Is Jesus Ignorant?

We’ve been going through the Bible looking for clues to a Trinitarian understanding of the text. Last night, we look at one objection, which is the rich young man who came to Jesus. Tonight, we’re going to be looking at another one and one that is more difficult and has had theologians discussing for centuries. Why doesn’t Jesus know the day or hour of his coming? (Keep in mind again everyone, I am not wanting to get into the eschatology involved here. I do have an eschatological stance that I hold to strongly and a number of readers know what that is, but I do not bring it up as my blog is meant to be about the truths that unite us.)

The relevant text is Mark 13:32.

 32“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

What’s fascinating is that this seems to be the one text that Arians always like to go to. Luke tells us that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, for instance, in Luke 2:52. When we get to the Philippians passage, it indicates that Jesus emptied himself of something. That is something that is key to understanding this passage.

Trinitarians do not deny the reliance of Jesus on the Father, which we will explain more in-depth when we come to the relevant passages in John. If the Father were to go out of existence, (An impossibility to be sure, but it is simply to make a point.) then Jesus would also go out of existence. 

In the same way, Jesus enters a position of a unique subordination where he is only given information that is necessary for his mission. Jesus does play by the rules and for all we know, there could have been such communication going on between God and man before the fall happened. We are dealing with a unique situation in that there are no other perfect human beings around that we can make a comparison to.

This being the case, Jesus on a human level does not know the day or the hour of the coming. This doesn’t mean that this ceased to be divine knowledge and that Jesus in his state of deity does not know the date of the coming. It only means that in his humanity, the date is a mystery.

Ironically, one could press this against the Arians as there is a passage in Revelation 19 that has Jesus coming back and what is said about him?

12His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.

Does the Father not know? What reason do we have to think otherwise? Now while an Arian would love to see Jesus as not knowing in his deity, what is to be done with Revelation 19:12? 

This could simply be the case that what is going on is that there are things that can be known about God apart from revelation, but there are things we cannot know unless God himself expresses them. This is true for us on a human level. You can find out many things about me by reason and study. However, if you wanted to know what I was thinking at any time, you could guess some things by reason, but you would not have knowledge apart from revelation.

That means Rev. 19:12 would be an indicator of divine knowledge going on, with things that could not be known apart from revelation. (God can and does know what I am thinking without my having to express it. He does not have to watch me and wonder what it is I’m thinking.) Jesus is a possessor of such divine knowledge after the resurrection and that knowledge can only be known to us by revelation.

Thus, instead of seeing this as a defeater for Trinitarian belief, I instead see it as a wonderful place to look at the nature of humanity and the nature of deity and see how the two relate in the person of Christ and how we as humans are to relate to God.

And of course, we shall continue shortly.

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4 Responses to “Is Jesus Ignorant?”

  1. Mikael Says:

    Critics of Trinitarianism seem to forget that Jesus wasn’t only fully Divine, but also fully human. When during his short ministry on earth, Jesus emptied himself of his Divine prerogatives and instead relied completely upon the Father – i.e. kenotic emptying (I think I got it right…). Jesus sort of put his omniscience in his back-trunk (figuratively) and while he could have accessed it, he didn’t.

  2. Leonhard Says:

    I’m not sure I quite understand. You’re saying Jesus did not have omniscience, i.e he was limited to being a finite human being, I guess physically as well as mentally. However was Jesus at the same time divine as he was human?

    In other words, did Jesus not know the time of his coming, and knew the time of his coming at the same time? That’s kinda the paradox I’m getting.

  3. apologianick Says:

    The way it’s generally understood is from the Philippians 2 passage. Jesus did not lose his divine attributes, but took on a humanity that did not possess those attributes. The incarnation on Earth is seen as a time when Jesus surrendered the divine prerogative as it were for the privileges of deity. He never ceased to be deity, but he did limit himself to have only that knowledge relevant to his mission.

  4. Mr.S Says:

    I think the paradox can be explained a little better with the view that Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 13:12: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” After Resurrection all people would know all things, a little like when Christ said that everything that is hidden will be shouted from rooftops etc.

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