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On the day after Jesus’ death, it looked as if whatever small mark he left on the world would rapidly disappear. Instead, his impact on human history has been unparalleled. Discover for yourself how Jesus' teachings contrasted the ancient world in which he lived and shaped our 21st Century reality.

Ancient World

In the ancient world, there was little or no separation of church and state. Rulers often manipulated religion to serve their own political agenda. Egyptian Pharaohs were God-kings, Ancient Greeks obeyed the Oracle at Delphi, and Roman Caesars were "divinely" sanctioned.

Jesus Taught

1st Century A.D.

When Jesus said, “Render that which is Caesar’s unto Caesar, and that which is God’s unto God,” his words rocked the foundations of power and echoed through history.

Early Christian Church

3rd Century A.D.

Church father Tertullian wrote: “However, it is a fundamental human right, a privilege of nature, that every man should worship according to his own convictions.... It is assuredly no part of religion – to compel religion to which free will and not force should lead us.”

The City of God

4th Century A.D.

Christian philosopher and theologian Augustine declared that the message of Christianity was spiritual rather than political. He wrote that the "City of God" ruled by love, will one day overcome the "Earthly City" bound in self-indulgence and pride.

Doctrine of Two Kingdoms

16th Century A.D.

Martin Luther, a German monk and priest, articulated his doctrine of the "Two Kingdoms" in which God rules the earthly kingdom through government and law, while he rules the heavenly kingdom through the gospel or grace.

First Amendment

18th Century A.D.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States declared that, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

U.N. Declaration

20th Century A.D.

The United Nations recognizes "Freedom of Religion" as a universal human right. Most countries around the world provide for the protection of religious freedom in their constitution and/or laws.

Ancient World

Education was reserved for male children of elite families. Access to education was closely guarded as a way of controlling the population and was often wielded as a social weapon.

Jesus Taught

1st Century A.D.

Jesus taught everyone irrespective of gender, social status, or ethnicity. His last words on earth instructed his believers to go throughout the world, "[T]eaching them to obey everything I've commanded you."

Early Christian Church

1st Century A.D.

The leaders of the early church followed Jesus' instruction and taught both men and women, and even slaves. From the book of Acts in the Bible: “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching.”

Monks Preserve Classics

5th Century A.D.

Monks cloistered at the fringes of Europe preserved the works of classical literature from destruction by the Huns and Germanic Tribes during the Dark Ages and create beautiful works of art through hand-drawn illumination of these same manuscripts.

Cyrillic Alphabet

10th Century A.D.

The alphabet of the Slavic peoples (Russia and much of Easter Europe) is called Cyrillic in honor of Saint Cyril, a missionary to the Slavs who discovered they had no alphabet. He created one for them so they would be able to read about Jesus in their own language.

Martin Luther

15th Century A.D.

Martin Luther, a monk in Germany, emphasized "the priesthood of all believers," and encouraged all people, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, men and women, to read the Bible for themselves, thus endorsing a universal literacy.

First Universities

12th-18th Centuries A.D.

From Christian monasteries came universities. Harvard University was founded in the 17th Century to: “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, (John 17:3).”

Ancient World

Under the Law of Romulus, Roman fathers were required to raise healthy males. If one's wife gave birth to more than one girl, infanticide was often practiced. In Athens, women were legally classified as a “child” no matter how old they were and were the property of a man.

Jesus Taught

1st Century A.D.

Jesus ignored cultural taboos by inviting women to be some of his closest followers and help fund his ministry out of their own means. He applauded Mary Magdalene, one of his closest followers, for breaking out of a traditional role and assuming the posture of a disciple.

Early Church & Women

1st-4th Centuries A.D.

Early Christianity elevated the status of women in relation to pagan culture. It is highly likely that women were a clear majority in the early church. At one archeological site in North Africa, an early church has been unearthed where they found 16 men’s tunics and 82 women’s tunics.

Brigid of Kildare

6th Century A.D.

St. Brigid founded two monastic institutions and a school of art in Kildare, Ireland. The legendary Book of Kildare, an illuminated Biblical manuscript, was produced under her watch by St. Conleth, the Abbot that she appointed to help govern the school.

Julian of Norwich

14th Century A.D.

Jesus is why mystic Julian of Norwich in 1393 wrote the first book in English written by a woman — The Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love — which is so profound that it is still studied to this day.

Mother of Quakerism

17th Century A.D.

Known as the "Mother of Quakerism," Margaret Fell was a founder of the Religious Society of Friends along with George Fox. She wrote "Women's Speaking Justified," defending the spiritual equality of women and their ability to serve as religious leaders.

Dorothy Sayers

20th Century A.D.

The first woman to receive a degree from Oxford (which she did with first class honors), Dorothy was an acclaimed English crime writer, poet, essayist, translator and Christian. Her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy remains the definitive translation in English.

Ancient World

Illness and disease were often controlled by quarantine and viewed as a form of divine punishment. For instance, lepers were ostracized from society and lived in colonies outside of populated areas. In the case of epidemics, healthy people fled the cities leaving the sick and the poor to die.

Jesus Taught

1st Century A.D.

Jesus broke taboos by touching lepers and renouncing the belief that illness and deformity were the result of sin. He taught his followers to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and look after the sick. "[W]hatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

Plague in Rome

3rd Century A.D.

An epidemic of what may have been smallpox broke out in Rome. Healthy Romans fled the city, but Christian communities stayed behind to care for the dying, many of them perishing in the process. Non-believers took notice and Christianity flourished among the survivors.

World’s First Hospitals

4th Century A.D.

Gregory of Nyssa and St. Basil (both fathers of the early church) founded leprosariums to demonstrate God's love. The Council of Nyssa decreed that wherever a cathedral existed, there must also be a hospice. This was the beginning of what would come to be known as hospitals.

Founding of Red Cross

19th Century A.D.

Jean Henri Dunant couldn’t stand the sound of soldiers crying out on a battle-field after they had been wounded, so this Swiss philanthropist devoted his life to helping them in Jesus’ name. He started an organization in the 1860s that became known as the Red Cross.

Florence Nightingale

19th Century A.D.

A Lutheran pastor in Germany named Theodor Fliedner trained a group of mostly peasant women to nurse the sick. This led to a movement of hospitals all over Europe, and inspired a young woman named Florence Nightingale to give her life to care for the sick.

Ancient World

In the ancient world, slavery was universal and had virtually nothing to do with one’s race. A slave was non habens personam before Roman law, literally “not having a person” or even “not having a face.”

Jesus Taught

1st Century A.D.

Jesus said. "But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” He came so "that the oppressed will be set free," and that, "whoever would believe in him would not perish, but have eternal life."

St. Paul & Egalitarianism

1st Century A.D.

St. Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Historian Thomas Cahill says that this was the first statement of egalitarianism in human literature.

Slavery Condemned

4th Century A.D.

Early church father Gregory of Nyssa criticized slavery as an institution and scolded Christians who owned slaves: “You condemn to slavery the human being, whose nature is free...[who] was created to be lord of the earth and appointed to rule the creation....”

Amazing Grace

18th Century A.D.

John Newton was a slave trader who, after a spiritual conversion, wrote “Amazing Grace." Later in life, Newton became a prominent abolitionist who encouraged politician William Wiberforce to successfully fight for the abolition of slavery in Britain.

Emancipation

19th Century A.D.

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all U.S. slaves and later said: "[O]ur fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

20th Century A.D.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often quoted the Bible and referenced Jesus in his writings: "Was not Jesus an extremist for love: 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you....” His example has inspired millions around the globe in their fight for equal rights.

Ancient World

The study of science is subject to the worldview (philosophy) of the scientist. The deities of antiquity were viewed as impersonal, chaotic, vengeful and illogical, and their worship shaped the influenced early scientific theory.

Jesus Taught

1st Century A.D.

Jesus spoke of God as Father, even calling him "Daddy" (Abba in Aramaic). His description of God as good, loving, all-knowing, all-powerful, creative, and just transformed people's perception of both the spiritual and natural world.

Monks & Innovation

1st Century A.D.

Christian monks in Europe invented windmills to free up more time to worship, eyeglasses to better read the teachings of Jesus, and mechanical clocks to know when to pray.

Pioneers of Science

4th Century A.D.

The vast majority of the pioneers of science — William of Ockham, Francis Bacon, Galileo, Copernicus, Blaise Pascal, Joseph Priestley, Louis Pasteur, Isaac Newton — viewed their work as learning to think God’s thoughts.

Scientific Revolution

18th Century A.D.

Many historians argue that the age of scientific progress flourished because of widespread adoption of the Christian worldview. Johannes Kepler said, “God, like a Master Builder, has laid the foundation of the world according to law and order. God wanted us to recognize those laws....”

Prof. Asa Gray

19th Century A.D.

Professor of Natural History at Harvard and President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Asa Gray was the premier American botanist of the 19th century, a contributor to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, and a committed Christian.

Dr. Francis Collins

20th Century A.D.

Dr. Francis Collins is a physician-geneticist noted for his contributions to the Human Genome Project. Bestselling author of, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief,Dr. Collins argues for the marriage of science and faith.

endorsements

“A powerful read for skeptics and believers alike.”
“...fresh insight into the life of Jesus on earth, through which we can better grasp the nature of God in heaven.”
“Whether you are a believer or a skeptic this book brings to light all the fascinating ways this man changed the world forever.”
“...invites you to dream about this man named Jesus who somehow has survived all the embarrassing things we Christians have done in his name.”
“...helps us see how much of what is good and best in the world is due to what Jesus has done and is doing, through his continuing presence and through his people.”
“...regardless of your religious persuasion, if you long to make a difference–and down deep, I think we all do–the example set by JESUS can guide your way.”
“The arrival of this book is good news! Make room on your shelf for this book. Make room in your heart for its subject.”
“The book will encourage, inspire, and flat-out blow you away.”
“...destined to become as influential and widely read as The Purpose Driven Life. Jesus has seldom been written about with such penetrating insight and illuminating clarity.”
“With 1500 books about Jesus published each year, where does a reader start? I recommend John Ortberg's latest offering....”
“...took me to a new level in worshiping Jesus as a wonderful Savior!”
“John Ortberg has nailed one of the Big Lies of Our Time, the assertion that Christianity has been part of the problem rather than the source of the solution.”
“Brilliantly and inspiringly written, this book overwhelms the reader with the dominating role that Jesus has played in creating our history and culture.”
“He was the villager who outlasted empires, the carpenter who inspired universities, the most posthumously successful person of all time. Ortberg rightly challenges us to ask, "Who is this man?”
“We live in a period where the divide between the secular and the sacred has never been greater. Who is this Man bridges this gap by sharing...the undeniable and profound impact of Jesus Christ
“...one person, more than anyone else in history, radically changed the world we live in. Discover that person and be changed by him through John Ortberg's captivating book. ”
“Sometimes in the clutter and noise of 'religion,' we lose sight of who Jesus is. Once again, John...helps us see God as he really is, and connect with him in all the noise.”
“We live in a Jesus-shaped world in ways many people may not imagine. Find out why people still ask 'who is this man?' after 2,000 years.”

Author

Q & A with john ortberg

What led you to write the book and the curriculum?

I am continually being drawn to this person Jesus. In some way that none of us truly understand, all the hopes of the human race rest on this man and his message—the way he saw things and lived.

Our world tends to be so divided up into us vs. them, insider vs. outsider, right vs. left—but Jesus continually transcends divisions, including religious divisions. People who distrust institutional religion still feel themselves drawn to Jesus.

The book is about Jesus’ unusual influence. What is it that people today don’t understand or don’t appreciate about Jesus’ influence?

The depth and breadth of it. Most people don’t have any idea how much Jesus and the movement that followed him influenced education, the rise of universities, and the movement for universal literacy. Or how Jesus influenced the way we not assume any suffering individual—regardless of their tribe--deserves our compassion and our action. He changed how we view children so much that one book on the topic is simply called WHEN CHILDREN BECAME PEOPLE. He changed how we look at human dignity, human rights, and the status of women. Because of him, qualities like humility and forgiveness—which were little-regarded in most of the ancient world—became almost universally admired. His influence on the arts was so pervasive that even tho no one knows what he looked like, he (and not the Dos Equis guy) is the most recognizable man in the world. He inspired reform movements and human rights. Regardless of anyones’ opinions about religion, Jesus left a wake that still spreads waves.

This matters because we all need to learn from someplace the answer to the question, “How do I live?” We have to learn it from someone—our parents, our peers, our teachers, the wealthy, or whoever just won The Bachelor. When people see his impact they wonder, “Perhaps I should turn to him to find out how to live my life.”

Tell me about the title of the book. Why is this an especially significant question today?

Jesus is the man that everybody knows but the man that nobody knows. How did this person end up having the impact on the human imagination and minds that he does?

Most people have positive feelings about Jesus. I’m hoping that this can be a next step in their learning about him and that they will consider Jesus as a wise person they might want to learn about life from. “Come and see”, a challenge to check Jesus out in the New Testament of the Bible, remains life’s great invitation.

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