Monday, December 21, 2015

Jesus' Omniscience

The following is an expanded re-posting of comments I left at Steve Hay's blogpost titled: What does Jesus know? In that blogpost Steve interacts with Dale Tuggy's podcast where he interviewed Lee Irons on the doctrine of Christ's divinity. I HIGHLY recommend reading Steve's blogpost (and preferably also Dale's podcast) before reading the following blogpost of mine.

[update: Steve continued his discussion on the topic in other blogposts. For example HERE and HERE]

Then there's the cumulative evidence for Jesus' omniscience being taught by Scripture

We (along with the Jews) know that the Messiah would know and reveal a lot of things:

John 4:25 The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things."

John 4:29 "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?"

Jesus had (or was acknowledged to have) preternatural knowledge that was consistent with omniscient, but doesn't necessarily entail omniscience:

Mark 2:8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question these things in your hearts?

Mark 13:23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

Matt. 9:4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts?

John 1:46 Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!"

John 2:24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

John 5:42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.

John 6:64  But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)

John 18:4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, "Whom do you seek?"

Jesus displayed knowledge (or acknowledged to have knowledge) that was consistent with omniscience and which may have been meant by the Scriptural authors to be interpreted as teaching divine omniscience upon later reading and theological reflection:

John 16:30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God."

John 19:28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), "I thirst."

John 21:17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.

Matt. 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.- John 10:15

Luke 10:22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."

Both Matt. 11:27 and Luke 10:22 coupled with John 10:15 should, upon theological reflection, suggest Christ's omniscience since no finite creature can exhaustively know the infinite Father, yet Jesus is said to so do. Hence, Christ is divine and omniscient. Additionally, the statement that "no one knows the Father..." is supposed to affirm the divine incomprehensibility and transcendence of the Father. If so, then when it also says that "no one knows the Son...", that should also suggest His divine incomprehensibility and transcendence as well. Only another divine person can fully know a divine person. Hence, Jesus is fully God, along with the Holy Spirit who searches the deep things of God (1 Cor. 2:10) [cf. my blogpost HERE for the Holy Spirit's Omniscience].

There are scriptural passages that indirectly and (seemingly) directly teach Christ's divinity and omniscience:

Acts 1:24 And they prayed and said, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen

In Acts 1:24 a good case can be made that Jesus is the one being prayed to [cf. Putting Jesus in His Place by Bowman and Komoszewski]. If so, then Jesus is said to know the hearts of all humans (as Rev. 2:23 states). Moreover, in Acts 1:24 Jesus is being prayed to as God similar to how Paul prayed to Christ in 2 Cor. 12:8.

Col. 2:3 states that in Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." That would be consistent with the omniscience of the eternal Word and Son of God.

Jesus is repeatedly said to be the Wisdom of God in the New Testament. Presumably the same Wisdom of God personified in the Old Testament.

1 Cor. 1:24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Luke 11:49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,'

When one combines Luke 11:49 with Matt. 23:34 (and their surrounding contexts), it's clear that Jesus is claiming to be the Wisdom that was personified in the Old Testament. For more see my blogpost HERE.

Heb. 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

In Heb. 4:12-13 the phrase "word of God" is traditionally interpreted to refer to the Holy Scriptures (which is the most likely meaning). However, there are a minority of commentators who interpret the verses to refer to the Son of God who is also called the (Eternal) Word of God. If that's the correct interpretation, then Jesus is said to not only 1. discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart, BUT ALSO 2. to exhaustively know all things such that no creature (or all creation) is exposed to (what amounts to) divine omniscient scrutiny.

Rev. 2:23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.

Jer. 17:10 "I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds."

1 King 8:39 then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind), [cf. 1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Chron. 28:9]

In Rev. 2:23 Jesus alludes to Jer. 17:10 and essentially states He is that same being described in Jer. 17:10 who searches hearts and rewards according to deeds. Something which 1 Kings 8:39 states only Yahweh/Jehovah can do. The original context of Jer. 17:10 is referring to Yahweh/Jehovah. Therefore, the most natural interpretation of Rev. 2:23 is that Jesus is claiming to be Jehovah and to possess the attribute of omniscience that Jehovah alone possesses.

It also follows that all the other external arguments and evidences for Jesus' full deity as Jehovah, if sound, would also imply Jesus' omniscience.

How does one address Mark 13:32 and Matt. 24:36 which seem to teach Jesus is not omniscient? There are various ways Christians have addressed this problem down through the centuries. Here's a link to a video that I don't find convincing or persuasive. My preferred way of dealing with the problem is by appealing to Thomas Morris' concept of two minds view of Christology. Basically, it teaches that Jesus has a human and a divine mind in such a way that doesn't commit the heresy of Nestorianism.

J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig briefly describe it this way:

Some Christian philosophers, such as Thomas Morris, have postulated an independent conscious life for the incarnate Logos in addition to the conscious life of Jesus of Nazareth, what Morris calls a “two minds” view of the Incarnation. He provides a number of intriguing analogies in which asymmetrical accessing relations exist between a subsystem and an encompassing system, such that the overarching system can access information acquired through the subsystem but not vice versa. He gives a psychological analogy of dreams in which the sleeper is himself a person in the dream, and yet the sleeper has an awareness that everything that he is experiencing as reality is in fact merely a dream.
Morris proposes that the conscious mind of Jesus of Nazareth be conceived as a subsystem of a wider mind which is the mind of the Logos. Such an understanding of the consciousness of the Logos stands in the tradition of Reformed theologians like Zwingli, who held that the Logos continued to operate outside the body of Jesus of Nazareth. The main difficulty of this view is that it threatens to lapse into Nestorianism, since it is very difficult to see why two self-conscious minds would not constitute two persons.
If the model here proposed makes sense, then it serves to show that the classic doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ is coherent and plausible. It also serves religiously to elicit praise to God for his self-emptying act of humiliation in taking on our human condition with all its struggles and limitations for our sakes and for our salvation.....

-J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig in chapter 30 of their book The Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview
See William Lane Craig's description in a debate Here (at 1 hour, 9 minutes, 21 seconds):

See also Steve Hays' blogpost Dreaming and dual consciousness

In Steve's blogpost I posted the following comments (slightly modified and curtailed):

I independently came to the same conclusions as Steve Hays and Thomas Morris due to various types of my own dreams, including lucid dreaming. Some instances came from dreams in which I was talking to other people in deep dialogue. In one instance one of the persons told a joke that was so funny I laughed out loud and woke up. Then I thought, "Who really told the joke?" Barring demonic, angelic or divine communication, I must have told the joke to myself with me simultaneously knowing and not knowing the punchline.

I've also had dreams that ran like a movie where everything previous in the dream perfectly lead up to the denouement. It surprised me even though I must have concocted the intricate storyline subliminally.

Here's an example from a lucid dream. About 22 years ago as a teenager I found out about lucid dreaming and realized I'd experienced it a few times before. So, I decided that the next time I had a lucid dream I would fly. Soon afterwards I experienced a lucid dream and found myself in a house. I decided to fly through the roof like Superman. I did so and flew over the countryside enjoying the scenery (especially since I dream in color). After flying for a while I slowly started flying faster and faster and faster. Eventually I flew so fast that it started scaring me to the point that I couldn't take it anymore, so I decided to wake myself up.

What's interesting about this incident (and other lucid dreams I've had) is that in one sense *I* was in control, but in another sense *I* was not in control, it was the subliminal *Me* that was in control and was frightening *Me*.
A counter argument might be that Jesus specifically said "ONLY the Father knows". That would exclude the Son and the Holy Spirit. However, in my other blogposts I've argued for the full deity of Jesus, and the personality and full deity of the Holy Spirit. Along with the Holy Spirit's omniscience.

Statements should never be interpreted outside of its context. That's called "Quote Mining". The fact remains that Jesus didn't include or exclude the Holy Spirit. Either because the Holy Spirit is neither a person nor Divine OR because Jesus was limiting His statements to creatures. That's why He refers to men, angels and Himself as a human being (with a finite human mind). The two minds view has Jesus having an omniscient divine mind and a finite non-omniscient human mind. Jesus' statement in Mark 13:32 and Matt. 24:36 was in the context of whether CREATURES can know something which God has hidden from creatures. Jesus as God, and as to His divine mind, could and would know.

Genesis 22:12 says, "He [i.e. God] said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, FOR NOW I KNOW that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” Did God not really know this beforehand? Of course God knew because He is omniscient. This is an athropomorphism God used to speak to us at our level. It's His way of accommodating to us. But IF TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT one can abuse it and teach God isn't omniscient.

Also, it's ironic whenever a Muslim quotes this passage to deny Jesus' divinity because Jesus refers to Himself as the "Son" as well as referring to God as His Father. Traditionally Muslims have strongly avoided calling God Father because it contradicts their conception of Allah's transcendence. However, nowadays many Muslims don't even shy away from it but have accommodated it, acccepted it, and so have watered down their traditional beliefs. If Muslims insist this Jesus saying is authentic because it allegedly denies Jesus' full deity, they must also accept the consequence that this authentic Jesus tradition also has Jesus declaring and teaching He was "the Son". The context seems to be "the Son of Man" in both passages. However, Jesus could have been alluding to both concepts of being "the Son of God" and "the Son of Man". Even if we limit Jesus reference to only the "Son of Man", it is nevertheless a veiled claim to deity as I've argued HERE.

I have argued for Jesus' full deity in many of the blogposts in this blog. But there's another argument that may support Jesus' omniscience in another way. I argued at another blogpost HERE that Revelation 22:12-13 is speaking about Christ. If so, then Jesus is being described as "Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." Elsewhere in the book of Revelation Jesus is called the "first and last", which was a title of God in the Old Testament. Compare Rev. 1:17 and Rev. 2:8 with Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12. Since Jesus is called "first and last" (if not also "Alpha and Omega and the beginning and the end") that teaches Jesus' full deity in a way that may also imply or highlight the divine attribute of omniscience. The idea being that the three descriptors point to both God's omnipotence in creation and His exhaustive knowledge of His own creation, just as He knows Himself fully. In other words, God's exhaustive self-knowledge is included in the phrase "Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and end". If Jesus is "the first and last", then Jesus must be omniscient according to the book of Revelation. It's almost certain that the phrases "Alpha and Omega" and "the beginning and end" are just two other different ways to say and teach the meaning of "first and last".

Some might object by saying that the book of Revelation was one of the last books in the New Testament to be written. In which case it's not as reliable a source regarding the beliefs of the earliest Christians. However, the earliest New Testament books are the Pauline epistles and they have a very high Christology that teaches Jesus' full deity. Moreover, the early Gospel written (Mark) also has a very high Christology that (I have argued) teaches Jesus' full deity as well. See my blogpost:

Markan Christology

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