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What Did Jesus Know?

27 Aug

Finding in the TempleThe constant teaching of the Church is that Christ, in His human intellect, from the moment of His conception, knew all things that a created intellect could know.

This question of Jesus’ human knowledge points to the great mystery of the Incarnation, when, “in the fullness of time,” God took on human nature. In doing so, our God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, united Himself in some fashion with every human person. As we consider the mystery of Christ’s being fully human and fully divine, we are filled with wonder and joy. God is truly with us; He has visited His people (cf. Is. 7:14; Mt. 1:23; Lk. 7:16), offering salvation to all the nations.

Going a little deeper, we find that the Church affirms that human nature was “assumed” and not “absorbed” in the Incarnation. Christ is true God and true man, not some hybrid of the two (Catechism, no. 464). In trying to come to grips with this truth, many great minds throughout history have fallen into error by embracing only part of this magnificent reality. Many people today, in rightly affirming Christ’s humanity, have failed to leave room for the complementary truth that Christ is also fully divine. Indeed, “today, because of the rationalism found in so much of contemporary culture, it is above all faith in the divinity of Christ that has become problematic” (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter at the Close of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 Novo Millennio Ineunte, no. 22).

It within this context that we examine Christ’s human knowledge. It is legitimate to ask how God could at the same time be one like us (cf. Heb. 4:15) and yet know everything. However, the answer to this question must be faithful to the data the Lord has revealed to us through the Church.

We must confess, as the Church has done consistently throughout her history, that Jesus Christ is fully human. This truth is summarized in the Catechism, which in turn quotes Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, no. 22: “The Son of God . . . worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin” (no. 470). Continue reading