What Religion Was Jesus?

March 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

A question from a high school student, a delightfully inquisitive agnostic, in our church youth group:

“So Jesus was a Catholic? What’s up with that? Why isn’t everyone who believes in him Catholic? Not that they should be. Guess I just want to know more about Jesus’s religion and what people said he was.”

My response:

Great question! Who said Jesus was Catholic? I suppose the Pope would say Jesus was Catholic. A Mormon might say Jesus was Mormon. A Jehovah’s Witness might say JC was JW. A Muslim might say Jesus was too. The thing is, all of those belief systems came about after Jesus was here.

If anything, Jesus was Jewish, since He was born in a Jewish family, lived in Jewish culture, knew the Law of Moses, and taught it as a Rabbi, so anyone who knew Him would have considered Jesus a Jew. Modern Orthodox Judaism however doesn’t consider Jesus to be the promised Messiah, they are still waiting for the Messiah (prophesied in the Old Testament) to come. So by today’s standard, since Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, He wouldn’t really be Jewish.

Protestant Christianity is really Judaism + Jesus, but since Christianity means following Christ and His teachings in the Bible, I guess Jesus Christ wasn’t a Christian since He can’t follow Himself.

Jesus is the foundation and basis of Christianity, and Catholicism, and any religion that includes Christ in its teachings, but not all “Christian” denominations are doctrinally consistent with what Jesus taught and who the Bible says He was and is. Catholicism teaches some things that Christ did not teach, such as salvation through good works (Jesus taught salvation by grace), worship of Mary (only God should be worshiped), and that we need priests to forgive our sins and connect us with God (Jesus fulfills that need). So in that sense I would say Jesus didn’t teach what we now identify as Roman Catholicism.

The short answer would be that Jesus wasn’t any religion as we define religion. Remember that religions are really man-made constructs, framework we use to understand God (or something that we regard as such) and how to live in response. It’s the place we try to figure out Jesus. The best way to know who Jesus was would be to see what the Bible says about Him. Next best thing to do would be to ask a Christian, so thanks for asking!

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