Information and 150+ summaries

Biography of Jesus

    This summary compiles the life of Jesus as presented in the four Gospels.  The life span of Jesus was 4 BC - AD 30.  (To find out why I say Jesus was born in 4 BC, go here.)


        Birth and early infancy

        A young girl named Mary lived in Nazareth.  Nazareth was in northern Israel, about 65 miles north of Jerusalem. 

        Scholars believe she was in her early teens when she was betrothed to a man named Joseph; the Gospels give no indication of his age.  Betrothal in those days was an arrangement we don’t have today:  think of it as between engagement and marriage.  The couple did not live together or sleep together but it was a legal arrangement; if someone wanted to break the betrothal they had to get a divorce.  So Mary was legally bound to marry Joseph but they were not sleeping together. 

        An angel appeared to Mary and told her that she would become pregnant.  Mary did not understand how this was possible since she was virgin; but the angel told her that the power of God would cause her to become pregnant. 

        Once she became pregnant she told Joseph, who was rightly concerned, and he decided to break the betrothal and divorce Mary.

        Then he was told in a dream that Mary was pregnant through the power of God, and so he decided to go through with the marriage. 

        At the same time the Roman government decided to take a census.  Jews had to travel to their ancestral home in order to be counted.  For Joseph, this meant Bethlehem. 

        Joseph took his pregnant wife with him. 

        Once there, he could not find a room in the inns (hotels), and so they stayed where the animals stayed.  The Gospels do not say where the animals were; they could have been in a stable, barn, or cave. 

        Once Jesus was born he was put in a manger (where the food for the animals was placed, like a small trough). 

        Some shepherds showed up to welcome the new baby.  They saw Jesus in the manger; this must have been the same day or perhaps the next day after Jesus was born.

        Jesus was circumcised.  According to the Covenant between God and Abraham, all Jewish boys were to be circumcised at 8 days of age.  Since Jesus was a Jew, he would have been circumcised.  This probably happened in Bethlehem.

          Special note:  This bullet point contains guesses about what happened next.  From the above you know that Joseph brought a pregnant Mary to Bethlehem because of the census.  According to the census, Jews had to go to their hometown, and so Joseph went to his hometown of Bethlehem.  This must have meant that Joseph had family living in Bethlehem.  When the Magi (below) found Jesus, he was living in a house.  So at some point between Jesus being born in a manger with the animals and the Magi finding him, I think Joseph contacted his family and Joseph, Mary, and Jesus moved in with Joseph's family members. 

        According to Leviticus 12:3-8, a child was to be presented at the Tabernacle (and then Temple after it was built) at 41 days of age.  (For more, go here.)  Therefore Jesus was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem and then returned to Bethlehem.  Note:  Jerusalem was about 6 miles from Bethlehem. 

        The next visitors the infant Jesus had were “Magi.”  Scholars are not clear about what a Magi was; it is a Greek word with no clear translation.  But they brought three expensive gifts, and so it is popularly believed that there were three of them, hence “3 Wise Men” or “3 Kings.” 

        The Magi first went to Jerusalem to look for Jesus.  Why?  They were looking for the new king and so naturally they headed to Jerusalem, which was the capital. 

        They told King Herod the Great they were looking for the new king.  Herod did not know anything about this birth.  He told them to find the new king and come back and tell him where to find the new king. 

        They eventually found Jesus in Bethlehem.  They were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod and so went home. 

        King Herod realized that the Magi were not coming back, and he was furious. 

        He wanted to kill the new “king,” though, and so had all the baby boys two years and under in that area killed. 

          Why did Herod care about rumors of a new Jewish king?  Because he wasn't a real Jew and he was a puppet king.  He probably thought a real Jewish royal baby had been born in secret and so tried to kill him by killing all the baby boys in that region. 

        Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fled to Egypt. 

        After Herod died, they moved back to Nazareth.  Herod died in 4 BC.

        From moving back to Nazareth until 12 years of age

        We do not know the age of Jesus when he, Joseph, and Mary moved to Nazareth.  We also do not have any information on Jesus from the time he and his parents moved to Nazareth until he was 12 years old.

        Age 12

        Every year Joseph, Mary, and Jesus went to Jerusalem (perhaps for Passover), but something different happened when Jesus was twelve.  While returning to Nazareth, his parents realized that Jesus was not in their group.  They went back to Jerusalem and found him talking with the teachers in the Temple.  Jesus may have been attending an early form of the Bar Mitzvah ceremony that Jewish boys go through. ("Bar Mitzvah" means "son of the Covenant"; Jewish girls today go through a Bat Mitzvah; "Bat Mitzvah" means "daughter of the Covenant.")

        Age 12 to 30

        We do not know of any event In Jesus’ life from the ages of twelve until thirty.  He probably worked as a carpenter.  Joseph, Mary's husband (considered Jesus' earthly father), was a carpenter, and in those days sons usually worked in their fathers' occupations. 

        Age 30 to 33 (death, burial, resurrection, ascension)

        When Jesus was around thirty John the Baptist baptized him. 

        He then chose twelve men to be his 12 Apostles and undertook a three-year period of ministry, where he traveled, preached, taught, healed, performed miracles, and raised people from the dead.  This was probably from AD 27-30.   

          We know it was a three-year period because the Gospel of John states that three Passovers occurred from the time Jesus was baptized until he was crucified.  Since Passover occurred once a year, this means there was a period of three years (or so) from the time he was baptized until he was crucified.

        The last week of his life (when he was 33 years old): 

          The Sunday before he was crucified

          Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey or colt.  Many people took palm branches and laid them on the path for the donkey or colt to ride on as he entered Jerusalem.  This is known as the Triumphal Entry.  [Today this is called "Palm Sunday."] 

          Sunday-Thursday:  Jesus was in and around Jerusalem.


          (Note:  once Jesus woke up on Thursday morning, unless he took a nap, he will not go to sleep for the next 30 hours and will die the next day.)

          Thursday was Passover and so Jesus gathered with his 12 Apostles to eat the Passover meal.  This is also known as the Last Supper, since it was the last meal that Jesus ate before he died. 

          During the meal Jesus took bread and wine and initiated the service of Communion, also called the Lord's Supper or Eucharist.  [Christians do not celebrate Passover because Jesus replaced it with Communion.]   

          During the meal Judas left and went to the Jewish authorities.  He had prearranged to guide them to where Jesus secretly prayed at night.  [To read about one theory why Judas betrayed Jesus, go here]

          After the meal was over, Jesus and the 11 remaining Apostles went to the Garden of Gethsemane so Jesus could pray. 

          Thursday night to Friday early morning

          After awhile, Judas came with Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers, and they arrested Jesus. 

          Jesus was first taken to the High Priest's house.

          Then he was taken to see Pilate (the Roman governor).  Pilate did not want to have to deal with Jesus.  He found out Jesus was from Nazareth and so sent him to see Herod Antipas.  Remember that he was Herod the Great’s son and he was the ruler of middle Israel. To find out why Pilate was in charge of Jerusalem instead of one of Herod the Great's sons, go here.

          Herod Antipas questioned Jesus and sent him back to Pilate.

          Pilate questioned Jesus and realized that he was not guilty of breaking the Roman rules (pay taxes and obey the Roman laws) and so wanted to release him.  But the Jewish leaders encouraged the crowd to get angry. 

          Judas realized he made a mistake and tried to get the Jewish leaders to release Jesus.  They refused to do so and so Judas committed suicide.


          Morning:  Then Pilate thought of a plan.  Pilate had a custom of releasing one prisoner per year (to help keep the Jews from rebelling) and so had the prisoner Barabbas brought up from prison.  Barabbas was a murderer, not the kind of person you want walking your streets.  Pilate brought Barabbas before the crowd because he thought that if he offered the crowd Jesus or Barabbas to release, the crowd would certainly yell out to release Jesus.

          So Pilate asked the people which person they wanted him to release.  To his surprise, the crowd yelled, "Barabbas." 

          Pilate asked the crowds what they wanted him to do with Jesus, and they shouted, "Crucify him." 

          Pilate did not want to do it, but he was forced to in order to avoid a revolt.

          So Pilate had Jesus beaten (which was the normal procedure to do before crucifixions) and then crucified outside the city gates, which was the normal practice. 

          Jesus died that Friday afternoon.  The Jews did not allow anyone to be on a cross on the Sabbath, which was from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.  Therefore if anyone was on the cross by Friday afternoon and still alive, the Romans broke their legs, which hastened death.  Then they were taken down and buried before the sun set.  But when the Romans came to Jesus, he had already died.  He did this of his own will after saying "It is finished."

          He was taken to a burial cave and buried late Friday afternoon. 

          He was in the tomb the rest of Friday, all day Saturday, and Sunday up until sometime that morning. 

          Sunday morning:  Jesus arose from the dead.  He appeared to several people. 

        For the next month-and-a-half, Jesus met with various people.  According to Christian belief, Jesus did not live in a house or travel around, he appeared to people here-and-there over that time period.

        After about a month-and-a-half, Jesus took his 11 Apostles (Judas had committed suicide) to a hilltop, spoke to them, and then rose up and ascended to the sky and went out of their sight. 


Timeline so far      Additions are boldfaced



Rome Empire conquered Israel without fighting


Julius Caesar assassinated by Brutus, Cassius, and others.  Mark Antony tries to seize power, and he and Octavian (Caesar’s nephew) fight for power.


The Roman Empire made Herod the Great king of Israel


Antony married Cleopatra in Egypt


Octavian’s forces defeated Antony and Cleopatra’s forces; they committed suicide the next year.


Octavian is given name of Augustus, becomes Augustus Caesar.  This is the beginning of Pax Romana

4 BC

Jesus born

He could have been born as early as 7 BC, but we will use 4 B.C.

4 BC

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee to Egypt because Herod the Great wanted to kill Jesus

4 BC

Herod the Great died

4 BC

After Herod the Great died, the kingdom of the Jews was divided and given to Herod’s three sons:

·         The northern part, north of Nazareth, went to Philip.

·         The middle part called Galilee, north of Jerusalem but where Nazareth was located, went to Herod Antipas.  (He is referred to as “Herod” in the Gospels and so this can be confusing.)

·         The southern part called Judea, where Jerusalem and Bethlehem was located, went to Herod Archelaus. 


All years after this point are AD



Joseph, Mary, and Jesus return to Nazareth instead of moving to Bethlehem because Joseph was afraid of Archelaus


Archelaus is removed from power because he was so brutal


The Romans did not choose another of Herod’s descendants to control Judea (southern Israel) but instead appointed Roman governors.


Jesus lost in Jerusalem at age 12; Joseph and Mary find him in the Temple; possible Bar Mitzvah


Jesus probably worked as a carpenter


The Roman governor in charge of southern Israel was Pilate


Jesus baptized by John the Baptist


Jesus traveled in Israel while preaching, teaching, and performing miracles


Jesus was crucified under the Roman governor Pilate; Jesus raises from the dead three days later and ascends out of sight about a month-and-a-half later


Nero was Roman emperor


Fire in Rome.  The emperor Nero blamed, persecuted, and killed many Christians.  This was the first Roman persecution of Christians. 


Some of the Jews got tired of the Roman rule and killed many Roman soldiers.  They thus took back the land of Israel for the Jews. 


The Romans counter-attacked.  The Romans lost one battle, but won the war.


The Romans captured Jerusalem and burned the Temple. 


Domitian was Roman emperor


Persecution of Christians


First listing of the 27 books in a letter written by an Egyptian bishop


Two councils “closed” the NT canon to those 27 books


NT divided into chapters


NT divided into verses

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