Today I was in a service, and the preacher got up there and started talking about attacks on the deity of Christ. He boldly stated that Jesus was omniscient. Immediately my mind shot back to Jesus’ comments in Mark 13:32. Here Jesus plainly points out that He does not know when He will return. So my question was Jesus all-knowing or not? And if not, what are the implications for the doctrine of His deity?
Thanks for writing, David.
This is a pretty common question. First, it is important to have a proper understanding of the hypostatic union. I think Robert Reymond has described it more clearly than most have. I will, however, give some passages from his systematic theology book and add my own thoughts to it.
In Mark 13:32 Jesus says, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Jesus Christ has two natures, a divine nature (or as I like to call, the ‘eternal nature’) and a human nature (I like to call this the ‘humbled nature.’) As Robert Reymond said in his systematic theology book, “So in Mark 13:32 we find Christ designating himself in terms of what he is as divine (“the Son” of “the Father”), but then what he predicates of himself, namely, ignorance, as to the day and hour of his return in heavenly splendor, is true of him in terms of what he is as human, not in terms of what he is as divine. As the Godman, he is simultaneously omniscient as God and ignorant of some things as man.“ 1
When Jesus said he did not know when he would return, he was referencing his human nature (or his humbled nature) where the divine attribute of omniscience is suppressed. As the Westminster Confession of Faith teaches, “Christ, in the work of mediation, acts 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.” 2 After quoting this passage of the Westminster Confession of Faith, Reymond writes:
“This means that, regardless of the designation which scripture might employ to refer to him, it is always the person of the son and not one of his natures who is the subject of the statement. To illustrate: when what is predicated of Christ is true of him by virtue of all that belongs to his person as essentially divine and assumptively, human for example,”that he might become a…high priest” (Heb 2:17), it is the person of Christ as both divine and human and not one of his natures, who is the subject.” 3
In essence, though Christ has two natures, scripture sometimes references one nature or the other. In Mark 13:32, Jesus is describing an aspect of his humbled nature, and that is why he claimed ignorance in Mark 13:32 concerning his return. Though scripture always references Christ as a person, there are times when scripture will make a statement about one of his natures. For a more thorough explanation on this, I recommend Robert Reymond’s systematic theology book.
1. Robet L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith: 2nd Edition – Revised and Updated, p. 224
2. The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter VIII, Article VII
3. Robet L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith: 2nd Edition – Revised and Updated, p. 224