Bookmark and Share

Open the online Arabic language course

Christianity /

1. Christianity
2. Islam and Baha'i
3. Mandeanism
4. Judaism

Jesus. From the Coptic church of St. Barbara, Cairo, Egypt.
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

From the Coptic church of St. Barbara, Cairo, Egypt.

Jesus. From the ceiling of the Greek Orthodox church of St. George. Cairo, Egypt.
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

From the ceiling of the Greek Orthodox church of St. George. Cairo, Egypt.

Young Jesus. With his mother, Virgin Mary. Monastery of Deir Sayfayn, Cairo, Egypt.
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

Young Jesus. With his mother, Virgin Mary. Monastery of Deir Sayfayn, Cairo, Egypt.

(Born between 10 BCE and 10 CE- dead in Jerusalem between 25 CE and 40 CE). There are different versions of who Jesus was, and what he represented. Below are some of the more important versions, but there are even more views upon Jesus to be found, but these normally belong to geographical regions that are not covered by this encyclopaedia.
"Jesus" means "Yahweh saves", or "Yahweh will save" (Matt. 1:21).
There are no historical evidence that Jesus ever lived, and the history of Christianity could easily be reconstructed without basing it upon a real Jesus character. However, the strong sentiments found in the Gospels 30 years after his alleged death, and the few times he is mentioned for the first time around 10 years after his alleged death, indicate that there must have been a real Jesus. But there is still plenty of time between his death and the earliest sources for anyone to suggest that the historical Jesus could be very different from the one we hear of in the gospels and in the Koran. Considering the total lack of direct information on him in Roman and Jewish sources, it is clear that Jesus was not considered as important or dangerous in his own days.

Central religious person, either seen as God in human body or as son of God born by a woman.

One of the central prophets, as well as miracle worker (always called Isa).

Same view as Islam.

Mandean religion:
Representative of Satan, the opponent of John the Baptist.

A false Messiah, but an important figure as he provoked the development in Judaism of the following centuries.

There are more version of Jesus than the ones that are mentioned above. The reasons for several diverging versions must go back to very early differences upon who Jesus was and what he represented.
The oldest sources that go to any detail are the Christian gospels, of which the Gospel according to Mark is believed to be the oldest. The dating of the gospels is difficult, but there is a consensus that Mark probably was written around 70 CE, ie. 35-40 years after Jesus' death while the last of the gospels, the one according to John another 30-40 years later.
Christian theologians have concluded that there most probably must have been an older text than Mark, which the author or authors of Mark used extensively. This source is referred to as Q, but there no evidence of this, nor is it mentioned indirectly in any sources of any kind.
It is the New Testament texts of Christianity that represent the oldest material available, and the texts of Islam (in the Koran) and the religion of the Mandeans date hundreds of years later. The Jewish view is also old, but has developed over centuries, and is often a refutation of the Christian view.

There are several ways of understanding Jesus inside Christianity. In the Levant, the nature of Jesus have been by far the most discussed relgious subject, as well as the starting point for differences. The problem repeatedly adressed is: How do you understand the Gospels telling of Jesus both being the son of God, yet born by a carnal woman? Two natures, or one nature? And if one nature, then which? Divine or human?
With the Council of Chalcedon in 451, where it was decided that Jesus was of two natures, that are united but not mixed nor changed, many Chrisitans protested and broke off from this dominating orientation in Christianity. Monophysite churches popped up all around Syria and Egypt. Even if the relations between Rome and the churches of the Levant gradually improved, the monophysitic understanding of Jesus, that he had a human nature that was radiated by the divine, has ever since dominated in this part of the world.
According to Christianity, Jesus was born by a woman named Mary. Until he is about 30 years of age, little is said in the Chrisitan sources of him and his life, except his meeting with the learned in Jerusalem. Within what seems like just a couple of years, Jesus gathers a group of 12, called disciples, while he travels around in Judea, delivering a message of peace and love, as well as redemption. While Jesus performs miracles he receives the people's attention, but within a couple of weeks, during the easter, the people turns against him, and the Roman representatives let Jesus be executed through crucifixion. Three days after his death, Jesus is called back to life by God, and brought to heaven.
The crucifixion is the single most important moment in history for almost all Christians. This is a turning point in the history of God. Since the fall of man in the beginning of time, man could no longer live in full accordance with God, nor could he enter the realms of Paradise, the place from where man had been expelled.
As sin had to be pinned to somebody, and this somebody had to be a being of such a stature that it could equal all the sins of man, God had to make a sacrifice. By letting his own son die in the hands of man, the death that all humans were forced to met, was turned upside down, and neutralised. Death was no longer inevitable for man. The only sacrifice man had to make, was to believe in the sacrifice of God. Those that believe that the crucifixion of Jesus, was the crucifixion of the son of God, can have all his or her sins wiped away.

Islam and Baha'i
Jesus, in the name of Isa, is metioned several times in the Koran, as both a prophet and a messenger, and as the son of Mary. Just like it is in Christianity, Mary is a virgin, but Jesus is created in her womb (3,42), in the same manner as God creates whatever he wants. But never is he depicted as the son of God (4,169) but is compared to Adam, the first man (3,52). Jesus and his mother Mary is made as a "a sign unto the worlds" (21,91).
According to the Koran, Jesus was never crucified, but has been taken to heaven by God (4,156). From this we could understand that in worldly terms Jesus was crucified, but in divine terms, this was only something that the Jews, as the responsible part, believed. In the Koran Jesus is also called Messiah (3.40), but there is no special meaning connected to his other name, like what we find in the Bible.
Jesus has disciples, but their allegiance is to God alone, yet they follow Jesus. Already as a newborn child, Jesus made a miracle, he stated to the family of Mary when they accused her of promiscuity, that he was the servant of God, that he was a messenger of Text as well as a prophet (19,31).
Jesus plays a small role in Islamic theology, except from belonging to a line of prophets, from which Muhammad is still the most recent. But Jesus promises that there would come a messenger that would confirm the Law, a man called Ahmad (61,6).

Jesus is with the Mandeans presented as a lying prophet.
The Mandeans have John the Baptist as an important religious figure, and the history of religion suggests John the Baptist could have represented an alternative religious orientation to Jesus. While Christianity presents John to have baptized Jesus, symbolizing that Jesus is his Lord, Mandean religion tells about a messenger of light that was sent to Jerusalem in order to undress the lie of Jesus.
Beyond this, Jesus appears not to play much of a role in the theology of the Mandeans.

Jews have always rejected Jesus as the true Messiah.
At the epoch when Jesus according to Christianity stood up and claimed to be Messiah, many other characters did the same, as it is indicated in historical sources. Claiming to be Messiah, was at time very much of a trend, a trend that was motivated by the hardship that many Jews felt from the Roman occupation: the only hope they had was the redeemer, Messiah.
Very few Jews converted from their original religion into the religion that was defined in the first century CE, which we now know as Christianity. This despite the fact that it had so much in common with Judaism.
Even today Jews have little sympathy for Jesus, and the discrepancy that Jesus have meant between Jews and Christians, is one of the main reasons for the ostracized position that Jews have suffered in Europe through all centuries and into our time.
This conflict between views, is believed to have had a large impact on both the theology of Judaism, as well as the mentality of Jews.

By Tore Kjeilen