During this evening’s Internet wanderings, I came across the following comments by Cathy Cooper, proprietress of an atheist blog, on a post titled “The Abundant Evidence for Christian Theism” at The Lord God Exists blog:
Jesus DID sin. He picked corn on the Sabbath (a sin) He told the crowd not to stone the woman for adultery, when stoning was the law (he told the crowd to break one of Yahweh’s laws–which is a sin)
If the Romans did not think him a sinner, they would not have hung him on the cross. Please give a reference to your claim that the Romans were in agreement with Jesus not being a sinner. You won’t have one, because there isn’t one, as the Romans kept no records of him. The claims you make are ad hoc nonsense.
Let’s take a moment to analyze these comments.
First, we should notice how the two claims made in her first paragraph are factually incorrect. She states that Jesus “picked corn on the Sabbath.” This is false; the relevant texts (Matthew 12:1, Mark 2:23, Luke 6:1) specify that it was the disciples who picked and ate the grains, not Jesus. Next, in regards to the stoning of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) again a factually incorrect statement is made. Notwithstanding that for several hundred years it’s been common knowledge among scholars that those verses are likely a later addition to the text (and are noted as such in any modern translation) nowhere does Jesus tell “the crowd not to stone the woman for adultery.” So unlike what is claimed, he never tells them to “break one of Yahweh’s laws.”
Second, in regards to the Romans being in agreement that Jesus was sinless, in addition to the reference given by The Lord God Exists website author (to Pilate’s declaration in John 18:38 that “I find no basis for a charge against him”) we also could consider the centurion’s declaration recorded in Luke 23:47 after Jesus’ death when he said “Surely this was a righteous man” (or “Certainly this man was innocent” in ESV). But is what is being requested here actual “Roman records” stating that Jesus was sinless? Does it sound at all plausible that the Romans would keep records of crucifying an innocent man?
Finally, the greater problem I see with this general approach is the following: It’s totally arbitrary. The accusation above that Jesus committed sins is argued for from the biblical texts. But if a person considers those biblical text accurate -and they must, because why would a person use texts that they think are inaccurate as the sole basis to build a rational case for anything- then why ignore the many references to Jesus’ sinlessness in the Bible? (Ex, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 John 3:5, 1 Peter 2:22, et al.)
This cherry-picking approach, that grasps hold of certain verses while arbitrarily ignoring others, is misguided at best. Why treat certain passages as authentic and others as inauthentic? It doesn’t seem to be for any reason stemming from textual criticism; it’s a capricious method to conveniently ignore whatever doesn’t fit into the person’s paradigm. This method is in entirely “ad hoc” … the exact thing the commenter claims about the original post!