John Blanchard outlines, as I define, “the overwhelming legacy of Jesus.” The historical Jesus is certainly unique even to the extent that even the most skeptical have noted it, for example, H. G. Wells called him “easily the dominant figure in history,” and that no historian could portray the progress of humanity honestly without giving him the “foremost place” (1). Blanchard identifies the following aspects I think are worth mentioning (2):
- We have no record of his date of birth, yet all the world’s chronology is linked to it.
- He never wrote a book, yet more books have been written about him than about anyone else in history, and the output is still accelerating. The nearest thing we have to his biography has now been translated in whole or in part into over 2,000 languages.
- He never painted a picture, or composed any poetry or music, yet nobody’s life and teaching have inspired a greater output of songs, plays, poetry, films, videos and other art forms. One film, based on his recorded words, has been produced in over 100 languages and has already been seen by more people than any other film in history.
- He never raised an army, yet millions of people have laid down their lives in his cause, and every year thousands more do so.
- Except for one brief period during his childhood, his travels were limited to an area about the size of Wales,³ but his influence today is worldwide, and his followers constitute the largest religious grouping the world has ever known.
- He had no formal education, but thousands of universities, seminaries, colleges and schools have been founded in his name.
- His public teaching lasted just three years, and was restricted to one small country, yet purpose-built satellites and some of the world’s largest radio and television networks now beam his message around the globe.
- He set foot in just two countries, yet an organization committed to his cause⁵ claims to make regular flights to more countries than any commercial airline.
- He was virtually unknown outside of his native country, yet in the current issue of Encyclopaedia Britannica the entry under his name runs to 30,000 words.
- He is by far the most controversial person in history. Nobody has attracted such adoration or opposition, devotion or criticism, and nobody else’s teaching has ever been more fervently received or more fiercely rejected. For centuries, every recorded word he spoke has been relentlessly analysed by theologians, philosophers and others. On the day this sentence is being written (and read), millions of people are studying what he said and did, and trying to apply the significance of his words and actions to their lives.
- Even the most dyed-in-the-wool skeptics must acknowledge that this man was something special, and any open-minded student of human history should agree that he deserves meticulous attention.
- His name is Jesus, who lived and died about 2,000 years ago.
1. H.G. Wells quoted by Allison & Goethals in Heroic Leadership: An Influence Taxonomy of 100 Exceptional Individuals (2013).
2. Blanchard, J. 2011. Does God Believe in Atheists?