In What Way(s) Was Jesus Perfect?

In the course of the last week, my Abiathar posts got me thinking a little more about the notion of Jesus’ perfection. To be more explicit, I asked myself: How [as "in what way(s)"] was Jesus perfect? I asked this because of the tendency of many persons to point to Mk. 2.26 and say, “Aha, look, Jesus got it wrong; He wasn’t divine after all. And by the way, your Bible cannot be trusted.” Now, I have mulled over the issue of Abiathar a number of times and I have argued that indeed, neither Mark nor Jesus messed up—this based on Mark’s translation switches from Aramaic to Hebrew. Anyways…

I was also thinking about how this passage led Bart Ehrman down the path of agnosticism. Therefore, I don’t think it is a passage to take lightly. I think that many people share Ehrman’s discomforts with passages like this one. But I also do not think that we should just say, “It’s an error, get over it; that’s not important.” Moving on, I believe this same idea could be applied to many other passages and topics. For example, some have contended that another passage in Mark’s account, Mk. 12.30, reveals that as with Mk. 2.26, Jesus got the Shema wrong too. That is hardly the case! But this troubles many people, many sincere Christians.

It used to trouble me. However, I think that it troubled me because I had a bit of a flawed view of Jesus’ perfection. Back in the day, for Jesus to be perfect meant that there could be nothing questionable concerning things He said or did. But when I applied some simple logic to the situation, my mind was set to ease and my Christological beliefs were, in fact, strengthened. So, How was Jesus perfect?

First of all, I might use the example of Jesus as a carpenter. I do not believe that in order for Him to be God or to be divine, that He could have never messed up on the job. Maybe He forgot His tools one day, maybe He cut a piece of wood at the wrong length, maybe He messed up in price calculations or maybe He didn’t bring enough nails to the site one day. My faith in Jesus Christ does not rest on the fact that He had to be perfect in every hit of the hammer, cut of the wood or whatever. Jesus was also fully human and it would be much harder for me to accept that He never messed up on the job than it would the fact that He was (and is) divine. So, Jesus’ perfection does not rest on this.

Secondly, I believe that Jesus was a storyteller. Indeed, He loved telling stories. I don’t think that He had the modern presuppositions that we do about “facts” when telling stories (maybe He did have some of them, who knows). But if Jesus left details out of stories or added details or changed some details to fit the present circumstances (for effect), then I am fine with that. Even more, if Jesus, living out of an oral culture, forgot details from time-to-time (and had to supplement), I am fine with that too. Jesus did not know everything and He never claimed to (see: Mt. 24.36; Lk. 2.40, 52; Php. 2.5ff). So, we should not place that standard upon Him (as neither He Himself nor the NT writers did). Again, Jesus’ perfection is not predicated on His knowing or not knowing things.

Thirdly, I believe that Jesus was a law-observant, temple-appreciative guy. I believe that Jesus helped unclean people and then followed Jewish rituals. I believed He went around corpses and became unclean. And this is precisely where context helped me a lot: To Jews, unclean did not equal sinfulness. I used to think it did but I was wrong. So, Jesus' perfection did not rest on Him being ritually pure. Sometimes He had to become unclean, as did other Jews, to do what was morally and ethically right.

I’m sure I could give more examples but this may be enough to make the point I’m aiming for: How Jesus was perfect has to do with the fact that He never transgressed God the Father, God the Spirit, Himself or others. Jesus never sinned against God, Self or others. In short, Jesus’ perfection rests on the fact that He had never rebelled against God or abused another. This is how Jesus was perfect (in faithfulness and obedience) and this is why He can be our perfect sacrifice. To make Jesus’ perfection into any more of an issue than this, I think is to not only set oneself up for disappointment but to also skew the NT concept of how Jesus was perfect.

Anyways, I hope this helps some of you think through this issue more deeply. Praise the Triune God for the sinless sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ! Happy Holidays.

On a side note: So, what if Jesus had died as an infant (in the slaughter, perhaps, as Nick Norelli has recently asked), would He still have met the criteria? Or what if He died in a freak accident as a teenager, like being run over by a chariot or slipping off of a cliff? If He had spilt blood in those deaths, would He have still met the criteria? Well, me must answer this in the negative. For Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice required the shedding of blood but also the fulfilling of all righteousness through obedience and faithfulness, not to mention the resurrection and ascension--this was the plan of the Godhead from before the foundations of the world!


  1. "....this was the plan of the Godhead from before the foundations of the world!"

    When I read that in Ephesians, I wondered even more why people call what happened in the Garden of Eden "The Fall". I've read quite a few comments on blogs which imply that Jesus being required to die on the cross in our places must have been Plan B as though God was foiled by Adam and Eve sinning. Where did that idea come from and do you have any idea where the phrase "The Fall" came from and when it started? I've tried to search on the internet and in my bible software but the explanation of its origin actually does not come up.

  2. Naomisu,

    good question!!! if i'm not mistaken, we may trace the idea back to augustine. see his stuff on original sin, etc.

    here's my thoughts on your comment: it seems to me that what you're trying to avoid in all of this is the notion that God intended for "the fall" to happen. correct? here's the thing, while i'm incredibly close to being an open theist, i believe that God just by virtue of knowing that in order to have a genuine relationship with free, relational beings, He would have to allow for their to be a choice: a choice to choose Him or not. I do not believe that He necesarrily knew which choice humanity would make (if He did, then it isn't genuinely relational, at least, in my opinion). So, the plan was that if humanity didn't choose Him, He would have to prove to them that He chose them, so, His plan was to send Jesus Christ. Some might call this a plan b, I don't see it that way. I see it as a centrifugal part to a genuine, open relationship. In the end, though, it is a bit different than the plan b you're suggesting and it is very different from what augustine suggested.

    finally, it was always God's plan for humanity to live in relation with the Godhead--before the fall, during the fall or after. This was His plan from before the foundation of the world. Once humanity did not choose Him, He needed to show them that He chose them by coming to them--an option that always existed.

    i am open to seeing God as more open that many people but that is so because i think it's the best theological explanation or option that we have.

    i also think it makes the best theological sense out of creation and eschatology.

  3. naomisu,

    i should just note that where i believe God left the future open, others hold every other view I said, whilst still believing that God knew humans would reject Him. it is a slight nuance but it should be noted.