Jesus Was Sane

    I will now demonstrate that Jesus was sane. You may ask: why do I need to do this? I have shown that he believed that he was equal with God. One possible explanation for this is that he was not all together upstairs. I must debunk this possibility. First I must ask, what does it mean to be insane? Insanity is having a dramatically false perception of reality. Perception of reality can be divided into the categories of perception of self, others, the natural, and the supernatural. When a person is not sane in one category, this insanity leaks into the other categories to a greater or lesser degree. Conversely, the more sane a person is, the more accurate their understanding of reality is in each of these categories. Usually, we measure the sanity of a person on the basis of their grasp of the first three categories; but sometimes we can see dramatic problems in the fourth category. I am not saying that the last category is less important. It is just more difficult to say if someone is insane based his or her understanding of the supernatural because it is difficult to get a strong grasp of the supernatural. Using my definition of sane, a perfectly sane person will have a correct understanding of the supernatural as well as the other categories, and very few people are perfectly sane. Most people are sane enough to get by, however.

    Now, how do we decide if Jesus was sane? We must look at the Bible, while trusting the New Testament authors; and ask how well he perceived reality. We can't ask if he was sane on the basis of his perception of himself because we want to use his sanity to help show that his perception of himself was correct. The Bible is very thin on Jesus's understanding of the natural world, so we cannot use that. We cannot use Jesus's understanding of the supernatural as a test for sanity because even though Jesus is very explicit about it, honest men disagree about the true reality of the supernatural. Fortunately, the Bible has much information about Jesus's understanding of others. His understanding of human nature in general and in particular is exquisite. It is not possible to believe that such a strong understanding of others and a deranged view of self could exist in the same person. I will go through two examples to demonstrate his understanding of human nature.

    Jesus showed his clarity of understanding most clearly when he was challenged. The longest recorded debate between Jesus and the Jewish elders is in Matthew, chapter 22, with parallels in Mark, chapter 12 and Luke, chapter 20. In these debates he is able to easily dispatch all intellectual challenges. He can only do this because of his extremely strong understanding of the Jewish elders, the Jewish law, and human nature. To pull out one example from this debate:

Then the Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone's opinion, for you do not regard a person's status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?" Knowing their malice, Jesus said, "Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax." Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, "Whose image is this and whose inscription?" They replied, "Caesar's." At that he said to them, "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." When they heard this they were amazed, and leaving him they went away. (Mt 22:15-22; parallels in Mk 12:13-17; and Lk 20:20-26)

If you are not familiar with this story, you may not understand how this question was a trap. If Jesus said, "You must not pay the census tax," he would anger the Roman authorities and be branded as a revolutionary. If he said, "You must pay the census tax," he would anger the Jewish authorities because the coin said that Caesar was divine. He would be labeled as a traitor to Judaism. Not only was he able to evade the trap, but he was able to shock them back into realizing what is truly important. If he was insane, he would not have this clarity of understanding. He understood that the discussion should not be about the Jews verses the Romans, but about that which belongs to God and that which does not. In the legalistic mindset of the Jews of the day, they had forgotten that God is what is important, not taxation practices.

    Now, I will pull an example from the Gospel of John:

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more." (Jn 8:3-11)

Here, the trap is that if Jesus said to stone her, he is not following his message of love and forgiveness. If he says to not stone her, then he is breaking the law of Moses. Again, he takes a third path by true understanding of his challengers. He knows that none of them is without sin, so none of them can kill the adulterous woman without being a hypocrite. He uses this to shame them into forgiving the woman. Again, it is inconceivable that this sort of clarity can come from a person who has a weak grip on reality.

    These two examples deal with Jesus's understanding of human nature in specific cases. Both of these cases demonstrate Jesus's ability to pierce the pretenses of people and pull them back to what is important. This was one of Jesus's strongest talents, and it is readily in evidence throughout the New Testament. Therefore, we know that he was sane. This is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition to know that Jesus is divine.

This page was last changed on 2011/08/28