists him, having been compelled by the Romans to do so. In Luke 23:27–28 Jesus tells the women in the multitude of people following him not to weep for him but for themselves and their children. At Calvary Jesus is offered wine mixed with gall, a concoction usually offered as a painkiller. Matthew and Mark state that he refuses it.
The soldiers then crucify Jesus and cast lots for his clothes. Above Jesus' head on the cross is Pilate's inscription "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews", and the soldiers and passers-by mock him about it. Jesus is crucified between two convicted thieves, one of whom rebukes Jesus, while the other defends him. The Roman soldiers break the two thieves' legs (a procedure designed to hasten death in a crucifixion), but they do not break those of Jesus, as he is already dead. One soldier, traditionally identified as Saint Longinus, pierces Jesus' side with a lance, and water flows out. In Mark 15:39, impressed by the events, the Roman centurion affirms that Jesus was the Son of God.
On the same day, Joseph of Arimathea, with Pilate's permission and with Nicodemus' help, removes Jesus' body from the cross, wraps him in a clean cloth and buries him in a new rock-hewn tomb. In Matthew 27:62–66, on the following day the Jews ask Pilate for the tomb to be sealed with a stone and placed under guard to ensure the body will remain there.
New Testament accounts of Jesus' resurrection state that on the first day of the week after the crucifixion (typically interpreted as a Sunday), his tomb is discovered to be empty and his followers encounter him risen from the dead. His followers arrive at the tomb early in the morning and meet either one or two beings (men or angels) dressed in bright robes. Mark 16:9 and John 20:15 indicate that Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene first, and Luke 16:9 states that she is one of themyrrhbearers.
After the discovery of the empty tomb, Jesus makes a series of appearances to the disciples. These include the Doubting Thomas episode and the appearance on the road to Emmaus, where Jesus meets two disciples. The catch of 153 fish is a miracle by the Sea of Galilee, after which Jesus encourages Peter to serve his followers.
Before he ascends into heaven, Jesus commissions his disciples to spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. Luke 24:51 states that Jesus is then "carried up into heaven". The Ascension account is elaborated in Acts 1:1–11 and mentioned 1 Timothy 3:16. In Acts, forty days after the Resurrection, as the disciples look on, "he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight". 1 Peter 3:22 describes Jesus as being on "the right hand of God, having gone into heaven".
The Acts of the Apostles describe several appearances by Jesus after his Ascension. Acts 7:55 describes a vision experienced by Stephen just before his death. On the road to Damascus, the Apostle Paul is converted to Christianity after seeing a blinding light and hearing a voice saying, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest". In Acts 9:10–18, Ananias of Damascus is instructed to heal Paul. It is the last conversation with Jesus reported in the Bible until the Book of Revelation, in which a man named John receives a revelation from Jesus concerning the end times.
Prior to the Enlightenment, the gospels were usually regarded as accurate historical accounts, but since then skeptics have emerged who question the reliability of the gospels and presuppose a distinction between the Jesus described in the gospels and the Jesus of history. Since the 18th century, three separate scholarly quests for the historical Jesus have taken place, each with distinct characteristics and based on different research criteria, which were often developed during the quest that applied them. The third quest, which began around the 1980s, was unique for its greater emphasis on the methods of mainstream historical scholarship.
Donald Akenson has argued that, with very few exceptions, historians of Jesus have not followed sound historical practices. He has stated that there is an unhealthy reliance on consensus for propositions that should be based on primary sources or rigorous interpretation, and that some of the criteria being used are faulty. Michael R. Licona has criticized Jesus scholars for not using "deliberate methods for weighing hypotheses and criteria for awarding historicity". He says that the scholars too often "rely on their own intuition", which is often influenced by their backgrounds and biases.
The Christ myth theory, which questions the existence of Jesus, appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries and was debated during the 20th century. Some of its supporters contend that Jesus is a myth invented by early Christians. Supporters of the theory point to the lack of any known written references to Jesus during his lifetime and to the relative scarcity of non-Christian references to him in the 1st century, which they use to challenge the veracity of the existing accounts of him. Beginning in the 20th century, scholars such as G. A. Wells, Robert M. Price and Thomas Brodie have presented various arguments to support the Christ myth theory. However, virtually all scholars of antiquity now agree that Jesus existed and regard events such as his baptism and his crucifixion as historical. Van Voorst and (separately) Michael Grant state that biblical scholars and classical historians now regard theories of the non-existence of Jesus as effectively refuted.
In response to the argument that the lack of the contemporary references implies that Jesus did not exist, Robert E. Van Voorst has stated that, "as every good student of history knows", such arguments from silence are "specially perilous". Arguments from silence generally fail unless a fact is known to the author and is important enough and relevant enough to be mentioned in the context of a document. Bart D. Ehrman states that it is completely unsound to argue that since Jesus had an immense impact on the society of his day, one might have expected contemporary accounts of his deeds; Ehrman adds that although Jesus had a large impact on future generations, his impact on the society of his time was "practically nil".
Ehrman says that arguments based on the lack of physical or archeological evidence of Jesus and of any writings from him are poor, as there is no such evidence of "nearly anyone who lived in the first century". Teresa Okure writes that the existence of historical figures is established by the analysis of later references to them, rather than by contemporary relics and remnants. A number of scholars caution against the use of such arguments from ignorance and consider them generally inconclusive or fallacious. Douglas Walton states that arguments from ignorance can only lead to sound conclusions in cases where we can assume that our "knowledge-base is complete".
Non-Christian sources used to establish the historical existence of Jesus include the works of first-century historians Josephus and Tacitus. Josephus scholar Louis H. Feldman has stated that "few have doubted the genuineness" of Josephus' reference to Jesus in book 20 of the Antiquities of the Jews, and it is disputed only by a small number of scholars. Tacitus referred to Christ and his execution by Pilate in book 15 of his work Annals. Scholars generally consider Tacitus's reference to the execution of Jesus to be both authentic and of historical value as an independent Roman source.
Despite the lack of specific archaeological remains directly associated with Jesus, 21st-century scholars have become increasingly interested in using archaeology to seek greater understanding of the socio-economic and political background to Jesus' life. James Charlesworth states that few modern scholars would now ignore the archaeological discoveries that cast light on life in Galilee and Judea during the time of Jesus. Jonathan Reed states that chief contribution of archaeology to the study of the historical Jesus is the reconstruction of his social world.
David Gowler states that an interdisciplinary scholarly study of archeology, textual analysis and historical context can shed light on Jesus and his teachings. An example is the archeological studies at Capernaum. Despite the frequent references to Capernaum in the New Testament, little is said about it. However, recent archeological evidence shows that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Capernaum was poor and small, without even a forum or an agora. This archaeological discovery resonates well with the scholarly view that Jesus advocated reciprocal sharing among the destitute in that area of Galilee.
Most modern scholars consider Jesus' baptism and crucifixion to be definite historical facts. James D. G. Dunn states that they "command almost universal assent" and "rank so high on the 'almost impossible to doubt or deny' scale of historical facts" that they are often the starting points for the study of the historical Jesus. Scholars adduce the criterion of embarrassment, saying that early Christians would not have invented the painful death of their leader, or a baptism that might imply that Jesus committed sins and wanted to repent. Scholars use a number of criteria, such as the criterion of multiple attestation, the criterion of coherence, and the criterion of discontinuity to judge the historicity of events. Levine states that there is "a consensus of sorts" on the basic outline of Jesus' life, in that most scholars agree that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, debated with Jewish authorities on the subject of God, performed some healings, taught in parables, gathered followers, and was crucified on Pilate's orders.
Approaches to the historical reconstruction of the life of Jesus have varied from the "maximalist" approaches of the 19th century, in which the gospel accounts were accepted in their entirety, to the "minimalist" approaches of the early 20th century, where hardly anything about Jesus was accepted as historical. In the 1950s, as the second quest for the historical Jesus gathered pace, the minimalist approaches faded away, and in the 21st century, minimalists such as Price are a very small minority, whose views have hardly any academic following. Although no totally maximalist view is accepted as historical, many scholars since the 1980s have held that, beyond the few facts considered to be historically certain, certain other elements of Jesus' life are "historically probable". Modern scholarly research on the historical Jesus thus focuses on identifying the most probable elements.
Modern research on the historical Jesus has not led to a unified picture of the historical figure, partly because of the variety of academic traditions represented by the scholars. Ben Witherington states that "there are now as many portraits of the historical Jesus as there are scholarly painters". Bart Ehrman and separately Andreas Köstenberger contend that given the scarcity of historical sources, it is generally difficult for any scholar to construct a portrait of Jesus that can be considered historically valid beyond the basic elements of his life. The portraits of Jesus constructed in these quests often differ from each other, and from the image portrayed in the gospels.
The mainstream profiles in the third quest may be grouped according to whether they portray Jesus primarily as an apocalyptic prophet, a charismatic healer, a cynic philosopher, the true Messiah, or an egalitarian prophet of social change. Each of these types has a number of variants, and some scholars reject the basic elements of some portraits. However, the attributes described in the portraits sometimes overlap, and scholars who differ on some attributes sometimes agree on others.
Jesus grew up in Galilee and much of his ministry took place there. The languages spoken in Galilee and Judea during the first century AD include Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek, with Aramaic predominant. Most scholars agree that in the early first century, Aramaic was the mother tongue of virtually all women in Galilee and Judea. Most scholars support the theory that Jesus spoke Aramaic and may also have spoken Hebrew and Greek. Dunn states that there is "substantial consensus" that Jesus gave most of his teachings in Aramaic.
In a review of the state of modern scholarship, Levine writes that the entire question of ethnicity is fraught with difficulty, and that "beyond recognizing that 'Jesus was Jewish', rarely does the scholarship address what being 'Jewish' means". In the New Testament, written in Koine Greek, Jesus is said to have been Judean (Ioudaios) on three occasions, although he did not refer to himself as such. He was so described: by the Magi in Matthew 2, who referred to Jesus as king of the Jews (basileus ton ioudaion); by the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, when Jesus was travelling out of Judea; and (in all four gospels) during the Passion, by the Romans, who also used the phrase "King of the Jews".
The New Testament gives no description of the physical appearance of Jesus before his death—it is generally indifferent to racial appearances and does not refer to the features of the people it mentions. The Synoptic Gospels include accounts of the Transfiguration, during which Jesus was glorified, with "his face shining as the sun", but they do not give details of his everyday appearance. The Book of Revelation describes the features of a glorified Jesus in a vision (1:13–16), but the vision refers to Jesus in heavenly form, after his death and resurrection.
In the New Testament, Jesus and his father were identified as τέκτων (tekton) (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3), traditionally translated from Koine Greek into English as "carpenter". However, some scholars argue that tekton is a generic word (from the same root that gives "technical" and "technology") that could cover makers of objects in various materials, even builders. Others have argued that tekton could equally mean a highly-skilled craftsman in wood or the more prestigious metal, perhaps running a workshop with several employees. Geza Vermes has stated that the terms "carpenter" and "son of a carpenter" are used in the Jewish Talmud to signify a very learned man, and he suggests that a description of Joseph as naggar (a carpenter) could indicate that he was considered wise and highly literate in the Torah. Some scholars have suggested that Jesus worked in the Galilean city of Sepphoris, and was influenced by its Hellenistic culture.
There are a number of passages from the Gospels which state or imply that Jesus could read. However, the Jesus Seminar stated that references in the Gospels to Jesus reading and writing may be fiction. Crossan, a member of the group, views Jesus as a peasant and claims that he was illiterate. Craig A. Evans states that one should not assume that Jesus was a peasant, and suggests that his extended travels may indicate some financial means. Evans states that existing data indicate that Jesus could read, paraphrase, and debate scripture, but that this ability does not imply that he received formal scribal training. Dunn considers it "quite credible" that Jesus could read, and Meier further concludes that Jesus would probably have been capable of reading and commenting on sophisticated theological and literary works.
Apart from his own disciples and followers, the Jews of Jesus' day generally rejected him as the Messiah, as do Jews today. Christian theologians, ecumenical councils, reformers and others have written extensively about Jesus over the centuries. Christian sects and schisms have often been defined or characterized by their descriptions of Jesus. Meanwhile, Manichaeans, Gnostics, Muslims, Baha'is, and others have found prominent places for Jesus in their religions.
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Jesus is the central figure of Christianity. Although Christian views of Jesus vary, it is possible to summarize the key beliefs shared among major denominations, as stated in their catechetical or confessional texts. Christian views of Jesus are derived from various sources, but especially from the canonical gospels and from New Testament letters such as the Pauline epistles and the Johannine writings. These documents outline the key beliefs held by Christians about Jesus, including his divinity, humanity, and earthly life, and that he is the Christ and the Son of God. Despite their many shared beliefs, not all Christian denominations agree on all doctrines, and both major and minor differences on teachings and beliefs have persisted throughout Christianity for centuries.
The New Testament states that the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15:12–20). Christians believe that through his death and resurrection, humans can be reconciled with God and are thereby offered salvationand the promise of eternal life. Recalling the words of John the Baptist on the day after Jesus' baptism, these doctrines sometimes refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God, who was crucified to fulfil his role as the servant of God. Jesus is thus seen as the new and last Adam, whose obedience contrasts with Adam's disobedience. Christians view Jesus as a role model, whose God-focused life believers are encouraged to imitate.
Most Christians believe that Jesus was both human and the Son of God. While there has been theological debate over his nature, Trinitarian Christians generally believe that Jesus is the Logos, God's incarnation and God the Son, both fully divine and fully human. However, the doctrine of the Trinity is not universally accepted among Christians. Christians worship not only Jesus himself, but also his name. Devotions to the Holy Name of Jesus go back to the earliest days of Christianity. These devotions and feasts exist in both Eastern and Western Christianity.
Judaism rejects the idea of Jesus being God, or a mediator to God, or part of a Trinity. Judaism holds that Jesus is not the Messiah, arguing that he neither fulfilled the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh nor embodied the personal qualifications of the Messiah. According to Jewish tradition, there were no prophets after Malachi, who delivered his prophesies in the fifth century BC. Jonathan Waxman of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism writes that Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah have "crossed the line out of the Jewish community". Reform Judaism holds that anyone in the Jewish community "who claims that Jesus is their savior is no longer a Jew and is an apostate".
Judaic criticism of Jesus is long-standing. The New Testament states that Jesus was criticized by the Jewish authorities of his time. The Pharisees and scribes criticized Jesus and his disciples for not observing the Mosaic Law, for not washing their hands before eating (Mark 7:1–23,Matthew 15:1–20), and for gathering grain on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23–3:6). The Talmud, written and compiled from the third to the fifth century AD, includes stories that some consider to be accounts of Jesus. In one such story, Yeshu ha-nozri ("Jesus the Christian"), a lewd apostate, is executed by the Jewish high court for spreading idolatry and practicing magic. There is a wide spectrum of opinion among scholars concerning these stories. The majority of contemporary historians consider that this material provides no information on the historical Jesus. The Mishneh Torah, a late 12th-century work of Jewish law written by Moses Maimonides, states that Jesus is a "stumbling block" who makes "the majority of the world to err and serve a god other than the Lord".
In Islam, Jesus (Isa) is considered to be a messenger of God (Allah) and the Messiah (Masih) who was sent to guide the Children of Israel (bani isra'il) with a new scripture, the Gospel (Injil). Belief in Jesus (and all other messengers of God) is a requirement for being a Muslim. The Quran mentions Jesus by name 25 times—more often than Muhammad. The Quran emphasizes that Jesus was a mortal human who, like all other prophets, had been divinely chosen to spread God's message. Islam considers that Jesus was neither the incarnation nor the son of God. Islamic texts emphasize a strict notion of monotheism (tawhid) and forbid the association of partners with God, which would be idolatry (shirk). The Quran says that Jesus himself never claimed divinity, and predicts that at the Last Judgment, Jesus will deny having ever made such a claim (Quran 5:116). Like all prophets in Islam, Jesus is considered a Muslim, and believed to have preached that his followers should adopt the "straight path", as commanded by God.
The Quran does not mention Joseph but does describe the Annunciation to Mary (Maryam) by an angel that she is to give birth to Jesus while remaining a virgin. It calls the virgin birth a miracle that occurred by the will of God. The Quran (21:91 and 66:12) states that God breathed His Spirit into Mary while she was chaste. In Islam, Jesus is called the "Spirit of God" because he was born through the action of the Spirit, but that belief does not include the doctrine ofhis pre-existence, as it does in Christianity.
Jesus is sometimes called the "Seal of the Israelite Prophets", because Muslims believe that Jesus was the last prophet sent by God to guide the Israelites. To aid in his ministry to the Jewish people, Jesus was given the ability to performmiracles, by permission of God rather than by his own power. Jesus is seen in Islam as a precursor to Muhammad and is believed by Muslims to have foretold Muhammad's coming. Muslims deny that Jesus was crucified, that he rose from the dead, and that he atoned for the sins of mankind. According to Muslim traditions, Jesus was not crucified but was physically raised into the heavens by God. Muslims believe that Jesus will return to earth shortly before the Day of Judgment and defeat the Antichrist (ad-dajjal).
The Ahmadiyya Movement believes that Jesus was a mortal man who survived his crucifixion and died a natural death at the age of 120 in Kashmir. According to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the 19th-century founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, Jesus did not die on the cross but fell into a coma and later regained consciousness after being nursed back to health with an ointment. Ahmadis believe that after his apparent death and resurrection, Jesus fled Judea and went east to continue teaching the gospel, and that he is buried at Roza Bal in Kashmir. Ahmadis reject the notion that Jesus traveled to the Indian subcontinent before his crucifixion. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad declared himself to be the second coming of Jesus for Christians and the renewer of faith (Mujaddid) for Muslims. Mainstream Muslims reject this and various other Ahmadi beliefs, and some (for example, the Pakistani government) consider Ahmadis not to be Muslim.
Bahá'í teachings consider Jesus to be a manifestation of God, a Bahá'í concept for prophets—intermediaries between God and humanity, serving as messengers and reflecting God's qualities and attributes. The Bahá'í concept emphasizes the simultaneous qualities of humanity and divinity; thus, it is similar to the Christian concept of incarnation. Bahá'í thought accepts Jesus as the Son of God. In Bahá'í thought, Jesus was a perfect incarnation of God's attributes, but Bahá'í teachings reject the idea that divinity was contained with a single human body, stating that, on the contrary, God transcends physical reality.
Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, wrote that since each manifestation of God has the same divine attributes, they can be seen as the spiritual "return" of all previous manifestations of God, and the appearance of each new manifestation of God inaugurates a religion that supersedes the former ones, a concept known as progressive revelation. Bahá'ís believe that God's plan unfolds gradually through this process as mankind matures, and that some of the manifestations arrive in specific fulfilment of the missions of previous ones. Thus, Bahá'ís believe that Bahá'u'lláh is the promised return of Christ. Bahá'í teachings confirm many, but not all, aspects of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels. Bahá'ís believe in the virgin birth and in the Crucifixion, but see the Resurrection and the miracles of Jesus as symbolic.
Buddhism is a nontheistic religion that denies the existence of a Creator God. Buddhist scholars such as Masao Abe and D. T. Suzuki have stated that the centrality of the crucifixion of Jesus to the Christian view of his life is totally irreconcilable with the foundations of Buddhism. However, some Buddhists, including Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, regard him as a bodhisattva who dedicated his life to the welfare of people. It is recorded in 101 Zen Stories that the 14th-century Zen master Gasan Jōseki, on hearing some of the sayings of Jesus in the gospels, remarked that he was "an enlightened man", and "not far from Buddhahood".
In a letter to his daughter Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote, "All over Central Asia, in Kashmir and Ladakh and Tibet and even farther north, there is a strong belief that Jesus or Isa traveled about there." The theory that an adult Jesus traveled to India and was influenced by Buddhism first appeared in Nicolas Notovitch's 1894 book The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, which gave rise to other theories, but the author later confessed to fabricating the evidence. Van Voorst states that modern scholarship has "almost unanimously agreed" that claims that Jesus traveled to Tibet, Kashmir or India contain "nothing of value". Marcus Borg states that suggestions that an adult Jesus traveled to Egypt or India and came into contact with Buddhism are "without historical foundation". Although modern parallels have been drawn between the teachings of Jesus and Buddha, these comparisons emerged after missionary contacts in the 19th century, and there is no historically reliable evidence of contacts between Buddhism and Jesus during his life.
In Gnosticism (now a largely extinct religion), Jesus was sent from the divine realm and provided the secret knowledge (gnosis) necessary for salvation. Most Gnostics believed that Jesus was a human who became possessed by the spirit of Christ at his baptism. The spirit left Jesus' body during the crucifixion but later raised the body from the dead. Some Gnostics, however, were docetics, believing that Jesus did not have a physical body, but only appeared to have. Manichaeism, a Gnostic sect, accepted Jesus as a prophet, along with Gautama Buddha andZoroaster.
Some Hindus consider Jesus to be an avatar or a sadhu and point out similarities between Hindu and Jesus' teachings. Paramahansa Yogananda, a Hindu guru, taught that Jesus was the reincarnation of Elisha and a student of John the Baptist, the reincarnation of Elijah. TheNew Age movement entertains a wide variety of views on Jesus. Theosophists, from whom many New Age teachings originated, refer to Jesus as the Master Jesus and believe that Christ, after various incarnations, occupied the body of Jesus. Scientologists recognize Jesus (along with other religious figures such as Zoroaster, Muhammad, and Buddha) as part of their "religious heritage". In Raëlism, Jesus and several other religious figures are considered prophets sent by an extraterrestrial race called the Elohim. Followers of Religious Scienceconsider Jesus to be a teacher of Science of Mind principles, but reject his unique divinity, arguing that every person is equally divine. U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, a deist, created the Jefferson Bible, an early but incomplete gospel harmony that included only Jesus' ethical teachings, because he did not believe in Jesus' divinity, nor any other supernatural aspects of the Bible. Leading atheist Richard Dawkins rejects Jesus' divinity, but calls him a "a great moral teacher".
Critics of Jesus included Celsus in the second century and Porphyry, who wrote a 15-volume attack on Christianity as a whole. In the 19th century, Nietzsche was highly critical of Jesus, whose teachings he considered to be "anti-nature" in their treatment of topics such as sexuality. In the 20th century, Bertrand Russell wrote in Why I Am Not a Christian that Jesus was "not so wise as some other people have been, and He was certainly not superlatively wise".
Despite the lack of biblical references or historical records, a wide range of depictions of Jesus have appeared during the last two millennia, often influenced by cultural settings, political circumstances and theological contexts. As in otherChristian art, the earliest depictions date to the late second or early third century, and surviving images are found especially in the Catacombs of Rome.
The Byzantine Iconoclasm acted as a barrier to developments in the East, but by the ninth century, art was permitted again. The Transfiguration was a major theme in the East, and every Eastern Orthodox monk who had trained in icon painting had to prove his craft by painting an icon depicting it. The Renaissance brought forth a number of artists who focused on depictions of Jesus; Fra Angelico and others followed Giotto in the systematic development of uncluttered images. The Protestant Reformation brought a revival of aniconism in Christianity, but total prohibition was atypical, and Protestant objections to images have tended to reduce since the 16th century. Although large images are generally avoided, few Protestants now object to book illustrations depicting Jesus. On the other hand, the use of depictions of Jesus is advocated by the leaders of denominations such as Anglicans and Catholics and is a key element of the Eastern Orthodox tradition.
Throughout the history of Christianity a number of relics attributed to Jesus have been claimed and displayed. While some people believe in the authenticity of some relics, others have cast doubt on them. For instance, the 16th-century Catholic theologian Erasmus wrote sarcastically about the proliferation of relics and the number of buildings that could have been constructed from the wood claimed to be from the cross used in the Crucifixion. Similarly, while experts debate whether Jesus was crucified with three nails or with four, at least thirty holy nails continue to be venerated as relics across Europe.
Some relics, such as purported remnants of the Crown of Thorns, receive only a modest number of pilgrims, while the Shroud of Turin (which is associated with an approved Catholic devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus), have received millions, including Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
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