(Matt 27:40) Logically Valid, but Biblically False


Matthew 27:40, “saying, “The one who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!”

“If you are the Son of God, [then] come down from the cross!”
This comes across as a Modus Tollens argument, (reductio ad absurdum.) The logical structure is valid. In fact, Jesus used the same modus tollens form on the Jewish leaders, when they called him the King of demons. But is it sound or unsound? To be a sound argument the form needs to be valid and the premises need to be true.

M.1. (P) If Jesus is the Son of God, (Q) then he will come down from the cross.
M.2. ~(Q) Jesus does not come down.
M.3. ~(P). Therefore, Jesus is not the Son of God.

The issue in a simple hypothetical argument, especially when it is a basic, “If A is B, then B is definitely C, thus A is C” logic is that it rests on the arguer’s middle term B being a “necessary connection,” to the C. The issue here is that B is not necessarily connected to C. This is handled better in modal logic, which deals with possibility vs necessary implications. At any rate, their first premise is only a possible/sufficient connection from the middle term to the major. It was not a necessary one, even if only taken in regards to a broad understanding of the Bible’s teaching of God’s Power and Purpose. It is precisely due to God’s absolute power over all things that for Him, all things are possible, just as the angel told Mary. For a God with whom all things are possible, it is, well, possible that God has for His Son a temporary suffering planned out. Despite God’s power and kingdom, there could be a purpose/will God wishes to accomplish by a temporary suffering of His Son. That is, even if one were to not include the specifics of the prophesied suffering Servant, in places like Isaiah 53, the argument the Jews made is not sound.

However, according to the Old Testament the suffering of God’s Son was prophesied; and thus, the Jew’s first premise contradicted the Scriptures. Their argument would make more sense if they said, for “God’s Son to permanently be defeated.” But that was not their argument. The Psalms told how Jesus would defeat the grave (only after going to the grave first, Psalm 16), and so the Messiah had to endure a type of defeat (obviously, for our sakes).

Their argument is valid, but it was built with premises that contradicted God’s word. It was unsound. Rather than mocking Jesus, their argument mocked themselves. Words are seldom just neutral. Their argument turned against them; it exposed how bottom of the barrel stupid they were. They said they loved and honored God, but they mocked His Son. They did not believe Him; they did not hang on every word that proceeded from the month of God.