Divine impeccability refers to the attribute of being unable to sin. Christians believe that God is impeccable in this sense. But they also believe that Jesus was tempted. Is there a problem here?
Last week, I tweeted the following two brief arguments:
Argument for Christ’s impeccability
1. A divine being cannot sin
2. Jesus is divine
3. Therefore, Jesus cannot sin
Argument for Christ’s peccability
i. If you can be tempted, then you can sin
ii. Jesus could be tempted
iii. Therefore, Jesus could sin
Both arguments are logically valid. And the conclusions are logically contradictory. Thus, it follows that the Christian must reject 1 and/or 2 or i and/or ii.
I propose that 1 and 2 are non-negotiable. Thus, the Christian should reject i and/or ii.
One problem to note is that when people read the word tempt they assume it refers to an object or act which is particularly attractive to the individual. For example, “That chocolate cake was tempting but I ate carrot sticks!”
However, there is no sense in the Gospel temptation narratives that Jesus was tempted in this manner. Instead, he repeatedly shuts down the devil’s proposals with quotations from scripture. Thus, insofar as one assumes temptation involves attraction, it is misleading if not flatly wrong to say that Jesus was tempted.
However, the Greek word translated “tempt” (peirazo) can also be translated as test, and of course to be tested involves no implication of attraction to that thing by which one is tested. From this perspective, the Christian has excellent grounds to conclude that while Jesus was not tempted in the sense of being attracted to some object or act, he was tempted in the sense of being tested. And being tested clearly does not require that one could have sinned.