Jesus is the most important person in history. Jaroslav Pelikan, a history professor at Yale University, agrees:
“For nearly two centuries, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture, regardless of what anyone thinks or believes about him.” How much would be left if you could draw every scrap of metal bearing even a trace of his name out of that history with a super-magnet?”
Jesus Throughout the Centuries: His Place in Cultural History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985)
The gospels are the only in-depth accounts we have of Jesus, and John reminds us that they only capture a fraction of what he did:
“Jesus did a lot of other things.” Even the entire planet, I believe, would not have enough place for the volumes that would be written if they were all written down” (John 21:25, New International Version).
Even if the gospels do not provide a comprehensive and unabridged biography of Christ’s earthly life, they have provided enough information for the world to continue to ponder His life. The gospels relate the amazing account of God coming to earth to save humanity to the world’s 2.3 billion Christians.
Between the well-known stories and parables, there are tidbits of information about Jesus, his disciples, and life in the first century near the east. Here are 40 fascinating facts about the life of Jesus.
Facts About Jesus’ Birth and Childhood
The gospels of Luke and Matthew are the only sources for images of Christ as a kid. Here are a few of the amazing details they provide.
1. An angel gave Jesus his name.
“‘Greetings, you who are highly favored!’ replied the angel to her. ‘The Lord is on your side.’ Mary was perplexed by his statements and wondered what kind of greeting he was referring to.
‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have won favor with God,’ the angel answered. You will conceive and deliver a boy, whom you are to name Jesus. He will be great, and the Son of the Highest will be his name. The Lord God will give him his father David’s throne, and he will rule over Jacob’s offspring forever; his kingdom will never come to an end.'” (Matthew 1:28–33)
2. Jesus was a popular name in the first century.
You’d think that if God were to become a human, He’d choose a name that was both powerful and uncommon. That simply isn’t the case. In the first century, John Smith went under the moniker “Jesus.” When Christ walked the earth, He didn’t seek fame, as seen by the name He picked.
However, this does not negate the significance of Jesus’ name. The reality that “Yahweh saves” is hidden in that common name.
3. Jesus didn’t have the surname Christ as the last name.
We hear “Jesus Christ” so frequently that it’s easy to mistake it for his surname. It’s not the case. People in first-century Palestine did not have surnames. Others were recognized by referring to their parents:
“‘Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?’ they asked. How can he suddenly claim, “I descended from heaven”?” (Luke 6:42)
Christ is derived from Christos, which means “anointed one” in Greek.
4. Jesus was most likely not born on December 25th.
On December 25, the entire world commemorates Christ’s birth, but is this His true birthday? Most likely not.
Hippolytus and John Chrysostom, early Christian leaders, began commemorating Christ’s birth on this date. It became the approved day for celebration over time, providing an alternative to several pagan festivities that took place at the same time.
Many experts doubt that the shepherds would be out with the sheep at night at the coldest season of the year, and many scholars dispute that this date is accurate. Many people believe Jesus was born in the fall because of John the Baptist’s conception and birth.
5. Jesus was most likely not born in the year 1 A.D.
The significance of Jesus can be seen in the way His presence divides history. Today, we think of history in terms of B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (anno Domini, or “in the Lord’s year”). The only issue is that Jesus was most likely born before the year 4 B.C.
Many scholars believe that Christ was born early because of Herod. Herod is thought to have died in 4 B.C. by the majority of historians. Jesus had to have been born before this date because he played such a significant role in Christ’s birth narrative (Matthew 2).
6. Jesus was conceived by a virgin.
According to Matthew’s gospel, Jesus’ conception was miraculous, and this miracle fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy:
“As a result, the Lord himself will send you a sign: the virgin will conceive and have a son, whom she will name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
Not only was Jesus born to a virgin, but Matthew took this as proof that he was the Messiah.
Read more: 50+ Random Facts You Never Expected!
7. Different parts of Jesus’ identity were highlighted in Matthew and Luke.
For a guy named Theophilus, Luke built his gospel tale from several eyewitness reports. Most scholars believe Theophilus was a high-ranking or famous Gentile, making Luke the only Gentile Gospel written for a Gentile audience.
Matthew was a devout Jew who set out to show the Jews that Jesus was the awaited Messiah.
8. There are some dubious people in Jesus’ family line.
Jesus picked an unlucky familial line when he came into the world. If purity was His primary priority, He would not have chosen a bloodline that included such dubious figures as:
Jacob is a schemer by nature.
Judah: Worked with his brothers to sell his younger brother into slavery.
Rahab is a woman who works as a prostitute.
David: I had a man killed to hide an unfaithful relationship.
Solomon: He married 700 women and turned his back on God.
“Did ill because he had not fixed his heart on pursuing the Lord,” says Rehoboam (2 Chron. 12:14)
“He committed all the faults that his father had committed before him,” Abijah said. (1 Chronicles 15:3)
9. We have no idea how many magi came to see Jesus.
We’re used to seeing three wise men in Christmas crèches. This is most likely due to the fact that they brought three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The truth is that the Bible doesn’t say how many Magi came from the east to pay homage to the newborn king.
10. Jesus had a large number of (half) siblings.
Jesus had brothers, according to the gospels (Matt. 12:46, Lk. 8:19, Mk. 3:31). Matthew even gives us the names of His brothers and mentions His sisters:
“Isn’t this the son of the carpenter?” Aren’t his brothers’ names James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas, and his mother’s name Mary? Isn’t it true that all of his sisters are here with us? “Where did this man get all of these things?” you might wonder. (Matthew 13:55–56; Mark 10:55–56)
11. Bethlehem is a Hebrew word that means “food house.”
Bethlehem is the name of the town where Jesus was born. This is two terms in Hebrew. Beth is the Hebrew word for “home,” while Lehem is the Hebrew word for “food.” It’s difficult not to notice the significance in this situation.
Not only did Micah prophesy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but Jesus also referred to himself as the “Bread of Life” on several occasions (John 6:35, 48, 51).
12. Jesus was a carpenter as a child.
Joseph was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55), and Jesus must have learned the craft because the mob in his hometown refers to Him as a carpenter as well:
“Doesn’t this look like the carpenter?” Isn’t this Mary’s son, as well as James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon’s brother? Isn’t one of his sisters with us?” They were offended by him.” 6:3 (Mark)
Tekin is a Greek word that means “artisan” or “craftsperson.” This isn’t to say that Joseph would have made anything out of wood (which would have been very expensive). He might have worked as a stonemason.
13. As a child, Jesus discussed theology with the Pharisees.
Our only glimpse of Jesus throughout His adolescence comes from Luke. In the return journey from celebrating Passover in Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary become separated from Jesus. They run back to the ancient city in a panic when they discover Jesus is absent. For three days, they are unable to locate him (Luke 2:46). And when they do find him, he isn’t terrified or upset like a typical child. What they find is incredible:
“After three days, they discovered him sitting among the teachers in the temple courtyards, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was astounded by his comprehension and responses. His parents were taken aback when they saw him. ‘Son, why have you treated us this way?’ his mother asked. Your father and I have been looking for you with bated breath.’
‘What were you looking for when you were looking for me?’ He inquired. ‘Didn’t you know I was supposed to be at my Father’s?’ (Matthew 2:46–49)
14. Jesus was most likely unremarkable in appearance.
Although we don’t have much knowledge regarding Jesus’ physical appearance, Isaiah predicts it:
“Like a tender shoot, he grew up before his eyes.”
and like a root emerging from a dry earth
He lacked the beauty and majesty to entice us to him.
There’s nothing about him that makes us want to want him” (Isaiah 53:2).
We also know that when Judas betrayed Jesus, he was forced to kiss him (Mt. 26:48) in order for authorities to recognize him. Jesus didn’t appear to be physically different from the other disciples. In reality, Mary Magdalene mistook Him for the gardener after He rose from the dead:
“She turned around at this point and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t understand it was Jesus.”
‘Woman, why are you crying?’ he inquired. What exactly are you looking for?’
‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him,’ she said, thinking he was the gardener. (Matthew 20:14–15).
The following are some facts regarding Jesus’ ministry.
There is a gap in Jesus’ narrative after childhood until He begins His ministry. Let’s take a look at some fascinating aspects of this time in His life.
15. When Jesus was almost 30 years old, he began his ministry.
A man must be at least 30 years old to hold the office of priest, according to Numbers 4:3. Surprisingly, this corresponds to Jesus’ age when He began His ministry:
“When Jesus began his ministry, he was around thirty years old” (Luke 3:23).
16. Cana was the site of Jesus’ first miracle.
At the bridal feast of Cana, Jesus accomplished His first miracle by turning water into wine. He exhibited His supernatural authority over physical forces in this astounding event. His public ministry began with this miracle (John 2:1–11).
17. Jesus spoke in many different languages.
In first-century Palestine, Jews spoke Aramaic as their predominant language. And, like other Jews, He would have learned Hebrew in order to study the Torah.
Was he a Greek speaker? When he spoke with the Centurion (Mt. 8:5–13) and Pilate (Mt. 27:11–14), it’s possible that they spoke in Greek. The Romans spoke Latin, but Hellenistic Jews would have engaged with them in Greek.
18. Jesus required isolation in order to pray and re-energize.
Jesus’ ministry was quite public. Jesus is said to have gone around villages treating all of their ailments and sicknesses, according to the gospels (Mt. 9:35). He constantly battled with the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 7:1–23), and he never declined an invitation to someone’s home (Matthew 5–7). (Lk. 7:36).
His public ministry was founded on a purposeful practice of seclusion and prayer (Mt. 14:23; Mk. 1:12, 35, 14:32; Lk. 6:12–13, 9:18).
19. Jesus was a carnivore, not a vegetarian.
In Palestine, observant Jews ate a pretty standard diet. All four gospels depict Jesus consuming animal products, as did most other Jews. He would have eaten fish on a regular basis (Mt. 14:19), as well as lamb, as was traditional during Passover (Luke 22:15).
20. Jesus used parables to teach.
Jesus frequently utilized parables to convey lessons that would have a direct and lasting impact. The essence of Jesus’ stories was sometimes plain, yet there were instances when His parables were ambiguous and obscure. This caused concern among the disciples:
“The disciples approached him and questioned, ‘Why do you tell people stories in parables?’
‘Because you have been given knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but they have not.’ Those who have will be given more, and they will have plenty. Whoever does not have will have their possessions snatched from them. This is why I use parables to communicate with them:
‘Even though they see, they do not see;
‘Even while they hear, they do not understand’ (Matthew 13:10–13).