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Jesus Christ

The central figure of the NT and primary object of Christian faith. The four Gospels recount the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, while other NT writings focus on matters of faith and faithfulness important to those who place their trust in him as their Lord and Savior. The name Jesus is derived from a Hebrew word that means “savior” (Matt 1:21), and the title “Christ” (Heb., “messiah”) means “anointed,” referring to one commissioned by God for a special task. Much of what the New Testament says about Jesus is now confirmed though historical scholarship. He was a celibate, Jewish man who taught in parables, befriended outcasts, and spoke of God’s kingdom (or “reign”) as a present reality. He gained a reputation as a miracle worker, proclaimed an ethic of radical love, and was eventually crucified by the Roman government with the approval of Jewish aristocracy. His followers maintained that he rose from the dead and appeared to them alive. The NT also maintains that Jesus was miraculously born to a virgin (Matt 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:1-20), that he was the promised Jewish Messiah, and that he lived on earth as the supreme representation of God. He came to be extolled as one who had existed from the beginning and who had participated in creation (John 1:1-3). Further, he was identified as the coming Judge who would distribute recompense at the end of time (Matt 16:27). Indeed, Christians began worshiping Jesus and praying to him soon after Easter. For Paul, Christians were almost definitively “those who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Cor 1:2). Christ’s unity with God was first expressed as a relationship of Son to Father, but this metaphor was applied with ever greater intimacy (Matt 11:27; John 14:8-10). Such reflection both stimulated and was stimulated by an ongoing interpretation of Jesus’s earthly life, particularly his last days. His final meal came to be understood as the institution of a sacrament, his death as an atonement for sin, and his resurrection as the beginning of a new age of salvation.