Our knowledge of Jesus

Although our accounts of Jesus are brief, they enable us to know him and his teachings as well as we can know any figure of like antiquity. He made so profound an impression upon those who were his intimates that their memories of him, some of them put into written form within a very few years after the events they record, enable us to have a vivid picture of him and his characteristics. His sayings, given as they were in pithy sentences or in stories of extraordinary beauty and imagery, could not fail to fasten themselves in the memories of the more thoughtful who heard them. They lent themselves to the kind of repetition which did not blur or distort them and were early collected in written form. Even if we did not have the four brief accounts which we call the Gospels we could gain a fairly adequate impression of him and of the salient points of his life, teachings, death, and resurrection from references in letters of his followers written within a generation of his death.

It seems almost presumptuous to attempt to compress what we know of the life and teachings of Jesus into a few pages and to expect within that short compass to give anything like an accurate and well-balanced summary of them. Yet that is what we must essay, for without such an account any sketch of the history of Christianity would lack the essential foundation for the entire story.

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