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Matthew 26:65.

"Then the high priest tore his robes and said, "He has uttered blasphemy. "What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy." (ESV)

John 15:25

"But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: They hated me without a cause". (ESV)

The high priest tore his robes for a reason. So how does that fit with, "They hated me without a cause"?

The "hatred" expressed here is within the immediate bodily presence of Jesus. e.g. "Then they did spit in his face". Matthew 26:67.

Is not Jesus' perceived "blasphemy" a false accusation and an untrue cause?

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  • I'm guessing that you're reading "without cause" as "without consequence"? If they hated "without cause", then that'd mean that they hated without a reason for the hatred. But if they hated "without consequence", then that'd mean that they hated without doing anything based on that hatred.
    – Nat
    Feb 26, 2022 at 9:08
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    @Michael16 - this is different question from the one you referenced - I think it should stay open.
    – Dottard
    Feb 26, 2022 at 11:27
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    The ques assumes a contradiction by interpreting "without a reason" to be "without an action, and expression", so the stoning is seen conflicting with his interpretation. Very poor quality question, even if its not already duplicate, which it is.
    – Michael16
    Feb 26, 2022 at 12:44
  • @Michael16 Even if actions e.g. picking up stones, are based on emotions running high, a opposed to logical reasoning, those emotions have their starting point/cause.
    – C. Stroud
    Feb 26, 2022 at 14:11

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On multiple occasions the Jewish leaders sought to have Jesus killed for blasphemy (additional thoughts in my posts here & here), and it was on the basis of blasphemy that the Sanhedrin would declare Him guilty and deserving of death later (see Matthew 26:65-66).

It is straightforward to read the question earlier in the chapter (see John 8:25) Who art thou? as a trap, as were other questions asked of Him at other times (taxes for Caesar anyone?). The religious leaders may have been trying to solicit from Jesus a plain statement that they could use against Him, much as the High Priest indeed did later at Jesus’s trial:

  • If Jesus explicitly acknowledged Messiahship, the Sanhedrin could have Him arrested as a threat to Rome, since the prevailing belief at the time was that the Messiah would overthrow Roman rule.
  • If Jesus explicitly acknowledged Divinity, the Sanhedrin could have Him charged with blasphemy.

Treason

The perceived risk to Roman sovereignty was without cause, as Jesus Himself acknowledged before Pilate:

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence (John 18:36)


Blasphemy

The irony in the blasphemy charge is pointed out by Talmage:

There could be no crime in the claim of Messiahship or divine Sonship, except that claim was false (Jesus the Christ p. 626)

If Jesus was not the Messiah or the Son of God, there was legal cause against Him. If Jesus was the Messiah & the Son of God, the hatred and attempted execution were without cause.

Jesus' claim in John 15:25 is true, provided we believe that He is the Messiah & the Son of God. The author explicitly acknowledges this belief in chapter 20:

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name (John 20:31).


Conclusion

Whether they tried to trap Jesus for treason or for blasphemy, their accusations were without cause.

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  • Envy is also one of their reasons they brought Jesus to Pilate. Mark 15:10. Feb 25, 2022 at 20:17
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    @AlexBalilo I certainly agree, they were motivated by envy. To kill Him they also had to give cause for charging Him with something that carried a capital sentence (such as blasphemy under Jewish law or treason under Roman law) Feb 25, 2022 at 21:47
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There was more than one occasion when the crown wanted to kill Jesus and always for the same reason - and they had (in their minds) and very valid reason/cause to do so:

  • Matt 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:17-26 – Jesus is accused of blasphemy because He forgave a man’s sins, believing that only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:7).
  • John 5:17-19 - the crowd wanted to kill Jesus because He claimed to be equal to the Father
  • John 8:58, 59 - the crowd wanted to kill Jesus because He claimed to exist before Abraham was also claimed to be the great "I AM of the OT (Ex 3:14-17)
  • John 10:28-33 - the crowd wanted to kill Jesus because He claimed equality with the Father
  • Finally, in Matt 26:63-66, Mark 14:61-64, Luke 22:67-71, John 18 & 19, the Jewish authorities wanted to kill Jesus because he blasphemed by claiming equality with the Father (Matt 26:65)

In John 15:29 we find that this hatred/envy by the people had no basis!

This is an important point - the hatred in all the above instances was a direct result of Jesus' claim to be equal to the Father (in various ways) and was thus blasphemous. This would have been a valid cause for hating Jesus except, as Jesus correctly points out, their claim had no cause precisely because Jesus was God (John 1:1, 5:17, 18, 20:28, Matt 1:23, Phil 2:5, 6, Titus 2:13, Heb 1:8, 2 Peter 1;1, etc.) and thus, Jesus had not uttered blasphemy!

Thus, Jesus could truly say, "they hated me without cause", John 15:25.

APPENDIX - Jesus' Claims to be "I AM"

The Gospels contain about 14 instances where Jesus claims to the I AM of the OT in Ex 3:14-16. here are the instances of unpredicated "ego eimi" in the NT.

  • Matt 14:27, Mark 6:50 – “Be encouraged. I am.” [To the frightened disciples in the boat.]
  • Mark 13:6, Luke 21:8 – “Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am’”.
  • Mark 14:62, Luke 22:70 – “Jesus replied, ‘I am’”. [He was then accused of blasphemy by the Jews and condemned.]
  • John 4:26 – “Then Jesus said, ‘I am.’” [To the Samaritan woman at the well. There is a reasonable case for this being identification, but that is a matter of taste.]
  • John 6:20 – “But then [Jesus] said to them, ‘I am. Fear not.’” [To the frightened disciples in the boat.]
  • John 8:24 – “If you do not trust/believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”
  • John 8:28 – “When you will lift up the Son of Man, then you will trust/know that I am.”
  • John 8:58 – “Truly, truly, I say to you; before Abraham existed, I am.” [The Jews then tried to stone Him for blasphemy.] Note that this and the previous two mean that Jesus, in the space of this chapter of John 8 uses the unpredicated “I am” idea in the present (v24), future (v28) and past sense (v58). V24 & 28 appears to be tied to believers’ salvation as well.
  • John 13:19 – “From now [on] I tell you before the occurrence, that you may believe when it occurs that, I am.”
  • John 18: 5, 6, 8 – “He said to them, ‘I am.’ …Therefore, when He told them, ‘I am’, they fell backward to the ground.” [This occurred when the Jews tried to arrest Jesus in the garden. It could be reasonably argued that this is a case of identification. However, the fact that the arresting mob fell backward suggests that much more is intended here.]
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There is a proper hatred that is grounded on ontology, which can be considered a legitimate, ontologically grounded hatred. This legitimate, ontologically grounded proper hatred is a hatred towards sin and wrongdoing (not towards sinner and wrongdoer, for he is worthy of being an object of pity, not hatred). Furthermore, hatred towards wrongdoing is the only proper application of our God-given emotion of hatred, so that we may protect ourselves and others from the infection of sin and wickedness. It is, thus, good and legitimate to hate lust, alcoholism, greed, deceptiveness and crookery, as well as a sin of flattery and cowardice. Moreover, it is vile and sinful not to hate those things.

This having been established, we can understand what the Lord means in saying "they hated me without reason", it means simply that they hated Him without any legitimate reason of Him having sinned. Rather, they hated Him because He shewed them that they did not hate their own sins but rather loved and cherished and cultivated them as some precious things. Of course they would have hated Him with this reason, but this is not an ontological and legitimate reason to hate anybody. Thus they have seen nothing in Him, just like Satan saw nothing in Him that could even remotely relate Him to sin (John 14:30), but still hated Him together with Satan - their covert father (John 8:44).

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Without cause’ does not equate to without reason. John 15:25 relates to several Old Testament Psalms (69:4, 35:19, 119:161) and Proverbs.

The word ‘cause’ derives from the Hebrew ‘ḥinnām”, the essence of which means an action that is undeserved.

So the Pharisees had reasons, but those reasons were based in misunderstanding, therefore their intended ‘action’ was ‘undeserving’. Essentially they simply did not (could not) understand what Jesus said. Their ‘reasoning’ had the wrong foundation. Jesus was speaking ‘*spiritually’, they were reasoning in ‘the flesh’. (The cause of many theological disputes.)

And, Jesus didn’t seek to clarify the Jews’ misunderstanding of His previous statements. Instead, He made a new statement that anyone who would not accept that Jesus was God in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16) could not possibly understand. “Before Abraham was, I am.”

So the Pharisees ‘had reasons’ - their ‘reasoning’ being based ‘in’ the flesh, provoked their ‘flesh’. But the ‘truth’ is that although they had reason, they had no understanding, therefore the action they wanted to take was undeserved, that is, ‘without cause’.

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