Christianity was founded on the life and teachings of a Jew named Jesus. According to the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth asked his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" And as the Christian faith have spread around the world, millions of individuals and religious groups have also asked themselves this question.

Jesus is the central figure of Christianity, of course, but is also important in new religious movements that grew out of Christianity and even in some non-Christian religions such as Islam, the Baha'i Faith, and Cao Dai. Jesus is also respected as a wise teacher by many Buddhists, Hindus, some Jews, and even many non-religious people.

The English word "Jesus" comes from the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, a common name which means "savior." "Christ" is a title and it comes from the Greek form of the Hebrew Messiah, meaning "anointed one." Since the time of the earliest Christians, "Christ" has been used both as a surname and as a stand-alone to refer to Jesus.

Christians believe, and most modern scholars agree, that Jesus was an actual historical figure. The "historical Jesus" is a term used to distinguish the academic study of Jesus from religious beliefs about his life and significance.

As recorded in the Gospels, the teachings of Jesus focused primarily on the "the kingdom of God" and were usually relayed through parables drawing on familiar images from agricultural life. He rebuked the hypocrisy of some Jewish leaders and taught the importance of love and kindness, even to one's enemies.

While Jesus' teachings were fundamentally Jewish, they departed significantly from the Jewish law of his day. Perhaps most astonishing of all was that he taught on his own authority. Whereas Jewish prophets had always prefaced their messages with "thus saith the Lord," Jesus said things like, "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.'" {2}

Jesus' popularity grew quickly, but so did opposition from local leaders. Roman rulers were uncomfortable with the common perception that he was the Messiah who would liberate the Jews from Roman rule, while Jewish leaders were disquieted by Jesus' shocking interpretations of Jewish law, his power with the people, and the rumor that he had been alluding to his own divinity.


- Mt 3:13-17; Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21-23; Jn 1:29-39.
- Mt 5:27.