Jesus's Knowledge

by Father William G. Most

Was Jesus confused? Did He know He was Messiah? or divine? Did He know much about the afterlife? Did He have at least one superstition? Did He have only the mentality of a Jew of the first third of the first century?--Wild as it may seem, some prominent scholars charge Him on all the above counts, and more too.

It is obvious, of course, that since Jesus was God, we must say that, simply speaking, from the very beginning of His life He knew all things and all possible things. The question that these scholars are asking is, how much did He know insofar as He was truly man--that is, how much did He know in His human intellect.

So we ask: What does the Church teach on these things? Pope Pius XII, in his great Encyclical on the "Mystical Body," on June 29, 1943, rejected all such charges. He taught: "By that blessed vision which He enjoyed when just received in the womb of the Mother of God, He has all the members of the Mystical Body continuously and perpetually present to Himself." In other words: His human soul saw the vision of God at once, and in it all knowledge is at hand. In another Encyclical, "Sempiternus Rex," in 1951, the same Pope complained many were not accepting his teaching. Then in still another Encyclical, "Haurietis aquas," in 1956, he clearly repeated his earlier teaching. Further, on July 24,1966, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope Paul VI, complained that many were still not accepting. Clearly, the repeated teaching shows the Church means to make this definite and definitive, namely, that the human soul of Jesus, from the first instant, saw the vision of God, in which all knowledge is accessible.

The stubbornness of those who reject is remarkable. For on two counts this teaching rates as infallible: 1)The repetition, as we said, shows the intention to make a thing definitive. So it is infallible. 2) Pius XII, in his "Humani generis" of 1950 told us that if the Popes in their official journal deliberately take a position on something then being debated in theology, it is removed from debate, and comes under the promise of Christ (Lk. 10:16): "He who hears you, hears me." Of course, a promise of Christ cannot fail. The modern trouble on Christ's human knowledge was sparked by a book, by P. Galtier, "L'unité du Christ," which appeared in 1939 - followed soon, in 1943, by the Encyclical of Pius XII, and then by still more texts, as we said. So this teaching is infallible, on two counts.

Really, even without the help of the official texts, we should be able to see for ourselves that the human mind of Jesus not only happened to have that vision, but could not lack it. We see it in the following way. For any soul to reach that vision (which happens to others in heaven), two things are needed: 1) the power of the soul to see needs to be elevated by grace. Of course that was true in Jesus; 2) The divinity should join itself directly to the human mind, without even an image in between, so that the mind may see God. Now in an ordinary case, if we put together human body and human soul, that is automatically a human person. That did not happen in the case of Jesus - His human mind, and whole humanity, was assumed, taken over, by the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Therefore His human mind was joined to the divinity, even more closely than happens in the case of an ordinary soul - for when an ordinary soul receives that vision, it remains a separate person. But in Jesus, there was only one Person, the Divine Person. So His human soul could not possibly have lacked this vision.

In other souls, this vision causes complete blessedness. In Jesus, there was in a way blessedness, but only on the highest point of His soul, as it were. On the other hand, the vision revealed to Him, in merciless detail, everything He would have to suffer in His Passion. If one of us foresees something dreadful coming, he can take refuge in the thought: Maybe it won't happen; maybe it won't be that bad. But the vision in Jesus could be called merciless: it showed Him with distressing clarity and absolute infallibility what was to come.

To live a life under such a vision was dreadfully painful. When we have a long-running trouble, as it were, it wears the skin thin. In Him it did something like that. Yes, His divinity could have protected Him from that. But He had resolved, when He "emptied Himself" (Phil. 2:7) not to use His power for His own comfort, only for the sick. So an unprotected humanity would be in unending apprehension. Twice He let us see inside Himself. In Lk. 12:50: "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished". That is: I have to be plunged in the deep waters of suffering. I am in a tight spot, cannot get comfortable until I get it over with. Again, about a week before His death, He was speaking to a crowd in Jerusalem, and decided to let us see inside again (John 12:27): "Now my heart is troubled. What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour!" After that, in Gethsemani, the nightmare that had been pursuing Him caught up. He could not scream and find it only a dream: it was there in all its hideous reality. The interior tension ruptured the small blood vessels near the sweat glands, resulting in literally a sweat of blood, medically known as hematidrosis. He even, as St. Mark's Gospel reports (14:33), felt fear. The fact He knew He would rise on the third day could not keep the nails from hurting. Again, His divine power could have rescued Him from suffering. But He had resolved not to use that for His own sake. So again, an unprotected humanity could not help shrinking back in horror.

Instead of charging Him with such ignorance, we should be immeasurably grateful that He was willing to go through such a life, such a death. We owe Him reparation too for the charges of ignorance.

There are objections: In Lk. 2:52 we read that He advanced in wisdom and age. So was He deficient in wisdom before? No, the Fathers of the Church, after St. Athanasius, point out there is a difference between actual growth in wisdom, and growth in manifestation of it--how much He showed. He measured it out in accord with each point of age. If at age 3 for example He had shown His full wisdom, it would have been overwhelming. Rather, He chose a gradual self-revelation. Only late in His public life did he say such things as, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30) and, "Before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:58). Thus St. Athanasius, in his Third Oration Against the Arians, wrote: "Gradually as the body grew and the Word manifested itself in it. He is acknowledged first by Peter, then by all."

Again, in Mark 13:32 He Himself said He did not know the day of the end. Pope St. Gregory the Great gave us the answer to this in his Epistle to Eulogius: "... in the nature of His humanity He knew the day... but not from the nature of humanity did He know it." That is, in our terms, the information did register on His human mind, even though His humanity was not the source of that information.

Text of the file "An Ignorant Jesus?" by Rev. William G. Most.


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