Historians, of many ideological and philosophical persuasions, hold to the following almost certain facts concerning the historical Jesus.
- Jesus came from Nazareth
- He began his public life as a disciple of John
- He was a teacher and healer/exorcist
- He had a group of followers, with twelve being of central importance
- There was a focussed mission on Israel
- Jesus preached the coming of the “kingdom of God”
- He clashed with the Jerusalem authorities concerning the temple
- He was crucified as a Messianic pretender by the Romans on the authority of Pontius Pilate
- Jesus’ followers believed they encountered him after his death
- Jesus’ followers formed a movement, awaiting his return, winning new adherents.
Jesus’ message was that the Kingdom of God was arriving in and through his own ministry. He saw himself as a prophet announcing God’s word to Israel. His proclamation of the Kingdom was demonstrated and advocated in teaching and symbolic praxis. Jesus’ perspective and understanding of the Kingdom was significantly different to what his contemporaries, especially the Pharisees and Sadducees, were expecting and performing. Jesus’ call to Israel was specifically to repent of their nationalistic ambitions and embrace his new vision of being Israel with him as their new King. Jesus saw sin/satan as Israel’s real enemy, not Rome. In and around himself, Jesus was re-gathering a reconstituted Israel. Healings and exorcisms were a sign of God’s in-breaking reign. For those who would not heed his call and command, Jesus prophesied judgement and destruction within a generation, of nation, city and temple.