Christianity has a historical founder whose existence is verified by outside sources. The most reliable of these sources is the account from Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian born in Jerusalem, who eventually became a Roman citizen. In his work, Antiquities of the Jews, he makes several brief references to Jesus, both as a Messiah and as a wise teacher. Josephus also records that Jesus was crucified, and that his followers believed he was restored to life. Beyond that, however, history is silent.
The most information about Jesus is recorded in four books of the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is important to note here, however, that these books were not written as biographies; their purpose rather was to persuade others that Jesus was the son of God and the savior of the world. Thus, they describe the life and ministry of Jesus as the one they believed was God in the flesh. In other words, what we have in these four books of the Bible is an account of Jesus the Christ—that is, “the anointed one” or “the chosen one”—not a history of Jesus the man from Nazareth.
Christianity is the world’s biggest religion, with about 2.2 billion followers worldwide. It is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ who lived in the Holy Land 2,000 years ago.
Through its missionary activity Christianity has spread to most parts of the globe
Who is Jesus Christ?
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He came to earth to teach about love and fellowship. He represents the person that all Christians must strive to be.
Jesus was a Jew who was born about 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. Jesus lived for 33 years before being crucified by the Romans.
Jesus used parables—short stories with hidden messages—in his teachings.
Some of the main themes that Jesus taught, which Christians later embraced, include:
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Forgive others who have wronged you.
Love your enemies.
Ask God for forgiveness of your sins.
Jesus is the Messiah and was given the authority to forgive others.
Repentance of sins is essential.
Don’t be hypocritical.
Don’t judge others.
The Kingdom of God is near. It’s not the rich and powerful—but the weak and poor—who will inherit this kingdom.
In one of Jesus’s most famous speeches, which became known as the Sermon on the Mount, he summarized many of his moral instructions for his followers.
Jesus’s Death and Resurrection
Many scholars believe Jesus died between 30 A.D. and 33 A.D., although the exact date is debated among theologians.
According to the Bible, Jesus was arrested, tried and condemned to death. Roman governor Pontius Pilate issued the order to kill Jesus after being pressured by Jewish leaders who alleged that Jesus was guilty of a variety of crimes, including blasphemy.
Jesus was crucified by Roman soldiers in Jerusalem, and his body was laid in a tomb. According to scripture, three days after his crucifixion, Jesus’s body was missing.
In the days after Jesus’s death, some people reported sightings and encounters with him. Authors in the Bible say the resurrected Jesus ascended into Heaven.
What do Christians believe?
Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and that:
God sent his Son to earth to save humanity from the consequences of its sins
Jesus was fully human, and experienced this world in the same way as other human beings of his time
Jesus was tortured and gave his life on the Cross (At the Crucifixion)
Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his Crucifixion (the Resurrection)
Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament
Christians believe that there is only one God, but that this one God consists of 3 “persons”
God the Father
God the Son
The Holy Spirit
Christians believe that God made the world.
How is Christianity similar to other religions?
Christianity shares a number of beliefs and practices with other religions, particularly Judaism and Islam. With Judaism and Islam, Christians believe in one God, who created the universe and all that is in it. All believe that this God is active in history, guiding and teaching his people.
Christianity and Judaism share the same roots. The Old Testament and the Torah (Jewish Holy Book) have the same content. The Jews are awaiting the coming of a Messiah or Saviour, while Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the Saviour and are now waiting for his second coming.
Types of Christianity
Christianity is broadly split into three branches: Catholic, Protestant and (Eastern) Orthodox.
The Catholic branch is governed by the Pope and Catholic bishops around the world. The Orthodox (or Eastern Orthodox) is split into independent units each governed by a Holy Synod; there is no central governing structure akin to the Pope.
There are numerous denominations within Protestant Christianity, many of which differ in their interpretation of the Bible and understanding of the church.
Some of the many denominations that fall under the category of Protestant Christianity include:
Assemblies of God
Christian Reform/Dutch Reform
Church of the Nazarene
Disciples of Christ
United Church of Christ
Although the many sects of Christianity have differing views, uphold separate traditions and worship in distinct ways, the core of their faith is centered around the life and teachings of Jesus.
How is Christianity different from Judaism?
Christianity came to regard Jesus as in some sense God’s presence in human form. This was unacceptable to most Jews.
Judaism is defined by a covenant made between God and the Jewish people. Part of this covenant is the Law, a set of religious and ethical rules and principles. Most Christians came to regard both this covenant and Law as in some sense superseded by Jesus’ teaching and the community that he established. On the night he died, Jesus talked about establishing a “new covenant” based on his death and resurrection.
Jews believe that there is one God like Christians do, but they do not believe that this one God consists of 3 “persons”.