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Answering The Atheist
May 20, 2007 / Volume 7, Issue 20

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Who was the greatest, Jesus (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31; Colossians 2:2-3), Solomon (1 Kings 3:12) or John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11)? Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
Is it possible that one person can be the greatest in a certain capacity, and another person in a different capacity? Is it possible that an individual of a certain class may be labeled the greatest in some respect, but another individual, belonging to a different class, is also labeled the greatest with respect to the same characteristic? That is what we have in the texts which have been identified by the questioner.

The three texts about Jesus and the one about Solomon all address wisdom and understanding. God promised Solomon, "...I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you." (1 Kings 3:12). Certainly, that is a very encompassing promise. Solomon, you will exceed all men in wisdo and understanding upon the earth.

What then do we do with Jesus' statement about Himself, saying that "...a greater than Solomon is here." (Matthew 12:42)? And what of Paul's statement about the Lord, that in Him "...are hiden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Colossians 2:3)? All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Jesus, and He is greater than Solomon because He is the source of all wisdom, understanding and knowledge - He is God (Colossians 2:9). Setting God's statement about Solomon at odds with Jesus' statement about Himself is in essence coparing apples with oranges. Of course the source of all wisdom will be "greater" than the wisest of men.

But then Jesus goes on to speak about John the Baptist, saying, "...there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist..." (Matthew 11:11). One what? Back up 2 verses, and we read, "...what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: ' Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You." The text has nothing to do with wisdom and understanding, but identifies John as the greater of the prophets, for he was charged with the responsibility of preparing the way before the Lord.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible