If ever there was a polarizing figure, it was good ole Jesus Christ. Some people love him, some people hate him (I think?), others really have no opinion of him whatsoever.
Transcontinental wars have been waged in his name. His birthday is a national holiday where people exchange presents and sing songs celebrating him written by Jews in the 1950s (seriously – look up the composer of “Silver Bells”.) Jesus has an entire religion named after him actually, one that encapsulates a staggering amount of the world’s population (there are 1.09 billion Catholics alone, let alone all the other denominations). And even between them they can’t seem to get along.
But the one thing they can agree on is that Christ is our Lord and Saviour. Be it true or not, I’m not here to say. But that’s one pretty important commonality between those billion+ people. I therefore trust that they, and you, are curious enough to keep on reading, and find out 15 fun facts about the [alleged!] son of God. Let’s get right into it.
15. Some People Think He Was Black
Recording devices two-thousand years ago were crude, to say the least. I don’t even think that by the Middle Ages people had figured out to represent perspective using shadows and sizes, which is why all the art from back then is flat and large. Most of the images we have today of Jesus Christ are Eurocentric imaginations of him as having lily-white skin and blond corkscrew curls. But remember that Bible stories were not happening in Bavaria, they were happening the Middle East. The argument is that the ancient Israelites were the descendants of a Black African people.
14. There Are Many Gods Born on “Christmas”
The Roman Sun god Sol Invictus.
The Persian god of light Mithra.
The Egyptian solar deity Horus.
The Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu.
These are just some of the other deities who have been celebrated on December 25th. The mythical day in December has actually been used for millennia as a sacred and spiritual time of the year. Before the monotheistic conception of God, people thought that there were many Gods all around us (and that they were smallminded, squabbling, and vindictive!) They conceptualized the progression of the year as the night trying to beat down the sun (winter), and then the sun vanquishing over the darkness. December 25th coincides roughly with the winter solstice, after which days only get longer until June. They therefore thought that Dec. 25th was the day the sun won; a time for celebration.
13. He Was A Jew
Try telling your grandma this one and she’ll tell you to shut your blaspheming mouth, but it’s undeniably true. He was obviously religious, he hailed from Judea, and there was only really one religion at the time… Judaism. As Shaye I.D. Cohen, Samuel Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies Brown University, says: “Of course, Jesus was a Jew. He was born of a Jewish mother, in Galilee, a Jewish part of the world. All of his friends, associates, colleagues, disciples, all of them were Jews. He regularly worshipped in Jewish communal worship, what we call synagogues. He preached from Jewish text, from the Bible. He celebrated the Jewish festivals. He went on pilgrimage to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem where he was under the authority of priests…. He lived, was born, lived, died, taught as a Jew.” To call him Christian would be an anachronism, because Christianity as we know it only really gelled after Jesus was crucified.
12. He Was 33 When He Died
Again, it’s hard to tell with sources from so long ago, when most people were illiterate and didn’t have the capacity to keep track of things like we do today. But common speculation puts Jesus at about 33 years old when he was killed on the Cross. He was around the same age as Marilyn Monroe was when she died, which further compounds my argument that celebrities are the Gods of today, but that’s not important right now. In Luke 3:23, it says Jesus began his ministry when he was about thirty years old. John mentions three, maybe four passovers, before Jesus was crucified. This would locate him at around thirty-three years old, with a few years of wiggle room in either direction.
11. “Christ” Was Not His Last Name
Jesus’s last name was not “Christ” — this is a word meaning “anointed one” or “Messiah”. His last name (to put it in terms we understand today; their system of naming wasn’t exactly like ours today) was technically “Of Nazareth”, making his full name “Jesus of Nazareth”. Nazareth is a little town located in Northern Israel, known as Israel’s “Arab Capital” because of the large presence of Arabic peoples. Although many of you might already know this, I’ve heard: “Did you know Christ wasn’t his last name?” enough times to include it.
10. Crucifixion Was Quite Common
As is often represented in popular media, Jesus was alone up on the cross getting whipped and flagellated to death. Many people might think he was the first and only one to ever be crucified. But crucifixion was a pretty common method of punishment back in those heathen days. Romans had been using the method for at least seventy years before the Son of God came along. In 40 BC, a historian recorded that 2,000 people were crucified in a single day, all for the pleasure of Quintillius Varius. Forty years following the death of Jesus, another 500 people were killed in one day, some even believe 500 a day for multiple days. If think about it, it was a gruesome method of torture, so why would they only save it for one person (in a time where they loved to torture).
9. The Romans Crucified Him
Another common belief is that Jesus was killed by Jews. This is a commonly repeated fact in anti-Semitic discourse. But it isn’t totally true. Historically speaking, it’s much more likely that the Romans killed Jesus Christ than the Jews. First, as we’ve seen, they were already using Crucifixion as a means of social control. Furthermore, at the time of his death, Jerusalem was Roman occupied and controlled. That means the Romans governed the place. Jesus, charismatic agitator that he was, would’ve been a force for social upheaval, meaning the government would’ve wanted to snuff him out. So it did.
8. He Wasn’t Born In A Manger
It’s a tale as old as time (almost literally): there was no more room in the inn, so Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable, full of smelly, unholy animals. But theologian Rev. Ian Paul thinks this is based on an oft-repeated misreading of the New Testament. He argues that Mary and Joseph were probably at the house of relatives, and if there was a manger, it would be the downstairs part of most of the day’s Palestinian houses, where the animals were kept. In other words, the holy mother did not not seek shelter in an entirely detached barn. According to Paul, what makes this interesting is that it breaks down the idea that Jesus was born to humble, outcast parents. They were among family relations and friends at the time of his birth
7. The Disciples Might Have Been Teenagers
Picture Jesus’s 12 disciples and what comes to mind? 12 of the wisest, most self-possessed men in the history of humankind, correct? Well, it might be time to reassess. Back in antiquity, when lifespans were pretty short, by the time you were a teenager, you were already kind of middle aged. In school, which back then mostly consisted of Bible (i.e. Torah) study, the brightest boys of the class would be recruited to be the Rabbi’s disciples while the rest of them would go on to learn a trade. Although some of his disciples had decidedly “grown up” jobs (tax collector, for instance), some of them could have been Torah students of mixed backgrounds.
6. The Wisemen Didn’t Show Up The Day He Was Born
Many people believe that three wisemen, with their now widely-known presents, didn’t actually show up the night that Jesus was born (although that makes for a much better story, like Ross catching Rachel right as she’s about to get on a plane for Paris, not phoning her new French number three weeks later being like: “Hey… I’m still kinda into you… When will you be back in town? Wanna meet up then?”) Many scholars believe that they actually met Jesus a year or two after he was born, not actually at the ‘stable’, but at his family home. Hate to break it to you, but everything you thought you knew is WRONG.
5. He Had Brothers And Sisters
Jesus had siblings! Who would’ve thought? It does kind of seem in traditional scripture that he was a solo operator, but apparently historians have discovered some other scampy “of Nazareth” children. Granted, they were just half sisters and half brothers. If Mary is a Virgin whose only purpose was to have Jesus, then she can’t start having kids willy nilly like that. They were Joseph’s kids. The boys were named James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. The girls, although they are mentioned, are not named. There are different ways of treating them in Christian theology. In some early churches, they too were holy figures. In other Churches, they are discredited as blood relatives, being thought of as merely close family friends.
4. There Probably Was A Star of Bethlehem
In religious lore, the three wise men notice the star of Bethlehem in the sky and follow it until they happen upon Jesus’s nativity. Although that is still a point of contention, many people agree that there probably was an actual Star of Bethlehem in the sky that night. Some scholars think that Saturn and Jupiter performed a triple conjuncture, their respective luminosities merging and creating something extra, fascinatingly bright. Chinese astronomers have also found references to a comet in the sky in 5 BC that could’ve also operated as the mythical Star of Bethlehem.
3. He Had A Wife and Kids
Questions of Jesus’s relationship with Mary Magdalene have been around for a long time. Some people think she was actually the Virgin Mary. Some people believe that she was not actually his lover, but a wealthy widow who wanted to bankroll his cause. And some think that she was his wife and the mother of his children. In recent years, a new piece of religious text has emerged from the dusty archives of history. A new book dubbed it “The Lost Gospel”. This piece of literature claims that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were in fact married and had several children. Whether or not this is true has been the subject of debate forever, but it’s interesting to think that descendants of Jesus could be out there, somewhere.
2. Christmas in January
For most people in the Western world, Christmas is December 25th. Although there are some disagreements on the best time to open presents (“CHRISTMAS EVE AT MIDNIGHT!” – “NO. CHRISTMAS MORNING!” – “BEFORE COFFEE!!” – “NO, AFTER COFFEE!”), we all agree that Christmas happens on Dec. 24th and Dec. 25th. Well, not Orthodox Christians. In their tradition, Christmas happens almost two weeks later, on January 7th. Although I’d love to give some juicy, religious explanation for this, it’s actually just a matter of different math. Those jurisdictions of Eastern Orthodox Christianity use the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar to mark feasts, calendars which have a 13 day disparity.
1. He Has Been Linked To King David
Allow me to explain: there are many things in the Bible that may seem vaguely reminiscent. He was born in Bethlehem. He rode a donkey into town. The palm sunday story, where people waved palm leaves at Jesus as he entered Jerusalem in celebration of passover. The reason these details may seem familiar is because they recall King David, the ancient King of Biblical times. These are also things that have commonly been cited as happening to him. The reason for this is because King David’s heirs, according to Jewish traditions, will inherit the Land of Israel. They are the rightful line of rulers in Jewish tradition. Therefore, in order to “legitimize” Jesus, they wanted to connect the two of them in peoples’ minds.