Why the Questions Jesus Asked Were about More Than Answers

Jesus questions

Sometimes you have this question about the Bible, this burning desire to know. And you want to know what the whole thing has to say about that question. Ideally, you’d have a year to read through the whole of Scripture, marking it up and taking notes on every passage that spoke to your question.

And I say, don’t give up that ideal. Go for it. But reserve that method for only the most important questions. For others, use the search tools in Logos to “read” all of Scripture for you.

For example, a student of the Bible wrote in to the Logos Pro team because she wanted to know something, something it would take many hours reading through all 89 chapters of the Gospels to find out:

Can Logos Bible Software search for all the questions asked by Jesus?

Why did she want to know this? I don’t know. Perhaps she wanted to dig into the interpersonal skills of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels. Or maybe she’d been reading Randy Newman’s Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did, and he wanted to see the data firsthand. Or maybe her four-year-old asked her one of those unexpectedly insightful questions that only kids can come up with.

In any case, there is an answer to this Bible student’s question.

The Logos Pros replied,

Here’s how I would do this: I would use a Morph Search to look for Adverb Interrogatives (@BI), Participle Interrogatives (@TI), or Pronoun Interrogatives (@RI), WITHIN the speech of Jesus.

So the full query would look like this:
(@BI OR @TI OR @RI) WITHIN {Speaker <Person Jesus>}

(Click here to run the search in Logos. Faithlife’s own Phil Gons has come up with an alternate method which is more precise but a bit more difficult; you can read about it here and here. It employs user-generated labels which you can download in the “documents” tab in this Faithlife group.)

As you can see from the screenshot, this search finds over 300 results, though some of those are interrogative pronouns which aren’t actually asking a question.

questions asked by jesus

I don’t know why this Logos user asked this question, but I know what I got out of it. When you think, in general, about the way Jesus asked questions, you may indeed imagine him in evangelistic situations—like with the woman at the well in John 4. But actually, John 4 doesn’t show up in this search, because Jesus never asked her a question—she’s the one who did the asking. “Where do you get that living water?”

But here’s what I noticed: Jesus asked a lot of rhetorical questions. In Matthew 5, for example, every question he asked was rhetorical. It was driving to a point, not necessarily seeking information. When he asked, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”, he did not expect the answer, “Me!”—or the answer “Not me!” He expected a thoughtful nod.

People do a lot of things with their questions beyond getting information. Questions can be a softer way of stating something—in a way that isn’t as grating as, like, uptalk?

Jesus was 100% divine. Orthodox Trinitarian doctrine says he was also 100% human. He used language the way we all do. Sometimes odd, one-off searches in Logos can put that fact in relief and make it stand out.

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mark ward
Mark L. Ward, Jr. received his PhD from Bob Jones University in 2012; he now serves the church as a Logos Pro. He is the author of multiple high school Bible textbooks, including Biblical Worldview: Creation, Fall, Redemption.

Comments

  1. Using the NA28, I get 272 results instead of the 332 with the SBL edition. I’m curious why: are some in the NA28 not tagged properly as Jesus being the speaker?

    • Jeremy, here’s a list of the 47 passages included in the SBLGNT results that aren’t in the NA28 results: https://documents.logos.com/documents/f27e534fb4bc4370a88325404fe7f2dd

      On a quick glance, the issue seems to be with the morphological tagging, not the reported speech tagging. I’m going to check in with Rick, our resident Greek texts expert.

    • Jeremy, here’s Rick’s reply:

      The SBLGNT contains multiple possible options for a given term (e.g. Mt 5:47, which tags the word as either an adjective or a pronoun; Mt 7:22 which tags the particle as either negative or interrogative).

      The NA28 morph implementation prefers the ‘primary’ morph option.

  2. Hamilton Ramos says:

    God bless:

    This may be off topic, but is what comes to my mind after reading about the rhetorical method of questioning by Jesus:

    During Jesus’ time there were two different world views evolving that had a bearing on religion:

    Jewish people were very down to earth, concrete thinkers. Hellenistic people started to go into the abstract thought type of world view.

    To me it is no coincidence that Jesus came at that time, because a major shift was going to happen as far as religious thought and understanding.

    To show the quasi clash of views, we have the teacher that came to Jesus to inquire about truth from God.

    Jesus said: it is necessary to be born again, and Jesus was referring to a spiritual birth: born of water Acts 2:38, and of the Spirit: Acts 2:3.

    Notice that being born again pointed to a more abstract conceptual understanding of proper religion: we were to get the Shekinah (Holy Spirit) once lost after the fall, again.

    Jesus was preparing the way for modernity in my opinion.

    The leader did not understand, him having a concrete down to earth view, pictured going into his mother womb again. The man did not have the mental worldview capacity to be more abstract thinker, that would let him understand the mysteries of God properly.

    I think that the application in modern time for us, is that we should try to find a balance between this two different ways of looking at things related to the sacred:

    A Jewish Rabbi said once: when a Westerner wants to know what a believer is about, he reads and / or hears what the person says are his / her beliefs, what doctrine assents to, etc.

    When a Jewish wants to know what a believer is about, he / she follows the person for three days.

    We Christians probably are clearer that the Holy Spirit is the sign, mark, guarantee, etc. of our redemption, and that is a real substantive reality that indwells us and comforts, directs, helps, etc. us.

    But sometimes we forget the down to earth application of it all, God’s love poured in our hearts by the Holy Spirit Romans 5:5, has to show objective evidence: just as James says, our good deeds should let Christ shine through us, and become love cords to attract unbelievers and / or unreached to God.

    Just some thoughts for further research and discussion.

    Blessings.

  3. ManilaDave says:

    Hi Mark! I clicked the “here” and “here” to read Phil Gons alternative search method but in each instance the message is “Page Not Found”

    • Good call. You have to be a member of the Labeling Projects group to which I linked at the end of that parenthesis. I have updated the links to point instead to screenshots.