Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

The Father William Most Collection

The Human Knowledge of Jesus

[Published electronically for use in classes taught by Fr. Most and for private theological study.]

Confusion reigns on the matter of the human knowledge of Jesus. It is almost fashionable to say He was ignorant. Many appeal to the CCC, and even insist that anyone who does not just take it in their simplistic way are guilty of intellectual pride, and of twisting. So we need to have a good look at the situation.

§§471-74 CCC on the human knowledge of Jesus does NOT contradict earlier teachings of the Magisterium. But it does a fuzzy job of presenting the truth. Vatican II, On Ecumenism #6: Says that if anything in earlier document, even those of a General Council, have not been well expressed, they should be corrected later. Paul VI in Mysterium fidei approved, while saying that the older wording is not in itself wrong.

A)"The human soul the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge. As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited".

B)This is why the Son of God could when he became man "increase in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man." and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience.. This corresponded to the voluntary emptying of himself "taking the form of a slave."

C)But at the same time this truly human knowledge of God’s Son expressed the divine life of his person. The human nature of God’s Son, not by itself but by its union with the Word, knew and showed forth in itself everything that pertains to God [note 105 to St.Maximus the Confessor, qu.dub.66]. ....

D)From union to the divine Wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal. What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal. [note referring to Mk.13:32 ;Acts 1.7]."


On A) Perfectly true. St. Thomas said that since the human soul or mind of Jesus was finite, created, it could not as it were hold infinite knowledge. Therefore, he said, it knew all that God actually does (finite) but not all that God could do (infinite).: III.10.2.c

On B) True if understood rightly, but it is not clear. Jesus had besides the knowledge coming from the vision of God, also an experimental knowledge..., there was a point at which His senses first reported that roses are red. The Fathers wrestled long with Luke 2.52, until St. Athanasius said there is a distinction between what He always knew, and what He let people see. If at age three He had let people see all that was in His brain, it would have been staggering. So He played it out gradually—oeconomia the Greek Fathers called this. As to Mk 13.32 here He said He did not know the day of the end— the Fathers wrestled long, until Pope St. Gregory the Great said that He knew the day "IN His humanity but not FROM His humanity". DS 475-76.-- For 40 pages, containing over 100 Patristic texts on these verses, each with analysis, see Wm. G. Most, The Consciousness of Christ Christendom Press, Front Royal, VA 22630. For Him to ask: Who touched my garment? or "How many loaves?" –this is a tactic teachers use to elicit a response, such as the Father used in saying to Adam: Adam where are you?

On C) Not His humanity by itself, but His humanity seeing the vision of God knew all. The quote given in the CCC from St. Maximus is unfortunately incomplete. The full text is clear: "…the humanity of the Lord , in as much as united to the Word, knew all things, and manifested things divinely suitable. But in as much as the human nature is [thought of] as not united with the divine, it is SAID not to know. But in as much as the human nature is [thought of as] not united with the divine, it is SAID not to know." This is the same thought as that of Pope Gregory the Great, and reflects the oeconomia of which we spoke above under B). When He asked where the body of Lazarus was. He knew by the vision, also acquired experimental knowledge at the time.

One would have a hard time indeed to learn what the Church actually teaches on the human knowledge of Christ from the above statements: DS 419, 475-76, 3432.3434-35, 3812, 3905, 3924, and AAS.20.174 and Decree of the Doctrinal Congregation of July 24,1966.

Whenever anything is taught repeatedly on the Ordinary level, it is infallible. This doctrine that His human soul saw that vision was taught clearly in 5 texts. Further, Humani generis, 1950 in DS 3884-85 taught that when the Popes in their acta explicitly take a position on something currently being debated in theology, it is removed from debate, and falls under the promise of Christ: "He who hears you,hear me." Of course that promise cannot fail. Now the statement Pius XII in Mystici corporis, 1943, fits that requirement. For the modern disturbance over the human knowledge of Christ really stems from a book of P.Galtier, L'unité du Christ, Etre, Personne, Conscience, Paris,1939. The book appeared in 1939, Pius XII reacted against it soon, in 1943, and repeated his insistence in 1951 and 1956, clearly showing the intent to make it definitive. This was confirmed by the Holy Office under Paul VI.

Still further, theological reasoning without the help of the magisterium gives the same conclusion. For any soul to have that vision of God, two things are needed: the power to see must be elevated by grace, and the divinity would need to join itself directly to the human mind without even an image in between (DS 1000 - no image,being finite,could let us really know God, who is infinite). Now ordinarily if we put together a human soul and human body,it automatically becomes a human person. This did not happen in Christ (to say so would be Nestorianism) since His entire humanity was assumed, taken over, by the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Therefore, in view of His structure,that vision did not just happen to be there, it could not have been otherwise. In fact,it was super- vision,for the union of His human soul to the divinity was closer than that of any ordinary soul in the vision, since the ordinary soul remains a separate person, while the soul of Christ was not a separate person.

This is a most rich doctrine. It lets us see the tremendous suffering Jesus endured from conception on. For that vision showed Him mercilessly all He would suffer. We say "mercilessly" since if we suspect an evil is coming we may take refuge saying: Perhaps it won't come, perhaps it won't be that bad.But the vision showed Him every hideous detail infallibly.

He let us see inside Him, as it were, in Lk 12:50, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished." That is, I must be plunged into deep suffering. I am in a tight spot, cannot be comfortable until I get it over with." And in John 12.27 a few days before His death, He interrupted His discourse to the crowd to interject: "Now is my heart troubled. What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But that is why I came...." Finally in Gethsemani the nightmare caught up with Him. When we have a nightmare we can scream and wake up before some hideous thing grabs us. But He could only wake up to find it was there, that which He had so long dreaded. No wonder the interior tension was so great as to produce what is medically called hematidrosis: the blood vessels near the sweat glands rupture from the impossible interior tension, and pour out their red cargo though those pores.

From this we can see that those who worry now, if they handle it properly, can use that as a means of likeness to Christ. It shows also that reparation is needed for the widespread insults to His intelligence that run today.

What of the fact that the manuscript evidence for the authenticity of Lk 22:44, on the sweat of blood, is almost evenly divided for and against authenticity? We reply: Similarly the account of His mercy to the woman taken in adultery in John is missing in some of the great manuscripts. The reason is clear: they thought it just too much. Similarly here, some copyists would think it just too much. Furthermore, if we follow the trajectory, we see more clearly: it began with the vision in His human soul at conception, which showed Him everything He had to suffer in horrid detail, infallibly. We go next to Lk 12:50 and John 12:27, which we saw above. We can see that the anticipation of this suffering was eating on Him all His life long. That would generate the interior tension that would regularly produce hematidrosis, a sweat of blood. So there is no reasonable doubt about the text.

In brief: The Church teaches His human soul saw the vision of divinity from conception, in which He knew all He would suffer. Lk 2:52 saying He grew in wisdom refers to the manifestation, not to an actual growth. Mk 13:32 tells us the source of His knowledge of the day was not His humanity, even though the day did register in His humanity.



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