Was Jesus ever wrong?

(Christy Hemphill) #1

Continuing the discussion from This website has been really helpful but I would be very thankful for answers to specific questions:

@AndrewF asks

I recall seeing on here somewhere someone saying that they viewed Jesus as doing some questionable things. That is concerning to me as Jesus is the foundation of my faith, and while I am still trying to ascertain my thoughts on inerrancy and errancy, I believe Jesus to be divine. If I recall correctly, the matters in question were apparently misquoting genesis 2 and/or a statement where he said to not respond to physical assaults, which would justify others to assault with impunity? That last one sounds like it was more so taken out of context but I would hope that Jesus was in the right.

Could Jesus be Wrong and still be God?
(Phil) #2

Certainly there are multiple views, but my take is that Jesus was also fully human, and subject to the limitations of being human. In a sense, that is necessary in order for him to experience what it is like to be human, and ultimately to have victory over sin and death. Otherwise it would be a hollow victory, wouldn’t it? Therefore, he may have made mistakes over what the smallest seed was, he probably only thought there were 5 planets, and he may have forgot stuff and made other mistakes, though not sinful ones.


That is a fascinating perspective I hadn’t considered it quite like that, thank you.

How would you personally view the relationship between the pursuit of understanding vs. ignorance and sin? It’s cool to think the ways of which I could reconsider this. I also think this would potentially add weight to Jesus’ triumph

(Christy Hemphill) #4

Here are the things I think are important when considering this question:

(And as always on this discussion forum, I speak for myself, not BioLogos as an organization. Evidently this is hard for some people to grasp.)

First, Jesus grew in wisdom and stature. (Luke 2:52) I take this to mean his mind developed along with his body in the normal way, and there is no reason to think that his brain was somehow physically different than any other human brain. Human brains have physical limitations. Learning requires experience and trial and error. Why would we assume that when Jesus was learning to be a carpenter, he never measured a board wrong, or hit his thumb with a hammer? Making mistakes is part of learning. Jesus had to learn to read like any other kid. Why would we assume that he never confused two letters and read the wrong word? When he was memorizing Scripture in the synagogue, why would we assume he got it right the first time he tried, with no mental effort, no self-correction, no leaving out a phrase? When he was hanging out in the neighborhood doing whatever the Nazareth equivalent of shooting baskets was, why would we assume he made every single one? Being human and learning to do anything involves making mistakes and failing to execute a given task flawlessly.

Well, someone might say, how do we know Jesus was limited by his physical body and brain like other humans? He walked on water, he disappeared from the crowd that wanted to kill him, he knew every thing the Samaritan woman had ever done. Good points. But he also got tired (he was sleeping in the boat during the storm), hungry (he was weakened by his fasting in the wilderness), anxious (the whole sweating blood thing in Gesthemane), and hurt (the flogging/crucifixion), so we know his body/mind responded in normal human ways to stimuli. He wasn’t just God walking around in the shape of a human. That is actually a heresy (docetism) rejected by the church at Nicaea in 325. I think it is fine to assume Jesus walked into a room and forgot what he was there to get, couldn’t remember someone’s name after being introduced only once, called his brother Simon, James once or twice, and any number of normal human “mistakes” caused by the limitations of our physical brains.

Second, Jesus spent an awful lot of time in prayer according to the Gospels. Why? Personally, I think it was because while he was incarnate he had the same access to the mind of God that the rest of us humans have, through the Holy Spirit. Unlike us, there was no sin or spiritual brokenness to get in the way of his prayers, but I don’t think there is any indication that Jesus was omniscient. He had to pray to know the Father’s will. There were things he claimed he did not know. (Mark 13:32, Matt 24:36) Why would he pray that “the cup be taken from him” in the Garden of Gesthemane if he was omniscient? So, how did Jesus supernaturally know things about people? I believe the Holy Spirit reveals truth and special discernment to people’s minds in order for them do ministry. I have been around Christians who have had information about people and situations revealed to them spiritually in prayer, and obviously Jesus was sensitive in a unique way to the Holy Spirit’s leading. I think all the knowledge that was necessary for his ministry and to perform the signs that singled him out as the Messiah were revealed to his human mind by the Holy Spirit. Would this revealed knowledge have included things like Newton’s second law of motion or the fact that horses belong to the order of odd-toed ungulates? I doubt it. What bearing would that have on his kingdom work or Messianic calling?

So, all that brings us to the question, if someone had asked Jesus how old the universe is, would he have said “4.5 billion years”? Probably not. That would not be a fact taught in school for Jewish boys, and why would the Holy Spirit have revealed that knowledge to him? So was he “wrong” in his conception of the world on this point? Does it matter at all?

I think we can go too far in making Jesus out to be a product of his culture too. It is clear that he was not constrained by the prevailing ideas of his time and place about many things - the value of women, children, and cultural outsiders, for example. So we need to be careful when we say, “Well no one at the time thought X, so obviously Jesus didn’t either.” He did blow people’s minds with his unique perspective on many things. I would say, that was because he was God incarnate.

When Jesus was telling people to turn the other cheek and walk the extra mile, and give their shirt as well as their cloak, these were direct references to the rights Roman soldiers had to make demands of Jewish people. Jesus’ instructions were emphasizing that his kingdom was not of this world and he wasn’t there to help people throw off Roman rule and rebel. He was teaching people to thwart the unjust systems of the world with love and service, which is actually a brilliant form of resistance. “Turn the other cheek” is an example of the importance of understanding the context of Scripture and the intent of a given command. Jesus wasn’t talking to a battered woman or a sexually abused child.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #5

Those are intriguing and compelling rhetorical questions. Should somebody attempt to answer them with a flat negative (Jesus was always perfect from the get-go), then that would make him a child-prodigy to an unprecedented (and since un-echoed and indeed singular) extreme. The only hint of unusual status we are told about his youth is that he (by implicitly failing to mind mom and dad’s wishes) stayed behind in the temple with the teachers as a 12-year-old, “listening to them and asking them questions.” A curious activity for an omniscient lad. Was he just testing them? Checking out the current curricula and faculty to see if they were on-task or else what kind of work he was in for? I doubt grown-ups would have had a positive reaction (such as they did have) to a young upstart who comes in to “inform them how it’s gonna be.” Besides, the end of the chapter tells us he went on to “increase in wisdom”, which isn’t possible if you were already entirely there.

In his later ministry, the “fig tree incident” always intrigued me. We are told that he went to it hoping to get a snack, but was disappointed. To those stuck on omniscience, this has to be written off as just so much acting so that he could get around to cursing the tree and then drawing from the whole incident the appropriate lesson to teach his disciples. In other words in order to protect an “orthodoxy” of omniscience, they have to say that the scriptures were just kidding when they speak of Jesus being “foiled” by anything. Everything becomes a test rather than Jesus actually wanting to know what it is that somebody wants or what they think. I think this dehumanizes Jesus more than anything.

A pastor once shared that Mark was his favorite gospel writer because Mark is like the child at the dinner table most likely to say the inappropriate, and yet very revealing thing. Whereas other gospels (see end of Matt.13) “clean up” the account where Jesus goes back to his hometown and “did not do” many miracles there because of their lack of faith, Mark (Ch.6) brazenly blurts out that Jesus “could do no” deed of power (except a few) because of their lack of faith.

In short, omniscience in the flesh seems to me to be a man-made doctrine in desperate want of Scriptural support.

[word improvements added]

(GJDS) #6

The Bible teaches us that Christ was without sin - I had no idea in the USA this may mean you get every hoop when you throw a basketball. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

On a serious note, a great deal of theology has dealt with Christ as fully human, without sin, and fully the Son of God. Food for theological thought.

(Christy Hemphill) #7

Right. But when he showed up back in Nazareth after beginning his ministry, the incredulous response of the townspeople was, “Wait, isn’t that just Joseph’s son?” Not “Well, that figures-- we have all known that that kid was destined for greatness. He was always such a prodigy.”

No. Adam and Eve were not the first humans
(Curtis Henderson) #8

I also believe that having a child-prodigy in the family would have influenced Jesus’s brothers much earlier in life.

(Christy Hemphill) #9

I know, right? I think people go from “sinless” to “perfect” and then impose lots of ideas of what they think perfect means, not realizing that they have left humanity far behind in the process.

The hypostatic union has definitely provided a lot of food for thought.

(Jay Johnson) #10

I was thinking along the same lines. A couple of instructing incidents from the gospels are Mark 3 and Matthew 12, where Jesus’ mother and brothers come looking for him, and Jesus ends by looking at the disciples at his feet and saying that they are his mother and brothers and sisters. Mark includes the interesting tidbit about the crowds around Jesus being so large that he and his disciples were not even able to get a meal in edgewise. "When his family heard this they went out to restrain him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’ " And, as you alluded, John 7 tells us that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him during his earthly ministry.

Perhaps their difficulty was that they knew Jesus so intimately that he was, well, their brother, not the Christ. Nevertheless, they did believe in the end that Jesus is Lord, despite the fact that they knew him so well for all of his life. This certainly says something about his sinless character.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #11

I saw this on a friend’s frig, and now found it among Google images. Wish I could read the artist’s signature between the two horses. It would be fun to see more of his or her stuff.

addendum: the only thing missing is Pilate’s parents on their donkey with a bumper sticker that says “my kid can beat up your kid”

(Ray Bailey) #12

[quote=“Jay313, post:10, topic:36637”]
Perhaps their difficulty was that they knew Jesus so intimately that he was, well, their brother, not the Christ. [/quote]
The confusion of Jesus’ family is that they did not have the after-sight of thousands of years to glean the scriptures with Holy Spirit’s guidance into Jesus’ true character. It wasn’t until after the Resurrection that they understood.

@Mervin_Bitikofer Another Bumper sticker that is appropriate: “My Son is Perfect!” That is a truism for any mother!

When we consider how Jesus was “inerrant” we must determine whether the time in question is before his Baptism or after! When the dove descended upon him, he was “gifted” with the presence of the Father for his mission. Nothing before that time could be positively considered “inerrant”.

Much as King David could not function as a King or a Levite as a priest until they were fully annointed into their position. This is certainly the case of the “Messiah” (Anointed One in Hebrew) In addition, a Priest, Rabbi or social “Leader” could not be acknowledged until they reached the mature age of 30 – the “age of counsel giving” in Israel and most ANE cultures. Jesus was Baptised and began his ministry after turning 30. With a lifespan of 50-60 years or so, this is “middle age”.

The second issue is the category of his knowledge . At any time he speaks of things only a normal person need to know, like the common cosmology of the day (or the relative size of a seed) then no “supernatural” knowledge is needed and subject to the “fallacies” of the ancient world versus our own scientific knowledge.

But if it concerns his mission, plan, and foreknowledge or insight of what people are thinking or saying then he “…does what the Father tells me…” In that Jesus is entirely inerrant.

I have never had much problem with these issues as I have always found this is fairly simple if you keep these two principles in mind.

It is also the same principle which guides our thought on interpreting Genesis and Revelation.

Ray :sunglasses:

(Ray Bailey) #13

The following is from another Topic that has the same issues as this topic with Jesus.

(Jay Johnson) #14

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which purports to relate Jesus’ childhood, depicts him making clay birds and bringing them to life, instructing his teachers, cursing a misbehaving boy whose body immediately withers, and striking the boy’s parents blind when they complain to Mary and Joseph. This is the kind of account that people dream up when they think of Jesus as fully God but not fully man. The canonical gospels are models of restraint in comparison.

Yes, and I don’t know whether to put this comment here or there, but consider how Hebrews 2:17 plays into the Adam/Christ comparison. If Christ, the second Adam, “had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every respect” to represent us before God (Heb. 2:17), shouldn’t the first Adam bear at least some resemblance to us in order to represent us before God? How does the specially created Adam fit that bill?

(Laura) #15

I believe it was you who pointed out elsewhere how we also seem to get “perfect” out of “very good” in Genesis! Must be a connection there… perhaps it’s just easier if one is prone to “black and white” thinking. Good things to consider.

(Albert Leo) #16

But how could any sane person even propose such a gospel (good news??) that has Jesus, as ‘fully God’, doing such despicable things? Fortunately the early church fathers made sure that the Thomas ‘gospel’ was NOT declared canonical, but even its very existence gives some credence to the canard spread by Harris, Dawkins et al that ALL people of Faith must be a little kooky.

[quote=“Jay313, post:14, topic:36637”]
If Christ, the second Adam, “had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every respect” to represent us before God (Heb. 2:17),

Jay, you bring up a point that has bothered me ever since I was capable of thinking on my own: If Jesus was fully human he must have had a human father. Certainly his fellow Nazarene townspeople must have thought so. I do not consider his Virgin Birth an impossibility for God, but why is it such an important dogma that I should not consider myself truly Catholic unless I profess it to be 100% true. (Perhaps you saw the video debate where Dawkins backed the head of the Vatican Observatory into a corner with that question.) How many Protestant denominations allow one the freedom of believing it is possible but not necessary? @Christy ?
Al Leo

(Christy Hemphill) #17

None that hold to the Nicene Creed, which would be the vast majority, I think.

(Jay Johnson) #18

Like you, I don’t understand the virgin birth, but I accept it on faith and on the authority of the Bible. We accept all kinds of truths on authority. For instance, I believe everything that Christy says, because she is a moderator. :wink:

I think you’ll agree that being fully human involves a great deal more than biology. Jesus could have descended from heaven a fully formed man, but he didn’t. He was born as we are, grew up and learned as we do, earned his bread by the sweat of his brow like all descendants of Adam, suffered pain and grief and loss as we do, but all the while, though surrounded by sinfulness just as we are, he did not sin. Christ’s full humanity is not, in my mind, a biological issue; his full humanity is revealed by the fact that he completely identified with us by becoming us. As Paul said in Philippians 2:

5 You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had,

6 who though he existed in the form of God
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
7 but emptied himself
by taking on the form of a slave,
by looking like other men,
and by sharing in human nature.
8 He humbled himself,
by becoming obedient to the point of death
—even death on a cross!
9 As a result God highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow
—in heaven and on earth and under the earth—
11 and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord
to the glory of God the Father.

(George Brooks) #19

Wait a minute @Jay313

Why can’t God have constructed the perfect human chromosomal match to Mary’s egg?

Certainly Creationists can certainly agree that if God can make an adult out of dust, then he can make a “divine sperm” out of anything.

(Phil) #20

I’m surprised that someone somewhere has not advocated that since Jesus is the new Adam, he had the same genetic code and Y chromosome that Adam had. Perhaps they have, as I am not willing to check.