Did Jesus Sin?
And if he did, did he ask for forgiveness for his sins?
Did he even bring a sacrifice?
A hallmark of the Law is that if one sins one must ask for repentance. (see: articles). Therefore, in order for Jesus to have fulfilled the law he must have asked for repentance iff he had sinned. Now, it is also a doctrine of Christianity that Jesus did not sin. But why?
The Nature of Sin in the New Testament
According to Romans, Paul says all men are covered under sin, both Jew and Greek alike. Yet we except Jesus from this. The question is whether the exemption is valid or not. For in Hebrews 2 we find an interesting passage:
14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
–Hebrews 2:14-18 (ESV)
That Jesus has been tempted is beyond question; it is not only stated plainly here, but it is also plainly stated in the gospels themselves; in Luke 4, a synoptic gospel, in a passage entitled “The Temptation of Jesus” we find clear scripture that Jesus was tempted by sin;
Luke 4:1-2 “And Jesus, was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.”
Luke 4:13 “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.”
In Mark, also in a passage entitled “The Temptation of Jesus” we find,
13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.
Also, in Matthew 4; “The Temptation of Jesus”;
4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1)
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1)
So Jesus Sinned?
We do not have yet an admission that he sinned yet — however, we are about to show this from the writings of Paul. For, if we take only the Hebrew scriptures and the understanding of Judaism, and the New Testament, then we have only the application of the Law and then Jesus being tempted is not an equivocation that he sinned. The equivocation from sin comes from three other places.
Sermon on the Mount (Weak)
The reason that this is a weak proof is because it can be shown that in the relevant parts Jesus was merely espousing old testament doctrine. Nevertheless, in combination with the next two proofs Christians have come to the clear doctrine that the sin comes from the ability to think of sin, not from the commission of sin itself; which is why the Law cannot bring righteousness (as so //conveniently// explained by Paul below).
1. Matthew 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[c] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
2. Matthew 5:27-28 “27 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
3. Matthew 5:31-32 “31 It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
4. Matthew 2:33-37 “33 Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
These verses are all extremely relevant because Jesus then says, in Matthew 5:48, “48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
So in 1. the sin is the anger, and not the murder; in 2. the sin is the lust and not the commission of adultery, and in 3. the sin is the divorce and the adultery in spite of the law (see: article) and in 4. the sin is the commission of an oath and not the breaking of the oath. This paints a clear picture that the concept of evil or sin comes when one enters a thought and not when one commits an action.
Yet we say this is a weak proof because it is possible, via rabbinic argument, to allow some wiggle room to say that Jesus was only talking about what was written in the torah. It is however still an argument, because taken together it is clear what Jesus really meant to say. Or did Jesus have a communication problem? No, the implication is clear.
Paul’s “Nature of Sin” (Strong)
In Romans, Paul is extremely clear that it is the knowledge of sin or the conception of sin itself, however it may enter one, which causes a fall under the law:
- Romans 7
- 7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
- 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.
- 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.
- 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.
- 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
Paul’s argument is thus:
- v.7 the law is not sin, but,
- v.7 the knowledge of sin comes from a knowledge of the law,
- v.8 such knowledge of sin produces covetousness (and sin)
- v.9 as a result of this knowledge, i died (for the wages of sin is death).
Paul then immediately summarizes his argument and repeats the summary for effect (v.10, v.11). Next, he continues by essentially repeating the same argument for effect:
- 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
- 13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
- 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
- 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
- 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.
- 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
- 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
- 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
- v.12-13 the law is not sin, but,
- v.14 the knowledge of sin comes from a knowledge of the law,
- v.14 such knowledge of sin produces covetousness (and sin)
- v.14 as a result of this knowledge, i died (for the wages of sin is death).
Paul’s twist here is to explain that it is because he was made flesh that he was forced into sin (v. 14-20).
If all this was not clear enough Paul then summarizes his argument by repeating the conclusion:
- 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
- 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
- 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
- 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
- 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
- 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
It should not be taken with a grain of salt that according to Paul, one is drawn into sin solely by the //knowledge// of the sin; not the knowledge of the law, but even through the law, if one comes to the knowledge of sin, one will be drawn into it simply because one is flesh. (“also flesh…” gen. 6:3, 7:23, others)
Paul’s Nature of Jesus (Strong)
But may we not exempt Jesus from this? No! Paul is explicit on the nature of Jesus. Note here that if the Christian commits that Paul did not write Hebrews then he denies the statement by the Church that it was written by Paul and calls into question every other tradition of the Church; such as that the apostles were martyred; it opens more cans of worms than it closes.
In Hebrews 2, Paul is explicit that not only was Jesus tempted — but that Jesus sinned — and it is //solely// as a result that he sinned that he is able to help us poor sinners!
- Hebrews 2:11-18
- 11 For both he that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are of one; That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
- 12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
- 13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.”
- And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
- 14 For as the children share in the flesh and in the blood, so did Jesus also take part in them; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death; that is, the devil;
- 15 And deliver all them who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.
- 16 For Jesus did not take for himself the form of an angel, but he took for himself the seed of Abraham.
- 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
- 18 For because he himself suffered death he was tempted, he is now able to help those who are being tempted.
Paul here states three amazing things about Jesus:
- v.14 For as the children share in the flesh and in the blood, so did Jesus also take part in them; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death; that is, the devil;
- v.14 And that the meaning of death here is “sin” as in “the wages of sin is death” — “that is, the devil”!
- v.16 Jesus took the form of flesh — not a spiritual form
- v.17 for the purpose of being tempted by sin (see Romans 7, above)!
- v.18 And all because, **he suffered death from temptation**
- so that he could help those who are being tempted.
Conclusion: Jesus Broke the Law
Now, why then do we say Jesus broke the law? It is not because he sinned — although to a Christian this will already be far more than they can take. But the reason why Jesus broke the law is because he did not ask repentance for his sins, as was commanded by the Law. Jesus did not offer a sacrifice — nor did he bring tithes at the proper time (see: Jesus and the Moneychangers).
I would be interested in hearing a credible Christian response to this argument.