THE UNIVERSAL CHARACTER OF JESUS
by Wayne S. Walker
One explanation sometimes given for the gospel accounts of Jesus’s life is that they are solely the products of four first-century Jewish writers. It is suggested that these four men either invented a literary character, recorded the biography of a typical Jew of that day, collected some Jewish myths, or personified the Jewish ideal. However, such simply cannot be the case. We read in John 7:27 where some from Jerusalem said of Jesus, "However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from." Jesus just did not fulfill the concepts that those who might have been given over to writing Jewish stories in Palestine during those days would have set down on paper.
Jesus is not a fictional Jew, the product of Jewish literature. First of all, the men who wrote about Him had no academic or intellectual qualifications to produce works that would endure even today. The Jewish authorities of their day looked upon them as "uneducated and untrained men" (Acts 4:13). Furthermore, they did not have th emoral qualifications to write some of the things which they did about Jesus. They wrote that Jesus promised a kingdom that is not of this world, while they themselves had the comon Jewish concept that the Messiah would return the kingdom to Israel and rule on this earth (John 18:36, Acts 1:6). Also, while they wrote that Jesus often preducted His resurrection from the dead, they themselves admitted that they were as amazed as anyone else when He actually did rise (Matthew 16:21, Luke 24:9-11).
Jesus is not a typical Jew, the product of first-century Palestine. They typical Jew of that day was consumed with racial prejudice, refusing to have anything to do with the hated Samaritans (John 4:9). Jesus, on the other hand, was willing to heal a Samaritan of leprosy and even hold him up as an example of gratitude (Luke 17:11-19). The typical Jew of those times was characterized by an extreme nationalistic pride at being the son of Abraham, even to the point of denying the obvious truth of the Jews’ present servitude to Rome (John 8:33). Yet, Jesus taught that if the Jews accepted the benefits and blessings of Rome, they must give their tribute to Caesar (Matthew 22:15-22). And the typical Jew of the first century was given over to traditionalism, while Jesus condemned the traditions of the fathers that transgressed God’s law (Matthew 15:1-12).
Jesus was not a mythological Jew, the product of Jewish legend. The myths of all nations defy chronology and are said to have occurred before written history began. However, the time of Jesus’s birth and ministry are specifically identified by associating them with the reigns of men whose place in hisotry can be established from purely secular sources (Luke 2:1-2, 3:1-2). Myths usually become grotesque and monstrous with their growth over time, whereas the manner of Jesus’ birth and His early life are quite normal. (Luke 2:6-7, 52). Myths reflect the people, times, and places from which they spring, but Jesus was completely different from, and in fact many ways contrary to, the times in which He lived (John 7:46). Myths defy topography, often taking place is locations which are purely imaginary; yet the work of Jesus is tied to certain geographical locations which are well known (Matthew 4:12-13). Myths are not usually completed all at once, but grow and change over time, while the same Jesus who was prophesied in the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament and is still believed today (Hebrews 13:8). And myths usually arise during the infancy of a nation; however, Jesus came toward the end of the Jewish nation, and He even predicted its downfall (Matthew 24:2).
Jesus was not an idealistic Jew, the product of Jewish nationalism or that of any other society. The Jews idolized their patriarch Abraham, but Jesus did not lie as he did (Genesis 12:10-20). The Jews adored their lawgiver Moses, but Jesus did not disobey as he did and was unable to enter the promised land (Numbers 20:7-12). The Jews held to their great king David, but Jesus did not commit adultery and bring shame on the whole nation as he did (2 Samuel 11:1-5). The Jews loved their scribes who taught them the law, but Jesus did not teach as they did (Matthew 7:28-29). The Jews had a particular concept of a Messiah who would drive out the Romans and rule on earth from Jerusalem, but Jesus did not come to be that kind of king (John 6:15). Nor was Jesus like the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, or Roman ideals either. He was completely different.
Therefore, it is impossible to explain Jesus and His story in the gospels in any other way and by any other means except that He is the divine Son of God. In his 1889 work, The Man of Galilee, Atticus Haygood wrote, "There is absolutely nothing in his race or age that accounts for Jesus. That he was a normal product of his race and age contradicts every law of life we know. If it be not so all history goes for nothing and there is no law or reason in the nature of things" (p. 20). We can only note that nothing which has been learned since then has produced any evidence to deny Haygood’s conclusion. (—taken from With All Boldness; Oct., 2000; Vol. 10, No. 10; p. 13)