One of the most controversial figures of history, Jesus of Nazareth is also one of the most influential. His short life and ministry sparked the beginning of a new religion that has grown to be one of the biggest in the world today, and has been the subject of intense debate among scholars and the population in general for centuries now. Some groups, such as the Jesus Seminar, assert that the historical Jesus did not say or do most of the things attested to Him in the New Testament, while more conservative scholars believe that most, if not all of the statements and actions in the New Testament were factual. Still others, such as Rudolf Bultmann, believe that it does not matter if Jesus were historical or not – one can still have faith apart from history. Some people believe that Jesus was a real person, but He was not the Messiah for which the Jewish people were waiting. Rather, He was simply a good person and a good teacher who was killed unjustly. Many others have based their faith and even their life on Jesus’ teachings and call Him Lord, among them C.S. Lewis, who went on to further suggest that you cannot call Jesus a good teacher and be done with it. According to Lewis’ trilemma, because Jesus claimed to be God, then He must either be God, be crazy, or be a liar (Lewis 51). Before forming an opinion on the person of Jesus, however, it is essential to examine the documents related to His life and what they say about Him, as well as His teachings and mission. There is too much debate surrounding the person of Jesus to find a consesus among scholars with which one can agree – it is an opinion that must be formed on one’s own.
Our primary source for learning about the person of Jesus is the Bible, which includes both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The life of the historical Jesus was foretold in prophecies in the Old Testament. One such prophecy in the found in Isaiah 53 foreshadows Jesus’ death:
“He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with...