Religious Perspectives on Jesus
The religious perspectives on Jesus vary among world religions. Jesus’ teachings and the retelling of his life story have significantly influenced the course of human history, and have directly or indirectly affected the lives of billions of people, even non-Christians. He is considered to be the most influential person to have ever lived by many, finding a significant place in numerous cultural contexts.
Christianity teaches that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) foretold in the Old Testament and the Son of God Incarnate. Christians believe that through his death and resurrection, humans can be reconciled to God and thereby are offered salvation and the promise of eternal life. These teachings emphasize that as the willing Lamb of God, Jesus chose to suffer in Calvary as a sign of his full obedience to the will of his Father, as an “agent and servant of God”. Christians view Jesus as a role model, whose God-focused life believers are encouraged to imitate.
In Islam, Jesus (commonly transliterated as Isa) is one of God’s highest-ranked and most-beloved prophets. Islam considers Jesus to be neither the incarnation nor the Son of God. Islamic texts emphasize a strict notion of monotheism (tawhid) and forbid the association of partners with God, which would be idolatry (shirk).
Apart from his own disciples and followers, the Jews of Jesus’ day generally rejected him as the Messiah, as do the great majority of Jews today. Mainstream Jewish scholars argue that Jesus neither fulfilled the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh nor embodied the personal qualifications of the Messiah. Sikhism views Jesus as a high-ranked Holy man or saint.
Other world religions such as Buddhism have no particular view on Jesus, and have but a minor intersection with Christianity. For non-religious perspectives on Jesus, see historical Jesus.
Christian views of Jesus are based on the teachings and beliefs as outlined in the Canonical gospels, New Testament letters, the Christian creeds, as well as specific denominational teachings. These documents outline the key beliefs held by Christians about Jesus, including his divinity, humanity, and earthly life, and that he is the Christ and the Son of God.
Although Christian views of Jesus vary, it is possible to summarize the key beliefs shared among major denominations, as stated in their catechetical or confessional texts. Generally speaking, adhering to the Christian faith requires a belief that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah or Christ. Jesus refers to himself as the Son of God in the New Testament.
Christians consider Jesus to be the Messiah (Christ) and believe that through his death and resurrection, humans can be reconciled to God and thereby are offered salvation and the promise of eternal life. These teachings emphasize that as the willing Lamb of God, Jesus chose to suffer in Calvary as a sign of his full obedience to the will of his Father, as an “agent and servant of God”. The choice Jesus made thus counter-positions him as a new man of morality and obedience, in contrast to Adam’s disobedience.
The five major milestones in the gospel narrative of the life of Jesus are his Baptism, Transfiguration, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension. These are usually bracketed by two other episodes: his Nativity at the beginning and the sending of the Paraclete at the end. The gospel accounts of the teachings of Jesus are often presented in terms of specific categories involving his “works and words”, e.g. his ministry, parables and miracles. The words of Jesus include several sermons, in addition to parables that appear throughout the narrative of the Synoptic Gospels (the gospel of John includes no parables).
Christians not only attach theological significance to the works of Jesus, but also to his name. Devotions to the Holy Name of Jesus go back to the earliest days of Christianity. These devotions and feasts exist both in Eastern and Western Christianity.
Most Christians believe that Jesus was both human and the Son of God. While there have been theological debate over the nature of Jesus, Trinitarian Christians generally believe that Jesus is God incarnate, God the Son, and “true God and true man” (or both fully divine and fully human). Jesus, having become fully human in all respects, suffered the pains and temptations of a mortal man, yet he did not sin. As fully God, he defeated death and rose to life again. According to the Bible, God raised him from the dead.He ascended to heaven, to the “right hand of God,” and he will return again for the Last Judgment and the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
In Islam, Jesus (Isa) is considered to be a messenger of God (Allah) and the Messiah (al-Masih) who was sent to guide the Children of Israel (Bani Isra’il) with a new scripture, the Gospel.
The Quran mentions Jesus by name 25 times—more often than Muhammad—and emphasises that Jesus was a mortal human who, like all other prophets, had been divinely chosen to spread God’s message. Unlike Christian writings, the Quran does not describe Jesus as the son of God, but as one of four major human messengers (out of many prophets) sent by God throughout history to guide mankind. Jesus is said to have lived a life of piety and generosity, and abstained from eating flesh of swine (or of any animals, according to some Muslim authors, even some who were not vegetarians themselves).
Muslims also believe that Jesus received a Gospel from God, called the Injil. However, Muslims hold that Jesus’ original message was lost or altered and that the Christian New Testament does not accurately represent God’s original message to mankind.
Despite some major differences, the Quran and New Testament overlap in other aspects of Jesus’ life; both Muslims and orthodox Christians believe that Jesus was miraculously born without a human biological father by the will of God, and that his mother, Mary (Maryam in Arabic), is among the most saintly, pious, chaste and virtuous women ever. The Quran also specifies that Jesus was able to perform miracles—though only by the will of God—including being able to raise the dead, restore sight to the blind and cure lepers. One miracle attributed to Jesus in the Quran, but not in the New Testament, is his being able to speak at only a few days old, to defend his mother from accusations of adultery. It also says that Jesus was a ‘word’ from God, since he was predicted to come in the Old Testament.
Most Muslims believe that he was neither killed nor crucified, but that God made it appear so to his enemies. With the noteworthy exception of Ahmadi Muslims who believe that Jesus was indeed put on the cross, survived the crucifixion and was not lifted bodily to the heaven, majority of Muslims believe that Jesus ascended bodily to heaven and is alive. Majority of the Muslim population does not consider Ahmadi Muslims to be Muslims and consider them as Infidels due to their unorthodox perspectives. Some Muslim scholars maintain that Jesus was indeed put up on the cross, but did not die on it; rather, he revived and then ascended bodily to heaven. Others say that it was actually Judas Iscariot who was mistakenly crucified by the Romans. Regardless, Muslims believe that Jesus is alive in heaven and will return to the world in the flesh to defeat the Antichrist, once the world has become filled with sin, deception and injustice, and then live out the rest of his natural life.
Islam rejects the Trinitarian Christian view that Jesus was God incarnate or the son of God, that he was ever crucified or resurrected or that he ever atoned for the sins of mankind. The Quran says that Jesus himself never claimed any of these things, and it furthermore indicates that Jesus will deny having ever claimed divinity at the Last Judgment, and God will vindicate him.[Quran5:116]
Judaism rejects the idea of Jesus being God, or a person of a Trinity, or a mediator to God. Judaism also holds that Jesus is not the Messiah, arguing that he had not fulfilled the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh nor embodied the personal qualifications of the Messiah. According to Jewish tradition, there were no more prophets after Malachi, who lived centuries before Jesus and delivered his prophesies about 420 BC/BCE.
According to Conservative Judaism, Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah have “crossed the line out of the Jewish community”. Reform Judaism, the modern progressive movement, states “For us in the Jewish community anyone who claims that Jesus is their savior is no longer a Jew and is an apostate”.
Jesus in Jewish writings
The Babylonian Talmud include stories of Yeshu יֵשׁוּ; the vast majority of contemporary historians disregard these as sources on the historical Jesus. Contemporary Talmud scholars view these as comments on the relationship between Judaism and Christians or other sectarians, rather than comments on the historical Jesus.
The Mishneh Torah, an authoritative work of Jewish law, states in Hilkhot Melakhim 11:10–12 that Jesus is a “stumbling block” who makes “the majority of the world err to serve a divinity besides God”.
Even Jesus the Nazarene who imagined that he would be Messiah and was killed by the court, was already prophesied by Daniel. So that it was said, “And the members of the outlaws of your nation would be carried to make a (prophetic) vision stand. And they stumbled.”[Dan. 11:14] Because, is there a greater stumbling-block than this one? So that all of the prophets spoke that the Messiah redeems Israel, and saves them, and gathers their banished ones, and strengthens their commandments. And this one caused (nations) to destroy Israel by sword, and to scatter their remnant, and to humiliate them, and to exchange the Torah, and to make the majority of the world err to serve a divinity besides God. However, the thoughts of the Creator of the world — there is no force in a human to attain them because our ways are not God’s ways, and our thoughts not God’s thoughts. And all these things of Jesus the Nazarene, and of (Muhammad) the Ishmaelite who stood after him — there is no (purpose) but to straighten out the way for the King Messiah, and to restore all the world to serve God together. So that it is said, “Because then I will turn toward the nations (giving them) a clear lip, to call all of them in the name of God and to serve God (shoulder to shoulder as) one shoulder.”[Zeph. 3:9] Look how all the world already becomes full of the things of the Messiah, and the things of the Torah, and the things of the commandments! And these things spread among the far islands and among the many nations uncircumcised of heart.
Traditionally, Buddhists as a group take no particular view on Jesus, and Buddhism and Christianity have but a minor intersection. However, some scholars have noted similarities between the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha and Jesus. These similarities might be attributed to Buddhist missionaries sent as early as Emperor Ashoka around 250 BCE in many of the Greek Seleucid kingdoms that existed then and then later became the same regions that Christianity began. Jesus was seen as the savior and bringer of gnosis by various Gnostic sects, such as the extinct Manichaeism. In the Ahmadiyya Islamic view, Jesus survived the crucifixion and later travelled to India, where he lived as a prophet (and died) under the name of Yuz Asaf.
In Scientology, the teachings of Jesus are included among belief systems comprising those “earlier forms”. Jesus is classified as below the level of Operating Thetan, but as a “shade above” the Scientology state of “Clear”.
In Raëlism, Jesus and several other religious figures are considered prophets sent by an extraterrestrial race called the Elohim. Followers of Religious Science consider Jesus to be a teacher of Science of Mind principles, but reject his unique divinity, arguing that every person is equally divine.
In Hinduism Jesus is an avatar of the God Vishnu.
- The Blackwell Companion to Jesus edited by Delbert Burkett 2010 ISBN1-4051-9362-X page 1 
- The Cambridge companion to Jesus edited by Markus N. A. Bockmuehl 2001 ISBN0-521-79678-4 pages 156-157
- The historical Christ and the Jesus of faith by C. Stephen Evans 1996, Oxford University Press ISBN0-19-826397-Xpage v
- Bauckham, Richard (2011). Jesus: A Very Short Introduction. United States: Oxford University Press. pp. 1–2. ISBN978-0199575275.
- Oxford Companion to the Bible p.649
- The Christology of Anselm of Canterbury by Dániel Deme 2004 ISBN0-7546-3779-4 pages 199-200
- The Christology of the New Testament by Oscar Cullmann 1959 ISBN0-664-24351-7 page 79
- Schreiner, Thomas R. (2008). New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. Baker Academic. pp. 23–37. ISBN978-0-8010-2680-5.
- Jackson, Gregory L. (1993). Catholic, Lutheran, Protestant: a doctrinal comparison. Christian News. pp. 11–17. ISBN978-0-615-16635-3.
- One teacher: Jesus’ teaching role in Matthew’s gospel by John Yueh-Han Yieh 2004 ISBN3-11-018151-7 pages 240-241
- Systematic Theology, Volume 2 by Wolfhart Pannenberg 2004 0567084663 ISBN pages 297-303
- Essays in New Testament interpretation by Charles Francis Digby Moule 1982 ISBN0-521-23783-1 page 63
- The Melody of Faith: Theology in an Orthodox Key by Vigen Guroian 2010 ISBN0-8028-6496-1 page 28
- Scripture in tradition by John Breck 2001 ISBN0-88141-226-0 page 12
- The Bible Knowledge Commentary by John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck 1983 ISBN0-88207-812-7 page 100
- The words and works of Jesus Christ by J. Dwight Pentecost 2000 ISBN978-0-310-30940-6 page 212
- Outlines of dogmatic theology, Volume 2 by Sylvester Hunter 2010 ISBN1-146-98633-5 page 443
- Jesus: the complete guide by Leslie Houlden 2006 ISBN0-8264-8011-X page 426
- Acts 2:24, Romans 10:9, 1Cor 15:15, Acts 2:31-32, 3:15, 3:26, 4:10, 5:30, 10:40-41, 13:30, 13:34, 13:37, 17:30-31, 1Cor 6:14, 2Cor 4:14, Gal 1:1, Eph 1:20, Col 2:12, 1Thess 1:10, Heb 13:20, 1Pet 1:3, 1:21
- Mark 16:19, Luke 22:69, Acts 2:33, 5:31, 7:55-56, Romans 8:34, Eph 1:20, Col 3:1, Hebrews 1:3, 1:13, 10:12, 12:2, 1Peter 3:22
- cf. John 14:1-3, Acts 1:10-11, Luke 21:27, Revelation 1:7
- Glassé, Cyril (2008). Concise Encyclopedia of Islam. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 270–271. ISBN978-0-7425-6296-7.
- Esposito, John L. (2003). The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford University Press. p. 158. ISBN978-0-19-975726-8.
- Aboul-Enein, Youssef H. (2010). Militant Islamist Ideology: Understanding the Global Threat. Naval Institute Press. p. 20. ISBN978-1-61251-015-6.
- Fasching, Darrell J.; deChant, Dell (2001). Comparative Religious Ethics: A Narrative Approach. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 241, 274–275. ISBN978-0-631-20125-0.
- Annemarie Schimmel (1975). Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill:University of North Carolina Press. p. 202.
- Paget, James C. (2001). “Quests for the historical Jesus”. In Bockmuehl, Markus N. A. Cambridge companion to Jesus. Cambridge University Press. p. 183. ISBN978-0-521-79678-1.
- Esposito, John. What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam. New York: University Press, 2002. P31.
- Morgan, Diane (2010). Essential Islam: A Comprehensive Guide to Belief and Practice. ABC-CLIO. pp. 45–46. ISBN978-0-313-36025-1.
- Simmons, Shraga, “Why Jews Do not Believe in Jesus“, Retrieved April 15, 2007; “Why Jews Do not Believe in Jesus“, Ohr Samayach — Ask the Rabbi, Retrieved April 15, 2007; “Why do not Jews believe that Jesus was the Messiah?“, AskMoses.com, Retrieved April 15, 2007
- Waxman, Jonathan (2006). “Messianic Jews Are Not Jews”. United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Archived from the original on January 9, 2008. Retrieved January 15,2008.
Judaism has held that the Mashiach will come and usher in a new era; not that he will proclaim his arrival, die and wait centuries to finish his task. To continue to assert that Jesus was the Mashiach goes against the belief that the Mashiach will transform the world when he does come, not merely hint at a future transformation at some undefined time to come… Judaism rejects the claim that a new covenant was created with Jesus and asserts instead that the chain of Tradition reaching back to Moshe continues to make valid claims on our lives, and serve as more than mere window dressing.
- Contemporary American Reform Responsa, #68, “Question 18.3.4: Reform’s Position On…What is unacceptable practice?“, faqs.org. Retrieved April 15, 2007.
- Theissen, Gerd and Annette Merz. The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Fortress Press. 1998. translated from German (1996 edition)
- Daniel Boyarin, Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999
- Jeffrey Rubenstein Rabbinic Stories (The Classics of Western Spirituality) New York: The Paulist Press, 2002
- Hilchot Malachim (laws concerning kings) (Hebrew)“, MechonMamre.org, Retrieved April 15, 2007
- Cole, Juan (1982). “The Concept of Manifestation in the Bahá’í Writings”. Bahá’í Studies. monograph 9: 1–38.
- Smith, Peter (2000). “Progressive revelation”. A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá’í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 276–277. ISBN1-85168-184-1.
- Old World Encounters. Cross-cultural contacts and exchanges in pre-modern times” by Jerry H.Bentley (Oxford University Press, 1993) ISBN0-19-507639-7
- Rhodes, Ron (2001). The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions: The Essential Guide to Their History, Their Doctrine, and Our Response. Zondervan. pp. 155, 164. ISBN0-310-23217-1.
- Hutson, Steven (2006). What They Never Taught You in Sunday School: A Fresh Look at Following Jesus. City Boy Enterprises. p. 57. ISBN978-1-59886-300-0.
- Beyer, Catherine. “Raelian Movement”. About.com. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
- Ankerberg, John; Weldon, John. “What Does Religious Science Teach About Jesus?”(PDF). Ankerberg Theological Research Institute. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
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