Sacred Jewish texts often foretold the arrival of a Messiah, a political and spiritual savior who would deliver the Jews from their captors forever. Many people believe this promised Messiah did arrive in the form of a Palestinian-born man called Jesus Christ in Greek, although his cultural name would have been closer to Yeshua bar Joseph or "Joshua, son of Joseph." Although the historical Jesus may have been born into humble and oppressive circumstances, he would grow up to become one of the world's most revered religious figures.
The circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ appear to fulfill the ancient scriptures concerning the true Messiah. He was said to have been born from a virgin mother, Mary, who had been "visited" by the spirit of God while engaged to Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth. When the Roman government ordered a mandatory census for tax collection, Joseph and Mary returned to Joseph's original hometown, a small village called Bethlehem. This was another circumstance foretold in the Jewish scriptures, referring to the Messiah being born in the relatively obscure town of Bethlehem.
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The early life of Christ is not well-documented, although several Gospel accounts describe him as remarkably well-versed in Jewish scripture and aware of his divine nature by the age of 12. Very little information on his training or travels as an adolescent or young man exists, but some scholars speculate he may have traveled to India to further his spiritual education before returning to the Palestine area at the age of thirty.
Gospel accounts authored by or assigned to four of Jesus Christ's disciples indicate that he returned to the area in order to be baptized into his new ministry by an itinerant proselytizer and prophet named John the Baptist. Once baptized, Jesus is believed to have received the Holy Spirit, a powerful spiritual force, directly from God. At this point in time, he decided to begin a new ministry which would free the Jewish people from both the oppression of the Roman government, and more importantly from the severe religious laws imposed upon them by God.
The early ministry of Jesus Christ largely involved the selection and training of twelve disciples who would continue the missionary work following the prophesied death of the Messiah. Jesus also performed a number of miracles and healings, which may have attracted many new members to his fold but also served to gain the unwanted attention of both the Romans and the Jewish hierarchy. As Christ and his disciples continued to preach a new form of religion not based on Jewish law, significant opposition began to form.
The ministry of Jesus Christ continued for approximately three and a half years, ending during the Jewish holiday of Passover. During a traditional supper ceremony, Jesus informed his disciples that he would soon be betrayed from within and handed over to the Romans for trial as a political insurrectionist. Within a few hours of this statement, Christ was indeed betrayed by Judas Iscariot, a believer in the Zealot movement, and handed over to the Roman authorities, led by Pontius Pilate.
The trial and subsequent punishment of Jesus Christ under Roman law appeared to appease Pilate, who found little legal reason to execute Jesus. The matter was left in the hands of the Jewish leaders, who wanted to neutralize the religious and political threat presented by Christ but did not have the power to put him to death. Eventually Pilate ordered the release of a second prisoner and allowed Jesus to be crucified on a cross, a slow and humiliating form of execution.
Jesus Christ endured several hours of exposure on the cross, and eventually lost the strength to pull himself up for fresh air. Unlike other crucifixion victims, Jesus' legs were not broken to hasten the process of death. The manner and circumstances of his death also matched the Messianic prophecies, although the general Jewish population at that time did not recognize Jesus as the true Messiah. His body was removed from the cross and given to a wealthy follower of Jesus named Joseph for immediate burial in a recently completed tomb.
For modern Christian believers, the true miracle of Jesus Christ occurred during this time inside the tomb. When visitors arrived at the tomb several days after the burial, they encountered a spiritual being who informed them that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, but had been restored to life by God. The resurrected Christ later appeared to his disciples and encouraged them to continue the ministry he had started. Gospel accounts say that he ascended into the sky in front of several hundred witnesses.