The Jesus FAQs

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What about Jesus today


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 Present day

These questions look at what it means to live as a Christian in the world of today.

What do the different religions believe about Jesus?

Islam – Jesus was a prophet, he performed miracles and was born of a virgin. He is the Messiah, the Word of God, and he will come again at the end of the world, to wreak judgement and to rule in peace. He is not the Son of God (because God cannot have a son), and according to some Muslim teaching he was not crucified, because God would not let that happen to his prophet.

Hinduism – Hindus recognise Jesus as a holy man, as they do the leaders of other religions. He may even be an avatar, an embodiment of the supreme God. But he is not the one and only incarnation of God.

Buddhism – Buddhist thinkers generally respect Jesus as a holy teacher, but consider his teachings to be significantly at odds with Buddhism at some points.

Judaism – Jews have been persecuted for the worst part of 2,000 years by the Christian church, above all on the pretext that they killed the Son of God. It is hardly surprising then that Jesus has no great place of honour in the Jewish faith. He is traditionally seen as a heretic who broke away from the Jewish faith and law. However, there are Jewish teachers today who are generous enough to look past the centuries of abuse in Jesus’s name, and to give great respect to his ethical teachings.
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If Jesus was so good, why have his followers been so bad?

Yes, sorry about that.

Many people and organisations throughout history have been inspired by Jesus to do wonderful things and change the world for the better. Many others have done all kinds of evil and stupid things in his name.

What’s going on here?

One answer is that the church has been around for 2,000 years and presently has 2 billion members. Any body that size and age is going have a mixed record.

Another is that it’s always hard for ordinary followers to live up to the standards of their extraordinary leaders. And every movement, however good, risks falling into the wrong hands at some point. What would Marx have thought of Stalin’s Russia, or Muhammad of Al-Qaeda, or Moses of the current state of Israel?

Basically, people are a problem.
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Isn’t some of Jesus’s ethical teaching crazy?

For example: Jesus said you should turn the other cheek if you’re attacked. Isn’t that just crazy? Well, it certainly can’t be easy or fun. But if the alternative is tit for tat revenge, surely that can work out a lot worse – just think of Northern Ireland, or Israel and Palestine.

What Jesus said goes against our instincts to stick up for ourselves – but then there’s not much point having a religious teacher who simply tells you to do what you already instinctively do anyway. It shouldn’t be surprising that what Jesus said was sometimes hard to take, and goes against the grain.

Remember, though, that Jesus often used colourful language, exaggerated so that it sticks in the mind. (Who would remember if Jesus had said, “Faith is harder for the rich”, instead of “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”?) So maybe he meant his “turning the other cheek” saying more as a general principle than an absolute rule.

On the other hand, among those who have taken his words most seriously are two of the great heroes of the 20th century, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. They were both inspired by Jesus to change their worlds through non-violent protest. Their achievement suggests that turning the other cheek may not be that crazy after all.

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About this module

Is there reliable evidence that Jesus ever lived? Was he a great religious teacher… or an alien? Read our Jesus FAQs pages here. If you have a question about the life or teaching of Jesus, check here first to see what’s been posted about it.

Written by Steve Tomkins

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Module contents

arrow Introduction

arrow Some definitions

arrow What's the evidence

arrow Who was Jesus

arrow What did Jesus teach

arrow What did Jesus say about

arrow How did Jesus live

arrow How and why did Jesus die

arrow What about the resurrection

arrow What about Jesus today

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