Ideas differ on exactly who Jesus Christ was. Some believe he was the only begotten son of God, born of a virgin. Some believe he is the Lord and savior who died for the sins of humanity, and the only way people can go to heaven is through him. Others believe he was a morally advanced person, a brave man who died because of his radically inclusive beliefs. Many people believe Jesus was a prophet. This much we know is true: Jesus Christ is central to the Christian religion.

Who was Jesus?

Scholars and religious leaders count on the Bible, as well as other ancient texts, to tell the story of Jesus. According to the Christian Bible, Jesus was born to a young Jewish woman named Mary. According to tradition, Mary was a virgin and conceived Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. She married a carpenter named Joseph, and they traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem to fulfill the Roman Empire's census requirements. There Jesus was born in a stable. This miraculous birth to a virgin is the first of many miraculous events in Jesus's life. As a young man, he began to preach, telling the people, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near," according to Matthew 4:17. He drew large crowds, and some believed him to be the Messiah that the Jewish people had hoped would deliver them from their enemies.

Jesus as Lord and Savior

According to traditional Christian belief, Jesus was the Messiah. Christians believe he fulfilled the prophesies in the Old Testament concerning the Messiah, including his family lineage and being born of a virgin. He was God's own son, so he was both man and God. Jesus came into the world because people were sinful, and God required a sacrifice for their sin before he could grant them entrance into heaven, and only Jesus could offer the perfect sacrifice. Jesus willingly gave himself up to be tortured, crucified and killed, and all those who accept him as Lord and Savior will go to heaven, according to traditional Christian theology.

Jesus as Miracle Worker

Christians believe Jesus performed many miracles in his life. The first miracle was at a wedding in Cana, where the bridal party had run out of wine, and Jesus transformed water into wine, described in John 2: 1-11. He provided food for 5,000 men and an unnamed number of women and children by multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish, told of in Matthew 14: 13-21. Jesus is revered by Christians not only because he performed miracles, but because of the love and care that motivated his actions. Some believe they, too, should feed the hungry and care for the needy.

Jesus as Teacher and Prophet

Some Christians do not believe the miracles actually occurred, and they do not think people have to accept Jesus in order to be saved. These Christians believe that the message of Jesus is what's important, especially his teachings about helping others. They site Matthew 22: 36-40, where Jesus said the most important commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor. They believe he did not die for people's sins, but was killed because he challenged the religious and civil authorities with his radical inclusiveness, such as his willingness to associate with people who were left out of the mainstream of society, and because he influenced so many people to follow him.