Paul and Courtney look at Jesus. As Christians, we rightly understand Jesus as the Savior of the world. Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the God-man who is fully God and fully human, one person with a divine and human nature. Thus, we rightly give Jesus spiritual authority in our lives. While we are comfortable thinking about Jesus as our Lord, Jesus as Messiah, Jesus as Savior—it is not clear that we are as comfortable thinking of Jesus as a philosopher. Is Jesus a philosopher? Is Jesus the idea human?
Jesus, the Philosopher?
The early Christians understood Jesus, the Savior of the world, as a philosopher. This is surprising to modern ears, but it shouldn’t be surprising when we understand how ancient people viewed philosophy.
For the ancients, philosophy was a way of life and the ideal philosopher served as an exemplar for how we ought to live. In other words, the ideal philosopher is the ideal human, a picture of what a flourishing life should look like. It is no surprise then that early Christians understood Jesus as not only a philosopher, but the greatest philosopher and the ideal human.
What Do We Miss About Jesus If We Fail to Think About Him as a Philosopher?
If we fail to put the words “Jesus” and “philosophy” or “philosopher” together, there are at least four significant costs to the church and our faith: (from Pennington)
- We become fragmented. We disconnect our faith in Jesus from the rest of our lives.
- We look to alternative gurus instead of Jesus for guidance on how we should live.
- We cease asking the perennial questions of deep existential import.
- Our witness for Christ is muted.
When We View Jesus as Both Savior and Philosopher, as Both Beautiful and Brilliant, How Does This Transform Our View of Jesus and Our Relationship with Him?
- It’s important to remember that the goal or end of our faith is to be conformed into the likeness of Jesus.
- The goal of our faith is to become “like Christ.” We are being conformed into his image, we are literally “little Christs” who reflect Jesus in our thoughts, emotions, actions, and character.
- As we follow Christ, as we become like Christ, it is important that we see Jesus for who he really is: Fully God, Fully Human, One Person, Two Natures. And as the ideal human, he possesses moral and intellectual virtue—and thus so should we.
Jesus is smart. He is the smartest person ever, in the history of the world. And he knew and understood logic and logical argumentation. We see this in his teaching to the disciples and crowds as well as in his debates with the religious leaders of his day who actively opposed him, often setting logical traps in an effort to discredit him.
As we begin to see him and beautiful and brilliance, Savior and Logician or Philosopher, and we grow in our trust and faith in Jesus and our faithfulness to Jesus as we follow in his steps.
Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, is a “fully emotional being.” Jesus (1) had emotions, (2) his emotions were congruent with reality, (3) and they reveal his moral and intellectual character—they reveal what he (rightly) judged to be valuable and good, and in some cases, they reveal what he believes to be an injustice or evil.
And as we follow in Jesus’s steps, we too should train our intellect and our emotions so that we would see reality as it is, value reality as it is, and live as we ought to live as followers of Christ.
- Jonathan T. Pennington, Jesus the Great Philosopher
- Runar M. Thorsteinsson, Jesus as Philosopher
- Dallas Willard, “Jesus the Logician,” Christian Scholars Review, Vol. XXVIII.4 (1999): 605–614.