Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Was Jesus ever ignorant of his identity and mission?

"At a recent meeting the teacher said that she took comfort in knowing that even Jesus was unsure of his identity and mission. (I don't understand why this is comforting.)... that would imply ignorance, which would imply imperfection in God. She said that Matthew and Luke more expressed Jesus's humanity and John his divinity. What is the truth?"
I believe this notion that Jesus was "unsure" or "didn't know" his identity or mission is a misunderstanding of the ways in which Jesus acquired knowledge. Jesus certainly could increase in acquired, experiential or experimental knowledge, what theologians call scientia acquisita, scientia experimentalis. However, this doesn't mean that he was ever ignorant of his identity or mission.

According to Dr. Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma,
"the knowledge which Christ acquired through his experimental knowledge was already contained in his [knowledge of vision] and his [infused knowledge], it was new, not in its content, but only in the mode by which Christ attained it.Cf. S. Th. III, 2, 2." (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pg. 168).
Yet, some recent Catholic writers tend to imply the opposite. For example,
Living With Christ - A Program of Spiritual Renewal, by John E. Sassani and Mary Ann Mclaughlin, Office of Spiritual Development, Archdiocese of Boston, 1997

(note: I could find no Nihil Obstat or Imprimatur, but states it was published "with the approval of the Committee on the Liturgy, National Conference of Catholic Bishops").
It is my contention that this and similar texts either assert error, or at least do not make clear that which they REALLY mean to say. Observe...

1) Jesus did not possess theological faith and hope. On page 30, the text Living With Christ describes Jesus as "growing as a man of faith, he was filled with hope."

If by "faith" the text intends theological virtue of faith in God, as the context seems to imply, and not mere human faith by which we accept the testimony of men, then this is contrary to Catholic teaching.

According to Dr. Ludig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 4th edition, 1960:
[Jesus] could not posses the theological virtues of faith and hope. (pg 162).
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the object of theological faith is truth about God and the things that pertain to God. Faith, says St. Paul in Heb 11:1, is "the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not." St. Gregory says (Hom. XXI in Ev.): "When a thing is manifest, it is the object, not of faith, but of perceiving."

According to MSgr. Paul J. Glenn A Tour of the Summa, (originally published in 1960, from the Fifth Printing, republished in 1978 by Tan Books), commenting on the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica:
Christ as a man, from the first moment of his conception, beheld fully the very essence of God. There was, therefore, neither need nor possibility of faith in our Lord. For faith is of divine things unseen, and Christ saw all divine things perfectly.

From the beginning of Christ's human existence, he was in full possession and enjoyment of God, and this is the object of hope. Hence, there was neither need nor possibility of the theological virtue of hope in Christ as man. (pg 319)
2) Jesus was not ignorant of his mission, and always possessed the power of the Holy Spirit. On the same page of the Living with Christ, it states: "... beginning to evoke a sense of purpose in Him.... growing in his own relationship with God.... Jesus was becoming aware that he was the servant of God.... Jesus chooses to be God's Messiah...Jesus emerged from the desert filled with the power of the Holy Spirit." On page 35, it states, "Consider how and from whom, Christ is learning what he will need on the way to Calvary, in order to be the person God wants him to be."

This implied to me that Jesus possessed human ignorance of his Divine nature and Divine mission, and that he was not always completely filled with the Holy Spirit. If I've understood the text correctly, it is an incorrect understanding of the attributes of Christ's human nature and the prerogatives of Christ in the domain of human knowledge.

According to Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, there are three ways in which Christ possessed human knowledge:
1) Immediate vision of God (scientia beata)
2) Infused knowledge (scientia infusa)
3) Acquired or experimental knowledge (scientia acquisita, scientia experimentalis)
Christ's soul possessed the immediate vision of God from the first moment of its existence (Ott, pg 162), and Christ's human knowledge was free from positive ignorance and from error. (Ott, pg. 165).

Pope Pius XII affirmed:

"... that knowledge which is called vision, He possesses in such fullness that in breadth and clarity it far exceeds the Beatific Vision of all the saints in Heaven ... ... He enjoyed [such knowledge of vision] from the time when He was received into the womb of the mother of God" (Mystici Corporis (1943), Ott, pg 163).

Dr. Ott states,
According to St. Thomas, [the immediate vision of God] includes...all that knowledge that pertains to the individual who is blessed.... [and when applied to Christ,] to the extent that such knowledge was necessary of useful for His vocation as Redeemer.... St. Thomas concluded that Christ's soul already on earth knew in the Divine Essence, all real things of the past, the present and the future, including, of course, the thoughts of mankind. (pg 165)
Christ's freedom from ignorance was denied by the Arians, the Nestorians, and a monophysitic sect of the 6th century (Agnoetes). However, Patriarch Euologius of Alexandria taught:
"Christ's humanity which was taken up in the hypostasis of the inaccessible and substantial wisdom of Christ cannot be ignorant of anything of the past or of the future."
Pope Gregory the Great approved the teaching (cf. Denzinger 248).

Futhermore, it is the common teaching of the Church that from the beginning of Christ's life, His soul possessed infused knowledge. According to St. Thomas, Christ's infused knowledge extends to all which can be the natural object of human cognition and to all which is communicated through supernatural Revelation from God to man.

The third kind of knowledge is that called acquired or experimental knowledge. This is natural human knowledge which proceeds from sense perception, and which is achieved through the abstracting activity of the intellect. That there was progress in human knowledge is explicitly taught in Sacred Scripture (Lk 2:52). According to St. Thomas Aquinas, a real progress was not possible in His knowledge of vision nor his infused knowledge, as both from the very beginning encompassed all real things of the past, the present, and the future. Thus a progress can be spoken of only in the sense of acquired or experimental knowledge.

In relation to this, the Council of Constantinople II, AD 553, canon 12 asserted:
If anyone defends the impious Theodore of Mopsuestia, who said one was God the Word, and another the Christ...who gradually...was improved by the progress of His works...let him be anathema. (D 224)
Bendict XV, in a decree of his Holy Office, June 5, 1918, taught that "[it can be called certain] that the soul of Christ was ignorant of nothing, but from the beginning knew all things in the Word, past, present, and future" (D 2184), rejecting as false opinion the theory of the limited knowledge of the soul of Christ (D 2185). In St. Pius X's refutation against the errors of the Modernists, Lamentabili (1907), he condemns the proposition that "Christ did not always have the consciousness of His Messianic dignity." (D 2035).

Consequently, incarnate Christ was never ignorant of his Messianic mission, nor anything which can be comprehended by human cognition, past, present, or future. Furthermore, he always possessed the fullness of the Holy Spirit from conception.

See further references below.

God bless,


Doctrinal References:

Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):

Christ's soul and his human knowledge

471 Apollinarius of Laodicaea asserted that in Christ the divine Word had replaced the soul or spirit. Against this error the Church confessed that the eternal Son also assumed a rational, human soul. [100]

472 This human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge. As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, "increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man",[101] and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience.[102] This corresponded to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking "the form of a slave".[103]

473 But at the same time, this truly human knowledge of God's Son expressed the divine life of his person.[104] "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."[105] Such is first of all the case with the intimate and immediate knowledge that the Son of God made man has of his Father.[106] The Son in his human knowledge also showed the divine penetration he had into the secret thoughts of human hearts.[107]

474 By its 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.[108] What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.[109]

100 Cf. Damasus 1: DS 149.
101 Lk 2:52.
102 Cf. Mk 6 38; 8 27; Jn 11:34; etc.
103 Phil 2:7.
104 Cf. St. Gregory the Great, "Sicut aqua" ad Eulogium, Epist. Lib. 10, 39 PL 77, 1097A ff.; DS 475.
105 St. Maximus the Confessor, Qu. et dub. 66: PG 90, 840A.
106 Cf. Mk 14:36; Mt 11:27; Jn 1:18; 8:55; etc.
107 Cf. Mk 2:8; Jn 2 25; 6:61; etc.
108 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:18-20, 26-30.
109 Cf. Mk 13:32, Acts 1:7.
St. Damasus I, Tome of Damasus, AD 382:
"We anathematize those who say that instead of the rational and intellectual soul of man, the Word of God dwelt...in His own body...but assumed our soul" (Denzinger 65)
"If anyone does not say that the Son of God is true God ...[and] is omniscient...he is a heretic." (Denzinger 70)
Vigilius, Constitutum, AD 553:
"If anyone says that the one Jesus Christ who is both true Son of God and tru Son of man did not know the future or the day of the Last Judgment and that he could know only as much as the divinity, dwelling in him as in another revealed to him, anathema sit." (Neuner-Dupuis, 619/4)
St. Gregory the Great, Letter to Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria, AD 600 [referenced by CCC par. 473]:
Concerning the passage of Scripture according to which "neither the Son nor the angels know the day and the hour" [cf. Mk 13:32], your Holiness is entirely correct in judging that it is certainly not to be referred to the Son considered as the Head, but considered as the Body which we are. In a number of passages [...] Augustine understands it in this sense. He also says it can be understood as referring to the Son himself, because almighty God sometimes speaks in human fashion, as for instance when he says to Abraham: "Now I know that you fear God" [cf. Gen 22:12], which does not mean that God came then to know that he was feared but that he then made Abraham recognize that he feared God. Just as we speak of a joyful day not because the day is joyful but because it makes us joyful, so the almighty Son says that he does not know the day which he causes not to be known, not because he himself does not know but because he does not in any way allow it to be known.

Thus, it is also said that only the Father knows, because the Son who is one in being with him (consubstantialis) has, from the nature which he receives from him and which is superior to that of the angels, a knowledge which angels do not have. This can also, therefore, be understood in a more subtle way by saying that the only-begotten Son incarnate, made perfect man for us, knew the day and the hour of judgment in his human nature but did not know it from his human nature. What he therefore knew in his humanity he did not know from it, because it is by the power of his divinity that God-made-man knew the day and the hour of judgment [...]. Thus it is that he denied having the knowledge which he did not have from the human nature by which he was a creature as the angels are, as he also denied it to the angels because they are creatures. The God-man knows therefore the day and the hour of judgment, but precisely because God is man.

[...] how can one who professes that the Wisdom of God himself became incarnate ever maintain that there is anything which the Wisdom of God does not know? [...] Who would then be so foolish as to say that eh Word of the Father made something he did not know? [...] Who then is so foolish as to say that the Son received in his hands what he was ignorant of? (Neuner-Dupuis, 624-626)
St. Pius X, Lamentabili of the Holy Office, 1907, Articles of Modernism Condemned:
"With truly lamentable results, our age, casting aside all restraint in its search for the ultimate causes of things, frequently pursues novelties so ardently that it rejects the legacy of the human race. Thus it falls into very serious errors, which are even more serious when they concern sacred authority, the interpretation of Sacred Scripture, and the principal mysteries of Faith. The fact that many Catholic writers also go beyond the limits determined by the Fathers and the Church herself is extremely regrettable. In the name of higher knowledge and historical research (they say), they are looking for that progress of dogmas which is, in reality, nothing but the corruption of dogmas...."

"[The Modernist proposition which claims] The natural sense of the evangelical texts cannot be reconciled with that which our theologians teach about the consciousness and the infallible knowledge of Jesus Christ [is condemned and proscribed.]." (Denzinger 2032)

"[The Modernist proposition which claims] A critic cannot assert that Christ knowledge was unlimited [is condemned and proscribed.]." (Denzinger 2034)

"The Modernist proposition which claims] Christ did not always have the consciousness of His Messianic dignity [is condemned and proscribed.]." (Denzinger 2035)
Benedict XV, Decree of the Holy Office, 1918:
Question: Can the following propositions be taught safely:
  1. It is not certain that the soul of Christ during his life among us had the knowledge which the blessed, that is those who have achieved their goal (comprehensores), have.
  2. The opinion cannot be declared certain, which holds that the soul of Christ was ignorant of nothing but from the beginning knew in the Word everything, past, present and future, that is to say everything which God knows with the "knowledge of vision."
  3. The recent opinion of some about the limited knowledge of the soul of Christ is not to be less favoured in Catholic schools than the ancient opinion about his universal knowledge.
Answer: No.
(Neuner-Dupuis, 651, 1-3)
Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, 1943:
"The knowledge which is called "vision" He possesses with such clarity and comprehensiveness that it surpasses similar celestial knowledge found in all the saints of heaven." (no. 48)

"But the knowledge and love of our Divine Redeemer, of which we were the object from the first moment of His Incarnation, exceed all that the human intellect can hope to grasp. For hardly was He conceived in the womb of the Mother of God, when He began to enjoy the Beatific Vision, and in that vision all the members of His Mystical Body were continually and unceasingly present to Him, and He embraced them with His redeeming love." (no. 75)
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica:
"...in Christ there was created knowledge....it behooved the soul of Christ to be perfected by a knowledge, which would be its proper perfection. And therefore it was necessary that there should be another knowledge in Christ besides the Divine knowledge...Christ knew all things with the Divine knowledge by an uncreated operation which is the very Essence of God...the light of knowledge is...heightened in the soul of Christ by the light of the Divine knowledge...we hold there is a knowledge in Christ, both as to His Divine and as to His human nature; so that, by reason of the union whereby there is one hypostasis of God and man, the things of God are attributed to man" (ST, III, 9, 1)

"The knowledge of the blessed consists in the knowledge of God. But He knew God fully, even as He was man...Therefore in Christ there was the knowledge of the blessed...it was necessary that the beatific knowledge, which consists in the vision of God, should belong to Christ pre-eminently, since the cause ought always to be more efficacious than the effect. The Godhead is united to the manhood of Christ in Person...therefore the soul of Christ, which is a part of human nature, through a light participated from the Divine Nature, is perfected with the beatific knowledge whereby it sees God in essence." (ST, III, 9, 2)

"It is written (Colossians 2:3) that in Christ "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."... it was fitting that the human nature assumed by the Word of God should not be imperfect...hence we must admit in the soul of Christ an infused knowledge, inasmuch as the Word of God imprinted upon the soul of Christ, which is personally united to Him, intelligible species of all things to which the possible intellect is in potentiality; even as in the beginning of the creation of things, the Word of God imprinted intelligible species upon the angelic mind...even as in the angels, according to Augustine (Gen. ad lit. iv, 22,24,30), there is a double knowledge--one the morning knowledge, whereby they know things in the Word; the other the evening knowledge, whereby they know things in their proper natures by infused species; so likewise, besides the Divine and uncreated knowledge in Christ, there is in His soul a beatific knowledge, whereby He knows the Word, and things in the Word; and an infused or imprinted knowledge, whereby He knows things in their proper nature by intelligible species proportioned to the human mind." (ST, III, 9, 3)

"It is written (Hebrews 5:8): "Whereas . . . He was the Son of God, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered," i.e. "experienced," says a gloss. Therefore there was in the soul of Christ an empiric knowledge, which is acquired knowledge...nothing that God planted in our nature was wanting to the human nature assumed by the Word of God. Now it is manifest that God planted in human nature not only a passive, but an active intellect. Hence it is necessary to say that in the soul of Christ there was not merely a passive, but also an active intellect....there was acquired knowledge in Him, which some call empiric....which is properly knowledge in a human fashion ... The human mind has two relations--one to higher things, and in this respect the soul of Christ was full of the infused knowledge. The other relation is to lower things, i.e. to phantasm]s [i.e. a mental representation of a real object], which naturally move the human mind by virtue of the active intellect. Now it was necessary that even in this respect the soul of Christ should be filled with knowledge, not that the first fulness was insufficient for the human mind in itself, but that it behooved it to be also perfected with regard to phantasms." (ST, III, 9, 4)

[Note: with regard to the limits of Christ's finite human soul: to see the whole Essence of God is not to be confused with complete comprehension:] "Not even in the union by personal being does the human nature comprehend the Word of God or the Divine Nature, for although it was wholly united to the human nature in the one Person of the Son, yet the whole power of the Godhead was not circumscribed by the human nature.... the soul of Christ sees the whole Essence of God, yet does not comprehend It; since it does not see It totally, i.e. not as perfectly as It is knowable.... the Son of Man is a comprehensor of the Divine Essence, not indeed by His soul, but in His Divine Nature" (ST, III, 10, 1)

"When it is inquired whether Christ knows all things in the Word, "all things" may be taken in two ways: First, properly, to stand for all that in any way whatsoever is, will be, or was done, said, or thought, by whomsoever and at any time. And in this way it must be said that the soul of Christ knows all things in the Word....Secondly, "all things" may be taken widely, as extending not merely to such things as are in act at some time, but even to such things as are in potentiality, and never have been nor ever will be reduced to act. Now some of these are in the Divine power alone, and not all of these does the soul of Christ know in the Word. For this would be to comprehend all that God could do, which would be to comprehend the Divine power, and, consequently, the Divine Essence.... Some, however, are not only in the power of God, but also in the power of the creature; and all of these the soul of Christ knows in the Word; for it comprehends in the Word the essence of every creature, and, consequently, its power and virtue, and all things that are in the power of the creature.... all things were made by the Word of God, as is said John 1:3, and, amongst other things, all times were made by Him. Now He is not ignorant of anything that was made by Him....He is said, therefore, not to know the day and the hour of the Judgment, for that He does not make it known...the Son knows, not merely in the Divine Nature, but also in the human, because, as Chrysostom argues (Hom. lxxviii in Matth.), if it is given to Christ as man to know how to judge--which is greater--much more is it given to Him to know the less, viz. the time of Judgment. Origen, however (in Matth. Tract. xxx), expounds it of His body, which is the Church, which is ignorant of this time. (ST, III, 10, 2).