Jesus Knows Everything vs Jesus Does Not Know Everything

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Challenge #9: Jesus Knows Everything vs Jesus Does Not Know Everything

Christians and theists (Jewish, Muslim) typically agree that God is all-knowing. There is a branch of Christians that believe in process theology (or “open theism”). According to them, God is progressing through time with us, learning from the events within time. This conclusion is reached due to a misunderstanding of anthropomorphisms—the fact that God communicates to us through human terms. There is also the concept of progressive revelation. Not everything about God is known right away from the start of the Bible, but God packs on additional insights as key things get grasped—like a snowball effect. Step 3 can be revealed after steps 1 and 2 are revealed and understood. It appears that Jesus did some of this also.

Though this section needs to focus more on the omniscience of the Son than the Father, it is necessary to first demonstrate the omniscience of God from the Old Testament. Because if God is not all-knowing, than neither is the Son. The verses that speak to God’s omniscience seem clear enough to destroy process theology. God is the alpha and the omega, the first and the last (Rev. 21:6). According to 1 John 3:20 God knows all things, even beyond our hearts. Psalm 147:5 says that God’s understanding is infinite. Jesus said, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.”[1] It also makes philosophical sense that God is all-knowing. He is outside of time, and unsequenced, where such knowledge is possible. If He created it all, and sustains it all, He knows it all. He is everywhere; so if He knows anything in one place, then He knows all things at all places (and times).

The passage that usually makes the Christian pause and the critic grin is in Jesus’ apocalypse speech in Matthew 24: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”[2] Jesus is referring to the time of  the tribulation and his second coming.

Since Jesus is “very God of very God,” then, according to some, he must possess this omniscient attribute of Godhood. If he doesn’t possess it, then how can we still call Jesus “God”? But in fact Jesus doesn’t need to know all things at all times to be considered God. However, that which he does know he must know perfectly. I think we need to understand the omniscience of Jesus the way we understand his omnipresence. His physical limitations were plainly obvious while he walked the earth. God is omnipresent; Jesus became a locally present human. Why is this OK to accept, while a restricted knowledge is not?

This is not to say that Jesus had imperfections in his character, just limitations to his human nature. I’m not saying that there weren’t supernatural things that Jesus knew that were beyond the searching of any standard person. But Jesus did have to take his thoughts through the human thinking process also. Through this, Jesus never thought a corrupt thought nor a false thought. It seems clear that Jesus wasn’t thinking about every intricacy and detail of Jerusalem, the planet, and the universe all the time. He lived in the particulars of where he was. In those particulars he was able to know everything perfectly. Therefore, he could stand before Peter, and Peter could say, “Lord, you know it all” (John 21:17); and his disciples were able to say “Now we are sure that you know all things” (John 16:30)—and they could say this with full honesty and without being rebuked by Jesus. Jesus’ acceptance indicates the truth of the disciples’ claim. Again, this doesn’t mean every particular in the entire universe at that moment. It does mean that the thing that he fixes his focus on, he is able to know perfectly.

It hasn’t stayed that way, though. Jesus ascended and went from being locally present to being ever-present. Jesus went from the earth to fill all things (Eph. 1:23 and 4:10). This took him from having a local perfect knowledge to having a boundless perfect knowledge. Therefore, Jesus can hear thousands of prayers and intercede with each simultaneously.

Now let’s revisit the difficult Matt 24 (and Mark 13) passage*. It is possible that Jesus doesn’t know the day or hour because it is something that he had to willingly lay aside when he took on flesh to become just like us (Heb. 2:17). Similarly, it could be that it was not possible to know something of that nature while in a time-bound state. This is fine in light of the fact that to “know all things” does not need to imply all universal intricacies, but can mean all things relative to the focused topic (as in Jude 5).

Functional submission is the eternal state of the Son.** There is another reason that this should serve as a meaningful submission by the Son. Jesus is talking about the great uniting of believers with himself. Revelation 19:7 calls this the marriage supper of the Lamb. Jesus also told his followers, “I go to prepare a place for you… If I go, I will come back to take you to where I am” (see John 14:2-3). That sounds nice to us, but it was received in a much more dynamic light in that day.

Engagement before a marriage was for the purpose of the man to build a room onto the house of his father. After the completion, the man would return to his bride-to-be and take her away to live in the new room/home in a marriage covenant. In those days, marriages times were set by the father. It was to the glory of the father that the son (and others) not know the time that he had set for the union of the man and wife. Surely, that culture would have known what he was talking about. So Jesus was illustrating a much larger point than simply not knowing what a certain day would be. That’s not to say that he was lying to make a point. He seems to have actually carried out his restraint from knowing for the specific intent to honor the Father and perfectly typify a marriage union.

 

 

*These passages serve as a great witness to the authenticity and honest reporting by the Gospel authors. If they were really trying to make Jesus sound good (by human standards), they would not report something like this. The fact that they do report it also tells of the significance of the statement. There is no wasted space.

**This relates to another paradox of Jesus being equal to God, yet being less than God (John 14:28). What is stated is that he used terms that give him equality with God (John 5:18, 10:33). At the same time, he submits this equality (Matt. 26:39). The relationship is quite like a child—though equal in value and nature with his father, he is lesser in rank and properly submissive to his father. The difference is that Jesus does not submit due to a lack of wisdom or power, but in order to stabilize the relationship of the Trinity. “Although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”[3]

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Mt 10:30). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Mt 24:36). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Php 2:6–7). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

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