Reza Aslan is the author, most recently, of “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.”
Perhaps no historical figure is more deeply mired in legend and myth than Jesus of Nazareth. Outside of the Gospels — which are not so much factual accounts of Jesus but arguments about His religious significance — there is almost no trace of this simple Galilean peasant who inspired the world’s largest religion. But there’s enough biblical scholarship about the historical Jesus to raise questions about some of the myths that have formed around Him over the past 2,000 years.
1. Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
The first Christians seem to have had little interest in Jesus’s early years. Stories about His birth and childhood are conspicuously absent in the earliest written documents about Him: the letters of Paul (written between A.D. 50 and 60) and the Gospel of Mark (written after A.D. 70). But as interest in the person of Jesus increased, the nascent Christian community tried to fill in the gaps of His youth to align His life and mission with the myriad, and often conflicting, prophecies about the messiah in the Hebrew scriptures.