(For the next few days I will be posting about Jesus.)

Jesus…there’s something about that name!

His names are many.  The Messiah, Son of Man, Son of David, King of Israel, Savior, Servant, The Prophet, Son of God, and the Christ.  He was hailed and acclaimed as the being who held the highest spiritual status attainable in human form.  The perfect one,  the Avatar, God as man.

To some he was nothing more than an extraordinarily wise and compassionate teacher.  To others he was a political revolutionary who had divinity projected upon him by his followers.  To some he is just a myth, a legend; he never really existed at all.

No figure in history has provoked so much controversy and debate, nor inspired so much faith, as Jesus. Today the religion based on His teachings called Christianity, is the largest religion in the world.  1 Billion, 900 hundred million, on every continent, in almost every country.

The Mexican peasant in his hovel claims to be a Christian.  The Cardinal in Rome, in rich robes and elegant rings, claims to be a Christian.  The African learning English in a missionary school, is a Christian.  The New York business man signing papers in his office 30 floors above wall street, is a Christian.

Christianity has spread across the globe touching every culture and society on earth.  Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  He was sent to earth to save humanity from their ignorance, suffering, and sin.

What we know about Jesus comes almost exclusively from the gospels.  Jesus left no writings, so the gospels are the primary source of information about His life.

Matthew and John knew Jesus and followed Him.  Luke and Mark received their information from others.

There are all kinds of debate among scholars.  Some say none of these men ever really knew Jesus and did not even use their real names.  They question everything; they are skeptics.

In the time Jesus lived, there was a strong oral tradition of passing information from generation to generation.  This oral tradition was an art form.  People carefully memorized the information.  They worked hard at retaining the original facts and flavor.  This oral method of preserving information was how Homer’s Iliad and Oddessy were preserved.  It is more reliable than our modern journalism. Some prodigys memorized up to a million words by the time they were 12 years of age.

The earliest information written on Jesus that does not come from His followers comes several years after His death.  There are remarks by Josephus, who wrote around 90 AD.  Pliney the younger wrote about 112 AD, Tacitus wrote around 115 AD, and Seutonius wrote around 120 AD.

When you combine all these, Christian and non-Christian, we get a basic outline of Jesus life.  There are large gaps in Jesus life we have no information on.  We do know of His birth in Bethlehem. His birth was probably around 6BC, when Herod the great was King.  There is a brief glimpse when Jesus is 12, then nothing more until He becomes an adult.

Jesus was born in Palestine.  It had always been a troubled area, bathed in blood.  This area was shuttled back and forth between world powers, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Antioch Epiphanies, and Rome.  In 63 BC Pompey the Roman General captured Jerusalem.  The Romans allowed the Jews to retain their religion, and a figure head king (Herod). Then the Romans simply appointed a Governor to rule over Judea after Herod Archelaus was removed because of his cruelty.

Pompey was defeated in 63 BC, by Julius Caesar.  Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC.  Mark Antony came briefly to power, and then Octavian replaced Mark Antony.

Through all of this Herod and his line maneuvered and kept the title “King of the Jews”.  The Romans mocked, and smiled indulgently at this absurdity.

After Herod massacred the infants, Herod’s son, Archelaus, took the throne.  The night his father Herod the Great died, Herod Archelaus became tetrarch of Judea, Idumea and Samaria.  Another son Antipas was given Galilee and Perea.  Phillip became tetrarch of Trachonitis, Iturea, Batanea and Auranitis.  Caesar approved this.

Remember… Joseph and Mary had to flee to Egypt to escape Herod the Great, but when Herod Antipas imprisoned John the Baptist, Jesus simply left because Herod Antipas had authority only in Galilee.

These Herods were wicked men.  Archelaus inaugurated his reign the night his father died, carousing with friends, and slaughtered 3000 Jews in the Temple.  The Jews appealed to Caesar and Archelaus was banished.  So Judea was free of Herods.

Caesar said, okay I’ll appoint a ruler, so he appointed Quirinius Caponius, then Ambivius, Annius Rufus, Valerius Gratus, then Pontius Pilate.  Pilate ruled from 26-36 AD.  Pilate was so cruel Rome removed him 3-6 years after the Crucifixion.  It was his cruelty that led to his dismissal.

The Romans divided the area into Judea (with Jerusalem) and Galilee.  In the New Testament,  Judea was governed by Pilate; Galilee was governed by Herod’s family.  (This is the reason Pilate sent Jesus to Herod; Herod was the puppet king of Galilee).

The people of Palestine suffered terribly under both the Romans and the Herods.