Book Review: The Philosophy of Jesus by Peter Kreeft
The Philosophy of Jesus by Peter Kreeft is a short, pocket-sized book of just 150 pages. From the title one might wonder what sort of philosophy book this might be. The author explains who this book is for on the first page:
“It is for both Christians and non-Christians. It’s designed to show Christians a new dimension of Jesus: Jesus the philosopher. And it’s designed to show non-Christians a new dimension of philosophy, a new philosophy and a new philosopher. It’s not designed to convert them.” (1)
Kreeft introduces the book further by answering the question Why is Jesus a philosopher? He states that on one level, of course Jesus was not a philosopher in the traditional sense. But he contends that Jesus was a philosopher in another sense that is more meaningful. But “…this book is not so much about Jesus’ philosophical style or method or ‘cast of mind’ but about his philosophical substance, his philosophical answers, his philosophy.” (5) As for the title: “The title of this book is appropriate because Jesus is more philosophical than any philosopher, not less.” (48)
The goal of the book is to look at how Jesus answers the four great philosophical questions. “They are the questions about being, truth, self, and goodness.” (6) These are questions of metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical anthropology, and ethics. But if these are the great philosophical questions throughout history, why haven’t we found adequate answers? Kreeft contends that the Christian answer is this: “because the only adequate answer to all four great philosophical questions is Christ.” (9) And so begins a book which is focused not on philosophy, but one that centers and focuses on the person of Jesus Christ, while showing how he is the answer to the great philosophical questions.
Kreeft first engages with Jesus’ metaphysics. In particular, he points out that Jesus’ metaphysic was undeniably Jewish. And this question of the nature of ultimate reality is answered in how God revealed Himself — as the Ultimate Reality — the “I AM.” But this metaphysic also is revealed in Jesus’ unique name for God as Father. Kreeft goes on to show how love and morality and everything flows from the ultimate reality of who God is.
The author then looks at the question of epistemology. Kreeft shows how Jesus answers this question:
Jesus’ answer to the first question, the question of being, was Himself. It was not to point but to be, to be ‘I AM.’ So His answer to the second question, the question of truth, is also not to point to anything else as the truth but simply to be Himself the truth: ‘I AM the truth.’ (47)
Again, the reader will find that this is not a book glorifying philosophy, but showing how all things point to Christ: “Everything in the universe and everything in the Bible is a finger pointing to Him. He is the end of epistemology.” (66)
Next Kreeft explores the anthropology of Jesus, noting that Christ is the key to anthropology. Jesus is the only way for man to really know himself. Even Kreeft’s writing style weaves word pictures together in such a way as to point to the beauty, artistry, and glory of Christ. In addition, the content itself encompasses both the philosophical questions and the scriptural answers.
In looking at Jesus’ ethics, Kreeft says “There are really three moral questions, three basic parts to morality: how should we relate to each other, to ourselves, and to God?” (95) Kreeft’s writing prowess shines through as he reflects on Christ as the answer to ethics:
“He is the world’s greatest moral teacher, but He is more than that. He is the world’s most perfect moral example, but He is more than that. He is the world’s greatest prophet, but He is more than that. He is more than one who taught goodness and lived goodness and demanded goodness. He is goodness.” (98)
What the reader finds in The Philosophy of Jesus is a powerful and even worshipful look at the person of Jesus Christ. The author, though academic, is not writing an academic book; though a philosopher, he has not written a philosophy book. This is a profound look at Christ as the answer to life’s great questions:
“Philosophers seek wisdom. Christ is wisdom. Therefore Christ is the fulfillment of philosophy. Moralists seek righteousness. Christ is righteousness. Therefore Christ is the fulfillment of morality.” (114-115)
The conclusion: “The answer is that there is only one hope, for societies as well as souls: ‘What must I do to be saved?’ ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.’ (Acts 11:14)” (149)