Sometimes when I talk to someone about the Bible, they ask a question they believe will entrap me. Typically, when people ask these types of questions, there isn’t a proper way to answer because the question misuses a term, makes false assumptions, or isn’t even working from the same categories. Sometimes the question is rhetorical, so the answer is obvious.
In situations like this, I prefer to answer their question with a question to figure out what they’re asking, respond to the “obvious” answer, or try to lead them along to a conclusion they may not be far from. Sometimes giving the answer they are fishing for wouldn’t do the conversation any good because of some assumption they are making.
Jesus understood this, and He answered questions with questions a lot. Here are ten of those times!
1. Matthew 9:14-15.
Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. Matthew 9:14–15Matthew 9:14-15
2. Matthew 15:2-3
“Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?Matthew 15:2–3
3. Mark 4:38-40
Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? How is it that you have no faith?”Mark 4:38–40
4. Mark 10:2-3
Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?”Mark 10:2–3
5. Mark 12:14-17
They came and said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? “Shall we pay or shall we not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.” They brought one. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.Mark 12:14–17
6. Luke 6:1-4
Now it happened that He was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath; and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the grain. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him, how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the consecrated bread which is not lawful for any to eat except the priests alone, and gave it to his companions?”Luke 6:1–4
7. Luke 10:25-26
And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?”Luke 10:25–26
8. Luke 20:1-8
On one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him, and they spoke, saying to Him, “Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?” Jesus answered and said to them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell Me: “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” They reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ “But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”Luke 20:1–8
9. John 13:37-38
Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.John 13:37–38
10. John 18:33-34
Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”John 18:33–34
Jesus often answered a question with a question if He knew they were trying to entrap Him. The categories, definitions, and language He used didn’t line up with their own, so He would ask a question to make a point.
There are situations where someone may ask a question to get out of answering, but it can be an excellent tool to assist the person asking to reach the conclusion themselves if they are willing. This is called the maieutic method. Socrates believed that the answer to some questions was already within the individual. Asking questions is a way to assist in “delivering” those answers like a midwife.