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What Makes Jesus Special Amongst Historical Gods and Myths?

Emma Tekstra > Faith  > What Makes Jesus Special Amongst Historical Gods and Myths?

What Makes Jesus Special Amongst Historical Gods and Myths?

Jesus is special not just because his arrival set the start of the Common Era – our calendar used the world over re-started from the time of Jesus’ birth – but it is the widespread impact Jesus has had on all aspects of life independent of religious endeavors. There is no other person in history who has had such a wide impact. Not a religious leader, not a military leader, not a movie-star or musician, no leader of a country, or any other statesman. Jesus has had an impact in every corner of the globe, and he lived at a time when there was no internet and no printing press. In fact most people were unable to read the written word in his day.

Jesus’ impact on education is therefore not so surprising. While Jesus encouraged his followers to worship God with their minds (Matthew 22: 36-37) he also instructed the apostles to make disciples and become teachers of the word. In the second and third century new believers had to go through a lengthy education process before they were baptized, on topics of Christian living, the bible and proper theology.

As Christianity spread around the world the only limitation was in people being unable to read the bible so it fell to Christians to translate the word into different languages and even invent written alphabets where there were none. This led to the first formal learning communities we know today as universities with early church leaders emphasizing the need to learn trades as well as theology. The oldest universities operating today, and three of the most prestigious are the Universities of Paris, Bologna and Oxford that were founded on Christian principals. These then gave rise to several other well-known universities in Europe today also founded on Christian principals including Cambridge and St Andrews. Sadly while Harvard and Yale in the U.S. were also founded on Christian principles, they have clearly moved far away from them in recent years. It was also Christians who had many other impacts on education such as Johannes Gutenberg who invented the printing press and other Christians who are credited with developing public schools, compulsory education for children, the grade system, and special education for the blind and disabled. While other theistic groups had a head-start on Christianity by hundreds of years or more such as Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, Christians have set up more than ten times the number of educational establishments than these other groups combined.

Jesus has had an impact in every corner of the globe, and he lived at a time when there was no internet and no printing press.

It may be more surprising to look at the impact Jesus has had on scientific discovery compared to non-Christians particularly given the rhetoric in modern times that belief in God is somehow anti-science. Christ-followers believed their world was the product of a singular, orderly, rational God and they were driven to better understand God through the natural world he created. They were motivated by their desire to worship God through studying his universe and the universities created by Christ-followers were just the place to do that. Scientific discovery exploded after Jesus appeared with the vast majority of the scientific breakthroughs being led by Christians across a wide variety of disciplines such as astronomy, mathematics, geography, medicine, chemistry, geology, botany, paleontology and zoology to name just a few. You might think this slowed after Darwin came on the scene with his theory of evolution which provided an alternative explanation to God but Jesus-followers have dominated even the post-Darwin period and continues to this day across the widest possible list of scientific disciplines. However you might find it harder to identify who is a Christ-follower today. Although at the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize, statistics were gathered on religious affiliations and found that 65% were Christ-followers. The next biggest group were Jewish, 21%, then atheists/agnostics at 7% and other religions or movements 3% or lower.

Beyond science and education we find that Jesus has had the biggest influence of any “famous” person across creative pursuits like Literature, Music, Movies and even Architecture with more books, songs and films involving him and development in building design due to the need to worship him communally than any other character in history. Most amazingly though, these creative influences have not only been by people who follow Jesus as Lord. Even those who do not believe Jesus is the Christ have been influenced by him. Many of the books, songs and films do not paint Jesus in a good light.  

If you delve into the history of other religious systems almost every one of them either modified their system in line with the account of Jesus (if they originated before the Common Era), mentioned Jesus in some way in their teachings to acknowledge his existence or merged Jesus into their system. Hindus for example originated hundreds of years before Jesus yet have merged him into their worldview. Buddhists similarly acknowledge Jesus as a wise teacher. Muslims and Baha’i faiths founded more recently both speak extensively about Jesus. Even New Age believers reference Jesus as an excellent spiritual example and teacher. So Jesus has been referenced by all these systems (and many more) but Jesus doesn’t mention anyone else but himself as the only way to God stating clearly in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

To sum up why we know Jesus must be supernaturally “special” is a quote from J.Warner Wallace’s Person of Interest:

Jesus was born in a tiny irrelevant town in the Roman Empire and raised in another small village. He had to walk from one place to the next, and as an adult never travelled more than two-hundred miles from the town where he was born.

He had none of the resources people use today to make an impact: no social media platform, no podcast audience, no clever videos and no website. He didn’t even have the resources people used in the first century to make an impact: he never held political office, never ruled a nation, never led an army, and never authored a book.

His family was insignificant. The locals suspected he was an illegitimate son, his mother was a poor peasant woman and his father couldn’t afford much. Jesus didn’t receive an expensive education, never married, never had children, never owned a home of his own, and didn’t possess much more than the clothes on his back.

As an adult his own brother was suspicious of his ministry, a work that ended after three short years. Public opinion turned against him, most of his followers abandoned him, one disciple betrayed him, and another denied him. He was rejected by the religious, hunted by the powerful, mocked and unjustly persecuted by his enemies. He suffered an unfair trial, was publicly humiliated, brutally beaten and unduly executed in the most horrific way. Even then, the few followers who remained had to borrow a grave to bury him. Yet this is the man who changed history….

Emma Tekstra
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