Did Jesus lead a sinless life?
Part 1: Methods of determination.
Path forward. What does the Bible say?
The question whether Jesus was without sin is ultimately impossible to
answer. That is because no consensus exists about the precise nature of Jesus:
||Some Christians -- particularly those who are religious liberals -- consider Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ), to be a 1st
century itinerate rabbi -- perhaps the greatest of the Jewish Prophets --
but still a human. Thus:|
||His religious actions could be evaluated
against the behavioral requirements of Judaism at the time.
behavior could be compared to the duties of a citizen in a state that was
under occupation by the Roman army.
However, some do not consider the act of disobeying religious, civil,
or military law to be religiously sinful in some circumstances. There
are thousands of years of precedents in Judaism and Christianity where
individuals have conscientiously objected to what they considered to be
improper laws by intentionally disobeying them. They have felt called to
respond to a higher law. For example:
Many Christian parents disobey the biblical instructions to
beat their children with a rod because
they believe that corporal punishment is an unjust, unloving, and
counterproductive method of disciplining children.
It teaches them that violence is a solution to conflicts, and that might makes right. Also, long term studies of children being spanked in childhood show increased levels of alcohol addiction, drug addiction, clinical depression and anxiety.
Some Christians who are opposed to abortion access have murdered
abortion providers to prevent the latter from performing more
Many of the religious freedoms that Americans and Canadians
enjoy today were obtained through legal means by
Jehovah's Witnesses, and others, who first
disobeyed civil laws, were charged, and then successfully fought for
their religious freedom through the courts.
Thus, violating a religious, civil, or military law may be considered
a sin by some authorities even as it is regarded as a noble act by a
|Most Christians consider Jesus Christ to be the Son of God and a co-equal,
eternally existing, person within the Trinity -- the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
These Christians might define a sin as an action that is
contrary to the will of God. Since Jesus and God are believed to be
omnipotent, they have an infinite choice of actions in every instance.
They would never do anything which was against their own will. Thus, it is impossible for them to sin. These Christians believe
that since Jesus Christ created humans, the other life forms on earth, the
earth itself, and the rest of the universe, he can perform
many acts without sin - acts that might be considered criminal if done
by a human. The Hebrew and
Christian Scriptures describe how God initiated many acts
that would be considered crimes against humanity or genocideif they
were done by a human being today. Some examples are:
The most serious genocide in history, in terms of the percentage
of human beings exterminated was the alleged world-wide flood during the time of Noah. The Bible relates
that the entire human race was
the exception of 8 people: Noah, his three sons and their wives. There
might have been daughters of Noah and their husbands as well, but they may not have been considered important enough to mentioned. Women
were considered to have such a low status
in ancient times that they were often considered property.
||God's instructions to the ancient Israelites to commit genocide
against the Canaanites by killing every man, woman, child, newborn and
infant. This would be considered a very serious crime against humanity today.
The creation of a Hell where unsaved people
will be tortured for all eternity for thought crimes -- i.e. for having
the wrong religious beliefs. Some countries in the world today are
considered pariah states with a
poor human rights records because they
citizens for thought crimes, or torture prisoners, or keep them in
jail forever without hope of release. The Hell that God created -- and to whom many Christian believe he sends people for thought crimes --commits
all three crimes against humanity.
The set of laws that God gave to the ancient Hebrews includes:
- Condoning and regulating human slavery;
- Executing religious
minorities, gays, non-virgin brides, and disrespectful children;
- Allowing the enforced marriage and rape of female prisoners of war;
Some feel that a deity is sinless, even after
performing actions that would be considered horrendous and despicable
if done by a human being. They believe that God cannot perform a
sinful act. Thus, by definition, Jesus led a sinless life.
The path forward:
If one believes that God is sinless, and that Jesus is one of three
persons in the Trinity, then no further discussion of Jesus' sinlessness is
necessary or possible. The subject is closed. Jesus did not sin. You can hit
the "Back" key at the top of your browser now if you wish.
For those who feel that
Jesus' sinfulness or sinless can reasonably be evaluated using human standards of
sin, we will continue this essay by evaluating Jesus' actions
against religious and civil rules of behavior in 1st century
What does the Bible say about Jesus behavior?
The Bible, if interpreted literally, appears ambiguous about whether Jesus was
without sin. Some applicable passages from the King James Version are listed below:
||In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is described as being righteous and
having done nothing wrong -- or at least, not anything that was criminal in
Luke 23:39-41: One of the criminals who was crucified beside
Jesus stated that Jesus had done nothing amiss. Various translations say
that he has "done nothing wrong" or "done nothing
criminal", "done no evil", "hasn't done
one thing wrong." The King James Version says: "Dost not
thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed
justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done
Luke 23:47: A Roman centurion guard at the crucifixion site said that
Jesus was righteous: "Now when the centurion saw what was
done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man."
||Elsewhere in the Christian Scriptures, Paul and various other authors
state unequivocally that Jesus was without sin:
2 Corinthians 5:21: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
Hebrews 4:15: "For we have not an high priest which cannot
be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points
tempted like as we are, yet without sin."
1 Peter 2:21-22: "...because Christ also suffered for us,
leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin,
neither was guile found in his mouth."
1John 3:5: "And ye know that he was manifested to take
away our sins; and in him is no sin."
||There is an ambiguous reference to Jesus and sin in Hebrews:|
Hebrews 7:26-28: The author refers to Jesus: "For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up
himself. Describing Jesus as undefiled might indicate
that he was in a state of sinlessness. But later, Jesus is
compared to a high priest: the latter offered a sacrifice daily --
first for his own sins and then for the sins of the rest of the
population. Jesus is described as doing this only once, at his
execution. This passage might imply that Jesus did sin.
||A remarkable incident occurred during Jesus' ministry when a
follower referred to him as "Good Master" -- a term
that was rarely used to refer to a rabbi or teacher. Jesus replied,
implying that he
was not God, that he was not "good," and that only God is
Mark 10:17-18: "And when he was gone forth into the way,
there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what
shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why
callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God."
Matthew 19:16-17: "And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is,
Luke 18:18-19: "And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is,
Biblical Commentary attempts to harmonize this apparent conflict. It states that the phrase "Good Master"
was "a rarely used epithet for a rabbi." Thus, Jesus' response
might have implied that "the epithet 'good' being proper to God, should
not be used indiscriminately and casually." 1,2
Still, the passages in the three synoptic gospels records Jesus as
rejecting the suggestion that he was all good; i.e. without sin.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
G.C. Berkouwer, "The Person of Christ," Out
of print. However, the Amazon.com online book store may be able to obtain a
"Like us in all things but sin: An examination of the question of
the impeccability of Jesus Christ," at: http://www.bignerds.com/
Copyright © 2000 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2000-APR-17
Latest update: 2010-NOV-20
Author: B.A. Robinson