Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) was, by all accounts, a giant of history. Soldier. General. Emperor. Exile. And although no would add ‘theologian’ to this list, Napoleon faced a question common to all mankind: Who is Jesus Christ?
History has seen many different answers. Christians have claimed Him as Savior, others have considered Him just another wise teacher, and skeptics have deemed Him to be a largely mythological figure.
Near the end of his life, the exiled Emperor Napoleon came to the following conclusion about the King of Kings:
I know men, and I tell you Jesus Christ was not a man.
Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist.
There is between Christianity and other religions the distance of infinity.
Jesus Christ alone founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men will die for Him.
Alexander, Cæsar, Charlemagne and myself founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon sheer force. Jesus Christ alone founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men will die for Him. In every other existence but that of Christ how many imperfections!
From the first day to the last He is the same; majestic and simple; infinitely firm and infinitely gentle. He proposes to our faith a series of mysteries and commands with authority that we should believe them, giving no other reason than those tremendous words, ‘I am God.’
The Bible contains a complete series of acts and of historical men to explain time and eternity, such as no other religion has to offer.
If it is not the true religion, one is very excusable in being deceived; for everything in it is grand and worthy of God.
The more I consider the Gospel, the more I am assured that there is nothing there which is not beyond the march of events and above the human mind. Even the impious themselves have never dared to deny the sublimity of the Gospel, which inspires them with a sort of compulsory veneration.
What happiness that Book procures for those who believe it!
So said Napoleon Bonaparte. What about you? Who do you say that Christ is? Scripture tells us that “every knee should bow…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Even the great Napoleon.
Quoted from Ritzema, E. (Ed.). (2012). 300 Quotations for Preachers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Note: Yes, Jesus was both God and man. Napoleon’s quote that Jesus “was not a man” is presumably meant as “Jesus Christ was not a mere man.” Again, he wasn’t a theologian.