The Life of Brian: Thoughts and Questions

by Jacob Juncker

From the beginning his mother knew he was no ordinary person. Prior to his birth, a heavenly figure appeared to her, announcing that her son would not be a mere mortal but would himself be divine. This prophecy was confirmed by the miraculous character of his birth, a birth accompanied by supernatural signs. The boy was already recognized as a spiritual authority in his youth; his discussions with recognized experts showed his superior knowledge of all things religious. As an adult he left home to engage in an itinerant preaching ministry. He went from village to town with his message of good news, proclaiming that people should forgo their concerns for the material things of this life, such as how they should dress and what they should eat. They should instead be concerned with their eternal souls.

He gathered around him a number of disciples who were amazed by his teaching and his flawless character. They became convinced that he was no ordinary man but was the Son of God. Their faith received striking confirmation in the miraculous things that he did. He could reportedly predict the future, heal the sick, cast out demons, and raise the dead. Not everyone proved friendly, however. At the end of his life, his enemies trumped up charges against him, and he was placed on trial before Roman authorities for crimes against the state.

Even after he departed this realm, however, he did not forsake his devoted followers. Some claimed that he had ascended bodily into heaven; others said that he had appeared to them, alive, afterward, that they had talked with him and touched him and become convinced that he could not be bound by death. A number of his followers spread the good news about this man, recounting what they had seen him say and do. Eventually some of these accounts came to be written down in books that circulated throughout the empire.

But I doubt that you have ever read them. In fact, I suspect you have never heard the name of this miracle-working “Son of God.” The man I have been referring to is the great neo-Pythagorean teacher and pagan holy man of the first century C.E., Apollonius of Tyana, a worshiper of the Roman gods, whose life and teachings are still available for us in the writing of his later (third-century) follower Philostratus, in his book The Life of Apollonius.”

Ehrman, Bart D. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. New York: Osford University Press, 2004. p 19, 20.

Around the time Jesus was born, many were looking expectantly for a Messiah: and, as there are today, there were many claiming or being claimed to be the one sent by God.

So how did the earliest followers of Jesus come to believe that he was the Messiah (the one really sent by God to redeem the world)?

“False christs and false prophets will appear, and they will offer great signs and wonders in order to deceive… Look, I’ve told you ahead of time. So if they say to you ‘Look, he’s in the desert,’ don’t go out. And if they say, ‘Look, he’s in the rooms deep inside the house,’ don’t believe it” (Matthew 24:22-26, Common English Bible).

Knowing that there have been many who claim to be the Messiah (and there will be many more), why do you think Christians believe Jesus is “the one sent by God to redeem the world”?

Why do you follow Jesus? And not Apollonius of Tyana, Brian or any of the other “false christs and prophets”?

“Regard [Jesus] Christ as holy in your hearts. When anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it” (1 Peter 3:15, Common English Bible).