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Was Jesus perfect his entire life? This passage seems to suggest otherwise. I've never had a good answer to this question when referring to this passage.

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father's house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.” ~ Isaiah 7:10-17

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

In the passage you mention it never says Jesus sinned or did evil. We can find the answer to that question in Hebrews 4:14-15

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

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This is the NIV translation:

He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right

Children are not aware of good or evil until they reach a certain age, "age of accountability", and understanding. One cannot choose to do good or evil until one is aware of what good and evil are and the differences between them, and choose for themselves. That seems to be what this verse is implying. Bible passages would tell us that we are sinful even at birth (Psalm 51:5), but as @HelloWorld said, this verse does not necessarily say that Jesus was sinful before that time.

Before I was born the Lord called me
Isaiah 49:1

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There are two fulfillments of this passage:

Firstly, an imminent and very literal fulfillment: the sign is that a young woman (one meaning of the Hebrew word 'almah') will conceive and have a child, and by the time they are 12 - 13 (that's when Judaism of that time would consider them to 'know right from wrong'), the lands of the two kings Ahaz fears, Israel and Aram/Syria will be laid waste (which is what actually happened).

The second fulfillment is a 'remez' (or hint) of the first. It takes place in a different time (about 700 years later) and this time the sign is that a virgin (the other meaning of 'almah') will give birth to a son. He will be 'God with us' but not literally called by that name. This use of prophecies with an imminent context and then with a slightly different and later context was well known in Hebrew prophecy and hence the use of the Hebrew term 'remez'.

Matthew was an educated man and a learned scholar in Jewish Law (almost the same for Jews of that time) and he would have understood this use of prophecy and 'remez'. He does something similar with Hosea 11:1 (which is historic) and makes it a prophecy which he quotes in Matthew 2:15 ('out of Egypt I called my son'). Here again is 'remez' in action. There is another similar idea in Matthew 2:18:

A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more. (quoting Jeremiah 31:15)

Bearing all this in mind the second later prophecy (the 'remez' one) does not have to fit the details exactly literally like the earlier one. Therefore it doesn't imply that Jesus was not perfect his entire life. This also resolves the 'almah' dispute by considering its use to have been deliberately ambiguous.

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I'm not aware of the term 'remez', but the idea of multiple fulfilments of prophecy is an important one in Christianity too. – curiousdannii Dec 9 '13 at 14:48
Though interesting and relevant to one part of the prophecy quoted in the question, this does not actually address or answer the question of whether Jesus was perfect his entire life. – Lee Woofenden Sep 29 '15 at 20:18

I don't see that the passage you quoted suggests 'the boy' Jesus sinned. It talks about Him being in a state which is before He knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, but noone in such a state could be said to have sinned, since sin is a choice. If someone doesn't know how to refuse the evil and choose the good, it means they are too young to be able to make choices and so too young to sin, rather than that they are constantly doing evil because they don't know how to refuse it, as you seem to have read it.

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"sin is a choice" -- do you have a reference for this claim? – Flimzy Sep 22 '13 at 20:19
Sin is a position we're all born into. It's our nature being born of the seed of Adam where like produces like. Jesus was not born of the seed of Adam. Gen 3:15. – Matt Sep 23 '13 at 1:20
My reading of the scriptures includes sin being a choice. Whilst I believe that it's impossible to choose the good without the grace and love of God constraining us to do so, it is still a choice: one which God elects certain people to choose, by His grace. There is more than one reference I could give to support this reading. I choose one from the passage quoted in this question: 'He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.' – George Tomlinson Sep 23 '13 at 7:59
It's seems clear to me from this that good is something we can choose. By definition a choice must be between a number of different options. If we have only one option, we have no choice. Thus for us to be able to 'choose the good', there must be at least one other thing we can choose: evil, which is to sin. Thus, sin is a choice: a bad choice. I agree that we were all born (the first time) in sin and this was a result of Adam's bad choice. – George Tomlinson Sep 23 '13 at 8:08
However, until a child reaches the age when it knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, it can't possibly have sinned. Romans 5.13 says '(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.' A child which can't understand words yet cannot know any law. As such, no sin will be imputed. Furthermore, my reading of he Bible is that sin always involves someone disobeying a command of God. Whilst one person's disobedience can bring the wrath of God on others, the sin that incurs this wrath is always disobedience to a command of God by some person. – George Tomlinson Sep 23 '13 at 8:23

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