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The quests for the “historical Jesus”

Toward the end of the second century, Celsus, a Roman critic of Christianity, declared that the appearances of Jesus after his death, as narrated in the four Gospels, were dreams, tall tales or hallucinations - the products of fancy, ambition or wishful thinking.

Today, such doubts are reinforced by a widespread understanding of science that rejects in principle any event appearing to depart from the ordinary patterns of nature, and by the conclusion of at least some Christians that the Scriptures are not, and never were meant to be, objective historical records. On one point, however, virtually all scholars agree.

Shortly after Jesus was executed, his followers were suddenly galvanized from a baffled and cowering group into people whose message about a living Jesus and a coming kingdom, preached at the risk of their lives, eventually changed an empire. But exactly what? Robert H. Schuller, one of the nation's most popular television preachers, favors uplift and encouragement over hellfire and brimstone - and he has been criticized for watering down the Christian message.

But Dr. Schuller insists, ''I take the Resurrection very literally. Where Dr. Schuller speaks of an actual bodily Resurrection, F.

A Doubter's Guide to Jesus: An Introduction to the Man From Nazareth For Believers and Skeptics

Forrester Church, pastor of the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City, focuses on the idea that Jesus' risen body is the church itself, infused and inspired by Jesus' sacrifice to bring new life into the world. In keeping with Unitarianism, which draws on a wide range of religious and humanist teachings, Dr.

Church says he obviously holds a ''low Christology'' - an understanding of Jesus that stresses his humanity rather than his divinity. The Rev.

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Charles Austin Perry, Provost of the Episcopal Church's National Cathedral in Washington, is preaching this Easter to people who, he says, are probably ''more moderately skeptical folks than in the Crystal Cathedral,'' Dr. Schuller's church in Garden Grove, Calif. In fact, a Gallup Poll taken in asked Americans to rank their certainty about whether Jesus rose from the dead on a scale of zero to Almost two-thirds selected the number 10, indicating ''absolute certainty. But Mr. Perry, after many years of teaching courses on the Resurrection, has a somewhat different perspective.

In a book, ''The Resurrection Promise,'' he wrote that many practicing Christians ''profess belief in the resurrection of Jesus'' but ''this profession of belief is not without considerable disbelief.

The Believer's Position in Christ

Puzzlement comes from two sources, he says. First, the church's proclamation that Jesus rose from the dead seems to defy a modern scientific world view. Second, the Gospel narratives ''are wildly variant,'' he said. The first dividing line, of course, separates out those whose understanding of natural science leads them to deny any possibility of divine intervention in human history. Miracles are ruled out in advance, and apparently reliable claims to have experienced anything of this sort simply raise the problem of explaining how the witnesses were deluded.

But even believers are confronted with the problem of inconsistencies.

Each of the four Gospels narrates the events surrounding the Resurrection, and many Christians have grown familiar with these passages without ever quite realizing how many discrepancies they contain. Who went to the tomb and what did they see? To whom did the risen Lord appear? In what manner and sequence? University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, InterVarsity, Downers Grove, And HasitschkaMartinS. Translated by O'ConnellMatthew J. ISBN: ISBN X. Paulist, New York, SpencerTrinity Press International, Harrisburg, Oxford University Press, New York.

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Followers of Judaism believe in one God who revealed himself through ancient prophets. History is essential to understanding the Jewish faith, which is embedded in tradition, law and culture. Islam is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity, with about 1. Although its roots go back further, scholars typically date the creation of Islam to the 7th century, making it the youngest of the major world religions.

The Protestant Reformation was the 16th-century religious, political, intellectual and cultural upheaval that splintered Catholic Europe, setting in place the structures and beliefs that would define the continent in the modern era. In northern and central Europe, reformers like Mormons are a religious group that embrace concepts of Christianity as well as revelations made by their founder, Joseph Smith.

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How Important Is the Resurrection to Christianity?

Christian Beliefs Some basic Christian concepts include: Christians are monotheistic, i. The essence of Christianity revolves around the life, death and Christian beliefs on the resurrection of Jesus. Christians believe God sent his son Jesus, the messiah, to save the world. They believe Jesus was crucified on a cross to offer the forgiveness of sins and was resurrected three days after his death before ascending to heaven. The cross is a symbol of Christianity.

The most important Christian holidays are Christmas which celebrates the birth of Jesus and Easter which commemorates the resurrection of Jesus.

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Who was Jesus? Some of the main themes that Jesus taught, which Christians later embraced, include: Love God.

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    The church and its history

    Religions on the End of the World. Electing a New Pope. The Bible The Bible is the holy scripture of the Christian religion, purporting to tell the history of the Earth from its earliest creation to the spread of Christianity in the first century A. Islam Islam is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity, with about 1.