A Christian response to Asher Norman’s claim that Jesus sinned

The cover of Asher Norman’s book, “Twenty-Six Reasons why Jews don’t believe in Jesus,” contains a number of enthusiastic endorsements of this work:

“An intense and powerful work. Had I only read the first pages, I would not have become involved in messianic Judaism for ten years.” – Paul (Pesach) H. Goodley, M.D. (Former leader of a messianic congregation. Author, Release from Pain)

“Asher Norman has made a significant contribution to the field of refutation of Christian fundamentalist polemics … This book is a must for anyone interested in gaining a greater insight into the clear distinctions between Torah Judaism and Pauline Christianity.” – Rabbi Aaron Parry

“Obviously, I disagree with Asher Norman’s interpretation of the facts that feature in this book, but he has worked hard to get the facts right, and as far as I can tell, his facts are correct.” – The Reverend Doctor John Goldingay, Fuller Theological Seminary.

But are Norman’s arguments really as convincing as these proponents consider, and are his ‘facts’ as correct as his theology professor ‘can tell’.

In our 3rd quarter 2007 edition we responded toNorman’s claim that “Isaiah 53 is one of three hundred false messianic prophecies used in the Christian Bible”. We now deal with a further claim, found at page 42 of Twenty-Six Reasons, namely that Jesus was a sinner.



The ten commandments in the Torah state:

DEUTERONOMY: “Honor your father and your mother, as Hashem, your God commanded you, so that your days will be lengthened, and so that it will be good for you upon the land that Hashem, your God, gives you,” (Deuteronomy 5:16) “… you shall surely bury him on that day … you shall not contaminate your Land, which Hashem, your God, gives you as an inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 21:23)
ANALYSIS: The Torah requires Jews to (1) honor their parents (which includes the requirement to properly provide for their burial) and (2) promptly bury the dead. Jesus ordered a disciple to follow him withoutproperly burying his father. This constitutes a major sin by Jesus and by his disciple.
MATTHEW: “Then another of this disciples said to him, ‘lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to his disciple, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’ Now when he got into a boat, his disciples followed him.” (Matthew 8:21-23)



Ordering his disciple not to bury his father violated the Ten Commandments and constituted a major sin by Jesus under Jewish law. ”   


Christian response: 

While the Law certainly requires us to honour our fathers and mothers (the 5th commandment), few would contest that the commandments “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength”( Deuteronomy 6:5), and “you shall have no other gods before Me,” (Exodus 20:3) are of even greater importance than the 5th commandment, and should take precedence over that and others.

This is clear from Deuteronomy 13:6: “If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people.”

Love for family members may not outweigh our devotion to God. We have examples in scripture of Israelites who killed brothers and daughters for the sake of God:

  • The Levites in Exodus 32;
  • Jephthah in Judges 11.


The Levites were praised by Moses for forgetting their fathers and mothers, brothers and sons and acting impartially against all who persisted in their idolatrous worship of the golden calf (Deuteronomy 33:8-9).

“This [referring to Deut. 33:9] describes in emphatic language the disinterested spirit in which the tribe of Levi discharges its office: the disregard of even the closest family ties, when they interfere with performance of religious duties.” (Soncino Commentary on the Pentateuch, Dr. A. Cohen, ed.)

The principle that faithfulness to God takes precedence over our sentiments and obligations toward close relatives is thus firmly founded upon the Hebrew scriptures. That the Rabbis also recognized this principle is evident from a rule they invented to enable wealthy children to avoid assisting needy parents by consecrating their property to God, i.e. having it declared Corban.

“You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, `Honor your father and your mother,’ and, `Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: `Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that” (Mark 7:6-9).  

By contrast to the Rabbis’ misapplication, the call to follow Messiah in the service of God must rightfully take priority over parental obligations, and is thus a legitimate application of the principle established from the Torah.

What then about laws pertaining to burial?

Norman claims: “Jesus ordered a disciple to follow him without properly burying his father. This constitutes a major sin by Jesus and by his disciple”.

Assuming that the father was already deceased, and awaiting burial, Jesus certainly did not command that the father should not receive a proper burial. He simply affirmed another Torah principle, namely that a man’s uttermost consecration to the service of God can prevent him from burying even his own parents. We see this in the case of a High Priest and also in respect of an Israelite who has made vows of consecration (a Nazirite).

First, we read in Leviticus 21:

“The high priest, the one among his brothers who has had the anointing oil poured on his head and who has been ordained to wear the priestly garments, must not let his hair become unkempt or tear his clothes. He must not enter a place where there is a dead body. He must not make himself unclean, even for his father or mother, nor leave the sanctuary of his God or desecrate it, because he has been dedicated by the anointing oil of his God. I am the LORD” (verses 10-12).

Then in Numbers 6, concerning vows of consecration:

” Throughout the period of his separation to the LORD he must not go near a dead body. Even if his own father or mother or brother or sister dies, he must not make himself ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of his separation to God is on his head. Throughout the period of his separation he is consecrated to the LORD” (verses 6 -8).

By analogy to these two examples, the call to follow Messiah placed a higher demand on this man’s life, than to participate in his father’s burial. If the anointing oil precluded the High Priest from burying a father or mother, then how much more should those destined to receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit, be fully consecrated to God? And if the High Priest could not leave the sanctuary where he served, how much less could a disciple of Messiah, now that “one greater than the Temple” was here (Matthew 12:6), leave him?

Going deeper:

Messiah once said to the Sadducees, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).

Norman and other Jewish polemicists demonstrate a similar ignorance in failing to recognize fundamental Torah principles in the life and teachings of the Lord Jesus – as their objections to Matthew 8 clearly reveal.

Parents were to be honoured because they were responsible for teaching their children the ways of God (as required, for example, by Deuteronomy 11:19). And burial was of particular importance to the Hebrews because they believed in a physical resurrection from the dead.

These values are founded upon faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who revealed Himself toIsraelas a God of love, faithfulness and truth – the Ultimate Good. This same God desires what is perfect for us, His children, and we must trust Him to work all things to the good through our obedience.

A young Christian became estranged from his parents after he opened his home to the destitute and started selling his possessions to provide for the poor. One night in prayer, while he was praying anxious prayers about this matter, the LORD gave him a vision of antelope migrating across a vast plain. In this vision the antelope came to a river, and stopped there for fear of crocodiles and other dangers. Behind them the land was dusty and barren and beyond them the land was green and lush. The river formed the boundary between the two. Eventually one of the herd jumped into the water and swam across. On reaching the other side, the rest of the herd followed and joined their leader in the green pastures beyond the river.

The young Christian was overjoyed at this message from his Heavenly Father. He understood from the vision that he must follow God even if this meant that he must leave his beloved parents behind for now. He was also given the wonderful assurance that both his parents would follow later and be reunited with him, provided he persevered in his faith. A few years later the vision was fulfilled.

If we honour our parents so that they may lead us to God, should we not honour our God even more, when he begins to draw us to Himself, in ways that our parents do not understand or approve? Do we not believe that God loves our families more than we do, and will fulfil His purposes for them in due time?

And should a father’s burial take higher priority than to serve the God who will raise the beloved father back to life on the last day?

Those who seek the comfort and certainty of rote obedience to a rules-based religion, instead of a relationship with the living God, can never understand these things.  Norman and others like him are not only ignorant of the Law, but have never experienced the POWER of God – the power that enables those led of His Spirit to forsake all things – and then to gain so much more than they have seemingly lost.