Who Was Jesus
Defining who Jesus was is problematic and complex. Thousands of religious devotees, antagonists and scholars have weighed in over the centuries on the subject. Jesus has to be understood on two levels, theologically and historically. Looking at Jesus theologically becomes mind boggling do to the fact that one has to examine the thousands of Christian religions as well as Judaism and Islam. They contradict each other on so many theological aspects that is hard to define Jesus teachings or his personality
There is no physical description of Jesus in the Bible. There is however a proposed letter that was found by Giacomo Colonna in 1421 in an ancient Roman document sent to Rome from Constantinople by Publius Lentulus who is believed to be a factious character who proceeded Pontius Pilate as governor of Judea.
The purported letter reads, in translation:
"Lentulus, the Governor of the Jerusalemites to the Roman Senate and People, greetings. There has appeared in our times, and there still lives, a man of great power (virtue), called Jesus Christ. The people call him prophet of truth; his disciples, son of God. He raises the dead, and heals infirmities. He is a man of medium size (statura procerus, mediocris et spectabilis); he has a venerable aspect, and his beholders can both fear and love him. His hair is of the colour of the ripe hazel-nut, straight down to the ears, but below the ears wavy and curled, with a bluish and bright reflection, flowing over his shoulders. It is parted in two on the top of the head, after the pattern of the Nazarenes. His brow is smooth and very cheerful with a face without wrinkle or spot, embellished by a slightly reddish complexion. His nose and mouth are faultless. His beard is abundant, of the colour of his hair, not long, but divided at the chin. His aspect is simple and mature, his eyes are changeable and bright. He is terrible in his reprimands, sweet and amiable in his admonitions, cheerful without loss of gravity. He was never known to laugh, but often to weep. His stature is straight, his hands and arms beautiful to behold. His conversation is grave, infrequent, and modest. He is the most beautiful among the children of men." ( Wikipedia, Publius Lintulus )
The historicity is very dubious as the date of the letter is beyond eye witness report of Jesus. The description of Jesus also does not fit with the appearance of a 1st century Jew. As a pure Jew Jesus would have black hair not chestnut, his completion would not be reddish but olive and his nose and mouth would not be faultless, at least in a Roman’s eye, unless he was not a pure Jew. If one subscribes to the story of the Greek philosopher Celsus that his father was a Roman Soldier by the name of Pantera he may have had a different appearance, but Pantera is likely a Semitic name. (p. 64-72 Tabor, James. The Jesus Dynasty). The only other conclusion is a mystic one, his Father was God and God does not look Jewish. This letter also reveals to what lengths the Christians were willing to go to prove Jesus’ existence and divinity
The letter of Lentulus is certainly apocryphal for a number of reasons. There never was a Governor of Jerusalem; no Procurator of Judea is known to have been called Lentulus and a Roman governor would not have addressed the Senate in the way represented. Lastly a Roman writer would not have employed the expressions, "prophet of truth", "sons of men" or "Jesus Christ". The former two are Hebrew idioms, the third is taken from the New Testament. The letter, therefore, gives a description of Jesus such as Christian piety conceived him.
. The question of whether or not he actually existed still needs to be addressed. His birth, life and death at first glance seem too fanciful to be true. Virgin birth, miraculous deeds, resurrection and the pronunciation as a god were all very common attributes expected to be held by holy men or kings anciently. Well it may be difficult to verify the existence of god/heroes such as Hercules and Achilles, the deeds of Alexander the Great and Augustus Caesar are historically documented and archeologically sound even if some of the facts were changed to exaggerate their successful campaigns.
Roman records disagree with the gospel traditions of who was the ruler at the time of his birth; In fact there no mention of Jesus in Roman records until Josephs’ account in 93 C.E. and Tacitus mention of Christians in 109 C.E. As the Romans kept accurate records this leads to the conclusion that whatever Jesus did, it had no influence on the Roman situation in Judea. Jesus left no written works to prove his existence, but as Plato recorded Socrates teachings so did the followers of Jesus. Unlike Socrates, Jesus’ sayings were recorded by numerous devotes 30 to 60 years after his death, with a result of confusion and conflict of his actual thoughts, deeds and his personality. Mark reveals his human emotions, Mathew represents him as a righteous Jew, Luke and Paul portray him as the savior for the Gentiles and John portrays him as God come to the earth. It is possible that his disciples had to rectify the loss of their messiah that was to establish a physical kingdom by changeing his kingdom into a spiritual realm. Theologically the most important contribution to thought was the controversial message of that day to love your enemy. At a time when the Jewish people had suffered oppression from the Greeks and were then dominated by Roman authority they were looking for a messiah to deliver independence. This pragmatic teaching, to lift oneself above physical hardship to be set free spiritually and mentally ether fell mostly on deaf ears or was the invention of one of Jesus followers as he changed Jesus political mission into a spiritual message.
Jesus was likely a follower of John the Baptist as he was baptized by him. Perhaps they followed the Essenes theological belief that there would be two messiahs. A spiritual priest which role John could fill and a political king which Jesus genealogy grants him. After Johns’ death the messiah ship fell totally on to Jesus. Perhaps he became frustrated and impatient and expected Yahweh to support him. In a rash moment he over turned the tables in the temple as a protest against the Sadducees defilement of the temple by allowing money changes in the court yard. This was at the time of the Passover, when according to Josephus (p.832 Book VI: 9v6) over two million Jews could have converged on Jerusalem, that was defended by a few cohorts of Roman soldiers Pilate was not about to risk a mob riot. He would do whatever it took to avoid a conflict in which he was greatly outnumbered. If it meant using Jesus and a couple of other criminals as a deterrent by crucifying them, so be it. Perhaps it was in his confusion and disappointment at the failure of his messiah ship that caused Jesus to utter ‘’My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”
Historically the evidence points to the fact that Jesus lived and taught his philosophy in Judea. Theologically his views are harder to pin point due to the fact that he wrote nothing, and his followers contradict each other. They also bestowed upon him god ship with the miracles powers it held as demonstrated in the lives of the other living gods of this era such as Apollonius and the Caesars. In essence it seems that his teachings emphasized to do good to all mankind and to be a better Jew by obeying the law given to Mosses. In review Jesus was a charismatic guru, and nothing more, who was proclaimed by his followers to be the awaited Jewish messiah, the Son of God, King of Israel, a miracle worker and the saviour of mankind both physically and spiritually, who failed to bring to pass the awaited deliverance from Rome and restore the glory of the Kingdom of David.