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or Jesus Christ
, 1st-century Jewish teacher and prophet in whom Christians have traditionally seen the Messiah [Heb.,=annointed one, whence Christ from the Greek] and whom they have characterized as Son of God and as Word or Wisdom of God incarnate.
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(Greek Christós, “anointed one”), also called Jesus Christ, in Christian church teaching, the founder of Christianity. According to Gospel mythology, Christ was begotten by the “Holy Spirit” and was born of Mary, the wife of Joseph, in Bethlehem. As an infant Christ was taken to Egypt to escape from Herod I. He returned to Palestine and was baptized by John the Baptist. Gathering around him 12 disciples, among them Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Judas, he traveled throughout Palestine, preaching and working miracles. After being betrayed in Jerusalem by Judas for 30 pieces of silver, Christ was condemned to death during Passover week by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate along with two thieves. He was crucified, died, and was buried, but “after the Sabbath was over” he rose from the dead. An “antilegend” about Christ has also come down to us through the second-century Roman writer Celsus and in the Talmud and other sources according to which Christ was the son of Mary and the Roman soldier Panthera (Pandira) and was stoned to death for sorcery. Christian theology of the second, third, and fourth centuries developed the idea, alluded to in the New Testament, that Christ was the son of god, and he came to be regarded as the second person of the trinity. Orthodox Christianity conceived of Christ as god-man, in whom the human and the divine were united.
The question of the historical existence of Christ has provoked sharp controversy among specialists in religion. There are two basic schools of thought, the mythological and the historical. The first perceives Christ as a mythical figure, created out of totem beliefs or agricultural cults similar to those of Osiris and Tammuz. Some scholars regard the myth of Christ as a variant of the Buddha legend or the product of astrological speculation. The second school maintains that Christ is a historical person, citing as evidence the references to Christ contained in the works of Josephus Flavius and Tacitus, the second-century antilegends about Christ (which deny not his existence but his supposed divinity), and the early origin of the Gospels (papyrus fragments of the Gospel of St. John dating from the early second century). Among the arguments put forward by adherents of the mythological school are the discrepancies in the New Testament stories about Christ, the abundance of miracles ascribed to him, the errors in the description of the life and natural environment of Palestine, and the absence of information about Christ in the works of Greco-Roman writers of the first century. (The school disputes the authenticity of the references to Christ in the writings of Josephus Flavius and Tacitus.) Some historians of the mythological school contend that the Gospels were written at the end of the second century, that is, much later than the life of Christ that they describe, and that the image of Christ in the Gospels emerged under the influence of Plutarch.
Occupying an important place in medieval literature and art, Christ remained at the center of attention of the Renaissance artists. In modern times, Christ was perceived as a moral ideal (L. Tolstoy), as a revolutionary rebel (K. Kautsky), and as a hero-martyr (E. Renan).
REFERENCESDrews, A. Otritsanie istorichnosti lisusa v proshlom i nastoiashchem. Moscow, 1930. (Translated from German.)
Couchoud, P. Zagadka lisusa. Moscow, 1930. (Translated from French.)
Kublanov, M. M. lisus Khristos—bog, chelovek, mif? Moscow, 1964.
Kazhdan, A. “Istoricheskoe zerno predaniia ob Iisuse.” Nauka i religiia, 1966, no. 2.
Kryvelev, I. A. Chto znaet istoriia ob Iisuse Khriste? Moscow, 1969.
Kryvelev, I. A. Istoriia religii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1975. Pages 145–155.