Rev. Howard Bess: Does Christmas Obscure Jesus?

The Christmas season celebrates the regal myth of Jesus – his supposedly miraculous birth and royal lineage as a king of kings – but that loses sight of the historical Jesus and his revolutionary message of justice for the poor and powerless, as Rev. Howard Bess reflects.

By the Rev. Howard Bess

The emergence of Jesus as a Jewish prophet of note was something that no contemporary would have predicted. After all, he lived in a world where leaders were determined by the prominence of their birth or by their effective use of violence.

Jesus possessed neither. He came from humble origins and taught nonviolence. Jesus gained a following among the poor as a reputational rabbi, meaning that he lacked a formal education and religious training. He also lived in the small town of Nazareth, nearly 100 miles north of Jerusalem, the area’s primary seat of religious and political power.

Jesus of Nazareth delivering his Sermon on the Mount as depicted by artist Carl Bloch.

Jesus of Nazareth delivering his Sermon on the Mount as depicted by artist Carl Bloch.

The earliest written record of the life of Jesus was the gospel written by an unknown author called Mark, who says nothing about a miraculous birth or about royal lineage. (The fiction of his miraculous birth to a woman with royal ties was fabricated decades later.)

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