People trying to discover the truth about God should take a hard look at Jesus before looking anywhere else. While that may sound like a bold assertion in and of itself, it really isn’t when you consider that every major religious movement considers Jesus to be an important religious figure. Every religion makes some effort to account for His existence and teaching. Even secular scholars are interested in the life of Jesus—for example, the recently debuted CNN series, Finding Jesus, explores the person of Jesus from a historical perspective.
This ought to give seekers a reason to pause and consider the life of Jesus seriously.
Here is what a few other major world religions believe about Jesus:
The Islamic faith was founded by Muhammad on the Arabian Peninsula in the early seventh Century. He claimed to be restoring the monotheistic religion corrupted by the Jews and Christians. As a result, Muslims acknowledge the impact of Jesus and recognize Him as a significant person within their own religious system. The Quran describes Jesus in the following way:
Jesus Was Born of a Virgin.
The Quran describes Mary as a virgin prior to her miraculous conception. The conversation between Mary and Allah is recorded in the Quran.
Jesus Was to Be Revered.
Jesus is held in high regard within the Muslim worldview. According to a legend, when Muhammad eliminated all the images of other gods in the Ka’bah, he refused to destroy the statue of Mary and the infant Christ. Jesus remains in a position of respect and reverence within Islam. While Muslims believe Jesus was to be revered as a prophet and Apostle of God, they do not believe He was more than this.
Jesus Was A Prophet.
While Muhammad is described as the final prophet from God, he listed the previous prophets and included Jesus in that list. Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet, but they deny He is God or the “Son of God.”
Jesus Was A Miracle Worker. Muslims believe Jesus performed many miracles. These miracles included the healing of a blind man and a leper and bringing life to the dead.
Jesus Ascended to Heaven and Will Come Again.
Islam also acknowledges Jesus ascended into heaven in bodily form. The Quran reports Jesus will come again (as a Muslim, returning to revive Islam), and that He will sit beside Allah during the judgment. While Muslims acknowledge the ascension, they either deny that Jesus was crucified or that He died on the cross. Most simply believe Jesus’ death was an illusion (and some even believe that Judas Iscariot was mistaken for Jesus on the cross).
Judaism pre-existed (and gave birth to) Christianity, but Jews deny that Jesus was the Messiah. Much has been written about Jesus from a Jewish perspective, most interestingly by those early Jews who described Jesus in the centuries immediately following His life. Ancient Jewish believers (as recorded by the Talmud and the Toledot Yeshu) described Jesus in the following ways:
Jesus Was Mary’s Son.
Ancient Jews acknowledged Jesus existed and had a mother named Mary. They denied Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus, but they did recognize Mary was promised to a man named “Yohanan.”
Jesus Was Respected.
While Jesus is often derided by modern Jews, this was not the case in the earliest of times. In fact, little negative material related to Jesus can be found in first and second-century Jewish literature. Jesus was largely recognized as a popular teacher who was revered by His followers and respected by His opponents. But as Christianity spread and the Divinity of Jesus was proclaimed throughout the known world, Jewish opposition rose. By 1000 A.D., many Jews were facing stiff persecution and blamed their situation on the rise of Christianity and the person of Jesus.
Jesus Was a Miracle Worker.
Ancient Jews also acknowledged Jesus had supernatural powers and performed miracles. They typically denied, however, Jesus’ power came from God. Instead, they often claimed Jesus wielded the power of the Devil.
Jesus was Crucified on the Cross.
Another important historical claim of the New Testament (the Crucifixion of Jesus) is acknowledged by ancient Jewish records. While the Talmud and Toledot Yeshu affirm the execution of Jesus, they both deny Jesus was resurrected. They often explain the empty grave by saying that the gardener removed Jesus’ body.
Hinduism is a very diverse religious faith that began in India. It is rooted in religious views dating back to the Iron Age of India (12th to sixth centuries BC) and it has no single founder. There are many varieties of Hinduism embracing a complex and divergent set of views, and for this reason, it is difficult to isolate a unified set of beliefs related to Jesus. Hindu believers often hold a variety of views.
Jesus Was a Holy Man and Wise Teacher.
Most Hindus evaluate “spirituality” on the basis of behavior and practice. Virtues such as tolerance, love, non-violence, self-sacrifice and humility are held in high esteem and considered to be characteristics of “holy men” known as Sadhu. By this criteria, Jesus qualifies as a “Hindu Saint” on the basis of his life and teaching.
Jesus is a ‘God.’
Hindus often worship many gods and goddesses and some are eager to include Jesus in their list of deities. They don’t, however, see Jesus as the only way to God. Instead, some understand Jesus as the perfect example of “self-realization” (the goal of Hindu “dharma”). Many Hindus see Jesus as a symbol of what humans can attain, rather than a true historical person.
While Buddhism is based primarily on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (a spiritual teacher from India who lived from approximately 563 BC to 483 BC and is known as the Buddha), Buddhism incorporates a variety of religious traditions, beliefs and practices. Like Hinduism, Buddhism provides no singular unified view about Jesus, although a number of Jesus’ characteristics are described by many Buddhists.
Jesus Was An Enlightened Man and Wise Teacher.
Most Buddhists acknowledge and respect the fact Jesus lived a self-sacrificial life and had compassion on those who were in spiritual need. This kind of compassion is seen by Buddhists to be the key to happiness and enlightenment.
Most Buddhists also respect the teaching of Jesus to a high degree, especially Jesus’ teaching related to loving one’s neighbor and the need to demonstrate kindness and forgiveness. Jesus is seen as someone who possessed the correct perspective on life and his teaching helped others to embrace the truth. While Jesus is seen as a wise teacher, He is not seen as divine.
Worthy of Investigation
It’s interesting to note even those religions pre-existing Jesus have come to include Jesus in their description of reality. All the world’s major religions feel compelled to account for Jesus in one way or another. Even if you’re not sure what you believe, it might be important for us to learn more about the man whom everyone feels the need to describe. And the Bible, which includes attested eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life, teaching and ministry, would be a good place to start.
An earlier version of this article was posted on ColdCaseChristianity.com
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity and ALIVE.