Patheos answers the question:

Who is Jesus?

Jesus Portrait
Adam Jan Figel /

Jesus Christ is the central figure in Christianity. Christians believe that he is the Son of God, a person who was simultaneously fully human and fully divine. He is recognized as a member of the Christian Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus is the incarnation of the Son. Jesus is the main character in the stories found in the four Gospels in the Christian Bible, and Christians interpret the various prophecies of the Old Testament as referring to Jesus. Christians hold that many of the Old Testament prophecies predicted the coming of Jesus and that he fulfilled the most important prophecies of the Old Testament. (Key passages include Isaiah 9.1-7, 11.1-9, 42.1-4, 52.13-53.12; Ezekiel 34; Daniel 7.9-14; Micah 5.1-4.) Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, who was crucified at the order of Pontius Pilate (Mark 15.15). After three days, Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28.1-10), revealed himself to his disciples (John 20.19-23, and, forty days later, ascended into heaven (Acts 1.1-11). Christians believe that Jesus will return to Earth near the end of the world and judge the living and all those who have died.

Jesus Christ is often referred to by scholars as Jesus of Nazareth. Nazareth was Jesus’s hometown in his lifetime. He was born in Bethlehem and died in Jerusalem, but Nazareth in Galilee was where he spent most of his life. There is a great deal of scholarship about and academic interest in Jesus of Nazareth. Despite the best efforts of some atheists, the vast majority of historians, Christian and otherwise, hold that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person. He existed, grew up in Nazareth, and was executed by Rome. There are Jewish and Roman records that testify to his existence, his death, and the way his teachings swept across the region like wildfire both before and after his death.

Jesus is not a figure found only in Christianity and dusty history books. He is also a revered figure in several other religions. In Islam, Jesus is considered to be rasul, a great prophet who received a text, set of laws, or a distinct revelation. Muslims believe that Jesus’s story as told in the Gospels was later corrupted by Christians, but Jesus’s story as told in the Quran closely mirrors the one found in the Christian Bible. In the Quran, Jesus is born of the Virgin Mary, who is also believed by some Muslims to be a prophet, and Jesus preaches the Gospel before being sentenced to death. Muslims maintain that God spirited Jesus away before his death, but, just like Christians, Muslims believe Jesus will return on Judgment Day.

Many Hindus and Buddhists also have a special place in their faith for Jesus. While he is not nearly as central to their beliefs and stories as he is to Christians and Muslims, many Buddhists see Jesus as a bodhisattva, a person who has reached a high state of enlightenment, and a great moral teacher. Similarly, Hindus may see Jesus as a saint called Ishu, who performed many miracles and gave great sermons, or even as an avatara, an incarnation of one of the Hindu gods or goddesses come to Earth.

Read more about the life of Jesus here.

Photo credit: Adam Jan Figel /

3/23/2021 6:32:41 PM
About About Kathleen Mulhern, Ph.D.
Kathleen Mulhern is a writer, editor, historian, speaker, and professor. She teaches courses in world history, European history, and history of Christianity. She has taught at Colorado School of Mines and Regis University, and is currently an adjunct professor at Denver Seminary in the areas of Church History and Spiritual Formation. Kathleen graduated with a B.A. from Wheaton College, earned an M.A. in French Literature from the University of Denver, an M.A. degree in Church History from Denver Seminary, and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Colorado.