ByJ. Warner Wallace for Cold-Case Christianity

People trying to discover the truth about God would be wise to take a hard look at Jesus before looking anywhere else. While that may sound like a bold assertion in and of itself, it really isn’t when you consider Jesus is the one religious leader who is most frequently mentioned by religious groups, whether or not they happen to be Christian. Every major religious movement considers Jesus to be an important religious figure. Every movement makes some effort to account for His existence and teaching. This ought to give seekers a reason to pause and consider the life of Jesus seriously.


While we recognize Judaism pre-existed (and gave birth to) Christianity, Judaism has also had over two-thousand years to consider and respond to the claims of Christ. Much has been written about Jesus from a Jewish perspective, most interestingly by those early Jews who described Jesus in the centuries immediately following His life.

Jews believe Jesus was Mary’s son, was a teacher (Rabbi), had many disciples, was respected, performed miracles, claimed to be the Messiah and was crucified on the cross. They also acknowledge His followers reported Jesus was raised from the dead. Ancient Jewish believers (as recorded by the Talmud and the Toledot Yeshu) described Jesus in the following way:

Jesus Was Mary’s Son

Ancient Jews acknowledged Jesus existed and had a mother named Mary. They denied Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus, but they did recognize Mary was promised to a man named “Yohanan”:

“Near his house dwelt a widow and her lovely and chaste daughter named Miriam. Miriam was betrothed to Yohanan, of the royal house of David, a man learned in the Torah and God-fearing…On the eighth day he was circumcised. When he was old enough the lad was taken by Miriam to the house of study to be instructed in the Jewish tradition.” (The Toledot Yeshu)

Jesus Claimed to Be the Messiah

While ancient Jews denied Jesus was the Messiah, they did acknowledge Jesus made this claim publicly:

“Yeshu proclaimed, ‘I am the Messiah; and concerning me Isaiah prophesied and said, ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.’ He quoted other messianic texts, insisting, ‘David my ancestor prophesied concerning me: ‘The Lord said to me, thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee.’ …He started out toward Jerusalem and, arriving at Knob, acquired an ass on which he rode into Jerusalem, as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah… On the eve of the Passover, Yeshu, accompanied by his disciples, came to Jerusalem riding upon an ass. Many bowed down before him.” (The Toledot Yeshu)


The Islamic faith was founded by Muhammad on the Arabian Peninsula in the early 7th Century. He claimed to be restoring the monotheistic religion corrupted by the Jews and Christians. As a result, Muslims acknowledge the impact of Jesus and recognize Him as a significant person within their own religious system.

Muslims believe Jesus was born of a virgin, is to be revered and respected, was a prophet, a wise teacher who worked miracles, ascended to heaven, and will come again. The Quran describes Jesus in the following way:

Jesus Was Born of a Virgin

The Quran describes Mary as a virgin prior to her miraculous conception. The conversation between Mary and Allah is recorded in the Quran, and Mary is told that she will conceive without the benefit of human involvement.

“She said: “Verily. I seek refuge with the Most Beneficent (Allâh) from you, if you do fear Allâh.” (The angel) said: “I am only a Messenger from your Lord, (to announce) to you the gift of a righteous son.” She said: “How can I have a son, when no man has touched me, nor am I unchaste?” He said: “So (it will be), your Lord said: ‘That is easy for Me (Allâh): And (We wish) to appoint him as a sign to mankind and a mercy from Us (Allâh), and it is a matter (already) decreed, (by Allâh).’ ” So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a far place (i.e. Bethlehem valley about 4-6 miles from Jerusalem).” (Quran 19:18-22)

Jesus Was A Prophet

Islam affirms Jesus (known as “Isa” or “Eesa”) was one of God’s most important prophets:

“And Zakariyâ (Zachariya), and Yahya (John) and ‘Iesa (Jesus) and Iliyâs (Elias), each one of them was of the righteous.” (Quran 6:85)

Muslims also acknowledge Jesus was sent specifically to the Children of Israel:

“And will make him [‘Iesa (Jesus)] a Messenger to the Children of Israel (saying): “I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that I design for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allâh’s Leave; and I heal him who was born blind, and the leper, and I bring the dead to life by Allâh’s Leave. And I inform you of what you eat, and what you store in your houses. Surely, therein is a sign for you, if you believe.And I have come confirming that which was before me of the Taurât (Torah), and to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you, and I have come to you with a proof from your Lord. So fear Allâh and obey me.Truly. Allâh is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him (Alone). This is the Straight Path.” (Quran 3:49-51)

While Muhammad is described as the final prophet from God, he listed the previous prophets and included Jesus in that list. Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet, but they deny He is God:

“The Messiah [‘Iesa (Jesus)], son of Maryam (Mary), was no more than a Messenger; many were the Messengers that passed away before him. His mother [Maryam (Mary)] was a Siddiqah [i.e. she believed in the words of Allâh and His Books (see Verse 66:12)]. They both used to eat food (as any other human being, while Allâh does not eat). Look how We make the Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) clear to them, yet look how they are deluded away (from the truth).” (Quran 5:75)

Muslims also deny Jesus was the “Son of God”:

“And the Jews say: ‘Uzair (Ezra) is the son of Allâh, and the Christians say: Messiah is the son of Allâh. That is a saying from their mouths. They imitate the saying of the disbelievers of old. Allâh’s Curse be on them, how they are deluded away from the truth.” (Quran 9:30).

Jesus Will Come Again

Islam acknowledges Jesus will return in the future (during the latter days). The Hadith (a collection of sayings from Muhammad) describes this Second Coming of Jesus. While Muslims acknowledge the Second Coming, they maintain Jesus will return as a Muslim (“Ummati”) and as a follower of Muhammad, returning to earth to revive Islam.


The Islamic Ahmadiyya Movement was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in the late 19th Century following the authorship of his book (“Jesus in India”) in April of 1896. Ahmad believed Jesus survived the crucifixion and later travelled to India to preach as a prophet. The Movement eventually divided into two branches, the “Qadani” (who recognize Ahmad as a prophet), and the “Lahore” (who see Ahmad simply as a reformer of Islam).

Ahmadiyya Muslims believe Jesus may have been born of a virgin, was a prophet and wise teacher, worked miracles, and was crucified on a cross. The Ahmadiyya Movement describes Jesus in the following way:

Jesus May Have Been Born of a Virgin

Ahmadiyya Muslims affirm the Christian claim Jesus (called “Yus Asaf”) was born of a virgin. (While members of the Ahmadiyya Movement believe Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, this belief is not considered an essential requirement of faith. Many within the Ahmadiyya community do not believe in the Virgin Conception; the issue is left to the individual believer.)

Jesus was a Prophet

The Ahmadiyya Movement recognizes Jesus was a real person who lived in history. Ahmadiyya Muslims hold views of Jesus (very similar to traditional Muslims), affirming Jesus was a real man. In addition, Ahmadiyya Muslims also mirror Islamic beliefs about the role of Jesus as a prophet. (While members of the Ahmadiyya Movement believe Jesus was a prophet, they do not believe that He was God or the “Son of God”.)


Bahá’u’lláh (a 19th century Persian) claimed to be a messenger from God as he founded the Bahá’í Faith in 1863. Bahá’u’lláh taught all of religious history had been revealed through a series of messengers sent by God, and he considered himself to be the last of these messengers. Bahá’u’lláh recognized several leaders from prior religious movements and claimed these men revealed the progressive truth of God to each generation. Based on this perspective, Bahá’u’lláh accepted many of the claims of Christianity and affirmed many characteristics of Jesus.

Bahá’í believe Jesus came from God, was a wise teacher who had a divine and human nature, worked miracles, and was crucified and resurrected as an atonement for humanity.

Jesus Came From God

The Bahá’í Faith describes Jesus as a “manifestation” of God and acknowledges Jesus was sent by God (the Bahá’í faith does, however, place Jesus alongside other messengers from major religious movements, including Abraham, Muhammad, the Buddha, Krishna, and Zoroaster).

Jesus Was Born of a Virgin

The Bahá’í faith also acknowledges Jesus was born of a virgin through the Holy Spirit, just as the Bible maintains:

“As to the position of Christianity, let it be stated without any hesitation or equivocation that its divine origin is unconditionally acknowledged, that the Sonship and Divinity of Jesus Christ are fearlessly asserted, that the divine inspiration of the Gospel is fully recognized, that the reality of the mystery of the Immaculacy of the Virgin Mary is confessed…” (From “The Promised Day Is Come” by Shoghi Effendi, page 109)


Hinduism is a very diverse religious faith that began in India. It is rooted in religious views dating back to the Iron Age of India (12th to 6th centuries BC) and it has no single founder. There are many varieties of Hinduism embracing a complex and divergent set of views, and for this reason, it is difficult to isolate a unified set of beliefs related to Jesus. Hindu believers often hold a variety of views.

Jesus Was a Holy Man
Most Hindus evaluate “spirituality” on the basis of behavior and practice. Virtues such as tolerance, love, non-violence, self-sacrifice and humility are held in high esteem and considered to be characteristics of “holy men” known as Sadhu. By this criteria, Jesus qualifies as a “Hindu Saint” on the basis of his life and teaching.

Jesus Was A Wise Teacher
Most Hindus respect the teaching of Jesus and some have even committed themselves to this teaching. Mahatma Gandhi, for example, admired the teaching of Jesus greatly (particularly the Sermon on the Mount), even though he was not interested in Jesus as a true historical character. Gandhi saw Jesus as a symbol of superior ethics and revered His teaching.

Jesus is a ‘God’
Some Hindus are more than willing to acknowledge Jesus as divine, if He is not seen as ‘uniquely’ Divine. Hindus often worship many gods and goddesses and some are eager to include Jesus in their list of deities. They don’t, however, see Jesus as the only way to God. Instead, some understand Jesus as the perfect example of “self-realization” (the goal of Hindu “dharma”). Many Hindus see Jesus as a symbol of what humans can attain, rather than a true historical person. He is divine in his modeling, if not in His nature, and He is not the only such model. While some Hindus may see Jesus as a God-man of sorts, they would also site other examples such as Rama, Krishna and Buddha. Jesus is simply one of many “ishtas” (forms of the divine) in the history of mankind.


While Buddhism is based primarily on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (a spiritual teacher from India who lived from approximately 563BC to 483BC and is known as the Buddha), Buddhism incorporates a variety of religious traditions, beliefs and practices. Like Hinduism, Buddhism provides no singular unified view about Jesus, although a number of Jesus’ characteristics are described by many Buddhists.

Jesus Was An Enlightened Man
Most Buddhists acknowledge and respect the fact Jesus lived a self-sacrificial life and had compassion on those who were in spiritual need. This kind of compassion is seen by Buddhists to be the key to happiness and enlightenment. For this reason, many Buddhists, including the 14th century Zen master, Gasan Jōseki, refer to Jesus as an “enlightened man”.

Jesus Was A Wise Teacher
Most Buddhists also respect the teaching of Jesus to a high degree, especially Jesus’ teaching related to loving one’s neighbor and the need to demonstrate kindness and forgiveness. His teaching related to compassion, for example, impressed the Dalai Lama greatly. Jesus is seen as someone who possessed the correct perspective on life and his teaching helped others to embrace the truth. Some Buddhists including the 14th Dali Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, have even recognized Jesus as a ” bodhisattva” (one who dedicates his life sacrificially to the service and betterment of others). While Jesus is seen as a wise teacher, He is not seen as divine.

Jesus Was a Holy Man
The current Dalai Lama often describes Jesus as a “holy man” and includes Jesus in his list of such people. In fact, the Dalai Lama does not typically elevate Buddha to a greater status than Jesus when discussing the two figures. The Dalai Lama met frequently with the Pope in the early part of the 21st century and showed great respect for the teaching and person of Jesus Christ.

The New Age Movement

Nothing could be more diverse than the New Age Movement when related to the identity of Jesus. Perhaps most striking however, is the pluralism and relativism existing within the movement. Any attempt to identify Jesus as the singular God of the universe will surely be rejected. Many New Age believers are willing to consider the teaching of Jesus, however, and the “Christhood” of Jesus is often described as something all of us could attain. In this sense, Jesus is seen as a man who completed a process of “spiritual evolution” over successive generations of reincarnation, becoming an enlightened master.

Jesus Was A Wise Moral Teacher
This may be the only area of agreement between most New Age believers. Since the 1800’s, many New Age spiritual movements have described Jesus as some sort of sage, teacher or philosopher. They typically highlight those areas of His teaching aligning with the principles of Eastern mysticism, and they often distort the words of Jesus to accomplish this. They also typically ignore Jesus’ teaching about his own identity. Many revere Jesus’ moral teaching and some argue the ethics of Jesus are not those of the Christians who follow Him. These New Age believers particularly respect what they believe Jesus taught about peace and love of one’s enemies, the hypocrisy of the rich and religious leaders, and the rights of women and children.

So, Why Do Other Religions Think They Must Account for Him?

We’ve taken some time to highlight the major Non-Christian religions here to understand how they view Jesus. We’ve deliberately excluded those faith systems that are direct derivatives and distortions of Christianity (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Science); after all, we would expect these derivative religions to speak about Jesus in one way or another. But it’s interesting to note even those religions pre-existing Jesus have come to include Jesus in their description of reality.

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