I ran across this charming nugget from Bart Ehrman yesterday:
When Jesus forgives sins, he never says “I forgive you,” as God might say, but “your sins are forgiven,” which means that God has forgiven the sins. This prerogative for pronouncing sins forgiven was otherwise reserved for Jewish priests in honor of sacrifices that worshipers made at the temple.
Ehrman, Bart D. (2014-03-25). How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (p. 127). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
That’s right. Jesus merely says “your sins are forgiven.” He never says anything that would indicate that he himself has authority to forgive sins. Not even (one must suppose) in one of the chief passages Ehrman must have had in mind, in the second chapter of Mark. It begins with Mark 2:1-5 where he tells a paralytic, “your sins are forgiven.” I’ll pick it up in the middle of that episode, Mark 2:6-12:
Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
Nosirree, nothing in there indicates Jesus thought he had authority on earth to forgive sins! Nothing except the part where Jesus counters the scribes’ objections that he couldn’t do what only God can do; where he claims, and demonstrates, he has authority on earth to forgive sins.
Nothing, that is, except the obvious.
If you want to object that the whole account might be legendary—that Jesus might never have said that at all—let me assure you that Ehrman said that, too. It was a separate point he made, immediately after telling us that nothing written about Jesus indicates he claimed the authority to forgive.
It’s one of many points on which Ehrman errs.