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Reasoning that Jesus was a philosopher could come from Wikipedia's definition:
He has made contributions in one or more current fields of philosophy (Ethics), which has to qualify him as philosopher.
Plus he is on the list.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Joseph Weissman Jan 7 '16 at 23:27

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Question: What is the definition of a philosopher? What is a "contribution?" If I post my thoughts to this site, does that make me a philosopher? If not, then what? – user4894 Jul 24 '14 at 19:14
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    ps -- Jesus expressed his own original thoughts; and never cited academic references. His contributions would be downvoted on PSE for those exact reasons, conforming to site policy. – user4894 Jul 24 '14 at 20:24
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    Jesus cited what was then-considered academic references ("As it is written" is a common refrain throughout the Gospels). Also, if you replace "Jesus" with "Socrates" you'd have a similar statement. – James Kingsbery Jul 24 '14 at 20:54
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    did jesus really live? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus – musingsofacigarettesmokingman Jul 25 '14 at 2:13
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    I'm not a fan of these questions, and although we have other similar ones that are still open (e.g. "Was Einstein a philosopher?") I'm leaning towards closing them pending a discussion in META whether we think these are a good fit for the site. They all simply come down to how we define "philosopher" (as I wrote in my answer to the Einstein one). This to me is not really philosophy but semantics. They all could be considered duplicates as well, falling under something like this: Is everyone considered a “philosopher”? – stoicfury Jul 26 '14 at 21:10
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Peter Kreeft has written a book on this very topic.

Would He give a lecture at Harvard, or engage in a long Socratic dialog in Plato's Academy, or write a critique of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason?

Obviously not. And everyone knows that. That is "trivially true."

In another sense, Jesus was a philosopher, but this second sense is also trivial. Everyone has some "philosophy of life." Even Homer Simpson is a philosopher.

But Jesus was a philosopher in a meaningful middle sense, the sense in which Confucius, Buddha, Muhammed, Solomon, Marcus Aurelius, and Pascal were philosophers.

The rest of his book goes on to defend this line of logic - whether one agrees with the conclusion is certainly up for debate, but he puts forth a serious argument about all the many topics Jesus covered.

There are a few objections out arguing he wasn't a philosopher.

He is not the subject of an episode in the History of Philosophy Podcast. So, at least one scholar of philosophy considers Jesus Himself not worth discussing in a catalog of "the history of philosophy - without any gaps."

(He does dedicate many episodes to ancient Christian philosophers.)

He left behind no writings.

This is a true statement, but it certainly applies to Socrates, and may apply to Thales, but there is little doubt that they count as philosophers. Leaving behind writings does not then seem necessary to be a philosopher. Of course, in the case of both Thales and Socrates, we primarily know about their philosophy through their students.

Jesus is similar - his followers (and his followers' followers) left behind writings explaining his teaching.

Jesus couldn't be a philosopher, He is God

Someone could make a (more theological) argument that goes like this: Jesus is wisdom, Jesus is the Reason (logos) of God, and therefore could not be a "lover of wisdom."

Anyone who would make that sort of claim, however, would likely say that Jesus also was a man (by the two natures belief). The actions then of that man can then be evaluated as to whether that person acted "as a philosopher."


To conclude, it seems a tenable position, but not definitive. In any case, the authors of the New Testament have written what he was supposed to have said, and either one finds it legitimate or not, and therefore lives accordingly or not. I cannot see considering Jesus a philosopher adding or removing legitimacy to that for anyone.

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    Good points. Trivial point though, if Jesus is God, then that he could not give a contemporary lecture or give a review of Kant's Critique, seems not as evident. We've just changed our view about manifest vs. potential ability. Thus if Jesus were "wisdom itself", he could easily pinpoint everything that is wrong and right about Kant's Critique (assuming such things were definable). Thus he could perform the first role of a "philosopher". There is also some question whether Democritus was a "philosopher", what we call the "atom" is no longer atomic. – Axeman Jul 30 '14 at 14:44
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Compare the great teachers of religion (such as Christ or Buddha) with the great philosophers. The philosophers scarcely influenced anybody's inner man, and yet they wrote most marvelous books. The religious teachers, on the other hand, moved countries in their lifetimes. The difference was made by personality. In the philosopher it is a faint personality that influences; in the great prophets it is tremendous. In the former we touch the intellect; in the latter we touch life. In the one case, it is simply a chemical process, putting certain chemical ingredients together which may gradually combine and under proper circumstances bring out a flash of light or may fail. In the other, it is like a torch that goes round quickly, lighting others simply on contact. When the great teachers speak they are the source, they do not cite sources or give dry intellectual arguments. Their words speak to our hearts directly. One could argue that as they started systems of philosophy they were philosophers, by it was through the lives they lead, not by the books they penned.

  • I don't have anything against "religious teachers", but I think your answer points out coincidences and sells them as truths. I don't think it's necessarily true that philosophers move few and teachers many, or that former teach by books and latter by "the lives they lead". – iphigenie Jul 28 '14 at 13:51
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    @iphigenie, I think he speaks a factual point based on a historical observation. Compare the far-reaching, sweeping, profound and long-lasting impact of Budha, Jesus and Muhammad on humanity to even the most revolutionary philosophers such as Descartes or Marx. None of them are now the source of any potent social force or popular way of life as were the Prophets. – infatuated Jul 31 '14 at 7:31
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    I disagree. Firstly, the range of their factual historical influence is not what decides about whether they're philosophers or not. Secondly, how has Buddha had a greater influence than Marx? China alone has more population than there are Buddhists in the world. Well, anyway, this argument is off-topic. Again, it is not influence that decides who's a philosopher. – iphigenie Jul 31 '14 at 8:17
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The answer depends on your definition of ‘philosopher’, as has already been noted. On one definition (http://www.logicmuseum.com/wiki/Definition_of_Philosophy_(Phillips) ). A philosopher is someone who tries to answer a question, usually a deep and fundamental question, without any appeal to any revelation, to myth, or religious knowledge of any kind, but rather try to get the answer by using reason alone, based on common principles that everyone recognises as true (e.g. ‘I exist’ or ‘whatever exists, exists’).

On this definition, Jesus was not a philosopher, because of his frequent appeal to personal revelation and his own spiritual authority.

  • On this definition, Socrates is not a philosopher. – virmaior Aug 2 '14 at 1:30
  • Why on this definition is Socrates not a philosopher? Note the 'common principles' bit. – quis est ille Aug 2 '14 at 8:14
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    Note the oracle at delphi bit. A personal revelation was pretty central to his philosophy. – virmaior Aug 2 '14 at 8:42
  • And what is your understanding of the 'Socratic method', and the 'theory of forms'? – quis est ille Aug 2 '14 at 16:02
  • look back at your definition there's a "without any appeal" clause meaning if any, then not a philosopher. – virmaior Aug 3 '14 at 0:15
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To count all who offer their own experiences of philosophy, is to acknowledge and respect each others views, whether it be wrong or right. I believe that if it coordinates to the respective manifestation of the growing mind and helpful in the spiritual growth then all philosophical points can be nurtured, enabling a helpful and healthy correspondence to the maturity of all who find a more deeper foundation of the production of life and the wellspring of it originality, whether we believe Jesus was a philosopher or not, it is the principle of his life and mission, also who he was that matters and what he stood for, giving anyone the possibility to their own individual inspirations and their beliefs as long as it is helpful and satisfies and gives food to mind and spirit.

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    Welcome to PSE! Your answer has a bit of a run-on sentence, can you give your main point more prominence? – James Kingsbery Dec 1 '14 at 20:49

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