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In Hebrews 5:8 it says that the Son "learned obedience" through what he suffered. Does this imply that he was disobedient at some point, or is there another way to understand it?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Hebrews 5:8 does not imply that Jesus was disobedient. Philippians 2:8 (ESV) reads,

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Both of these verses teach us that it was God the Son who had no need of obedience before becoming a man. Once he did become a man there were things that for lack of a better way for our minds to understand it, he "learned" or was "becoming". He was always the perfect obedient Son, but in fulfilling all prophecies, including suffering on the cross, Hebrews 5:9 continues to say that he was "made perfect". Which in keeping with the thoughts of this question does not mean that there was a time when he was "imperfect".

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You might add references to his temptation. If they were illusions, he didn't have to overcome them, but if his prayer at Gethsemane was real, then he really did have to make a choice to be obedient to the Father rather than to his human desire not to sin. – Bob Jones Oct 22 '11 at 16:06
oops.. not to die. Senior moment... – Bob Jones Oct 22 '11 at 18:18
Ok. This is a doctrinal question. Shouldn't it be, by what hermeneutic do we determine from Heb 5:8 if Jesus was disobedient or not, since it seems to imply that there was something lacking that he must learn. – Bob Jones Oct 22 '11 at 18:55

The steps for determining a solution are these:

  1. Assume that Scripture does not contradict scripture.
  2. Now consider what alternate solutions to the problem exist within scripture

The Scriptures do not Self-Contradict

Disobedience of parents would be sin.

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. —Exodus 20:12

Disobedience of legitimate authority would be sin:

And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him. —Mark 12:17

Since Jesus is without sin, he was never disobedient.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin. —Hebrews 4:15

This shows that what was lacking, which he needed to learn was not disobedience.

Alternative Solutions from Within Scripture

He lacked experience being obedient when his will was different than that of the Father since normally they were in complete agreement:

I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. —John 5:30

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. —Luke 22:42

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The only human participation in determining this solution is in correlating scripture. The hermeneutic method is the only presupposed 'doctrine'. A proper discussion of the doctrine would identify the hermeneutic step to arrive at a propositional statement. – Bob Jones Oct 22 '11 at 19:16
If a doctrine must be presupposed to arrive at a conclusion, then it should be identified at the start: Presuming a dispensational view as advocated by ... these principles are used to get here. – Bob Jones Oct 22 '11 at 19:19

I seek only to supplement the answers already proposed with a comparison of my own:

If I marry, I hope to learn to be a good husband. This does not mean that I am a bad husband now - I'm simply not a husband. But in order to learn to be a good husband, I must marry and understand what the role of a husband truly entails. Similarly, if I have kids, I hope to learn to be a good father without going through a period of being a bad father first.

The same way, Jesus learned obedience. He was not disobedient before - he simply learned how to behave in a godly way in an aspect of human life which was previously (experientially) unknown to him. He had not previously known obedience despite human suffering, so it had to be learned.

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The Logos who was God became flesh, that is, he became visible in flesh (John 1:1,14; 1 Timothy 3:16). Jesus experienced obedience in actuality because as God he neither experienced obeying as man nor experienced suffering, for he only knew these things, but to do them in actuality is indeed a learning, i.e. experience.

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It only means that Jesus gained experiential knowledge about obeying the Father on earth not that he is disobedient.

Before his incarnation, the Son of God doesn't have an experience to obey God in the flesh with suffering for the obvious reason that he wasn't yet incarnated but once incarnated he now can learn obedience through suffering as Hebrews 5:8 says.

Regarding, Hebrews 5:9 the Greek word "teletiothes" is better translated as "made complete" because the Son wasn't born the Savior. He need to do things that would qualify him as such and we know that he cannot fail to be the Savior for he is the Last Adam... no second or third.

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