Jesus Christ: religious & historical perspective
Aman Farooq/ GK

Jesus Christ: religious & historical perspective

The birth of Jesus Christ is a landmark event in the historicity of theology.

The birth of Jesus Christ is a landmark event in the historicity of theology. Strictly, in the historical parlance, the prophet born in Palestine, in the town of Nazareth did not make immediate historical impact. It took 400 years for Christianity to get historical registration. The Byzantine Emperor-Constantine made it the state religion. The march of Christianity thus differs from the rapid advance of Islam. The impact of Islam was immediate and profound. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) wove Arabs into a single nation, the tribal divide melted. It took just two decades to make it happen. Recounting the historical impact of prophet of Islam, an author notes, 'the rays of history are focused on him'. It may be noted that Jesus and his original message stand relevant in Islamic realm. Jesus Christ is revered, as much as any other prophet in the Abrahamic trail. The prophetic trail is a shared legacy of Muslims, Jews and Christians.       

Jesus Christ was born in an era when proverbially, 'all roads led to Rome'. It was an era of Roman domination. Persian challenge had not ceased, however the age of Cyrus the great and Darius had passed. The Greek masters–Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Hippocrates were a part of history. Athens had lost its glory, though not the reason and the logic. Greek fall from grace was disgusting to the extent of getting into slavery of Romans. Yet, the Roman masters found it prudent to consult the Greek slave in a moment of quandary. The advice however would be taken in a commanding tune. It is also proverbially said that, "Rome knows no art' pointing to Roman art being imitative of the Greek art. The Romans however had mastered the art of war, and were well versed in colonial craft. Romans sailed to and fro across Mediterranean to subjugate the coastal countries, including Palestine, where Jesus was born and bred.      

In the Jesuit era, Mediterranean remained proverbially the 'Lake of History'. Civilization remained confined mostly to its coastal states—Rome, Greece, Egypt and Palestine. Babylonians and the Iranians remained in close proximity. Persians competed with Romans in colonizing smaller nations. The two super-powers crossed sword, quite often. Palestine—the land of Jesus though Roman dominated was not free from Persian incursions. Palestine suffered Roman colonization, even though one prophet after another tread the land of Palestine during Jesuit era. Zacharias/Zachariah and John the Baptist/Yahya were his immediate predecessors. They preached, however hardly made a difference to hardcore Jewry. Jews were waiting for the promised Messiah. It had been said that he would be from family of David. David and Solomon were prophets, kings as well of the 'United Kingdom of Israel'. Generations had passed; the kingdom had ceased to exist. And, Jews were slaves. The Jewish king Herod was a nominal presence. Roman Governor exercised powers in the name of Roman Emperor. 

Roman colonization of Palestine was made easy as the Jewish society was fragmented. Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Galileans and Samaritans practiced sectarian belief. The divide was so deep enough to affect even the approach to their subjugators–the Roman colonizers. It was typical of places, where colonization thrives.  Sadducees formed the elite, inclined to preserve political and religious order.  In Torah, they stuck to edicts of Moses only. Pharisees were vehement in opposition to prevailing political and religious order. Large in numbers, they hardly any political or religious influence, due to misplaced pride. Essenes were reclusive naturalists, retiring to places of wilderness, exploring minerals and herbs to treat the sick. Galileans, also called Jalili's were once ideologically akin to Essenes, however they broke away due to extremist views. Considering obedience to Romans as an act bordering infidelity, they turned unruly. Samaritans were a mix of Jews and Assyrians, opposing traditional religious order.

Jesus Christ was born and bred in this sectarian melee. Aged thirty, he started to preach. The elite-Sadducees opposed him, while Jesus criticized the misplaced pride of the majority- Pharisees. Jesus was not accepted as the promised 'Messiah' the saviour, who would deliver them from the dire straits, they had sunk in. The root word of Messiah is 'Massah' which means massaging the body with a rubbing substance.  Massaging the body with olive oil was a sacred custom of Jews.  However it had a deeper implication.  In Jewish days of glory, the King on coronation had had to have a massage of olive oil.  The ancient custom played on the collective psyche, leading to the concept of 'Messiah' who would be a King from the family of David. The carpenter from Nazareth that Jesus was did not fit in the Jewish concept of Messiah. Undaunted, he continued to preach, earning followers during his three years as prophet.  However, on the occasions when he needed them the most, they deserted him. We are getting to the 'Passover' when the sedate Jesus turned a rebel.

On the fateful day, Jesus overturned the trays with offerings of devotees, and set free the sacrificial animals. It earned him the wrath of Jewish Rabbis at the 'Temple of Solomon' in Jerusalem. He was taken to court of Roman Governor-Pontius Pilate. Drunk on a holiday, the Governor could not register the debate between Jesus talking of the 'Kingdom of God' and Rabbis accusing him of blasphemy, sacrilege. Exasperated, Pontius Pilate asked for a bowl of water and 'washed his hands off the case'. In later days, the act assumed proverbial proportions. Rabbis believed they got the crucifixion, and executed it. Nay, says the Holy Quran, 'Jesus Christ was lifted to heavens'. 

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]  

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