In connection with the resurrection study, I want to expand on the idea that Jesus was a Good and Wise teacher. This idea is what most folks would like to believe. Or more specifically, it’s what they want Jesus to be. Thinking only of the human plane, they can’t allow that Jesus was Divine. But they can’t discount his teaching.
Jesus was not a great moral teacher. If he was just a man. Let’s break down the two ideas. Wise and Good.
In my Collegiate dictionary, “wise” is defined: 1- having wisdom: sage; exercising sound judgment, prudent; 2-evidencing or hinting at inside information; knowing. I also looked up "wisdom." The word “wisdom” is defined as: the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships.
THE ABILITY TO DISCERN THE TRUTH, is the way I like to put it.
Example: Solomon is hailed as the Wisest Man the Ever Lived.” We are given one clear example of that wisdom. The story is of two women who both claimed the same baby as her own. One woman’s child had died shortly after birth. She had substituted her dead baby for the living one of the other woman, while she slept. The woman woke up to find a dead child, but knew that it wasn’t hers and brought suit against the other woman in front of King Solomon.
This story is so commonly known that many are the teenagers who can recite its basics. Solomon discerned the Truth of how to determine accurately which woman was the real mother. He ordered that the child be cut in half and one half given to each woman. Immediately, the real mother relented and, for the sake of the child’s life, was willing to let go her claim and give the child to the fraudulent woman.
Solomon was not only wise. He was also good. He discerned the Truth of the situation, but made a decision that would benefit the truthful party. What if his name had been Caligula?
As a prelude to the next section, I’d like to imagine a different scene. The women present their case and Solomon, out of a vindictive, self-gratifying sense of power does one of two things. He goes through with the dividing of the child, qualifying that his actions were the most just way to solve the issue. Or he could give the child to the fraudulent mother in spite of knowing she was lying.
The point is that one can be wise and still be a rat. Wisdom doesn’t guarantee Goodness.
But Goodness doesn’t guarantee Wisdom, either.
Same scene, different day. The women finish their stories and Solomon decrees that they come back in three days. This seems to be a common practice presented in the Bible by example of certain kings. The women go home and come back three days later.
In the meantime, Solomon is racked with frustration. He has gained the high reputation of the Good King. Most of the wealth he receives is redistributed throughout the nation of Israel. His was the most prosperous reign in Israel’s history. He has called in his advisors and listened attentively to their advice. His one aim is to uphold his name as Good King.
When the day of the hearing arrives, the women are brought before Solomon and all his court. With great ceremony Solomon calls for the High Priest. With much bowing and scraping the Priest makes his way to Solomon’s throne and offers him a small golden box which is a scale version of the Ark of the Covenant. Solomon reverently opens the “Ark”, and removes a lustrous and glowing gold coin, and says, “Heads or tails?”
Despite all his Goodness, Solomon’s way of deciding who should get the child wasn’t very wise. We see his intent as Good, but his action as unwise.
Good has many definitions, but these are the first ones listed: of a favorable character; bountiful, suitable, sound, or whole. Perhaps these can be summed up by saying, “Goodness results in the “good” of others.”
Normally we wouldn’t find ourselves in the same situation as Solomon and knowing the Good will be pretty obvious to us. The result will be of benefit to someone else.
When Solomon goes ahead with the division decree, more than just he will know what’s going on. Eventually those kinds of kings get murdered, either by the patriots or those who are even more evil than the king.
If Solomon goes ahead with the coin-flipping, those around him know that the wisdom of the situation has escaped the king. This will eventually lead to his removal also, due to concerns for the safety of the State. He’s bound to make some coin-flip in the future that will endanger the nation.
A person in authority that neither discerns the Truth nor acts to benefit others is not long respected, revered or even tolerated as foundation for a better life. We don’t do well with liars or lunatics.
But what does that do to those who want to claim that Jesus was Good, or Wise, a Great Moral Teacher?
Where do these critics get their information about Jesus? There are very few sources other than the Bible that validate Jesus’ existence. A few historians like Josephus, and that’s it. The extra-Biblical sources that I have read say almost nothing about Jesus’ specific preaching. They are mainly used to validate his historicity. Interestingly, however, Josephus, who might not have been a convert and was writing under the patronage of the Roman Emperor, was bold enough to imply that Jesus wasn’t really only a man and used the term “Christ.” One small paragraph gives only a couple general statements of Jesus’ life. He calls Jesus “a doer of wonderful works,” and a “teacher.” The rest is about the history of Jesus, his crucifixion, resurrection and fulfillment of prophetic writings.
We’re left pretty much with the Bible for any details regarding Christ. This is the source that the critics will use, primarily referencing the Sermon on the Mount. “The great moral teaching of Jesus,” they’ll cry. “Jesus’ Wisdom discerned the Truth for leading a Good life and his goodness motivated him to help others understand the Truth.” Jesus was Wise.
They’ll also point to Jesus acts of mercy, his Goodness. He went healing people and relieving the mentally deranged. Of course, these acts are not uncommon. Miraculous healing, and exorcism are very hardly discounted these days. Jesus took full advantage of his great Gifts to be of benefit to others. Jesus was Good.
Jesus’ teaching shows his Wisdom. Jesus healing shows his Goodness.
Some Wise/Good person once said that the most outrageous arguments are 80% True.
While the above two arguments are irrefutably True, whey can’t stand alone. They are only part of the picture.
The critics who insist that Jesus was only Wise and Good don’t address the considerable number of things that contradict the idea that Jesus was Good or Wise. Jesus made statements that NO Wise or Good, or Good and Wise person would make.
It doesn’t take much Wisdom to understand that one is a human being. It doesn’t take much Wisdom to understand that one is NOT telling the Truth. I may not be Solomon, but I know that I’m just a man. I also know surely when I am lying. One can state mistaken information, but also knows surely when stating something that he doesn’t believe is True.
A person with very small Wisdom knows that people die. That person knows that no respected person has ever come back from Heaven and told what it was like.
No matter our desire to receive Goodness, we don’t go as far as living as though another human being’s death will have any lasting benefit to our Spiritual lives. Grandpa may leave me a million dollars, but it won’t annul any wrong’s I may have committed.
Very little Wisdom is necessary to discover a deluded teacher who claims to be the way to God or God Himself, or is trying to take advantage of his disciples. Most of us even reject those who claim to have the Real Truth; about practically any subject.
Was there ever a man who stood before a Judge on behalf of a friend, who claimed freedom for his friend based on the fact that he, himself, had forgiven the friend his misdeed?
And what human being of clear awareness ever claimed that his death would set right even one other human being’s imperfections?
None of Jesus’ critics would dare to endanger his credibility by validating any of the above statements, if made by any human being, let alone credit that person as Wise or Good.
But that’s what the critics must do in the case of Jesus.
Jesus said he was alive before Abraham, two thousand years before Jesus’ time.
Jesus said he was in heaven and saw Satan cast down, and other things about the Eternal Realm, such as the actions of angels.
Jesus claimed that it was only through him that one might approach God the Father.
Jesus said that he had the authority to amplify the Law.
Jesus proclaimed forgiveness for other people’s trespasses.
No explanation for Jesus’ words and actions suffices except that he was who he clamed to be, the Son of God. In trying to negate Jesus’ Divinity, the critics are hung from their own noose.
As C S Lewis says, “The discrepancy between the depth and sanity of His moral teaching and the rampant megalomania which must lie behind His theological teaching …has never been satisfactorily explained.”
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.”
There have been many Good and Wise teachers in history, but being human, and knowing it, they never claimed the things that Jesus did. They knew they weren’t God’s Son.
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