Jesus Christ

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Jesus Christ (from ancient Greek Ἰησοῦς Χριστός Iēsous Christos [ iɛːˈsuːs kʰrisˈtos ], German 'Jesus, the anointed' ) is according to Christian teaching according to the New Testament (NT) the Messiah and Son of God sent by God for the redemption of all people . The early Christians already expressed their faith with his name and related the promises of salvation of the Old Testament (OT) to the historical person Jesus of Nazareth .

Jesus, the good shepherd in the tympanum of the Evangelical Peace Church in Hanau - Kesselstadt

The early Christian sources

The New Testament delivers the message of Jesus Christ in different literary forms for different purposes:

  • in 21 letters from the apostles , above all those of Paul, to certain Christian communities or individuals with missionary , pastoral , practical and educational content,
  • in four Gospels , two of which depict the birth of Jesus, all four narrate his appearance, speech and action, but above all his suffering, death and resurrection,
  • in an Acts of the Apostles , which describes the course of the early Christian mission under the guidance of the Holy Spirit from Jesus' appearance after his death to the transfer of Paul from Tarsus to Rome ,
  • in the Revelation of John , which presents end-time visions in the tradition of Jewish apocalyptic .

Probably none of the authors of the New Testament knew the historical Jesus. The Pauline letters (written 50–60) are the oldest early Christian writings. Your author presents himself as an eyewitness to the risen Jesus, whom he did not know before. The Pauline letters contain some words of Jesus and biographical details, but no accounts of his earthly ministry.

The four canonical Gospels (written between 70 and 100) tell of Jesus' work and fate in different ways tailored to their addressees. The three synoptic gospels in particular offer common material that is mostly explained using the two-source theory . Their order, selection and presentation differ due to different editorial concepts; However, their statements of faith about Jesus are basically the same and complement one another. Its oldest components come from the followers of Jesus from Galilee , who founded the Jerusalem early church and passed on Jesus' words first orally, then in writing.

Of the early Christian apocrypha , which were not included in the later canon of the NT , the Gospel of Thomas in particular can contain some authentic words of Jesus. They can come from a common tradition with the logia source . Some non-Christian scriptures mention Jesus in passing or indirectly.

All NT scriptures proclaim Jesus Christ, his story, his relationship to God and his meaning in different but essentially consistent ways as the gospel (good news) for the whole world. Because their authors believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ , which made it impossible for them to impart biographical data in an uninvolved manner. For them, Jesus was the Son of God, who came into the world to save all people from sin and death , who had taken upon himself the death of judgment, had been raised by God, now lived for all time and kept reminding himself until he will make his message come true at the end of time.

This belief prompted the early Christians to form churches, collect and record Jesus' words, and pass them on as everyone else. Your writings want to invite all people to believe in the incarnate, killed and risen Son of God on behalf of them. The NT thus became the basis for Christianity , which had emerged as a separate religion alongside Judaism since around 100 years.

The name

Sacred Heart statue in East Timor as king with Timorese rulers' insignia Kaibauk and Belak

Jesus Christ ( Latinization of the Greek Ἰησοῦς Χριστός ) is the confession of faith of the early Christians concentrated on the name . Jesus (Greek Ἰησοῦς Iēsūs ) is the Greek form of the Hebrew - Aramaic given name Jeschua or Jeschu , both short forms of Yehoshua . Christ is the Latinized form of the Greek word Χριστός Christós , which is the Hebrew word משיח maschiach , (Greek translation Μεσσίας , anointed one , see Messiah ) translated. As anointed in are Tanakh of God chose kings or priests designated, especially the expected descendant of King David . In the NT, "the anointed" (Greek ὅ Χριστός ho Christós ) designates Jesus of Nazareth as the risen Messiah of the end times .

Hebrew Greek
(Yeshua, Yeshu )
God saves
Anointed one

Jesus Christ connects first name and title: By omitting the masculine article of the title, it becomes an apposition of the first name instead of a verb and thus the proper name of the bearer. Thus, Jesus Christ is a Greek nominal sentence that says: 'Jesus is the anointed'. His followers identified the historical Jesus from Nazareth with the expected Jewish savior.

The name Jesus Christ is the early Christian confession formula. It can be found in all NT scriptures and probably comes from the mission sermon ( kerygma ) and baptismal practice of the Jerusalem early church , recognizable in Acts 2.38  EU and 5.42 EU . The Philippians hymn , one of the oldest hymns of Christ in the NT, proclaims: God gave Jesus this name. That is why one day “all tongues in heaven and on earth would confess to him” ( Phil 2: 9-11  EU ). According to Mk 1,11  EU , God confessed to Jesus at the baptism of Jesus and chose him as his beloved Son. On the way to Jerusalem , Jesus asked his disciples ( Mk 8 : 27–30  EU ): “Who do people think I am? They said to him: Some for John the Baptist ( Hebrew יוחנן המטביל Yokhanan HaMatbil ), others for Elijah , still others for another one of the prophets. Then he asked her: But you, who do you think I am? ” Simon Peter was the first to answer: You are the Christ! But he forbade them to speak to anyone about him.

In the oldest confessional sentences and sermons of the early Christians, the Christ title always refers to the death and resurrection of Jesus, so it presupposes them and summarizes their meaning of salvation. Looking back from this post-Easter perspective, the early Christians told the story of the pre-Easter Jesus. Mt 1,21  EU therefore already understands his first name as an indication of his task: “You should give him the name Jesus; for he will save his people from their sins. ”The verse alludes to the self-meaning of the Hebrew male given name Yeshua , which was common in Judaism at the time. With the prefix Je- it contains a short form of the divine name YHWH and a verb form of jaša (“help”, “save”). He therefore refers to God's action (“God helps”, “God saves”), for example in Sir 46.1  EU , or appeals to it (“God help”).

The early Christians saw God's salvation realized through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is why they believed in the healing power of his name. This healing was part of their following. According to Acts 3,6  EU, they also healed the terminally ill “in the name of Jesus Christ”. Simon Peter proclaims in Acts 4:12  EU : "For we humans have not been given any other name under heaven by which we are to be saved".


In German, Jesus Christ was declined in Latin until the early 20th century : "Jesus Christ is the Lord" (nominative) - "In the cross of Jesus Christ you find salvation" (genitive) - "You are in Jesus Christo" (dative) - " That is eternal life that they know Jesus Christ ”(accusative) -“ O Jesus Christ, true light ”( vocative ). Today, except in literary quotations, only the genitive Jesus Christ is in use.

The resurrection

Women at the grave of Christ and the Ascension (so-called " Reidersche Tafel "); Ivory; Milan or Rome, around AD 400

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the main content of the early Christian message of salvation, which was essentially as follows: Jesus was crucified and raised for us ( 1 Cor 15 : 3–5  EU ). This statement of faith was based on certain experiences with Jesus after his death. He announces to his disciples before his crucifixion resurrection triple to: Mt 16.21 to 23  EU , Mt 17.22 to 23  EU and Mt 20.17 to 19  EU .

The oldest Gospel did not initially report Jesus' appearance after Easter, but only announced it in Mk 16.5  EU . The NT letters also do not explain Jesus' appearance after his resurrection. Luke, John, and the Acts of the Apostles describe the resurrection in more detail.

The first eyewitnesses

Paul is the earliest writer of a NT scripture and declares that he saw the resurrected one himself. He took over an early creed from the early church in Jerusalem around 36 AD , combined with a list of witnesses ( 1 Cor 15.3–8  EU ):

“Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and was buried. He was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures, and appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at the same time; most of them are still alive, some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. "

Paul here quotes the faith of all early Christians and stated that many eyewitnesses are still alive and can be questioned. Then he added his own vision of Jesus:

"Last of all, he appeared to me, the unexpected, the 'freak'."

With this vision of Jesus experienced as a vocation ( Gal 1.15  EU ), he justified, like the prophet Jeremiah, his equal mandate for the mission of the nations . He did not describe his Damascus experience in more detail (cf. Acts 9 : 1-9  EU ), but only emphasized: He saw Jesus in the light of the glory of God ( 2 Cor. 3.38  EU ).

What exactly these first witnesses “saw” was the “resurrected one”: This expression describes God's invisible action on the slain Jesus. The image of being awakened from sleep means overcoming death from the other side . The passive divinum expresses respect: devout Jews avoid calling God by name. Her credo , however, indicates this-worldly experience: It points to a physical encounter with Jesus and at the same time to his incomparable way of being, which is no longer subject to mortality.

“He has truly risen!” ( Lk 24.34  EU ): This early confession referred to the active appearance of the resurrected one before his disciples. Both expressions in the NT as in the Jewish apocalyptic design exclusively God's action. “Seeing” there means foreseeing the future in a “vision” revealed by God ( Dan 7.1  EU ). It was therefore not an ordinary perception, but a cognition of which those involved could only say that God (OT) or Jesus (NT) had caused it himself.

The empty grave

The oldest account of the Passion that Mark adopted tells the story of the early Christian creed and therefore ends with the discovery of the empty tomb of Jesus on the “third day” of Jesus' death ( Mk 16.1–8  EU ). The Passion Report provides the following illustration: Only women of Jesus' followers were there ( Mk 15.40f  EU ). Some saw where he was buried ( Mk 15.47  EU ). After the Sabbath they wanted to embalm the dead according to Jewish custom and thus honor them (Mk 16: 1). They found his grave empty. The explanation for this was given by an angel in the form of a young man in a white robe (v. 6–7):

“But he said to them: Don't be frightened! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen; he is not here. See, there is the place where it was put. But now go and tell his disciples, especially Peter: He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him as he told you. "

This refers to the early list of witnesses. Your “seeing” is therefore interpreted as knowledge: God raised this previously killed Galilean. That is why his grave was empty. All who did not see him were sent on a path in which he revealed himself: that again called them to follow him . The emphasized reference to "the crucified one" sets God's final life creation against the unlawful killing of human beings and refers to the early Christian sermon in Jerusalem ( Acts 4,10  EU ): "You crucified him, but God raised him!"

Only in the case of Markus does the report end with the flight of women who, contrary to their mandate, do not say anything ( Mk 16.8  EU ). This is reminiscent of the escape of the men when Jesus was arrested ( Mk 14.50  EU ) and makes it clear that the women were initially unable to find them. It also alludes covertly to Isa 52.15  EU , which speaks of the exaltation of the despised Servant of God who was killed “for us” ( Isa 53.4f  EU ).

According to this, only Jesus' own appearance can overcome horror, fear and sadness, transform them into joy ( Mt 28.8  EU ) and create faith in him ( John 20.20  EU ). The text suggests that the visions of Jesus were already known and that they took place in or on the way to Galilee (Emmaus, Lk 24.13  EU ): a few days after the disciples 'flight and Jesus' death.

The historical content of the grave tradition is highly controversial. Some NT researchers (e.g. Rudolf Bultmann , Hans Graß , Willi Marxsen , Gerd Lüdemann ) consider the text to be a late apologetic legend that was supposed to "prove" Jesus' resurrection afterwards. Even Georg Strecker and Eugene Finegan see in this story "features secondary legendary origin". Others ( Hans von Campenhausen , Ulrich Wilckens , Wolfhart Pannenberg , Peter Stuhlmacher , J. Spencer Kennard ) assume that the finding of the empty grave "on the 3rd day" was historical and that it was Markus who reported it with the angel's message and Jesus' apparitions Association.

The historicity is supported by the fact that the list of witnesses does not name women, the tomb history does not name men and only women who witnessed the burial of Jesus. In patriarchal Judaism, they had no witness rights at that time, so that their initial silence seems plausible. According to Lk 24.11  EU , the men considered their news of the empty grave to be a “rumor” ( Martin Luther translated: “fairy tale”) and did not believe them until Jesus himself convinced them. This suggests that the apparitions of Jesus occurred independently of, but timely, the discovery of the empty tomb. That this was known in Jerusalem could be shown in Mt 28,13  EU : "Tell the people: His disciples came at night and stole it while we were sleeping." Such polemics against the original Christians are also handed down by the Mishnah .

At that time, Jewish martyrs were honored by expanding their graves to emphasize their right to a future resurrection ( Eduard Schweizer ). That was denied to the original Christians: “What are you looking for the living among the dead?” ( Lk 24,5  EU ). That is why Jesus' tomb is missing in the first sermons of Peter and in the letters of Paul . But if it was not verifiably empty, then the message of his resurrection in Jerusalem ( Acts 2,32  EU ) would hardly have been able to hold ( e.g. Paul Althaus , Karl Barth , Klaus Berger , Martin Karrer ).

The Emmaus disciples

Two disciples meet Jesus on the way to Emmaus. Relief from the Benedictine monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos in northern Spain

According to Luke 24 : 13–35  EU two of his disciples met Jesus on the way from Jerusalem to Emmaus . They do not recognize him, but tell him of their immeasurable sadness and disappointment: “But we had hoped that he would be the one who would redeem Israel.” Thereupon he interprets the scriptures for them: “Did not the Messiah have to suffer all this in order to so come into his glory? ”They ask him to stay. He does it, eats with them and breaks the bread before his death, as in the Passover meal. “Then their eyes opened and they recognized him; then they no longer saw him. ”Then they exchange their experience -“ Didn't our hearts burn in our chests when he talked to us on the way and opened up the meaning of the Scriptures for us? ”- they immediately return to Jerusalem, meet there the assembled eleven and hear their confirmation: "The Lord has really risen and appeared to Simon".

The text represents Lukan theology: The evangelist wanted to show how one can become a Christian even without a vision of one's own. Interpretation of the Bible, Eucharist, exchange of experiences with Jesus and a common creed probably reflect the course of an early Christian worship service . The name " Cleophas " (v. 18) for one of the disciples - the second remains unnamed - was obviously added later. If the witness were historical, the early community would have added his name to their list. The creed that the text aims at is considered by NT historians to be very old and predefined by history. It is a reminder that Peter was the first to see the resurrected One and then communicated this to others. Also Mk 16.7  EU calls him apart from the other disciples. This confirms the beginning of the Jerusalem witness list.

The 911 vision

All the Gospels tell of an apparition of Jesus to the circle of the first disciples. The synoptics expressly speak of eleven disciples, since Judas Iscariot was no longer counted among "the twelve" (according to Mt 27.5  EU he had hanged himself). The Gospel of John does not give a number, but Judas is no longer mentioned there either. With the appearance of Jesus, all Gospels justify the commissioning of the disciples for a mission to the nations. Each gospel formulates this differently and thus shows its particular theological view.

  • Mt 28: 1-20  EU took over and changed the history of the grave: The women who were still afraid of Markus and did not say anything are happy and are now hurrying to carry out their commission. They meet Jesus himself, who through them summons the disciples to a mountain in Galilee . There he appears to them, reveals the power that God has given him, promises them his presence of mind and his return , and commissions them to mission among the nations. This includes baptism in his name and keeping all his commandments ( Sermon on the Mount , Mt 5–7  EU ).
  • Lk 24,36–53  EU and Joh 20,19–23  EU share common and different motifs of the disciples' mission: Jesus appeared on the evening of the Sabbath day after his death, came to the assembled (Joh: through closed doors), offered them the greeting of peace, Overcame their fear and unbelief (Lk: by eating, Joh: by showing the wounds), interpreted the Scriptures (Lk) or gave them the Holy Spirit (Joh), sent them into the world to preach the forgiveness of sins and repentance (Lk) or for the remission or keeping of sins (Joh).
  • Mk 16.9–20  EU is a later appendix to the original end of the Gospel: It already presupposes the encounters with Jesus ( John 20  EU ) and the Emmaus disciples ( Lk 24  EU ), which Mark did not yet know. He brings the various appearance reports into a sequence in order to balance out contradictions. In doing so, however, he contradicts the list of witnesses: The 911 vision of all first-time employees is at the beginning, here at the end. The universal missionary mandate of the Christians now also contains the authority to cast out demons , analogous to the exorcisms of Jesus handed down by Mark.

All Gospels emphasize the identity of the resurrected person with the crucified person, the new with the old body: with this they defend against the Gnostic thesis of the “apparent death” of the Savior. That the resurrected one fed himself would mean that he was only resurrected, not immortal. But the texts also proclaim that he was no longer subject to the laws of nature, but went through walls ( Jn 20.19  EU ) and appeared in different places at the same time ( Lk 24.33-36  EU ). - According to 1 Cor 15.50f  EU , the old body cannot “inherit” the new body, but the heavenly body completely transforms the earthly body. In this respect, Paul, who did not seem to know anything about the empty tomb of Jesus, indirectly confirmed the Gospel accounts.

Whether and where Jesus showed himself to the eleven disciples - in Galilee (Mk and Mt) or in Jerusalem two days after Jesus' death (Lk and Joh) - can no longer be determined. Both were impossible with a disciples fleeing three days earlier. That is why every evangelist explains the disciples' meeting differently: In Matthew, Jesus appeared to the women at the grave in addition to the angels. With Lukas, the Emmaus experience causes the eleven to return immediately. With John, Peter stayed in Jerusalem and entered Jesus' tomb while Mary saw him first. So the evangelists linked the tomb story in contradicting ways with the apparitions to explain the disciples' meeting.

Later publication texts

  • Mk 9: 1–13  EU recalls a post-Easter vision of Jesus (v. 9) for Peter, James and John with Jesus' transfiguration on a mountain in Galilee. Gal 2.9  EU names these namesas “pillars” of the early church: One can therefore assume that they received their leadership position on the basis of such a vision of Jesus. Mark interprets this as a pre-Easter revelation of the chosen Son of God in the presence of Moses and Elijah , the law and the prophets .
  • Jn 20 : 1–18  EU transforms the traditional tomb story into a self-revelation of the resurrected one. The text obviously contradicts the synoptic tradition: Mary Magdalene , not Peter, saw Jesus first. In return, Peter was the first to enter the empty tomb. The final Johannine editors contradicted this again and added the “disciple whom Jesus loved”: They let him run a race with Peter and enter the empty tomb first to underpin his authority. This confirms that without Jesus 'own appearance, the empty tomb could only cause fear and horror, but no faith in Jesus' resurrection. It also confirms that women - whether they saw him for themselves or just found his grave empty - were the first Easter witnesses.
  • In John 21 : 1–14  EU , Jesus appears to seven of his first disciples on the shore of the Sea of ​​Galilee , where he initially called them. He helps them catch a great fish. The disciple whom Jesus loved is the first to recognize: “It is the Lord!” He invites them to a common meal, prepares it and eats with them. This text, too, was appended to an earlier end of the Gospel ( Jn 20.31  EU ) and is part of his final editing (v. 24). It presupposes the episode of the wonderful fishing trip ( Mt 4,8-22  EU / Lk 5,1-11  EU ), recalls the first discipleship calls of Jesus ( Mk 1,16-20  EU ), and wants to encourage the addressees to go on a mission Invite the newly baptized to the sacrament - The fish became a secret identification mark for persecuted Christians in Rome: in Greek Ichthys (Ιχθυς) is the acrostichon Iesus Christ Theu ´Yios Soter (Ιήσους Χριστος Θεου Ύιος Σωτηρ, "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Redeemer").

Attempts to reconstruct the course of the Easter event

Christ representation 1310

The main features of the Gospels coincide with one another in the basics of what happened after Jesus' death:

  • On the day of his death, Jesus was placed in a fresh rock tomb before the Sabbath began . Some women among his followers saw where he was buried.
  • The day after the Sabbath they wanted to embalm the dead. They found his grave empty.
  • The disciples had meanwhile returned to Galilee separately. There, or on the way there, some of them had a vision that they experienced and described as a miracle of God: Jesus was raised.
  • These visions were similar, but took place independently of one another, spread over time and space ( Lk 24.34  EU ).
  • The disciples then sought contact again, exchanged their experiences and returned to Jerusalem: According to biblical prophecy, Jews awaited the end of the world there.
  • In the city they met the women who showed them the empty grave. Her account of it was then transformed into the promise of "seeing" Jesus in Galilee.

The return of the disciples to Jerusalem probably took place independently of the discovery of the grave by the women. They then did not return there necessarily at the same time, but instead based on their own experiences and messages from the risen Jesus. This is why a number of NT exegetes (Hans von Campenhausen, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Martin Karrer) assume that the oldest notes from disciples to whom Jesus appeared on the way to Galilee reflect real experiences, since the church planting in Jerusalem is hardly any different after the disciples' flight be explained. Other NT researchers, on the other hand, consider the appearance reports to be subjective projections with no external impetus.

Which women found Jesus' empty tomb, why they visited it, which disciples saw the resurrected Jesus, when, where and what they saw and heard: these are some of the points that the Gospels convey differently and in part contradicting each other. They only confirm the first vision of Peter and some other unnamed disciples from the list of witnesses of the early church, without describing them in more detail. They know nothing of the appearances of Jesus to "500 brothers" and "all apostles" mentioned in the list. The " Assumption " ( ActsEU ) was only the penalty circle; the mass vision possibly means a mass baptism like that after the Pentecost sermon ( Acts 2,41  EU ).

The theological interpretative motifs of the Easter texts

  • God acted

All Easter texts of the NT proclaim: Only God himself could raise Jesus. Nobody was there. Only the resurrected one could then reveal himself to his disciples. Nobody recognized him on his own. Only some of the first disciples and Paul saw the resurrected one. This could only be seen for a limited time ( Acts 1, 2–5  EU ): The list of witnesses, Gospels and Acts of the Apostles agree.

This emphasizes the special character of what has been announced as a real event, which, however, stands outside of all otherwise known causal relationships ( miracle ). It cannot be seen "from the outside", but was only revealed to a small circle of witnesses. Whoever wants to believe the NT can only believe the faith of these first witnesses and trust their testimony, or not.

This is the reason for the range of interpretations: While rationalist theologians and religious critics of "fraud" ( Hermann Samuel Reimarus ), "fiction" and "subjective visions" ( David Friedrich Strauss ), "projection" ( Ludwig Feuerbach , Sigmund Freud ), " Mythological self-understanding" ( Rudolf Bultmann ), "apologetic legends" ( Hans Graß ) u. a. speak and explain this from a “processing of feelings of guilt” ( Gerd Lüdemann ), evangelical , conservative and fundamental Catholic theologians (e.g. Walter Künneth , Wolfhart Pannenberg ) try to identify Jesus' resurrection as a “ historical event ”. Karl Barth took a middle position : He emphasized the objective happenings behind the testimonies of faith, which, however, were in principle not historically verifiable.

  • The resurrected one gives reconciliation and thus overcomes unbelief

The Easter texts emphasize the identity of the one now risen with the one previously crucified. They remind Jesus' disciples of their failure in the face of his death: they betrayed, abandoned and denied him. So only he himself could overcome their disbelief. He did this by being reconciled with them. Only that opened her eyes. Eating together gave them another - and this time irrevocably - share in salvation. The Gospels emphasize this aspect in particular: this is the meaning of the meal motifs in their appearance texts. That is why the early church celebrated the Lord's Supper in every service.

  • The crucified Jew from Galilee is the Son of God exalted to God

At the same time as atonement, the risen One created the knowledge of who he really is: Christ sent by God and exalted to God . So this person is the ultimate revealer of this God and his unique image . The early Christians then proclaimed him as such, while, like him, they still proclaimed the kingdom of God before his death ( Mt 10.7  EU ). The title of the Son of God already included the aspects of eternal election ( pre-existence of Christ ), presence, world domination and second coming.

  • The Son of God is the coming world judge

All early Christians interpreted Jesus' appearance as a "resurrection". Given their Jewish beliefs, this was inconceivable: the dead were supposed to be “raised” together, and only at the end of the world, when God appears for judgment. A convicted person under Jewish law who was crucified was considered to be cursed by God. In the Jewish faith he would not have been raised or rejected in the final judgment.

After the desperate flight of the disciples, the texts clearly show their joy at the surprising turnaround. Jesus' appearance was completely unexpected for them and first aroused fear: for with it the judge came to anticipate his final judgment and put it into effect. Paul in particular, the persecutor of the early church, experienced this: the enthroned Son of Man showed himself to him in the light of the glory of God ( Acts 9,3  EU ; 2 Cor 3,18  EU ). This could only be followed by silence, blindness and kneeling. In his inaugural vision therefore the Mahlmotiv, the broadcast motive and lacking scriptural proof : this led Stephen already, whose missionary preaching ( ActsEU had heard) Paul well. According to Acts 22,16ff EU , he was only commissioned to perform a  mission to the nations after his baptism .

  • The coming of the Judge will completely transform the world

Jesus resurrection confirmed for the early Christians the future expectation of the Jewish prophecy ( Isaiah 25.8  EU ; 35.10 EU ; Ezek 37.12 to 14  EU ) and apocalypticism ( Dan 7.2 to 14  EU ) from an eschatological transformation of creation and overcoming of death ( 1 Cor 15  EU ; Rev 21 : 3–5  EU ). That is why they proclaimed him as “the first of those who fell asleep” ( 1 Cor 15.20  EU ), with his resurrection they foresaw the future of all dead and the appearance of the new creation and expected his return while they were still alive ( 1 Cor 15.51  EU) ; Mk 13.30  EU ).

Therefore the empty tomb did not play a primary role in the early Christian proclamation. It was only a secondary confirmation of the actual Easter message. It emphasized the reality of the new life of Jesus and pointed those addressed away from the past to the future: "What are you looking for the living among the dead?" ( Lk 24,5  EU )

  • The presence of mind of the risen One sends those who believe in him to the mission of the nations

The gift of the Holy Spirit in the event of Pentecost confirmed that the early Christians had overcome the curse of language confusion ( Gen 11  EU ), and thus gave them hope for international understanding and peace ( Acts 2.1–11  EU ). Even the first sermons of Peter proclaimed Jesus' resurrection as a call to the peoples and the fulfillment of Abraham's blessing of the people ( Acts 2.14ff  EU ; 3.12ff EU ; 4.8ff EU ). This fulfillment began like in Jesus' lifetime with the healing of the damaged creature ( Acts 5,12ff  EU ).

These aspects or dimensions of Jesus' resurrection are inseparable in the NT, but do not appear everywhere at the same time. She then unfolded further Christology and Soteriology depending on the situation of the congregations addressed.

Suffering and death on the cross

Main article: Jesus of Nazareth: Events at the end of life , Passion

The death of Jesus Christ was just as much a central theme of faith for the early Christians as his resurrection. Early creed formulas always mention both dates together. They interpret death in a linguistically variable but consistent manner as the surrender of Jesus or God for his followers, his people and all people. The key to this were the words of the Lord's Supper ( Mk 14.22-25  EU , 1 Cor 11.23-26  EU ).

Soon these confessional sentences were unfolded narrative. The Passion Reports of the Gospels are based on a common basic form from the Jerusalem early community. They each answer in their own way the disciples' question about the meaning of the suffering and death of Jesus with the help of scripture ( Lk 24 : 14-17  EU ). Later church letters interpreted Jesus' death differently theologically.

The Passion Report with Markus

The Gospel of Mark is composed as a “Passion story with a detailed introduction” ( Martin Kähler ). Markus linked Jesus' ministry in Galilee using the suffering Announcements ( Mk 8.31  EU 9.31 EU 10.33 EU ) closely with its end in Jerusalem and presents it as an anticipation of the biblical apocalyptic promised end time . With the help of is He explains the concept of the Messiah's secret that Jesus first kept his identity a secret, only to reveal himself as Messiah and Son of Man when he died.

The account begins with Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem, followed by the last supper as part of a Passover , arrest, trial, delivery, carrying the cross , crucifixion and burial. The core of this firmly established process may have been caused by the original creed ( 1 Cor 15.3-5  EU ). On the eve of his death, Jesus says here to the assembled circle of twelve, who stood for all Israel and included Judas Iscariot ( Mk 14:24  EU ): “This is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many.” The expression “for the many “Means in Aramaic an inclusive multitude, thus“ for all ”, and quoted from Isa 52 : 13–53, 12 EU : There the suffering“ servant of God ”is promised on behalf  of the whole people and their leaders . Some see here, following Joachim Jeremias, a historical memory of Jesus' own interpretation in Mk 10.45  EU .

The crucifixion of Jesus anticipates the final judgment over the whole earth: This is indicated by the darkness at the crucifixion of Jesus and the schedule of hours ( Mk 15.33  EU ), which symbolically fulfill the judgment announcements in Israel's prophecy (including Am 5.18  EU ; Joel 2.2  EU ) and state: Here God is carrying out his predetermined plan. Here the deadline expires, which is set for all tyranny ( Dan 7,12  EU ). The text thus proclaims: The final judgment on Israel and the world of nations has already taken place. God himself gave up his Son to save Israel and all people from this judgment.

Jesus prays on the cross for his Jewish accusers and Roman executioners with the words of the 22nd Psalm ( Mk 15,34  EU ): “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This psalm became whole since the exile on unjust suffering Related to Israel. Jews wrongly sentenced to death prayed in Babylonia , Rome , Auschwitz , Bergen-Belsen, and elsewhere. Jesus' forsaken God has an exclusive and an inclusive side. As the one judged for humanity, he suffers the judgment on behalf of humanity: only he can do this, only he does it. Nobody else can and should still do that. As the one who suffers unjustly with and for all, he cries out for God's justice.

Both sides are inseparable from the history of the Jewish people. Because the prayer of Psalm 22 appeals to the God of Exodus and places his suffering in Israel's history as a whole. He prays and suffers with and for his people ( Claus Westermann ).

Mark narrates a farewell oath of Jesus at the Passover meal ( Mk 14.25  EU ): “I will no longer drink the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it again in the kingdom of God.” Accordingly, he rejects the anesthetic drink on the cross from his executioner ( Mk 15.23  EU ), but after his court action ( Mk 15.34  EU ) accepts the wine vinegar from the hands of Jews who hoped that the prophet Elijah would save him.

For Mark, God's judgment cannot be separated from the entry ( kenosis ) of Jesus into the history of suffering and hope in Israel. Hope lies precisely in Jesus' death. God himself is present in it, suffer and die with his son. God's kingdom will come and overcome all tyranny. Jesus himself ultimately reaffirmed this promise of God for all hopelessly enslaved and tortured by giving up his life on the feast of Israel's liberation for all peoples. The oldest narrative interpretation of Jesus' death on the cross establishes an irrevocable solidarity between Christians and Jews and all those unjustly persecuted.

Motives for interpretation in the NT

The early Christians interpreted Jesus' suffering and death largely with biblical categories and motifs:

motive Occurrence
binding Mk, Paul, Heb
Surrender Mt, Mk, Lk, Paulus, Eph, Col, 1Petr
for the many ( Isa 53  EU ) Mt, Mk, Lk, Paulus, Heb, 1Petr
for humanity / friends Joh
curse Gal
Contrast scheme:
died (by people)
raised (by God)
Suffering for Mt, Mk, Lk, Paulus, Heb, 1Petr
Sufferings of the righteous 1 Joh
Buying out
Mt, Mk, Paul, Eph, Col, pastoral letters, 1 Peter, Revelation
Deletion of the debt certificate Eph, col
Fulfillment of scripture ("must") Mt, Mk, Lk, Joh
Pasha (lamb) Mt, Mk, Lk, Joh, Paulus, Revelation
Persecution of the prophets Mt, Mk, Lk, 1Thess
atonement Mt, Mk, 1Joh, Paulus, Eph, Kol, Heb, 1Petr, Revb
reconciliation Paul, Eph, col

Early Christian titles

For the disciples of Jesus and early Christianity, the Tanach was the key to understanding Jesus' death and his resurrection as the predetermined will of God. This explains many of the titles intended for Jesus, such as “Son of David”, “Second Adam” and analogies such as “Adonai”, “Kyrios”, “Maschiach”, “Christos”, etc. Many historically critical New Testament scholars consider it likely that Jesus himself did not designate or identify himself with any sovereign title prescribed by Jewish tradition.

Son of david

The eschatological expectation in the late days of OT was directed towards a "son of David", a descendant of King David , who founded Greater Israel, conquered his enemies and initiated the construction of the temple. David received the promise of perpetual succession to the throne ( 2 Sam 7,13f  EU ) after he had transferred the ark of the old union of 12 tribes to Jerusalem. This was followed by the prophecy of exile after the fall of kingship: the Messiah was hoped for as a later “scion” of the David's clan ( Isa. 11.1  EU ).

In the Qumran community this image of the Messiah is connected with the just justice for the poor and healing of the sick, which the people hope for. Where Jesus is named Son of David in the NT, such expectations are in the foreground. Jesus did not contradict this ( Mk 10.46–52  EU ).

But the new David should also free Israel by force from the hand of its enemies: Jesus symbolically contradicted this and instead reminded of the powerless Messiah Zechariah ( Mk 11: 1-10  EU ). He is also said to have emphasized that the Messiah is not a descendant, but an ancestor of David and is superior to him ( Mk 12,35f  EU ): This obviously alluded to the preexisting “Son of Man” who came from God's realm ( Dan 7,13f  EU ) .


Christos translates the Hebrew Maschiach ("the anointed") into Greek. The anointing of the head with precious oil by a prophet indicated the divine calling of a new king in Israel ( 1 Sam 10  EU ). The sovereign title thus denoted aspirants to the throne who were commissioned and obliged to protect and help the people. After the fall of kingship (586 BC) the title was transferred to the high priest. Only in post-biblical texts such as the Qumran scrolls did he sometimes also refer to the mediator of salvation expected for the end times since Isaiah .

The Gospels use the title for Jesus in the ultimate sense, but only rarely and never in Jesus' own statements. The expectation of the Messiah was therefore brought to Jesus from outside. The texts emphasize that he has set himself apart from the false expectations of his contemporaries. Thus the confession of the Messiah of Peter Jesus follows the reference to his necessary redeeming suffering (the first announcement of suffering in the Gospel of Mark).

Since the biblical tradition describes kings, priests and a prophet of Israel as anointed by God, the Christ title in the NT states that Jesus performed and took over all three functions for his people and the nations. In the narrative context, Jesus 'messiahship is illustrated through his teaching and decision-making ( Sermon on the Mount ), healing and saving ( Jesus' miracle ), but above all through his vicarious assumption of guilt. This role was announced in the Tanakh not by the Messiah, but by the Servant of God (Isa 53).

Son of god

In the Hebrew Bible, "Son of God" means on the one hand every God-fearing Israelite, on the other hand the whole people ( Hos 11.1  EU ), but mostly the king of Israel ( 2 Sam 7.14  EU ; Ps 2.7  EU ; 89.27f EU and others). Texts from Qumran once also used the title for the savior. In the NT it is brought to Jesus in this form by Kajaphas ( Mk 14.61  EU ) and then used in the Hellenistic influenced early Christianity .

The Pauline letters (e.g. Rom 1,3  EU ) and the Gospel of Mark (e.g. Mk 15,39  EU ) prefer to use the Son of God title in order to emphasize the particularity of this Messiah in relation to Judaism. The adoption statement of God in connection with the baptism of Jesus “You are my beloved son” ( Mk 1,11  EU par.) Indirectly quotes PsEU ( “You are my son ”), which is related to a coronation ritual for Israelite kings.

The Gospel of John ( Joh 5,19ff  EU ; 8,35f EU ) lets Jesus often speak of himself as "the Son" or directly as the "Son of God" ( Joh 5,25  EU ; 9,35-37 EU ; 10, 36 EU ).


Jesus never called himself “God”, but Thomas addressed him with “My Lord and my God!” ( Jn 20.28  EU ). Jesus is also expressly referred to as God in several letters: “... in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life ”( 1 Jn 5:20  EU ); “The appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus” ( Tit 2,13  EU ). Further statements aimed in this direction can be found in Joh 1,1  EU ; Rom 9,5  EU ; Kol 2.2  EU ; Heb 1,8-10  EU ; 2 Petr 1.1  EU . From this it is concluded that the NT designates Jesus as God.

An equation of Jesus with God is expressed several times, also indirectly, in that statements such as “I am the Alpha and the Omega” appear both in the mouth of God and in the mouth of Jesus ( Rev 1,8  EU ; Rev 22,13  EU ). See also: Trinity .

High priest

According to the Letter to the Hebrews from Chapter 2 EU , the levitic priesthood in the New Covenant expires ( Heb 7,18-22  EU ) and Jesus is considered the new "apostle and high priest " with reference to Psalm 110,4 ( Ps 110,4  EU ) ( Heb 3,1  EU ) "according to the order of Melchizedek " ( Heb 5,6  EU ).

Son of man

The title Son of Man in the book of Daniel refers to a mediator of salvation in the end times. In the vision of the final judgment he no longer appears as a descendant of David and an earthly king, but as a heavenly being. He will embody and enforce God's kingdom after God himself has carried out the final judgment over all earthly tyranny. Thereupon all people would serve him and his kingdom would be eternal ( Dan 7,2-14  EU ).

In this way, in a situation of extreme threat to the existence of Judaism, Jewish apocalyptic kept the earlier prophetic promises that had expected the peace of the nations from the Messiah . This was no longer expected as an inner historical development, but only from the coming of God to the final judgment, i.e. at the same time as the end of world history.

The title of the Son of Man appears in the NT with one exception ( Acts 7.56  EU ) only in Jesus' verbatim speech. In texts that are assigned to the hypothetical source of logic , he always speaks of the coming Son of Man in the third person. The question of whether he meant himself or someone else is one of the most important controversial topics in NT research.

With Mark, Jesus already used the authority of the Son of Man in Galilee to forgive sins ( Mk 2.10  EU ) and to heal them on the Sabbath ( Mk 2.28  EU ). Later he announced the extradition of the Son of Man to his enemies ( Mk 8.31  EU ). According to Mk 10: 35-45 EU , the Son  of Man came to serve, not to rule, and to give his life "for many": This expression alludes to Isa 53  EU , thus connecting the expectation of the Son of Man with the promise of the suffering Servant of God.

The death of the Son of Man was not foreseen in Daniel's vision because he only appears there after God has conquered Israel's enemies. The apocalyptic reversal of the balance of power after the final judgment is made dependent in the NT on the previous vicarious suffering of God's representative for Israel. That is why the early Christians were able to interpret Jesus' death later as a waiver of power by the Son of God that served humanity ( Phil 2,7  EU ) and a substitute acceptance of the final judgment ( Mk 15,34  EU ).

In the speeches about the final judgment ( Mk 13  EU , Mt 25  EU , Lk 21  EU , JohEU Joh 5,19–30 EU ) the Son of Man  appears as the world judge. So he represents God himself in this function.

After Easter, the early church in Jerusalem replaced the title of Son of Man with the title of Kyrios, to express Jesus' exaltation on God's side. Only Stephen confessed to the exalted Son of Man ( Acts 7.56  EU ) and was stoned to death by the Sanhedrin for this .


Kyrios (Greek for "Lord") translates the Hebrew Adonai ("My Lords") into Greek. This address replaced the divine name YHWH in post-exilic Judaism; accordingly, the Septuagint consistently used "Kyrios" in its place. The early Christians transferred this title to Jesus: For him it occurs in almost all NT scriptures except the letters of John and the Letter to Titus and is therefore the second most common title for Jesus in the NT.

The title plays a subordinate role with Markus and Matthew, but is often used by Luke ( Lk 1.43  EU , Lk 2.11  EU , Lk 24.34  EU , Lk 1.76  EU ).

Wilhelm Bousset saw the use of the title among Hellenistic early Christians influenced by Greek mystery cults , whose followers invoked their cult gods as "Kyrios". The early church in Jerusalem did not use it. Oscar Cullmann , on the other hand, referred to the religious use of the title in Judaism as well: the early community therefore also used it.

The Hebrew Adonai and Aramaic Mar were used in secular and spiritual contexts. In the Genesis Apocryphon from Qumran, people and God are addressed as “Mar” without any linguistic difference. The formula Maranatha ("Our Lord, come!", For example in 1 Cor 16.22  EU ) is one of the earliest beliefs from the early church next to Phil 2.11  EU ("Jesus Christ is Lord!").

In the NT the Kyrios title refers to the holiness, abundance of power and world dominion of Jesus Christ. Especially Ps 110.1  EU was to transfer the title of God in Jesus used (see. Mt 22,44  EU ):

"This is how the Lord says to my Lord: Sit at my right hand and I will place your enemies as a stool under your feet."

In the Jewish tradition, the Messiah is a person chosen by God but mortal. The fact that Jews who believed in Jesus as Messiah (see Messianic Jews ) called on him like God as Kyrios is also an indication that the historical Jesus used the title of the coming Son of Man from DanielEU . Because it was respected that Jesus called himself that before Easter and had now been exalted to God, the Kyriostitle replaced the Son of Man title after Easter.

Lamb Of God

Early mosaic representation of the Lamb of God in the Basilica of Santa Prassede

The invocation of the Lamb of God ( Joh 1.29  EU ) (Latin Agnus Dei ) stands for the Atonement interpretation of the death of Jesus in the context of a Passover, which is linked to the prophecy of the “servant of God” Isa 53.7  EU . Martin Hastischka, however, doubts a reference going back to the Passover lamb , the sacrifice of Isaac or the lamb of Jewish apocalyptic and considers the title to be a widespread symbol of powerlessness and defenselessness.

Christ as the slaughtered Passover lamb also has an essential meaning in the Gospel of John in the Passion, where the death of Jesus is synchronized with the time of the slaughter of the Passover lambs in the temple ( Jn 19 : 14, 31-36  EU ). In addition, 1 Cor 5,7  EU , 1 Petr 5,7  EU and Revelation ( Rev 5,6  EU ) use the image of the sacrificed lamb.


The title Logos λόγος marks the prologue of John in the NT ( John 1 : 1, 14  EU ). The author - probably the evangelist - translated on the one hand the Hebrew dabar for God's direct speech in the Tanakh with a central concept of Greek philosophy , on the other hand - and this is unique - he identified him with the person of the mediator of salvation and related him to his pre-existence before creation.

According to Hans Conzelmann , this equation also distinguishes the term from the terms image or image of God εἰκών ( 2 Cor 4,4  EU ) and wisdom ( 1 Cor 1,30  EU ) for Jesus in Paul.

Second or last Adam

Paul calls Jesus the "second" or "last Adam " and thus relates him to the first person in the biblical creation story . He does not describe him as his offspring, but as a healing antithesis: Compared to Adam, who was created from earth and caused death for people through his sin ( Rom 5.12  EU ), Jesus comes "from heaven" ( 1 Cor 15.47  EU ) and overcame death for the people ( Rom 5,17f  EU ). In contrast to the earthly ( 1 Cor 15.45  EU ), Jesus embodies the pneumatic form of existence, which he himself creates ( 1 Cor 15.47  EU ). Just as Adam became the progenitor of sinful humanity, so the heavenly community emerges from Jesus as the body of Christ ( 1 Cor 15.48  EU ; cf. Col 1.18  EU ).

Other titles and attributes

Parish Church of the Good Shepherd (Vienna) : Christ as Good Shepherd by the Slovak sculptor Otto Čičatka (1914–1994)

In addition, there are other titles and attributes for Jesus Christ in the NT:

See also


Individual evidence

  1. Bernhard Lang : The Bible , Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 1992, p. 87.
  2. Bernhard Lang: The Bible. P. 86f.
  3. Reinhard Nordsieck: The Gospel of Thomas. Neukirchener Verlag, 2nd edition. 2004, introduction (research history) pp. 7–23.
  4. Duden: Jesus Christ, the : Latin declined are the genitive: Jesu Christi , dative and ablative: Jesu Christo , accusative: Jesum Christum . In German today only the Latin genitive is used, in the liturgy also the vocative (call) Jesu Christe (“O Jesus Christ!”).
  5. a b Marinus De Jonge: Christ . In: David Noel Freedman (Ed.): The Anchor Bible Dictionary . tape 1 . Doubleday, New York, NY etc. 1992, ISBN 0-385-19351-3 , pp. 914 f . (English).
  6. Ben F. Meyer: Jesus Christ . In: David Noel Freedman (Ed.): The Anchor Bible Dictionary . tape 3 . Doubleday, New York, NY etc. 1992, ISBN 0-385-19361-0 , pp. 773 (English).
  7. ^ Fritz Rienecker: Linguistic key to the Greek New Testament. Brunnen, 17th edition, Gießen / Basel 1984, p. 42.
  8. Martin Noth: The Israelite personal names in the context of common emitic naming. 1928, p. 154.
  9. Karl Heinrich Rengstorf: Article Jesus Christ. In: Theological glossary of terms for the New Testament. Brockhaus, 9th edition, 1993, p. 757.
  10. Martin Karrer: Jesus Christ in the New Testament. P. 47 and footnote 76.
  11. Adelheid Ruck-Schröder : The name of God and the name of Jesus: a New Testament study. Neukirchener Verlag, 1999, ISBN 3-7887-1706-8 .
  12. Detlef Häuser: Creed and tradition of Jesus in Johannes. Pp. 114-117.
  13. Walter Schmithals: Introduction to the first three Gospels. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1985, ISBN 3-11-010263-3 , p. 419 and p. 425.
  14. Joachim Jeremias: The ransom for many. In: Judaica 3 (1947), pp. 249-264; Received by Eckhard Schnabel , Heinz-Werner Neudorfer: The study of the NT. R. Brockhaus, 2011, ISBN 978-3-417-29430-9 , p. 139.
  15. Martin Karrer: Jesus Christ in the New Testament. P. 173.
  16. Matthias Kreplin: The self-understanding of Jesus. Zurich, 2001, p. 83 ff.
  17. a b Bernhard Lang, Dieter Zeller: Messias / Christ . In: Manfred Görg, Bernhard Lang (Ed.): New Bible Lexicon . tape 2 . Benziger, Zurich 1995, ISBN 3-545-23075-9 , pp. 782-785 .
  18. Hyam Maccoby : Jesus and the Jewish fight for freedom , Ahriman-Verlag, 1996, p. 87.
  19. ^ Horst Georg Pöhlmann : Abriß der Dogmatik. A compendium . 4 1973, p. 236.
  20. That Jesus speaks here is evident from Rev 22,12 + 20  EU . Further equations discussed with Franz Graf-Stuhlhofer : Jesus Christ - God's Son . Leun 3 2012, pp. 24-31; to the direct statements on pp. 39–41.
  21. P. Maiberger, article "Herr" (AT) , NBL Vol. 2, column 127
  22. Martin Karrer: Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Göttingen 1998, p. 340.
  23. Petr Pokorny: Theologie der Lukanischen Schriften, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1999, p. 116.
  24. ^ Wilhelm Bousset: Kyrios Christos - history of the faith in Christ from the beginnings of Christianity to Irenaeus. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 5th edition. 1965, pp. 75-84.
  25. Oscar Cullmann: The Christology of the New Testament. Mohr Siebeck, 5th edition. Tübingen 1975, p. 200ff; so also Werner Georg Kümmel: The theology of the New Testament according to its main witnesses Jesus, Paulus, Johannes , Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen 1969, pp. 99-103.
  26. K. Woschitz: Art. "Herr" (NT) , NBL, Bd. 2, column 129
  27. Bertold Klappert: The Resurrection of the Crucified: The approach of the Christology of Karl Barth in the context of the Christology of the present. Neukirchener Verlag, 3rd edition. 1981, ISBN 3-7887-0429-2 , p. 141, note 11
  28. ^ Rainer Metzner: The understanding of sin in the Gospel of John. Humboldt University Berlin, 1998, pp. 143–155.
  29. Martin Hasitschka: Liberation from sin according to the Gospel of John. Tyrolia-Verlag, 1989, pp. 112ff and 233ff
  30. Hans Conzelmann: Outline of the theology of the New Testament. Christian Kaiser Verlag, Munich 1967, pp. 363–367.
  31. Can a Muslim do that? Review by Daniel Haufler in Frankfurter Rundschau on August 2, 2013.
  32. Katharina Granzin: The Exorcist and his Interpreten , taz , March 1, 2014, p. 27.

Web links

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