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
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.