Attention! has pledged to build one church a year in Uganda. Help us double that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Jesus Christ

Additional Links

(Ι᾿ησοῦς Χριστός, Ι᾿ηοῦς Χριστός ; sometimes by Paul in the reverse order "Christ Jesus"), the ordinary designation of the incarnate Son of God and Savior of mankind. This double designation is not, like Simon Peter, John Mark, Joses Barnabas, composed of a name and a surname, but, like John the Baptist, Simon Magus, Bar-Jesus Elymas, of a proper name and an official title. JESUS was our Lord's proper name, just as Peter, James, and John were the proper names of three of his disciples. To distinguish our Lord from others bearing the name, he was termed Jesus of Nazareth (John 18:7, etc., strictly Jesus the Nazarene, Ι᾿ησοῦς Ναζωραῖος ), and Jesus the son of Joseph (John 6:42, etc.).

I. Import of the name. There can be no doubt that Jesus is the Greek form of a Hebrew name, which had been borne by two illustrious individuals in former periods of the Jewish history the successor of Moses and introducer of Israel into the promised land (Exodus 24:13), and the high priest who, along with Zerubbabel (Zechariah 3:1), took so active a part in the reestablishment of the civil and religious polity of the Jews on their return from the Babylonish captivity. Its original and full form is Jehoshua (Numbers 13:16). By contraction it became Joshua, or Jeshua; and when transferred into Greek, by taking the termination characteristic of that language, it assumed the form Jesus. It is thus that the names of the illustrious individuals referred to are uniformly written in the Sept., and the first of them is twice mentioned in the New Testament by this name (Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8).

The original name of Joshua was Hoshea (הוֹשֵׁע , saving), as appears in Numbers 13:8; Numbers 13:16, which was changed by Moses into Jehoshua (יְהוֹשֻׁעִ, Jehovah is his salvation), as appears in Numbers 12:16; 1 Chronicles 7:27, being elsewhere Anglicized "Joshua." After the exile he is called by the abridged form of this name, Jeshua (יֵשׁוּע, id.), whence the Greek name Ι᾿ησοῦς, by which this is always represented in the Sept. This last Heb. form differs little from the abstract noun from the same root, יְשׁוּעָה, yeshuah', deliverance, and seems to have been understood as equivalent in import (see Matthew 1:22 comp. Ecclesiastes 46:1). The "name of Jesus" (Philippians 2:10) is not the name Jesus, but "the name above every name" (Philippians 2:9); i.e. the supreme dignity and authority with which the Father has invested Jesus Christ as the reward of his disinterested exertions in the cause of the divine glory and human happiness; and the bowing ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ι᾿ησοῦ is obviously not an external mark of homage when the name Jesus is pronounced, but the inward sense of awe and submission to him who is raised to a station so exalted.

The conferring of this name on our Lord was not the result of accident, or of the ordinary course of things, but was the effect of a direct divine order (Luke 1:31; Luke 2:21), as indicative of his saving function (Matthew 1:21). Like the other name Immanuel (q.v.), it does not necessarily import the divine character of the wearer. This, however, clearly results from the attributes given in the same connection, and is plainly taught in numerous passages (see especially Romans 1:3-4; Romans 9:5). for the import and application of the name CHRIST, (See MESSIAH).

For a full discussion of the name Jesus, including many fanciful etymologies and explanations, with their refutation, see Gesenius, Thes. Heb. 2, 582; Simon. Onom. V. T. p. 519 sq.; Fritzsche, De nomine Jesu (Freiburg, 1705); Clodius, De nom. Chr. et Marioe Arabicis (Lips. 1724); Hottinger, Hist. Orient. p. 153,157; Seelen, Meditat. exeg. 2, 413; Thiess, Krit. Comment. 2, 395; A. Pfeiffer, De nomine Jesu, in his treatise De Talmude Judoeorum, p. 177 sq.; Baumgarten, Betracht. d. Namens Jesu (Halle, 1736); Chrysander, De vera forma atque emphasi nominis Jesu (Rintel. 1751); Osiander, Harmonia Evangelica (Basil. 1561), lib. 1, c. 6; Chemnitius, De nomine Jesu, in the Thes. Theol. Philol. (Amst. 1702), vol. 2, p. 62; Canini, Disquis. in loc. aliq. N.T., in the Crit. Sac. ix; Gass, De utroque J.C. nomine, Dei filii et nominis (Vratistl. 1840); and other monographs cited in Volbeding's Index, p. 6, 7; and in Hase's Leben Jesu, p. 51.

II. Personal Circumstances of our Lord. These, of course, largely affected his history, notwithstanding his divinity.

1. General View. The following is a naked statement of the facts of his career as they may be gathered from the evangelical narratives, supposing them to be entitled simply to the credit due to profane history. (For literature, see Volbeding, p. 56; Hase, p. 8.) The founder of the Christian religion was born (B.C. 6) at Bethlehem, near Jerusalem, under the reign of the emperor Augustus, of Mary, at the time betrothed to the carpenter (τέκτων ) Joseph, and descended from the royal house of David (Matthew 1:1 sq.; Luke 3:23 sq.; comp. John 7:42). Soon after his birth he was compelled to escape from the murderous designs of Herod the Great by a hasty flight into the adjacent parts of Egypt (Matthew 2:13 sq.; according to the tradition at Matarea, see Evangel. infant. Arab. c. 24; apparently a place near old Heliopolis, where is still shown a very old mulberry tree under which Mary is said to have rested with the babe, see Prosp. Alpin, Rer. AEg. 1, 5, p. 24; Paulus, Samml. 3, 256 sq.; Tischendorf, Reisen, 1, 141 sq.; comp. generally Hartmann, Erdbeschr. v. Africa, 1, 878 sq.). (See EGYPT); (See HEROD).

But immediately after the death of this king his parents returned to their own country, and settled again (Luke 1:26) in Nazareth (q.v.), in Lower Galilee (Matthew 2:23; comp. Luke 4:16; John 1:46, etc.), where the youthful Jesus so rapidly matured (Luke 2:40; Luke 2:52), that in his twelfth year the boy evinced at the metropolis traits of an uncommon religious intelligence, which excited astonishment in all the spectators (Luke 2:41 sq.). With this event the history of his youth concludes in the canonical gospels, and we next find him, about the thirtieth year of his age (A.D. 25), in the neighborhood of the Dead Sea, at the Jordan, where he suffered himself to be consecrated for the introduction of the new divine dispensation (βασίλεια τοῦ θεοῦ ) by the symbol of water baptism at the hands of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13 sq.; Mark 1:9 sq.; Luke 3:21 sq.; John 1:32 sq.). He now began, after a forty-days' fast (comp. 1 Kings 19:8) spent in the wilderness of Judea (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12 sq.; Luke 4:1-13) in quiet meditation upon his mission, to publish openly in person this "kingdom of God," by earnestly summoning his countrymen to repentance, i.e. a fundamental reformation of their sentiments and conduct, through a new birth from the Holy Spirit (John 3:3 sq.).

He repeatedly announced himself as the mediator of this dispensation, and in pursuance of this character, in correction of the sensual expectations of the people with reference to the long hoped for Redeemer (comp. Luke 4:21), he chose from among his early associates and Galilaean countrymen a small number of faithful disciples (Matthew 10), and with them traveled, especially at the time of the Paschal festival and during the summer months, in various directions through Palestine, seizing every opportunity to impress pure and fruitful religious sentiments upon the populace or his immediate disciples, and to enlighten them concerning his own dignity as God's legate (υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ ), who should abolish the sacrificial service, and teach a worship of God, as the. common Father of mankind, in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). With these expositions of doctrine, which all breathe the noblest practical spirit, and were so carefully adapted to the capacity and apprehension of the hearers that in respect to clearness, simplicity, and dignified force they are still a pattern of true instruction, he coupled, in the spirit of the Old Testament prophets, and as his age expected from the Messiah, wonderful deeds, especially charitable cures of certain diseases at that time very prevalent and regarded as incurable, but to these he himself appears to have attributed a subordinate value. By this means he gathered about him a considerable company of true adherents and thankful disciples, chiefly from the middle class of the people (John 7:49; and even from the despicable publicans, Matthew 9:9 sq. Luke 5:27 sq.); for the eminent and learned were repelled by the severe reproofs which he uttered against their corrupt maxims (Mark 12:38 sq.), their sanctimonious (Luke 12:1; Luke 18:9 sq.) and hypocritical punctiliousness (Luke 11:39 sq.; Luke 18:9 sq.), and against their prejudices, as being subversive of all true religion (John 8:33; John 9:16), as well as by the slight regard which (in comparison with their statutes) he paid to the Sabbath (John 5:16); and as he in no respect corresponded to their expectations of the Messiah, full of animosity, they made repeated attempts to seize his person (Mark 11:18; John 7:30; John 7:44). At last they succeeded, by the assistance of the traitor Judas, in taking him prisoner in the very capital, where he had just partaken of a parting meal in the familiar circle of his friends (the Passover), upon which he engrafted the initiatory rite of a new covenant; and thus, without exciting any surprise on his part, in surrendering him into the hands of the Roman authorities as a popular insurrectionist. He was sentenced to death by crucifixion, as he had often declared to his disciples would be his fate, and suffered himself, with calm resignation, to be led to the place of execution between two malefactors (on their traditional names, see Thilo, Apocryph. 1, 580 sq.; comp. Evang. infant. Arab. c. 23); but he arose alive on the third day from the grave which a grateful disciple had prepared for him, and after tarrying forty days in the midst of his disciples, during which he confidently intrusted the prosecution of the great work into their hands, and promised them the divine help of a Paraclete (παράκλητος ), he finally, according to one of the narrators, soared away visibly into the sky (A.D. 29). (See Volbeding, p. 6.)

2. Sources of Information. The only trustworthy accounts respecting Jesus are to be derived from the evangelists. (See Volbeding, p. 5.) (See GOSPELS, SPURIOUS). They exhibit, it is true, many chasms (Causse, De rationibus ob quas non plura quam quoe extant ad J.C. vitam pertinentia ab Evang. literis sint consignata, Franckf. 1766), but they wear the aspect of a true, plain, lively narrative. Only two of these derive their materials from older traditions, doubtless from the apostles and companions of Jesus; but they were all first written down a long time after the occurrences: hence it has often been asserted that the historical matter was even at that time no longer extant in an entirely pure state (since the objective and the subjective, both in views and opinions, are readily interchanged in an unscientifically formed style); but that after Jesus had been so gloriously proved to be the Messias, the incidents were improved into prodigies, especially through a consideration of the Old Testament prophecies (Kaiser, Bibl. Theol. 1, 199 sq.).

Yet in the synoptical gospels this could only be shown in the composition and connection of single transactions; the facts themselves in the respective accounts agree too well in time and circumstances, and the narrators confine themselves too evidently to the position of writers of memoirs, to allow the supposition of a (conscious) transformation of the events or any such developments from Old Testament prophecy: moreover, if truth and pious poetry had already become mingled in the verbal traditionary reports, the eyewitnesses Matthew and John would have known well, in a fresh narration, how to distinguish between each of these elements with regard to scenes which they had themselves passed through (for memory and imagination were generally more lively and vigorous among the ancients than with us) (Br. ub. Rationalismus, p. 248 sq.; compare Heydenreich, Ueb. Unzulassigkeit d. myth. Auffassung des Histor. im N.T. und im Christenth. Herborn, 1831-5; see Hase, p. 9). Sooner would we suppose that the fertile-minded John, who wrote latest, has set before us, not the pure historical Christ, but one apprehended by faith and confounded with his own spiritual conceptions (Br. ü ber Rational. p. 352). But while it is altogether probable that even he, by reason of his individuality and spiritual sympathy with Jesus, apprehended and reflected the depth and spirituality of his Master more truly than the synoptical evangelists, who depict rather the exterior phenomena of his character, at the same time there is actually nothing contained in the doctrinal discourses of Jesus in John, either in substance or form, that is incompatible with the Christ of the first three evangelists (see Heydenreich, in his Zeitschr fur Predigermiss. 1, pt. 1 and 2); yet these latter represent Jesus as speaking comparatively seldom, and that in more general terms, of his exaltation, dignity, and relation with the Father, whereas that Christ would have explained himself much more definitely and fully upon a point that could not have remained undiscussed, is of itself probable (see Hase, p. 10). Hence also, although we cannot believe that in such representations we are to understand the identical words of Christ to be given (for while the retention of all these extended discourses in the memory is improbable, on the other hand a writing of them down is repugnant to the Jewish custom), yet the actual sentiments of Jesus are certainly thus reported. (See further, Bauer, Bibl. Theol. N.T. 2, 278 sq.; B. Crusius, Bibl. Theol. p. 81; Fleck, Otium theolog. Lips. 1831; and generally Krummacher, Ueber den Geist und die Form der evang. Gesch. Lpz. 1805; Eichhorn, Einleit. 1, 689 sq.; on the mythicism of the evangelists, see Gabler, Neuest. theol. Journ. 7, 396; Bertholdt, Theol. Journ. 5, 235 sq.)

In the Church fathers, we find very little that appears to have been derived from clearly historical tradition, but the apocryphal gospels breathe a spirit entirely foreign to historical truth, and are filled with accounts of petty miracles (Tholuck, Glaubwurdigkeit, p. 406 sq.; Ammon, Leb. Jesu, 1, 90 sq.; compare Schmidt, Einl. ins N.T. 2, 234 sq., and Biblioth. Krit. u. Exegese, 2, 481 sq.). The passage of Josephus (Ant. 18, 3, 3; see Gieseler, Eccles. Hist. § 24), which Eusebius (Hist. Ecclesiastes 1, 11; Demonstr. Ev. 3, 7) was the first among Christian writers to make use of, has been shown (see Hase, p. 12), although some have ingeniously striven to defend it (see, among the latest, Bretschneider, in his Diss. capita theolog. Jud. dogmat. e Josepho collect. Lips. 1812; Bohmert, Ueber des Jos. Zeugniss von Christo, Leipz. 1823; Schodel, Fl. Joseph. de J. Chr. testatus, Lips. 1840), to be partly, but not entirely spurious (see Eichstadt, Flaviani de Jesu Christo testimonii αὐθεντία quo jure nuper rursus defensa sit, Jena, 1813; also his 6 Progr. m. einenz auctar, 1841; Paulus, in the Heidelberg Jahrb. 1813, 1, 269 sq.; Theile, in the N. kritisch. Journ. d. theolog. Lit. 2, 97 sq.; Heinichen, Exc. 1 zu Euseb. H.E. 3, 331 sq.; also Suppl. notarius ad Eusebium, p. 73 sq.; Ammon, Leben Jesu, 1, 120 sq.). (See JOSEPHUS). (See Volbeding, p. 5.) The Koran (q.v.) contains only palpable fables concerning Jesus (Hottinger, Histor. Or. 105 sq.; Schmidt, in his Bibl. f. Krit. u. Exegese, 1, 110 sq.; D'Herbelot, Biblioth. Orientale, 2, 349 sq.; compare Augusti, Christologioe Koran lineam. Jena, 1799), and the Jewish History of Jesus (תּוֹלְדוֹת יְשׁוּע, edit. Huldrici, Lugd. Bat. 1703; and in Wagenseil, Tela ign. Satan. Altdorf, 1681) betrays itself as an abortive fabrication of Jewish calumny, destitute of any historical value (see Ammon, Bibl. Theol. 2, 263), while the allusions to Jesus in the Talmud and the Rabbins have only a polemical aim (see Meelfuhrer, Jesus in Talmude, Altdorf, 1699, 2, 4; Werner, Jesus in Talmude Stadae, 1731; comp. Bynaeus, De natali J.C. 2, 4). (See Volbeding, p. 5.) The genuine Acts of Pilate ("Acta Pilati," Eusebius, Chron. Arm. 2, 267; compare Henke, Opusc. p. 199 sq.) are no longer extant, (See PILATE); what we now possess under this title is a later fabrication (see Ammon, 1, 102 sq.). In the Greek and Roman profane authors, Jesus is only incidentally named (Tacitus, Annal. 15, 44, 3; Pliny, Epist. 10, 97; Lamprid. Vit. Alex. Sev. c. 29, 43; Porphyry, De philosoph. ex. orac. in Euseb. Demonstr. Evang. 3, 7; Liban. in Socr. Hist. Ev. 3, 23; Lucian, Mors peregr. c. 11, 13). On Suidas, s.v. Ιησοῦς see Walter, Codex in Suida mendax de Jesu (Lips. 1724). Whether by Chrestus in Suetonius (Claud. p. 25) is to be understood Christ, is doubted by some (comp. Ernesti and Wolf, ad loc.; (See CLAUDIUS) ), but the unusual name Christus might easily undergo this change (see also Philostr. Soph. 2, 11) in popular reference (see generally Eckhard, Non-Christianor. de Christo testimonia, Quedlinb. 1737; Koecher, Hist. Jesu Christo ex scriptorib. profan. eruta, Jena, 1726; Meyer, Versuche Vertheid. u. Erlaut. der Geschichte Jesu u. d. Apostol. a. griech. u. rom. Profanscrib. Hannov. 1805; Fronmü ller, in the Studien der wurtemb. Geistl. 10, 1. On the Jesus of the book of Sirach, 43, 25, see Seelen, De Jesu in Jesu Sirac. frustra quoesito, Lubec. 1724; also in his Medit. exeg. 1, 207 sq.).

3. The scientific treatment of the life of Jesus belongs to the modern period of theological criticism. Among earlier contributions of a critico- chronological character is that of Offerhaus (De vita J. C. privata et publica, in his Spicil. histor. chronol. Groningen, 1739). Greiling (Halle, 1813) first undertook the adjustment in a lively narrative, of the recent (rationalistic) exposition that has resulted, to the actual career of Christ. An independent but, on the whole, unsatisfactory treatise is that of Planck (Gesch. d. Christenth. in der Periode seiner ersten Einfuhr. in die Welt durch Jesum u. die Apostel, Gö ttingen, 1818). Kaiser has attempted an analysis (Bibl. Theol. 1, 230 sq.). Still more severe in his method of criticism is Paulus (Das Leben Jesu als Grundlage einer reinen Gesch. d. Urchristenth. Heidelb. 1828), and bold to a degree that has alarmed the theological world is D.F. Strauss (Leben J. krit. bearbeit. Tubing. 1835, and since). The latter anew reduced the evangelical histories (with the exception of a few plain transactions) to a mythical composition springing out of the Old Test. prophecies and the expectations of the Messiah in the community, and, in his criticism upon single points, generally stands upon the shoulders of the preceding writers. In opposition to him, numerous men of learning and courage rose up to defend the "historical Christ," some of them insisting upon the strictly supernatural interpretation (Lange; Harless; Tholuck, Glaubwurdigkeit der evangel. Gesch. Hamb. 1838; Krabbe, Vorles. ü ber das Leben Jesu, Hamb. 1839), while others concede or pass over single points in the history (Neander, Leben J. Chr. Hamburg, 1837). Into this controversy, which grew highly personal, a philosophical writer (Weisse, Evang. Geschichte Krit. u. philosoph. Bearbeitung, Leipz. 1840) became involved, and attempted, by an ingenious but decidedly presumptuous criticism, to distinguish the historical and the unhistorical element in the evangelical account. At the same time, Theile (Zur Biographie Jesu, Leipzig, 1837) gave a careful and conciliatory summary of the materials of the discussion, but Hase has published (in the 4th ed. of his Leben Jesu, Leipz. 1840) a masterly review, showing the gradual rejection of the extravagances of criticism since 1829. The substance of the life of Jesus has thus now become established in general belief as historical truth; yet Bauer (Krit. der evangel. Gesch. d. Synoptiker, Leipz. 1841), after an analysis of the gospels as literary productions, calls the original narrative concerning Jesus "a pure creation of the Christian consciousness," and he pronounces the evangelical history generally to be "solved." Thenius has met him with a proof of the evangelical history, drawn from the N. Test. epistles, in a few but striking remarks (Das Evang. ohne die Evangelien, Leipz. 1843), but A. Ebrard (Viss. Krit. d. evang. Gesch. Frankf. 1842) has fully refuted him in a learned but not unprejudiced work (see also Weisse, in the Jen. Lit.-Zeit. 1843, No. 7-9, 13-15). But this heartless and also peculiarly insipid criticism of Bauer which, indeed, often degenerates into the ridiculous appears to have left no impression upon the literary world, and may therefore be dismissed without further consideration (comp. generally Grimm, Glaubwurdigkeit d. evangel. Gesch. in Bezug auf Strauss und Bauer, Jena, 1845). Lately, Von Ammon (Gesch. d. Leb. Jesu; Leipz. 1842) undertook, in his style of combination, carefully steering between the extremes, a narrative of the life of Jesus full of striking observations. Whatever else has been done in this department (Gfrorer, Geschichte des Urchristenth. Stuttg. 1838; Salvador, Jesus Christ et sa doctrine, Par. 1838) belongs rather to the origin of Christianity than to the data of the life of Jesus. In Catholic literature little has appeared on this subject (Kuhn, Leben Jesus wissensch. bearbeitet, Mainz, 1838; of a more general character are the works of Francke, Leipz. 1838, and Storch, Leipz. 1841). (On the bearing of subjective views upon the treatment of the gospel history, there are the monographs cited in Volbeding, p. 6.) See literature below, and compare the art. (See CHRISTOLOGY).

4. Chronological Data.

a. The year of Christ's birth (for the general condition of the age, see Knapp, De statu temp. nato Christo, Hal. 1757; and the Church histories of Gieseler, Neander, etc.; on a special point, see Masson, Jani templ. Christo nascente reseratum, Rotterdam, 1700) cannot, as all investigations on this point have proved (Fabricii Bibl. antiquar. p. 187 sq., 342 sq.; Thiess, Krit. Comment. 2, 339 sq.; comp. especially S. van Tilde, de anno, mense et die nati Chr. Lugd. Bat. 1700, praef. J.G. Walch, Jena, 1740; K. Michaeles, Ueber das Geburts- u. Sterbejahr J.C. Wien, 1796, 2, 8), be determined with full certainty (Reccard, Pr. in rationes et limites incertitudinis circa temp. nat. Christi, Reg. 1768); yet it is now pretty generally agreed that the vulgar era (Hamberger, De epochoe Dionys. ortu et auctore, Jen. 1704; also in Martini Thes. Diss. 3, 1, 341 sq.), of which the first year corresponds to 4714 of the Julian Period, or 754 (and latter part of 753; see Jarvis, Introd. to Hist of the Church, p. 54, 610) of Rome (Sanclemente, De vulg. oeroe emendat. Rom. 1793; Ideler, Chronol. 2, 383 sq.), has assigned it a date too late by a few years (see Strong's Harm. and Expos. Append. 1), since the death of Herod the Great (Matthew 2:1 sq.), according to Josephus (Ant. 17, 8, 1; comp. 14, 14, 5; 17, 9, 3), must have occurred before Easter in B.C. 4 (see Browne's Ordo Soeclorum, p. 27 sq.). Hence Jesus may have been born in the beginning of the year of Rome 750, four years before the epoch of our era, or even earlier (Uhland, Christum anno ante oer. Vulg. 4 exeunte nature esse, Tubing. 1775; so Bengel, Anger, Wieseler, Jarvis), but in no case later (comp. also Offerhaus, Spicileg. p. 422 sq.; Paulus, Comment. 1, 206 sq.; Vogel, in Gabler's Journ. f. auserl. theolog. Lit. 1, 244 sq.; and in the Studien der wurtemberg. Geistlichk. 1, 1, 50 sq.). A few passages (as Luke 3:1; Luke 3:23; Matthew 2:2 sq.) afford a closer determination, (See CYRENIUS); the latter gave occasion to the celebrated Kepler to connect the star of the Magi with a planetary conjunction (of Jupiter and Saturn), and more recent writers have followed this suggestion (Wurm, in Bengel's Archiv. 2, 1, 261 sq.; Ideler, Handb. d. Chronol. 2, 399 sq., and Lehrb. d. Chronol. p. 428 sq.; compare also Munter, Stern der Weisen, Copenh. 1827; Klein's Oppositionsschr. 5, 1, 90 sq.; Schubert, Lehrb. d. Sternkunde, p. 226 sq.), fixing upon B.C. 6 as the true year of the nativity. (See NATIVITY).

But Matthew 2:16 seems to state that the Magi, who must have arrived at Jerusalem soon after the birth of Jesus, had indicated the first appearance of the phenomenon as having occurred a long time previously (probably not exactly two years before), and on that view Jesus might have been born earlier than B.C. 6, the more so inasmuch as the accession of Mars to the same conjunction, occurring in the spring of B.C. 6, according to Kepler, may have first excited the full attention of the Magi. Lately Wieseler (Chronolog. Synopse, p. 67 sq.) has brought down the nativity to the year B.C. 4, and in additional confirmation of this date holds that a comet, which, according to Chinese astronomical tables, was visible for more than two months in this year, was identical with the star of the wise men, at the same time adducing Luke 2:1 sq.; Luke 3:23, as pointing to the same year. But if the Magi had first been incited to their journey by the appearance of that comet, they could not well have designated to Herod as the Messianic star the planetary conjunction of A.U.C. 747 or 748, then almost two years ago, seeing this was an entirely distinct phenomenon. Under this supposition, too, Herod would have made more sure of his purpose if he had put to death children three years old. According to this view, then, we should place Christ's birth rather in B.C. 7 than B.C. 4. Some uncertainty, however, must always attend the use of these astronomical data. (See STAR IN THE EAST).

As an element in determining the year of the nativity, Luke 3:1, comp. 23, must also be taken into the account. Jesus is there positively stated to have entered upon his public ministry at thirty years of age, and indeed soon after John the Baptist, whose mission began in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, so that by reckoning back about thirty years from this latter date (August, 781, to August, 782, of Rome, A.D. 28-29), we arrive at about B.C. 3 as the year of Christ's birth, which corresponds to the statements of Irenaeus (Hoeret. 3, 25), Tertullian (Adv. Judges 1:8), and Eusebius (Hist. Ev. 1, 5), that Jesus was born in the year 41 (42) of the reign of Augustus, i.e. 751 of Rome, or B.C. 3 (Ideler, Chronolog. 2, 385). As Luke's language in that passage is somewhat indefinite ("about," ώαεί ), we may presume that Christ was rather over than under thirty years of age; and this will agree with the computation of the fourth year before the Dionysian era, i.e. 750 of Rome. If, however, we suppose (but see Browne, Ordo Soeclorum, p. 67) the joint reign of Tiberius with Augustus, i.e. his association with him in the government especially of the provinces (Vell. Paterc. Hist. Rom. 2, 121; Sueton. 3, 20, 21; Tacitus, Annal. 1, 3; Dio Cass. Hist. Rom. 2, 103), three and a half years before his full reign (Janris, Introd. p. 228-239), to be meant, we shall again be brought to about B.C. 6, or possibly 7, as the year of the nativity. The latest conclusion of Block (Das wahre Geburtsjahr Christi, Berl. 1843), that Jesus was born in the year 735 of Rome, or nineteen years before the beginning of the vulgar era, based upon the authority of the later Rabbins, does not call for special examination (yet see Wieseler, Chronol. Synopse, p. 132). (See ADVENT).

The month and day of the birth of Christ cannot be determined with a like degree of approximation, but it could not, at all events, have fallen in December or January, since at this time of the year the flocks are not found in the open fields during the night (Luke 2:8), but in pens (" the first rain descends the 17th of the month Marchesvan [November], and then the cattle returned home; nor did the shepherds any longer lodge in huts in the fields," Gemara, Nedar. 63); moreover, a census (ἀπογραφή ), which made traveling necessary (Luke 2:2 sq.), would not have been ordered at this season. We may naturally suppose that the month of March is the time for driving out cattle to pasture, at least in Southern Palestine (Suskind, in Bengel's Archiv. 1, 215; comp. A.J. u. d. Hardt, De momenteis quibusd. hist. et chron. ad determin. Chr. diem natal. Helmst. 1754; Korner, De die natali Servatoris, Lips. 1778; Funck, De die Servat. natali, Rint. 1735; also in his Dissert. Acad. p. 149 sq.; Minter, Stern der Weisen, Copenh. 1827, p. 110 sq.). If we can rely upon a statement of the Jewish Rabbins, that the first of the twenty-four courses of priests entered upon their duties in the regular cycle the very week in which the Temple was destroyed by the Romans (Mishna, 3, 298, 3), we are furnished with the means, by comparison with the time of the service of Zachariah (Luke 1:5; Luke 1:8), who belonged to the eighth division (1 Chronicles 24:10), of determining with considerable certainty (Browne's Ordo Soeclorum, p. 33 sq.) the date of the nativity as occurring, if in B.C. 6, about the month of August (Strong's Harm. and Expos. Append. 1, p. 23). The attempts of Scaliger and Bengel to determine the month of the nativity from this element (compare Maurit. De sortit. p. 334 sq.) are unsatisfactory (see Van Til, ut sup. p. 75 sq.; Allix, Diatr. de anno et mense J.C. nat. p. 44 sq.; Paulus, Comment. 1, 36 sq.). Lately Jarvis (Introd. p. 535 sq.) has endeavored to maintain the traditionary date of Christmas of the Latin Church; and Seyffarth has anew adopted the conclusion (Chronoloq. Sacra, p. 97 sq.) that John the Baptist was born on the 24th of June, and consequently Jesus on the 25th (22d in his Summary of recent Discoveries in Chronology, N. York, 1857, p. 236) of December, based on the supposition that the Israelites reckoned by solar months: this pays no regard to Luke 2:8 (see Hase, p. 67). (See CHRISTMAS).

b. The year of Christ's crucifixion is no less disputed (comp. Paulus, Comment. 3, 784 sq.). The two extreme limits of the date are the above- mentioned 15th year of Tiberius, in which John the Baptist began his career (Luke 3:1), i.e. Aug. 781 to Aug. 782 of Rome (A.D. 28-29), and the year of the death of that emperor, 790 of Rome (A.D. 37), in which Pilate had already left the province of Judaea. Jesus appears to have begun his public teaching soon after John's entrance upon his mission; for the message of the Sanhedrim to John, which is placed in immediate connection with the beginning of Christ's public ministry (John 1:19; comp. John 2:1), and comes in just before the Passover (John 2:12 sq.), must have been within a year after John's public appearance. This being assumed, a further approximation would depend upon the determination of the number of Passovers which Jesus celebrated during his ministry; but this itself is quite a difficult question (see under No. 5, below). It is now generally conceded that he could not well have passed less than three Paschal festivals, and probably not more than four (i.e. one at the beginning of each of Christ's three years, and a fourth at the close of the last); thus we ascertain as the terminus a quo of these festivals the year A.D. 28, and as the probable terminus ad quem the year A.D. 32; or, on the supposition (as above) that the joint reign of Tiberius is meant, we have as the limits of the Passovers of Jesus A.D. 25-29. This result would be rendered more definite and certain if we could ascertain whether in the last of these series of years (A.D. 29 or 32) the Jewish Passover fell on a Friday (Thursday evening and the ensuing day), as this was the week day on which the death of Christ is generally held to have taken place. There have been various calculations by means of lunar tables (Linbrunn, in the Abhandlung der bayerschen Akademie der Wiss. vol. 6; Wurm, in Bengel's Archiv. 2, 1, 292 sq.; Anger, De temporumn in Act. Apost. ratione ciss. 1, Lips. 1830, p. 30 sq.; Browne, Ordo Soeclorum. Lond. 1844, p. 504), to determine during which of the years of this period the Paschal day must have occurred on Friday (see Strong's Harm. and Exposit. Append. 1, p. 8 sq.); but the inexactness of the Jewish calendar makes every such computation uncertain (Wurm, ut sup. p. 294 sq.). Yet it is worthy of notice that the two most recent investigations of Wurm and Anger both make the year A.D. 31, or 784 of Rome, to be such a calendar year as we require. Wieseler, Chronol. Synops. p. 479), on the other hand, protests against the foregoing computations, and insists that in A.D. 30 alone the Paschal day fell on Friday. According to other calculations, A.D. 29 and 33 are the only years of this period in which the Paschal eve fell on Thursday (see Browne, Ordo Soeclorum, p. 55), while so great discrepancy prevails between other computations (see Townsend's Chronological N.T. p. *159) that little or no reliance can be placed upon this argument (see Strong's Harm. and Exposit. Append. 1, p. 8 sq.). (See PASSOVER).

The opinion of some of the ancient writers (Irelenus, 2, 22, 5), that Jesus died at 40 or 50 years of age (compare John 8:57), is altogether improbable (see Pisanski, De errore Irenoei in determinanda oetate Christi, Regiom. 1777). The most of the Church fathers (Tertull. Adv. Judges 1:8; Lactantius, Institut. 4, 10; Augustine, Civ. dei, 18, 54; Clem. Alex. Stromn. 1, p. 147, etc.) assign but a single year as the duration of Christ's ministry, and place his death in the consulship of the two Gemini (VIII Cal. April. Coss. C. Rubellio Gemino et C. Rufio Gemino), i.e. 782 of Rome, A.D. 29, the 15th year of Tiberius's reign, which Ideler (Chronology, 2, 418 sq.) has lately (so also Browne, Ordo Soeclorum, p. 80 sq.) attempted to reconcile with Luke 3:1 (but see Seyffarth, Chronol. Sacra, p. 115 sq.; Eusebius, in his Chronicles Armen. 2, p. 264, places the death of Jesus in the 19th year of Tiberius, which Jerome, in his Latin translation, calls the 18th; on the above reckoning of the fathers, see Petavius, Animadvers. p. 146 sq.; Thilo, Cod. Apocr. 1, 497 sq.). On the observation of the sun at the crucifixion (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44), (See ECLIPSE), (On the chronological elements of the life of Jesus, see generally Hottinger, Pentas dissertat. bibl.-chronol. p. 218 sq.; Voss, De annis Christi dissertat. Amst. 1643; Lupi, De notis chronolog. anni mortis et nativ. J.C. dissertat. Rom. 1744; Horix, Observat. hist. chronol. de annis Chr. Mogunt. 1789; compare Volbeding, p. 20; Hase, p. 52.) (See CHRONOLOGY).

5. The two family registers of Jesus (Matthew 1 and Luke 3), of which the first, is descending and the latter ascending, vary considerably from each other; inasmuch as not only entirely different names of ancestors are given from Joseph upwards to Zerubbabel and Salathiel (Matthew 1:12 sq.; Luke 3:27), but also Matthew carries back Joseph's lineage to David's son Solomon (Luke 3:6 sq.), while Luke refers it to another son Nathan (Luke 3:31). Moreover, Matthew only goes back as far as Abraham (as he wrote for Jewish readers), but Luke (in agreement with the general scope of his gospel) as far as Adam (God). This disagreement early engaged the attention of the Church fathers (see Eusebius, Hist. Ev. 1, 7), and later interpreters have adopted various hypotheses for the reconcilement of the two evangelists (see especially Surenhus. Βίβλος καταλλαγῆς, p. 320 sq.: Rus, Harmon. evang. 1, 65 sq.; Thiess, Krit. Commentar, 2, 271 sq.; Kuinol, Proleg. in Matt. § 4). There are properly only two general representations possible. For the history of Christ's parents, (See JOSEPH); (See MARY).

(a) Matthew traces the lineage through Joseph, Luke gives the maternal descent (comp. also Neander, p. 21); so that the person called Eli in Luke 3:23, appears to have been the father of Mary (see especially Helvicus, in Crenii Exercitat. philol. hist. 3, p. 332 sq.; Spanheim, Dubia evang. 1, 13 sq.; Bengel, Heumann, Paulus, Kuinol, in their Commentaries; Wieseler, in the Studien u. Krit. 1845, p. 361 sq.; on the contrary, Bleek, Beitrage z. Evangelienkrit. p. 101 sq.). But, in the first place, in that case Luke would hardly have written so expressly "the son of Eli" (τοῦ ᾿Ηλί ), since we must understand all the following genitives to refer to the actual fathers and not to the fathers-in-law (the appeal to Ruth 1:11 sq., for the purpose of showing that a daughter-in-law could be called daughter among the Hebrews, is unavailing for the distinction in question); although, in the second place, we need not understand the Salathiel and Zerubbabel named in one genealogy to have been both different persons from those mentioned in the other (Paulus, Comment. 1, 243 sq.; Robinson, Gr. Harmony, p. 186), which is a very questionable expedient (see especially Hug, Einleitung, 2:266; Methodist Quarterly Review, Oct. 1852, p. 602 sq.). Aside from the fact that Luke does not even mention the mother of Jesus (but only Matthew 1:16), and from the further fact that the Jews were not at all accustomed to record the genealogies of women (Baba Bathra, f. 110, "The father's family, not the mother's, is accounted the true lineage;" compare Wetstein, 1, 231), we might make an exception in the case of the Messiah, who was to be descended from a virgin (compare also Paulus, Leben J. 1, 90). A still different explanation (Voss, ut sup.; comp. also Schleyer, in the Theol. Quartalschr. 1836, p. 403 sq., 539 sq.), namely, that Eli; although the father of Mary, is here introduced as being the grandfather of Joseph (according to the supposition that Mary was an heiress, Numbers 27:8), proceeds upon an entirely untenable interpretation (see Paulus, Comment. 1, 243, 261). Notwithstanding the foregoing objection to the view under consideration, it meets, perhaps better than any other, the difficulties of the subject. (See GENEALOGY).

(b) Some assume that the proper father of Joseph was Eli: he, as a brother, or (as the difference of the names up to Salathiel necessitates) as the nearest relative (half-brother?), had married Mary, the wife of the deceased childless Jacob, and according to the Levirate law (q.v.) Joseph would appear as the son of Jacob, and would, in fact, have two fathers (so Ambrosius); or conversely, we may suppose that Jacob was the proper father of Joseph, and Eli his childless deceased uncle (comp. Julius Afric. in Eusebius, Hist. Ev. 1, 7; Calixtus, Clericus). This hypothesis, which still conflicts with the Levirate rule that only the deceased is called father of the posthumous son (Deuteronomy 25:6), Hug (Einl. 2, 268 sq.), has been so modified as to presume a Levirate marriage as far back as Salathiel, by which the mention of Salathiel and Zerubbabel in both lists would be explained; and Hug also introduces such a marriage between the parents of Joseph, and still another among more distant relatives. This is ingenious, but too complicated (see generally Paulus, ut sup. p. 260). If a direct descent of Jesus could have been laid down from David, there remains no reason why, when the natural extraction of the Messiah straight from David was so important, the very evangelist who wrote immediately for Jewish readers should have traced the indirect lineage. But if so many as three Levirate marriages had occurred together (as Hug thinks), we should suppose that Matthew, on account of the infrequency of such a case, would have given his readers some hint, or at least not have written (Deuteronomy 25:16) "begat" (ἐγέννησε ) in a manner quite calculated to mislead. Moreover, this hypothesis of Hug rests upon an interpretation of 1 Chronicles 3:18 sq., which that scholar himself could only have chosen in a genealogical difficulty. (See LEVIRATE LAW)

(c) If both the foregoing explanations be rejected, there remains no other course than to renounce the attempt to reconcile the two family lines of Jesus, and frankly acknowledge a discrepancy between the evangelists, as some have done (Stroth, in Eichhorn's Repert. 9, 131 sq.; Ammon, Bibl. Theol. 2, 266; Thiess, Krit. Comment. 2, 271 sq.; Fritzsche, ad Matthew p. 35; Strauss, 1, 105 sq.; De Wette, B. Crusius, Alford, on Luke 3). In the decayed family of Joseph it might not have been possible, especially after so much misfortune as befell the country and people, to recover any written elements for the construction of a family register back to David. Were the account of Julius Africanus (in Eusebius, 1, 7; compare Schottgen, Hor. Hebr. p. 885), that king Herod had caused the family records of the Jews to be burned, correct, the want of such information would be still more evident (but see Wetstein, 1, p. 232; Wieseler, in the Stud. u. Kritik. 1845, p. 369). In that case, after the need of such registers had arisen, persons would naturally have set themselves to compiling them from traditional recollections, and the variations of these may readily have resulted in a double lineage. But even on this view it has been insisted that both lines present the descent of Joseph and not of Mary, since it was unusual to exhibit the maternal lineage, and the Jews would not have regarded such an extraction from David as the genuine one. There are, at all events, but two positions possible: either the supernatural generation of Jesus by the Holy Spirit was admitted, or Jesus was considered a son of Joseph (Luke 3:33). In the latter case a family record of Joseph entirely sufficed for the application of the O.T. oracles to Jesus; in the former case it has been conceived that such a register would have been deemed superfluous, and every natural lineage of Jesus from David (Romans 1:3) would have thrown his divine origin into the background. This has been alleged as the reason why John gives no genealogy at all, and generally says nothing of the extraction of Jesus from the family of David (see Von Ammon, Leb. Jes. 1, 179 sq.). The force of these arguments, however, is greatly lessened by the consideration that the early Christians, in meeting the Jews, would be very anxious, if possible, to prove Christ's positive descent from David through both his reputed and his real parent; the more so, as the former was avowed to be only nominally such, leaving the whole actual lineage to be made out on the mother's side. (See generally Baumgarten, De genealogia Chr. Hal. 1749; Durr, Genealogia Jesu, Gott. 1778; Busching's Harmon. d. Evang. p. 187 sq., 264 sq.) (See GENEALOGY OF CHRIST).

6. The wonderful birth of Jesus through the intervention of the Holy Spirit, which only the synoptical gospels relate (Luke 1:26 sq.; Matthew 1:18 sq.; the apocryphal gospels, in order to remove all idea of the conception of Mary by Joseph, make him to have been absent a long time from home at work, Histor. Josephi, c. 5; Hist. de Nativ. Marics, c. 10), has been imagined by many recent interpreters (Ammon, Biblic. Theol. 2, 251 sq., and Comm. in narrationum de primordus J.C. fontes, incrementa et nexum c. rel. Chr. Gott. 1798; also in his Nov. Opusc. p. 25 sq.; Bauer, Theol. N.T. 1, 310 sq.; Briefe ü ber Rationalismus, p. 229 sq.; Kaiser, Bibl. Theolog. 1, 231 sq.; Greiling, p. 24 sq.) to have been a myth suggested by the O. Test. prophecies (Isaiah 7:14), and they have held Joseph to be the proper father of Jesus (as it is well known that many in the earliest Church, and individuals later, from time to time, have done, Unschuld. Nachr. 1711, p. 622 sq.; Walther, Vers. eines schriftmass. Beweisse dass Joseph der wahre Vater Christi sei, Berl. 1791; on the contrary, Oertel, Antijosephismus oder Kritik des Schriftm. Bew., etc., Germ. 1793; Hasse, Josephum verum patrem e Scriptura non fuisse, Reg. 1792; Ludewig, Histor. Untersuch. ü ber die versch. Meinungen v. d. Abkunft Jes. Wolfenbuttel, 1831; comp. also Korb, Anticarus oder histor.-krit. Beleuchtung der Schrift; "Die naturl. Geburt Jesu u. s. w." Leipzig, 1831) on the following noways decisive grounds:

(a) "John, who stands in so near a relation to Jesus, and must have known the family affairs, relates nothing at all of this wonderful birth, although it was very apposite to his design." But this evangelist shows the high dignity of Jesus only from his discourses, the others from public evidences and a few astonishing miracles; moreover, his prologue (1, 1-18) declares dogmatically pretty much the same thing as the synoptical gospels do historically in this respect. (Compare also the deportment of Mary, John 2:3 sq.; see Neander, p. 16. sq.) (b) "Neither Jesus nor an apostle ever appeals in any discourse to this circumstance. Paul always says simply that Jesus was born of the seed of David' (Romans 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:8); once (Galatians 4:4), more definitely, of a woman' (ἐκ γυναικός , not παρθένου )." It must be admitted, however, that an appeal to a fact which only one individual could positively know by experience would be very ineffectual; and an apostle would be very likely to subject himself to the charge of irrelevancy if he resorted to such an appeal (comp. Niemeyer, Pr. ad illustrand. plurimor. N.T. scriptorum silentium de primordiis vitoe J.C. Halle, 1790). But this would be laying as improper an emphasis upon the word γυνή (Galatians 4:4) as that of the older theologians upon עִלְמָה (Isaiah 7:14).

(c) "Mary calls Joseph, without qualification, the father of Jesus (Luke 2:48), and also among the Jews Jesus was generally called Joseph's son (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Luke 3:23; Luke 4:22; John 1:46; John 6:42)." This last argument is wholly destitute of force; but Mary might naturally, in common parlance, call Joseph Jesus' father, just as, in modem phrase, a foster-father is generally styled father when definiteness of expression is not requisite.

(d) "The brothers of Jesus did not believe in him as the Messiah (John 7:5), which would be inexplicable if the Deity had already indicated him as the Messiah from his very birth." Yet these brothers had not themselves personally known the fact; and it is, moreover, not uncommon that one son in a family who is a general favorite excites the ill will of the others to such a degree that they even deny his evident superiority, or that brothers fail to appreciate and esteem a mentally distinguished brother.

(e) "History shows in a multitude of examples that the birth of illustrious men has been embellished with fables (Wetstein, N.T. 1, p. 236); especially is the notion of a birth without connection with a man (παρθενογενής ) wide spread in the ancient world (Georgi, Alphabet. Tibet. Rom. 1762, p. 55 sq., 369 sq.), and among the Indians and Chinese it is even applied to the founders of religion (Paul. a Bartholom. System. Brahman. p. 158; Du Halde, Beschr. d. Chines. Reichs, 3, 26)." In case it is meant by this that a wonderful generation of a holy man, effected immediately by the Spirit of God, was embraced in the circle of Oriental belief (Rosenmü ller, in Gabler's Journ. ausserl. theol. Liter. 2, 253 sq.), this argument might make the purely historical character of the doctrine in question dubious, were it capable of proof that such an idea also harmonizes with the principles of the Israelitish monotheism, or could it be made probable (Weisse, Leben Jesu, 1, 176 sq.) that this account of the birth of Jesus is a heathen production (see, on the contrary, Neander, p. 12 sq.). On the other hand, however, this statement stands so isolated in the Christian tradition, and so surpasses the range of the profane conceptions, that we can hardly reject the idea that it must have operated to enhance the estimate of Christ's dignity. It has been suggested as possible (Paulus, Leben Jesu, 1, 97 sq.) that the hope had already formed itself in the soul of Mary that she would become the mother of the Messiah (which, however, is contradicted by her evident surprise and difficulty at the announcement, Luke 1:29; Luke 1:34), and that this had drawn nourishment from a vision in a dream, as the angelic annunciation (Luke 1:26 sq.) has been (but with the greatest violence) interpreted (see, however, Van Oosterzee, De Jesu e Virgine nato, Utr. 1840). (See CONCEPTION).

Bethlehem, too (Wagner, De loco nat. J. Chr. Colon. Brandenb. 1673), as the place of Christ's birth, has been deemed to belong to the mythical dress of the narrative (comp. Micah 5:1; see Thess, Krit. Comment. 2, 414), and it has therefore been inferred that Jesus was not only begotten in Nazareth, but also born there (Kaiser, Bibl. Theol. 1, 230) which, nevertheless, does not follow from John 1:46. That Jesus was born in Bethlehem is stated in two of the evangelical accounts (Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4), as may also be elsewhere gathered from the events which follow his birth. But a more direct discrepancy between Matthew and Luke (Hase, p. 44), respecting Joseph's belonging to Bethlehem (Matthew 2:22-23; Luke 1:26; Luke 2:4), cannot be substantiated (compare generally Gelpe, Jugendgesch. d. Herrn, Berne, 1841.) (See BETHLEHEM).

7. Among the relatives of Jesus, the following are named in the N. Test.:

(a) Mary, Jesus' mother's sister (John 19:25). According to the usual apprehension of this passage, (See SALOME), she was married to one Clopas or Alphaeus (q.v.), and had as sons James (q.v.) the younger (Acts 1:13) and Joses (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40). (See MARY).

(b) Elizabeth, who is called the relative (συγγενής, "cousin") of Mary (Luke 1:36). Respecting the degree of relationship, nothing can be determined: it has been questioned (Paulus, Comment. 1, 78) whether she was of the tribe of Levi, but this appears certain from Luke 1:5. In a fragment of Hippo

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Jesus Christ'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below: