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I think most, if not all of us, agree that Jesus did not sin. However, the devil tempted Jesus, at least in the wilderness, prior to Jesus' public ministry (Matthew 4:1-11). Does this mean it would have been possible for Jesus to sin? Or was the devil just too stupid to realize his efforts were futile?

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This is highly speculative. I don't see why this would be a better question than Could Jesus have died of old age? which was deleted. –  dancek Sep 9 '11 at 7:29
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It is highly speculative, but I also think it's actually a critical question. If Jesus did not even have the ability to sin, then him remaining sinless would not have been very important--he would purely be like a lamb lead to the slaughter. However, since he chose to lay down his life, it shows the perfection that we, as humans, may strive for. –  Richard Sep 9 '11 at 12:41
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@Richard: you mean like Isaiah 53:7? –  dancek Sep 12 '11 at 2:56
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@dancek No, that was a bad example. If he did not have the ability to sin, him living life without having sinned would not have been as significant. It would be like saying that God cannot ever break the law that 1 = 1--it's true, but it's insignificant. However, if Jesus had the ability to sin, then him leading a sinless life can be held up as an example of how we all should live (and have the ability to live). Therefore, this question is critical to our understanding of whether or not we can use Jesus as the example of a perfect human; or if he was simply God on Earth. –  Richard Sep 12 '11 at 12:02
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9 Answers

up vote 22 down vote accepted

Yes

John 10:18 (NIV)

No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.

Jesus, in this verse, says that he has the ability to choose whether he laid down his life or not.

Because of this, he had the free will to choose to follow God's wishes or not. Therefore, yes, he had the ability to sin.


Wow, I thought this was a pretty obvious answer. Some more concepts to back up this idea:

  1. Perfection does not preclude sin

    Adam and Eve were perfect and sinless in the Garden of Eden. However, they, who knew no sin, were tempted and succumbed to sin. Clearly, perfection and not having previously knowing sin is not a preclusion to actually sinning.

  2. Divinity does not preclude sin

    Others claim that because of his divinity--more specifically, his part of the trinity--that he was incapable of sin. However, John 10:18 (shown above), clearly shows that Jesus himself (not the other members of the trinity) had the authority to choose to sin and go against his Father. Also, his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane shows that his will and his father's will were separate. Since their wills were separate and since he had the ability to choose to sin, it would have been possible for Jesus to have put his will first and chose to go against his father's will.

Therefore, Jesus had true and complete free will and the ability to sin.

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I agree, it had to be a possibility or he would not have experienced temptation the way that we do and therefore would not be the perfect High Priest. –  Andrew Sep 9 '11 at 1:29
    
He doesn't actually seem to say "I have authority not to lay it down," although maybe that's implied? Could he not be referring only to what God told him to do? I.e. I might say "I have authority [from God] never to lie." But I could not say "I have authority to lie." –  Flimzy Sep 9 '11 at 1:52
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This is starting to sound like a "Could God nuke a burrito so hot he couldn't touch it?" conversation. :) –  Andrew Sep 9 '11 at 2:00
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However, Jesus was also God, so how would He be able to choose to disobey God if he was God? That'd be like going against your own will, which is a logical impossibility. Jesus was also fully human, but that means he experienced temptation and suffering like us. But His will was God's will as they were one in the same. (And I will make this an answer, too, but elaborated.) –  Ben Richards Sep 9 '11 at 3:35
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In Gethsemane, Jesus once fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt 26:39)‌​. This shows that Jesus was really tempted, and had a strong wish for an alternative to the destiny he knew he was facing, but he pointed out that no matter, he would follow Gods will. So although strong personal wish, he chose to follow Gods will. –  awe Sep 9 '11 at 6:34
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Yes and No

Yes in the sense that Jesus was tempted and had a free choice in the matter, but no in that it was against his nature.

Heb 4:14 (NIV)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

This is a paradox, but our own experience shadows that of the Master. We have each of us been tempted, but at one time or another have resisted temptation. The temptation is real in that we could have said or done something to hurt another, but ineffective in that something within us held us back from doing so. Under those circumstances, could we have committed sin? The answer is the same for Jesus (but obviously far more so).

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No

Luke 1:35 (KJV)

And the angel answered and said unto her [Mary], The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing [emphasis mine] which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

Since Christ was God, he was perfectly holy, and therefore impeccable (unable to sin). [Re-Edit: I used "impeccable" purposely; the doctrine we are discussing is that of impeccability.]

John 14:30 (KJV)

Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.

Jesus said that Satan could find nothing in himself, by which he meant Satan could find no hold at all, for Christ has no sin nature and was wholly opposed to sin.

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How is it then, that Jesus was tempted? Does the verse just mean Satan proposed an offer, and not that Jesus was actually tempted by it? –  Flimzy Sep 9 '11 at 1:45
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He was tempted by Satan in the sense that Satan tested Him. He was not tempted in the same way that one could say, "I'm tempted to spend all my money on doughnuts." –  Brian Koser Sep 9 '11 at 1:51
    
Thanks for the clarification. –  Flimzy Sep 9 '11 at 1:52
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Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden were perfect until they sinned. Satan was no part of them until that time. Yet, they were still able to sin. –  Richard Sep 9 '11 at 10:40
    
@Richard True. It isn't a proof in and of itself. What do you think about my first point? –  Brian Koser Sep 9 '11 at 22:26
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Not if you believe in Orthodox Christianity.

He was God incarnate and had a perfect moral character.

He was because of his human side tempted and this attests to his humanity (Something that most Christian should affirm), but he overcame that temptation.

Christianity as one of it's core doctrine holds that the one who was perfect and sinless would take on the whole burden of humanities sin.

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This doesn't really seem to address the question of whether He could have sinned... it seems to more affirm that because He did not sin, He was able to taken on our burden for sin. Did I just misunderstand? –  Flimzy Sep 18 '11 at 6:47
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No

Jesus was like us in all things but sin.

He was free from original sin, and free to follow His Divine Intellect in a way that we are not. No one in that state would choose to sin. I'm not saying it's impossible, as Jesus, Mary, Adam and Eve had freewill. I'm just saying that it was not possible. (that may seem like a contradiction, but that's par for the course with Jesus)

What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe "because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived".

CCC 156

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As Richard said, Jesus had the ability to sin. But due to his divine nature, it is something he wouldn't even consider. So yes, he could have sinned, yet at the same time, his purity and diviness removes it as an option. –  Randomman159 Sep 9 '11 at 1:01
    
Also Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden were perfect until they sinned. Satan was no part of them until that time. Yet, they were still able to sin. –  Richard Sep 9 '11 at 10:43
    
Like I said, I didn't say it was impossible. I just said it was not possible. –  Peter Turner Sep 9 '11 at 13:07
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Actually, at this point, I'm not trying to argue a theological difference, but a word choice. "I'm not saying it's impossible... I'm just saying it's not possible." Contradictions are one thing, but I read that as "I'm not saying it's impossible, it's just impossible." That makes no sense to me (and I speak English natively). (I actually would +1 this based on the theology if the wording was clearer.) –  Richard Sep 9 '11 at 14:11
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Jesus told the parable about the son who said he would not do the will of the Father and then he did it. The parable was about himself. He did not want to be made to be sin, nor to die, but he "learned obedience" through the tings he suffered. –  Bob Jones Oct 27 '11 at 0:40
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No.

Jesus was also God (remember, him being one of the three persons in the Trinity), so how would He be able to choose to disobey God if He was God? That'd be like going against your own will, which is a logical impossibility. Jesus was also fully human, but that means he experienced temptation and suffering like us. But His will was God's will as they were one in the same.

Luke 22:39-46 indicates a difference in will between God the Father and God the Son, however, ultimately whatever will is followed is the will of God.

Ultimately, the simple answer is "No, because of the Trinity."

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Following this logic, then why would he plead with his father in heaven if he didn't have the ability to choose to go against himself? Meaning, if he couldn't go against himself, then why beg for the other part of the Trinity to go a certain direction. If the Trinity made up its mind as a unit, there would be no pleading. As it is, Jesus had the ability to sin. Just as God turned away from Jesus on the cross. –  Richard Sep 9 '11 at 10:42
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Following that argument, how could Jesus pray to himself? Or how could he beg himself to change his own mind? Just because Jesus was part of God does not mean that he could not have gone against God. That's why the trinity is so confusing. –  Richard Sep 9 '11 at 13:37
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@richard Because even though He is God as much as the Father is God, He is not the Father. They still have a relationship, and so they communicate in this way. Yes, it is confusing, but it is fundamental to the doctrine of sin and the Trinity that Jesus cannot sin. I will post links later when I'm not on my phone. :P –  Ben Richards Sep 9 '11 at 13:58
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Honestly, I can see your point and my point. Plus, I could see very solid biblical arguments either way. This may be something that boils down to church doctrine and the fact that we cannot know everything in this lifetime. –  Richard Sep 9 '11 at 14:03
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@Richard Most certainly. The Trinity is one of the great (perhaps the greatest) mysteries of the Faith. And so it is only natural that it would be a hotly debated issue. Also, here's the CCC's treatment of sin and the Trinity (as I promised links). –  Ben Richards Sep 9 '11 at 14:38
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Could Jesus have sinned? Either he could have sinned or he could not.

If He could have sinned, what are the implications? God's nature is holy, but if He could sin, then He would either be acting outside of His nature, or His nature must not be holy. Yet, how could He act contrary to His nature? If Jesus could have sinned after His incarnation, then why would it not be possible for Him to have sinned prior to His incarnation or afterwards? If Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then it would seem that any culpability He had while on the earth would not be new or unique to that time. If God can be unholy, then it seems that He cannot be God, so the implications here seem implausible.

The other alternative is that Jesus could not have sinned. This begs the question, then, of what meaning His temptations had. He experienced the frailty of the flesh and the weakness to temptation. We can at least relieve temptation by giving in to it when we weary from the fight (though this is certainly sinful to do). He, however, did not have that as an outlet. He had to continue resisting. So, He did perhaps experience all of the power of draw of temptation, yet never gave in to it--nor could He.

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Holy means separate. He was separated from the Father on the cross when he was "forsaken". The whole point was tat a Holy God was made unholy, so that unholy us could be made holy. He was "made to be sin". –  Bob Jones Oct 27 '11 at 0:37
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This is one of those questions where our understanding is not sufficient to truly get to grips with.

The bible, as has already been stated, says that Jesus was able to sin. And Christians thus respect those words as being the inspired, infallible word of God, and thus appropriately ascertain that Jesus was able to sin.

However, at the same time we know that Jesus was perfect and holy in every way. He was, and is, God and how can God sin? or even be able to sin?

But if we say that Jesus was not able to sin, we contradict the bible.

I think the problems stems from an ability to understand what sinless perfection actually means or looks like, since we don't experience it and no human does (except Jesus) so we can't really study it.

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References please? Where does the Bible say Jesus could have sinned? –  Flimzy Sep 12 '11 at 16:21
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Of course it was possible for Jesus to sin, and in fact he did on multiple occasions. This is why Jesus was not the Christ, but only an imperfect approximate manifestation of it.

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-1 "[Jesus sinned] on multiple occasions." If you are going to make controversial assertions about what Christians believe which are in disagreement with what Christianity as a whole has testified to for nearly two millennia, without so much as a token link to some fringe group that holds to your position, you might as well not post. This answer does not show its work which I'm sure you know by now is a requirement on this site. –  Cohen_the_Librarian Apr 6 at 3:56
    
All you have to do is read the Gospels--they provide plenty of evidence of Jesus sinning, for example when he made prayers. The answer is its own work; it is its own reference for the beliefs held by the form of Christianity which I espouse. –  Steely Dan Apr 6 at 4:09
    
@SteelyDan: Praying is sin? Everything Cohen_the_Librarian said applies to that statement as well. –  Flimzy Apr 6 at 7:55
    
What @Cohen_the_Librarian said ... you know better than this. Technically this question isn't scoped to anything but identifying who you are representing and having at least one source outside of yourself is a requirement you have been apprised of many times. –  Caleb Apr 6 at 8:45
    
Yes, and I've demonstrated many times why that requirement is nonsense and destructive and therefore non-obligatory. –  Steely Dan Apr 6 at 16:33
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