The more people have tried to discover who Jesus really was, peace be on him, the more it has been found how little is known about him. There are limited records of his teachings and some of his actions, but very little is known about how he actually lived his life from moment to moment, and how he conducted his everyday transactions with other people.
Certainly, the picture many people have been given of Jesus of who he was, and what he did – is a distorted one. Although there is some truth in them, it has been established that the four accepted Gospels have not only been altered and censored through the ages, but also are not eyewitness accounts.
The earliest Gospel is that of Mark, written about 60 AD. He was the son of St. Barnabas’s sister. Matthew was a tax collector, a minor official who did not travel around with Jesus. Luke’s Gospel was written much later, and is, in fact, drawn from the same source as Mark’s and Matthew’s. Luke was Paul’s physician, and, like Paul, never met Jesus.
John’ s Gospel is from a different source, and was written later still, in Greek, in about 100 AD. The author of this Gospel should not be confused with John, the disciple, who was another man. For two centuries it was hotly debated whether or not this Gospel should be accepted as a reliable account of the life of Jesus, and whether or not it should be included in the Scriptures.
Since none of the Gospels are written by people who personally saw and heard the events and words which they describe, it is hardly surprising that their respective accounts of particular events often differ and at times even contradict each other – and that even highly significant events in the life of Jesus are not described in all of the Gospels. Thus, as Dr Maurice Bucaille points out in his book, The Bible, the Quran and Science.
Each of the four Gospels contains a large number of descriptions relating events that may be unique to one single Gospel or common to several if not all of them. When they are unique to one Gospel, they sometimes raise serious problems. Thus in the case of an event of considerable importance, it is surprising to find the event mentioned by only one evangelist; Jesus’s Ascension into heaven on the day of Resurrection, for example.
Else where, numerous events are differently described sometimes very differently indeed – by two or more evangelists. Christians are very often astonished at the existence of such contradictions between the Gospels if they ever discover them, This is because it has been repeatedly said in tories of the greatest assurance that their’ authors were the eyewitnesses of the events they describe!
Fortunately, there are other sources of knowledge concerning Jesus, some of which have survived the repeated attempts of the established Church to either suppress or destroy them:
In the early days of Christianity, many writings on Jesus were in circulation. They were not subsequently retained as being worthy of authenticity and the Church ordered them to be hidden, hence their name ‘Apocrypha’. Some of the texts of these works have been well preserved because they ‘benefited from the fact that they were generally valued’, to quote the Ecumenical Translation.
The same was true for the Letter of Barnabas, but unfortunately others were ‘more brutally thrust aside’ and only fragments of them remain. They were considered to be the messengers of error and were removed from the sight of the faithful. Works such as the Gospels of the Nazarenes, the Gospels of the Hebrews and the Gospels of the Egyptians, known through quotations taken from the Fathers of the Church, were never the less fairly closely related to the canonic Gospels. The same holds good for Thomas’s Gospel and Barnabas’s Gospel.
As regards other sources, the discovery of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls has thrown new light on the nature of the society into which Jesus was born, although some of their contents have been intentionally suppressed, and only selections made available to the general public; the Gospel of Barnabas covers Jesus’s life more extensively and accurately than the other Gospels; and the Quran and the Hadeeth further clarify the picture of who Jesus really was.
If these additional sources are consulted, then a picture which is different in many important respects to those fostered by the various Christian churches, emerges:
We find that Jesus, peace be on him, was not the son of God, in the literal sense of the word – but, like Abraham and Moses before him and Muhammad after him, a Messenger of God, blessings and peace be on all of them, who, like all human beings ate food, and had to sleep, and went to the market place.
We find that Jesus inevitably found himself doing battle with those people whose interests were in conflict with what he taught. They either did not accept the guidance he received, or knowing it to be true, nevertheless chose to ignore it in favoure of pursuing power, riches and reputation in the eyes of men.
Further, we find that Jesus’s life on earth is an integral part of Jewish history, and that to understand his story it is necessary to be aware of theirs. Throughout his life Jesus was an orthodox practicing Jew, and the fact that he came to reaffirm and revive the original teachings of Moses, which had been altered through the years, should never be overlooked.
Finally, we find that it was not Jesus who was crucified, but someone who resembled him, Lentulus, a Roman official, described Jesus as follows:
He has nut brown hair that is smoothed down to the ears, forming soft curis and flowing onto his shoulders in luxuriant locks, with a parting in the centre of his head after the fashion of the Nazarenes. A smooth clear brow and a reddish face without spots and wrinkles. Nose and mouth are flawless.
He bears a full luxurious beard which is the same colour as his hair and is parted in the middle. He has blue grey eyes with an unusually varied capacity for expression. He is of medium height, fifteen and a half fists tall. He is cheerful in seriousness. Sometimes he weeps, but no one has ever seen him laugh.
A Muslim Tradition, however, paints a slightly different picture:
“He was a ruddy man inclined to white. He did not have long hair. He never anointed his head. Jesus used to walk barefoot, and he took no house, nor adornment, nor goods, nor clothes, nor provisions, except his day’s food. His head was dishevelled and his face was small. He was an ascetic in this world, longing for the next world and eager for the worship of God.”
The exact date of Jesus’s birth is not known. According to Luke, it is associated with a census which was held in 6 AD. It is also stated that he was born in the reign of Herod, who died in 4 Be. Vincent Taylor, however, concludes that his date of birth could be as early as 8 BC, since Herod’s decree – which was set in motion by the news of Jesus’s actual or imminent birth – that all newly born infants in Bethlehem should be killed, obviously must have preceded Herod’s death. Even if we follow Luke, the discrepancy between the two verses in the same Gospel is of ten years. Most of the commentators believe the second verse, which infers that he was born in 4 BC – i.e. four years ‘Before Christ’ – that is, four years before he was subsequently and officially said to have been born.
The miraculous conception and birth of Jesus have been the subject of much discussion. Some people believe that he was no more than the flesh and blood son of Joseph. While others, believing in the immaculate conception, therefore conclude that he was the ‘son of God,’ but remain divided as to whether this term should be taken literally or figuratively. Luke, who somehow traces Jesus’s ancestry back through Joseph and simultaneously confirms the fact that Jesus had no human father, says:
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a virgin … the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her and said: ‘Hail, thou art a highly favoured woman.’ And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her: ‘Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son and shalt call his name Jesus …’ Then said Mary unto the angel: ‘How shall this be, seeing l know not a man?’ … And the angel answered …’With Cod, nothing shall be impossible.’ And Mary said: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word.’ And the angel departed from her. (Luk 1: 26-38).
The same incident is described in the Quran “Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee- chosen thee above the women of all nations. ‘O Mary! worship Thy Lord devoutly: Prostrate thyself, and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down.’ This is part of the tidings of the things unseen, which We reveal unto thee (O Messenger!) by inspiration: Thou wast not with them when they cast lots with arrows, as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary: Nor wast thou with them when they disputed (the point). Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah; “He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous.” She said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?” He said: “Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be,’ and it is! (Quran 3:42-47).
Out of the four Gospels, Mark and John are silent about Jesus’s birth, and Matthew only casually mentions it. Both Luke and Matthew contradict themselves by giving a human genealogy on the father’s side to Jesus, while Mark and John do not mention it. As between Matthew and Luke, the former gives twenty-six persons between David and Jesus, while Luke has forty-two names in his list, Thus, there is a discrepancy between the two of sixteen people. If we accept only forty years as the average age of a person, then there is a gap of six hundred and forty years between the two records of Jesus’s supposed lineal descent! As Dr. Maurice Bucaille points out, however:
One must straight away note that the male genealogies have absolutely no relevance to Jesus. Were one to give a genealogy to Mary’s only son. who was without a biological father, it would have to be the genealogy of his mother Mary.
There are no such contradictions in the Quranic doctrine of the immaculate conception and the miraculous birth of Jesus. Yet the Quran – which confirms that the father of Mary, who was descended from Solomon the son of David, was called ‘Imran – firmly rejects the divinity of Jesus, as is shown in this description of what happened shortly after Jesus’s birth:
“At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They said: “O Mary! truly an amazing thing hast thou brought! “O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!” But she pointed to the babe. They said: “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?” He said: “I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet; “And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live; “(He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable; “So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)”! Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: (it is) a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute. It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! when He determines a matter, He only says to it, “Be”, and it is. Verily Allah is my Lord and your Lord: Him therefore serve ye: this is a Way that is straight.” (Quran 19:27-36).
The birth of Adam was the greatest miracle, as he was born without a father or mother. The birth of Eve too was a greater miracle than the birth of Jesus, in as much as she was born without a mother. The Quran says “The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: “Be”. And he was”. (Quran 3:59)