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I've been meditating on this amazing story of Matthew 9:2-8 and have a question:

Why was "This man is blaspheming" classified as an evil thought without the knowledge of Jesus' identity being the Messiah (not to mention his divinity)? Jesus at that time had performed miracles in Capernaum so I understand that people saw him as a miracle worker. But according to Mark's gospel clearly the teachers of the law didn't have the knowledge of Jesus' identity.

“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (ESV)

And the man hasn't been healed yet at that time. What type of evil thoughts was Jesus referring to?

Matthew's account as follows:

2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. (Matthew 9:2-8 ESV)

My whole intention is to see what I've missed there, I do believe the scripture is divinely inspired and accurate.

Thank you and God Bless!

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  • The blasphemy charge is the "evil thought" and intention. Not some hidden thought.
    – Michael16
    Aug 27, 2022 at 9:16

7 Answers 7

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The clear position at the time and the evidence at the time OT/prophets etc… that only God forgives sin and you pray to God to forgive sin.

Matt 9:2-8 needs to be taken with a big pinch of salt. It is more likely if this event actually took place, that Jesus was inspired by God to say this as he was inspired with everything he done. God inspires whoever he wishes.

It would be too detailed to go into every point, so I will provide a summary as each point arguably is a Q in itself.

  1. None of Jesus miracles were unique
  2. Jesus prayed & even begged for his own salvation – so he did not have all authority Matt 26:39 - 39. Going a little farther, he 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."
  3. John 14:28 Jesus said "My Father (GOD) is greater than I"
  4. John 8:28 Jesus said "I do nothing of myself"
  5. Matthew 24:36 Jesus said "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

The biggest problem

Its clear that Matthew did not write this or even witnesses this event

Matthew 9:8-10 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men. 9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.**** 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples.

More of the Gospel off Mathew: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/73492/33268

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  • Great answer. "Eli Eli, Lama Shebaktani", Father why have you forsaken me, Jesus is actually admitting that he was an imposter, but no one paid attention to this. Believing that Jesus is God, makes Jesus suffer. Like the story in the Talmud that somebody thought that a certain angel is another God, then God striked that angel.
    – Kapandaria
    Oct 1, 2022 at 20:12
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It would seem you have misunderstood the narrative by not framing it with the final line.

they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

Obviously, the ‘men’ is a generic term used to differentiate between God and His creation. Jesus, is a man and is included in ‘men’, and is exercising his God-given authority to forgive sins on behalf of God.

The problem was that the leading Jews had no idea what was going on with Jesus on the scene and we have many passages showing their confusion and angry response to Jesus ushering in a law of life and grace to replace the law of sin and death they were used to wielding! They probably had every idea who Jesus was, but he didn’t fit their narrative one little bit, so he was not the Messiah that wanted.

Their natural, ignorant response is to declare a foul, accusing Jesus of blasphemy was their defence against his threatening interference. Hence Jesus rightly confronted them with, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?”

Clearly some knew who Jesus was and while not grasping the full significance of Jesus, they were more than happy to accept his healing. The leaders were too busy thinking about losing their rulership and influence over the people.

The crowds glorified God who they believed was behind Jesus, and didn’t glorify Jesus, so they had that bit right.

Blasphemy isn’t just abusing God’s name, but showing any kind of disrespect- Jesus forgiving sins was good enough to flip their lid!

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Why is Jesus' identity necessary?

Sins are forgiven only by God and even then only when appropriate sacrifices and rituals were adhered to and conducted by the priests at the temple.

So any man that forgives your sins against God will be putting himself in the place of God, and that certainly is blasphemous, even today; except that it is now superfluous, but only the forgiveness of sins by man against man, and that certainly is in the hearts of man to do or not, i.e. he has the full authority.

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  • Jesus IS in the place of God as His representative, His image, His form, His likeness, His voice and is not blasphemous.
    – Steve
    Jan 5, 2022 at 21:22
  • Certainly, but that's not the question.
    – Ylzm Ma
    Jan 6, 2022 at 8:09
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At this time, Jesus worked many signs so everyone should've already known where His power came from.

These signs are recorded in the first section of Matthew

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. (Matthew 4:23-24)

And here:

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16-17)

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5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?

Jesus knew some teachers of the law were in the house. He was intentionally to say 'Your sins are forgiven' instead of 'Get up and walk' for Jesus want the audiences to know;

6 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.

Why did Jesus comment the teachers of the law had evil thought? Yes they were. For they did not believe Jesus could heal the paralyzed man, they thought Jesus was cheating by saying 'Your sins are forgiven', as it could not be proved. The next move Jesus told the paralyzed man 'Get up, take your mat and go home', and he did!

The whole house were now in amaze! For when all were in doubt initially, it did come true. Jesus did that intentionally. If he merely performed a miracle, demon could also do it, just as the Pharisee later accusation of Jesus. It was essential to establish His authority, as He told us in verse 6.

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Why was "This man is blaspheming" classified as an evil thought without the knowledge of Jesus' identity being the Messiah (not to mention his divinity)?

Blasphemy is by definition an accusation of slandering.

Definition: to slander, to speak lightly or profanely of sacred things
Usage: I speak evil against, blaspheme, use abusive or scurrilous language about (God or men).

Jesus called their accusation an "evil thought", because it was false. He was not profaning the name of God, or doing anything sacrilege. Their evil accusation was based on his forgiveness of sins, and healing, which they thought perhaps as something too mighty for a man.

I think the question is caused by the misunderstanding of the word blasphemy. Just as the American Bible Society translation CEV mistranslates this by substituting it with a different phrase:

3 Some teachers of the Law of Moses said to themselves, “Jesus must think he is God!” 4 But Jesus knew what was in their minds, and he said, “Why are you thinking such evil things?

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It may well be that the Lord is not referring here to their “evil thoughts”, but to that they thought that “evil thing”, namely, blasphemy was happening in front of them.

Thus, the sentence can be rendered as such: “Why do you think of evil [happening before you], for, as you will be immediately shown, nothing evil or blasphemous is there in my words, because I share the dignity and authority with Him who is the only one authorized to forgive sins - God; that you may know it, I shall show it to you by healing a visible infirmity without prayers, by my own sovereign authority, and through this fact you will be assured that when I say that I have healed the guy's soul's invisible infirmity (for to forgive sins means nothing else than healing the inner, invisible infirmity of man's soul) I was not saying a lie, but I meant it have happened through my divine action”.

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