Alex is a scholar of religions. He studies comparative religions, religious texts, world cultures, religions, and religious practices.
Jesus of Nazareth is easily one of the most well-known human beings in this era of recorded history. Very few other individuals come close to the fame, love, and adoration this man possesses. And with that comes different perspectives and beliefs concerning his life, calling, and being. Join me as we venture into the many ideas surrounding this amazing character.
A Note On Names
To keep with my personal beliefs and to protect from using "... the name of the LORD thy God in vain... " (Exodus 20:7), I will use various means of referring to Jesus of Nazareth. Even though Jesus was certainly not called "Jesus" during his lifetime, it is within the Hebraic tradition to be careful when applying the name of the Lord. (It is more likely he was called "Yeshua," meaning "salvation" in Hebrew, and/or "Iesous," meaning "healer" in Greek.) Thus, Jesus of Nazareth will often be referred to as "the Savior" or "the man of Nazareth," keeping the utmost respect and reverence for the Lord of my faith.
The Views of Jesus
Here are the various views of Jesus that we will discuss in this article:
- Christianity as a Whole
- Jehovah's Witnesses
- Bahai Faith
- Other Faiths
Within Manichaeism, the Savior is (or at least was) seen as a God. What exactly all Manichaeans believed is uncertain because it is no longer a major religion. (It incorporated ideas from Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Hinduism). There may still be small numbers of Manichaeans today, and whether their beliefs have evolved, or stayed the same, could be somewhat uncertain.
This portion is tricky because Hinduism is not a single group of shared beliefs in the same sense that other religions are. Hinduism is better described as a group of similar religions than a singular faith utilizing the same doctrines.
One may interject with—What of the various sects of Christianity or Buddhism? They're different. However, the scale of diversity within Hindu beliefs is not easily comparable to either of those religious groups.
Some Hindus may accept the Savior as related to the Divine. Srila Prabhupada once stated that "'Christ' is another way of saying Krsta and Krsta is another way of pronouncing Krishna, the name of God."* Still, many Hindus do not view the man of Nazareth as being anything other than a man.
3. Christianity as a Whole
In Christianity, the Savior is seen as serving numerous purposes. It is believed by many—if not most—modern Christians that the man of Nazareth fulfilled the atonement, that he is the salvation of the entire world, and that he was sacrificed for our sins and resurrected from the dead.
He is generally regarded as a prophet, beloved son, and sometimes only son of a loving Divine Father and/or God. However, these beliefs are far from shared by all Christians. Things get even more curious when we consider other religions that are not traditionally grouped within Christendom (even if they sometimes have much in common with Christian doctrine).
The Savior is here thought of as the promised Messiah or Christ, a God, and the prime example for all of humanity (in Islam, this view of a prime example is often to be placed on the shoulders of the prophet Muhammad). Jesus is believed to be the Son of a Heavenly Father, the Jehovah of the Old Testament (a perspective also shared with Trinitarians), a Creator of the world, and the one by which our sins are forgiven.
Like other Christians, Mormons believe in the atonement, crucifixion, and resurrection. Further, Mormons believe that the Savior and Heavenly Father have separate physical bodies.** Mormons accept the doctrine of the virgin birth of the Savior and that the prophet of Nazareth still lives.
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Under this view, the man of Nazareth was not only the God of the Old Testament but one and the same as the Divine Father. People of this religious perspective believe that the Spirit of God, the Son of God (Jesus), and Heavenly Father are one God, not only in purpose but in every possible way. The Roman Catholic church accepts this doctrine of the Trinity. Baptists and other Christian sects believe in the idea of one God in three Persons.
Non-trinitarians often see the man of Nazareth as simply a man, and not a God, nor a God-to-be. There are many religions and sects with this kind of belief, like the Christadelphians, Unitarians, and others.
7. Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses enjoy an interesting view. They accept Michael the archangel as a manifestation of the same being as the Savior. This is similar to Mormon belief, where Michael is equated with the first man, the prophet Adam.*** They believe that the Divine Father is not the same Person as the Savior.
The man of Nazareth is called "Isa" and is thought of as a great Prophet of the almighty God. The Savior is considered the Messiah, "al Masih," and a man born of a virgin. As with most contemporary Christians, Jesus is believed to have performed miracles.
Most Muslims think that the Savior was not crucified but raised up and protected from this horrible torture. However, there is some debate concerning this, as symbolic interpretation is not out of the question for all Muslims. The situation gets even more complex when we look into the various beliefs of the Sufis, a branch of Islam with its own numerous shoots that often has within itself very different interpretations of Islamic doctrines.
9. Bahai Faith
The Savior is here thought to be a Manifestation of God, like Muhammad and Baha'u'llah. Bahais believe in the crucifixion of the man of Nazareth and his virgin birth. Bahais do not seem to believe in a literal resurrection of the Savior, which contradicts the views of Baptists, Mormons, Roman Catholics, and many other modern Christian groups. It should be noted that the scriptures of the Bahais are vast and that some level of individual interpretation may be at play here.
For many of the world's Jews, the man of Nazareth is not considered to be the Jewish Messiah. Most Jews we meet may not even consider Jesus to have been a prophet of God. However, in Messianic Judaism, the Savior is thought of as the Messiah.
Atheistic perspectives are very diverse. Some believe that the Savior was a good man, a man, or a mythological character. Atheists do not actively believe in a God, and thus they do not believe in a Messiah.
12. Other Faiths
The journey is not over. First, consider that the Savior is thought to play various roles in different Gnostic religions, both contemporary and ancient. Some religious folk may consider Jesus a Buddha and/or a Bodhisattva. Baba Lovers consider Jesus to be the Avatar of his age.
To the Mandaean, it would seem as though the Savior is not viewed as a Messiah (with John the Baptist taking this role for those of this faith). The Savior is still one of the most famous of all humans to have walked this Earth, and beliefs continue to vary greatly from one telling to the next.
**For additional context, the following may help here. Moreover, Mormon scripture declares that there's "... no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes... " - from, Doctrine and Covenants 131:7. Thus, the spiritual world is seen as an extension of the material world; discerned in a way, but not separate.
***"And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days;" - Doctrine and Covenants 27:11.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Alexander James Guckenberger