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The Bible clearly explains:

James 1:13: "God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone" (emphasis added).

God cannot be tempted. Yet the text just as clearly proclaims that Jesus was tempted in all ways as we are:

Hebrews 4:15: "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (emphasis added).

What do we do with such seemingly contradictory statements? If Jesus is God, and God cannot be tempted, then Jesus cannot be tempted. Jesus is God, yet He was tempted, so where does that leave us?

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  • 1
    Are these using the same word in the original Greek?
    – nick012000
    Aug 23 at 14:35
  • sounds like a nitpick. the 'be tempted' in james 1:13 probably means 'succumb' ?
    – BCLC
    Aug 24 at 15:31
  • 3
    @OldeEnglish - Comments are here to provide constructive feedback on Questions and Answers, or to seek specific clarification. For anything else, please either Vote or Write an Answer. I have deleted your comment because it does not cover either of these purposes, and worse still violates the Code of Conduct since it is patently unkind, similar to all the other deleted content on this thread. If you wish a more thorough review or conversation, please do raise it on Meta.
    – Steve Taylor
    Aug 26 at 5:30
  • 3
    This is an unusually popular question with >5k views in a short period of time. We need all of our experienced contributors' earnest help in modelling positive and generous attitudes towards others here. Post high quality content in the right places, follow the CoC, and then nobody will have to worry about content deletion.
    – Steve Taylor
    Aug 26 at 5:35
  • @SteveTaylor-I understand what you are saying. An actual answer from myself would have been the way to go, rather than give a mini-answer in the comments section. I have given close to 50 A's on this site, some of which I spent an inordinate amount of time on and was truly proud of. The most votes that I have ever received to any particular A. has amounted to 4. I have to believe that this is because of my non-trinitarian stance on a mostly trinitarian biased site. Often times I wonder why I even bother. I could give an exceptional A. here, IMO, but incentive to do so is sadly lacking.... Aug 26 at 11:14

11 Answers 11

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Human nature can be tempted.

Divine nature cannot be tempted.

These two passages indicate the duality of nature possessed (uniquely) by Jesus of Nazareth.

These two natures cannot 'merge' or 'mingle'. They are two different things.

They unite only in the Person of Jesus Christ.


Notes :

  1. Passages in the Hebrew scripture use the word nasah of God and some of these are translated 'tempt God' or similar words. The word usually is rendered 'prove'. This is the activity of persons towards God, attempting to 'prove' him. That is the action of an adversary. But God is not affected by such behaviour. That is the point that James is making : God cannot be so tempted.

  2. Jesus, in humanity, was driven by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted of Satan (Mark 1:12) also called Diabolos in Matthew's account (4:1). We are given insights into those temptations and clearly there is valid temptation towards Jesus in the realm of physical humanity (food) social humanity (pinnacle) and religious humanity (mountain). Jesus does not succumb to these temptations.

  3. The actual details of the so-called hypostatic union of the dual nature possessed by Jesus Christ is an extensive subject covered on this site by multiple questions and answers. Opinion is divided on this subject and will never be resolved by one single Q&A or by one single document, however extensive that document may be.

  4. It is clear from this particular question, and others like it, that if one accepts the duality of Jesus' Person, then the Divine nature and human nature of Jesus of Nazareth are separate things that need to be considered separately. Attempts at 'harmonising' the matter and attempts to understand Jesus' motives or thoughts or feelings usually end in failure as they descend into attempts at rationalising between the two.

  5. That is why I stress that the human nature of Jesus of Nazareth and the Divine Person of the Son of God meet - only - in the Person. They should not be considered as two natures that somehow connect to one another, or merge with one another or mingle in some way.

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    Stop arguing in the comments. If you don't like the hypostatic union, write your own answer.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 23 at 14:32
4

An Analogy

If a head surgeon who owns a hospital, voluntarily and for a limited time steps down from his position informally, puts on a disguise, takes on a position as a resident student in his own hospital, does he stop possessing the deed to the hospital? Can he in the capacity of a resident start telling the doctors what to do? What if his secretary recognizes him and he gives her instructions, can she simply ignore him?

What does this have anything to do with the question? If you suppress your attributes you don’t lose them but you can’t use them either. The head surgeon will remain head surgeon even if he temporarily disguised himself and decides to be a resident in his own hospital. At any moment he could exercise his authority but he would also have to blow his cover and forfeit the purpose of the exercise.

The Creator takes on a body

Jesus cannot stop being who He is in essence

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭22:13‬ ‭

Which is a phrase about God from the OT

““Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last. My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭48:12-13‬ ‭

However Jesus voluntarily nullified or annulled His divine attributes. He essentially turned them off, so that He could experience humanity without any supernatural ability and without any divine ability either

“but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:7‬ ‭

He took on a body

“Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:5‬ ‭

Limitations Ensue

As such He could not rely on His omniscience for example because He voluntarily suppressed it. But that doesn’t disqualify Him as God.

If Jesus suppressed His omniscience then He cannot utilize it. If He had left it unsuppressed then of course He could not be tempted. But since it was suppressed whilst in the body, He had limitations and therefore could be tempted.

Revealed truth

Jesus did not step out from the path established for Him to walk in from the OT. He didn’t go off on His own and try to point people to Himself. He always pointed to the Father. He didn’t deny His divine origin when asked but at the same time whilst a human never grasp at equality with God though He was in the form of God

“who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:6‬ ‭

In conclusion

I think this question has over simplified critical details and brushed everything with a very broad brush.

James speaks chronologically after the incarnation of Jesus. His statement was not intended to be back-tested the way this question has so done. When James makes His statement it was perfectly true.

Even when Jesus was 100% a man He remained 100% God though He suppressed His divine attributes voluntarily for a greater purpose, not to tempt anyone but to offer salvation to His dear creation.

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  • 1
    "Suppressed" is not a good word, for where is suppression when He tells humans what they have in their hearts? Or when He resurrects the dead? If He "nullified" or "annulled" His divine attributes, how on earth could He expel demons and order the sea to calm down? He did indeed hid sometimes those attributes but had He annulled them, the world would have ceased to exist, for He is Logos who both has created and does sustain the universe into being continuously along with the Father and the Spirit. Aug 24 at 5:09
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. Aug 24 at 20:55
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Jesus was tempted, but God cannot be tempted. How, then, do we reconcile James 1:13 and Heb. 4:15?

What do we do with such seemingly contradictory statements? If Jesus is God, and God cannot be tempted, then Jesus cannot be tempted. Jesus is God, yet He was tempted, so where does that leave us?

That Jesus was a human, had a fleshy body being born of the Jewish virgin Mary:

WHEN Jesus was on earth was he really fully a human creature? Was he altogether a man? or was he an incarnation, part man and part spirit, divinity clothed upon with a fleshly body and appearing to be human, but yet partly spiritual, divine?

The Scriptures abound with evidence that Jesus was God’s high priest and underwent temptations such as humans are susceptible to. (Matthew. 4:1-11; Hebrews. 2:17, 18) Does it not seem unreasonable that Christ Jesus would practice deception or would appear to be something that he really was not? Would it not be deception for the Son of God in the flesh to claim to be suffering all the temptations and undergoing all the hardships to prove himself to be a worthy high priest for mankind and really not be a man, but be above the possibilities of human temptation and sin?

Jesus was on earth to prove his blameless integrity, to be the perfect answer to Satan’s challenge that Jehovah God could not put men on the earth who would be faithful to him under the Devil’s assaults. If he was not a man, would he not have failed to answer Satan’s challenge? Jesus, God’s only-begotten Son, the Word, became flesh. The apostle John says: “So the Word became flesh.” (John 1:14, NW) Yes, he was no incarnation or materialization of a spirit person to a fleshly body parading as a man during his 33 1⁄2-year residence on earth in the flesh. He was a perfect man, having a perfect human body of flesh and blood, a perfect human organism.

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The Lord was tempted by the Satan who thought Him to be only a man. Indeed, He was and is man, fully, 100% so, but at the same time He is God, so Lord Jesus Christ's best appellation is "God-man". Since He has only one divine Personality of Logos who got incarnated in human nature, or who adopted human nature, then it is impossible for Him to fall into any sin and thus ontologically impossible for Satan to succeed in his trial to seduce Him to a sin.

The same is true with His tempter humans, who, unfortunately, more often than not are even more stupid and vile than demons, with an only salutary difference that in difference from those hapless fallen angels, they can still repent: humans tempted the Lord, trying to stone Him by asking provocative, trap-questions (like: "should we give tribute to Caesar?" or "what should we do with this prostitute?" etc.), and in each such occasion the Lord flew over the trap as a dove. The pharisees thought that they tempted the Lord, but He was not tempted by this, being the Lord and the only knower of human hearts along with the Father and the Holy Ghost. If you want to sally the sun-rays and throw mud at them, will the sun rays be sallied? How much less could the Lord be tempted by idiots, either demons or humans?!

Just think: does not temptation entail a possibility and an inclination to sinning? I guess it does. Now, did the Lord Jesus Christ have an inclination to sinning, I speak about the eternal Logos who took on Him the entirety of human nature without sin? Now, the expression "without sin" means also without inclination to sinning, does not it? Yes it does. Therefore, He could not be tempted in the sense of any possibility for sinning. When He was offered by Satan worldly pleasures and powers, or when Jews offered Him political kingship, He, unlike men, did not have to overcome any sinful inclination so as to avoid damaging soul for the sake of holding power, or having millions of dollars, or having free sex with any girl or woman with impunity, as anyone among us would have had. Even in usual men, if a man has an allergy on alcohol so as to be unable even to stand its remote smell, can anybody tempt and seduce such a man by an attraction of an alcoholic beverage, wine or vodka? Impossible, for such a man will be immune from such a temptation. How much more, no, how incomparably and transcendentally more the Lord was immune from any sinful inclination to be tempted!

Thus, He was tempted in a futile way, but still He used this futility for educational purpose teaching humans to a) care primarily for Eternal Bread of the divine word and not only for a physically nutritive transient bread; b) not to tempt God, but act according to reason and conscience in Holy Spirit and c) not to covet for earthly power and pleasures at detriment of soul, for there is nothing in this world that can be even worthy of the health of soul, which is when it is an undefiled temple of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord Jesus was stupidly tempted, or better to say, thought to be tempted by Satan, but could not be seduced, being God; on the contrary, we can be tempted and seduced, but in Him and through Him even we, simple men, can withstand and overcome temptation, for as Psalms say: “those who put hope in Him, will not sin” (Psalm 34:22).

So, to answer this question: the Lord was tempted on the part of the tempters - Satan, demons and vile men - yet Himself was not tempted in the sense of having any tiny dot of propensity to sinning, for He had none, because while having adopted human nature, He adopted it fully save its infectedness with sin, which means that He had neither sin nor any sinful inclination. Human nature, as being created, can be tempted and seduced, but not the Lord's human nature, for it belongs to the Person of the eternal Logos, God-the Son, and this Person not only does not but cannot either sin or be infected by a desire to sin. Thus, all His tempters and seducers were thinking they had really put before Him a real opportunity to sinning, and in this they were utterly, outlandishly stupid.

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  • 2
    To avoid leaving an anonymous-1, this answer treats the scriptures and our Lord with contempt. For Jesus to learn obedience via suffering, and to be able to be tempted is key to him overcoming. Heb 5:7 says he could have sinned, praying to his Father and God to save him from death ALL his days of flesh.
    – steveowen
    Aug 23 at 13:19
  • 1
    @user48152 Good that you have written a ground for your "-"! Again, as I have told to you, I have 0 care for "-" and "+"-es but infinite care for truth, which does not belong to me or to you and has its own unbeatable logic, which will necessarily infect you and everybody more 'viciously' than any virus can. Just think (to breathe to you this good and benevolent virus), who is Logos? Is not He eternal God, eternally with the Father (John 1:1). Did not He got incarnate and become man without ceasing to be God? Yes. Now, can God sin? Will not He then cease to be God? Can God cease to be Himself? Aug 23 at 17:12
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A careful examination of the Biblical passages will show that, as a man, Jesus was not God. Consider Numbers 23:19.

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? (Numbers 23:19, KJV)

Inasmuch as Jesus is "the son of man," he cannot, therefore, be God.

But how do we know that this applies to Jesus, seeing as his incarnation was yet future?

Consider Malachi 3:6.

For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6, KJV)

God does not change. His nature does not, and cannot change. Therefore, the coming of Christ in the likeness of humanity did not change God.

It was in his humanity that Christ was tempted, and in his humanity that he died. Again, God cannot die, for He is immortal (see 1 Timothy 6:16). But Jesus was both God and Man. Man was tempted, not God. But God was in Christ.

To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19, KJV)

Note there there is a big difference between saying "God was Christ" and saying "God was in Christ." The Bible never says that God was Jesus or that Jesus was God. If it did, it certainly would have contradicted itself, as the question points out.

Conclusion

God was IN Christ, but the man Christ Jesus was not God.

This conclusion is supported by Hebrews 10:5, which, speaking of Christ, says:

Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: (Hebrews 10:5, KJV)

That "body," which was a human being, was not God, for "God is (a) spirit" (John 4:24).

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  • This answer is clearly presenting a non-Trinitarian perspective, so arguing for the Trinity in comments here is just as inappropriate here as arguing against it in comments on Nigel's answer.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 23 at 14:35
  • Can this be summarized as "The passages can be reconciled because Jesus is not God"? Aug 24 at 23:37
  • @OneGodtheFather Not really. Jesus' humanity is not God. The person people saw was not God (God is invisible). But Jesus' divinity was "all the fullness of the Godhead," i.e. verily God. As a human being, Jesus faced the trials of our experience, including being tempted on all points like as we are, laying aside his divinity and making himself subject to the Father in all things. But it was the Father, the One who is God, who was the divinity in Christ.
    – Polyhat
    Aug 25 at 0:29
1

This article from the Active Christianity website might shed some light on it.

This might help because the church that backs that website has one major doctrinal difference with many other churches, and that is that they reject (in the words of another answer here) the duality of nature possessed (uniquely) by Jesus of Nazareth (or as another answer said only in the person of Jesus). They instead state that Jesus upon being born was 100% human and that by obedience to faith in temptation he had attained full divine nature by the time he died on Golgotha. The main difference between Jesus and us, they state, is that Jesus was empowered by, and obedient to, the Holy Spirit from birth, whereas Christians as his followers only receive the Holy Spirit later in life after they convert after having already sinned.

The consequence they state is that just as Jesus attained divine nature, his followers too can attain it, after conversion and forgiveness, through lifelong obedience to the Holy Spirit every time they are tempted (Mat 5:48, 2 Peter 1:3-4).

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  • Welcome to Bible Hermeneutics SE and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Aug 23 at 14:23
  • 4
    @Terion This is a Nestorian church then. Nestorius, however, was a heretic in a deep and pernicious error, which was rejected at the Ecumenical Church Council in Ephesus 431. Aug 23 at 19:20
  • 2
    My previous comment encouraging Terion was deleted. But seeing as support for the councils is approved in the comment above, why is rejection of said councils not permissible? This is one of two answers that uses the bible for some hermeneutic support, the other, mostly philosophical, answers do not.
    – steveowen
    Aug 24 at 0:43
  • @user48152 FYI: all discussions and decisions of Ecumenical Councils that defined correct views on matters of Theology and Christology were fully based on meticulous observation of the Scripture, with concentration even on minute philological details of the texts. Read, for example, the arguments of St Cyril of Alexandria against Nestorius, aren't they fully based on the Scripture? The Church Fathers esteemed philology, grammar and syntax, no less than any modern Biblical scholar. Aug 24 at 4:08
  • 2
    @user48152 - I have seen several accusations by others suggesting that there is doctrinal bias going on in the deletion of comments. However, the content being deleted pretty much all violates the SE Code of Conduct. In your "encouraging" comment you accused other answers of "philosophical waffle and made-up stuff" which is unkind and sets a poor example to other users. It's okay to have a theological bias - if everybody could just be nice about it and use comments for their intended purpose, they wouldn't have to worry about content deletion.
    – Steve Taylor
    Aug 26 at 5:20
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Jesus never claimed to be on the same level as Almighty God. He said: “The Father is greater than I am.”—John 14:28.

So Jesus was tempted by Satan, but his father Almighty God could not be.

Jesus’ early followers did not view him as being equal to Almighty God. For example, the apostle Paul wrote that after Jesus was resurrected, God “exalted him [Jesus] to a superior position.” Obviously, Paul did not believe that Jesus was Almighty God. Otherwise, how could God exalt Jesus to a superior position? —Philippians 2:9.

Greek grammar and the context strongly indicate that the New World Translation rendering is correct and that “the Word” should not be identified as the “God” referred to earlier in the verse. Nevertheless, the fact that the Greek language of the first century did not have an indefinite article (“a” or “an”) leaves the matter open to question in some minds. It is for this reason that a Bible translation in a language that was spoken in the earliest centuries of our Common Era is very interesting.

The language is the Sahidic dialect of Coptic. The Coptic language was spoken in Egypt in the centuries immediately following Jesus’ earthly ministry, and the Sahidic dialect was an early literary form of the language. Regarding the earliest Coptic translations of the Bible, The Anchor Bible Dictionary says: “Since the [Septuagint] and the [Christian Greek Scriptures] were being translated into Coptic during the 3d century C.E., the Coptic version is based on [Greek manuscripts] which are significantly older than the vast majority of extant witnesses.”

The Sahidic Coptic text is especially interesting for two reasons. First, as indicated above, it reflects an understanding of Scripture dating from before the fourth century, which was when the Trinity became official doctrine. Second, Coptic grammar is relatively close to English grammar in one important aspect. The earliest translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures were into Syriac, Latin, and Coptic. Syriac and Latin, like the Greek of those days, do not have an indefinite article. Coptic, however, does. Moreover, scholar Thomas O. Lambdin, in his work Introduction to Sahidic Coptic, says: “The use of the Coptic articles, both definite and indefinite, corresponds closely to the use of the articles in English.”

Hence, the Coptic translation supplies interesting evidence as to how John 1:1 would have been understood back then. What do we find? The Sahidic Coptic translation uses an indefinite article with the word “god” in the final part of John 1:1. Thus, when rendered into modern English, the translation reads: “And the Word was a god.” Evidently, those ancient translators realized that John’s words recorded at John 1:1 did not mean that Jesus was to be identified as Almighty God. The Word was a god, not Almighty God.

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  • Welcome to Bible Hermeneutics SE and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Aug 25 at 19:02
  • WELL, Well, well...who would ever have thought to look at the Sahidic Coptic translation for John 1:1c. I agree wholeheartedly that "a god" was the Word, I having suggested as much on a number of occasions. Upvoted + 1. Aug 25 at 21:03
  • @OldeEnglish - so there are several "gods"?
    – Dottard
    Aug 25 at 22:28
  • Oracle - there is no indefinite article in the Greek (such does not exist anywhere). Can you provide some Greek linguistic justification for this article? Why ignore Daniel Wallace arguement about this being a category statement?
    – Dottard
    Aug 25 at 22:30
  • 1
    @Dottard-Since the bible calls humans, angels, even Satan (2 Cor, 4:4) "gods" (with a small [g]), or powerful ones, the superior Jesus in heaven can properly be called "a god". But only the Almighty God (capital G) and His 'ONLY' begotten son/god (small g) have true divinity. Incidentally, Dan Wallace has been quoted as preferring, in John 1:18 "...the only begotten (g)od..." Also, the NC freely admits above that there is no indefinite article in the Greek. BUT, that doesn't mean to say that the indefinite article cannot be implied. It all depends on the text, like the text in John 1:1. Aug 25 at 23:18
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"If Jesus is God, and God cannot be tempted, then Jesus cannot be tempted." The central problem hinging on "If Jesus is God". So, we start with theology and then try to see if scripture fits! The ideas listed below are from other answers to this Q.

Therefore, He could not be tempted in the sense of any possibility for sinning.

When Jesus was in the form of God, he had no flesh.

He was beyond temptation.

Even when Jesus was 100% a man He remained 100% God.

What the doctrine of the hypostatic union teaches is that these two natures are united in one person in the God-man.

Jesus voluntarily turned off His divine attributes. [:)]

When scripture doesn't fit, we start making stuff up - none of these ideas have a basis in scripture!

What then does scripture offer to counter these ideas?

But take courage; I (Jesus) have overcome the world! John 16:33

Well did he or didn't he? Scripture says he did. Jesus said he did! But if the possibility of failure was allegedly not even on the table, overcoming wasn't even necessary - or even possible! If Jesus could not sin, or be actually and literally tempted then what did he overcome?

All these ideas eliminate Jesus overcoming anything! Apart from the mystical 'two-natured' theory (an unbiblical construct), Jesus is presented as beyond temptation, immune from temptation and being therefore unable to sin. If he could not sin, temptation is completely pointless and rendered a charade.

None of these statements have biblical testimony for support.

How could Jesus overcome that which had ZERO chance of defeating him?

What was the point of Jesus learning obedience through suffering Heb 5:8, 2:10? Learning obedience from suffering what - on the cross? No! No one truly learns at the last moment, it is part of a humble and obedient life - climaxing at the cross.

He in the days of his flesh, having offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One being able to save him from death, and having been heard because of reverent submission. Heb 5:7

What was he so worried about if failure wasn't possible?

This is a stark reminder of the constant possibility of failure. One sin would have destroyed the whole divine plan. Being the Lamb of God - slain for the whole world required him to be perfect - without blemish or sin. This perfection or completeness was earned, it was not yet his from the beginning of his ministry.

we have one (Jesus) who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Heb 4:15

So, we must dismiss the construct of 'Jesus being God' without reservation, and the theology that renders this simple truth uncertain or tricky. When matched with, "God cannot be tempted by evil" James 1:13, we have a clear answer. Clearly some attempt to avoid by the ideas in other answers.

Jesus had his own will

Yet not My will, but Yours be done. Luke 22:42

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. John 6:38

If Jesus had his own will which differed from God's then he is not God. How can God have two opposing wills? If Jesus had another will, then he could have followed it away from God's will and to sin. Otherwise the will was pointless. Was he a puppet of God? No, having his own will meant he had to choose to obey - every waking moment for 33 years! (all the days of his flesh)

IF Jesus has two natures (or had, I don't know) then he had opposing wills - a divine (Godly) and a human. Very odd idea without biblical support!

...having been made like us in every way, his brothers and sisters... Heb 2:17

Jesus overcame by the power, the love, the grace, the mercy of God in him through the holy spirit - just as his brothers and sisters do. He did so by the greater power of God in him than the power of Satan around him.

  • Either he is like us or he is not - scripture says he is.
  • Either he can be tempted like us or he cannot - scripture says he can.
  • Either he has God dwelling within him like us or he has his own power - scripture says he needed God at every moment.

The humanly devised construct of Jesus being 100% man AND 100% God is without biblical support. This alleged paradox of temptation regarding James 1:13 and Heb. 4:15 amounts to nothing from the scripture and rationale provided here - there are many, many others that would also support.

As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. John 8:40

As Jesus never said he was God - only is he presented as 'the image of God', the servant of God, the son of God, the Lamb of God, we either believe his plainly spoken truth of being a man only, or we choose to make up our own truth.

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  • I have to say that I agree some ideas have been posted here that I can't see any sense to. I don't think the idea Jesus "turned off his divine attributes" is scriptural or even logical from the perspective of Nicene theology.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 28 at 11:44
  • Hmmm, we must be on our own as there are a lot of UV for these ideas. 20! :)
    – steveowen
    Aug 28 at 11:54
0

10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:10-13 (KJV)

John speaks here of "the will of the flesh", "the will of man" and "the will [implied] of God". Whatever anyone else might make of this, to me:

  • the "will of the flesh" refers to the inclinations/appetites of the body in which a man is bound; and
  • the "will of man" refers to the collective inclination of men united in a common pursuit.

When Jesus was in "the form of God" (Philippians 2:6) he was beyond temptation because he was not bound by a body of flesh. However, when he "took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" forces that were of no consequence to his spiritual form had to then be addressed.

Additional

Due to the bewilderment of some, I will explain further.

When Jesus was in the form of God, he had no flesh - no skin with its sensory facilities, no bones, no taste buds, no reproductive bits and pieces. It was a totally different story when God took on the form of man, though. He could get hungry and thirsty and tired, and need companionship, all of which could be used to tempt him. Clearly, Satan thought so.

I'm not quite sure why this appears to be such a mystery.

There is no contradiction here.

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  • Can you give more of an explanation of Hebrews though? Because Jesus did still have the flesh of man.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 23 at 22:36
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    If he was 'beyond temptation' he overcame nothing. What was the point of this most significant feat if the temptation was just a charade?
    – steveowen
    Aug 23 at 22:40
  • @curiousdannii I'm not sure why it doesn't seem clear. However, when Jesus was in the form of God, he had no flesh - no skin with its sensory facilities, no bones, no taste buds, no reproductive bits and pieces. It was a totally different story when God took on the form of man, though. He could get hungry and thirsty and tired, and need companionship, all of which could be used to tempt him. Clearly, Satan thought so. I don't get how others can't see it.
    – enegue
    Aug 24 at 2:50
  • @user48152 The book is the bible, which I referenced in my answer. Some prefer the scripture be contradictory rather than looking for the connections.
    – enegue
    Aug 24 at 3:35
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    "he was beyond temptation" is not in the bible. Neither is, "When Jesus was in the form of God, he had no flesh"
    – steveowen
    Aug 24 at 3:39
0

It seems to me that this is resolved quite simply, by understanding the temptation [“has been tempted”] of Jesus as {someone doing, to Him, actions that count as “tempting someone”}, and the statement about God [“cannot be tempted”] as meaning that He is not susceptible to such actions.

This would allow us to say the same of Jesus, as of God — that He is not susceptible to temptation.

[I think this might [Edit_01: or might not] be broadly the same as Levan Gigineishvili’s answer.]

P.S. I do not think that the idea is that temptation is, to Jesus, infinitely trivial, or (so to speak) a category error. In other words, I do not think the exercise was like shooting bullets at Superman just to show that it is quite futile. The account of His temptation says that “angels came and ministered to him” (Matthew 4: 11, RSV) after it was over. Similarly, we see Him in the Garden of Gethsemane wrestling with something that is not vanishingly trivial. Further, there is the quoted verse that says that He has been tempted [just] as we are. Rather, I think that the point is that God is perfectly good… and holy and that that is why He can not be tempted. (Philosophically, I would say that it is immediately theoretically possible to efficaciously tempt Jesus. In other words, there is some reason why God/Jesus is not susceptible to temptation, other than that the concept is inapplicable to Him… being [again] that He is perfectly good.)

————

Edit_02{As follows, I consider the most up-voted answer to be untenable. See {more relevant comments at the end}. Apologies for going off on a tangent. The academic reader might well stop after reading my response to that answer… but I have left the final point in for obvious reasons. The material between those is just me being thorough.  P.S. This comes across as arrogant, on the third reading. It is not supposed to be so, but I will be here for several (more) hours if I try to fix that. I apologize instead. (I am normally verbose, and I was trying to be brisk.)}

————

I consider {the answer that [at the time of writing] has been scored the most highly} to be untenable, as follows.

There is nothing incoherent in Christianity. (Of course, an opponent of Christianity might well think it to be internally or externally inconsistent, but… an adherent of Christianity has no reason — neither in what Christianity teaches nor in {their (“correct”) view of the world} versus {what it teaches} — to think that Christianity appeals to irrational beliefs and/or thinking.)

An example is the Trinity. It is popular to hold that the concept of the Trinity is that God is three persons who are one person. This is incoherent and can be immediately rejected for that simple reason. Turning to the Bible to explain how to make sense of an incoherent conception of anything is certain to be unhelpful at best. Neither is it to be believed, that any incoherent view has arisen from [correct] Biblical Theology. (The correct view is that the Trinity is three persons who are one God. The only additional information needed is that, within the Trinity, one of these three is the boss of the three (or of the other two, if you will.) [Hence the horrifyingly and shockingly awful and awesome promise in Rev 3: 21 (also Rev 2: 26-27), if you want a distraction.] It is that simple. Much of the disturbingly huge amount of argumentation about this putatively difficult concept is simply misguided (being informed by the view that Christianity entertains internal incoherence).) To repeat… anyone who rejects this view (particularly) in favour of some other view that appeals to paradox or is otherwise incoherent is misguided. [Of course, that is not an argument for this view, against some other view that ostensibly is Biblical and is not incoherent.]

The issue here is around — as some might think — some tension between the tenet that Jesus is God [in some sense] and is human [in some sense].

The starting point, in resolving this issue, is that {any understanding of this that is partly or wholly inconsistent or incoherent or irrational or what-have-you} can be rejected without any consideration (beyond establishing that it is indeed incoherent).

No answer to the question here need be taken seriously, no matter how impressive it might sound, nor how eloquent its reasoning might appear… if it endorses a picture that is incoherent in any aspect.

Tangentially… there is a fancy term “hypostatic union”, which represents the view that — citing the following…
https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-the-hypostatic-union
… “Jesus has two complete natures: one fully human and one fully divine. What the doctrine of the hypostatic union teaches is that these two natures are united in one person in the God-man.” This goes on to make it clear that is supposed to be incoherent. “Jesus is not two persons. He is one person. The hypostatic union is the joining (mysterious though it be) of the divine and the human in the one person of Jesus.” Apparently, the intent of this concept is that these two natures each represent a kind of person, such that one person having these two natures is incoherent… or, as that page puts it, “infinitely precious — and worshipfully mind-stretching”.

I call it incoherent, and it must be rejected out of hand if it is supposed to be so. (Of course, one might mean, by “hypostatic union”, some concept that is not incoherent. That is fine… but it is not apparent why we need a fancy term for the simple, plain, straightforward reality [as below].)

Of course, there is nothing incoherent about the nature of Jesus. One clue about it is the fact that human beings are “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27), and another is that they are both body and spirit (e.g. James 2: 26, John 3: 6, Luke 23: 46, 1 Cor 15: 44), and another is that God is spirit (John 4: 24). [Arguing through the issue of the difference between “spirit” and “soul” (if any) is complex. My point here is that human beings are not merely physical (and they are not merely {body and soul}, where the latter means like a brain with mind supervening on it).] My view arises simply and easily from the foregoing; I am not going to bother writing it out here, as that would be distracting; the point is simply that a coherent view is possible (noting that I have not actually given one).

So…
• At the time of writing, the highest-scoring answer (by “Nigel J”) sets out its position clearly, from the outset. “Human nature can be tempted. Divine nature cannot be tempted.” The body elaborates on this… including notably saying in (partly) bold print, “the Divine nature and human nature of Jesus of Nazareth are separate things that need to be considered separately.” The conclusion is that these two “natures” “meet” in Jesus, but do not, “somehow connect to one another, or merge with one another or mingle in some way” [emphasis omitted]. On the one hand, it appears that this is not expressly incoherent. Jesus has two natures. On the other hand, it neatly resolves the issue at hand — the divine aspect of Jesus can not be tempted by evil, and… and what?

Apparently, this is supposed to appeal to the “hypostatic union” concept [according to what is left of the comments] and be a species that insists that Jesus is two persons — in the sense that it is impossible for anyone else to be like this. Of course, that is not “hypostatic union”. Perhaps there is some other fancy term I should know. I venture that it is clearly incoherent since the idea appears to be, again, that Jesus instantiates something that can not be instantiated… but let us initially gloss over this problem.

I have said, in my answer, that the reason that Jesus did not sin is that He is perfectly good, and even holy… because He is God. The answer under discussion has forsaken that option; it separates out the aspect of Jesus that is immune from temptation and leaves us with the second person inside this Jesus anomaly, that is (ostensibly) just as susceptible to temptation as (for instance) I am.

Presumably, the next move would be to postulate that Jesus, unlike every other human being in existence (since the Fall), does not have a sinful nature. That is quite ad hoc since the reason for that [Jesus is divine] has been discarded. Let us gloss over this problem, as well.

This position fails even though we have glossed over its incoherence. The reason has to do with the core of Christian belief — the Cross. The Christian gospel is that God became a man [human being, for the postmodernist, who can not countenance disagreement], and died for our sins. If we postulate that Jesus incorporates two natures/persons, then arguably the human aspect died on the Cross… and arguably the divine aspect did not. Ostensibly, then, the death of Jesus on the Cross would be sufficient for only one other person… the same as if (for instance) I died for other’s sins.

Of course, one could continue in the standard pattern, with everyone arguing endlessly over the issue… which follows almost necessarily from the fact of it being incoherent… but it would be more sensible to stop at the initial point at which we observe that it is incoherent, and simply not waste all that time.

•[This one is not relevant to my theme about incoherence, but I thought I would include what I wrote about it, just as a rebuttal, just because I have already put in the effort.]

The second-highest scoring answer, at the time of writing, (by “Nihil Sine Deo”) begins with an illustration. The idea appears to be that Jesus has some non-“physical“ attributes, that He can temporarily decline to appeal to. As it relates to the question, the position seems to be like the “in conclusion” says — “even when Jesus was 100% a man He remained 100% God though He suppressed His divine attributes voluntarily for a greater purpose…”.

This appears to me to leave us with a bet both ways [I can not think of an appropriate technical term offhand]. That is… we are left to wonder whether {what has been laid aside temporarily} includes, or does not include, what is relevant to the concept of temptation.

It seems to me that we are left to infer that, in respect of temptation, Jesus remained divine (even though He was “voluntarily suppress/ing/” his divinity).

I suggest that, although this accords with the Biblical picture [in implying that Jesus did not sin because He was divine], it does not actually expressly deal with the question of how Jesus could be meaningfully tempted in the first place… unless the idea is that He was, so to speak, pretending.

• [If I understand it correctly] the third […ATToW…] answer (by “Ozzie Ozzie”) boils down to an endorsement of the tenet that Jesus was fully human (and not divine). The pivotal point, then, is the concluding statement — that Jesus was perfect.

I concede [offhand] that this successfully deals with the issue of Jesus not sinning. However, I venture that the position espoused is not Christianity; particularly, it is not apparent how Jesus’s death might pay for the sins of more than one other person.

• …4… (“Levan Gigineishvili”). This answer is similar to mine; it positions the concept of {tempting Jesus} as definitively the actions of those doing the tempting and asserts that Jesus was quite above actually sinning. It appears to me to be very clear on the point that trying to tempt Jesus was utterly futile, and absolutely misguided — presumably the same as the overwhelming majority of Christians would think about God.

This might not actually be within the purview of the author, but there is a question that I suggest to be fundamental, around whether or not the idea is that the concept of being tempted is simply inapplicable to Jesus. One might position this as the question of whether or not it is theoretically possible for Jesus to sin. [I fully appreciate that the idea is initially quite horrifying, to a Christian, that there is any sense in which it is possible — theoretically, hypothetically or what-have-you — that Jesus could sin.]

However horrifying the idea might be, of it being theoretically possible for Jesus to sin… I suggest that the alternative is objectively untenable. The alternative is that it is not theoretically possible for Jesus to sin. I do not mean, by all this, that it is sheer arbitrary luck (and possibly scarily unlikely) that Jesus did not, for instance, step down from the Cross and destroy the world instead, or get distracted with some romantic relationship and give away the whole enterprise. Rather, what I mean by all this is that [it is certainly Biblical truth that] God and Jesus are moral beings… in the sense that it could not be true, otherwise, that God is good.

I imagine that one could write a thesis on this — laying out the parameters of the discussion carefully, and so on. Nonetheless, the core concept is simple enough. It says in Hebrews that Jesus was tempted as we are, yet without sin — that He can sympathize with our weaknesses. Are we supposed to think that the reality is that Jesus is a machine, programmed to do particular kinds of things, such that, however painful the Cross might have been, He could not step down from it and destroy the world instead, even if he [hypothetically, if necessary] wanted to?

Arguably, that is no nobler than it would be if (for instance) I never sinned… with the reason being that, although I desperately wanted to, I simply could not… or perhaps even if a robot never sinned.

I suggest that it is unarguable that — regardless of whether or not we are comfortable with the notion — Jesus desperately wanted to not have to endure the Cross. I venture that the notion is definitive of temptation — He wanted (in some sense, and at some level — however you feel constrained to put it) to behave one way, and chose to behave another. Jesus was tempted. The idea that He was utterly incapable of any kind of inclination towards anything not perfectly good… is a direct contradiction of the quoted verse in Hebrews, I venture.

I suggest that — horrifying though the idea is, initially — the Biblical picture is that Jesus is good, not as a machine, but as a moral person who makes real moral choices, such that He could not be called good otherwise.

————

I am going to stop there. My intent was to make the original point about incoherence. I have gone off on the tangent of addressing the other answers one by one. Part of the reason for that was to respect the work of others enough to read all the answers carefully (theoretically, anyway). I hope I have not insulted anyone; apologies if I have. I enjoy a good [academic] argument (at least in the sense that I enjoy thinking through what others have said, and weighing it against my own position)… but not at the price of hurting anyone. (Conversely… apologies to those whose answers I have not read carefully!)

3
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-2

Jesus simply did not know at the time, that he was God. This is a logical explanation and a rationalization for why this story (and others) holds significance. Otherwise the idea that Christ faced trials, is rather meaningless.

Edit: Regarding the comments

This is a big claim which very few Christians would agree with.

That is fine. If it were a pope making an official decree however, this would counter what has been said, given their authority given to Peter. In my search, I did not find any such decree.

Can you add some more detail support for this answer?

There are various ways to approach this:

  1. Pharasaic interpretations of the New Testament do not believe that Christ was claiming that he was God. If you have the heart for it, you can research Jewish apologitecs for countering Christian missionaries. Just a small example of what they would say, would be to state that calling yourself a "Son of God" in no way means that you are literally part of a Trinity, considering that King David was also called a "Son of God".

Given that most Christians have no intimate understanding whatsoever of Pharisaic Judaism, simplistic readings of the texts confuse them and lead to mistaken notions of exactly what Christ was saying and doing. These ideas permeate informally throughout the church and lead to misunderstandings.


  1. The literal quotations of Christ of when he was alive, left alone would do all to imply that he did not know he was God, and was evasive, never affirming his true nature:

Christ is reasoning upon the nature of God.

30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Christ affirming his Father is the Lord.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Christ calling himself a prophet

A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.

Christ stating the commandments come from God:

4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.

Christ affirming that judgement comes from God:

35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

Christ questioning and wondering why someone would call him good.

17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

Jesus denying his authority

23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

Jesus quoting Psalms, deferring to his god:

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?


  1. Logically -- THIS HAS TO BE TRUE for the New Testament to make any sense. A god fully aware of his power and future, can not suffer nor be tempted by Satan, for there is nothing a human can achieve and to wonder at, if he is so tritely immortal, invincible, and all knowing.

If you however do read that story when Christ went into the desert, as unknowing of his true nature, then suddenly there is a lot more weight on man's future, when the best of us is truly tested and tempted by Satan.


And even if he didn't [know at the time that he was god], would that really matter?

Yes, and you can affirm this for yourself. Read the Gospels under that framing, that while Christ was alive: the knowledge of him being part of the Trinity was hidden from him. Suddenly the suffering and tragedy and devestation he faced has real impact on the reader.


@Anon Yes, when He said that "I know the Father as Father knows Me" /John 10:15/ (which only God can say, for in tongue of even the highest of archangels this would have been a grave blasphemy sufficient enough to cast this archangel into demonic abyss) He was merely joking, simply that the sentence "He then laughed and added, 'just kidding, fellas, just kidding!'" is omitted by all mss known to us :) – Levan Gigineishvili yesterday

Why would it be blasphemy to assert what you have found true? As far as I can reason, such a bold confidence in "knowing the father" is merely a social taboo, which is perfectly fine.

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