(Heb. 4:15) How could Jesus be tempted?

CLAIM: The author of Hebrews writes, “[Jesus] has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). However, James writes, “God cannot be tempted by evil” (Jas. 1:13). Doesn’t this mean that Jesus isn’t God?

RESPONSE: While God cannot be tempted, humans can be tempted. Jesus was tempted in his humanity, but not in his deity. Jesus laid aside the use of his divine attributes at the incarnation (c.f. Phil. 2:7). Philosopher Paul Copan illustrates:

The incarnate Son’s temptations were real; acting on them seemed a genuine possibility to Him. Though unique, His situation is conceivable: Imagine entering a room and closing the door behind you. Unbeknown to you, the door has an automatic two-hour time lock. You consider leaving once or twice, but you freely decide to read for the full two hours, after which you leave the room. Would you have been able to leave earlier? No. But why did you stay in and not try to go out? Because you freely decided to stay. Similarly, Christ freely chose, in submission to the Spirit, to resist temptation even though it was impossible for Him to sin; however, His divine awareness didn’t overwhelm or impose itself on His human awareness.[1]

For these reasons, no contradiction is warranted. For a further defense of Christ’s deity, see our earlier article “Defending the Deity of Christ.”

[1] Copan, Paul, and William Lane Craig. Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists & Other Objectors. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2009. 228.