The life of Jesus Christ – an uninventable character

The argument can be put forward that Jesus must have been a real historical figure and not one that had been created by someone in the first century with a fertile imagination. In the first century who would have created a fictional person like Jesus?

The Jews wouldn’t have….nor would the Gentiles (1).

Why the Gentiles (non-Jews) wouldn’t have invented Jesus

The Gentiles of that time would have had no need for a man like Jesus. They admired particular types of men and Jesus did not fit this mould. The world these men inhabited was one of selfishness, ruthlessness and lust with little value put on human life. Their day to day life was filled with immoral pleasures. It would be extremely difficult to imagine that a gentile would invent Jesus. For when you look at Jesus teachings they are full of condemnation of the Gentile way of life.
Into this tough and cruel world came a man teaching the need for unselfish love and love that stopped at nothing. He proved he believed these principles by giving his life in the ultimate act of unselfish love.

Such a man as this could not have been invented as a mere fictional character by a gentile.

Why the Jews wouldn’t have invented Jesus
a. The promise of a King

In the Garden of Eden, the mission of Jesus was first revealed to the human race. From the time of Eden, sin entered into the world and God promised a man who would save the human race from their state of sinfulness and its consequences (in other words, they were promised a “Redeemer”). At different times over the next few thousands of years (as recorded in the Old Testament) we are told more about this Redeemer. It became clear that his mission was two-fold – Saviour and King.

The Old Testament writers spoke of this man who would deliver mankind from sin and its penalty – death (in other words, this man offered “salvation”). They wrote that he would be the saviour of Jew and Gentile (2); that he would be betrayed by a familiar friend (3); that he would be crucified with the sins of mankind (4).

The prophets in the Old Testament spoke of the greatness of this coming Messiah (5). They taught that on that day Israel will be saved and the promised king will reign gloriously in the earth (6). This king would put down oppression and evil, and will bring blessing upon all nations (7). They also taught that his kingdom will overthrow all others (8) and that Jerusalem will become known as a city of Truth, Israel will be a blessing, and all nations will be gathered together under one rule and one religion (9).

So the Old Testament spoke about both aspects of the redeemer – Saviour and King. But it was the kingly aspect of the Messiah which got the Jews excited about his coming. They wanted someone who would give them victory and freedom straightaway. You can understand why they felt that way when you look at the Jewish world which Jesus was born into.

Roman Emperor
b. The Jewish world of the first century – the Romans

The general feelings of the people at the start of the first century were one of discontent and vague expectancy.

From 63 B.C., the Jews were under the control of the Romans. The Roman Empire was a large and mighty empire. The background of their religious and family life made the Jews intensely nationalistic and as a result, they hated being in subjection to a foreign power. In addition, Herod the Great (king of the Jews) embarked on an enormous building programme including the building of the Jews temple on a most lavish scale. However, to pay for all this work, the taxes had to be increased. When Herod died he left the nation impoverished. The Jews eventually asked for direct Roman control through a procurator and this was granted. With this direct control the Romans forced the Jews to pay heavy taxes to them (the main taxes being the land tax and the property tax).

c. The Jewish world of the first century – Jewish society

The Roman taxes, mentioned above, were not crushing in themselves but to a nation which contributed so generously towards its religious organisations they were a heavy addition which made the burden all but intolerable.

As well as having to live with the Roman conquerors, the Jews also had to live with the Jewish religious hierarchy. The policies and the laws, the sanctions and the punishments, all came from the Temple at Jerusalem. The main groups in the Jewish religious structure were:

The Sadducees were the priests. They were the wealthy aristocracy, who lived upon the Temple dues. They were cynically indifferent to the needs of the people. They kept the Law of Moses, but were not interested in its traditions – they were devoted to the Temple rather than to the Synagogues.

These were the group who were the upholders of the traditions. The name Pharisee means “to separate” and suggests that they sought holiness by the avoidance of what was unclean. As a result, a hard legal code resulted. But this lead to the inner spirit – “the law of love” being lost. The Pharisees were supreme in the Synagogues.

The Scribes
The scribes were in great prominence, because they were educated to read the Law in the original language of the Pentateuch, which after the captivity (many centuries before) had largely ceased to be spoken.

The Sanhedrin

The Sanhedrin
The Sanhedrin was the central authority at Jerusalem which administered the law, and settled questions of religion, ceremonial and interpretation. The Sanhedrin consisted of the High Priest as president and 70 members made up of Sadducees and Pharisees.

Most of the people in these parts of Jewish society lived an affluent life. The common people’s money went towards the upkeep of the Temple and to increasing affluence of the high priestly families. They made heavy demands covering almost every activity of life, from the half-shekel Temple payment to the tithe on cattle and crops, and even such negligible things as anise and cummin were not excluded. Every firstborn child was a financial liability to its parents and an asset to the priests, while the frequent feasts and offerings all levied their toll, in addition to taxes for the maintenance of the local synagogue and the support of the poor.

d. The need for a deliver

The Jews were from one direction faced with the cold decrees from Rome requiring taxes, and from the other direction they were faced with the challenge of their conscience concerning their loyalty to God and the payments due to the Temple. They had no alternative but to submit to the heavy demands made upon them from both directions. Their resources dwindled until many found it increasingly difficult to purchase any but the barest necessities of life.

The common people’s life was hard and so their thoughts turned to the deliverance, their prophets had promised, with the coming of the Messiah. They were expecting a king who would come and give them instant victory over the Romans and also freedom from all the economic burdens they had to face. If someone had written about a fictional character this is indeed who would have turned up in the Bible – a king to save the day and to instantly improve the life style of the first century Jewish nation.

However, the man who presented himself as the Messiah was a carpenter from Nazareth, a town in the northern parts of Israel. He did not seem to fit the image they had of a King. Jesus was an exceedingly humble man. He was willing to do a very tiring and unpleasant job like wash the feet of his disciples. The Jews wanted relief from the economically harsh conditions whereas Jesus came to teach them to heed his moral and spiritual teachings.

Jesus was aware that anxiety and despair reigned in the people’s hearts and they were not intent on hearing his moral teachings. When, however, his teaching was accompanied by gifts then they clamored for it. For example, after a miraculous feeding of 5,000 people at Bethsaida Jesus said:

“You seek me, not because you saw the miracles, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the son of man will give you”.

When Jesus turned from the material blessing and insisted upon the fundamental truths of his identity and mission, many were offended and walked no more with him.

e. Summary

A totally different Messiah came to the one expected by the Jews. They looked for a king who would come along and instantly transform their life. What they didn’t realise was that the cross must come before the crown. Christ had to firstly die for the salvation (10) of the world. It was only then that he would be ready to return to the world to be that king which had been promised by the prophets of the Old Testament. We still wait for that time when Jesus will return to this world to set up his kingdom and reign as king over all the earth.

Such a man as this could not have been invented as a mere fictional character by a Jew or Gentile.


(1) Gentiles were people who were not of Jewish descendency i.e. a non-Jew or someone outside the covenant community of Israel.
(2) Isaiah 49:5 – 6; Isaiah 61:1 – 3
(3) Psalm 41:9
(4) Isaiah 53; Psalm 22:7 – 8; Psalm 69:20 – 21
(5) A Messiah is a deliverer or liberator. This was the anticipated deliverer and king of the Jews.
(6) Jeremiah 23:5 – 6
(7) Psalm 72
(8) Daniel 2:44
(9) Zechariah 8:3,13,20-23
(10) Salvation means the deliverance of man from the penalty of sin – death.