Jesus of Nazareth: Legend, Lunatic, Liar or Lord?

After casting your vote, please tell us WHY you voted as you did.

What evidence is there to support the position you voted for?

In your view, what lack of evidence causes you to judge against the other choices?


Mostly from studying history of the time period I tend to believe Jesus is a real person. As for why he is God that is a matter of faith

I believe Jesus to be the Lord and Saviour of the world, primarily because of these two questions:

  1. What thing provides me, and us (the human race) any reason to live?

  2. What of these things provides proof it actually happened?

The first question knocks out: atheism, the UFO religions, the Latter-Day Saints, Hinduism, Buddhism, and pretty much any other religion where there is no permanent consequence to what you do in this life.

  • In atheism, death is all that awaits you.
  • In Hinduism and Buddhism, reincarnation until you reach moksha/nirvana is all that awaits you.
  • In the Mormon church, everyone will get deified (their ultimate goal) eventually.
  • The UFO religions (including Scientology) do not address our final end.
  • In Taoism, Confucianism, ancestor worship, and many forms of paganism, only the afterlife awaits you (I could be wrong).
  • And some “Christian” denominations which deny Hell (or, in the case of Christian Science, evil) also take away our ability to choose good. These must also be eliminated.

All of the above religions do not answer the ultimate question, which really is the only reason to choose a religion: what benefit would I, or the world, get from it? Death cancels out all benefits, and so religions where nothing changes after death have nothing to offer.

So, what remains? You have:

Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, some paganism perhaps. I think that’s it.

So, question 2) kicks in: what evidence do these religions provide for their claims being true?

Islam and Zoroastrianism (and the LDS and Scientology for that matter) provide prophets, who have visions. How are we going to test a man’s private revelation?

Paganism provides myths - which contain some truths, but how are we going to test whether these things happened or not? There are no dates. There are no witnesses.

Judaism claims to have received its law at Mount Sinai, from God, who gave it to Moses, who gave it to the People Israel. In effect, Moses is a prophet, like Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Zoroaster, or L. Ron Hubbard. Who will argue with a private revelation?

Christianity claims its founder was executed brutally, buried, and rose from the dead. And He appeared to eleven men, 120 others, 2 men on their way to Emmaus, several women, and (if St. Paul is correct) 500 others, some who were still alive when he wrote of it. This claim pervades all Christian writings of the time - every book of the New Testament makes this claim.

Who stands in to debate the Resurrection?

Only people who came long after the fact. Moslems, deists, atheists. I’ve only heard one Jew ask the foolish question: if Jesus rose from the dead, so what? What does that matter?

It matters very much. Because it means God has blessed Him. A Jew. And if He said so many of the things St. Paul taught, or the things the Gospels wrote, God must really have been backing Him, for no Jew would say a man could be God otherwise.

In short, what fits the mold of history: Christ not rising, or Christ rising?

Christ rising, I think.

In a time of pain and doubt I reached out to Him and He picked me up in glorious fashion. I would be a fool to brush aside that moment.

He couldn’t have known what He did, performed the miracles He did, converted as many souls as He did, etc. unless He was truly God.

This is an excellent answer, and I think I will borrow it :stuck_out_tongue:

I believe Jesus is Lord because:

  1. He said he was

  2. He worked miracles to prove it

  3. His disciples who knew him believed he was Lord enough to give their lives for him. And they PERSONALLY knew him! So why should I doubt them, and him?

Jesus of Nazareth’s followers came to believe him to be divine some 40-70 years after his death… His followers wrote about what they had come to believe and experience of him…his claims…we don’t know for sure, he never wrote anything.

Well, I voted for “Lord,” although I would have preferred that the explanation include a bit more nuance. While the Gospel of John explicitly includes statements of Jesus in which he claims to be equal with the Father, he is much more subdued in the Synoptics. While I proclaim that Jesus is a person of the Holy Trinity, to retroject that Christology into the consciousness of the Jesus of Nazareth before his glorious resurrection is quite questionable from a historical perspective.

To me, it’s pretty silly to talk about Jesus as an omniscient human from the point of his birth onward. In Luke, we read of Jesus growing in wisdom under the parenting of Joseph and Mary. As the hymn in Philippians 2 states, even under the early high Christology we see there, he took the form of a slave. The Agony in the Garden is meaningless unless we see Jesus as having human consciousness.

I believe that Jesus saw himself as the Messiah of Israel, and that this was his vocation. It’s the only way to make sense of all the Gospels.

He proclaimed the Kingdom of God and demonstrated what that means by symbols he knew well from the prophets (e.g., the entry into Jerusalem on a colt, as in Zechariah) and actions he knew that a king would do (e.g., the cleansing of the temple is akin to Judas Maccabeus’ purification of the temple, David’s intention to build and Solomon’s actually building the temple). His frequent citation of scripture, including prophets such as Isaiah suggests he didn’t just wander into fulfilling prophecy, but that he knew exactly what he was doing… he identified himself as the suffering servant of Isaiah. He was the subject of Psalms 2 (the king) and Isaiah 42 (servant), proclaimed in the words from heaven upon his baptism (This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased), and bringing them together in a way that no one else had done before.

He knew violence was in his future. He grew up in Nazareth, just 4 km from Sepphoris, which the Romans had razed to the ground in a rebellion that took place after the death of Herod the Great. He was baptized by John, whom he knew had been killed by Herod Antipas for preaching against the tetrach’s immoral marriage (attested by Luke) and large following (attested by Josephus). So he knew that public challenges to secular or religious authority would be met with persecution and death. The Last Supper shows that Jesus knew that death was coming for him.

Did he know that he would be raised from the dead? I don’t know. I think he did believe that his death, as the suffering servant of Isaiah and the restoration of the Kingdom, would bring a new age. The new age he foresaw wasn’t a political revolution, as many allege. His proclamations to turn the other cheek, to offer your shirt if someone steals your cloak, and to go a second mile if pressed (legally by a Roman soldier) into a mile of service say that he wasn’t talking about God becoming King in the same way as the failed Jewish revolutionaries did in 66-70 (“No king but God” being their rallying cry). Mark 10 – his rebuttal of the sons of Zebedee’s desire to sit at his right hand in power, “because the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” – shows the kind of kingdom he was talking about. Did he know that he was a member of the Trinity when he said all this? I don’t know. He was proclaiming the return of the shekhinah through his death, the enthronement of God through the death of the servant king.

So yes, Jesus was Lord, Jesus is Lord, and Jesus will forever be Lord. Jesus is the Son, begotten not made, a person of the Holy Trinity, through whom the cosmos was made. But did Jesus say “I’m God!” when he was walking around here in pre-Glorified human form? Of that, I’m skeptical.

I have to rule out immediately all but two choices (lunatic or Lord) Just a cursory reading of the gospels might cause some to scratch their heads a bit and have these things:confused: above their heads. He did say some things that were a bit like a “shock jock” That brings us to the only choice left (Lord) Since all human history seems to revolve around Him, and those early followers of His really had nothing to gain by making up stories but they bet their very lives on what He taught them and many willingly followed Him to their deaths, I’m pretty much forced to believe he is exactly who He claimed to be:thumbsup:

I’ll dispute that Chronology. Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians sometime in the 50s, just about 20 years after the death of Jesus. The hymn in chapter 2 (approx. verses 6-11) is widely recognized by most text critics and Bible scholars to be pre-Pauline. It clearly states that Jesus was in the form of God prior to his Incarnation. In 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul also writes that, “there is one God, the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and through whom we exist.” This is another likely 50s composition, also around 20 years of the death of Jesus.

Paul gives us some other dates that help us pin his belief in Jesus Christ as God to nearly the beginning of Christianity. Galatians 1 (around verse 15 and later) is Paul saying how after God chose to reveal his Son to him, Paul “did not immediately consult flesh and blood, nor go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before” him, but went to “Arabia.” After three (3) years, Paul says he went to Jerusalem and met with Peter (Cephas), and stayed there for 15 days. In Galatians 2, Paul says that “after 14 years” he went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus.

By this information, we can say with confidence that Paul met with Peter at least 14 years before writing Galatians. According to the introduction to that letter in the New American Bible, most scholars think that Galatians was written in either 48-50 or 54-55. If we say that the meeting with Peter was only 14 years prior to the letter (unlikely, given that he’s narrating the meeting in Jerusalem as a past event), that puts the range of the meeting between Peter and Paul in Jerusalem at between 34-36 or 40-41. If you go back to the three years prior to his meeting with Peter, Paul’s experience of the risen Christ was between 31-33 or 37-38.

We have a little more chronology on which to base this early period. We have on witness from Paul and second- or third-hand from Acts that he was a persecutor of Christians. Paul was a tent maker in Tarsus, which is located in south-Central Turkey. Paul was made aware of Christianity and “in zeal, persecuted the Church” (Philippians 3). Acts 8 says that Paul “approved of” the killing of St. Stephen. In any case, Paul had to be aware of a Christian movement that was large enough for him to persecute.

From Paul’s first-hand writings alone, and assuming that he wasn’t fabricating everything he wrote or misremembering the events of his life, I think there is sufficient information to say that the Church’s earliest reaction to Jesus’ resurrection was one of high Christology. For the earliest Church to have elicited such persecution from Paul, a Jew who was probably a Pharisee not one of the Temple elites, this suggests widespread belief that many other Jews found to be blasphemous: that is, an equation of Jesus with God.

Because HE said so and I believe HIM. God Bless, Memaw

If you believe history, you should believe HIM! HE came to redeem us. God Bless, Memaw

Lord Jesus Christ, only begotten son of God. Born of the Father before all ages.

Luke Chapter 4 verses 21-22

The Baptism of Jesus. After all the people had been baptised and Jesus also had been baptised and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “you are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

John Chapter 11 verses 17-18

“This is why the Father loves me , because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”

John Chapter 11 verses 27 -30

“My sheep hear my voice ; I know them , and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are One.”

First Letter of John Chapter 2 verses 4 - 6

Whoever says , “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word , the love of God is truly perfected in him. This is the way we may know we are in union with him: whoever claims to abide in him ought to live as he lived.

Jesus is Our Lord and Savior, and the Son of God. He came to suffer and die and rose from the dead so we could have eternal life. Without Jesus my life would be empty and meaningless, with Jesus every act of love brings me closer to eternal life with Him in Heaven. My life is not perfect, I am a sinner, but there is always hope for a better day when I put my trust in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We need hope and we need Jesus.

Randy Carson, if possible you may want to adjust the definition of legend. The one there only allows for if the person thinks Jesus didn’t exist. Many (although not all) non-christians do think he existed just that what was said about him wasn’t wholely true.

The first time I heard someone add “legend” to C.S. Lewis’s standard trilemma was in a video where it supposed Jesus existed, but then brings up the legends of Heracles/Hercules (who may have been based on a real person) and Menachem Mendel Schneerson (who died in 1994).

I understand what you are saying, and to a large degree I think you are right. I don’t think He necessarily knew everything though He was God incarnate. But I do think He knew He was God Incarnate and could do things no other man could do.

Mark 2 is a good example of what I mean. More than that, He felt He had the ability to change the Law (the Torah). There is a book by a Reform Rabbi Jacob Neusner, “A Rabbi Talks with Jesus”. From what I’ve read, what Jesus did would have been away from how Jews read the Torah in some ways. Chapter 10 of Mark is a good example of this.

What of the parable of the vine-dressers (Mark 12)?

Finally, what are we to make of the Eucharist (Mark 14:22ff) if Jesus does not think Himself, at least, equal with God, Son thereof and God Himself?

I only meant to point this out, that even the earliest Gospel (as Mark is sometimes thought) has direct references to Christ’s Divinity. At least, so it seems to me, and others I have listened to (Fr. Robert Barron, among others).

That’s a good point - although if the Jesus of the Gospels didn’t exist, really, what is the difference?

In the big picture, none really. Focusing solely on getting an accurate poll I just like to see everything clear cut and have as few "none of the above"s as possible.

This “later divinization” argument fails for three reasons. First, in the Gospel of John, we read the following:

John 20:27-29
New International Version (NIV)
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

According to this eyewitness account, the disciples, Thomas the skeptic among them, knew that Jesus was divine as a result of seeing him alive after the resurrection.

Now, your contention, in essence, is that the gospels were written many years later, and that by the time they were recorded, the disciples had divinized Jesus. While it is true that the Gospel of John was written 50 years or more after the events recorded above, it is also true that if John had perceived any errors in the Gospels written much earlier, he could have taken great pains to correct those errors. He did not; if anything, John is even clearer about the divinity of Jesus.

Second, as former homicide detective J. Warner Wallace notes in his book, Cold-Case Christianity, the later distortion argument is undermined by several problems quoted here:

*]In the earliest accounts of the disciples’ activity after the crucifixion, they are seen citing the resurrection of Jesus as their primary piece of evidence that Jesus was God. From the earliest days of the Christian movement, eyewitnesses were making this claim.

*]The students of the disciples also recorded that the resurrection was a key component of the disciples’ eyewitness testimony.

*]The earliest known Christian creed or oral record (as described by Paul in 1 Cor. 15) includes the resurrection as a key component. [1 Corinthians can be dated to the spring of AD 56 during Paul’s third missionary journey.]

*]This explanation also fails to account for the fact that the tomb and body of Jesus have not been exposed to demonstrate that this late legend was false. (Wallace, J. Warner, Cold-Case Christianity, p. 49.).

Third, persecution of the early Church began after the stoning of Stephen, and Paul was given special authority to imprison the leaders of the Church. He was on such a mission to Damascus when he was knocked from his horse and had a vision of Jesus that changed his life. Paul wrote:

Galatians 1:13-20
11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas** and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

Note that there are two possibilities concerning Paul’s understanding of Jesus’ resurrection: 1) he either learned this directly from Jesus himself at the time of his conversion on the road to Damascus or 2) his picked this up during hi interaction with Cephas (that is, Peter - the names both mean “rock”) and James. Either way, Paul clearly understood that Jesus was divine very soon after the Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord, and the resurrection of Jesus formed a core component of his gospel message for the remainder of his life.

Hope this helps. :tiphat:**

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit