Christian Relaunch

Christ's Career

Here is a summary of the tradition embodied in the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark and Luke, omitting material widely regarded as fanciful. I have tried to stay within what is generally agreed among scholars, though there are sceptics who dispute almost every element of the history.

About 2000 years ago the man who came to be known as "Christ" was born in Bethlehem in Judea, and grew up in Nazareth in the neighbouring district of Galilee. Judea and Galilee had once been in the Hebrew Kingdom of Israel, of which Jerusalem, in Judea, was capital, but were now part of the Roman Empire under Augustus.

The Hebrews' classic literature persistently expressed a sense of man's God-given task, and his failure to perform it, and Israel traditionally regarded itself as called by God to a unique role in God's purpose of putting the world right. A prominent school of Hebrew thought in those days hoped that the time would soon come of God's reign on Earth, when the dead would rise to join the living in an entirely new kind of life called "the life of the age".

"Reign" is basileia, traditionally translated as kingdom which is misleading nowadays because the basilea is not a realm (i.e. place); Earth (I would add, "and the universe of which it is part") is to be the realm of God's reign.

"The life of the age" is aiOnias zoE, of which "eternal life" and "everlasting life" are misleading translations. The primary reference is to the future.

Christ's personal name can be expressed in English as Jesus or Joshua. When he was about 30 years old, while Tiberias was Roman Emperor, Christ announced that through him God was already inaugurating his reign, and called on his compatriots to abandon wickedness and embrace this. He was reported to have cured many folk of bad health, bad feelings and bad habits, sometimes spectacularly. He pointed to these events as signs of the dawn of God's reign, and foretastes of the life to come. He saw his mission in terms that drew on the Hebrew classics; especially he brought together Isaiah 53 and Daniel 7, predicting that he would be put to death as a criminal but that this would not defeat God's plan, and that God would vindicate him by raising him from death to leadership over all mankind.

Christ was popular for a while, but he refused to pander to people's expectations and vanity. He was a threat to the regime and a disappointment to the Judeans, who had hoped he would lead Judea to political independence. The Roman governer put him to death in Jerusalem, encouraged by the local ruling class and with little popular protest.

From among his followers Christ had chosen twelve, known as apostles, as his special students. A few weeks after his death, they began publicly to proclaim his reign, testifying that God had raised him from death. Many believed them, and so began the movement known as the Christian ekklesia .

ekklesia is traditionally mistranslated as "church", a matter explained elsewhere in this site.

Back to Christ.