HOME   People do good because they are human, not because they are religious! 

Do not give God any credit for the good they do, they did it!


Jesus denied he was specially good

Sin is an offence against the law of God.
Christianity is founded on the notion that Jesus Christ never sinned and was the Son of God - the person who enjoyed a unique relationship with God his father. The sinlessness of Jesus is extremely important for Christians. If Jesus was a sinner then we can assume he sometimes made errors and mistakes in his teachings and that he could not have been the same person as the sinless God.

MARK 10:18
In theology, there are two kinds of goodness. One is the goodness we have or can have. It is limited in value for we cannot do infinite good. The other sort is the goodness of God which is infinite and priceless. It is unlimited and infinite. God's goodness sets the standard. Ours does not for it is flawed.
This argument is inspired by a something that Jesus said rather than by logic for being as good as you can be is priceless for it is not your fault you don’t have infinite power to be good.
From Mark 10
17 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”

18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”

20 And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”

21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”

22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
When called good teacher by a rich man Jesus insolently asked him why he said that he was good for nobody was good, except God (Mark 10:18).


Main rule of interpretation is to put the story in its social context.  Attempts to avoid admitting Jesus denied he was sinless or perfect centre around unjustifiably accusing the man of being a boot-licker. It was very tame boot-licking then!  It was and is normal for people to call somebody a good teacher and that is not flattery.  There is no hint of flattery in the text.  Thus we need read no more.  Jesus was expressing humility - like Paul the apostle who said he was a bad speaker he did not consider himself the best moral or religious teacher.  Jesus was saying even his teaching must be tested against the only real teacher - God.  Jesus was denying he should be treated as infallible or perfect teacher.  The idea that Jesus was God is a total contradiction of what Jesus was trying to say.

That is fatal to the Christian doctrine that Jesus is the ideal role model and wiser than Solomon and even God in human form.  So they can't let the text just speak and have to smother it with far-fetched "clarifications".  The believers say there are are only two ways you might take the assertion that nobody is good only God and Jesus asking why anybody would refer to him as good or good teacher.
One: is Jesus not good? If he is not then he is not God.
Two: Jesus is good in the real sense and as only God is really good Jesus is God.
The Christians point out that Jesus does not deny that he is good but only asks why the man is calling him good. That does not change the fact that it could be a denial and the man would have taken it to be one. Nobody at that time regarded Jesus as sinless.
Some say he is not rejecting what the man said but only asking him why he says that and advising him to remember that only God is good. In this view, Jesus could have been God and hinting that he wants the man to see the goodness of God in him or even see that Jesus' goodness is the goodness of God because Jesus is God!!
That interpretation is far-fetched for nothing in Mark indicates that Jesus was thought to be God.  The man would not have suspected Jesus to have been God.  Nobody did.


Nobody even suspected then that Jesus was sinless and the idea was unknown.  Mark does not say Jesus was free from sin.  He gives no hint.  This is vital for context.  The historical context is that the text can only refer to Jesus being a sinner.  Mark would have seen how the text could be read as saying Jesus was denying he was sinless.  That he said nothing to avert that interpretation speaks volumes. 
Jesus is rejecting the view that he was good for crafty Matthew 19 changes the story to, “Teacher what good do I have to do to have life eternal?” To which Jesus replies, “Why do you ask me about good? There is only one who is good. If you want life, keep the commandments.”  Jesus never comments on his own goodness here and is not called a good teacher.  These changes are significant and shows how Matthew interpreted Mark.  Matthew would accept our conclusions about Mark.
Here Jesus simply says that God alone is good and does not comment on his own goodness.  Matthew changes "good teacher" to simply "teacher" for he knows that Mark's gospel shows that Jesus did not regard himself as a good or infallible teacher and thus as a perfect person.
Luke 18 keeps the story as Mark has it.
Back to Mark.  Mark's gospel comes first in historical terms for it is the tamest gospel and the oldest.


The man didn’t call Jesus a good person but a good teacher. Jesus perhaps was a good teacher. Jesus could not bear to be called good teacher which shows he admitted he was not a good person.
Matthew’s account has it that nobody needs Jesus to teach them when they have the Jewish Bible. This may not be relevant. But it is obvious that Jesus did not know what good was at all for his Bible was full of violence and endorsed a violent God.
It is argued that Jesus is rejecting the man for what he meant by good did not please Jesus.
But Jesus implies the man had no sin but a fondness for money so the man was not flattering him or insulting him in any way.
If we cannot call Jesus a good teacher, then how much less can we call him a good person?
So Jesus rejected being called a good teacher. And he was rude too in doing that!  If that is not a sin what is?


Do not forget that though Mark has no resurrection appearances it claims to be not a gospel but THE gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).  Thus we can and should try to interpret what it says about Jesus declining to be called a good teacher literally and simply and not be making a scripture out of our imagination.  Despite the lies of false Christianity, the real Christian believes that Jesus was not perfect and who was sinful.
Quality or Quantity 
The Church says that Jesus is being told he is good because the man thinks his goodness is human and does not have the goodness of God. It turns Jesus’ rejection of what the man meant into a proof that Jesus claimed to be God. So they think Jesus is saying, “Nobody is good but God so I must be God if I am good which I am”. Let us think about that.
Was Jesus objecting that the man did not realise that he had the very goodness of God? Jesus has a problem then with the quality of goodness ascribed to him.
Was Jesus objecting because the man thought he had only human goodness? Jesus has a problem then with the quality of goodness ascribed to him.
Was Jesus annoyed because the man was under-estimating the QUANTITY of goodness? If Jesus was God then his goodness would be boundless.
Was Jesus annoyed because the man failed to see the quality and the quantity?
Jesus was not disputing the quantity ascribed to him but the quality. He gives no hint that he is thinking of quantity but just talks about goodness which is a quality. When he didn’t say he meant quantity he didn’t mean quantity so he meant quality.
He was responding to a man who called him qualitively good for heavens sake. Remember the man didn't call him best teacher but good teacher.


Suppose the Christian doctrine that Jesus was fully man in all things but sin but also God two natures in one person is presupposed by the gospels.  Then Jesus should have had no problem with anybody calling him good as in good man.   If Jesus denied he had human goodness then that contradicts the Christian doctrine that we must not see Jesus as barely human.
More problems
Goodness is goodness whether it is human or divine. Even human goodness is infinite in value for it wills infinite good so it is doing its best. A God of infinite goodness would be infinitely pleased by it. It is nonsense to suggest that Jesus would reject a compliment just because the man did not say it was divine goodness Jesus had. You do not chastise a person for saying you are good just because they did not say what you were good in. That is not important or relevant. Even if Jesus were God in human form he had human goodness that was infinite but also human goodness.
Suppose Jesus wanted to be imputed with God's goodness not just human goodness.  Jesus would not have criticised the man for calling him humanly good when he did not tell the man he was good in the exact same way God was. If Jesus meant he didn’t like the compliment for the man was inferring Jesus had human not divine goodness then he would have clarified that.
Perhaps the man did not know what good was and fashioned his ethics without reference to the will of God. He could have thought that Jesus approved of bad things and praised him for doing that. In that case, the verse would not establish the deity of Jesus Christ at all.
The context however eliminates the suggestion for it says the man did know what good was for Jesus told him that his only fault was being too fond of money. The man knew the scriptures for he was a Jew and Jesus approved of Jewish teaching though he hated the leaders and that it was a sin to like money too much. In rejecting the compliment Jesus either meant that he was not good or sinless or that though sinless he was not as good as God who is that than which a better cannot be thought. Jesus never admitted to being a sinner in the New Testament and the constant tradition was that he lived without sin at least at the time of his death. Jesus was rejecting the doctrine that he was God. Whatever he meant the passage proves that Jesus did not claim to be God.

Why would Jesus deny he was God when that was a doctrine that was likely to be created after his time under the influence of paganism? He wouldn’t reject a doctrine that did not exist yet. But he knew that when his religion reached out to pagans some of them would turn Jesus into God for pagans often deified people. Jesus would have expected some to do that to him.

The rich man could have called Jesus God if he called him good meaning he was full of divine goodness. Then in that case Jesus put him in his place saying nobody was divine only God meaning that he was not divine. Jesus did not feel that the man sinned in praising Jesus as a good teacher for he said the man’s fault was attachment to wealth so the man was just mistaken. The man thought Jesus was good while Jesus wanted to be seen as a sinner. Jesus could have accepted being called humanly good if he was God. But if he was not God he could not allow himself to be called divinely good.

Some say that Jesus was not rejecting the compliment but was only asking why he was called good. He could have thought the man was sycophantic and was indicating that he does not like or be influenced by anybody trying to flatter him. But there is no hint of that in the story. And then why would he have told the man that nobody was good only God instead of saying “I am not swayed by flattery”? The Catholic claim that Jesus only rejected the title good because the man was trying to flatter him (page 24, Jehovah’s Witnesses) is false and is not indicated by the context. They then reply that Jesus called people good on other occasions so he was not saying that it was wrong to call somebody good (Matthew 5:45). But Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said all people were evil so he used good in the loose sense but strictly speaking all people are unpleasing to God and their good is done with an impure heart.

Some say Jesus was just asking the man why he said it so that the man would work out what his problem and motivation for saying it was. The man who calls him good teacher is judged as a fake flatterer and that is not in the text at all.  A lot of people have to be judged in order to make out that Jesus was perfect God!  So much for innocent until proven guilty.


The claim that Jesus wants the man to think on what he means by calling Jesus good and so to see that he is God and has that kind of goodness (page 24, Jehovah’s Witnesses) is rubbish. Jesus immediately started on about the ten commandments and would have guided the man to see that if that had been his intention. And he did not even mention the commandments about the goodness of love, love God and love your neighbour but just worried about the practical ones like you shall not murder. When Jesus did that he had no intention of making the man look at himself. His saying, “Why call me good for nobody is good but God?”, is a rebuke and a rhetorical question not a real question.  The rebuke was because Jesus felt his humility was insulted.

The “Why do you call me good for only God is good?” is worded so that it is most probably a rebuke and a rejection of Jesus’ sinlessness. It would be taken that way had anybody else said it. These other interpretations are flowery and too complicated so just take the simplest one. Jesus denied that he was sinless, that he was perfect and that he was God. Period.


Psalm 118


Jesus might have claimed to be without sin - though that is doubtful. Yet he said that Psalm 118 was about him. In it, the author asks God to make him righteous and then says that the rejected stone has become the most important part of the foundation. The latter bit Jesus took to be about himself. If it was then he was not sinless. Jesus lied if he claimed to be totally immaculate.


Jesus confirms our interpretation of Mark 10:18.



What if the man mean't good teacher as in you are God?


Some think "the answer to the puzzle of what Jesus' problem was is to be found in the question: - Good teacher what must I do to get eternal life? Some think that the way Jesus was called good implies he has the same imperfect good of other men.  Jesus challenges him for that.  So Jesus is denying he is good in the popular sense where a man with faults is called good.  But in fact the question gives no hint of meaning good in the popular or social sense.  The man clearly calls Jesus a good teacher who knows the way to Heaven.  That is virtually calling Jesus the mouthpiece of God.  It implies that if God could be man this man Jesus could be God."


That is interesting.  It shows another way how the episode could prove that Jesus denied he was God.


Christians say the man was making out that Jesus had only human goodness and Jesus by objecting and saying only God was good wanted the man to think that Jesus had the very goodness of God and it was not mere human goodness.  So they read the notion of Jesus being God into gospels that do not teach it.  Suppose we could read it in.  What if the man telling Jesus he was good meant Jesus had the very goodness of God?  Then Jesus rejecting the compliment and responding that only God would good would mean Jesus was correcting him.  Jesus then was saying that God's goodness cannot belong to anybody other than God. Jesus was indeed denying he was God.
A religious man asking a good religious teacher how to get eternal life implies that if he calls him good teacher he primarily or solely means important teacher. Could we clarify the wording by changing it as follows, "Why do you call me important? Nobody is important only God"?
That would be even clearer that Jesus denied he was God.

Good teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?


Jesus objects to being called good teacher.  By implication he does not want to be called good man either.


Does Jesus rejecting being called good then tell us that:

*Jesus is not good or sinless so he cannot be God for God is good and does not sin?

*Or is Jesus saying he is good in the way God is good?


Jesus Christ was not God even if he claimed to be God. We have no evidence whatsoever that he made this claim. And he denied he was God so if he claimed to be God he was unable to make up his mind what he was. The primitive Christians didn’t believe he was God or know if he was sinless and it was an invention of the apostate Church. He even denied he was sinless when he objected to be called a good teacher by a young man.  Was the young man a flatterer and insincere? There is no evidence that we are to think he was. The Christians speculate that he was and yet they claim to be against unfair judgement!  Those who say that judging is a sin judge the young man for their own ends.  All the young man did was come to Jesus and ask a question and a question that assumed that Jesus could tell him the way to Heaven.  Jesus objected to being treated as an infallible mouthpiece of God and therefore Jesus was not God.

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Kevin Quick discusses the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that the Bible never says that Jesus is God

Father and/or Son by H Wayne Hamburger