Our understanding of Jesus role on earth and divinity has lead the us to a range of responses from skepticism to faith. Historian Dr. John Dickson explains how the views of Jesus have changed over the centuries.

“For the first few centuries, the ideas around Jesus are beautifully embedded both in our gospels but also in the second and third century writings. He is regarded as a teacher who turned the world upside down. He brought a new ethic into the world that called for the love of enemies, and a call to humility. These ideas were not common in the ancient world.”

“These same writers of the gospels wrote that Jesus was the Savior of the world, which puzzled Greeks and Romans to no end, because rulers do not normally die on a cross. Yet, Christians clung to that: Jesus was both part of the world and Savior of the world.”

“By the middle ages, people began to distance Jesus from the world. He became so transcendent that people felt they needed an intermediary to reach him. Thus, devotion to saints and devotion to Mary became a way to get them closer to Jesus. By the enlightenment period, Jesus was made to be only a teacher, and not considered divine.

John Dickson says that people make two mistakes when they approach Jesus as one-dimensional.

“Number one, we so inflate His role as teacher that we forget about any other aspect of Him. Because people like many of Jesus’ teachings, they focus on those sayings rather than focusing on Jesus as Lord and Savior.”

“Conversely, if people focus solely on the fact that Jesus is Lord and Savior, then we fail to recognize that Jesus did some wonderful teaching. Think about how the disciples referred to him as “teacher” in many instances. He was actively teaching his followers here on earth.”

“He is both… Lord and Teacher.”

Dr. John Dickson (PhD, Macquarie University, Sydney) is a senior research fellow of the Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University; co-director of the Centre for Public Christianity; and senior minister at St. Andrew’s Roseville. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible: Inside History’s Bestseller for Believers and Skeptics.