Help me understand the human will of Jesus

Please be patient with this question. I was raised in a Catholic home, although there was little church discussion at home. I attended a Catholic elementary school in the 70s, and got what I thought was decent religious education.
As an adult, I have chosen a different direction. However, I have many Christian friends who often find themselves discussing the doctrines of different churches. A question came up recently about Catholic teaching, to which I thought I knew the answer. The question:
Was it possible for Jesus to have sinned?
And this question was asked in the way of, “Do Catholics believe he could have?”
I remembered that He has the 2 natures, fully God and fully man, so I was fairly content that he could have sinned, because the human would be tempted.
However, I was reading the Catechism, and there is a paragraph there about His human and divine wills being so close, that his human will was always his divine will. This made me wonder about the question again.
Can someone help me understand what the answer to this question would be?

PS - Please believe that I am asking for information only. I mean no disrespect. I do not intend to argue the point. I may ask further questions to try to get it clear in my mind.
But I feel my intentions are honorable, and I ask that others answer in kind.

Thank you

Catholic teaching is, I believe that Jesus shared with us all things save sin. So, no he did not sin. Could he have? No again. His will was perfectly aligned with the Father.

Maybe a catholic can post the relevant citations for you and help you further. My study aids are hard to reach right now.

It seems you might be recalling CCC #475:

Similarly, at the sixth ecumenical council, Constantinople III in 681, the Church confessed that Christ possesses two wills and two natural operations, divine and human. They are not opposed to each other, but cooperate in such a way that the Word made flesh willed humanly in obedience to his Father all that he had decided divinely with the Father and the Holy Spirit for our salvation. Christ’s human will “does not resist or oppose but rather submits to his divine and almighty will.”

Jesus had human will, just as do you and I. And it was FREE will, just as in you and I. The human will that Jesus had was perfectly capable of freely rejecting the Father, just as you and I are perfectly capable of doing so. So, yes, Jesus could have sinned, had he chosen to. Nothing prevented him from sinning in his humanity.

This is why the devil could tempt him in the desert (Matt 4:1-11). Jesus rejected these temptations by his free-will choice. He could have accepted them if he had chosen to. After all, it would not really be a temptation if one could not possibly accept it.

But he never chose to sin. He always made the day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute free-will decision to align his human will with the divine will.

He was not the first human to do so. He was preceded by his mother. And he was not the last human to do so - many Saints have accomplished this spiritual perfection.

My :twocents:…
I think that from the instant Jesus Christ was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, because of the hypostatic union, his free human will was permanently fixed on good so that it was impossible for him to choose to sin with his human will, in much the same way that it is now impossible the blessed angels and saints in heaven to choose to sin. (See , Part III, Ques. 18, Art. 4Summa Theologica.)

Absolutely correct! (worth way more than 2 cents).

The above claim is a serious doctrinal error.

Jesus differs from you and I in that His human nature is united to His Divine Nature as one Person. Jesus, the Person, was incapable of sinning, even though He had a human free will, because He is not a mere human person, but a Person both human and Divine. The Person Jesus could not sin because He is God, and God cannot deny Himself. Therefore, Jesus could not have chosen to sin. The hypostatic union of the Divine Nature with His human nature absolutely prevented even the possibility of sin.

Thank you for the discussion. Ron Conte, that expression ‘serious doctrinal error’ sounds pretty strong to me. Could you supply for me, please, a reference from which you base your answer?

I should reiterate that I am not arguing the point, merely trying to understand it.

Thank you again.

But it was not possible for him to have chosen to sin, because he is God.

You seem to be missing the distinction between being tempted and suffering concupiscence, If Satan urged you to eat a dog-pile, you would be being tempted by Satan, but you wouldn’t feel the slightest inclination to do it.

Jesus went into the desert and fasted for 40 days. And scripture says He was hungry. THAT’s when Satan tempted Him. When He was weak. And Jesus resisted temptation while He was in this weakened state.

If He didn’t have the ability to be truly tempted or to sin, then temptation is just lip service. It’s NOT temptation if you can’t be tempted. Jesus wouldn’t be the new Adam, and He wouldn’t have been fully human if He couldn’t be truly tempted and FEEL it… He would NOT be our representative if He couldn’t be tempted, or He couldn’t sin…

To be like us in all but sin doesn’t mean He can’t sin. It means He chose NOT to sin and remained sinnless.

The expressions “form of a servant”, “in habit found as a man”, “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Philippians 2:7; Romans 8:3) may seem to impair the real humanity of Christ in the Pauline teaching. But in reality they only describe a mode of being or hint at the presence of a higher nature in Christ not seen by the senses, or they contrast Christ’s human nature with the nature of that sinful race to which it belongs. On the other hand the Apostle plainly speaks of Our Lord manifested in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16), as possessing a body of flesh (Colossians 1:22), as being “made of a woman” (Galatians 4:4), as being born of the seed of David according to the flesh (Romans 1:3), as belonging according to the flesh to the race of Israel (Romans 9:5). As a Jew, Jesus Christ was born under the Law (Galatians 4:4). The Apostle dwells with emphasis on Our Lord’s real share in our physical human weakness (2 Corinthians 13:4), on His life of suffering (Hebrews 5:8) reaching its climax in the Passion (ibid., 1:5; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:24).

Only in two respects did Our Lord’s humanity differ from the rest of men: first in its entire sinlessness (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 2:17; Romans 7:3); secondly, in the fact that Our Lord was the second Adam, representing the whole human race (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49).

from New Advent

Let me try answering this from a more practical viewpoint… :slight_smile:

Sin is saying, “No!” to God, basically. But, since Jesus IS God, how could He have said, “No!” to Himself? Whatever He willed WAS God’s will, and, therefore, He could not have had the situation where He was saying, “No!” to Himself.

Here’s what Jesus said about Himself

Jn 6:
38* For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me;

Jn 8:29
The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him."

Jn 12:50
whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say."

Jn 14:10
The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

Jn 14:31
I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

Think of Adam. Did Adam obey? No. Should he have obeyed? Yes. Jesus made reparations for all the times the human race said NO to the Father from the 1st Adam to the last person who will ever be born…

A truly free will is a will aimed toward the good; a failure in exercising free will towards the good leads to slavery to sin. Thus, God Who is All God cannot fail in His will always desiring His own Goodness. This is why Original Sin and actual sin impact our ability to choose the Good; but, as we grow in our identity in Christ, our will becomes freer and is less apt to choose the non-good.

Further, Christ as a healer must have what He is going to share, i.e., must be fully, i.e., perfectly human and Divine or He could not heal us. He gives us the health, as it were, He has. If He did not have this health we, being sick, could not receive healing. So it is not Christ Who is not fully human, it is we in our fallen state who are not yet fully human. Only when we by His merits are conformed to Him by divine grace will our humanity be all that it should be. Christ is the Model and Goal for humanity, not vice-versa.

Christ has the fully human nature, i.e., one not wounded by sin. His humanity is therefore graced and in harmony with the Divine. For us to be tending toward sin is for us NOT to be fully human; therefore we are not the vantage point of healing of our wounded nature but He is. If follows that for Him to heal our infirmity He must bring health to our infirmity. We can’t give what we don’t have, so He must have this health of being fully human, i.e., in harmony with God in order to give it to us by grace. He therefore could not sin, which makes him perfectly human, not less human.

Temptation for Him is not exactly the same as for us. The world and the devil would tempt Him from outside, but there was no concupiscence in Him that could pull Him towards sin within His humanity. Satan was presenting Him with all the earthly possibilities open to Him; this was a temptation from outside of Himself. IOW, it was an urging from outside, not a desire rising from concupiscience (and He wasn’t subject to concupiscience, i.e., the internal temptations arising from a fallen nature). What He experienced in the Passion is the natural repulsion of the flesh which ought not to die, is not supposed to die, to undergo that separation of body and soul.

Since He was fully human, He would have felt this separation and its preliminaries more than we do. Moreover, He would have felt the abandonment of His Father more than we do (since He was closer to Him than we ever were or could be). It is because He could not sin that when he undergoes this separation of death He experiences “temptation” in a way as we do. But in another way He doesn’t; He was not bent towards sin. He would not have experienced inordinate lust or greed, or gluttony, etc… His trials came from outside though they are experienced inside, e.g., suffering and death. While He has consciousness of being the Son, in His sacred humanity He is able to suffer from forces outside Himself (hunger, thirst, obdurancy of others, etc.); and as Man He acquired sensible knowledge, had human emotions and thus could feel sorrow and fear; so He brings what He encounters in His Body to His Father because He is in relation to Him and is the Perfect Man at prayer, submitting His human will to the Will of the Father.

Jesus took on human nature and was just as Adam before the fall. And Jesus was tempted just like Adam, but He remained sinless.

Adam was not divine in any way. Created by God, not born from a womb. Jesus was born from a womb of a woman.

I see some things not quite the same with Adam. Adam was created.

There are a few other things. Jesus was not ever limited like Adam was, Adam could not eat from a particular tree. Jesus was not given any restrictions by his Father that we know of.

Consider the doctrine of the Theotokos: Mary is the Mother of God because the Person born of her is Divine. IOW, she didn’t just give birth to Christ’s human nature, but gave birth to a Person. The Son, the Second Person of the Divinity, took upon Himself a human nature; joined to that human nature He is known as Jesus, but there is only one Person (God the Son) who is undivided in Himself while being both God and Man - and it is a person who sins or not, not a nature. The Person of God the Son cannot sin.

I join with the OP in asking you to provide a doctrinal citation for this claim.

I cited the Catechism (which cited the Sixth Ecumenical Council) which teaches that Jesus has TWO separate and distinct natures - one human, one divine. The human nature “cooperates” with (but is not dominated by) the divine nature by being in SUBMISSION to it. Submission is a free-will choice - it is not the same as being “BOUND” to it.

To “submit” means to “to yield oneself to the power or authority of another” (see Submission is a free-will act. Jesus could have walked away from his Passion in the Garden, but he submitted himself (by a free-will act) to the will of the Father.

I submit that it is HERESY to suggest that Jesus’ human nature was BOUND to his divine nature in such a way that it could not deviate from it if he freely chose to do so (because, then, he would really have only two representations of the SAME nature, which is HERESY according to the Catholic Church).

I submit that it is HERESY to suggest that Jesus, in his human nature, was somehow incapable of opposing his divine nature. Again, this would mean that he simply had two representations of the SAME nature, which is heresy.

I submit that it is HERESY to say that Jesus’ human nature differed in any way from our own human nature, except for the effects of original sin (and, thus, that Jesus’ human nature does not differ in any way whatsoever when compared with the human nature of his mother).

I submit that it is HERESY to say that Jesus, in his human nature, lacked free will.

And I welcome anyone who can cite doctrine to the contrary.

Ludwig Ott: Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:

“Christ has not merely not actually sinned, but also could not sin. Sent. fidei proxima.”

And the reasons for that He -could- not sin are many, but one of them is the above. His state was one of the beatific vision from the beginning. People in Heaven, or people with the beatific vision, cannot sin.

They have free will, they cannot sin, no contradiction up there.

Just a thought, when Jesus spent his time on Earth he would have lived by the two greatest commandments. From my understanding you cannot make someone love another person, unless they choose to do it willingly.

This suggests that Jesus could choose not to love, even those who condemned him, the commandments for Jesus might be……

Jesus loves the God the Father with all his heart, soul, mind and strength?
Jesus loves each and every one of us as he loves himself?

I remembered that He has the 2 natures, fully God and fully man, so I was fairly content that he could have sinned, because the human would be tempted.

Your very correct here and I would say that because Jesus was the Son of God on earth in human form; He would have been tempted more than any human has or will ever come under the tests of Satan the Prince of Darkness. Yet it was impossible for Jesus to Sin because He was God.

I was reading the Catechism, and there is a paragraph there about His human and divine wills being so close, that his human will was always his divine will. This made me wonder about the question again.

I think you confirmed your own thoughts by what you have just stated: that his human will was always his divine will.

Philippians Chap 2:6-7
6 Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. 8 He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. 9 For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: 10 That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth:

7 “Emptied himself”… exinanivit, made himself as of no account.

Ott is a respected Catholic theologian. His Fundamentals are hardly authoritative, but are pretty close. I own, and have read, the 1974 TAN Books reprinting of the 1960 Fourth Edition of Ott’s Fundamentals.

So I am fully aware that Ott does not limit himself to established Catholic doctrine, but also presents the “general” opinions of (unnamed, pre-V2) “theologians.” For example, in Book 2 (“God the Creator”), at the very beginning of Chapter 9 (“the Divine Co-operation,” page 88 in my TAN edition) we read Ott’s preamble,

There is no decision of the Church on this. However, theologians generally hold that God co-operates immediately in every act of His creatures.

OK, so Ott is gonna treat us to the “general” opinion of “theologians,” not to any established Catholic Dogma (despite the title of the book). But he’s honest about it.

This thread leads Ott to the conclusion that

God co-operates in the physical act of sin also (actio peccati, entitas peccati); since the activation of the sensual and spiritual powers of the creature, is a being, and therefore something good.

You would need to read this passage carefully in context to hope to understand how it is not heresy.

So we can’t take a single passage of Ott’s *Fundamentals *at face value - we must evaluate it in context.

But I sought to look up the quote "“Christ has not merely not actually sinned, but also could not sin” in my edition of Ott’s Fundamentals, but could not find it (though I stumbled upon the material above in my search). An internet search found a number of “lists” of Ott quotes which included this phrase, but I could find none which actually cited the quote so I could look it up in context in my book.

So, can you please cite this quote?


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