Versions of Jesus

JesusFaceGrowing up, I thought there was only one story of Jesus, just like there was only one story of Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King Jr. Of course, at that time, I did not know that the Jesus stories were constructed in a very different way from Lincoln and King.

Not only do the stories of Jesus vary, but the way people visualize Jesus are also different. Think about Jesus in your head — do you get an image? To the right is the well-know BBC reconstruction of a possible generic 1st Century Jewish face which may capture a possible real Jesus’ face closer than all the other Jesus images familiar in the West.  I’ll explore more of that later.

But my point is that the Jesus in people’s head is a mix of fictitious images and fictitious stories (well, certainly fictitious to some degree).  And today I am just sharing the diagram illustrating the three main origins of Jesus stories: Christian, Pagan and Atheist.

Versions of Jesus

My diagrams terms are as follows:

  1. Xians“: People who call themselves “Christians” often are surprised to find out how many different versions their fellow Christians have spun.
  2. Pagans“: Religious folks who are non-Christians have several different ways to explain Jesus. Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism all have their own stories.
  3. Atheists“: People who decisively don’t believe in any gods, also have several different contradictory stories of who Jesus was.
  4. Apathists“: Most Christians are “casual” Christians and could careless about doctrines, no little of the Bible and don’t really worry too much about stories about Jesus. A person who doesn’t believe in God and is apathetic about the issue may call themselves an Agnostics. And many believers in other religions (“Pagans” in this diagram) may care less about Jesus, just as most Christians could care less about the details of Amida. All these apathists.

Blog thread conversations about Jesus get confused easily because of the conflicting view people have of Jesus. I think both Christians and non-Christians sometimes don’t remember that there is a such a huge variety of stories.  This diagram, then, is just a reminder.

Questions to Readers:

  • Tell us, in 2-3 sentences, the version of Jesus you find most persuasive at this time.
  • Name a few versions of Jesus from within your own group (Pagans, Atheists or Christians) which conflict with your view.



Filed under Philosophy & Religion

5 responses to “Versions of Jesus

  1. Ian

    I tend to think the BBC image looks a little well-fed!

    Everyone looks into the well expecting to find Jesus and instead glimpses their own reflection.

    I think Jesus was a 1st century itinerant Galilean preacher, healer and exorcist. But, since I have rather poor intuition about what such a person would be ‘like’, I try not to build up a picture of Jesus, if I can help it.

    Plenty of atheists think he’s a mythic Sun God, plenty of cultural Christians think he’s a great moral exemplar. Both of them are more interesting than my Jesus. Which is why I suspect they’re both wrong.

  2. @ Ian:
    LOL, Indeed — a bit too well fed for an itinerant, ex-laborer magic man.
    Some atheists also view him as a great moral teacher/exemplar.
    Some Jungian types atheists see him as a myth or archetype
    I see his like you do, well but I see the Gospel stories as a Chimera.
    I think the great moral teacher is one of the most mistaken views for both atheists and Christians — but perhaps the most benign — depending on how it is used.
    I am really curious if anyone has done a poll on Atheist view of Jesus.
    Actually, I’d also love to read Atheist view of Ganesh — what is yours, Ian? Or of Krishna?

  3. Talking about Ganesh or Krishna, as not raised in any Hindu tradition, I am much more sympathetic/apathetic to these figures. In the sense that I see them as cultural images, curiosities, figures that decorate handbags and other kitch objects, sold in spirituality shops from Berkeley to London and elsewhere. Ganesh is like Zeus. Almost mythological. This is how I perceive him. I, of course, am aware that it is not the case for many people. For Jesus, however, since I grew up in an Orthodox Christian society, I don’t have the same image. In fact, I must force myself use rationality and not childhood images. This is due to indoctrination. We were subject to 9 years of (mandatory) religious [read: Christian] classes in elementary and high school.

  4. Exactly!
    So I imagine if you told us your atheist versions of Krishna they’d be much more generous than those of Krishna. But, put in you India for 5 years and watch Krishna propaganda separate communities or have it in your face, and your story would change again. Hindus themselves, have many flavors of Krishna too.

  5. Indeed. I admitted my weaknesses. Due to the in-built psychology. The result of childhood indoctrination.

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