From this question: Jesus was tempted, but God cannot be tempted. How, then, do we reconcile James 1:13 and Heb. 4:15?

Can anyone please explain how this answer (accepted and very highly regarded) is;

  1. Suitable for Biblical Hermeneutics
  2. Or simply a theological answer

A brief synopsis.

  • Is the referenced passage's addressed? No.
  • Is the content biblical? Marginally in 1 or 2 of the 5 notes.
  • Is it opinion driven? Very highly.
  • Are other relevant Biblical passages used to support the answer? No.
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    Not clear why this question is downvoted. I agree that the answer you mention is of theological nature rather than hermeneutical. If I come up with how to substantiate my point and no one has done, I'll replace this comment with an answer. Sep 10, 2022 at 13:28
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    I've sat on this for a few days, but my lingering curiosity is why this question was posed about a theological answer rather than the wholeheartedly theological question that it answered? The rules around Questions are much tighter than those around Answers. There's not an awful lot we can do in terms of moderation so long as the question is answered.
    – Steve can help Mod
    Sep 11, 2022 at 17:49
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    @SteveTaylor Whatever the rights and wrongs of the site processes, someone asked a question and that person received an answer which was satisfactory to them ; and many approved both question and answer. The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 11, 2022 at 20:22
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    @NigelJ - right. "Jesus is God" is strictly speaking a theological assumption, but it's not as woolly as assuming some abstract doctrinal concept like trinitarianism or modalism as a question premise. In a rather concrete way it is a plain and historic assumption, which generates the question. It feels like a fairly plain and mainstream Q, hence the high readership. Unfortunately it's probably not a question that can be answered without a lot of theology. But I suppose there are others out there answered using sociology, psychology, philosophy etc...
    – Steve can help Mod
    Sep 11, 2022 at 20:31
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    @SteveTaylor What you suggest is only true if one begins with a theological presumption. While the 2 texts alone cannot answer a 'contradiction' Q, other verses can without deferring to theology. We begin with a premise that the bible does not contradict itself and we eliminate the need to fudge, dismiss, or invent justification for the dogma to remain valid by trumping scripture. Either the site and its participants are interested in the Biblical text or the promotion of dogma to the detriment of the scriptures. The matter is already decided by the votes - the latter wins hands down.
    – steveowen
    Sep 11, 2022 at 23:14

2 Answers 2


Contradiction questions are a bit of an oddity. They're not the normal exegetical questions that get asked on this site, and so their answers will sometimes look a little different too.

There are basically three ways that apparent Biblical contradictions get resolved:

  1. Posit one of them is a scribal error. This is probably most common with numbers that don't add up, but it could be claimed for other contradictions too. Sometimes there is actual text critical evidence in support of an error, but sometimes there are no other variants and it's just hypothesised.

  2. Better exegesis. Sometimes good exegesis is enough to resolve a contradiction, particularly if the contradiction is caused by poor translations.

  3. Theological synthesis. Two passages may seem contradictory but when read together and with the rest of the Bible, a coherent theological understanding can be developed. This is the discipline of systematic theology. For example, on the surface Romans 3:28 and James 2:24 might seem to be contradictory. But almost all Christians recognise both books as inspired truth, and have come up with several specific understandings of justification that take both verses into account. Rather than being contradictory, they each provide a different perspective on the one truth.

Now the question you're asking about didn't receive any text critical answers, which isn't surprising. Some of the answers focus on exegesis, but most focus on theology, which I'd say is to be expected, as the two verses are really only potentially contradictory if you come to them already believing that Jesus is God. These verses mostly present a theological conundrum, not an exegetical one (though there's always the potential for better translations.)

Given that this type of question expects theological answers, Nigel's answer is, in my opinion, actually pretty much exemplary. That's because it gives a brief explanation of the theological position that it represents, and discusses a few of the implications, and then stops. It uses terminology that will allow readers to find other more detailed explanations, and perhaps the only deficiency is that it doesn't itself link to questions on Christianity.SE about the hypostatic union.

I don't know if Nigel was thinking this way, but I think it's best not to have detailed justifications of systematic theology in answers on this site. First because it's not this site's main purpose, and second because it risks duplicating work in all the questions that might have the same theological answer. When theology is used to answer questions on this site, then I think it's best to

  1. Name the theological position
  2. Give a brief explanation
  3. Explain its relevance to the specific question and how this theology resolves the question
  4. Give links for more reading on the position

Or, in other words, on this site show how systematic theology is applied to exegesis, but leave the justifications of systematic theology to the Christianity.SE site (or the Judaism.SE site for Jewish systematic theology). Unlike more exegetical answers where we might expect them to fully justify their claims, if a question on this site is answered through theological synthesis, then I don't expect a full justification for its theological position to be given. And honestly, I'd probably upvote a more succinct answer than one which tries to do that.

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    Up-voted +1 and appreciated. Your point taken regarding linking to hypostatic union references within SE-C. That would have been an improvement, which did not occur to me at the time.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 12, 2022 at 8:48

Curious addressed the "what if it's theological" aspect very well. And, the point where I most adamantly agree is point 1: Name the theological position, the rest also being necessary.

Steve often reminds us that the site is community driven, which seems to be more Nigel's point: The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.

In my experience, "contradiction questions" ('POV' is my preferred wording) usually go back to the "point of view" issue, that difference (without deep contradiction) is necessary for multiple testimonies in court to prove an event was real. IMHO, that is the answer here, and that was essentially the answer that was marked "correct".

I'll take the minimalist approach so precedent doesn't sprawl. This is the thought I first had a few days ago and it hasn't changed since I let it bake.

It is a hermeneutical answer

The answer gives definitions. Definitions are hermeneutical.

The first verse is about God. That's divine, et cetera.

The second verse is about Jesus. That's human nature, et cetera.

That works for both Trinitarian and Oneness views.

I thought about whether this needed sources, which was my only concern. But, the problem is that the definitions are so self-evident, it would be like asking for a source to claim that a circle is round. These two God and human definitions aren't really definitions; they are more or less reminders that explain it all.

The Bible verses later in the answer satisfy the need for sources and/or research.

Not only is it a great answer, it's probably the most acceptable answer that could be given, and it shows pure hermeneutics at their best.

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    Up-voted +1 and appreciated.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 13, 2022 at 8:10

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