Thursday, January 25, 2018

How did Pharisees commit an unforgivable sin?

Discussions of the unforgivable sin typically cluster around a few issues. What exactly is the unforgivable sin? What makes it unforgivable? Why is speaking against Jesus forgivable, but speaking against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable? Is this sin uniquely tied  to the setting of Christ's public ministry, or can it be committed today? And that in turn raises the pastoral issue. How should you counsel someone who fears or despairs of having committed this sin?

Not surprisingly, the unforgivable sin is usually discussed from a Christian viewpoint. From our side. 

But I'd like to discuss this from the Jewish side. Suppose an Orthodox Jew was reading this account. From the Jewish side, what was sinful about the allegation, much less unpardonable? 

After all, Deut 13 alerts Jews to be on guard against false prophets. Even if they perform supernatural feats, they must be disregarded if they tempt Israel to commit apostasy. 

But given the specter of an unforgivable sin, how can any man dare to question a messianic pretender with that threat hanging over his head? Doesn't the possibility of a false prophet who can perform supernatural feats imply demonic or diabolical empowerment? What else is the source of his uncanny ability?

And from their viewpoint, Jesus was leading Jews astray by flouting Mosaic commands and prohibitions. Suggesting that he was the replacement of the Mosaic covenant. And even claiming to be Yahweh. What could be more blasphemous than that? 

So doesn't the terrifying threat of the unforgivable sin generate a hopeless dilemma when assessing a religious claimant? 

I've never seen the unforgivable sin discussed from that angle. I'll take a stab at some answers:

i) The Pharisees don't simply raise the possibility that dominical exorcisms are diabolical. They don't merely express reservations on that account. Rather, they confidently present that as the true explanation. 

Perhaps if someone merely made allowance for that consideration as a possible explanation, it would be less culpable.

ii) The Gospels present the Pharisees as having malicious motives. Full of mock piety and hypocrisy. Flaunting religiosity as a cover for personal venality. Perhaps their malevolence is an aggravating factor which renders them inexcusable. 

iii) The specific context isn't miracles in general but exorcism in particular. The OT has no record of prophets casting out demons. So perhaps that's one kind of miracle which a false prophet can't successfully perform. 

Indeed, Jesus says their accusation generates an antinomy. Satan working at cross-purposes with himself. 

iv) Evidence for the messiahship of Christ isn't confined to the argument from miracles, but includes the argument from prophecy and typology. That goes beyond what the false prophet in Deut 13 is said to be able to perform. 

Although the false prophet in Deut 13 can make true predictions, he can't inspire other prophets to make predictions about him. But if Jesus is fulfilling OT prophecy, then that's different.  

v) In the Gospels, Jesus challenges their interpretation of the OT. Perhaps that, too, renders them inexcusable. 


  1. Like as salvific faith is that out of a convicted, poor and contrite heart, (Psalms 47:9; 34:18) so the unforgivable sin is not what is said, but the heart that it came out of. The Pharisees had seen compelling evidence that this Jesus was from God, which, as with John the baptist, (Mark 11:32) common folk realized. Thus the Holy Spirit was convicting them as leadership that they needed to affirm Jesus as the Christ, but as with having "rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized" of John, (Luke 7:30) they likewise opposed this conviction and had to find a way to justify it, and the powerful attestation to the Lord's claim, in particular His casting out demons with His word, (Mt. 8:16) which is the context (Matthew 12:22) for the reaction, "when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils." (Matthew 12:24)

    By ascribing the Lord's works to the devil those who sat in the seat of Moses could justify their hard-hearted refusal of what the Spirit was strongly convicting them to do. Thus this blasphemy by those who above all people should have known better, was compelled by and a fruit of resisting the Holy Spirit, the one by whom Christ cast out demons and the Spirit that was convicting them of their need to repent and believe. In a ward, the evidence for faith and conviction by the Spirit was so compelling and their hardness of heart so adamant that it compelled a blasphemous, disqualifying charge against the Spirit in order to justify their terminal rejection of Christ whom the Spirit of God attested to.

    Likewise one can terminally resist the Holy Spirit convicting them of what they need to do in the light of compelling evidence by falsely ascribing the source of these evidences and conviction to the devil. to which Hebrews 6:4-8l 10:26-39 speaks, this likely being the sin unto death, (1 John 5:16,17) the great transgression," (Ps. 19:13) "wickedly departing" from God. (2 Samuel 22:22)

    However, today "what is Truth" and the great transgression, today is by snowflake correctness; From the sppd vicar of Christ whom RCs are to follow as docile sheep:

    “An impeccable argument can rest on undeniable facts, but if it is used to hurt another and to discredit that person in the eyes of others, however correct it may appear, it is not truthful” -

  2. I have OCD, so I always worried if could I have commited the sin by thoughts, actions of words that I say. It's very hard, but is confortable to see that God promissed pardon to everyone that repents.

    I think that the key thing is that according to the Bible the Pharisees knew in their hearts that Jesus was the messiah, because Jesus knew their hearts.

    An interpretation that I saw, by Calvin, is that the change in the life of the people cured were so notable,that no one could say that was a kind of theater.

    Was very hard to wrote that message, because every time I was worried that I could be sinning in the message, only speaking about the topic.

    Another thing that worries me is my feelings about Catholic miracles. Some I really don't believe, like Fatima, or Padre Pio since he faked a lot of letters. But others, like Lourdes, I don't know how to think as a former catholic. Another day I was reading about a old Marian prayer, about the year 250, I think, and my mind became full of doubts, and I thought about the possibility of being a devil's invenction since the early church. But again striked me the fear of my pride do not recognizes the catholic church against my understanding of the Scriptures, against what I see as superticious practives in the catholic church.

    Was difficult to write that post. I wrote because I think was necesssary to express some things that happened in my life. I hope that I did not commit any sin in this wrinting.

    1. I agree with your interpretation of the Pharisees.

    2. (Since I wasn't using corretor in the last post I will post again)

      Steve, I opened a New Testament commented by Jews, and I found two pieces of information:

      (a personal note: today no can have any doubt that Jesus is the Jewish messiah, since He is the only that fulfilled the prophecies, especially the temporal one in Daniel 9, after the return of the Jews and before the destruction of the temple)

      The comments say:

      1- Was a Jewish belief in post 2 temple judaism about Beelzebub "the exarch of the demons. And all [19] the demons have their chief seats close to me. And I it is who make manifest the apparition of each demon." and about Solomon in someway controlling him with a ring (testament of solomon, chapter 15)

      The books makes reference too to Josephus in Antiquity, thay says that some Jews used the rituals described in the testament of Solomon in order to do exorcism. But I don't know if Our Lord Jesus was saying about them, when He said about "your sons" or about Jewish people that made more orthodox exorcism rituals. And I don't know if Jesus was making a good or a bad reference about them.

      "5. Now the sagacity and wisdom which God had bestowed on Solomon was so great, that he exceeded the ancients; insomuch that he was no way inferior to the Egyptians, who are said to have been beyond all men in understanding; nay, indeed, it is evident that their sagacity was very much inferior to that of the king's. He also excelled and distinguished himself in wisdom above those who were most eminent among the Hebrews at that time for shrewdness; those I mean were Ethan, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol. He also composed books of odes and songs a thousand and five, of parables and similitudes three thousand; for he spake a parable upon every sort of tree, from the hyssop to the cedar; and in like manner also about beasts, about all sorts of living creatures, whether upon the earth, or in the seas, or in the air; for he was not unacquainted with any of their natures, nor omitted inquiries about them, but described them all like a philosopher, and demonstrated his exquisite knowledge of their several properties. God also enabled him to learn that skill which expels demons, 4 which is a science useful and sanative to men. He composed such incantations also by which distempers are alleviated. And he left behind him the manner of using exorcisms, by which they drive away demons, so that they never return; and this method of cure is of great force unto this day; for I have seen a certain man of my own country, whose name was Eleazar, releasing people that were demoniacal in the presence of Vespasian, and his sons, and his captains, and the whole multitude of his soldiers. The manner of the cure was this: He put a ring that had a Foot of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and when the man fell down immediately, he abjured him to return into him no more, making still mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations which he composed. And when Eleazar would persuade and demonstrate to the spectators that he had such a power, he set a little way off a cup or basin full of water, and commanded the demon, as he went out of the man, to overturn it, and thereby to let the spectators know that he had left the man; and when this was done, the skill and wisdom of Solomon was shown very manifestly: for which reason it is, that all men may know the vastness of Solomon's abilities, and how he was beloved of God, and that the extraordinary virtues of every kind with which this king was endowed may not be unknown to any people under the sun for this reason, I say, it is that we have proceeded to speak so largely of these matters. "

    3. Just a correction: It seems that maybe the Testament of Solomon was written by a Christian writer, but probable make references about some post 2th temple beliefs.