The figure that has come down in history to us as Jesus was most likely born between 7 BCE and 3 CE somewhere in Judea, quite possibly in Bethlehem. He may have labored as a carpenter or a stone mason, either way he was also a student of both the Oral and Written Torah (which would have made him a Pharisee, something that will be discussed at a later date). He became a teacher or Rabbi in his twenties and soon began to work among the sick and the poor as he traveled throughout the area of Galilee. As a Rabbi, he soon gained a following who regarded him as a Messiah, which would have meant they considered him King of Israel, and followed his example of praying in what corresponds to today’s Orthodox synagogues.
It was sometime around 30 CE that Jesus came to the attention of the Roman officials and was placed on trial, convicted for insurrection, and crucified as a rebel. He was most likely turned over to the Romans by the High Priest of the Temple with the help of the Sadducees, who supported the High Priest. The view Jesus was at odds with the entire Sanhedrin will be discussed later, for now, try to break the mold and think of the execution of Jesus was for political ideas not theological differences. One thing that points to the truth of this, is the Romans placed a sign on his cross reading that his crime was claiming to be King of the Jews. This would have been done to send a message that those who claimed to be King in Israel would meet the same fate.
After his death, Jesus’ followers believed that had been resurrected from the grave and after meeting with the core of the movement, was taken to heaven in the same way as that of Elijah. James, one of Jesus’ brothers, became the head of the Netzarim (as the followers of Jesus became known as). Peter, who had served as an adviser to Jesus, continued in his role for James. The Netzarim or ‘Jerusalem Church’ we devout Jews who followed the Torah and continued to observe the ordinances of the Temple and Feasts. What separated them from the rest of the Jews was their belief that Jesus would soon return and God would set up a new era of peace in the entire world where the Kingdom of Israel would be at peace with it’s neighbors for at least a thousand years.
Jesus never intended to start a new religion, he was a observer of the Law of Moses and the teachings of the Prophets. He observed the Sabbath, attended Temple, and observed the Holy Days as laid down in the Torah. What he did not agree with was the rule of the Romans over his people. He taught that God would soon provide a miracle and the Romans would be driven out and their empire crushed. If he ever claimed himself to be a Messiah, it was only in the truest sense of the Jewish concept; he may have been of the House of David and a legal claimant of the Throne of Israel. This was the only view that his followers would have had, it would be up to someone else to create of Jesus more than he ever aspired to be. And we will discuss him in the next post.