"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21
 by Shmuel Silberman

 When we claim that Jesus did not live a sinless life, this is not to single out Jesus for special condemnation. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says,

“There is no righteous man on earth who does good and sins not.”

Having a flaw is no disqualification for being a rabbi or prophet. This essay is rather to challenge the Christian doctrine of a “sinless Jesus” because of its significance for Christian theology.In the New Testament Paul maintains it is not possible to keep the Law, and that flawless fulfillment of the Law is necessary to please G-d. For this reason Jesus as man-god had to fulfill the Law for everyone and die a sacrificial death to atone for a sinful humanity. This theology rests in part on the belief that Jesus was sinless.

When one examines the Gospels and compares the stories with the commandments of the Torah (Hebrew Bible) this doctrine of a “sinless Jesus” is not supported. Instead we find that Jesus in fact violated a number of Biblical commandments:

1. Procreation
“Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). This obligates a person to marry and have children. Jesus remained single his entire life. He also encouraged others to disobey this commandment by recommending celibacy (Matthew 19:12)

2. Sabbath Observance
“The seventh day is a Sabbath to the L-rd your G-d. Do not do any work” (Exodus 20:9). Jesus defended his “hungry” disciples when they plucked grain on the Sabbath. This is agricultural labor and is unquestionably a violation of the Sabbath.

Christian apologists insist that Jesus was revealing the true meaning of the Sabbath when he said, “The Sabbath is not made for man; man is made for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).” This is untenable. Deuteronomy 17:8-13 says that we are to follow the Jewish High Court in disputes of Jewish law and this requirement is recognized by Jesus himself (Matthew 23:2). With whom is he arguing in Mark? It is the same Jewish legal authorities who are Biblicaly authorized to interpret the Law!

If Jesus meant that they were starving and their lives were threatened, the Gospel account must be fictional.1 Talmudic (Pharisee) law agrees this would be a reason to violate the Sabbath (Talmud Yoma ch.8). The Rabbis would not have quarreled with Jesus if this were the case. If there was no danger to life, then plucking grain violates the Sabbath and the apostles were probably guilty of theft for eating from a field not theirs.

3. Not Honoring a Torah Sage
“Honor the face of an elder [zaken] ” (Leviticus 19:32). Zaken does not simply mean an old person; for that is the subject of the first half of the verse (“You shall rise before an old person [seiva]”). This is a commandment to respect Torah scholars. Judges and religious leaders are typically called zaken in the Bible (Exodus 24:14, Leviticus 4:15, Numbers 11:25, Deuteronomy 22:16, 25:7). If Jesus did not violate this by calling them “vipers,” no one ever did (Matthew 23:13-33).

4. Hand Washing-Failure to Obey the High Court
(Deuteronomy 17:8-13): The obligation to follow the High Court includes rabbinic law. Jesus defended the failure of the apostles to follow a rabbinic requirement ? to wash their hands before eating. Jesus rejects rabbinic law as the “traditions of men (Mark 7:8).” He also defied the Rabbis regarding the Sabbath (see #2) (Sophiee’s note:  the Rabbinical decree on hand washing post-dates Jesus’ supposed life time ergo the hand washing argument in the Christian bible is fictional).

5. Insulting a Human Being
Jesus insulted a gentile woman by calling her a dog (Matthew 15:22-27). This is hardly befitting righteous and holy people. Whatever his pedagogical purpose, such a designation is inappropriate.

6. False Prophecy
Deuteronomy 18:20 prohibits false prophecy. The same passage defines false prophecy: “the word does not materialize or come to pass.” As the New Testament asserts that Jesus is a prophet (Acts 3:22) one must regard as false prophecy the following statement: “.this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” (Matthew 24:34).

This statement follows a description of signs of the End of Days. “This generation” of course died about 2,000 years ago and the prediction was never actualized. Here is how a prominent Christian commentary (NIV Study Bible p.1613) defends Jesus’ “prophecy:”

a. Jesus may be referring to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.

b. Jesus may be referring to a future generation alive at the beginning of “these things.”

This is hardly convincing. Jesus explicitly describes his Second Coming: “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky and all the nations of the earth will mourn (24:30).” It will involve suffering “never to be equaled again (24:21).” This did not happen when the Temple was destroyed.

The idea that Jesus is referring to a future generation fails too. Throughout this speech Jesus refers to his audience as “you.” When Jesus says, “when you see.. (v.15)” the NIV itself explains this as referring to events that happened long ago. Jesus tells his audience they will live to see “all these things” and “all” includes past events and the Second Coming. Obviously Jesus falsely predicted he would return in his audience’s lifetime.

7. Not Honoring Parents
“Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12). Jesus ignored his mother when she came to visit. “Someone told him, ‘your mother and brother are standing outside, wanting to speak to you’ He replied to him, ‘who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers” (Matthew 12:47-49).

Jesus caused his parents a whole day of worrying. His parents returned from Jerusalem, assuming Jesus was with them. In fact, Jesus stayed in Jerusalem without informing his parents. They returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

“His mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you?’ (Luke 2:48).”

8. Kosher Food (Leviticus 11)
Jesus permitted eating food that is not kosher. Although the beginning of Mark 7 addresses the issue of eating with unwashed hands, the end of that chapter goes much further. “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles but rather what comes out of the mouth that defiles” (Mark 7:15) As if we may have missed the point, 7:19 reads,

“In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean” [KJV reads ‘purged all meats’].”

Biblical law teaches that what goes into the mouth indeed defiles (Lev.11:39). Ironically, Christianity maintains that the Original Sin was eating.9. Failing to Rebuke
“You shall surely rebuke your fellow” (Leviticus 19:18). This requires correcting, not excusing, the infractions of others. We have mentioned that Jesus defended Sabbath violation (see #2) and the failure to wash hands before meals (#4), and permitted non-kosher food (#7). Ironically, Jesus said one who teaches others to break a single commandment “will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:19)

10. Not to Add or Subtract From the Law (Deuteronomy 13:1, 4:2)
Jesus changed Biblical law with regard to divorce. The Bible permits divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1). Jesus does not dispute this point, however, he maintains this law is no longer valid. Thus he subtracted from the Law. “Why then, they asked, did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away? Jesus replied, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning [when G-d made them male and female (Genesis 1:27) and one flesh (2:24)]. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery (Matthew 19:7-9).”

Since Biblical law permits divorce and does not consider remarriage a form of adultery, Jesus is changing Biblical law. Jesus’ reference to Genesis is of no avail, for Moses knew Genesis and still proclaimed divorce permissible. Also, Moses said that the Law cannot be changed. Jesus changed the laws of kosher food too (see #7).

11. Opposing a Biblical Commandment (Vows)
Jesus accuses the Pharisees of undermining the commandment to honor parents with the following statement: “But you say that if a man says to his father or mother ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Korban (that is, a gift devoted to G-d)’ then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother” (Mark 7:11-12). What Jesus is opposing is not rabbinic, but Biblical law! 2. The Bible grants human beings the power to bind themselves through vows and oaths. A pledge to the Temple is a valid pledge, however foolish or insensitive. This can be compared to a person who sold his entire property for $1 and has no more money to support his ailing parents. This is a foolish sale, to be sure, but a valid sale that cannot be revoked from the lucky buyer.

12. Truth-telling
“Keep far from a false matter” (Exodus 23:7). This verse obligates us to tell the truth. Jesus made a false accusation when he said the Pharisees bear the blood guilt of Cain’s murder of Abel-in fact the guilt of all righteous blood shed on earth (Matthew 23:35). That is libel.

 

Footnotes:
1.  Hyam Maccoby, The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity, p.40
2.  Gerald Sigal, The Jew and the Christian Missionary: A Jewish Response to Missionary Christianity, p.256

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