The Dialectic Method Of Jesus -- By: Richard Montague

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 041:163 (Jul 1884)
Article: The Dialectic Method Of Jesus
Author: Richard Montague


The Dialectic Method Of Jesus

Rev. Richard Montague

It is possible that the title selected for this paper may seem more ambitious than is the purpose of the writer. That purpose, as a brief explanation will show, is not scholastic, but simple and somewhat practical.

The attentive reader of the Gospels is often impressed with Jesus’ wonderful skill in meeting men; and in no variety of circumstances is this skill more evident than in those personal interviews, discussions, or controversies in which conversation, mutual question and answer, forms the the substance of the narrative. Our Lord displayed surprising readiness in his dialectics, as well as in his didactics. He was a marvellous disputant, as well as the first of teachers. And yet our study in Jesus’ dialectic will not restrict the view to Christ’s polemic discussions, or to any protracted logical processes. When two persons took counsel together for the purpose of intellectual or moral inquiry, and sought to separate and analyze themes according to their kinds, it

was, in the Socratic sense, a process in dialectics. Aristotle points out three modes of dialectical debate: the first, that in which teaching is the primary purpose; the second, that in which intellectual gymnastics is the sole object; and the third, that in which both disputants have the simple purpose of testing the argumentative consequences of different admissions, the acquisition of a larger command of the chains of reasoning, pro and con, bearing on some given topic. The term dialectic has been used in various senses by later philosophers and in general literature. We shall use the word somewhat widely, as pointing to Jesus’ argumentative, conversational, analytical, or polemical methods of procedure. To exhibit some of the principles underlying his manner of meeting opponents or inquirers, of dealing with men individually, refuting their false arguments, rebutting their hostile charges, exhibiting their wicked prejudices, revealing their spiritual needs, and insinuating into their minds and consciences the perfect truth, is the object of this paper. Such a study, it is hoped, will enhance our appreciation of Jesus’ insight into both character and truth, of his wonderful tact and his consummate zeal. It may justly be expected to be suggestive to such as are anxious to reach men by personal religious labor, by general discussion, or by Christian apologetics.

In attributing a dialectic “method” to Jesus, it is not implied that he used any conscious logical art, or pursued any fixed and uniform plan in his conferences. There was, indeed, as we shall soon see, a singleness of aim in ail his discourses which gives unity, and even uniqueness,...

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