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The Jesus of Christmas: Who was the baby in the manger?

Books and TV documentaries abound with questions about the Jesus of Christmas. Our world is divided today about the identity of the baby in the Bethlehem manger. Christians worship the Jesus in the manger as “Immanuel,” (God with us). They believe Jesus came to redeem men and women from their sins.

Some believe the story is just a myth. Others like to believe that the baby Jesus somehow will bring peace to our troubled world. And although the world seems to be heading in another direction, Christians believe Jesus will someday return, as he promised, to bring both lasting peace to the world, and judgment to his enemies.

But even non-Christians are fascinated by the identity of that baby in the manger. CNN talk show host, Larry King, was asked to choose one person from all of history he would most like to interview. King instantly replied, “Jesus Christ.” 1

Why Jesus?

The question is: Why would King, a Jew, pick Jesus as his most wanted interview? One answer might be that Jesus Christ has greatly impacted our world. But King followed up his initial response with a question relating to Jesus’ origin. He wanted to know if the Christmas story is a myth or whether it is really true.

Although skeptics believe the entire story of Jesus was invented, most world history scholars believe the evidence points to Jesus being a real man who has greatly impacted history. The non-Christian world historian, H. G. Wells, when asked who has left the greatest legacy on history, replied, “By this test Jesus stands first” 2 (see )

But there was, and still is a mystique about Jesus that goes far beyond even his historical impact. When examining the life and words of Jesus, the great British scholar, G. K. Chesterton, a former skeptic, concluded:

The Jesus of the New Testament seems to me to have in a great many ways the note of something superhuman; that is of something human and more than human. 3

Even great world leaders have acknowledged Jesus as unique among all others. One of the greatest military leaders in history, Napoleon Bonaparte, lusted for power and world dominance. As emperor of France, he nearly conquered all of Europe until he met his famous “Waterloo.”

While in exile on the rock of St. Helena, Napoleon had time to reflect on world history, and the impact of Jesus Christ. After reading the New Testament, he called Count Montholon to his side and asked, “Can you tell me who Jesus Christ was?” When the Count had no answer, Napoleon remarked:

I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.4

Jesus’ Radical Claims

Although Jesus did show remarkable love and compassion to all who were willing to receive it, his mystique results more from the question of his identity than from his historical impact. People who heard and saw him kept trying to understand what he meant by his radical claims.

As Jesus traveled around the rocky hills of Galilee, huge crowds gathered to hear his words and his apparent power over nature. As his followers witnessed his amazing words and deeds, Jesus would make statements like, “I am the light of the world,” or, “I am the only way to God,” or, “I am the resurrection and the life.” 5

What are we to make of such radical claims? Former skeptic and Oxford professor, C. S. Lewis, originally considered the entire account of Jesus a myth, similar to pagan gods in Greek and Roman religions. However, one day he had a lengthy discussion with a known atheist on campus who had examined the evidence. He told Lewis that there appeared to be significant evidence supporting the New Testament accounts.

Lewis was stunned! He decided to examine the evidence for himself. After his search to discover the real Jesus, Lewis concluded that Jesus both existed, and was the greatest man who ever lived. However, because of Jesus’ radical claims, Lewis concluded that Jesus couldn’t have been simply a great moral teacher.

According to Lewis, Jesus was either telling the truth, which meant (to him) that he is God, or Jesus was wrong, making him either a liar or a lunatic. (see for a summary of Lewis’ argument). The hinge pin on which the identity of Jesus Christ stands or falls is the claim that he rose from the dead. His disciples were so convinced that he had risen that they went everywhere proclaiming him alive, even at the cost of their own lives. What convinced them? (see Did Jesus rise from the dead?)

So who was the baby in the manger? The answer to that question, as Larry King inferred, is the most important one in all history. For if Jesus was not who he claimed to be, his promise of eternal peace is empty. But if Jesus was who he claimed to be, then our lives can have no meaning without him.

(See Why Jesus? Is Jesus relevant today? to discover what Jesus says about the meaning of life.)


1. Quoted in, Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 2000), 38.

2. Quoted in Bernard Ramm, Protestant Christian Evidences (Chicago: Moody Press, 1957), 163.
3. G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 204.
4. Frank Mead, ed. The Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations (Westwood, IL: Fleming H. Revell Publishers).
5. John 8:12; John 14:6; John 11:25

See Also:

Reality of Christmas Today
As the clock strikes midnight, everyone gathers around the Christmas tree to celebrate the holiday with joyful greetings and gifts. Time passes away swiftly with all the excitement. And once everyone is in bed, a few hours later, the alarm sounds. It’s time to go to church for Christmas service in the early morning. Why go? What happens anyway?

Why Jesus? Is Jesus relevant today?
Although other philosophers and religious leaders have offered their answers to the meaning of life, only Jesus Christ proved his credentials by rising from the dead. Jesus offers life with real meaning. He said that life is much more than making money, having fun, being successful, and then ending up in a graveyard. Yet, many people still try to find meaning in fame and success, even the greatest superstars…

Did Jesus rise from the dead?
Is Jesus' resurrection a fantastic fact or a vicious myth? To find out, we need to look at the evidence of history and draw our own conclusions. Let's see what skeptics who investigated the resurrection discovered for themselves. A must read.

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