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When Did Jesus Become Sinless?

I recently received a question from a blog member about when it was in the Christian tradition that Jesus came to be thought of as “perfect,” without sin.   I feel no great need to answer the question myself because my friend and occasional guest blog poster Jeffery Siker, long-time professor of New Testament at Loyola Marymount University, has written an entire book on the topic.   And so I asked him to prepare some blogposts, and here’s the first one.

For what it’s worth, he and I both liked very much the title he wanted for the book, Jesus the Perfect Sinner; but, as often happens, the publisher went with something less scintillating.   But the cover of the book is to die for: see https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Sin-Perfection-Early-Christianity/dp/1107105412/ref=sr_1_7?keywords=Jeffrey+Siker&qid=1557848871&s=gateway&sr=8-7 .

 

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Jesus and Sinlessness

 

How and when did Jesus come to be viewed as sinless in earliest Christianity?   Surprisingly, this question has received scant attention from NT scholars over the years.  For this reason I wrote Jesus, Sin, and Perfection in Early Christianity (New York: Cambridge, 2015), which explores early Christian understandings of Jesus in connection with sin, especially in light of Jesus’ death and subsequent belief that God had raised him from the dead.

Several passages in the New Testament make it plain that the common view among early Christians was that Jesus was (as Hebrews 4:15 puts it) “one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.”  This same conviction that Jesus was perfectly sinless can be found in Paul (2 Cor 5:21 – “for our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin”), 1 Peter (2:22, echoing Isaiah 53:9 – “he committed no sin”), 1 John (3:5, “in him there is no sin), and the Gospel of John (8:46, “Which of you convicts me of sin?”).

And yet, at the same time, there is plenty of evidence that shows …

To see the rest of this post, you’ll need to be either to be sinless or a member of the blog.  Or both.  Joining is actually the easier option.  And won’t cost much.  That’s what I’d suggest.

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An Eyewitness to the Crucifixion? Another Modern Forgery
Did Jesus Go to India? A Modern Gospel Forgery.

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    fishician  May 14, 2019

    In Mark he says John the Baptist came along “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” and then says Jesus was baptized by John, without further explanation. After the baptism God then claims Jesus as His own. So, did Mark not think of Jesus as a sinless sacrifice for sins? Or perhaps he was sinless after the baptism, so he could then serve as a pure sacrifice? Or did he just not think to clean up this baptism situation, as the later gospels did, with additional explanations?

    • Jeffrey Siker
      Jeffrey Siker  May 15, 2019

      I don’t think Mark gave it much thought. Since he doesn’t have a birth story (whether or not he knows of any such tradition) he has to begin somewhere, and he chooses to begin with John the Baptist. This leads most scholars to argue that Jesus likely had joined the Baptist’s group of adherents. The material about the Baptist being unworthy to untie the thong of Jesus’ sandals, and John’s clear statement that “the one who is more powerful than I is coming after me” (Mk 1:7) clearly shows Mark’s post-Easter convictions that are here retrojected back into the baptism story. Mark is also clear that Jesus dies as a “ransom for many” (10:45), again showing a post-Easter conviction that the death of Jesus is salvific. Mark seems more to presume a sinless Jesus after the baptism scene, rather than cleaning up the baptism like Matthew or Luke chose to do. But then they had miraculous birth stories that seemed to make Jesus’ baptism and anointing there superfluous. But the tradition of Jesus’ baptism was so strong that they had no choice but to include it, and then explain why he was getting baptized at all (at least in Matthew). Luke simply passes over the rationale for the baptism.

  2. Avatar
    Phil  May 14, 2019

    very interesting … I had never come across the thought that the Passover lamb was not a sacrifice for sin as such, that in fact that role was a Yom Kippur thing. Growing up as an evangelical I heard so much about the exodus from Egypt being a picture of our redemption from sin, and the imagery all piled up somewhat indiscriminately – a lamb was slain, the blood was the sign, those under the blood escaped.

    It is refreshing to have these wider reflections and contexts set out.

  3. Avatar
    godspell  May 14, 2019

    To Jesus, violating for a valid reason what he regards as relatively unimportant religious strictures is not sinful. He would regard refusing to associate with sinful people who might be turned away from sin as being a sin in itself, in the same way he regards shunning the seriously ill for fear of infection is sinful–it’s the same thing. A sin of omission–not giving help to those in need for fear of somehow polluting yourself.

    To a certain extent, sin is in the eye of the beholder, but I think we must agree that Jesus’ idea of sin, as presented, is closer to the truth–sometimes breaking rules is more virtuous than obeying them. As, for example, people who helped slaves escape before the Civil War, or those who hid Jews during the Holocaust–in both cases, clearly breaking accepted laws, at great risk to themselves. Sinners in the eyes of their society then–heroes now.

    Jesus’ disciples and others who admired him obviously did not see him as a sinful person, but that doesn’t mean they regarded him as sinless–as you say, they only had to start thinking of him that way after they came to believe he’d been resurrected.

    Did he regard himself as sinless? “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.”

    Obviously if he did beg God to let the cup pass his lips, that is a sin as he would see it, since he should not question the mission he believes God has given him, simply because he fears a painful death.

    The story of the woman taken in adultery seemingly indicates that Jesus considers himself a sinner. He says that whoever present who is without sin should be the first to cast a stone at her. But he is present, and he casts no stone. He asks her if anyone there has condemned her. When she responds in the negative, he says that neither does he. Because he has no more right to condemn her than anyone else. The thought is as much as the deed, and he had had sinful sexual thoughts, whether he acted on them or not.

    But to acknowledge your sin, to admit the log in your eye–that is virtue. Only a sinner can be virtuous, because virtue is the overcoming of sin, as courage is the overcoming of cowardice.

    • Jeffrey Siker
      Jeffrey Siker  May 15, 2019

      I think we’re on the same page here. Jesus is very much a multivalent persona. To the authorities of his day Jesus violates norms that they considered to have a divine origin; thus Jesus is misleading the people. To his followers, of course, Jesus is reinterpreting time-honored traditions in ways that they perceive to be prophetic in the best sense. Does Jesus think he’s sinless? Unlikely. But then getting back behind Jesus’ self-consciousness is a hazardous adventure at best. As you note, sin is very much in the eye of the beholder.
      There’s a great book by Veronica Grimm, _From Feasting to Fasting: The Evolution of a Sin_ (New York: Routledge, 1996) that traces how an expression of the great banquet of God turns into the sin of gluttony in early Christianity, and how fasting became the virtue. So notions of sin change dramatically over time and culture.

      • Avatar
        godspell  May 15, 2019

        (Googles ‘multivalent’–ah!–it pays to increase your word power.)

        Jesus was not a legalist (though he may have been capable of effectively debating those who were, in spite of his lowly origins, which would have made him even more irritating). As a Jew, he had to believe certain laws were handed down by God (you could consider him an early proponent of Natural Law), but the interpretations of these usually vague strictures came from men, and these were far less important. To educated Jews, they were vital, because that’s how you keep structure in society without getting locked into overly dogmatic positions. Most of Jewish law is interpretations, often very clever and creative ones, that allow Judaism to adapt to different times and settings.

        But as an apocalypticist who probably never traveled more than a few hundred miles from Nazareth, Jesus isn’t thinking about the distant future or exotic locales. He’s thinking about the Kingdom, which will make the Law itself irrelevant–he sees that there are people who behave well without any laws, and others who behave badly in spite of great knowledge of the laws.

        Therefore, the Law is not the most important thing. And in the Kingdom, all shall behave well, because they will all be people who have been tested by the world, who conquered their sinful impulses, as he mainly has, through faith and good will. None of them are perfect, but they are on the road to perfection. And that road leads to a place where they will no longer be tempted to stray by the goats, who will be excluded from the Kingdom.

        “Those who truly hear the voice, the words, the happy song,
        Never shall need working laws to keep from doing wrong.
        Deaf men will pretend sometimes they hear the song, the words,
        and make excuse to sin extremely; this will be absurd.”

        The poetess Stevie Smith read a new translation of Mark’s gospel, and wrote those lines. And that’s it, precisely.

    • Rick
      Rick  May 17, 2019

      Do we really have any idea what was meant by Jesus having a meal with Mathew and his sinful friends – in terms of whether he regularly hung out with social outcasts vs only did so, as doctrine would have us believe, to minister to them? In the Galilee, what really were his alternatives? If Jesus really was a dirt poor Gallilean hillbilly in a hovel called Nazereth, how many social/religious betters did he have to associate with? Even if traveling to Copernaum would the upperclasses even have welcomed him?

  4. Avatar
    Brittonp  May 14, 2019

    Thank you Professor Siker for a very informative post. I look forward to your next post.

  5. Avatar
    AstaKask  May 14, 2019

    I would say that the connection with Passover is that “death passes by” those who partake of the New Covenant, giving them eternal life. Does that sound reasonable?

    Do you believe that Jesus being crucified at Passover (rather than at some other time) is historical?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 15, 2019

      Yup. Yes definitely.

    • Jeffrey Siker
      Jeffrey Siker  May 15, 2019

      It’s certainly the case that early Christians piled all kinds of imagery on Jesus as the Passover lamb. Perhaps Melito of Sardis’ _Peri Pascha_ in the late second century is the most expansive expression of how early Christians took over this central Jewish symbol and made it all about Jesus and his death.
      And yes, there’s no real reason in my view to doubt that Jesus was crucified in close proximity to Passover, whether the first day of Passover (as in the Synoptics) or on the Day of Preparation (as in John’s Gospel — syncing the death of Jesus with the sacrifice of the Passover lambs in the Temple).

  6. Avatar
    mkahn1977  May 14, 2019

    Seems to be a lot of retrospecting in scripture. By the way- have you read Paula Fredriksen’s new book “When Christians were Jews”? I think it’s right up your alley.

  7. Avatar
    darren  May 14, 2019

    Great post! I hadn’t realized how important Isaiah 53 was to the early understanding of Jesus. This passage sparks a question: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent so he did not open his mouth.” Is this the reason Jesus is silent at his trial in Mark? To mirror this passage?

    1
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    • Bart
      Bart  May 15, 2019

      That’s the usual thought, yes.

    • Jeffrey Siker
      Jeffrey Siker  May 15, 2019

      The use of Isaiah 53 as a way to understand the death of Jesus is something the early Christians imported into the passion story after the fact. I doubt very much that Jesus was thinking about Isaiah 53 either while on trial (whatever actually happened there) or while on the cross, but who knows!?

  8. Avatar
    Eric  May 14, 2019

    Pat Benetar:

    You’re the right kind of sinner, to release my inner fantasy
    The invincible winner, and you know that you were born to be

  9. Avatar
    chixter  May 14, 2019

    Awesome topic, awesome post.

  10. NulliusInVerba
    NulliusInVerba  May 14, 2019

    Thank you for the informative guest post.

  11. Avatar
    lawecon  May 15, 2019

    ” The long story of Jesus healing the man born blind in John 9 has the Pharisees concluding that “this man is a sinner,” since Jesus violated the Sabbath law when he healed the man (9:24). ”

    At least in contemporary Judaism, this would not be sinful. I doubt we know what “the Pharisees” would have held before the destruction of the Second Temple.

    • Jeffrey Siker
      Jeffrey Siker  May 15, 2019

      Good point. Our access to the Pharisees prior to the destruction of the second temple is rather limited. Still, the story from John 9 may well give us some historical confirmation of how the Pharisees viewed Jesus as violating Sabbath law.

  12. Avatar
    Hngerhman  May 15, 2019

    Dr Siker –

    Great post, so I’m going to have to get the book…

    It would seem that post his baptism by JB (for the forgiveness of sins) Jesus is portrayed as essentially sinless (relative to his own standards). A couple exceptions come to mind: (a) when in a textual variant (which Dr Ehrman has argued is likely original) he becomes angry when asked for a healing by a leper and (b) the cleansing of the temple (when he is clearly contradicting his own maxim to not resist evil).

    Would you think this framing is generally correct? Would you proffer other episodes of Jesus potentially sinning relative to his own standards? Thanks!

    Look forward to the next post!

    • Jeffrey Siker
      Jeffrey Siker  May 15, 2019

      The question, of course, is how one defines Jesus’ “own standards”! And then there is always the layer of early Christian theologizing that makes it rather difficult to get back to what Jesus actually thought. We can certainly see evidence of early Christians “cleaning up” any hint of Jesus being inappropriately human (!), such as when Luke shifts the anger in Mark’s story (3:5) from Jesus to the Pharisees (Lk 6:11).
      I’m not so sure that the cleansing of the Temple scene contradicts Jesus’ standard, since it comes across as a prophetic action.
      I have always been struck that Matthew’s emphasis on a Jesus who preaches reconciliation stands in great tension with Jesus’ polemic against the Pharisees in Mt 23.

      • Avatar
        Hngerhman  May 16, 2019

        Many thanks! Totally agree about your point on the definition of Jesus’s own standards – I’m intending that term to mean the moral teachings attributed to him as portrayed in the gospels – but I know that has epistemological issues in itself. I’m just trying to help myself to that concept in order to get a half-baked self-consistency argument off the ground… Ha.

        Thanks for the Mt 23 point – the screed against the Pharisees is definitely an excellent counterexample of do unto others, unless of course Jesus somehow enjoyed being lavishly excoriated by opponent religious authorities… To each his own.

        Follow-up on the temple cleansing: Are prophetic acts and commissions of sin mutually exclusive concepts for Jesus? The prophetic act itself of cleansing the temple (as described), on a purely ethical dimension, seems to clearly both resist evil and violate do unto others. Obviously Jesus would give God the Father a pass on adhering to these maxims (if the eschaton is not a case study in retributive action, I’m not sure what is), so perhaps if one frames Jesus as the instrument of the divine he gets a pass too – but then that would absolve any apparent “sin” as God’s justice when done by his instrument. But setting aside this mini-philosophical problem of evil issue for the moment, if, in a counterfactual, a follower of Jesus were to punch an avaricious Roman merchant in the face as a prophetic act of the coming Kingdom of God, would that be a sin under those two same maxims? If not, then the maxims seem hollow. And if yes, then it seems only a matter of degree (not category) were we to find/replace the subject ‘follower of Jesus’ with ‘Jesus himself’ and then the same for the predicates ‘punch a merchant’ with ‘cleanse the temple’. Perhaps there’s a nuance that’s escaping me?

        Thanks in advance!

  13. Avatar
    Brand3000  May 15, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,

    So would you say that the Emmaus account in Luke provides for us a helpful general outline of the beliefs of Jesus’ early followers i.e. They had high expectations of him being the messiah, which as I believe you have noted before that Jesus himself must have at least hinted at somewhere along the way in order to give them that inclination, then there was his shocking and unexpected death which for a time disappointed them, especially when the messianic age didn’t arrive, but then the unexpected resurrection appearances became the cornerstone event that they used to reason backwards and conclude that Jesus is the messiah and was sinless after all, the Son of God, and so on, giving him many of the acknowledgements that we are familiar with today….is this all correct?

  14. fefferdan
    fefferdan  May 15, 2019

    Dr. Siker
    Your post makes me wonder if the emphasis on Jesus’ perfectly sinless nature is present in the synoptic gospels to the degree that it is in Paul’s writing and the Johannine tradition. In the synoptics, Jesus seems to have had trouble controlling his temper [the money-changers episode, or cursing his enemies whom he was supposed to love, for example]. I suppose this can also be seen in the John’s gospel, but perhaps not as evidently? Also, I know that in at least some later apocryphal writings Jesus was not by nature perfect but had to overcome the tendency to sin just as any normal human being. This is perhaps most evident in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas where Jesus is portrayed as a very naughty little super-boy who badly needs moral instruction.

    • Jeffrey Siker
      Jeffrey Siker  May 15, 2019

      The notion of Jesus as a sinless divine being seems inherent in Matthew and Luke’s birth narratives. Jesus comes from God and as the Son of God is going to bring salvation. This certainly implies dealing with human sinfulness. The Gospel of John and Paul are perhaps more overt in their theological claims about Jesus as sinless, but Paul focuses on the death of Jesus and its significance to such a degree that most of Jesus’ life and teachings pale in comparison.
      As for the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, you need to remember that the traditions preserved there are not at all meant to show Jesus as a sinful little boy who will learn better. Far from it, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas shows a divine Jesus even as a child. He is powerful, but not sinful. This was one early Christian approach to wondering what Jesus as the perfect Son of God might have been like as a child.
      The Ebionites in the second century did view Jesus as human rather than divine, but they also saw him as a righteous prophet.

      • fefferdan
        fefferdan  May 15, 2019

        Thanks for your reply re: Jesus as sinless in the synoptic gospels. I certainly agree that there is an underlying assumption to that effect.

        But I have to disagree with regard to the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Hard to image that the readers of stories like the following wouldn’t see them as Jesus being naughty, or at least as not having learned to temper justice with mercy — especially since in later chapters he seems [as I read it] to control himself after being instructed. Am I imposing 21st century values on an ancient cultural form?

        “The son of Annas the scholar, standing there with Jesus, took a willow branch and drained the water Jesus had collected. Jesus, however, saw what had happened and became angry, saying to him, Damn you, you irreverent fool! What harm did the ponds of water do to you? From this moment you, too, will dry up like a tree, and you’ll never produce leaves or root or bear fruit.’
        In an instant the boy had completely withered away. Then Jesus departed and left for the house of Joseph. …
        Later he was going through the village again when a boy ran and bumped him on the shoulder. Jesus got angry and said to him, “You won’t continue your journey.” And all of a sudden, he fell down and died…
        So Joseph summoned his child and admonished him in private, saying, “Why are you doing all this? These people are suffering and so they hate and harass us.” Jesus said, “I know that these are not your words, still, I’ll keep quiet for your sake. But those people must take their punishment.” There and then his accusers became blind.

        • Jeffrey Siker
          Jeffrey Siker  May 17, 2019

          Yes, you are imposing 21st century sensibilities on early Christian veneration of Jesus! The point of the stories is to show that even as a child Jesus was God incarnate, and that you better not piss him off!! I certainly agree that from our vantage these stories make Jesus out to be a horrid kid (well beyond the terrible two’s!). But for the early Christians it showed Jesus as powerful and awesome.

  15. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  May 15, 2019

    Thanks. Good post,

  16. Avatar
    Steefen  May 15, 2019

    Jeffery Siker
    Jesus became sinless when early Christians interpreted Jesus as a Passover lamb who takes away the sins of the world.

    Steefen
    Jesus is a representation of Jewish Messianism which sinned against Rome. Jesus is a lamb of personification who died for the sins of Messianism against Rome.

    Schweitzer
    Pfleiderer brings together wood, straw, and stublle, but where he gets the fire to kindle the whole into the faith of primitive Christianity. According to Albert Kalthoff, Christianity arose by spontaneous combustion

    Steefen
    from the conditions capable of alighting and exploding Christianity onto the scene which were Jewish Messianic expectations:

    I. the connection of an expectant Jewish sentiment to the burning of Rome

    II. the connection of an expectant Jewish sentiment to the initial success of defeating Roman Legion XII Fulminata in 66 CE

    III. then a horrible change of fortune for the Jewish Messiah Zealots and their fighters

    Their successes were caught and stopped.

    There was a call for remorse over the outcome for what they had done so much so that the Messianism would become nothing but

    a) non-violence with
    b) a sentence from Justice to be punished by Rome (not only for the revolt but for creating a Jewish Civl War based on the early perceived success (burning of Rome) and actual success (defeating a legion) of a perceived apocalyptic God.

    IV. And there was the rush to fill the vacuum of the collapse of the Temple with Temple Judaism (and its focus on freeing/delivering Israelites from a super power, Ancient Egypt, hence Israelites can be freed and have deliverance from Rome) being to blame for belief in a fiery, apocalyptic deliverance from Rome (at Rome itself)–until proven otherwise.

    Jesus would be devout to Temple Judaism and he would be 1) the leader of mariners in Galilee to get involved with violence against Rome, stealing horses from the Roman diplomats of Vespasian seeking peace then having rebels fight Rome at the Battle of Galilee, 2) after the change of military fortune, the leading person to speak for the Jewish God as the Son of God a) non-violence and b) the leading person to be sentenced to punishment by Rome.

    There is no messianic Jesus and a band of mariners in Galilee in history until we find them doing messianic action against Rome during the Jewish Revolt.

    Jeffery Siker
    How and when did Jesus come to be viewed as sinless in earliest Christianity?

    Steefen
    When Stoicism was included in the New Testament and Jesus had to be lifted from Teacher to Sage.

    Yes?

    • Jeffrey Siker
      Jeffrey Siker  May 17, 2019

      I’m not sure Stoicism had much to do with it. Paul had some Stoic leanings, but I don’t really see second Temple Judaism strongly influenced by Stoic philosophy. Like the Stoics, Paul saw the natural world as bearing witness to a divine creator, but the Stoics had no real place for any kind of messianic figure.

      • Avatar
        Steefen  May 17, 2019

        “Stoic ideas from the very beginning permeated Christian teaching. Seneca and Epictetus were regarded as Christians by nature, as it were, though they had been deprived of Christian revelation.”
        – Ludwig Edelstein, Preface to “The Meaning of Stoicism” pages ix and x

        Stoicism and the Matthean Beatitudes (as opposed to the Beatitudes found in Luke) emphasize intention or interiority.

        Luke makes it clear that the blessing to come in the kingdom of God is pronounced on actual poor, hungry, and oppressed people (6: 20 – 26). Matthew changes “blessed are you poor” to “blessed are the poor in spirit,” meaning something like “those who know that they lack strength of pneumatic stuff [one’s subjective interiority or essential self]”. … It is clear that the writer has shifted the blessing’s meaning from referring to a class of people to a quality of character. Instead of blessing people who lack food, Matthew pronounces happiness in the kingdom on “those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” … [R]ighteousness, for Matthew, is something like virtue, for Stoics.

        Matthew also adds blessings for mercifulness, purity of heart, and peacemaking (5: 7 – 9). Luke’s Jesus announces a mission directed at the poor and the oppressed. Matthew’s Jesus teaches about a rigorous quality of character that is the goal of his ethic and that will characterize the winners in the future kingdom.

        Stoicism in Early Christianity. Tuomas Rasimus, Troels Engberg-Pedersen, and Ismo Dunderberg, editors.
        Chapter 4: “Jesus the teacher and Stoic Ethics in the Gospel of Matthew” by Stanley K. Stowers (Professor of
        Religious Studies – Brown University), p. 66.

        = = =
        Easy to remember and hard to forget: Blessed are the poor is not the same as Blessed are the poor in spirit; the latter comes from Stoicism as Prof. Stowers of Brown University explains. Second, when Jesus speaks “Be perfect as Your Father in Heaven is perfect,” that also comes from Stoicism.

        Based on the belief in the infinite perfectibility of a person’s character, this ethos of perfectionism is the essence of Stoicism… Conscious moral growth is the Stoic watchword. This moral growth is intended to conquer even the region of the unconscious which Plato left outside moral consideration, for he considered it impenetrable by rational will.
        Ludwig Edelstein, The Meaning of Stoicism, Chapter 1: The Stoic Sage, ps 10-12.

  17. Avatar
    Steefen  May 15, 2019

    That is the funniest artwork on a sinless Jesus I have seen. What is the name of the painting and the artist?

    • Jeffrey Siker
      Jeffrey Siker  May 17, 2019

      The painting is by an early 20th century surrealist, Max Ernst (1891-1976). The title is: The Blessed Virgin Chastising the Infant Jesus Before Three Witnesses. 1926, oil on canvas. In the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany. It’s a really great piece!

  18. Avatar
    cestmarrant  May 15, 2019

    Absolutely fascinating! Have you written any trade books? The one on this topic, I’m guessing from the pages I saw, is not.

    • Jeffrey Siker
      Jeffrey Siker  May 17, 2019

      Well, _Jesus the Perfect Sinner_ started out as a trade-book, but at the last stage the publisher decided not to go ahead. So I reworked it into a more academic monograph. My most recent book, _Liquid Scripture: The Bible in a Digital World_ is somewhere between trade and academic (Fortress Press, 2017). And my forthcoming book _Sin in the New Testament_ (Oxford University Press, fall 2019) is part of their Essentials of Biblical Theology series. So not quite trade, but on the cusp! I think Bart has cornered the market on the trade-book/hard core academic book hat-trick!

  19. John4
    John4  May 15, 2019

    Thank you so much, Bart, for Jeffery Siker’s guest post.

    I love your blog, Bart. Siker’s Post is for me the most helpful post yet. I look forward to his next two.

    🙂

  20. tompicard
    tompicard  May 16, 2019

    i am not sure what is ‘sin’.

    I have a couple of questions for both contributors

    Was Tamar (Gen 36) a ‘sinner’?

    • Jeffrey Siker
      Jeffrey Siker  May 17, 2019

      Was Tamar a “sinner”? She “played the harlot” (Gen 38:24) and having disguised herself fooled Judah into having sex with her, apparently because Judah had not honored his pledge under levirate marriage customs to give his next son to raise up children with her for the two brothers who had died (Er and Onan). When Judah heard that she was pregnant he said “Bring her out and let her be burned.” But when she proved that he was the father (by producing his signet and staff that he had given to her as a pledge that he would send payment for her services), Judah was caught as the one who had wronged her. He then said “She is more in the right than I.” So she had the appearance of being a sinner, but as the story unfolded it showed her to be righteous and seeking only what was rightly hers (heirs). She gave birth to twins, ironically replacing Judah’s two sons who had died (because they were wicked in the eyes of God). All Matthew has to do in the genealogy is drop in Tamar’s name to evoke the entire story from Genesis 38, which his readers/hearers would have known. Matthew reinforced his point by enlisting the help of Rahab the prostitute, Ruth, and “the wife of Uriah” (also known as Bathsheba, but Matthew’s point is that she was not David’s wife at the time!).

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