The Circumstances of Life of Jesus Christ
The current paper is an attempt to investigate the circumstances of life of Jesus Christ that are reflected in the Bible. The passages from the Gospels as well as the stories from the Old Testament help to understand better what issues from the life of Jesus are more real and which are less. The investigation of this theme is impossible without explanation of theoretical theologian questions, such as the nature of the Gospels, the differences between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the difference between the Gospel of John and the Synoptic Gospels, and the problem of the Q source.
The research is divided into four parts according to the general sub-topic. The first part concerns the theoretical questions about the Gospels, the Synoptics, the Q source, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Evangelists. In the second part, there is an insight into the birth, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The cures and miracles of Jesus and the reaction of his contemporaries on that are also described. In the third part the notions of the Kingdom of God, which is the opposite to the kingdom of the Romans, and the end of the word are mentioned. The last part is about the reasons for the execution of Jesus by the Romans.
The information for the paper is taken from the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, John, the Old Testament, Isaiah, and Kings.
In this part the following questions are addressed: what is the nature of the Gospel, why Matthew and Luke’s writings are similar to each other, why John’s is different from the Synoptics, whether the Evangelists could be eye-witnesses and the Sermon on the Mount could really happen. There is also an issue about Jesus’ interpretations of Old Testament stories about Elijah, Samuel, or Moses.
To start with, the Gospel is the story of life and ministry of Jesus that features his parables and ideas. The material was retold from one person to another, which led to certain changes in style and to differences in details. The main thing that the Evangelists and then the preachers wanted was to influence the ethos of their audience, so they used the most effective rhetoric devices for the persuasive effect. In addition, those people who listened to the lectures of the Evangelists at the beginning of the Christian era were not always educated, so the narration had to be very simple and easy to understand. The emphasis was made on the subjects that touched ordinary people or were related to their lives. For example, the descriptions of the Passions of Jesus, his sufferings, his miracle cures, and his resurrection. It was the way to tell those people that despite the fact that they were living a miserable life in this world, they would be saved and would see the Kingdom of God.
The Gospels differ between each other. Possibly, they were written not in the same period of time. The Gospel of Mark might have been the first one because it was written in the simplest language. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke were more literary and described a kind of the edited version of the life of Jesus from the Gospel of Mark.
The Gospel of John is evidently different from the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke. The latter three Gospels are called the Synoptics. The Synoptic Gospels share the following themes: there is no such notion as pre-existence of Christ, Jesus travels to Jerusalem only once and the rest of the time he preaches in Galilee. His main idea of preaching is the Kingdom of God (Luke, Mark) or the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew). The style in which Jesus preaches is simple and he uses parables from every-day life. For example, he says that the “Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who goes to plant a field. The last issue necessary to mention is that Jesus cures many people by exorcising demons.
In the Gospel of John, there is no such notion as the pre-existence of Christ. According to John, Jesus does not preach mainly in Galilee. He makes five trips to Jerusalem. The notion of the Kingdom of Heaven is changed to the notion of everlasting life. The style of preaching is also different from the Synoptic Gospels. Christ uses many metaphors and poetic descriptions are his preaching. For example, “I am the vine, you are the branches”. In addition, there are no people who are cured of diabolic possessions there.
Presumably, the Evangelists were eye-witnesses of the events they described in the Gospels. For example, Luke wrote: “I in my turn after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an ordered account for you. Theophilus” or “Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have reached their fulfillment among us” (Luke. 1: 1-4).
The question of whether the Sermon on the Mount really happened has provoked many discussions. The pieces of evidence in the Gospels differ. To start with, Matthew devoted four pages to the Lord’s speech and nine lines to the Lord’s Prayer. He wrote that “He went up the mountain” (Matthew, 5:1), saying directly where the event took place. Luke devoted only one page to the speech and the Prayer of Lord was not mentioned there at all. Though, he also described the place of meeting in the following words: “He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground” (Luke, 6: 20-47).
John and Mark did not write about the Sermon on the Mount. However, due to the pieces of evidence from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, such prayer really happened and in the place similar to the mountain.
Another interesting question is about the similarities between the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. Both of them have a similar synopsis and the basic events in their storylines are the same. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke were written approximately at the same time, in 80-85 AD. They relied, in certain aspects, on the Gospel of Mark, which was written appropriately in 70 AD and on the Q source that was written in 40-70 AD.
The language in which the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are written differ greatly in the vocabulary and the style of the narrations. It creates the effect that the Gospels are written in completely different periods and about different events. It addition, the way the events are arranged also provokes thoughts that the story in these two sources is not the same. Such variations can be explained by the way of circulation of information at that time. Perhaps, some of the events were well-known to Matthew and Luke only heard from the others about them, so he organized the oral rumors into the Gospel. This method of gathering information can easily explain the differences in the narration of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.
The Q source is another important issue in understanding the Gospels. It is considered to be the first written source of information about the life and ministry of Jesus on which all the Evangelists rely. In fact, all the Gospels have this information from the Q source. This data is similar in all the Gospels, while the words of Jesus and the chronology of events might differ. The name of the Q source derives from the German word Quellen, the book of sayings.
In the 1940s in Egypt, scientists have found another book of sayings that is similar in its format to the Q source. It is called the Gospel of Thomas and the book consists only of the words of Christ. There is nothing about his birth, life, or death there. There is the main question that makes scientists doubt its similarity to the Q source. They have not found out known for certain whether it was written before the canonical Gospels of Matthew and Luke, or it was just the drawing from them.
The last question in this chapter is how Old Testament stories about Elijah, Samuel, or Moses used to be interpreted by Jesus. In fact, all of those prophets were the other hypothesis of Jesus. All of them heard the words of God the Father and had to transmit them to ordinary people, who were too blind to see the divine light. From such point of view, the existing of those prophets is metaphorical parallel to the pre-existence of Jesus.
In this part, the meaning of the life of Jesus Christ is described from his birth to his ministry, death and further resurrection, as well as the reaction of people to his miracle cures. It is necessary to treat all those descriptions symbolically from the very beginning. He is the son of the ordinary woman and the Holy Spirit, which cannot be imagined from the rational point of view. That is why it is crucial to keep in mind that such a couple denotes the divine part of Jesus, the hint that he is alien among other people, he is not the result of the sin, and his life (and death) has been initially planned. His death is also a symbol of sacrifice. It is traditionally said that he has come to die for our sins. So the execution needs to be treated like a metaphor also.
Possibly, Jesus really did all the miracles and cures that were described in the Gospels, then the reaction of his contemporaries to those things could be of great value. Some of them thought he was a prophet, the others believed he was a magician, and the rest of the people treated him as a madman. Hence, it was not strange that some of the people believed in his superpowers and followed him, but the majority was not able to believe and executed him in the end.
This part investigates the meanings of the notions of the Kingdom of God, which is in the opposition to the kingdom of the Romans, and the end of the word. Two of them are the Biblical terms that are actively used in the Gospels. In fact, Jesus is said to be executed for misunderstanding of those terms.
The Kingdom of God is the divine realm where there is no injustice and no evil, unlike it is on the Earth, where people rule. People are all sinners and they know nothing about justice, so they are not able to judge somebody. Only God knows the truth and sees whether the person has lived a pious life or not. The end of the world is the notion that denotes the end of all this injustice when humankind will go far and God the Father will see that his creations need to be ruined. After that those who live according to the laws of God will rise from their graves and unite with their families. Evidently, ordinary people suffered greatly in their every-day life, that is why they were happy to hear such ideas from someone who was objectively cleverer than they were. People needed hope for something good because without it they were not able to live in the cruel reality of the Roman Empire. These issues explain the popularity of Jesus Christ among people.
The last chapter is dedicated to an attempt to understand the reasons for the execution of Jesus. From one point of view, he was considered to be a madman and a rebel, who claimed that it was necessary to destroy the temple and in that place, there would rise another one of the new religions. In fact, his words were taken directly and no one wanted to believe that Jesus did not plan an armed revolt and mass destruction. He talked about the new faith, the Christianity that would change the paganism, and about the Christian church as the metaphorical notion.
Though, the leaders of the old religion could understand that ordinary people could go after Jesus and they would lose their “audience”. It might be a simple division of power and the Romans might have executed Jesus because the leaders were afraid to lose their power.
It is necessary to take into consideration a great number of aspects while writing about the life of Jesus Christ from the historical point of view. First, there are no obvious pieces of evidence about his life and words, and the truth needs to be discovered from many sources. Those events that are similar in at least two sources are likely to be the truth. This idea leads to the research about the Gospels. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke have many similarities and they, together with the Gospel of Mark, form the Synoptic Gospels. The Gospel of John differs from these three gospels greatly and, as a result, stands out of this line. The scientists also presume the so-called source Q, which is considered to be the only written source that was created before the Gospels, to be the basis of the other Gospels.
In the current paper, the questions connected with the Gospels were discussed. Among them, there were problems with the nature of the Gospels, their differences, and similarities. Then, the connections between the prophets from the Old Testament and Jesus Christ were analyzed. It was also necessary to investigate whether the Sermon on the Mount really happened and the Evangelists’ eye-witnessed the events they described in the Gospels. As a result, the key events were really witnessed by them and the Sermon on the Mount was among those events. The details might have been different because the information was transmitted orally. There was also information about the birth, life, ministry, death and further resurrection of Jesus, and the metaphorical nature of those events was emphasized. The last problem that was mentioned in this essay was about the reasons the Romans executed Jesus. To my mind, those reasons were purely political. All these aspects could help to understand better the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.