By the Rev. Howard Bess
The emergence of Jesus as a Jewish prophet of note was something that no contemporary would have predicted. After all, he lived in a world where leaders were determined by the prominence of their birth or by their effective use of violence.
Jesus possessed neither. He came from humble origins and taught nonviolence. Jesus gained a following among the poor as a reputational rabbi, meaning that he lacked a formal education and religious training. He also lived in the small town of Nazareth, nearly 100 miles north of Jerusalem, the area’s primary seat of religious and political power.
The earliest written record of the life of Jesus was the gospel written by an unknown author called Mark, who says nothing about a miraculous birth or about royal lineage. (The fiction of his miraculous birth to a woman with royal ties was fabricated decades later.)