When talking to Christians about religion one can get quite confused, because the majority adhere to beliefs that don´t fit well with the Christian church´s official line. This seems to happen because the Bible includes passages which describe Jesus´ nature vaguely or in what appears to be conflicting points of view.
Not even the great Apostle Paul of Tarsus could write a lot or that clearly about Jesus: Jesus was born, lived an ordinary life for a while, then began to preach and perform miracles, was crucified and then resurrected and ascended to heaven.
Paul (Saint Paul for Catholics) was a leader who was consulted by Christians in his time to explain what he thought about Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 5: 16 Paul wrote:
"So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!"
Jesus at dinner time with a couple of friends
Paul never met Jesus during his human life, this means he couldn´t write much about Jesus the man. He could only describe Jesus as a divine being whom he met when he was on his way to Damascus. Paul is the intellectual force in the New Testament. But he couldn´t hold all Christians together as his followers.
Almost immediately after Jesus´ascent into heaven, Christianity fell apart because Christians couldn´t accommodate the multitude of opinions that emerged about his nature. At that time Christians could believe that Jesus was:
- An ordinary man who had become God after dying and rising from the dead.
- An ordinary man born, who became divine sometime during his human life.
- A divine being from conception.
- A divine being who always existed (this is the official belief of Christians today).
These diverse opinions were supported by the Bible, which lends itself to confusing interpretations. For example, in Acts 2, Peter says:
"People of Israel, listen to my words: God attested Jesus of Nazareth to you. Made him perform miracles, wonders and all sort of signs you already know about. You, however, turned him over to the Gentiles to be crucified and die on the cross, and thus the plan that God had arranged was fulfilled. But God delivered him from the agony of death and raised him from the dead, because it wasn´t possible that He be held by the power of death. "
This type of comment can be seen in other books in the Bible. They are what led many in the past (and lead many today) to choose belief No. 1 be (Jesus became God after dying and rising). The logic used is quite simple. If the Apostle Peter said that God delivered Jesus from the dead then Jesus wasn´t divine neither when alive nor when He was dead when after the Crucifixion.
I don´t want to get in trouble and get everybody mad at me, but I must point out that when you one reads the Bible carefully, the existence of Jesus as the part of the Holy Trinity called the Son (the others being the Father and the Holy Spirit) is based on the Gospel of John, and specifically in the part that says:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This was in the beginning with God. "
This was officially interpreted to support belief # 4 (Jesus was a divine being who always existed). Nowadays anybody who wants to be a good Christian has to get # 4 inside the head and can´t have any doubts about it. If you do have doubts then you run the risk of becoming a heretic, which can have serious consequences.
Anybody can search the Bible quotes of the apostles and other writers to support his beliefs. It´s very easy to ignore what other Christians believe, when their belief is different, even though they too use the Bible to support their opinion.
For almost 2000 years Christians have killed each other in droves to decide which is the best way to interpret the Bible.
Christians fighting with each other
Violence does seem to solve these problems. For example, take Arianism. Followers of Arianism backed options # 1 or # 2. However, today they barely exist, they aren´t organized, and many of them don´t even realize they are considered heretics.
The persecutions the Arians suffered in the Roman Empire´s dying years, and the subsequent defeat of the Arian Visigoth kingdom in Spain by Muslim invaders did a number on them. By the time the Catholics finished cleaning out the Iberian peninsula the last of the Arian Christians was either dead or a firm believer in Catholicism.
Go ahead, search the word Arian, and most of the time you´ll see it linked to the words heretic and heresy. If one didn´t know Christian history it would be easy to think they were a small bunch of nuts, when instead they may have been the Christian majority prior to the 4th century.
I'm no expert on the subject, but I'm quite inquisitive, and I read the Bible (well, the interesting parts), and I think the nature of Jesus will continue to be a topic of debate for a long, very long, time.