The primary sources for Jesus' life and teaching are the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (see articles on the individual books, e.g., Matthew, Gospel according to), though these are not biographies but theologically framed accounts of the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, i.e., of the basic subject matter of Christian preaching and teaching. Other books of the New Testament add few further details. Among non-Christian writers of antiquity, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger refer to Jesus, as does Josephus (Joseph ben Matthias) in at least one passage. The 2d-century Gospel of Thomas sheds light on the development of the tradition of Jesus' sayings.
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke contain narratives of Jesus' birth and infancy, which disagree in many points but concur in asserting that he was the miraculously conceived son of Mary, the wife of Joseph, and that he was born at Bethlehem in Judaea. All four Gospels agree in dating his call to public ministry from the time of his baptism at the hands of John "the baptizer," after which he took up the life of an itinerant preacher, teacher, and healer, accompanied by a small band of disciples (see apostle). The central theme of Jesus' teaching, often conveyed in the form of a parable, was the near advent of God's Reign or Kingdom, attested not merely by his words but by the "wonders" or "signs" that he performed. The chronology of this period in Jesus' life is entirely uncertain; what seems clear is that his activities evoked skepticism and hostility in high quarters, Roman as well as Jewish. After perhaps three years in Galilee, he went to Jerusalem to observe Passover. There he was received enthusiastically by the populace, but was eventually arrested and, with the cooperation of the Jewish authorities, executed under Roman law as a dangerous messianic pretender. The Gospels give relatively detailed and lengthy accounts of his last days, suggesting that the story of Jesus' Passion was a central element in early Christian oral tradition. They close with accounts of his empty tomb, discovered on the "third day," and of his later appearances to Mary and Mary Magdalene and to the circle of his disciples as risen from the dead.
The Christian calendar revolves around the life of Jesus; important feasts include (in the Western Church) the Annunciation (Mar. 25); Christmas (Dec. 25), with its preparatory season of Advent; the Circumcision (Jan. 1); the Epiphany (Jan. 6); Candlemas (Feb. 2); and the Transfiguration (Aug. 6). The Easter cycle of movable feasts and fasts begins with Lent, which ends in Holy Week; after Easter comes the Ascension. Sunday, the Christian sabbath, is the weekly memorial of Jesus' resurrection.
Jesus is highly regarded in Islamic tradition as born of the Virgin Mary and as a prophet restating divine religion. His miracles and institution of the Eucharist are attested in the Qur'an. Muslims do not believe that Jesus died on the cross. Unable to accept that crucifixion could serve the purposes of God, Islamic tradition holds that someone else died in his place, while Jesus was taken by God to return at the end of time to judge all people.
Starting with the advent of historical criticism in the late 18th cent. (see higher criticism), scholars increasingly recognized that the Gospels were written from the point of view of the original Christian believers, who were more likely than moderns to accept supernatural occurrences and explanations. Thus in the 19th cent. many attempts were made to reconstruct by historical and critical methods a picture of Jesus that corresponded more closely to modern ideas of reality. The most famous of these lives of Jesus is that of Ernest Renan (1863). Albert Schweitzer's Quest of the Historical Jesus (1906, tr. 1910) is in large part a survey of this literature and its shortcomings. Schweitzer's work brought an end to a series of historical reconstructions of the life of Jesus and demonstrated that the eschatological focus of the Gospels was not something to be discarded in the attempt to encounter the historical Jesus.
Many scholars in the first half of the 20th cent. argued that the Gospels were narrative proclamations imbued with faith and not in any sense objective presentations of the life and teaching of Jesus. Two leading figures of this attitude were Rudolf Bultmann and his student Ernst Käsemann; in the early 1950s they sought to link the historical Jesus and the Jesus confessed by the church.
In the 1970s research into the historical Jesus took a new turn. Geza Vermes published Jesus the Jew (1973), in which he attempted to place Jesus squarely in the Jewish milieu of the 1st cent. The Jewishness of Jesus has increasingly been the focus of Jewish and Christian scholarship. This approach takes a much more optimistic view of the historicity of the Gospel traditions. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has allowed comparison of the Gospels with the brand of Judaism represented in the scrolls. Still other contemporary scholars have sought to portray Jesus as a charismatic teacher of subversive wisdom.
See M. Grant, Jesus: An Historian's View of the Gospels (1977); J. P. Mackey, Jesus, the Man and the Myth (1979); J. D. G. Dunn, The Evidence for Jesus (1985); E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (1985); J. D. Crossan, The Historical Jesus (1991); M. Casey, From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God (1991); D. Flusser, Jesus (2d ed. 1997); T. Cahill, Desire of the Everlasting Hills (1999); J. P. Meier, A Marginal Jew (3 vol., 1991-2001). For a survey of Jesus in art and literature, see J. Pelikan, Jesus through the Centuries (1985).
Among the great organizers and theologians of the order are St. Francis Borgia, Claudio Aquaviva, Saint Robert Bellarmine, Luis Molina, and Francisco Suárez. The order has a tradition of learning and science; e.g., the Bollandists are Jesuits, and Jesuits have made a specialty of the study of earthquakes. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is the most famous Jesuit scientist of this century. The society is also noted for its foreign missionary work.
The largest single religious order, it is characterized by a highly disciplined organization, especially devoted to the pope and ruled by its general, who lives in Rome. Jesuits have no choral office; like the secular clergy they are under obligation to individually recite the divine office each day. They have no distinctive habit. In principle they may accept no ecclesiastical office or honor.
Jesuit training is famous and may last for more than 15 years. The novice spends two years in spiritual training, after which he takes the simple vows of the regulars—chastity, poverty, and obedience. Then as a scholastic he spends 13 years and sometimes longer in study and teaching, completed by an additional year of spiritual training. Toward the end of this period he is ordained and becomes a coadjutor. He may then take a fourth vow of special obedience to the pope and become professed.
The society had its beginnings in the small band of six who together with St. Ignatius took vows of poverty and chastity while students at Paris. Their first plan was to work for the conversion of Muslims. Unable to go to the Holy Land because of the Turkish wars, they went to Rome and received ordination. Their constitution was approved by Pope Paul III (1540), and St. Ignatius was made (1541) general. The order then immediately began to expand.
In Europe the Jesuits were a major force in the Counter Reformation. They sought to reclaim Protestant Europe for the church and to raise the spiritual tone of the Catholic countries. They enjoyed considerable success in W and S Germany, France, Hungary, and Poland. In nearly every important city the Jesuits established schools and colleges, and for 150 years they were leaders in European education. One of their boldest efforts was the English mission of 1580, distinguished by Saint Edmund Campion. Another celebrated English Jesuit was Robert Southwell.Missions in Asia and the Americas
One of the most brilliant of all foreign missionaries was St. Francis Xavier (see also missions); his work in the East was continued by a host of Jesuits. The mission in Japan was wiped out by persecution in the early 17th cent., but when Japan was reopened to the West in the 19th cent. a number of Christians were found there, descendants of these martyrs. The most distinguished early figures of the Chinese mission were Fathers Matteo Ricci, Adam Schall, and Ferdinand Verbiest in the 17th cent.; a characteristic of their mission was their popularity at court, where they were revered as men of wisdom and science. There were persecutions and martyrdoms, but the original Jesuit foundation became the nucleus of the Roman Catholic Church in that country. The Indian mission began under the aegis of the Portuguese in Goa, whence it spread over the country; one of the most remarkable Jesuits in this mission was Robert de' Nobili, who, after arduous asceticism and study, won recognition as an equal of the Brahmans.
The Jesuits worked all over Latin America; among their number was St. Peter Claver. The most remarkable missions were in Paraguay. In French North America the Jesuits came frequently into rivalry with the government and the other clergy; their missions among the Huron were especially successful, and they made headway among the Iroquois. The "Black-Robes," as the Native Americans called them, traveled as far afield as Oregon. Some of these Jesuits died as martyrs for their faith (c.1640); six of them have been canonized together, with two of their lay helpers, as the Jesuit Martyrs of North America (feast: Sept. 26). The Jesuit Relations is a firsthand account of Jesuit work in New France. The suppression of the order in Canada in 1791 and its later readmission as a teaching order led to the Jesuit Estates Act.Suppression and Restoration
The Jesuits eventually became the object of criticism from vested ecclesiastical interests in every Catholic state. The Gallican party in France, being antipapal, was naturally anti-Jesuit. The polemics of Blaise Pascal and the Jansenists against Jesuit casuistry and alleged laxity in confessional practice were damaging. Through their loyalty to papal policies, the Jesuits were drawn into the struggle between the papacy and the Bourbon monarchies.
Before the middle of the 18th cent. a combination of publicists (including Voltaire) and the absolute monarchs of Catholic Europe undertook to destroy them. In 1759 the Jesuits were expelled from Portugal and its colonies, France suppressed them in 1764, and in 1767 the Spanish dominions were closed to them. Pope Clement XIII denounced these acts, but, in 1773, Clement XIV, under the coercion of the Bourbon monarchs and of some of his own cardinals, dissolved the order, and the Society of Jesus ceased to exist in the Catholic world.
Frederick the Great and Catherine the Great refused to publish the brief suppressing them, and the Jesuits continued to exist in Prussia and Russia, especially as educators. As the 18th cent. drew to a close Catholic Europe, especially Italy, began to ask for restoration of the Jesuits, and, in 1814, Pius VII reestablished them as a world order.
See T. A. Hughes, History of the Society of Jesus in North America (3 vol., 1907-17, repr. 1970); J. Brodrick, Origin of the Jesuits (1940, repr. 1971); W. V. Baugert, A History of the Society of Jesus (1972); J. C. Aveling, The Jesuits (1982); A. Scaglione, The Liberal Arts and the Jesuit College System (1986).
Member of the Roman Catholic order of religious men called the Society of Jesus. First organized by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1534 at the University of Paris, the order was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540. It discontinued many practices of medieval religious life, such as obligatory penances and fasts and a common uniform, and instead focused on military-style mobility and adaptability. Its organization was characterized by centralized authority, probation lasting many years before final vows, and special obedience to the pope. The Jesuits served as a preaching, teaching, and missionary society, actively promoting the Counter-Reformation, and by the time of Ignatius's death in 1556 their efforts were already worldwide. The success of their enterprise and their championship of the pope earned them much hostility from both religious and political foes. Under pressure from France, Spain, and Portugal, Pope Clement XIV abolished the order in 1773, but it was restored by Pius VII in 1814. The Jesuits have since become the largest male religious order.
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Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of a sect closely related to it (e.g., the Community of Christ). The Mormon religion was founded by Joseph Smith, who claimed to have received an angelic vision telling him of the location of golden plates containing God's revelation; this he published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon. Smith and his followers accepted the Bible as well as the Mormon sacred scriptures but diverged significantly from orthodox Christianity, especially in their assertion that God exists in three distinct entities as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Mormons also believe that faithful members of the church will inherit eternal life as gods. Other unique doctrines include the belief in preexisting souls waiting to be born and in salvation of the dead through retroactive baptism. The church became notorious for its practice of polygamy, though it was officially sanctioned only between 1852 and 1890. Smith and his followers migrated from Palmyra, N.Y., to Ohio, Missouri, and finally Illinois, where Smith was killed by a mob in 1844. In 1846–47, under Brigham Young, the Mormons made a 1,100-mi (1,800-km) trek to Utah, where they founded Salt Lake City. In the early 21st century, the church had a worldwide membership of nearly 10 million, swelled yearly by the missionary work that church members, both men and women, are encouraged to perform.
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In Christianity, the son of God and the second person of the Holy Trinity. Christian doctrine holds that by his crucifixion and resurrection he paid for the sins of all mankind. His life and ministry are recounted in the four Gospels of the New Testament. He was born a Jew in Bethlehem before the death of Herod the Great in 4 BC, and he died while Pontius Pilate was Roman governor of Judaea (AD 28–30). His mother, Mary, was married to Joseph, a carpenter of Nazareth (see St. Joseph). Of his childhood after the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, nothing is known, except for one visit to Jerusalem with his parents. He began his ministry about age 30, becoming a preacher, teacher, and healer. He gathered disciples in the region of Galilee, including the 12 Apostles, and preached the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God. His moral teachings, outlined in the Sermon on the Mount, and his reported miracles won him a growing number of followers, who believed that he was the promised messiah. On Passover he entered Jerusalem on a donkey, where he shared the Last Supper with his disciples and was betrayed to the Roman authorities by Judas Iscariot. Arrested and tried, he was condemned to death as a political agitator and was crucified and buried. Three days later visitors to his tomb found it empty. According to the Gospels, he appeared several times to his disciples before ascending into heaven.
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None of the four Gospels gives an inclusive or definitive account of the Resurrection of Jesus or of his appearances. The gospels are consistent on the incident, with variations, of the visit of women to Christ's tomb. Although Christ's body had been laid out in the tomb after crucifixion and death, the tomb is found to be empty, the body gone, and a young man or angel(s) within the tomb tells the women that Christ has risen. These accounts describe the first biblical references of the Resurrection of Jesus.
Agreements in all four Gospels include: emphasis upon the first day of the week, that those who found the empty tomb were all women, the prominence of Mary Magdalene, and attention to the stone that had closed the tomb. The Gospels appear to not agree on: the precise time the women visited the tomb, the number and identity of the women, the purpose of their visit, the appearance of the messenger(s) – angelic or human, their message to the women, and the response of the women to the visitor in the tomb.
The four canonical gospels all agree that Mary visited Jesus' tomb, though which Mary this Mary is, and whether she was on her own, varies between the texts. According to most ancient versions of John (and most modern translations), Mary was Mary Magdalene, though the Codex Sinaiticus' version of John only names her Mary. In Mark, Mary is Mary Magdalene 'and' Mary, the mother of James, and these two are joined by Salome The gospel according to Luke, explicitly mentions that the women from Galilee visited the tomb, though it says that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, and the other women from Galilee, later told the disciples about the visit to the tomb. In Matthew, Mary is Mary Magdalene 'and' the other Mary, presumably Mary the mother of James.
According to John, this visit was on the first day of the week (Sunday, the day after Shabbat, the end of the Jewish week), while it was still dark. According to Mark and Luke it was light. Alfred Loisy believed that the original form of John here was similar to that recounted in the Codex Sinaiticus, and was intended to point to the Virgin Mary as the sole visitor, while later copyists substituted Mary Magdalene so that the gospel according to John matched accounts given in the other gospels more closely. A more religiously conservative attempt at resolving the discrepancy describes Mary making two different trips to the tomb, the first being in the dark on her own, and the second at dawn with a group of women, including the other Mary.
Mark and Luke explain that the women were intending, by their visit, to continue the Jewish burial rituals, though Matthew merely says that they came just to look at the tomb, as if there on the off-chance of something being amiss. John on the other hand makes no mention of such ritual, and the apocryphal, but heterodox, Gospel of Peter claims that she came to mourn, a view favoured by many modern-day heterodox Christians. A rabbi of the time, Bar Kappera, was of the opinion (as recorded in the Midrash Rabbah) that in those days the third day was often the prime point for mourning.
Mary (and her companions, if they existed) are then described by the gospels as discovering the tomb to be empty, though the specifics vary:
Resolving the differences between the accounts is tied to the resolution of the synoptic problem. The prevailing theory of Markan priority, is that the original figure in the tomb was a mysterious man in white. In the Gospel according to Matthew, the man in white becomes an angel, and in Luke, writing for a non-Jewish audience, to two become angel-like men. In John this is abridged altogether. Scholars who believe that the Mark gospel is a gnostic document, often see the person in the tomb as the mysterious initiate mentioned in the Secret Gospel of Mark, and hence as the Beloved Disciple, identified, by implication, as Lazarus. Such scholars interpret this figure, and his appearances throughout the narrative, not as an historical individual, but as a metaphor for the reader's initiation into gnosticism where he is told to first to give up his worldly life, then dying and being brought to new life, then learning the mysteries of the religion, and finally clothed in white and speaking from a position of wisdom. Most Christians, and almost all scholars pre-dating the discovery of the Secret Gospel of Mark, tend to view that the figure was intended to be an angel.
Some have linked the two angels guarding the tomb with the pair that were traditionally said to guard the Ark of the Covenant, but Wetstein has advanced a thesis linking the pair of angels to the pair of criminals who were crucified alongside Jesus. White or radiant clothing is stereotypically the description of angels in the New Testament, and so very little further detail about their nature could be ascertained. Neither is it possible to identify whether the angels were in the form of men, allowing harmonization with Mark, or whether they took the form of more unusual beings like Cherubim or Seraphim.
The narrative in John between Mary discovering that the tomb is open, and her later witnessing angels inside it, is considered by many textual scholars to be misplaced, especially as to many it seems illogical for Mary to not have actually looked into the tomb the first time, and Mary's presence at the tomb when she witnesses the angels seems somewhat abrupt when the intervening narrative last mentions that she is some way away. Brown has argued that the text for John 20 was combined from two separate sources, that John inexpertly interlaced together.
In John, the angels are described as sitting where Jesus' body had been, thought to be a reference to squatting or sitting cross legged, suggesting that the tomb possessed a raised shelf or ledge, on which the body had been placed. However, early pilgrims to Jesus' supposed tomb report that his body was placed in a trough in the tomb , and so Bruce argues that the angels, as supernatural beings, were sitting on thin air. John also describes the angels as sitting so that one was where Jesus' head had been, and one where his feet had been, and some scholars think that this clear distinction between head and foot is an indication that the tomb had a built-in headrest, though others believe the writer is just referring to the direction in which Jesus had been placed.
John portrays Mary as stooping to view the tomb. According to modern archaeology, tombs of the era were accessed via doors at ground level which were generally less than a metre tall, fitting the description given to Mary's viewing. These tombs either had a lone chamber for a single individual, or a passage lined with entrances to a number of tombs. Mary is able to see into Jesus' tomb from the outside suggesting the former type. This is considered a traditional view.
According to both Luke and John, the disciples see grave clothes in the tomb. Luke states that strips of linen were on the ground. John states that they were lying there. These two descriptions may not imply the same thing. Brown has argued that John is using a phrase that actually describes the linen as lying on a shelf within the tomb. According to Luke, Jesus had been wrapped in a shroud, and this became the traditional view. What became of the grave clothes after the disciples have seen them is not described in the Bible, though some works of the New Testament apocrypha do make mention of it. A Roman Catholic tradition describes the shroud as being taken to Turin, becoming the Turin Shroud, though many scientists and academics view the Turin Shroud as a mediaeval forgery.
John additionally describes the presence of a soudarium, for the head, that was set apart. A soudarium is literally a sweat rag; more specifically it was a piece of cloth used to wipe away sweat, but in the context of dead bodies, most scholars believe it was used to keep the jaw closed. Tradition holds that the Sudarium was a turban, and that it later found its way to Oviedo in Spain, becoming the Sudarium of Oviedo. Although it may initially seem insignificant, the fact that the item for the head was set apart fundamentally affects Christology. If the head cloth remained in the same location as the remainder of the clothes, and if these remained where the body had been, it implies that Jesus' body was lifted through the clothing, or that Jesus' body de-materialised and re-materialised elsewhere, hence supporting more docetic interpretations. Conversely, it being set apart implies the opposite - that someone took the clothes off in an ordinary manner. Many scholars see this as a direct attack by the author of John on docetism, and the gnosticism that used the synoptic accounts to advocate it.
In more recent times, The possibility that Jesus passed through cloth and dematerialized has frequently been regarded as evidence of divine action by God. This interpretation, however, was not one that existed in the early church, which viewed such interpretations as docetism. Those advocating a more supernatural account have argued that the fact that the soudarium and the other grave clothes were set apart merely reflects the distance of the neck as it is situated between the head and the body, or that it simply means that the cloth was curled in a ball rather than lying flat, i.e. that it was lying in a different manner to the others. There are Scholars who see this as a very clear attempt by John to rule out docetism.
The level of detail that the author of the Gospel According to John adds to this section is to Brooke Foss Westcott evidence that the author was an eyewitness, but C.K. Barrett disagrees, pointing out that such details are what a modern author adds to a fictional account to give it a feeling of verisimilitude, but that there is no reason to believe an ancient writer would not have these same skills. Dodd argues that, having already reached the narrative climax with the crucifixion scene, these later sections deliberately slow down the narrative to act as dénouement. Schnackenberg interprets the level of detail as apologetic in origin, though he does regard the details concerning the placement of the grave clothes to be an attempt to disprove the allegation that Jesus' tomb had simply been robbed, rather than as an attempt to assert a Christology.
A side issue is whether abandoning the grave clothes meant that the risen Jesus was naked, a view held for example by Kastner.
In the Gospel accounts (John 19:39-42) we see the intervention of influential followers of Jesus such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who take Jesus's body down from the cross and lay him in a tomb. In the Gospel of John the account is marked by a sense of urgency to do this before the coming festival of the Sabbath, during which rest would be observed and no work could occur. It was necessary to use a tomb already prepared as was the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
According to the Gospel of Matthew, the Romans, knowing of Jesus' claim of resurrection placed a Roman guard to guard the tomb of Jesus. (Matthew 27:62-66). According to all four gospels, the empty tomb led to the revelation of Jesus' resurrection, implicitly in the canonical Gospel of Mark (without the later endings), and explicitly in the other three canonical gospel narratives.