Is Jesus Actually Smart?

It’s really a good question and one that I hadn’t considered until encountering Dallas Willard’s masterpiece The Divine Conspiracy in college. I had not thought about it in a while until Dr. Todd Hunter came to guest-teach at our church this Sunday. He was making the basic point that unless we actually consider Jesus to be a competent instructor about life and reality, we will never actually listen to him and follow him. This called to mind one of my favorite passages in The Divine Conspiracy where Willard calls our attention to the simple fact that Jesus is really smart:

Our commitment to Jesus can stand on no other foundation than a recognition that he is the one  who knows the truth about our lives and our universe. It is not possible to trust Jesus, or anyone else, in matters where we do not believe him to be competent. We cannot pray for this help and rely on his collaboration in dealing with real-life matter we suspect might defeat his knowledge or abilities.

And can we seriously imagine that Jesus could be Lord if he were not smart? If he were divine, would he be dumb? Or uninformed? Once you stop to think about it, how could he be what we take him to be in all other respects and not be the best-informed and most intelligent person of all, the smartest person who ever lived?

That is exactly how his earliest apprentices in kingdom living thought of him. He was not regarded as, perhaps, a magician, who only knew “the right words” to get results without understanding or who could effectively manipulate appearances. Rather, he was accepted as the ultimate scientist, craftsman and artist.

The biblical and continuing vision of Jesus was of one who made all of reality and kept it working, literally, “holding together” (Col 1:17). And today we think people are smart who make light bulbs and computer chips and rockets out of “stuff” already provided! He made “the stuff”!

Small wonder, then, that the first Christians thought he held within himself, “all of the treasure of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). This confidence in his intellectual greatness is the basis of the radicalism of Christ-following in relation to the human order. It sees Jesus now living beyond death as “the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth…the first and the last, the living One, ” the one who can say “I was dead, and behold, I am alive forever more, the master of death and the world of the dead” (Rev. 1:5, 18)…

He is not just nice, he is brilliant. He is the smartest man who ever lived. He is now supervising the entire course of world history (Rev 1:5) while simultaneously preparing the rest of the universe for our future role in it (John 14:2). He always has the best information on everything and certainly also on the things that matter most in human life.

The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God, pp. 94-95

When considering this reality, the fact that Jesus is the all-competent Lord of the universe who holds all things together, it has to strikes us that he must be absolutely, colossally wise, and an excellent guide into the reality of all things. In which case, we have to ask ourselves, why don’t we listen to him more often? Why is it that of all the places to go for an opinion, a point of view, sound advice on any and all questions concerning my relationships, my family, my work-stresses, my finances, I always seem to come to Jesus last? What are the areas that I seem to act like I know more than he does? “Well, Jesus, that’s a nice thought, but you see, my situation is a little different than what you were talking about in your sermons…” Really? Honestly? Jesus is God, but he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about when it’s your life, because you’re so special? Hmm….

This is where the rubber hits the road. Do I really trust Jesus as Lord or don’t I? If I trust him with my death, I ought to be able to trust him with my life. Even more to the point, if I don’t trust him with my life, am I really trusting him with my death?

Friends, we can trust Jesus. He won’t let us don’t or lead us astray. He knows what he’s talking about–he’s really smart.

Soli Deo Gloria

10 thoughts on “Is Jesus Actually Smart?

  1. I have some mixed emotions about the Jesus is a genius argument. On one hand I’ve seen charts that show Jesus as possessing the highest IQ (does one possess an IQ?) in the history of humanity. He certainly seemed to be on another level than those he conversed with. But, was it his intelligence shining through? More so, it seems that it was the authority Jesus spoke with that made him stand out.

    What gives me pause about the Jesus=super genius argument is Isaiah 53, where it says that “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind,..” To me, it seems that arguing that Jesus in his humanity was super human pushes him too far toward the transcendent God, rather than the God-man with us. So, I’m wary of the argument.when it is based on his earthly deeds.

    But, your point is well taken. We ought to see Jesus as eternal creator God, and not just friend or exemplar. Jesus is so much more than anything we can possibly imagine. The fullness of God has been manifest and made known to us through Jesus. Jesus deserves our trust and devotion

  2. Thanks for the comment, Daniel. I think Willard’s point is that part of Jesus’ authority comes from the fact that he can speak as the author of reality–he really knows what it’s about–he’s smart. Jesus wasn’t just guessing about things.

    As for Isaiah 53, I don’t think that it’s specifically speaking to this issue. Nothing in the text speaks to Jesus’ intelligence. What’s more, Luke 2 portrays the very human child growing in wisdom and being recognized for that fact as he debates with the scholars in the Temple. Just as there is no denial of Solomon’s humanity when the Scriptures say that God gave him wisdom beyond all others before or after (1 Kings 3), there is no necessary denial of Jesus’ humanity in saying that David’s greater Son, was at least as wise as Solomon, because he possessed the Spirit of God without reserve. It’s not that Jesus was super-human, but that he was fully human, tapping into the wisdom of the eternal God in a way unparalleled before or since.

    Thanks again for stopping by to comment.

  3. Doesn’t a person actually have to be observed and tested before giving the results of a test. What did jesus really do for mankind? Nothing… there are some that will say “He died for your sins.” That is all well and good I guess but that hardly makes him a genius. Sir Isaac Newton and Leibniz have my vote because they actually contributed something to society, and there is actual proof that they existed(The bible isn’t proof). For those asking for proof, just look at any calculus textbook and you will see both Newton’s and Leibniz’s name in the text. Were it not for Newton we wouldn’t be in space nor would we have the advanced toys that we have today. Tesla is another man that needs mentions.

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Mark, I think this is one of those agree to disagree moments. The author of the original quote is assuming traditional Christian doctrine about the person of Christ and is writing to Christians who presumably do the same. His intent is then to point out how foolish it is to say you think he’s God, Lord, etc. and then ignore his wisdom when it comes to the practicalities of living your life.

      On some of the other comments:
      1. There is proof that Jesus existed. There isn’t a single NT scholar, classicist, or ancient historian of repute who denies his existence as a historical figure.
      If you want more than this short article, I could easily point you to larger ones or tomes full of historical argumentation.
      2. Newton was a pretty smart guy and he believed in Jesus–even to the point of writing commentaries on Scripture and the fulfillment of prophecy. Leibniz was a believer as well–at least a deist. Something to think about.

      Once again, thanks for dropping by.

      • Send the article links I would be happy to look them over. As for Newton and Leibniz, my point has nothing to do with their beliefs but their actual documented and well know accomplishments to the world of academia and advancements of the natural understanding of the world. Taking their accomplishments and saying because they believed in a deity therefore makes that deity real is reaching. Leibniz and newton accomplished things but that doesn’t equate to Jesus being the smartest man alive.

        Why no love for Tesla?? :/

      • Mark,

        A couple of points:
        1. Pointing out Newton and Leibniz’s belief in a deity isn’t evidence in strict sense, either for God’s existence or for Jesus being the smartest man alive. It is an observation worth recognizing. If these two men, whom you deem worthy of great respect for their intellectual achievements, respected and believed something, it might give you reason to stop and investigate it.
        2. I don’t know much about Tesla.
        3. This first link is a decent article by Craig Blomberg on what a historian can show to be true about Jesus of Nazareth.
        He’s also author of a much larger book on the historical reliability of the Gospels worth checking out.
        Also, here is a much longer article on the historicity of the Gospels and the Resurrection.

        I can vouch for the first, but the second I’ve skimmed. Beyond that are a number of books that I can suggest, if you’d like.

        Have a good one!

  4. Why would rational people accept the uncorroborated writings of uncorroborated writers? Legends arise rapidly at times as the sighting of Elvis post-mortem attests. So what about the women? This is misdirection. Contradictions abound, and rationalizations thereof cannot instantiate them as both true.
    No, Hume is right! No Amazing Randi investigated the miracles to vouchsafe them! He, thus begs no question, just wanting attested evidence, not mere say-so’s of possibly mistaken witnesses.
    No one can instantiate any contemporaneous miracles! Faith- healing is a hoax.
    Credulity cannot instantiate God!
    Study Robert J. Fogelin’s ” A Defense of Hume on Miracles”

    • Hey bro,

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I appreciate your concerns about the historical reliability of the NT texts. I’ve become convinced that most of the “contradictions” allegations of “uncorroborated writers” can and have been answered multiple times and that the documents we have are generally reliable. You can see Craig Blomberg’s work on the subject of the Historical Reliability of the Gospels, or Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Also, N.T. Wright’s work on the Resurrection of the Son of God.

      As for Hume, God bless him, I just think he was wrong and I think he’s been shown to be wrong multiple times. C.S. Lewis did a decent job of it in his work “Miracles” and I know many philosophers have dealt with his reasoning at various points since. William Lane Craig for one.

      Anyways, I think you missed the point of the post. It’s not really an argument for those who don’t believe in him to believe, but rather for people who already do believe in him to start living like they do. Kinda like a family conversation.

      Well, have a good one.


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