How many years did Jesus preach?

Jesus and the rise of Christianity

Jesus of Nazareth dies in 30 AD as the Son of God. He continues to inspire believers to this day - some especially. But wasn't he an ordinary prophet among many until his martyrdom convinced the masses?

The pilgrim Jesus of Nazareth

Jerusalem, April 2nd of the year 30. What a crowd in the streets and in the squares, what exuberance around the holy place of the Jews: the Temple Mount. Around 40,000 people live here. But today there are almost four times as many in the city: pilgrims. Passover is approaching, one of the most important celebrations of the year.

Some soldiers watch a man who comes with a crowd of followers over the Mount of Olives and moves into the holy city - a man they have never seen here before.

The pilgrim's name is Jesus of Nazareth. And he only has 120 hours to live.

For around 300 years scientists have been trying to take a look at the “real”, the historical Jesus. Historians and theologians, philologists and archaeologists have put together a fascinating puzzle from scattered finds and rediscovered texts, from wall remains, coins, inscriptions and vessels.

Many self-proclaimed prophets, miracle workers, and magicians roam Judea and Galilee during Christ's lifetime. You imagine you are on the eve of the apocalypse. They believe there will soon be the final battle, the final battle of God against evil, which will be crowned with the liberation of Israel. One of them: Jesus from Nazareth.

But what is so unusual about his biography? What forms Jesus, what drives him out of his hometown, what makes him turn to the unclean, the tax collectors and prostitutes? The ancient historians will probably never know why Jesus turned his back on Nazareth at that time. It is only somewhat certain that Jesus, probably in the year 28 or 29, is doing something unheard of: He is leaving his family.

And in the spring of 29 a new preacher preached his message in Galilee.

Is Jesus just a marginal figure?

Sermon on the Mount, parables, miracles - what happens to Jesus afterwards belongs to the traditional canon of the West. But the evangelists are vague in their descriptions. The following can be reliably reconstructed: Jesus probably only preached for about a year. He travels through part of Galilee, here he tells the parables; here he wins his following.

In terms of his origins, the duration of his ministry and the place where he appeared, Jesus is a marginal figure in every respect. In this respect, it is not surprising that the almost contemporary pagan authors, that Rome's politicians and writers, report so little about him.

It is very likely that people will actually surrender to him unconditionally. After all, some of them will die in his name for decades after the crucifixion, such as Peter. Will the message of Jesus spread so quickly in the Roman Empire, not least because of the example that the early Christians set with their martyrdom.

Among the followers, Jesus singles out twelve men, the apostles - alluding to the symbolic dozen, for example to the legendary twelve tribes of the people of Israel. But this number symbolism is not unusual. What is unusual, however, is that many women also follow Jesus. Society is patriarchal: women are not allowed to read from the Torah, only one court is reserved for them in the Jerusalem temple; they are not allowed to testify as witnesses in court. Yet all evangelists emphasize that women are some of Jesus' most ardent followers. Mary of Magdala, a city halfway between Nazareth and Capernaum, becomes the most famous of them.

For the farmers, shepherds and fishermen, this man and his followers must appear alarmingly alien and yet strangely familiar: alien, since the group of unemployed people lives on alms and wanders around without a walking stick, because such a stick could be interpreted as a weapon and thus that Violate the commandment of love. Trust, because in such a small country everyone knows Jesus or one of his faithful. Prophets like him are not a sensational phenomenon at that time anyway; Jesus is just one of many who go around preaching.

The man from Nazareth, however, is subversive. The abuse of the rich - "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God!" - is not the only expression of this kind. With his disregard for wealth he provokes the elites of his time, the Big landowners, the nobles, the priests.

And not just that. Punishment for adultery, a crime worthy of death, at least for women? "Whoever is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone on her."

This disregard for tradition can be understood as an invitation to overthrow. In any case, it contradicts the religious understanding of the majority of the Jewish people.

Jesus is a Jew, his followers are Jews. He preaches to Jews. And yet calls for a lot of what has been Judaism to be renounced for centuries.

This article is from GEO Chronicle

The greatest provocation

But that he claims to be the “Messiah” - that “anointed one” who will lead the people of Israel to salvation - that is the greatest provocation: Jesus would then be the supreme authority of Judaism. The priests, whose position he questions, will not have liked to hear that. And certainly not the Romans, who fear the popular uprising. The fact that Jesus is not initially persecuted may be due to the fact that his work is limited to Galilee. Or the fact that he's so unsuccessful. There is some evidence that it has reached a dead end after about a year. Accompanied by a crowd of maybe twelve followers, he walks through the towns on the shores of the Sea of ​​Galilee and proclaims the good news of the coming Kingdom of God.

And then?


Nothing has changed. The Sabbath is kept as holy as ever; the Pharisees interpret the scriptures; Sections of the establishment made a pact with the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who carelessly held court in his palace.

Sometime in the spring of 30 Jesus made the decision to go to Jerusalem for the Passover. Perhaps this is the consistent development of his work, from the province to the center of faith. But it may also be the desperate act of a man who failed in his home country. On April 5, 30, three days after his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus provoked an uproar in the temple - just before the highest Jewish holiday, of all places. The temple, that is the holy of holies of the Jews, built of light-colored, hewn stones, on a plateau that rises above the houses of Jerusalem.

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No cult without sacrifice

Traders and money changers have set up their stands in the forecourt, probably simple tables, stalls and tents made of a few boards and panels of fabric. The merchants are almost as important to the temple as the priests. Only in Jerusalem can valid sacrifices be made before God - and lambs and other pure sacrificial animals can be purchased from the traders in the courtyard. No sacrifices without a dealer. No cult without sacrifice.

Sometime on that April 5th, Jesus climbs in the stream of pilgrims onto the temple square, presumably surrounded by his followers, and knocks over the tables of the traders and moneylenders there. Nobody knows how to escape the confusion of wandering animals, cursing traders and angry pilgrims.

This “cleaning” of the temple, handed down by the evangelists, was later understood by Christians to mean that Jesus cleaned the temple of profane mammon.

But the traders are by no means representatives of secular commerce, but necessary for the religious cult. By attacking them, Jesus is attacking the heart of the temple. This is not purification - this is an act of revolt.

"Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews"

Jesus suddenly becomes a danger to the Sadducees, the religious elite. You provide the high priest; their authority is based on the temple cult - and so is their wealth: the temple tax based on cult brings money.

With this attack on the temple traders, Jesus seals his fate - not with his teaching, not with parables, sermons and the rejection of traditional customs. Had he neglected this one provocation, Jesus might never have been crucified - and his teaching, his work, his person might have long since been forgotten.

Jesus must now be clear that he is threatened with the death sentence. In the inn at Bethanien he takes the last meal with his disciples, swears them to a covenant, and foretells them the imminent rule of God. He does not for a moment think about returning to Galilee and waiting there for the excitement in Jerusalem to subside. Instead, he goes back to the Garden of Gethsemane east of the temple to pray.

There he is arrested by a group of the temple police.

The police take the prisoner to Caiaphas, the high priest. A few hours later the temple police are probably dragging him to Herod's palace at what is now Jaffator, where Pilate resides. Rome's governor makes short work of it. He finds Jesus guilty, the charge is presumably subversive activities. Then the soldiers of the firing squad lead him away.

Covered in blood and naked, Jesus is driven through the streets of Jerusalem with two other convicts. He carries the cross beam. A wooden plaque announces the crime of the delinquent in four letters: INRI. They stand for the scornful title Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews".

It is probably around nine in the morning when Jesus is nailed to the cross. It lasts for six hours. There are eyewitnesses of his death: the guards on Golgotha, perhaps onlookers on the Jerusalem wall, from which one has a good view of the crucified, and finally Mary Magdalene and other women from his followers.

If Jesus had continued preaching, he might have been forgotten today

The seemingly paradox: If Jesus had continued preaching for 20 years - it is quite possible that he would have long been forgotten today. But what happens now, after the crucifixion, becomes the founding myth of a new world religion.

The Gospels record that Joseph of Arimatea, a devout Jew, asked Pontius Pilate to release the body. The grave that he gives for Jesus is at Golgotha. It is probably a chamber carved into the rock that is closed with a stone.

Here Jesus is buried without any special ceremony.

On the morning of April 9th, Mary Magdalene and probably two or three other women approach the grave - they want to anoint the dead with oils. But the grave is empty.

What happened in those early hours of April 9, 30? That something must have happened is beyond dispute, because without the resurrection there would be no Christianity. Only this miracle, which shattered even ancient belief, is something like the big bang of Christianity, its beginning, its foundation and legitimation: Jesus overcame death, and whoever follows him will also succeed. What a great hope!

But what is it based on?

Have some followers of Christ secretly buried the body elsewhere in order to make up for the shame of the crucifixion with the miracle of the empty tomb? And to continue to woo believers? For scientists, what is happening remains a mystery. They too must recognize that many followers of Jesus are convinced of his resurrection - so convinced that they are even ready to die for it.

Only the resurrection makes them Christians. Nothing that Jesus taught them, no miracle that he worked in their presence, no parable overwhelms them like this event. When Jesus was still alive and arrested, they fled and might never have come together again. But now they are gathering, organizing and moving around doing missionary work.

20 years later there is a first Christian church in Rome, the believers from a peripheral region of the empire have arrived in the heart of the empire.

The rise of Christianity itself seems like a miracle: for three centuries, followers of the doctrine have been blackened as potential subversives and have to endure waves of persecution. But the movement is growing, inexorably, against all odds.

Because the people in the Roman Empire are amazed and moved by the love of neighbor and even enemy of these Christians; how they selflessly sacrifice themselves for the weak, the sick, the poor; of their steadfastness and strength of faith even in the face of death; from the insistence on universal equality that knows no difference between emperor and servant. That is why a figure like Jesus is so fascinating: He is unconditionally on the side of the poor and weak. Love - this is a new, revolutionary program.

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