The Sinful Savior: Why the Biblical Jesus Was Not “Sinless”

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

The Sinful Savior: Why the Biblical Jesus Was Not “Sinless”

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“You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.”[1]

            Christians claim that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for their sins because he was “sinless”, a central tenet of Christianity that is succinctly stated in 1 John 3:5. But the disparate stories in the New Testament call this belief into question. We can identify a few instances where Jesus does appear to commit sins. Christian apologists respond to these allegations using a variety of excuses, one of which is that since Jesus was “God”, he could do whatever he wanted, and it would not be a “sin”. In this article, we will examine a few examples of the “savior” committing sins and also debunk the appeal to his alleged “divinity” as a way to save the “savior”.

Four Examples of the Sinful “Savior”

            Here are 4 instances in the New Testament that demonstrate that the Biblical Jesus was a sinner:

  1. Destroying private property and committing animal abuse – Matthew 8:28–34

“And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.”

This is an interesting story. On the one hand, Jesus’ power as an exorcist was displayed when he forced a group of demons, called “Legion” (Mark 5:9), to stop oppressing two men.[2] On the other hand, he then let the demons possess a herd of pigs, without asking for permission from the owner. As a result, the pigs were possessed and drowned in a lake. Thus, the Biblical Jesus committed two sins: the destruction of property and cruelty to animals. There is no indication that Jesus compensated the owner of the pigs (he must have been a Gentile), a violation of Exodus 22, which requires compensation for the theft and deaths of animals, though of course, the law did not include pigs since Jews could not own such animals.

  1. Disrespecting his mother – John 2:1–5

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.””

This story has no parallel in the Synoptic Gospels. While at the wedding in Cana, Mary, the mother of Jesus, informed him that there was no wine left for the guests. Jesus’ response can only be described as “disrespectful”. He retorted by saying “woman, what does this have to do with me?” The NRSV translation renders Jesus’ response as follows:

“Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?”

The New Oxford Annotated Bible (OAB), 5th edition, explains regarding this response that it is:

“…a literal translation of a Hebrew expression that typically signals a refusal (Judg 11.12; 2 Kings 3.13; 2 Chr 35.21).”[3]

Obviously, a refusal by a grown man to his parents is not necessarily sinful, but rather the way the refusal is expressed. Instead of calmly and respectfully refusing his mother, the Biblical Jesus responded in an aggressive and disrespectful manner, a clear violation of the commandment to “honor your father and your mother…” (Exodus 20:12).

  1. Lying to his brothers – John 7:1–10

“After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.”

This story also has no parallel in the Synoptic Gospels. At the time of the Jewish “Feast of Booths”, Jesus was in Galilee and was urged by his brothers to go to the feast in Judea. Regardless of their lack of faith or if they were simply mocking Jesus, this does not excuse Jesus’ deliberate act of deception: he told them that “I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come”. However, after his brothers had left for the feast, Jesus also went there but “in private”. Thus, the Biblical Jesus clearly lied, violating the command in Leviticus 19:11:

“You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.”

            It should be noted that Jesus’ statement “…my time has not yet fully come” does not mean that he was leaving open the possibility that he may go to the feast at a later time. As the OAB explains, this phrase refers to Jesus’ death and is repeated throughout the Gospel of John (emphasis in the original):

“Jesus refers repeated to his hour, the time of his death, and also of his glorification (7.30; 8.20; 12.23; 13.1; 17.1).”[4]

            There was a simple way for Jesus to avoid lying to his brothers, if that was his intention. He could have simply said “I am not going up to this feast [YET]…” or “I am not [YET] going up to this feast…” Ironically, later scribes seemed to feel the same way! According to the New English Translation commentary on John 7:8 (emphasis ours):

“Most mss (P66,75 B L T W Θ Ψ 070 0105 0250 ƒ1,13 M sa), including most of the better witnesses, have “not yet” (οπω, oupō) here. Those with the reading οὐκ are not as impressive (א D K 1241 al lat), but οὐκ is the more difficult reading here, especially because it stands in tension with v. 10. On the one hand, it is possible that οὐκ arose because of homoioarcton: A copyist who saw oupw wrote ouk. However, it is more likely that οπω was introduced early on to harmonize with what is said two verses later.[5]

Notice that the commentary admits that “not”, instead of “not yet”, is the original reading of the verse. “οὔπω” (“not yet”) was added “early on” by scribes to “harmonize” the contradiction with verse 10, when Jesus left for the festival “in private”. The late Biblical scholar Bruce Metzger also came to this conclusion:

“The reading οὔπω was introduced at an early date (it is attested by P66, 75) in order to alleviate the inconsistency between ver. 8 and ver. 10.[6]

It is amusing that the NET commentary still tried to save the Biblical Jesus from his sin:

“As for Jesus’ refusal to go up to the feast in v. 8, the statement does not preclude action of a different kind at a later point. Jesus may simply have been refusing to accompany his brothers with the rest of the group of pilgrims, preferring to travel separately and “in secret” (v. 10) with his disciples.”[7]

This is an absurd and comical apologetic attempt to save the sinful savior. There is no indication that Jesus refused to go to the festival because he did not want to go with his brothers.

  1. Committing petty theft – Matthew 21:1–7

“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.”

Besides the absurdity of having Jesus sit on two donkeys (that would be very uncomfortable), the Gospel of Matthew indicates that Jesus sent his disciples to bring two donkeys from a village to him. These donkeys belonged to someone since they were tied. Jesus did not tell his disciples to find the owner and ask for his permission before taking the donkeys, but he did tell them what to say if someone saw them. They were to simply say “The Lord needs them”! Imagine if someone tried stealing your property and you caught them in the act, and their excuse was “God needs them”. Who would buy that excuse without any evidence?

            To make matters worse, there was no indication that the donkeys were returned to their owner after Jesus had used them or any indication that the owner was compensated in any way (see below). Stealing animals, and stealing in general, was prohibited in Exodus 22 and Leviticus 19, respectively, and the Biblical Jesus clearly violated this law.

            One excuse that apologists use to save their sinful savior is to argue that the owner’s permission was implied in the phrase “…and he will send them at once”, meaning the owner would approve the borrowing of the donkeys (Matthew 21:3), and indeed, in Mark’s version, it seems that permission was given (emphasis ours):

“If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go.[8]

Thus, Mark indicates that permission was given, but notice that the phrase “and will send it back here immediately” is part of the statement the disciples were to make if they were stopped by anyone, and not a statement of Jesus assuring the disciples that the owner would send the animals. It was a promise that the animals would be returned. This raises another problem: there is no indication in the gospels that the animals were ever returned or that the owner was compensated.

            In the Gospel of Matthew, as the story continues, Jesus rides into Jerusalem sitting (uncomfortably) on 2 donkeys (verse 7), enters the temple to drive out the money changers (verse 12), healed the blind and lame (verse 14), and then left for the city of Bethany and stayed there overnight. It is claimed by some scholarly sources that Bethany was the village from which the donkeys were taken,[9] since Mark 11:1 states that Jesus and his disciples “drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives…” (Matthew does not mention Bethany), but this is just an assumption. The village could just as likely have been Bethphage as well. There is no proof either way, though it seems more likely that the unnamed village was Bethphage, since according to both Matthew and Mark, Jesus had left Jericho (Matthew 20:29; Mark 10:46) and made his way to Jerusalem. Bethphage was located “near the Mount of Olives and to the road from Jerusalem to Jericho”.[10] This would put Bethphage “in front” (Matthew 21:2), as shown in the map below (Figure 1):

Jericho Bethphage Jerusalem map
Figure 1: Coming down from Jericho, Jesus and his disciples would have passed near Bethphage, as it was “on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho” (Source: https://bibleatlas.org/bethphage.htm).

The Biblical Jesus: A “Moral Exemplar”?

            We have seen 4 examples of seemingly sinful behavior from the Biblical Jesus. Even if Christian apologists want to argue that the behavior was somehow not sinful, the question to ask is this: since Christians see Jesus as a “moral exemplar”, would they ever act this way? Would a Christian ever snap at his mother in an aggressive manner by saying “what concern is it of yours?” and still think that this is the normal way to speak to one’s parent? Would a Christian say to his brothers “I’m not going to such and such place. You go.”, and then go “in private” to the same place while deliberately hiding his identity? Would a Christian take someone’s property because of a necessity without even making an effort to ask their permission (while prepared to give an excuse IF he was caught in the act) and then also fail to return the borrowed property? Obviously, the answer to all these questions, hopefully, is “no”.

Debunking the “Jesus is God, so he can do what he wants” Excuse

            One common excuse that Christian apologists make to dismiss the sinful behavior of their savior is to argue that since Jesus was “God”, he could do what he wanted, and it would not be considered “sinful”. For example, when Jesus spoke disrespectfully to his mother, or when he allowed demons to possess a herd of pigs, or when he told his disciples to take a donkey without asking for permission, the Christian response may be “well, since Jesus created Mary, he could speak to her any way he wanted” or “well, since Jesus owns all things, he could choose to let demons possess any animal, whether owned by a person or not, and he could take any animal for his use without asking for permission”. Strangely enough, Christians fall into circular reasoning because of this. For example, one Christian website declares that:

“Jesus had to be sinless to prove He was divine.”[11]

If being “sinless” was the “proof” needed to demonstrate Jesus’ “divinity”, then using his alleged “divinity” to prove he was “sinless” becomes a circular argument.

            Moreover, there is another fatal flaw in this argument. By appealing to Jesus’ divinity to dismiss claims of sinfulness, Christians are ignoring the fact that Jesus supposedly had 2 natures: divine and human. This is how Christians explain Jesus’ lack of absolute knowledge (as in Mark 13:32 where he admitted his ignorance of the time of the day of judgment), so why do they ignore it when grappling with his alleged sins? Indeed, the whole point of the “Son” taking on a human nature was so that he could live a “sinless, perfect” life and “pay the price for sin and offer others forgiveness and eternal life”.[12] By taking on a “human nature”, Jesus had allegedly “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…”,[13] so his “human nature” had all the limitations of other humans, such as being “tempted”. It also means that his “human nature” was not the owner of all things, whether his mother or all animals.

            The Smoking Gun: Jesus’ “Transgressions”

            It is ironic that the New Testament inadvertently demonstrates that Jesus was a sinner in need of God’s mercy. This is due to the clumsy use (or misuse) of the so-called “Old Testament” by the authors of the New Testament. One such clumsy use of the Old Testament can be seen in Hebrew 10:5–7:

“Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’’”

This quote is taken from Psalm 40. Here is Bretton’s English translation of the Septuagint (which the author of Hebrews was using):

“Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not; but a body hast thou prepared me: whole-burnt-offering and sacrifice for sin thou didst not require. Then I said, Behold, I come: in the volume of the book it is written concerning me, I desired to do thy will, O my God, and thy law in the midst of mine heart.”[14]

But the author cherry-picked this passage from the rest of the psalm and ignored the rest of the speech made by the psalm’s speaker.[15] The same speaker, whom the author of Hebrews insisted was Jesus, says this in verse 12 (emphasis ours):

“For innumerable evils have encompassed me; my transgressions have taken hold of me, and I could not see; they are multiplied more than the hairs of my head; and my heart has failed me.”

Thus, using the author’s own logic, the same person who said, “sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not…” also said, “my transgressions have taken hold of me”,[16] which means that Jesus had committed “transgressions”!

            This is especially made clear when we consider that both words used in the Hebrew and Greek versions of Psalm 40:12 refer to acts that violate the law. In the Masoretic text, the Hebrew word translated as “iniquities” or “transgressions” is עָוֹן, which is defined by the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) as:

“…an act, or mistake, which is not right, unjust…”[17]

It is also defined as “misdeed, sin”.[18] Similarly, the Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Word Studies for Key English Bible Words Based on the Hebrew and Greek Texts defines it as:

“…a common term that designates sin in general terms as ‘iniquity,’ and also denotes the guilt of iniquity, or the consequences of iniquity.”[19]

            The Greek equivalent is ἀνομία, which is defined by the Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament as:

“…as what is contrary to law; (1) as a general state of wrong lawlessness, wickedness, iniquity (1J 3.4); (2) as an individual violation of law sin, wrong(doing), (practice of) lawlessness (MT 7.23)”.[20]

Similarly, the Expository Dictionary of Bible Words defines it as “lawlessness” (literally, ‘without law’), and is translated ‘iniquity,’ ‘wickedness,’ indicating the violation of God’s law.”[21]

Thus, it is clear that if the speaker in Psalm 40 should be identified as the Biblical Jesus, as the author of Hebrews insisted, then it is undeniable that Jesus was a man of “iniquity” and “transgressions”. This association is a fatal wound in the heart of Christianity.

Conclusion

            In this article, we have seen 4 examples of the Biblical Jesus behaving in immoral ways. His “sins” include destruction of private property, cruelty to animals, disrespecting his mother, lying, and petty theft. Moreover, we debunked one of the most common counterarguments that Christian apologists make to save their sinful savior, namely by appealing to his alleged authority as “God”. As we saw, this argument is nothing more than a weak attempt at circular reasoning. Finally, we exposed the inadvertent and fatal mistake made by the author of Hebrews in using a cherry-picked passage from Psalm 40 as a statement made by Jesus. This statement, when read in context with the rest of the psalm, leads to the unavoidable conclusion that Jesus had committed “iniquities” (i.e., sins). With its savior now exposed as a “sinner”, Christianity and its doctrine of salvation have no leg to stand on.

            And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!


[1] 1 John 3:5. All translations are from the ESV unless stated otherwise.

[2] Matthew contradicts both Mark and Luke, who only mention 1 demon-possessed man (Mark 5:2; Luke 8:27).

[3] The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Fifth Edition, ed. Michael D. Coogan (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018) p. 1922.

[4] Ibid. See also p. 1932.

[5] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+7%3A8&version=NET#fen-NET-26326b

[6] Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on The Greek New Testament, Second Edition (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft/United Bible Societies, 1994), p. 184.

[7] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+7%3A8&version=NET#fen-NET-26326b

[8] Mark 11:3–6.

[9] The New Oxford Annotated Bible, op. cit., p. 1812.

 [10] https://bibleatlas.org/bethphage.htm

While Bethany was also “on the road to Jericho” (https://bibleatlas.org/bethany.htm), it does not appear probable that it was the village in question.

[11] https://www.compellingtruth.org/Jesus-sinless.html

[12] Ibid.

[13] Philippians 2:7.

[14] https://biblehub.com/sep/psalms/40.htm

[15] This misquote and fatal mistake by the author of Hebrews was brought to my attention by a Muslim brother on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Isma_isma/status/1496874119320670208?s=20&t=SPQiEY_tpnkIjKAM2dqaEw

[16] As the OAB explains, in verses 11–17, “[a]cceptance of the task of proclamation puts the psalmist in fresh danger and in need of God’s help” (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, op. cit., p. 815).

[17] Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, and Johann Jakob Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament. Volumes 1-4 (Electronic Edition), trans. M.E.J Richardson (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1999), 800.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Word Studies for Key English Bible Words Based on the Hebrew and Greek Texts, ed. Stephen D. Renn (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2005), p. 518.

[20] Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Electronic Edition) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), 57.

[21] Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, op. cit., p. 519.

5 thoughts on “The Sinful Savior: Why the Biblical Jesus Was Not “Sinless”

  1. stewjo004

    @QB

    While the psalms from Hebrew is a good being neutral regarding the pig incident couldn’t an argument be made that no compensation needed to be made because a pig is an unclean animal?

    PS
    Another reason “he’s God and can do whatever he wants” doesn’t work is he is supposed to be the only person capable of following the Law and thus bound himself to the rules he created.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. mr.heathcliff

        the pigs seem to have become a scapegoat in the story. the pigs suffer and loose their life , while the unclean spirits destination was the sea, they lived there .

        who died for the sins of the demonic possession? pigs?

        Like

      2. mr.heathcliff

        this story is a confusing one

        pig = unclean
        demon = unclean

        but then mark 7 , “he declared all foods clean”

        what the heck is going on ?

        Like

  2. mr.heathcliff

    how about the story about jesus touching the leper? jesus clearly breaks the law by touching leprous person and telling him to keep the
    healing a secret. Why would he tell the man to keep it a secret about the touching and healing? Did jesus realise that his act of touching broke the law?

    “The person who has the leprous[o] disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.” 46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

    1:40-45 40A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” 41Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. 40 He sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44″See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. 

    ” Jesus knew up front that he was touching a leper. Law broke. Furthermore, he attempted to keep it a secret. Law broke. And the text goes on to tell us that Jesus was punished by being banished from the town. Why? Because he broke the Law.”

    Liked by 1 person

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