Matthew 9:3 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 9:3, NIV: At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, 'This fellow is blaspheming!'

Matthew 9:3, ESV: And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”

Matthew 9:3, KJV: And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.

Matthew 9:3, NASB: And some of the scribes said to themselves, 'This man is blaspheming!'

Matthew 9:3, NLT: But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, 'That's blasphemy! Does he think he's God?'

Matthew 9:3, CSB: At this, some of the scribes said to themselves, "He's blaspheming! "

What does Matthew 9:3 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

This is Matthew's first mention of the conflict between Jesus and Jewish religious leaders—this will become a central focus of Jesus' ministry moving forward. Jesus has told a paralyzed man brought to Him for healing that his sins are forgiven. This may show that his unique condition was connected in some way to his sinful choices (Matthew 9:1–2).

Some scribes were present in the house, listening to Jesus' teaching. Scribes were often described as teachers of the law, holding some authority over the religious lives of everyday Jewish people. They heard Jesus say to the man that his sins were forgiven. To each other, but out of the hearing of Jesus, they react to this in anger, suggesting Jesus was blaspheming. Mark quotes them as saying, "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Mark 2:7).

These religious leaders realized that in declaring a man's sin forgiven, Jesus was making a statement about who He was. Since all sin is committed against God (Psalm 51:4) and since only God can forgive sin (Isaiah 43:25), Jesus was speaking in the place of God.

Of course, Jesus was the Son of God, so His statement is clearly not blasphemy. Some scholars debate whether claiming to forgive sins would qualify as blasphemy even if the person was not Jesus since blasphemy generally has to do with the name of God. Still, Jesus as the Son of God was fully qualified to forgive any sins He chose to.

Were these teachers of the law wrong to be offended at Jesus' statement? If another mere mortal had said such a thing, they may have been exactly right. Instead, their thoughts about Jesus betray the fact that they have failed to recognize the Son of God. Jesus will describe them as thinking evil in their hearts.

Christ's comment here is not careless—He is making a very specific point. In the upcoming verses, Jesus will point out that it's easier to claim one has the power to forgive sins than the power to physically heal; the second is something which can be tested (Matthew 9:4–7).