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Jesus of Nazareth
Born: 4 B.C.E.
Bethlehem, Judea
Died: c. 29 C.E.
Jerusalem, Judea

Jesus of Nazareth, also known as

Jesus Christ, was the central
personality and founder of the
Christian faith.

Early Years:
Jesus first came to general attention at
the time of his baptism just prior to his
public ministry. He was known to those
around him as a carpenter of Nazareth,
a town in Galilee, and as the son of
Joseph (John 6:42). Matthew and Luke
report that Jesus was born in
Bethlehem, famous in Jewish history as
the city of David. They further report
that he was miraculously born to the
Virgin Mary, although they both
curiously trace his kinship to David
through Joseph, to whom Mary was
engaged. It is likely that Jesus was born

Little is known of Jesus' childhood and

youth. The letters of Paul are the
earliest biblical records that tell about
Jesus. But the four biblical Gospels by
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
although written later, used sources
that in some cases go back very close
to the time of Jesus. But about the year
28 or 29 C.E. his life interacted with the
career of John the Baptist. Jesus heard
John's preaching and joined the crowds
for baptism in the Jordan River.
Following his baptism Jesus went into
the desert for prayer and

The Miracles:
The records concerning Jesus report
many miracles (an event that goes
against the laws of nature and has
suggested divine influence). For
centuries most people in civilizations
influenced by the Bible not only
believed literally in the miracles but
took them as proof that Jesus had
supernatural (something that is not
normal, possibly with a spiritual
influence) power. Then, in an age of
reason and distrust, men often doubted
the miracles and exposed the reports
as dishonest. However, usually the

Teachings of Jesus:
Jesus taught people in small groups or
large gatherings; his lessons are
reported in friendly conversations or in
arguments with those who challenged
him. At times he made a particularly
vivid comment in the midst of a
dramatic incident.
The starting point of Jesus' message, as
already noted, was the announcement
of the coming of the kingdom of God.
Since this kingdom was neither a
geographical area nor a system of
government, a better translation may

The rest of Jesus' teaching followed

from this message about the reign of
God. At times he taught in stories or
parables that described the kingdom or
the behavior of people who
acknowledged God's reign. At times he
pronounced moral commandments
detailing the demands upon men of a
loving and righteous God. At times
Jesus taught his disciples to pray: the
words that he gave them in the Lord's
Prayer are often used today.

Passion Week:

On the day now known as Palm Sunday,

Jesus entered Jerusalem, while his disciples
and the crowds hailed him as the Son of
David, who came in the name of the Lord.
The next day Jesus went to the Temple and
drove out the money-changers and those
who sold pigeons for sacrifices, accusing
them of turning "a house of prayer" into a
"den of robbers." This act was a direct
challenge to the small group of priests who
were in charge of the Temple, and they
clearly took offense to it. During the
following days he entered into
disagreements with the priests and
teachers of religion. Their anger led them
to plot to get rid of him, but they hesitated

On Thursday night Jesus had a meal

with his disciples. This meal is now reenacted by Christians in the Lord's
Supper, the Mass, or the Holy
Communion. After the meal Jesus went
to the Garden of Gethsemane, where
he prayed alone. His prayer shows that
he expected a conflict, that he still
hoped he might avoid suffering, but he
expected to do God's will. There into
the garden one of his disciples, Judas
Iscariot, led the priests and the temple
soldiers, who seized Jesus.

That same night Jesus' captors took

him to a trial before the temple court,
the Sanhedrin. Much evidence indicates
that this was an illegal trial, but the
Sanhedrin declared that Jesus was a
blasphemer (a person who claims to be
God or godlike) deserving death. Since
at that time only the Roman overlords
(supreme lords) could carry out a death
sentence, the priests took Jesus to
Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea.

Pilate apparently was reluctant to

convict Jesus, since it was doubtful
Jesus had disobeyed any Roman laws.
Jesus, however, represented a threat to
both the Sanhedrin and the Romans.
Pilate thus ordered the crucifixion of
Jesus. Roman soldiers beat him, put a
crown of thorns on his head, and
mocked him as a false king. Then they
took him to the hill Golgotha ("the
Skull"), or Calvary, and killed him.
Pilate ordered a sign placed above his
head: "King of the Jews." Jesus died
and that same day (now known as Good
Friday) was buried in a cave-like tomb.

The Resurrection:

On Sunday morning (now celebrated as

Easter), the Gospels report, Jesus rose
from the dead and met his disciples.
Others immediately rejected the claim
of the resurrection, and the debate has
continued through the centuries.
The New Testament states very clearly
that the risen Christ did not appear to
everybody. Among those who saw Jesus
were Cephas (Peter), the twelve
disciples, "more than five hundred
brethren at one time," James, and
finally Paul. Other records tell of
appearances to Mary Magdalene and
other women and of a variety of

The four Gospels all say that the tomb of

Jesus was empty on Easter morning. None
of the records ever tells of an appearance
of the risen Christ to anyone who had not
been a follower of Jesus or (like Paul) had
not been deeply disturbed by him.
The evidence is very clear that the
followers of Jesus were absolutely
convinced of his resurrection. The
experience of the risen Jesus was so
overwhelming that it turned their despair
into courage. The disciples spread the
conviction that he had risen, and they
continued to tell their story at the cost of
persecution and death. The faith in the
resurrection of Jesus, despite differences in


Mary of Nazareth

Born: September 8
18 B.C., Nazareth Galilee
Died: Unknown

Mary was the mother of the

Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Savior
of the world.

Mary was a young girl, probably only
about 12 or 13 years old when the
angel Gabriel came to her. She had
recently become engaged to a
carpenter named Joseph. Mary was an
ordinary Jewish girl, looking forward to
marriage. Suddenly her life would
forever be changed.
Although Mary's life held great honor,
her calling would demand great
suffering as well. Just as there is pain
in childbirth and motherhood, there
would be much pain in the privilege of

Birth of Jesus:
According to the Gospel of Luke, a
decree of the Roman Emperor Augustus
required that Joseph return to his
hometown of Bethlehem to register for
a Roman census. While he was there
with Mary, she gave birth to Jesus; but
because there was no place for them in
the inn, she used a manger as a cradle.
After eight days, he was circumcised
according to Jewish law, and named
"Jesus", which means "Yahweh is

In the Life of Jesus:

Mary is involved in the only event in
Jesus' adolescent life that is recorded
in the New Testament. At the age of
twelve, Jesus, having become
separated from his parents on their
return journey from the Passover
celebration in Jerusalem, was found in
the Temple among the religious
Mary was present when, at her
suggestion, Jesus worked his first
miracle during a wedding at Cana by
turning water into wine

After the Ascension of

In Acts 1:26, especially v. 14, Mary is
the only one other than the eleven
apostles to be mentioned by name who
abode in the upper room, when they
returned from Mount Olive. Some
speculate that the "elect lady"
mentioned in 2 John 1:1 may be Mary.
From this time, she disappears from
the biblical accounts, although it is
held by Catholics that she is again
portrayed as the heavenly woman of