Jesus Christ is one of the most well known historical figures that could be considered heroic and relatively important to the development of Western Civilization. The existence of Jesus and the eternal legacy he left after he sacrificed himself was one that dramatically influenced the West on both an evolutionary and revolutionary level. The fact that Jesus offered his life for the benefit of the human race ultimately changed the beliefs and the mentality of many people during and after his time.
While most people associate Jesus Christ with nothing more than religion, it should be specified that Jesus was a real man that actually existed and is a part of history. Jesus’ birth was estimated to be somewhere before 4 BC in the city of Bethlehem. He was raised by his mother, Mary and father, Joseph in the city of Nazareth and lived a traditional jewish life. As Jesus grew older he was described to be independent, drawn to helping others, and even a born leader. When Jesus was twelve years old he disappeared in Jerusalem after his parents took him to the feast of the passover, but after three days of looking for him, they found him in the temple. Understandably, his parents were worried but what impressed them was that, according to the Bible, “all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed”. In other words, people liked listening to Jesus and what he had to say. When Jesus became a man, he told his disciples that he would one day have to die, suffer and he would be rejected by many of his followers. Jesus was, of course, referring to his crucifixion. Around AD 30 through 33, Jesus was arrested by the Sanhedrin and eventually crucified. Leading up to his eventual death, Jesus was humiliated, tortured, mocked, and pinned to the cross. His sacrifice changed the world, but more specifically, Western Civilization.
It is important to understand that Jesus Christ did not raise an army, conquer land, or earn a political position- by some standards, Jesus would not be considered an influential historical figure. However, Jesus’ life as well as death did have a massive influential impact on the evolution of Western Civilization, even religious skeptics can agree on this. Jesus’ story should have ended with his death, but instead, his death resulted in “ hundreds of thousands in the Mediterranean region that called themselves “Christians” – or followers of Jesus Christ.” The newfounded Christian religion only grew from there, spreading to nearby civilizations such as the Ancient Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians and the Etruscans. In 333 AD, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. The actual crucifixion of Jesus Christ opened the eyes of many in Western Culture, leading them to question themselves and their morals. Children in the Ancient world had little to no control over their lives,and abandonment of unwanted children was fairly common. According to historical journalist, John Eastburn Boswell, “Abandonment...refers to voluntary and permanent relinquishing of control over children by natal parents or guardians, whether by leaving them somewhere, selling them, or legally consigning care...to some other person” In modern times, this would be illegal and neglectful, it is frowned upon. This information is relevant because it was Jesus’ teachings and love for children that influenced Western Culture to place more value on children and eventually evolved and resulted in forbidding such practices. One of the main beliefs before Jesus died was to recompense your friends but penalize your enemies. This did improve after Jesus because Jesus believed it was important to forgive your enemies and to try and understand them. Opposing this, Jesus would preach “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you”. This teaching of forgiveness became something that people in Western Civilizations tried to practice.
Jesus Christ not only influenced the development of evolution in Western Civilizations, but his teachings and sacrifice also revolutionized the Ancient World. The very fact that history is divided into B.C. and AD because of the birth of Jesus proves that Jesus was indeed influential. He inspired works of art that are famous to this day, such as Leonardo DaVinci’s The Last Supper and many others. Jesus was the central cause for huge movements such as the Protestant Reformation. It began with a man named Martin Luther who created a list of 95 complaints against the Catholic Church, ultimately leading to the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant Reformation was a movement that destroyed Catholic authority and aided in the becoming of new protestant sections of Christianity.
Arguably, Jesus Christ was possibly the most influential historical figure whose life changed the world as we know it today. Jesus is directly and indirectly related to major reforms and changes that happened beginning in the Western World and spreading throughout. Looking at Jesus through the lens of not a believer but a historian helps to see that He contributed to so many changes. This is important to acknowledge because just as any other major historical figure has received the credit for all the roles they played in history, Jesus deserves the credit for the role he played too.
- Hengeveld, Nick. “BibleGateway.” BibleGateway.com: A Searchable Online Bible in over 150 Versions and 50 Languages., 1993, www.biblegateway.com/.
- Niles, Randall. “Historical Influence of Jesus.” Drive Thru History®, Drive Thru History®, 9 July 2019, www.drivethruhistory.com/historical-influence-of-jesus/.
- Boswell, John Eastburn. “Expositio and Oblatio: The Abandonment of Children and the Ancient and Medieval Family.” The American Historical Review, vol. 89, no. 1, 1984, pp. 10–33. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1855916.
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