Is it true that Jesus never lied?

Is it a fact or a myth?

Has Jesus never lied? Is it a fact or a myth? Let us find out in this post. 

Is it true that in conformity with Isaiah 53:9, “neither was there any deceit in his mouth,” Jesus never lied?

Answer: The portrayal of God’s suffering servant as one who had no deceit in his mouth belies Jesus’ ambiguous behavior. He deceived his disciples promising a hundredfold of material possessions in this life to all who left everything to follow him (Mark 10:28-30). Yet, it is obvious from Acts and subsequent Christian history that this is not so.

According to the Gospel of John, when Jesus appeared before the high priest and the elders of Israel he declared that he was never secretive, but had always been open about his mission and its meaning: “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in a synagogue and in the Temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. Why do you Question me?

Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; behold, these know what I said” (John 18:20-21). A study of the Gospels reveals that this statement was a falsehood. The fact is that Jesus did not want the masses to understand him.

The Gospels indicate that few, if any, people understood the true meaning of Jesus’ teachings. What is more, the Gospels state that Jesus deliberately planned that his message be secretive. On a number of occasions Jesus is alleged to have specifically demanded secrecy. The New Testament’s Jesus demanded that his purported messianic identity and or ability to cure ailments be kept secret by demons (Mark 1:34, 3:11-12; Luke 4:41), his followers (Matthew 16:20, Mark 8:30, Luke 9:21), and those healed (Matthew 8:3-4, 12:15-16; Mark 1:44 5:43 ,7:36; Luke 5:14, 8:56).

Jesus uttered parables whose meanings were deliberately hidden from those who heard them. The Gospels quote Jesus as saying that he did not want everyone who heard him to understand his message and be saved. He is said to have taught his disciples that: “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside get every thing in parables, in order that while seeing, they may see and not perceive; and while hearing, they may hear and not understand lest they return again and be forgiven” (Mark 4:11-12; see also Matthew 13:13-15). Salvation was reserved for the select few.

The Gospels state that Jesus claimed that he always spoke openly, yet, he never proclaimed himself publicly as Messiah. According to the Gospel of John, he made a private statement concerning his messianic pretensions to a Samaritan woman (John 4:25-26). But, such news from a Samaritan would not be of any consequence to the Jewish people. When he spoke to Jews his claims were in the form of enigmatic presentations which involved apparent paradoxes regarding the nature and identity of the Messiah; yet they were given without providing a solution (Matthew 24:41-45; Mark 12:35, 36).

At the inquiry into his actions allegedly conducted before the Sanhedrin he only intimated at a messianic identity, in response to a direct Question by the High Priest (Mark 14:61-62). On a visit to the Temple it is alleged that Jesus was asked to tell “plainly” if he was the Messiah. He parried the Question by an ambiguous Answer–“I told you but you do not believe” (John 10:24-25). Actually, the Gospels show that he had only given them hints in parables, knowing in advance they would not understand:

He said [to his disciples] “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you but to others I speak in parables, so that though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.” (Luke 8:10)

When Peter declared “You are the Christ,” Jesus gave specific instructions to his disciples that they were to refrain from disclosing his messianic identity; they were to keep it secret (Mark 8:29):.

Then he [Jesus] warned the disciples that they should tell no one that he is the Christ. From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew 16:20-21; see also Mark 8:30-31, Luke 9:21-22)

And:

Now as Jesus was going to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death, and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life.” (Matthew 20:17-19; see also Mark 10:32-34, Luke 18:31-33)

Why the secrecy? Why not a public proclamation instead? Matthew 12:15-21 attempts to show that Jesus’ appeal to secrecy was a fulfillment of a prophetic utterance found in a passage in Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1-4). However, the passage can only relate to what Matthew infers by the most farfetched analogy. He implies that by Israel’s being denied the knowledge of who Jesus was the Gentiles will be saved. Accordingly, the Jewish people’s so-called “spiritual blindness” was divinely ordained in order to allow for the Gentile’s to be “saved.” “I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous” (Romans 11:11). This is as if God could not provide salvation for both Jew and Gentile without deliberately withholding knowledge so that only some Jews are “saved.”

According to the evangelists, Jesus strictly warned the disciples not to tell that he was the Messiah to anyone. But, why there was need for secrecy is never addressed by Jesus. Was it to assure rejection? The proclamation of messiahship need not have been followed by acceptance. Jesus claimed that he revealed the meaning of his esoteric declarations (the parables) only to his disciples (Matthew 13:10-11; Mark 4:10-12, 34; Luke 8:9-10). Yet even that was untrue.

Jesus, as the all-knowing god-man, knew very well that the disciples did not understand everything he told them (Mark 9:32; Luke 9:45, 18:34). Jesus said and did things secretively so that the multitudes should not understand him. As a result, Jesus often misled the people who heard him into believing things, which were completely opposite to what he really meant. Jesus, speaking in a deceitful manner had declared: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). The people were led to believe that he meant the Temple in Jerusalem when he actually spoke of the temple of his body” (John 2:21). Jesus’ own secret meaning was hidden from those to whom he spoke. His audience did not infer that Jesus meant anything other than the Jerusalem Temple. This supposed allusion to the resurrection contains another deception by Jesus.

The Synoptic Gospel resurrection accounts allege that God raised Jesus from the dead (Matthew 28:6, Mark 16:6, Luke 24:6) whereas John’s Jesus says, referring to his body, “I will raise it up.” The Synoptic Gospels are referring to God the Father as the one who allegedly raised Jesus from the dead, the latter having no active role in his own supposed resurrection. On the contrary, John’s Jesus claims he will resurrect himself. According to John 18:36, Jesus said to Pilate: “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews.” He implies that his followers knew his kingdom was not of this world and would not use violence. The truth is that they expected Jesus to restore the kingdom of Israel in a terrestrial sense. Even after his death Jesus’ followers looked forward to a speedy return which would usher in the overthrow of the Roman Empire: “Lord will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel” {Acts 1:6).

Moreover, just a few hours before his meeting Pilate, Jesus had ordered the disciples to buy swords if they had none (Luke 22:36), and the disciples responded by saying that two swords were available (Luke 22:36). Soon after this, Peter cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest, who came to seize Jesus (Matthew 26:51, Mark 14:47, Luke 22:50, John 18:10). Obviously, contrary to Jesus’ statement that “these know what I said” (John 18:21 ), Peter did not know that since the kingdom was not of this world he should not fight (John 18:36). Jesus knew, at his trial, that Peter had used violence. Nevertheless, he lied and said that his followers would not feel the necessity of acting violently since his kingdom was not of this world.

Jesus knew very well that his followers did not understand him and that they would, indeed, use violence. Yet he persisted in his lie, saying: “I spoke nothing in secret.” If he spoke openly we should at least expect his disciples to have known the meaning of his words. Shortly after undertaking his messianic role, Jesus is quoted as having predicted that success would follow within a short period of time: “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:26). Jesus’ disciples must have accepted this statement at face value and thus mistakenly believed his false assurance that the messianic kingdom was about to be established. When Jesus assured his disciples that the end of the world order and his own triumphant return to judge all men would occur before the generation then living had passed away (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30 Luke 21:32), he used deceit, for he knew that this was not true. In the alleged postresurrection era he still is quoted as promising a return in the near future, with its accompanying rewards (Revelation 22:7, 12, 20).

Knowing that Elijah must precede the Messiah (Malachi 3:1, 23), Jesus claimed that John the Baptist was Elijah (Matthew 11:10-14, 17:l0-13) even though John himself denied any connection with that prophet (John 1:21). Did not Jesus deliberately mislead the thief when he said: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” ( Luke 23:43)? Jesus did not go to Paradise on that they. Did he not instruct the parents of the girl he allegedly revived (Luke 8:56) that they should not inform any one of what was done? Did he not instruct his disciples not to mention that he was “the Christ” (Matthew 16:20)? Yet he declared: “I have spoken openly to the world . . . I spoke nothing in secret” (John 18:20). Jesus’ actions say otherwise. Matthew 26:55 has Jesus saying: “Day after day I sat in the Temple teaching, and you did not seize me.” On the contrary, John says that on one occasion they wanted to stone him while he was in the Temple, but he “hid and went out of the Temple” (John 8:59). Did Jesus lie? Did he falsely imply that they never attempted to apprehend him? Or did the evangelist lie?

© Gerald Sigal