I'm just a beginner in studying origins of Christianity.

I know Jesus emerged in a Jewish state where people already believed in a monotheistic religion and one God. So my question is: What was the difference in his message that people found so attractive? I know a lot of work was done by missionaries to spread his word especially in the Roman era; but I'm just curious what was new that he brought that was not delivered by Jewish leaders and their text and religion?

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    I think this question might be off-topic as it is about history/religion rather than understanding biblical text. – Alex Dec 25 '18 at 2:36

Great Question!

Jesus' teaching was very popular with the masses but equally unpopular with the Jewish authorities! Never forget this as it is the primary (political) reason why Jesus was crucified. I suggest that Jesus and His teaching was popular for the following reasons:

  • He taught with "authority" Luke 4:32. I understand this to mean that His teaching was not vague nor indecisive - it was definitive and had an unmistakable divine ring to it.
  • He spoke of God as a loving father, eg the Lord's prayer, and many more cases. This was very different from the approach of the scribes an teachers of the law.
  • He came across as somewhat radical and anti-establishment. Jesus had to regularly point out the sins and short-coming of leaders and teachers whose excesses were well known and most were frightened to say what they thought - Jesus was NOT.
  • His life was one of an unimpeachable character. That is, His life was consistent with his teaching. He often spent whole nights or large slabs of time in prayer. For example, see Mark 1:35-39.
  • He taught a doctrine of lovingkindness John 13:34, 35. He encouraged people to be kind and forgiving.
  • He was a great healer of sickness - such is invariably VERY popular but not the only reason for His popularity.
  • is teaching was succinct and very profound. His sheer eloquence and repartee, especially when asked impossible questions by teachers of the law also made him very popular.
  • He could forgive people of their sins and great, nagging, oppressive guilt. Never underestimate this reason. See Mark 2:1-10.
  • Jesus teaching was filled and enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit, see Rom 15:9, Luke 4:14, etc.

It is these same reasons that Jesus and His teaching continues to be popular and irrepressible today.

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  • Thank you very much. I guess my question is couldn't he act as a reformer of the status quo and it's flaws at that time? Or his intent was to reform but later his words got popular so much that it became a religion by itself? – doubleE Dec 24 '18 at 23:13
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    See Matt 23:37 - Jesus wanted to reform but they were unwilling. – user25930 Dec 25 '18 at 0:24
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    Jesus' intention was never to start a new religion, but to reform his native faith, focusing on the spiritual rather than physical/material aspects of Judaism - on a relationship with God and each other instead of the written laws, genealogy and the temple. What he taught by word and example resonated not just with Jews dissatisfied with the institutionalisation, division and corruption of Judaism by its authorities, but with all faiths. Christianity's eventual split from Judaism and the schisms/divisions since then point to areas where the authorities' focus fell back on the material aspects. – Possibility Dec 25 '18 at 2:36

It was Jesus' miracles that attracted the large crowds.

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. 20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district. (Matt 9:18–26, ESV)

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” 31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district. (Matt. 9:27–31, ESV)

Here's a good reference to address many of your questions:

Bailey, K. E. (2008). Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

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In my answer to this realted question I point out that before Jesus "went public" so to speak his forerunner, the prophet John had acted as a kind of "shofar call" for all of Judea to repent and be ritually cleansed in water because the Messiah was going to come after John.

Shofar call

John explained that he was coming after him but he was more important than he was because he was the Messiah and was going to purge the land of all wickedness and bring about the glorious promises of the kingdom of God. John drew massive crowds because Messianic expectations were at fever pitch because the people were chafing under the oppressive Roman ruler and hoped for deliverance, as long promised. And more importantly because God was in the process of resurrecting Israel from their death and spiritual lethargy:

[Eze 37:11-14 KJV] 11 Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. 12 Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And ye shall know that I [am] the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, 14 And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken [it], and performed [it], saith the LORD.

God had promised in a prophecy long before that he would send John before Jesus and that all who would repent, be ritually immersed and recognize the coming Messiah would be forgiven of their sins and that when Jesus came he would baptize them in God's holy spirit power:

[Mar 1:5 KJV] 5 And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

So my point is that Jesus was the promised Messiah and this was the beginning of the millennial reign, the ideal age of the Messiah.

And then of course there was his inspired teaching, miracles and such, the controversy swirling about him... he was and is a big deal:

One Solitary Life

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself...

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

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