Presbyterians/Was Jesus omniscient?
Hi, my question is about Jesus' nature. Jesus was fully God and fully man so from that I understand that He was unique in having two, perfectly intact natures. That's a difficult concept for me to wrap my mind around, especially in terms of how that would work in one flesh-and-blood being. The more I think about it, the more difficult the concept seems to be to grasp.
For instance, Jesus, being God's Son is fully God and a Person of the Trinity, so He would fully share the divine ability of omniscience. Further supporting this, Jesus did have certain "flashes" of omniscience where He could tell what was going to happen, see people's thoughts, and so on. But omniscience means knowing everything, and in Mark 13:32 He said pretty clearly He didn't know when Judgment Day would be. I have heard some Christians explain this by saying that Jesus had access to this information but deliberately withheld it from Himself in order to better relate to the condition of humanity, but this explanation seems to work too hard to try to justify what is a very simple and clear statement that there was something He didn't know.
Either Jesus knew everything or He didn't. If He did, how did He without compromising His human nature, and if He didn't how did He not without compromising His divine nature?
Thanks for your insight!
Beth, that is a really insightful question.
First let's start with some groundwork. A god that could be completely explained would have to be a god of our invention. There are many things about God's nature, his being, his will, his ways, his work that we will not understand, as Job found out toward the end of the book that bears his name.
Take for example the doctrine of the Trinity. As it was formulated by the ancient church, no attempt was every made to explain the concept (well, there were attempts but they were uniformly bad), but simply to do justice the biblical data. Those data tell us that there is only one God (eg Dt 6:4); that the Father is God, that the Son is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God; that there are not three Gods; the Son is not the Father or the Spirit, the Spirit is not the Father or the Son; the Father is not the Son or the Spirit. That is not an explanation per se, but rather a propositional statements about the teaching of Scripture.
The early church sought to understand who Jesus is. Is he an angel, the first created being? (so Arius). The opening passages of John's Gospel and many other passages indicated that he is God. He pre-existed his birth ("Before Abraham was, I am"). Although supernaturally conceived, his gestation was quite natural. He was born "of" Mary, and so is truly "the man Jesus Christ" (1 Tim. 2:5). Other theories were tried but found wanted. Nestorius or his followers suggested that there were two persons, a human and a divine person living in a human body (kind of weird). Some suggested that Jesus was perhaps a demi-god, a hybrid of God and man (a "tertium quid," or third thing). Other's suggested that perhaps he had a human body, but that the human soul had been displaced by the divine Logos. All of these were found wanting and not in accordance with the whole teaching of the Scripture. Athenansius came up with a handy dictum that has been helpful to this day: 'Whatever the Son of God did not assume, he did not redeem."
The full humanity and full deity of Jesus has been a tenet of the Christian faith from the beginning, even before it was fully formulated.
The Westminster Confession of Faith finished in 1648 sums up in succinct form the reasoning of the early Church in statements that are truly "catholic" (that is, universally held by Christians):
"The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon Him man's nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man. (WCF 8:2)
"Christ, in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself: yet, by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature. (WCF 8:7)
I think this last statement is as close as we can come to an explanation. Because in what theologians call the hypostatic union, a human nature was wed to, but not mingled with his divine nature, and because the one Person acts according to one or the other nature, sometimes Jesus speaks from what is proper and consistent with his divinity (omniscience) and sometimes from what is proper to and consistent with his humanity (limited knowledge).
I hope this helps.