Jesus Christ (4? B.C.–A.D. 29?), central figure of the Christian religion. Jesus is believed by Christians to be the Son of God and the Lord and Savior of mankind. The name “Jesus” is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew Joshua (Savior). The title “Christ” comes from Christos, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah (Anointed One).
The main source for information about the life and teachings of Jesus are the 4 Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—and the epistles of the New Testament. From the numerous details given there, it is possible to form a vivid picture of Jesus. These details are given with an intention expressly stated by John: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
According to the Gospels, Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, wife of Joseph, in Bethlehem, Judea. Their home was in Nazareth, Galilee. Little is known of his childhood except that, when he was 12, he went to the Temple in Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph. When Jesus was about 30 years old, his cousin John the Baptist began preaching repentance in the wilderness of Judea and baptizing penitents in the Jordan River. As Jesus was being baptized by John, a voice from heaven affirmed that Jesus was the Son of God (Mark 1:11). For some time after that Jesus traveled about the country, teaching and healing, mainly in Galilee but also in other parts of Palestine. He gathered 12 followers, or disciples, who helped spread the new ideas.
Jesus' interpretation of the Jewish law and his messianic claims alarmed the established religious authorities. On his last journey to Jerusalem for the Passover, Jesus entered the city in triumph. The authorities, threatened by his popularity, plotted against him. After the Last Supper, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. One disciple, Judas Iscariot, betrayed him, and he was taken prisoner. Brought before members of the ecclesiastical court of the Jews, he was found guilty of blaspheming. He was then taken for sentencing to the Roman civil governor, Pontius Pilate, who charged him with treason against Rome and condemned him to death by crucifixion.
The resurrection of Jesus on the third day after his death and burial convinced the disciples that he was indeed the Son of God. They continued to spread Jesus' teachings, and hundreds of Jews and later Gentiles were converted to the new faith. Although the Christian Church eventually split into many parts, the accuracy of the Gospels and the divinity of Jesus are universally held Christian beliefs.