All of us, whether we are believers or not, believe something about the man named Jesus. Did He really live? Was He just a man? Is He God? Christianity describes Jesus as more than simply a wise teacher or inspired prophet, and what we believe about Jesus defines us as Christians. Is He A Real Man? The Claim Jesus was a real person. He existed in history. He was as human as you or me.
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People who accept this first level of understanding about Jesus are simply acknowledging He was a real historical person. The Gospel writers claimed they were simply recording their eyewitness observations :. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
The following writers recorded the historicity of Jesus and His followers:. Celsus AD. The Challenge Many challenge the historicity of Jesus. A growing number of atheists claim Jesus never actually lived and was simply a re-fabrication of prior mythologies such as Mithras.
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These doubters typically challenge the reliability of the Gospels eyewitness accounts, although much can be offered as evidence the accounts are timely and accurate. In addition, many skeptics argue there are no contemporary early non -Christian eyewitness accounts dating back to the lifetime of Jesus. But the eyewitnesses who observed Jesus so closely those men who witnessed his life, teachings and miracles were so convinced by what they saw they eventually became followers of Jesus.
In essence, those who saw came to believe. It would be unfair to discard their testimony.
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Many such as Matthew began without a presuppositional bias toward Jesus, but were impressed by what they saw in their time with Jesus. As a result, they came to believe Jesus was who He said He was. The life, ministry death and resurrection of Jesus became the foundation for their own transformation from skeptic to believer; they were not biased beforehand, but convinced afterward. Some critics also argue the appearance of Jesus did not draw the kind of attention it should have if He was in fact, the Savior of mankind. Why do we only have four eyewitness accounts? As it turns out, there was quite a bit more written about Him.
The appearance of Jesus did cause quite a stir in recorded history.
In fact, in addition to the trustworthy eyewitness accounts, an incredible amount of legend arose around the figure of Jesus. For many years following His life, this legend continued to grow and hundreds of documents were written about Him. There are many non-canonical gospels and legendary tales, just as we would expect. When a legendary figure appears on the landscape of history, legend begins to appear alongside the truth.
This is what we should expect if Jesus actually lived and did what the Gospels claim. The Adherents Many people accept this first narrow claim related to the historicity of Jesus, believing He was simply a man who lived in history. The following people would accept this first incremental definition of Jesus:. Was Jesus a real man who was also a great moral teacher? The Claim Even those who reject the possibility of the supernatural or the existence of God may accept the idea Jesus was a real man who lived in the ancient past.
And many of these folks also have no problem accepting the additional claim Jesus was also a great moral teacher. The Basis Few people would reject Jesus as among the greatest of moral teachers, based on his sermons and proclamations related to moral behavior. Even atheists who attack the moral character of the God of the Old Testament citing the God-directed treatment of the enemies of Israel, for example , will usually embrace the moral teaching of Jesus. They are aware of the moral proclamations Jesus made in His most famous sermons:. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.
Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.
Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return. We must also recognize and reconcile the most important truth Jesus ever taught. Jesus taught His followers He was God. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him. So, how do we someone who claims to teach moral truth, yet is crazy enough to claim He is God?
Was he simply lying to us? If that is true, how can He be a great moral teacher and a liar at the same time? The Adherents With the additional claim Jesus was a great moral teacher, our list of adherents will shrink slightly. For one reason or another, many atheists resist the moral teaching of Jesus as it limits their own personal behavior. Is He A Prophet of God? The Claim Those who believe Jesus was a great moral teacher may search for the foundation of this teaching, and when they do, they often decide God Himself was the source of moral truth Jesus proclaimed.
Many conclude Jesus, speaking as a prophet of God, had special revelation from God in the tradition of other prophets who had predictive powers. The Basis This belief Jesus is a prophet of God is often based on two observations.
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First, it is clear Jesus had the power to predict the future. He made several accurate predictions:. Luke There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Matthew Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Matthew And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
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Luke Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. John Chrysostom c. Let all mortal flesh be silent, and stand with fear and trembling, and meditate nothing earthly within itself:— For the King of kings and Lord of lords, Christ our God , comes forward to be sacrificed , and to be given for food to the faithful; and the bands of angels go before Him with every power and dominion, the many-eyed cherubim , and the six-winged seraphim , covering their faces, and crying aloud the hymn, Alleluia , Alleluia, Alleluia.
James c. Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch c. I exalt Thee, Lord and King, Only-begotten Son and Word of the heavenly Father, immortal by nature, Thou came down by grace for salvation and life for all human race; was incarnate of the holy glorious, pure Virgin Mary, Mother of God and became man without any change; was crucified for us.
The Athanasian 5th century and Nicene Creeds contain a comprehensive traditional definition of the incarnation. The incarnation is central to Catholicism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives paragraphs to the incarnation and cites several Bible passages to assert its centrality Philippians , Hebrews , 1 John , 1 Timothy The link between the incarnation and the atonement within systematic theology is complex. The former, on the other hand, speaks of the incarnation as a fulfilment of the Love of God , of his desire to be present and living amidst humanity, to "walk in the garden" with us.
Moltmann favours "fortuitous" incarnation primarily because he feels that to speak of an incarnation of "necessity" is to do an injustice to the life of Christ. Moltmann's work, alongside other systematic theologians, opens up avenues of liberation Christology. During the Reformation, Michael Servetus taught a theology of the incarnation that denied trinitarianism , insisting that classical trinitarians were essentially tritheists who had rejected Biblical monotheism in favor of Greek philosophy.
The Son of God, Servetus asserted, is not an eternally existing being, but rather the more abstract Logos a manifestation of the One True God, not a separate person incarnate. For this reason, Servetus refused to call Christ the "eternal Son of God" preferring "the Son of the eternal God" instead. Finally, also in John, He shows that this Logos became flesh and 'dwelt among us'.
Creation took place by the spoken word, for God said 'Let there be…' The spoken word of Genesis, the Logos of John, and the Christ, are all one and the same. Condemned by both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches on account of his heterodox Christology , Servetus was burnt at the stake for heresy in , by the Reformed Protestants in Geneva, Switzerland.
The French reformer John Calvin , who asserted he would ensure the death of Servetus if he set foot in Geneva because of his non-Reformed views on the Trinity and the sacrament of baptism, requested he be beheaded as a traitor rather than burned as a heretic, but the authorities insisted on executing Servetus by fire. Post-Reformation Arians such as William Whiston often held a view of the incarnation in keeping with the personal pre-existence of Christ.
Whiston considered the incarnation to be of the Logos Who had pre-existed as "a Metaphysick existence, in potentia or in the like higher and sublimer Manner in the Father as His Wisdom or Word before His real Creation or Generation. Servetus rejected Arianism because it denied Jesus' divinity  so it is certain that he would have also rejected Socinianism as a form of Arianism which both rejects that Jesus is God, and, also that Jesus consciously existed before His birth, which most Arian groups accept.
Fausto Sozzini and writers of the Polish Brethren such as Samuel Przypkowski , Marcin Czechowic and Johann Ludwig von Wolzogen saw the incarnation as being primarily a function of fatherhood. Namely that Christ was literally both 'Son of Man' from his maternal side, and also literally 'Son of God' on his paternal side.
The concept of the incarnation —"the Word became flesh and dwelt among us"— was understood as the literal word or logos of Ps. Sozzini, Przypkowski and other Socinian writers were distinct from Servetus in stating that Jesus having "come down from heaven" was primarily in terms of Mary's miraculous conception and not in Jesus having in any literal sense been in heaven. Modern Socinian or " Biblical Unitarian " writers generally place emphasis on "made flesh" not just meaning "made a body", but incarnation a term these groups would avoid requiring Jesus having the temptable and mortal nature of His mother.
In contrast to the traditional view of the incarnation cited above, adherents of Oneness Pentecostalism believe in the doctrine of Oneness. Although both Oneness and traditional Christianity teach that God is a singular Spirit, Oneness adherents reject the idea that God is a Trinity of persons. Oneness doctrine teaches there is one God who manifests Himself in different ways, as opposed to a Trinity, where God is seen as one being consisting of three distinct persons. To a Oneness Pentecostal, Jesus is seen as both fully divine and fully human.
The term Father refers to God Himself, who caused the conception of the Son in Mary, thus becoming the father of the child she bore. The term Son refers to the fully human person, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost refers to the manifestation of God's Spirit inside of and around His people. Thus the Father is not the Son — and this distinction is crucial — but is in the Son as the fullness of His divine nature. According to Mormon theology two of the three distinct divine beings of their godhead have perfected, glorified, physical bodies, namely God the Father - Elohim and God the Son - Jehova.
The Mormon godhead of Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are not said to be one in substance or essence ; instead, they remain three separate beings, or personages. This conception differs from the traditional Christian Trinity in which only one of the three divine persons, God the Son , had an incarnated physical body, and Jehova has not. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the first coming of the messiah in Judaism, see Messiah in Judaism. For the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, see Nativity of Jesus.
For general uses, see Incarnation. Kyrios Logos Incarnation. Main article: Ecumenical council.