The purpose of this essay is to examine what has remained an enigma for scholars of religion and believers alike since the eighteenth century. The problem is that Jesus comes to us across over two thousand years of history during which many ideas have been formulated with regard to Jesus? identity.

All those raised in the Christian faith will be familiar with the Jesus who is the Messiah; of his infancy, life and the Easter story. These ?truths? have been held and passed on from one generation to another since the story began.

However, since the Age of Reason, the world of innocent belief was turned on its head and all that mattered was examined in minute detail under the microscope including the Gospel story. What is evolving out of the heated debate that has issued forth is a distinct division of humanity?s understanding of the identity of Jesus. In terms of what the earliest German scholars in the debate defined as the difference between ?historisch?, the historical Jesus as opposed to the historic ?geschichtlich? Christ. This distinction was made by M Kahler in 1964. (1)

I shall attempt to show with the help of biblical scholarship how these arguments have helped to bring us to an increased understanding of the dichotomy of the Personhood of Jesus and in so doing peel away the layers of history to better understand the Jesus of the first century CE.

I shall confine myself to basic details as a topic of this size warrants a dissertation as opposed to an essay of such length.

The Jesus of faith that we can glimpse through the canonical gospels is the man who we pledge our belief in through the Creeds (2). Jesus was, and indeed, is God made man. He was born after a spiritual union between Mary, a Virgin, and God. His was the infancy described in Matthew?s Gospel of our childhood. He grew up and after a period of time in the desert and his baptism by John the Baptist started three years illustrating the wrongdoings of the Jews in their approach to their interpretation of God?s teaching for them (3). His primary purpose it seemed was to emphasise the eschatology of the times alongside many other would-be messiahs. He emphasised that the fundamental commandment was to love on another.

However, as the Gospels show, Jews remained stubborn: the Pharisees retained their adherence to ritual; the Sanhedrin stuck rigidly to the Temple and their allegiance to the Romans; the Zealots desperate for an earthly Messiah clutched and grabbed at each passing ?messiah? to test the latest ones validity to the claim. When all was going well Jesus had followers. When Jesus performed miracles he had believers. When Jesus told parables, he had listeners.

Jesus? penultimate moment seemed to be his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. Here was the Messiah; at long last God had listened to the Jews pleas (4).
However, Jesus went wrong. He overstepped the mark and overthrew the moneychangers? stalls in the Temple. This was a key point. However, as Jesus was God he knew what he was doing and inevitably it happened (5).

After the special Passover meal Jesus surrendered to the Temple guards in the Garden of Gethsemane. His followers were already tiring ? they could not stay awake during his hour of pleading with God. After suffering his trials he is crucified and dies. The end of the earthly Jesus? No. Three days later he rises again to the amazement of all (6).

As the story of Jesus? resurrection spread around Jerusalem this had the effect of gradually attracting not only the Jews who listened but many who had not watched to know more of this Jesus. The story spread like wildfire. So much so that for nearly two and a half centuries the Romans themselves ferociously attacked this new breed of Jew the Christian, until in the third century their emperor Constantine saw the efficacy of converting himself to Christianity in order to get more soldiers for his cause.

My approach may seem almost blasphemous to the lay Christian reader.

However, this story is not taken literally by all today except for a few as it would have been in the pre-Enlightenment era. Why was this story absorbed so readily? In my opinion ? three reasons:

Firstly, until the Age of Reason the Church had a very strong foothold in the imagination of all. Very few people could read old languages and Bibles