Based on History, all of Jesus scholars agreed that Jesus was a Galilean first-century Jew. He was born of a Jewish mother, and was addressed by his followers as “Rabbi,” and he taught in the Temple in ancient Jerusalem.
The Acts of the Apostles offers some clear view on the development of the early Christian community in the decades following the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
Initially, the first followers of Jesus which were all Jews were simply referred to as followers of “the Way”. Acts 11:26 says that the new community made up of Gentiles and Jews alike began to refer to itself as “Christian”.
As Christians continued to battle with questions of belief and belonging, another word “Catholic” came in to use to describe the community. The first surviving use of the word came in a letter by Bishop and Saint Ignatius of Antioch to the Christian community at Smyrna. As Ignatius was educating his congregation on the proper role of bishops, he writes, “Wherever the bishop appear, let the multitude be, as wherever Christ Jesus is, there is the catholic church”.
Some of Ignatius’ epistle gave a translation to the term “Catholic” as the “universal church”. The word is reflecting on the single and visible communion of the church from which no one is excluded on the basis of ethnicity, gender, nationality, or social status. As the apostle Paul wrote in (Gal. 3:28) “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for you all are one in Christ Jesus”.
In recent times, Catholics believe that the church encompasses the whole human race and continue to prioritize the universal nature of our faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church brings a connection of the word of Ignatius to the word of Jesus in (Matthew 28:19), “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”. “The church is Catholic,” the Catechism states, because it is “sent out to all people and encompasses all times” (868).
And the question here is, was Jesus a Catholic? Based on ethnic and religion, He is a Jew, not Catholic as we got to understand the term 20 centuries after his death. However, his universal message and vision are reflected in both the very definition of the word catholic and in the church’s evangelizing and its merciful mission.
His followers have grown from a few men and women following a Jewish preacher in Galilee to a global church that embraces men and women, young and old, Gentile and Jew, rich and poor.