Jesus Christ the Greek form of the Hebrew Jeshua or Joshua, help of Jehovah, saviour; the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, the anointed), the founder of the Christian religion, born in Bethlehem, a city of Judea, during the reign of the emperor Augustus, probably in the fourth year (or perhaps the sixth) before the Christian era, crucified in a locality of or near Jerusalem called Golgotha, in the 84th or 35th year of his age. The 25th of December has been received and commemorated by the church in the festival of Christmas from the 4th century as the day of his birth, though this date was previously unsettled, and the opinions of the learned have always varied concerning it. His genealogy is traced from Abraham by St. Matthew, and from Adam by St. Luke, through the royal line of David; the two pedigrees, after David, are very different, and the discrepancies have been variously explained by Biblical critics. Nor are these the only debatable points in the Biblical narrative, the main parts of which are condensed in the following.
His mother was Mary, who was betrothed to a carpenter named Joseph, when an angel announced to her: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee;" accordingly "she was found with child of the Holy Ghost," and, as St. Matthew states, her husband "knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son," who was named Jesus. Joseph and Mary resided in Nazareth, an obscure town in Lower Galilee, whence they went up to Bethlehem to be taxed, in compliance with a decree of Augustus, and because Joseph was of the house and lineage of David. It was there that the days were accomplished that she should be delivered, and the child was born, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger, the inn being full. His birth and Messianic dignity were revealed by angels to shepherds tending their flocks by night in the field, and they went in haste to Bethlehem to greet the babe. After 8 days he was circumcised; after 33 days he was presented in the temple at Jerusalem, when the aged Simeon took him in his arms, and blessed God that he had lived to see the Saviour; and soon after his birth, most probably while his parents remained in Bethlehem, three wise men (magi; according to ecclesiastical tradition, three kings) came from the East, guided by a star, and fell down before the young child, worshipped him, and presented to him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
Their inquiries in Jerusalem had excited the suspicion of King Herod, who commanded them to bring him word when they had found the child. But the parents of Jesus, warned in a dream, fled with him to Egypt. Herod, to whom the wise men, by divine direction, had not returned, and who feared the loss of his throne if the Messiah were acknowledged, was greatly enraged, and, in order to secure the destruction of Jesus, gave orders that all the male children in and near Bethlehem, from two years old and under, should be put to death. After the death of Herod, a few months later, Jesus was brought by his parents to Nazareth. Of his early youth nothing more is known, except the summary statement of Luke that he waxed strong in spirit, was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. "When he was 12 years old his parents took him with them to Jerusalem, to the feast of the passover. As they returned, he tarried behind without their knowledge; they retraced their steps in search of him, and after three days found him in the temple at Jerusalem, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions, and astonishing them by his understanding and his answers. He returned to Nazareth with his parents, and was subject to them.
Of the following 18 years, till the commencement of his public ministry, the canonical Gospels give no account. Various suppositions have been made to fill this gap in the narrative, as that he associated with learned Jews and studied the Greek authors; that in his 14th year he went with John the Baptist to Egypt, and was instructed for 16 years by Egyptian philosophers; that he was educated in the school of the Es-senes (which is the oldest opinion); that he was a Nazarite; and that he belonged to the sect of the Sadducees. None of these hypotheses, however, rests upon any historical basis. It is more probable, as the gospel narrative intimates, that he followed the occupation of a carpenter, and, as the eldest son of the family, provided for its maintenance after Joseph's death. The apocryphal gospels give full but fanciful and often absurd narratives of this period, concerning which the four evangelists are silent. His appearance as a public teacher was heralded by John the Baptist, who admonished and warned the people, exhorting them to repentance, baptizing them in the Jordan, and announcing the approach of one mightier than himself, who should baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire.
It was probably in his 31st year that Jesus came to the Jordan at Bethabara to John, was recognized by him as the Messiah, and was baptized by him at his own command; and as he went up from the water a voice from heaven said: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The events of his ministry, which is usually believed to have occupied about three years, are related by the evangelists, and have been arranged in chronological order (not in all cases with certainty) in harmonies of the Gospels. The public administration of baptism was followed immediately by the fast for 40 days in the wilderness, and the temptation by the devil. Directly after this he selected the first five or six of his twelve disciples, subsequently called apostles, and began to promulgate his doctrines, and to perform miracles. At a marriage in Cana of Galilee he changed water into wine to supply the guests. He attended a feast of the passover at Jerusalem, drove the traders out of the temple, and by his mighty works made many believe in his name.
Passing from Ju-dea to Galilee by way of Samaria, he announced himself as the Messiah to a Samaritan woman by Jacob's well at Sychar. Again in Cana he cured by a word a nobleman's son lying ill at Capernaum; in Nazareth he preached in the synagogue, was scornfully rejected on account of his humble parentage and family connections, and took up his abode in Capernaum, where he healed a demoniac and other sick persons; on the sea of Galilee he lulled a tempest, and on the shores of the sea he performed many wonderful cures; and, as the number of those seeking help from him increased, he chose and ordained twelve disciples who should be with him continually. It was probably on another journey through Galilee that he delivered before a numerous concourse the sermon on the mount, in which he set forth the spirit of his doctrine, the conditions of participation in the kingdom of God, and gave in the Lord's prayer an example opposed to the long prayers of the Pharisees. He afterward healed the palsied servant of a centurion of Capernaum, and restored a widow's son at Nain to life. While performing such deeds as exemplifications and in attestation of his doctrines, the second feast, of the pass-over came.
He attended it, and gave occasion for the hostility of the Pharisees by healing on the sabbath day, at the pool of Bethesda, a man who had suffered from an infirmity for 38 years. Leaving Jerusalem for a third circuit in Galilee, he instructed and sent forth the twelve apostles, and miraculously fed 5,000 persons with five loaves and two small fishes. His numerous miraculous cures, and the increasing number of believers in him as the Messiah, deepened the enmity of the Pharisees, who sought to do violence to him. At this period the third passover in his ministry occurred. He, however, left Judea, and passed along the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, repeating his miracles. The transfiguration, the foreshadowing of his own sufferings, and the choice of 70 disciples, whom he sent two by two into all the places which he intended to visit, preceded his journey to Jerusalem to the feast of tabernacles. After his public teaching there, he went to Peraea; at Bethany he raised from the dead Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, and on his way toward the capital he cured at Jericho blind Bartimaeus. He made his entry into Jerusalem, riding on an ass, and was received in triumph by the people.
Returning after a night 'spent in Bethany, he blighted with a word the barren fig tree, foiled the insidious attempt to ensnare him on the subject of tribute, and denounced their hypocrisy and the guilt and doom of the city. At the fourth and last feast of the passover with his disciples, he washed their feet as a lesson of love and humility; announced that on that night one of them would betray him, and designated Judas Iscariot as the traitor; and instituted the Lord's supper. Afterward with great agony of spirit he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. Thither Judas came with an armed band, and betrayed to them the object of their search by saying, "Hail, master! " and kissing him. Refusing the offers of assistance, Jesus freely surrendered himself, when his disciples fled. He was brought before the court of the sanhedrim; and as he did not deny that he was the Christ, the Son of God, he was adjudged guilty of blasphemy, and condemned to death. He was brought thence, on the charge of sedition, before the tribunal of Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator of the province, who was induced by the clamor of the people and by threats to condemn him, although he declared him to be innocent.
He was scourged, a scarlet robe and a crown of thorns were put on him in mockery, and he was led away to be crucified. At Golgotha (Calvary) vinegar mingled with gall was offered him to drink. He was crucified between two thieves, one of whom became penitent and was forgiven by the suffering Saviour. The cross on which he hung bore the inscription, in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." He committed his mother to the care of his beloved disciple John, according to which evangelist his last words were, "It is finished." At his death the sun was darkened, the earth quaked, and the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. In the evening came Joseph of Arimathaea, a disciple of Christ, and begged the body and buried it. This was on the afternoon of Friday. On the third day, i. e., early on the morning of the day thence called the Lord's day, he rose from the dead; he appeared to his 11 remaining disciples, and to many others; remained with them 40 days, instructing them in the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, and blessing them; and then visibly ascended to heaven.
His last charge to his disciples was to go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. - The person and work of Jesus Christ have been the subject of extended discussion from many points of view. The Lebensgeschichite Jesu of J. J. Hess (Zurich, 1781) is one of the earlier general works on this subject. The " Life of Christ and the Lives of the Apostles, John the Baptist, and the Virgin Mary," by John Fleetwood (Glasgow, 1813; many times reprinted), attempts from the four gospel narratives to give the connected history. Mention may be made also of the "Life of the Saviour," by H. Ware, jr. (Boston, 1832; new ed., New York, 1868). The results of German rationalistic criticism appear in the works called Das Leben Jesu, by H. H. E. G. Paulus (Heidelberg, 1828), D. F. Strauss (Tubingen, 1835; revised and abridged in 1864; English translation, London, 1846), and C. F. von Ammon (Leipsic, 1842-7). The work of Strauss, the most destructively critical of the three, made a great impression, and called out many replies.
That of Karl Hase (Leipsic, 1829; English translation, Boston, 1860) was prior to it in date, and the ablest answer to Strauss was the work of J. A. W. Neander (Hamburg, 1837; English translation, New York, 1848), which was followed by those of J. P. Lange (Heidelberg, 1844-'5; English translation, Edinburgh, 1864), J. A. Dorner (Berlin, 1845-'53), Schenckel (1864), and Keim (1867-71). A humanitarian view is presented by W. H. Furness in "Jesus and his Biographers" (Philadelphia, 1838), and "Jesus" (1870). The Vie de notre seigneur Jesus-Christ, by the abbe Brispot (Pans, 1850-'53), presents the Roman Catholic view. A volume of "Historical Lectures on the Life of Christ," by C. J. Ellicott (London, 1859), is a popular work, while the notes appended consider most of the points under critical discussion. The "Life of our Lord upon Earth," by Samuel J. Andrews (New York, 1863), considers only the outward events of the life of Jesus, but is a thorough discussion of these. A new impulse was given to this department of study by the Vie de Jesus of Ernest Renan (Paris, 1863), which considered the gospel story as a legendary romance.
A reply by E. de Pressense, entitled L'Ecole critique de Jesus- Christ, appeared the same year, followed by Jesus- Christ, son temps, sa vie, son aeuvre (Paris, 1866), by the same author; while a multitude of volumes and essays on the subject appeared in Europe and America. Among the works of more recent importance or popular interest are those of G. Uhlhorn, Die mo-dernen Darstellungen des Lebens Jesu (Hanover, 1866; English translation, Boston, 1868); J. R. Seeley, "Ecce Homo" (London, 1866); Z. Eddy, "Immanuel" (Springfield, 1868); William Hanna, " Life of Christ" (Edinburgh, 1869); Lyman Abbott, " Jesus of Nazareth: His Life and Teachings" (New York, 1869); Howard Crosby, " Jesus, his Life and Works " (New York, 1871); Lewis Mercier, " Outlines of the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ " (London, 1871); Sir George Stephen, "Life of Christ" (London, 1871); Henry Ward Beecher, "Life of Jesus the Christ" (New York, 1871 et seq.); Charles F. Deems, D. D., "Jesus" (New York. 1872); and F. W. Farrar, "Life of Christ" (London, 1874). The principal works on the harmony and chronology of the Gospels are those of Lightfoot (1655), Macknight (1756), Bengel (1736), Newcome (1778), Greswell (1830), Wieseler (1843), Robinson (1845; revised ed., 1851), Jarvis(1845), Tischendorf (1851), Strong (1852), Stroud (1853), and G. W. Clark (1868). Other works deserving of mention are those of Stier, Die Reden des Herm Jesu (1843-'8; English translation, Edinburgh, 1859); Ullmann, Die Sundlosigkceit Jesu (1841; English translation, Edinburgh, 1841); Schaff, " The Person of Christ " (Boston, 1865); Liddon, "Bampton Lectures of the Divinity of Christ" (London, 1867); and Plumptre, "Christ and Christendom" (London, 1867). A life of Christ according to the apocryphal gospels has been published by R. Hofmann (Das Leben Jesu nach den Apokryphen, Leipsic, 1851).