top of page
Jesus of Nazareth

The "Jesus" of history isn't a complete mystery to Biblical scholars, who often make a distinction between the man and the religious figure depicted in the scriptures. We agree with Biblical scholars.


"We do know some things about the historical Jesus — less than some Christians think, but more than some skeptics think. The evidence of what he did is persuasive to the vast majority of scholars, whether Christian or non-Christian," says Marcus Borg, a retired professor of religion and culture at Oregon State University.


The following "facts" about Jesus would be affirmed by most history scholars, Borg said:

  • Jesus was born sometime just before 4 B.C. He grew up in Nazareth, a small village in Galilee, as part of the peasant class. Jesus' father was a carpenter and he became one, too, meaning that they had likely lost their agricultural land at some point.

  • Jesus was raised Jewish and he remained deeply Jewish all of his life. His intention was not to create a new religion. Rather, he saw himself as doing something within Judaism.

  • He left Nazareth as an adult, met the prophet John and was baptized by John. During his baptism, Jesus likely experienced some sort of divine vision.

  • Shortly afterwards, Jesus began his public preaching with the message that the world could be transformed into a "Kingdom of God."

  • He became a noted healer, teacher and prophet. More healing stories are told about Jesus than about any other figure in the Jewish tradition.

  • He was executed by Roman imperial authority.

  • His followers experienced him after his death. It is clear that they had visions of Jesus as they had known him during his historical life. Only after his death did they declare Jesus to be "Lord" or "the Son of God."


Factuality Not Important


In between those points, the historical details are hard to verify says Borg, who believes that the importance of the less "plausible" stories found in the Bible — such as the resurrection — lies not in whether they actually happened but in what they meant to Jesus' followers.


"If we understand these stories as parables about Jesus — as metaphorical narratives about him — then the question of their factuality vanishes as an important question. [With] this approach it does not matter whether Jesus was born of a virgin or changed water into wine or walked on water. To those who insist on their factuality, I would say: 'Fine — let's not argue about that.  Now, let's talk about what they mean.'"

bottom of page