Jesus as Philosopher: The Moral Sage in the Synoptic Gospels

Runar M. Thorsteinsson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The main purpose of the book is to examine the possible ways in which the authors of the Synoptic Gospels, Mark, Matthew, and Luke, were inspired by contemporary philosophical traditions about the ideal philosophical sage in their description of their ideal human being, Jesus Christ. Questions that are raised and discussed in the study include the following: How does the author in question speak of Jesus in relation to contemporary philosophy? Do we see Jesus take on a certain ‘philosophical’ role in the Gospels, either by his statements and reasoning or his way of life? In what way are Jesus’ words and actions analogous to that of leading philosophical figures in Graeco-Roman antiquity, according to these texts? Conversely, in what way do his words and actions differ from theirs? While a number of Graeco-Roman sources are presented and discussed in the study, the emphasis is on the question of how these parallel texts help us better to understand the Gospel authors’ perception and presentation of the character of Jesus. While the fields of theology and ethics are often intertwined in these texts, the main focus of the study is aimed at the ethical aspect. It is argued that the Gospel authors drew in some ways on classical virtue ethics. The Gospel authors inherited stories and sayings of Jesus that they wanted to improve upon and recount as truthfully as possible, and they did so in part by making use of philosophical traditions, especially Stoicism and Cynicism, about the ideal sage.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press, Oxford
Number of pages212
ISBN (Electronic)9780198815228
ISBN (Print)978-0-19-881522-8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Runar M. Thorsteinsson 2018.

Other keywords

  • Cynicism
  • Jesus
  • Philosopher
  • Sage
  • Stoicism
  • Synoptic gospels
  • Virtue theory


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