Why Callest Thou Me Good?


When Jesus was approached by a certain young rich man, the following conversation ensued:

“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

“And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Matt. 19:16-17

And so we have the question: If only God is good, can we say we are a good Christian, or a good father, or a good mother?

To confuse the issue, there are verses like this:

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

“But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.

“The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

“As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:10-15

So on the one hand it appears that Jesus is saying he’s the good shepherd, on the other that he’s not even good.

It is no wonder that so many people think the Bible is a book full of contradictions. The unlearned and unbelieving will say, “It contradicts itself and you cannot trust it.”

But we know it to be he Word of God, and that when ever it appears to contradict, it is only an apparent contradiction, and that there is an explanation that lacks contradiction.

Whenever the Bible contradicts itself, we know that when originally given, the Word of God did not, and that apparent contradictions exist either in translation or in our understanding.

“Why callest thou me good?’ in Scripture is a literal absolute. Jesus was saying that literally, there is only one good. But it is time for a question that on the surface seems self-explanatory: What does he mean here by “good?”

Translation or understanding.

These are always the two areas that bring about contradictions as we read a Bible, that explain apparent contradictions in Scripture.

If we look up the word “good” in Matthew 19, we find the word “agathos” which is defined as “intrinsic virtue.” If we look at John 10, we find “good” is “kalos,” meaning “the appearance of virtue.”

Jesus was saying that as the good shepherd, his shepherding puts on the characteristics of virtue. But only God has the intrinsic value, the inherent nature of virtue.

God and God only.

Not Jesus, and if not Jesus, certainly no other man or woman.

Of course, if we fail to recognize that Jesus is God’s creation, that Jesus as a being separate from God had his own free will, and could have chosen to deviate from following God’s will, we have a problem with this.

In our understanding, we will fail to understand how Jesus could lack virtue that was inherent and inseparable. See how our understanding could create an apparent contradiction that could only be accepted by “You have to take it on faith?”

Indeed, we only have trust God on faith, but to do that, we have to recognize the integrity of God’s Word, that it does not contradict itself, that it contains literally no errors.

In a direct and literal way, only God has inherent goodness that cannot be separated from Who He is.

Jesus, not so much.

In his ministry, he could have veered, went his own way, followed his own will or even rejected God’s outright as Adam did. In all real and literal ways, Jesus was tempted, but in a real and literal way, God cannot be. God as a virtue that is inseparable from Who He is. Only God is agathos.

But Jesus is the good shepherd. He put on all righteousness, he put on all virtue. By choice and free will, he did the right things. Jesus is the kalos shepherd.

See the resolution an accurate translation makes?

Now, let’s muddy the water again.

“O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

“A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” Matt. 12:34-35

One second, Jesus says only God is good, agathos, now he’s saying a man can indeed be agathos. It’s apparent contradiction time.

First, who is this “good man?” It does not identify him does it”?

Matthew 19 clearly identified Jesus and everybody else as not good, not containing inherent virtue, and God specifically as having this quality.

Matthew 12, however, is a general reference to a paradox man who is personally unidentified, hypothetical.

You see how, if we fail to understand Biblical usage, we might think we have a contradiction? 

In Scripture, a hypothetical paradox is a figure of speech that underscores figuratively a very literal truth. It is Biblically a literary device that can use a parallel to bring attention to very real qualities or realities.

What quality, what reality is brought alive by the paradox of a hypothetical “agathos” man?

“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

“For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Matt. 12:36-37

At judgment, when our words and our works are judged, we will find that our lives will be accounted as to whether they can be considered to have had intrinsic virtue or not. And this accounting will be based on the intrinsic virtue of words and works.

Look at Tabitha:

“Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.” Acts 9:36

This is the first application of the word “agathos” in the Church, and it refers to her works.

“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

“Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

“If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

“If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”1 Cor. 3:11-15

You see? For the Christian, the works that have intrinsic virtue will be tried and remain. The rest, no.

“(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:

“Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

“In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” Rom. 2:13-16


Thus, based on the inherent virtue of the body of works and the witness of conscience, and man, is by the grace of God accounted as having intrinsic virtue.

But the leaders of Israel, men who were certain they were good, were a generation of vipers, Jesus said! They bore rotten fruit!

What then?

We will not worry about whether we are good. We will concern ourselves, one act at a time, with emulating Jesus Christ and seeing to it that each act we dedicate to our Lord has intrinsic value, that it is indeed a blessing to God and to someone in God’s Church.



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9 Responses to Why Callest Thou Me Good?

  1. charles says:

    The bible doesn’t say Jesus was a created being.Created being cannot be found in form of God.Philipans 2:5-7 tells us that he humbled himself and gave up his divine privileges as God.Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

    6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

    7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
    .Verse 6 cannot be ascribed to a creature.He had his own will because he was separate from his father,he was a real person just like his father is a real person but he in nature he was God.That was why in John 17(read it) he asked his father to glorify him with himself,the glory that he had with him before the world was made.But God sayed his glory he cannot share with any one.Don’t confuse his humanity with his nature as God.In his humanity he was tempted but he existed before his human nature as God.

    • Actually, Jesus is a created being. He was made, born, had an origin. While Trinitarian translations dilute this truth, the Koine is quite clear. What part of “image” is confusing? An “image” is something that looks like the original, but is not.
      The question here is whether we really believe Jesus is the Son of God.
      We either believe Jesus is figuratively “god,” and literally the Son of God, or literally God and only figuratively the Son.
      The Bible also figuratively calls the judges of Israel, the king David, and even the “god” of this world “god,” we recognize the difference between they and God.
      But then we deny Jesus is truly the Son of God, claiming he is Son figuratively.
      We are not warned to confess Jesus as God. We are warned to confess he is the Son of God.
      “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
      (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
      Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
      And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:”
      “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
      Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.”

  2. ronald says:

    In Matthew 19:17, the rich ruler eluded to Jesus as “good”, in which Jesus replies Why call me good? only one is good, only GOD is good. Does not the scripture teach that Jesus is good. That Jesus is fully man and fully God? Is possible that the rich man and the reader of this verse miss the possibility that Jesus is identifying Himself as God?

    • No, not possible. No indication this question, “Why callest thou me good,” is rhetorical. In context, it answers the flattery (false compliments meant to butter up) that the young rich man gave him, calling him “Good Master.” In fact, claiming that this might be an allusion to Jesus claiming to be God directly contradicts Jesus in several areas where he distinctly identifies himself as separate from God. For example, John 8:42-43, “Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.”
      In Matthew, 4:8-10 “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
      And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
      Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
      Jesus had the perfect opportunity here to remind the Devil the he, Jesus, was God and “Thou shalt worship me, God, and me only shall thou serve.” After all, the Devil was supposedly fallen from the Heaven Christ had supposedly been in, right? That is, after all, part and parcel of Trinity doctrine.
      Truth is, until Jesus was born, until he grew in stature and wisdom, and in grace, until this second Adam stood on what was written, the Devil was hoping that this second Adam might be tempted like the first.
      Truth is, the Devil did not know what Jesus would do until he tried. God could not be tempted, I’m sure the Devil knew this. Jesus, not being God, could be. But Jesus, tempted as we, was without sin, because he stood on what is written, our example as sons, heirs of God, but joint heirs with our brother Jesus Christ our Lord.

  3. Zig says:

    dear Administrator,
    1) I will not criticize your unitarian interpretetions
    2) I will criticize your greek title “Καρδια Επιστοτε” since I’m a native Greek and fluent in 3 versions of the language, that is classic ancient greek, the koine or hellenistic greek and the modern greek.
    a) You used that supposedly greek phrase for what reason? To show that you are able to read the gospels in their original version? Well .. you can fool only those who dom’t know the language, and I admit they are the vast majority
    b) the phrase “heart letters” in the Greek language of the Gospels is “Καρδίας ‘Επιστολαί ” (Kardias Epistolae). The word “Καρδια” is the nominative form of the noun and here must be used the posessive genitive form “Καρδίας”. There is no grek word “Epistote”.
    c) If you’re so epidermic and careless and superficial in the correctness of your logo-moto, then I’m not surprised by your shallow interpretations of the scriptures.
    Με ‘εν Κυρίω ‘Αγάπην

  4. Zig says:

    1) and remember .. ‘Επιστολαί (Epistolae’ = Epistles = letters) i.e Epistles of Paul
    2) and forget that .. Επιστοτε (Epistote), there is not such a thing

    • Haven’t thought about the heading for about 25 years. Used to use “Heart Lines” but unfortunately, as the internet opened up, I discovered that was used by numerous Catholic agencies so I deferred.
      I do know I did not want to use the term “epistolai” exactly BECAUSE I did (and do) not want my work to be take as God-breathed, that it is the effort of one man to come closer to what has been revealed, not a claim to some new understanding. At that time, “Heart Lines” was generally a simple type-written letter to talk about milk of the Word, not meat, which might, just might explain why I made no attempt to super-verify my use of a “grek” word when I was seeking to find a replacement name. Nor was I at that time involved in trying to make “interpretetions” of the “grek.” (I won’t criticize your English skills even though your sp. is off a bit…your use is good.)
      I used that phrase at the time, as what for some unknown reason I thought it was a valid plural form, off the net? A typo? I couldn’t tell you.
      I do know it was not “show that am able to read the gospels in their original version,” anyone with an interlinear can in a matter of speaking do that.
      I do know its apparent you jump to many misconceptions based on quick assumptions. Since you probably do that with the Scriptures, thank you for not bothering to try to criticize my belief that Jesus actually is the Son of God.
      I do appreciate the insight. Although “Heart Lines” is not our “logo-moto,” it is on one of our releases, the subjects have increasingly been meaty and removed from its original purpose, and so it’ll be back to the old drawing board for what to call this blog. So thank you for that, even though helping us do better doesn’t really seem to have been your intent.

  5. Zig says:

    1) “grek”… Please excuse my typo. Haven’t you, really, realized that it was a typo? In my short message above, before that “grek”, I had used the correct “greek” six times already. You prove your self a bit careless again (he he). However I admit that I am not perfect in english and a couple of other foreign languages I speak. I just try my best and I’m always open and thankful to corrections. In any case I don’t think that my fluency and my spelling adequacy in english matters at all. At least I didn’t publish that “grek”.

    2) It is a poor try to say : “I do know I did not want to use the term “epistolai” exactly BECAUSE …” It would be more honest and sincere to admit you didn’t know.

    3) It was good you removed that “grek” thingy from your site’s title.

    God Bless You

  6. Regarding your previous reply, the truth is always more honest. Sorry it does not suit you.
    The mistake on a typo was exactly my point. I made one a long time ago, didn’t have cause to think about it, now please move on.
    As far as “I did not disagree on that “Jesus actually is the Son of God”. I disagree that “Jesus is a created being…”
    His Sonship is contingent on his being proceeding from God. If you deny Jesus had an origin, you deny what Scripture said about Jesus being the Son of God. Scripture is clear on Jesus’ origins, his growth, what he became.
    Also if you bother to read the body of work of Free Christian Ministry and compare it to Arianism, you will see it is not Arianism.
    There are plenty of places you can go to play accuser, play satan, play the pestering pharisee, and try to find things to accuse me of, all of which are obviously petty and or mistaken. There are plenty of places you can go to preach your doctrine and to argue.
    I gave you time to make a few points, I answered them, honestly, even responding to valid criticism. Now you accuse me of deception and dishonesty. Further postings from you will be deleted, including one on which part of this answer was based.. If I have to delete, I will block. Thank you.

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