What makes Christ unique?

Hi everyone!

After participating in the “Jesus and Paganism” thread which mainly asked questions about Christ’s similarities with other gods/superheroes, I thought why not flip the argument on its head and ask instead why the story of Jesus is unique and unlikely to have just been made up in an effort to create a new religion.

To start things off, I would say the main thing would be the manner of Jesus’ death. I cannot think of another god/superhero who would just be executed, unjustly, without putting up any fight and in the most degrading manner (let’s remember that’s how crucifixion must have been seen at the time). Can anyone think of a similar theme that would precede the story of Christ?

@ARus
@Terry_Sampson
@bluebird1

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I don’t know how entirely unique Christ may be in this regard, but one significant and sudden change that the crucifixion and resurrection brought about was a change in how victims are seen. Apparently Roman culture in Jesus’s day would have been a reality of victims and aggressors, with the winners being in the latter category. Hence the disciples’ (and everyone’s) difficulty of accepting that Christ was not aiming to be “that kind of king.” Today our culture recognizes victim status and admires martyrs in ways that (at least as I heard a non-Christian historian describe it) were made possible by the crucifixion.

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I like this idea, Marta…and many of us will likely think of “more” qualities to add to our answer as time goes on…

No, your description of the crucifixion probably is hard to beat. Osiris (in one version) is tricked by his meanspirited brother (a common human theme, I suppose)…but Jesus was not tricked and He Himself foretold His death and resurrection and said He went willingly.

Also…I do not know of any other “deity” whose death quite entirely paid the price for the sins of all humankind. Or which was physical death not
just spiritual — and a death foretold/prophesied by previous prophets of that religion (although it is not terribly clear that such was entirely understood before it happened…controversial though and for another post)

And another unique aspect to His resurrection was that it was physical as well as spiritual. He did not simply become (like some say Osiris did) “god of the underworld.” His resurrection was physical — something that gnosticism and others have tried to fuss about ever since.

I would also say that the virgin birth of Jesus was a unique part of it. Births in other religious stories seem to have involved (in an effort to make unique or “sort of” virginal) things like transferring the developing fetus from one woman’s womb to another — something that even today’s advanced medical technology would likely find a challenge… But within the biblical context, the idea of a young woman suddenly erupting in Pregnancy without at least being visited by god or man — this would not have flown.

I probably could go on here.

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So would it be fair to say that because of these cultural reasons, it wouldn’t be likely to make this story up, as it would portray Jesus as a ‘looser’ rather than a hero who came to save everyone?

If you look for “Alexamenos graffito” in Wikipedia it shows an interesting ancient “graffiti” from Rome made by a pagan mocking Christianity with a drawing of a figure on a crucifix with a donkey head and the words “Alexamenos worships his god”. Supposedly showing the shame and derision the Romans/ Greeks had for worshiping someone killed on a cross.
image

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That is indeed one of the apologetic evidences appealed to about the whole thing. Of course, detractors can always still claim that because the messianic mission was so obviously such a failure (like so many previous ones), that perhaps followers took things into their own hands and “settled on metaphorical victory” where reality had let them down. And there will be rebuttals from believers on that - and so it will always go. But setting aside all those perennial apologetic tussels, and discussing among believers here - Yeah, the “upside down kingdom” turns the world’s terms for victory/loss on its head in ways that we Christians still struggle to take on board to this day, even with all this privileged access of twenty centuries worth of theological digestion and hindsight. We still admire power over meekness, and even still now try to “rehabilitate” Jesus today with the effective retort: “Our guy got killed on a cross back then, but he’s gonna have a second go-round, and he’ll do it right this time - he’ll do it our way - when I get to see my enemies vanquished!” And so we reveal that we still stumble at the exact same points that the original disciples did, only our stumbling would seem to be much less excusable.

I know - evangelicals would never overtly imply that Jesus didn’t “do it right the first time”, but that nonetheless is our effective critique of Jesus’ teachings when we decide we prefer to see (and emulate) him with a sword rather than a servant’s towel.

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Some deep thoughts there Mervin!

Another argument against the “it’s all made up” theory is that Christ doesn’t really fit the superhero archetype that would appeal. Modern people may have appreciation for a ‘sensitive, woke guy’ but would the ancients? And as you pointed out above, even we are struggling with it, after 2000 years. If you need more proof think of the modern archetype of a hero like James Bond. Also let’s not forget society at the time was extremely patriarchal, therefore men were expected to be as masculine as they could and we see this portrayed in virtually all mythical heroes.
When we think of Jesus, masculinity symbol is not what springs to mind, let’s be honest. So if somebody’s was going to make stuff up, wouldn’t a brave worrier be more likely? I’m thinking Robin Hood type of guy here.

Yes, what other god ever instructed his followers to turn the other cheek and to love one’s enemies? Those teachings (Sermon on the Mount) are hard to hear and hard to follow. Demanding willing self-sacrifice.

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Not to derail your thread, but I am reminded of a question posed in another forum by a unique individual (ex-Christian, Noachide-wanna-be, defender of all things Jewish) who asked–in a multi-diverse, international forum: “What did Jesus really do?” as in: “What makes him stand out?”
Slightly different than your question? Yours–as I understand it–asks: “What makes Jesus someone new, different, and real?” The other person in the other forum was asking? “Why should I care if he existed?”
Different questions, no? With yours taking precedence, of course.

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Sinlessness is the only thing that makes Jesus unique. His goal was not to become unique, but to become one us. The incarnation was at least partly about creating solidarity with mankind. Most of the teachings of Jesus are not unique to him. There have been plenty of teachers, healers and people willing to lay down their lives in the service of others. The lack of uniqueness is the point to me. Word made flesh. The story of the birds barn and man come to mind:

That is kind of what GJohn does. You have to pay careful attention to the same material in the synoptic gospels, with that found in John to see it.

Food for thought from Philip Yancey:

Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 45.]

Did Jesus actually talk about grace “a lot” or is that a Paul thing?

The Giver never has to; the receiver stops only with great difficulty.

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Yep, it’s the great inversion. Blessed are the poor. Therefore curs-ed are the rich. The Buddha is a far second.

One oddity that is more in the style than the events is the random details and loose ends that do not obviously relate to anything else described, like people who do something and are never followed up on or given a backstory.

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Sounds like a badly written drama/book…or a record of actual real events.

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And what was your answer???

I was one of the first to see her question. I laughed and told her, in so many words, that it was a “rabbit-hole” question to nowhere. She wasn’t looking for guidance or a positive spin or even to network with others; she was just looking–like so many of us do–for somebody to arm-wrestle with and work up a mob to hang.

Her response was the miffed,
Screenshot 2022-05-19 at 08-55-05 Michael Frost on Twitter

:laughing:

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