Was Jesus An Apologist?

by Sean McDowell

A few years ago, I had a discussion with an influential theologian who claimed that Jesus was not an apologist. He pointed out that, except for 1 Peter 3:15, the New Testament appearances of apologia (“defense”) all come from the writing or ministry of Paul. Does this mean Jesus was not an apologist? Was Jesus more interested in proclaiming and illustrating the faith than defending it?

Jesus was certainly a master story-teller. And his teachings have shaped the world (arguably) more than any other teacher. But, when we consider the entirety of his ministry, it is clear that he was also an apologist for the faith, even if he didn’t use the word apologia. Two examples make this clear:

Jesus Uses Logic

First, Jesus used sophisticated argumentation to advance his claim to be the Messiah. For instance, in Matthew 22:41-45, Jesus uses the form of argumentation called reduction ad absurdum, which is a strategy that aims to advance the truth of an idea by demonstrating the absurdity of its denial.

In this passage, Jesus asks the Pharisees, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They respond, “The son of David.” But then Jesus asks how David, in the Spirit, could call the Messiah Lord: “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” Jesus is showing that their views that the Messiah is merely the son of David lead to absurdity. In other words, while the Messiah is the son of David, he is also much more…


Was Jesus An Apologist? | Sean McDowell