Monday, May 23, 2011

Did Jesus know the day and the hour of the Apocalypse?


In the midst of the recent apocalypse fiasco, it was not uncommon to hear well-meaning preachers state that “No one knows the time of the end of the world. Not even Jesus knew when the second coming would be, that’s why he said no one knows, not even the Son.” Indeed, even many Catholics have a tendency to think in this way – whether explicitly or (more often) by an implicit concession.
Thus, it may come as a surprise to many to learn that this claim (that, in his humanity, Jesus did not know the day and the hour of the Final Judgment) has been condemned by several popes as a heresy. In fact, it would be impossible to hold this view without implicitly maintaining either the heresy of Nestorius (dividing Christ into two persons, one human and the other divine) or of Arius (denying the divinity of Christ all together).
The specific heresy which claims that Jesus did not know the exact time of his second coming is called Agnoeticism – Fr. John Hardon defined the Agnoetes (those who held this heresy) as follows, “A sect of Monophysites who held that Christ was subject to positive ignorance. The leading exponent of its error was Deacon Themistios of Alexandria. He was condemned by the Church, which declared that Christ’s humanity cannot be ignorant of anything of the past or of the future. To attribute ignorance to Christ’s human nature is to profess Nestorianism (Denzinger 474-76).” (Modern Catholic Dictionary, “Agnoetes”)

But of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father. (Mark 13:32)
This verse was often used by heretics to limit the human knowledge of Christ or, more specifically, to attribute positive ignorance in the soul of Jesus. These heretics – whether Arians, Nestorians, or Agnoetes – argued that the Lord did not know the day or hour of the second coming. Now, it seems that none have been so bold or so impious as to claim that Christ did not know the time of the Apocalypse in his divinity; for, as God, it is most certain that Christ knew and knows all things. However, what the heretics claimed was that the Lord was ignorant in his humanity, in his human intellect.
From Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma: “Christ calls Himself the Word become Man, the Light of the World (John 8,12), which is come into the world, in order to bring the true knowledge to mankind (John 12,46); He calls Himself the Truth (John 14,6), and gives as the purpose of His coming into the world the giving of testimony to the truth (John 18,37); He permits Himself to be called Teacher (John 13,13). He is, as Holy Writ witnesses, full of grace and truth (John 1,14), full of wisdom (Luke 2,40); in Him are all treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden (Col. 2,3). He knows about happenings which occur far away (John 1,48; 4,50; 11,14), and sees through the heart of man (John 1,47; 2,24 et seq.; 4,16 et seq.; 6,71). With this is irreconcilable the notion that Christ’s human knowledge is defective or erroneous.” (Book III, Part I, section 2, chapter I – 23.4)
Magisterial texts on the perfection of Christ’s human knowledge
“If anyone says that the one Jesus Christ who is both true Son of God and true 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.” (Pope Vigilius, Constitutum I of 14 May 553)
The following proposition is condemned: “The natural meaning of the Gospel texts cannot be reconciled with what our theologians teach about the consciousness and the infallible knowledge of Jesus Christ.” (Pope Pius X, Lamentabili of 1907)
The following proposition is condemned: “A critic cannot assert that Christ’s knowledge was unlimited, unless by making the hypothesis, which is historically inconceivable and morally repugnant, that Christ as man had God’s knowledge and yet was unwilling to communicate so much knowledge to his disciples and posterity.” (Pope Pius X, Lamentabili of 1907)
The following proposition is rejected: “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’.” (Pope Benedict XV, Decree of the Holy Office of 1918)
The following proposition is rejected: “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.” (Pope Benedict XV, Decree of the Holy Office of 1918)
From these texts we learn that, even in his human intellect and soul, Christ Jesus knew – with an “unlimited,” “universal,” and “infallible” knowledge – “everything, past, present and future.” Specifically, the Lord knew “the day of the Last Judgment.”
What Christ knew in and what he knew from his humanity
[much of what follows is taken from a previous article posted here]
As God, Christ most certainly knew and knows all things without any qualification whatsoever. And, even as man, we affirm that our Savior knew and knows all things – excepting that he does not comprehend the Divine Essence (for such is beyond the powers of the human intellect).
However, when we speak of the human knowledge of Christ, we must affirm that his knowledge is of three types: Beatific knowledge, infused knowledge, and acquired knowledge. Beatific knowledge is that by which a creature knows all things in the Word – in the vision of the Divine Essence. Infused knowledge is the divine gift of knowledge, infused directly and without any assistance from the senses. Finally, acquired knowledge is that which is gained through sense experience. Of these, only acquired knowledge is proper to human nature unaided by grace.
Now Christ our God knew the day and hour of the Second Coming in his divine intellect. Moreover, even in his humanity, our Lord knew the time of the Parousia – according to both beatific knowledge and infused knowledge. However, the Savior did not know the time of the Final Judgment through sense experience and, hence, it was not part of his acquired knowledge.
Thus, when Jesus says that he does not know the day or the hour, we must understand him to mean that he does not know the time from his humanity – i.e. he does not know it from acquired knowledge through sense experience. Nevertheless, he most certainly did and does know the day and the hour in his humanity – i.e. he knows it in his human intellect through both beatific and infused knowledge.
Hence, the Good Lord does not lie, nor even deceive, when he says that he does not know the day or the hour of the Final Judgment – he only means to tell us that he knows it not from his humanity.
What God does not make to be known, he is said not to know
When Christ our Savior states that the Son does not know the day or the hour of the Second Coming, he means that the Son does not make the time to be known. Much as when we say that a day is “happy” or “pleasant,” we do not intend that the day itself is pleasant but that it makes us to be pleasant; so too, Christ is said not to know insofar as he does not make us to know (so, St. Hilary of Potiers, St. Gregory the Great, and others).
St. Augustine offers the following commentary: “According to the form of God everything that the Father has belongs to the Son for All things that are mine are yours, and yours are mine. According to the form of a slave, however, his teaching is not his own but of the One who sent him. Hence of that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. He is ignorant of this in the special sense of making others ignorant. He did not know it in their presence in such a way as to be prepared to reveal it to them at that time.” So too the Catechism: “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.” (CCC 474)
Pope St. Gregory the Great on the Son’s knowledge of the day and hour
“It is perfectly clear that whoever is not a Nestorian cannot in any way be an Agnoete. For, 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? It is written: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. […] All things were made through him (John 1:1,3). If all things, then undoubtedly the day and the hour also. Who would then be so foolish as to say that the Word of the Father made something he did not know? Scripture again says Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands… (John 13:3). If all things, then certainly the day and the hour also. Who then is so foolish as to say that the Son received in his hands what he was ignorant of?” (Pope Gregory the Great, Letter to Eulogius of 600)

15 comments:

Nick said...

This is a good and important subject to bring up since there is a lot of confusion. I knew that it was wrong to say Jesus didn't know in his Humanity, but I didn't know of a good way to interpret that verse, so thank you for informing me on that.

I always thought it must be read somewhat akin to Genesis 22:9-12. Jehovah's Witnesses are fond of quoting the passage that the Son doesn't know the hour, yet the JWs also say that texts like Gen 22:12 show God Himself doesn't know the future!!


Two somewhat humorous points regarding the "no one knows the day nor hour" reference:

(1) Some Dispensationalist Protestants say "Jesus only said we couldn't know the day nor hour, but that doesn't mean we cannot know the week or month" (and they say this in seriousness).

(2) The Protestants who are big on using the Bible as a secret code book to determine the very day (just like Harold Camping for May 21, 2011) insinuate that they were able to do the correct math and crack the secret Bible code yet Our Lord Jesus was too stupid to be able to do that himself and thus didn't know the "day nor hour".

Anonymous said...

There is a certain contradiction in your theological positions on the knowledge of Christ. First, you do not seem to permit any difference between the knowledge ‘in’ Christ’s human nature and that in His Divine Nature, except the comprehension of the Divine Nature. You claim that any other difference would imply a division of Christ into two persons: one human and the other Divine. And yet on the topic of salvation, you do not allow that Christ is our salvation ‘in’ His human nature, and you do not allow that the Divine Nature is the Way, nor do you allow that the human nature of Christ is the Truth and the Life. In short, you make the same type of division between the human nature and Divine Nature of Christ which, on the subject of knowledge, you say implies heresy.

If saying that the knowledge of Christ ‘in’ His human nature is limited is a heresy, because it separates (implicitly) the two natures into two persons, then the same would be true of your position about the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

St. Thomas More.

Reginaldus said...

@Thomas More (Anonymous),
You misunderstand my earlier article (whether accidentally or out of malice, I do not know).

When I said that the humanity of Christ, in itself, is not the Truth or the Life this was meant in the sense that the humanity of Jesus is the "united instrument of salvation". It is not our salvation in itself, but it is the means to salvation which is united to that salvation.

As the Church has taught many many times, the salvation of man is the vision of the divine essence (i.e. the beatific vision). This is salvation: God himself as enjoyed by man.
Now, of course, the humanity of Christ always remains as the united instrument of salvation (as I said very clearly in the previous article) ... however, our salvation is not in the vision of Christ's humanity, but in the vision of the Trinity.

To claim that the beatific vision is the vision of a creature (and Christ's humanity is certainly a creature) is very close to the error of Gregory of Palamas.


So: Is Christ our salvation? Yes, in his divinity. In his humanity he is our way to salvation and is united as the instrument of that salvation.

Reginaldus said...

Thomas More (Anonymous),
When it comes to the human knowledge of Christ, however, we must admit that he knew the day and the hour in his humanity (though not from his humanity).

This flows precisely from the fact that the humanity of Christ is the united instrument of our salvation. Precisely because the humanity of Christ is the Way (though it is not itself the Truth and the Life) we must affirm that Jesus knew the day and the hour of the Judgment in his human intellect.

Your claim that my two articles are contradictory does not stand. In fact, the two articles build up and support one another.

This is the common mystery: The humanity of Christ is not the divinity of Christ (hence he is the Way as man, and the Truth and Life as God), but the humanity is united to the divinity as the instrument of salvation (hence, he knows the day and hour in his humanity though not from his humanity).

Anonymous said...

To the contrary, Jesus Christ, the one Person with two natures, is our Way and our Truth and our Life, just as He plainly taught. When we arrive at everlasting happiness, is our happiness only in His Divine Nature, and not in His whole Person? Of course not. When the plan of God is completed, and all the faithful are happy forever, does the human nature of Christ become useless? Of course not. So the human nature of Christ is not merely the means to our salvation, it is part of our eternal happiness (just as the company of Mary and all the Saints and Angels is part of our eternal happiness). So the human nature Christ is not merely a means to salvation and happiness, but also a part of the end of salvation and happiness. And the human nature of Christ by itself could not save (could not really exist, since without the Divine Nature united to the human nature, it would not be of Christ). Christ saves as God Incarnate, so that the Divine Nature is both the means and the end, just as the human nature of Christ is both means and end. The fact that the human nature of Christ is finite does not prevent it from being, with the Divine Nature, in the One Person, a part of the means and a part of the end.

And therefore, when Jesus says “I am the Way….” He is referring to His whole Self, the one Person with two Nature. These two Natures are thoroughly united, but without detriment to either nature, in one Person. To separate them such that the Jesus would be said to be not the Way in His Divine Nature, or not our salvation in His human nature, is false.

St. Thomas More

Reginaldus said...

Thomas More (Anonymous),
Your way of reading Scripture is too facile....
There are many statements about/by Christ which must be attributed to him by virtue of only one of his two natures.

For example: "Jesus was born of Mary" ... this is attributed to the one person by virtue of the human nature.

"Before Abraham was I AM" ... this is attributed to the one person by virtue of the divine nature.

Examples abound.

There is no division in the unity of person by claiming that a statement is attributed by virtue of only one of the two natures.
Thus, I do not divide Christ (and neither does St. Thomas or Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange) when I say that he is the Way in his humanity and the Truth and Life in his divinity.


Moreover, while it is certain that there are many elements in heaven which add to our eternal happiness ... these are not, strictly speaking, our salvation. The Blessed Mother and the other saints are not our salvation -- they are certainly part of our beatitude (in a secondary sense), but they are not salvation itself.
I think that anyone who looks at the argument honestly and in charity can see that Mary and the Saints are not our eternal happiness in the same way that the vision of the divine essence is.

You said, "Christ saves as God Incarnate" ... Agreed! As God he is our salvation, and as man he is the united instrument of our salvation. So we can certainly say that we are saved by Christ in his humanity (which is an instrument of his divinity).


Are you claiming that the beatific vision is the vision of something other than the divine essence? Or, do you claim that salvation, strictly speaking, is something other than the beatific vision?

If the beatific vision is our salvation (strictly speaking) and the beatific vision is the vision of the divine essence, then it is quite clear that the humanity of Christ is not itself our salvation but is instead the united instrument of our salvation.

Reginaldus said...

Thomas More,
if you would like to continue this discussion, you may do so on the post "How Jesus is the Way, and how he is the Truth and the Life" ... your questions/comments are really more directed there than at the above article.

[I will copy the above comments to that post]

Reginaldus said...

Also,
Just to be clear ... I am not the one who declared anathema anyone who would deny that the Son of God knew the day and the hour of the second coming ... that was Pope Vigilius.

I am not the one who called the Agnoetes heretics ... that was Pope St. Gregory the Great.

And I am not the one who said that it was "certain" that "the soul of Christ was ignorant of nothing, but from the beginning knew in the Word everything, past, present and future." ... that was the Decree of the Holy Office which was confirmed by Pope Benedict XV.

According to our tradition: The human knowledge of Christ extends to all created realities which have been, are, or will be ... thus, also to the day and hour of the second coming.

Anonymous said...

Because the human mind of Jesus is finite (an indisputable point), His mind could not hold all knowledge (except for comprehending the Divine Nature), all at the same time, or all in the same act, as His Divine Nature can and does do. This is true of all finite minds in Heaven that have the Beatific Vision of God. Even though they can know all that they wish to know (except for comprehending the Divine Nature), they do not wish to know anything inordinate. And so they lack knowledge of things that are not fitting for them to know. And they also do not know all things all at once, as only the Divine Nature can do. Similarly, the human mind of Christ, having the Beatific Vision (as well as infused knowledge), could obtain immediate knowledge of whatever He wished to know. But even of such things as He could and did know, He did not hold all of this knowledge all at once, as in one act. And that which He did not wish to know, since it would be inordinate (such as facts that would be useless, facts that would be idle curiosity), He did not know. But this is not positive ignorance, since He could know whatever He wished to know.

So on the question of the exact time of His Return, Jesus did not wish, at the time, to have that knowledge in His human mind, even though He could have known it if He wished (since His Divine Nature is one with His human nature, and the former knows all things all in one Act). The knowledge of the exact time of His Return was not needed for His ministry, and was not needed or desired by His human will at the time.

Although it is true that we cannot attribute ignorance to the human mind of Christ, it is not ignorance to not know a fact that one does not will to know, especially when that fact is of no use in the particular circumstance.

The claim that Jesus must have known the exact time of His Return, because He had the Beatific Vision of God, is refuted by the words of Jesus; for even the holy Angels, who have the Beatific Vision of God, do not know. How can they now know, when they see God who is Knowledge by His very Nature? It is because they do not wish to know; such a wish would be inordinate for them. Therefore, the fact that the human nature of Jesus had the Beatific Vision does not imply that He knew the exact time of His Return, when He was in that circumstance described in Mark 13. He may well have not had that particular fact in His human mind at that particular time, because He did not will to know it (with His human will at the time).

St. Thomas More

Reginaldus said...

Thomas More,
What I find most interesting about your way of doing theology is that you have not cited a single pope, saint, Church Father or Doctor. In fact, you have not cited a single theologian even!

You have come up with your own interpretation of the Scripture -- one that is contrary to the commentaries of many Popes (Vigilius, Gregory the Great, etc.), Fathers (Augustine, Hilary, etc.), Doctors (Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure), and theologians (Cornelius a' Lapide, etc.).
I must say ... you interpret Scripture like a protestant ... in your own little world and divorced from the tradition.


Regarding the finite nature of Christ's human intellect ... it is true that he did not know all the things of God (i.e. he did not comprehend the divine essence), therefore also he did not know every possible thing that could have been created (though he did and does know all that has been, is now and will be).

Certainly, the human mind of Jesus is limited ... but so is creation! Creation is not absolutely infinite; therefore, it is no denial of the finite nature of the human intellect to claim that Christ knew all created things.

Regarding whether or not Christ held multiple realities together in his human mind ... you should reflect upon "Mystici Corporis" of Pius XII, where the Holy Father stated that Christ, by means of the beatific vision, "has for ever and continuously had present to him all the members of his mystical Body." So, it is clear that Christ can, even in his human intellect, hold many individual things in his human intellect all at once -- they are united as known in the Word.



Finally, the Catholic Encyclopedia speaks very well of positive ignorance: "Though the knowledge in the human soul of Christ was not infinite, it was most perfect and embraced the widest range, extending to the Divine ideas already realized, or still to be realized. Nescience of any of these matters would amount to positive ignorance in Christ, as the ignorance of law in a judge. For Christ is not merely our infallible teacher, but also the universal mediator, the supreme judge, the sovereign king of all creation."



In any case, I do find it very interesting that your argument rests solely on your own mind; whereas I have planted myself firmly within the tradition of popes, saints, and Doctors of the Church.

Mark of the Vineyard said...

Somewhat in the same vein as this discussion, what does it mean that Jesus was filled with wisdom as he grew (Luke 2:40)?

Also, the parable of the mustard seed has always baffled me when the bush/tree is said to be so large that birds can live in it.

Anonymous said...

Is it correct to say that Jesus is both God and man (2 persons) in the same or similar way that the Trinity are 3 Persons in one God?

momor

Anonymous said...

"Before Abraham was I AM" ... this is attributed to the one person by virtue of the divine nature.

Given that God exists outside of time and space, is true that Jesus as Man existed 'before' Abraham as well. Aren't we limiting God to time and space otherwise and causing Jesus, the Word to have a beginning?

Is Jesus, as the Son of God, always and forever the same in His nature and thus could be said to have existed as God and man since 'before' creation? Isn't this part of the Mystery of God that we who have no context for reality outside of time and space can never really understand (until we die or are perhaps given the infused knowledge)?.

momor

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the multiple posts but this article really got my wheels spinning! I just found out I was a Nestorian (gulp).

Why do you think Jesus made understanding Him so complicated? He would get so frustrated with the apostles when they failed to understand Who He was and yet He seemed so often, according to the Gospels, to be intentionally cryptic, e.g., saying the Son didn't know the day or hour. Why didn't He just say, as the Son I know the day and the hour but the Father doesn't want it revealed to mankind?

momor

Aloysius said...

"For example: 'Jesus was born of Mary' ... this is attributed to the one person by virtue of the human nature."

Father, how does this differ from the Nestorian position that the Mary was the mother of Christ's humanity and not of his divinity? Is Christ's "humanity" separate and distinct from his "human nature"?

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