Is the historical Jesus real? The short answer: yes and no.
Jesus left no autobiography. None of the Gospels portray a biography about Jesus. Rather, they are interpretations by the authors of who they wanted Jesus to be. This resulted in the many versions of Jesus. He is God, his Son, part of the Trinity: Sacrificial Lamb, Savior, Lord, Rabbi, miracle worker, popular preacher, White, Black, Asian, and on and on.
Here is what we know about Jesus. He was a fellow human; son of Mary; lifetime Jew; religious; itinerant preacher; popular with some, unpopular with the Jewish High Priests; and crucified for sedition and died a horrendous death. His body was either eaten by wild animals or burned at the city dump. That’s it.
Here is what is questionable: Where was he born (Nazareth or Bethlehem, near a stable or in a house)? How many times did he go up to Jerusalem? Did Jesus really say everything that’s been attributed to him? What about his miracles? The betrayal by Judas? A Palm Sunday parade through Jerusalem? Buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s plush tomb? And lots more.
Here’s what’s not believable: He died on the cross for me; turned water into wine; cured incurable diseases (e.g., leprosy) and other infirmities (blindness from birth); accomplished most of his miracles; walked on water; was a White guy with coiffed brunet hair and manicured nails; literally rose from the dead, ascended, and lives with his Dad in outer space.
I’ll never believe that the world is going to end soon, Jesus is coming back, or he is God or his Son. I don’t believe anything in the book of Revelation or the Infancy Gospels, which portray Jesus as a rotten little kid. Jesus was not a Christian and did not found Christianity and the church.
Who is my historical Jesus? He was a Middle Eastern religious Jew, Galilean, illegitimate son of Mary, good preacher, and married with children. He alienated some of the religious leadership on purpose, so they silenced him—for forever, they thought. He was executed by the Romans and died, but his message lived on.
To make my Jesus more authentic, I go back into history and examine what was happening during his lifetime. For example, politically, the Romans occupied the Middle East region and made life miserable by overtaxing and being extremely oppressive. Economically, the poor became poorer and the rich richer. Socially, there was a 10 to 15 percent literacy rate, and many religions existed, but not Christianity. Lots of disease ran rampant, and life was precious with a short lifespan. Living on a daily basis was a struggle. All this played into Jesus’s transforming message.
I know my historical Jesus is not always historically accurate (e.g., married with children), but I know for certain his message is historical, real, and what Easter is all about: turning our figurative Good/Bad Fridays into Easters.
The Resurrection stories are never to be taken literally. They are life-changing metaphors.
What is Easter to you?
Peace Love Joy Hope
Photo by Joshua Burdick on Unsplash