Friday, November 16, 2012

Jesus knew everything, including the Day of Judgment. Obviously!

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Mark 13:24-32
But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
The Church teaches that our Savior knew everything, past, present and future, and therefore also knew the day and the hour of the final judgment. In fact, it is a condemned heresy to say that Jesus, in his human intellect, did not know the exact moment of the second coming – this heresy, called “Agnoeticism” was condemned by Pope St. Gregory the Great.
However, very sadly, most Catholics have no idea that they are espousing heresy when they say that our Lord did not know certain created truths, like the time of the judgment.

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.”
A reflection on how we ought to read the Bible
Now, some will say – “Father, this is just too much! How can the Church really hold such a thing?” Or, “How can this be reconciled with the plain words of the Bible?”
If any are truly interested in how properly to interpret this passage, they ought to consider an earlier post in which I give several key interpretations from Church Fathers and Doctors, [here]. I will give a very short answer at the end of this post as well.
However, it is better to first point out the hypocrisy of those who say that the claim that Jesus knew the day and the hour is obviously contradicted by the Bible. For, indeed, the Bible is full of a very great number of confusing passages – and these often seem to be in contradiction (simply because we are not always understanding them as we should).
Indeed, if any say that Mark 13:23 proves that Jesus did not know everything, I site John 21:19, Peter said: Lord, thou knowest all things. There you have it – the Prince of the Apostles teaches that Jesus knew everything.
Rather than proof-texting and taking verses totally out of context (that is, not only out of the immediate biblical context, but also out of the context of the Tradition), it is important to read the Bible within the living Church. We do not open the Bible as though we were the first ones to ever read it – ignoring the writings and the wisdom of the great saints who have gone before. This is the way a Protestant reads, it is unbecoming of a Catholic.
Other difficult verses
Consider, for example, a number of verses which must be interpreted within the living Tradition of the Church, and which cannot be taken on a simple face-value.
Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated. (Roans 9:13)
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)
And Jesus said to him: Why dost thou call me good? None is good but God alone. (Luke 18:19)
And, of course, many more could be added. But what fool would say that God truly “hated” Esau in the sense which we use that word among men? Or who would dare truly to “hate” his one father and mother, whom God commands he must honor? And shall we no longer call Jesus “good”? No, but each of these verses must be interpreted within the Tradition.
An answer to our question
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)
Further, since our Lord knew the day and the hour in his humanity, but not from his humanity (i.e. he knew it by divine revelation and not by human experience), he may well say that he does not know the time of the judgment in the sense that he has no experiential knowledge of it (though he does have special revelation by which he knows all created truths).
The deeper heresy
None can claim that Jesus did not know the day and the hour without being a Nestorian heretic at heart. That is, none can limit the human knowledge of Jesus in relation to created truths without separating his humanity from his divinity.
Indeed, many such persons speak as though Jesus was only a man on earth, having left his divinity with the Father. But this is a most perilous claim, since it would mean that our Lord was not truly Emmanuel – since God would not have been with us in Christ.
But, Jesus is truly God. And he did not leave his divinity with the Father. But his humanity was wholly enlightened and vivified by the divinity. Therefore, it is quite obvious that, from the first moment of his conception, our Lord knew absolutely everything that had been, was, or would be (as well as a good number of all those things that could possibly be).

Sacred Heart of Jesus from Whose fullness we have all received, Have mercy on us!


Marko Ivančičević said...

If to God everything is present, is the glorified Church, New Heaven and Earth(New World), the "time" after Judgement Day, present to Him, and with it also the glorified souls united with glorified bodies of the elect? Does the New Heaven with the elect "seem"(i'm limited with English - i hope you understand) to Him as now, as present?

If yes He knows perfectly and infallibly who will be saved. After all, He perfectly and infallibly knows all future events.

I'm having some dificulties with this. Could you help me? Is there some error in this view?
Also is W. J. Harrington OP a reliable biblical scholar?

Bobby Bambino said...

Thank you so much for this Father!

This question may be a bit off-topic, but I was reminded of it when you emphasized how Jesus didn't "leave his divinity in heaven." One thing that I have a very hard time reconciling are the attributes of God that we derive from Aquinas' proofs for God's existence and Jesus doing things here on earth. For example, how do we understand God's immutability with Jesus growing up and having different experiences? Or how do we understand God's being pure act apart from any potentiality with the fact that Jesus (seemed to be) in potency before he spoke or took any physical action here on earth? This may be too big a topic to answer here so if you have an article or a book recommendation to point me towards, I would be very happy. Thank you, God love you.

Matthew Roth said...

So it's because his humanity and divinity are united that He knows the time of judgment? For he could not know by his human intellect *alone* such a thing, correct? Hence, He knows all things.
Thanks Fr. Erlenbush!

Sunday Homilies and Reflections said...

I believe that Christ knows everything even the day and hour when the world will come to an end. I also feel another proof to this. The Father created the world in and through Christ who redeemed the world and sanctified it by the Holy Spirit. At judgment, Christ is going to be the Chief Judge and shall hand over the world and all redeemed back to the Father. Since he is going to descend with the trumpet blast alongside the angels to separate the just from the wicked, as the chief judge, he cannot be ignorant of the day and hour. Hope I am correct?

Liam Ronan said...

It's a different hour and day and date (and sometimes year, century, and millenium) depending where you live on earth.
We here in Ireland rolled into January 2000 when my relatives in the US were still in December 1999.

Anonymous said...

The most startling aspect of this is the assertion that the the human intellect is capable of unlimited knowledge. (Even that requires care. Pope Pius X did not say, in the quote you provide, that Christ's HUMAN knowledge is unlimited; the phrase "as man" occurs in the next clause. Yet, as you state elsewhere, even the human nature of Christ, because it is a human nature, is unable to fully comprehend the nature of God, so there is something beyond the limit of human knowledge. Even in math, though, not all infinities are equal; for example, the number of rational numbers between 0 and 1 and the number of real numbers between 0 and 1 are both infinite, but it can be rigorously proved that the number of real numbers is larger than the number of rational numbers.) The human BRAIN certainly does not have this capacity; just as there are thoughts that cannot be contained in a Twitter tweet, there are thoughts that cannot be contained in the 86 billion or so neurons of the human brain. -- Howard

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

yes, God knows perfectly and infallibly each and all who will be saved ... for he is the cause of their salvation ... however, this does not take away free will -- but that is too big a discussion to get into here.

As far as the scholar you mention ... I've never heard of him. So I really can't say.

Peace! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Great question ... those acts which proceed from his divinity are eternal and, in this respect, our Savior is wholly without potenecy.
However, those acts which proceed from his humanity are temporal -- in his humanity, God the Son has potency which is reduced to act.

I hope that helps. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Sound right to me! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The human mind is not limited in one sense ... insofar as it can always learn more.
But, no, it cannot grasp the infinite.

However, it is rather silly to say that, if Jesus knew all created truths, he would have to have unlimited knowledge ... what fool would say that there is an unlimited number of created truths?

You make a good point regarding the brain ... since our Savior's intellect enjoyed the beatific vision, he was not limited by the chemical processes of the human brain-organ.

Hope that clarifies. +

A Mitchell said...

The last time I had to sit through a homily of how Jesus,"realized his divinity" at the garden of Gethamane, I calmly asked Father if he would please keep from proclaiming his private belief to the congregation. He agreed that they were too simple to be able to understand. I replied that he should refrain from teaching heresy.
We are still friends but it seems the two other priests from the same college agree. Their professor, Fr. Jerome Murphy O Connor, is a respected biblical scholar.

Marko Ivančičević said...

Thank you Father.
Yes i know it is a big discussion. I plan on reading on God's Knowledge, Providence of God, Predestination, Book of Life, Free Will, and Grace, from Summa in hope of clearing up this things to myself.

Do you suggest any good read on the topic of relations of God's Grace and our free will(and predestination/reprobation) except your previous article which was, and still is, excellent?

Flamen said...

You state that Jesus had the Beatific Vision. This implies relative omniscience and perfect bliss. However, there is no basis in Scripture or the Patristic Tradition that Jesus had the Beatific Vision. Scholastics who wanted to attribute every possible perfection to the human nature of Jesus maintained that He had the beatific vision. It is not an infallible teaching of the Church although it has even been mentioned in an Encyclical of Pius XII. Two points should be considered. First, the evidence in the New Testament of the limitation of Jesus’ knowledge, e.g. regarding the Parousia “no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” For many examples of the limitation of Jesus’ human knowledge see Raymond E. Brown, S.S., An Introduction To New Testament Christology. Second, “How admit that Christ could really have suffered in his human nature the terrible trial of the Passion if he already possessed the beatitude reserved for the elect in heaven? How, too, could we take the agony of Gethsemane and the dereliction of Calvary seriously? Since the entire process of the Incarnation is oriented towards the work of the Redemption, the beatific vision must be excluded from Jesus’ earthly life. … He did not have the immediate vision or the beatitude of the vision.” Jean Galot, S.J., Who Is Christ? That Jesus had extraordinary knowledge is evident from the Gospels and that would be understood as the limited infused knowledge necessary for his mission. To say that Jesus had the Beatific Vision would mean that he had perfect bliss and thence could not experience true suffering. This is contrary to the Gospels and the Creed which declares Jesus SUFFERED and died for us and comes close to the heresy of Docetic Gnosticism

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Flamen, you write as either one who is wholly ignorant of the tradition on this point, or who has decided that he is smarter than every Doctor of the Church.

The thought that Christ couldn't both be perfectly happy in the higher part of his soul while suffering in the lower part is simply ridiculous ... rather than simply hurling accusations of heresy, provide a philosophical argument.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

A Mitchell,
Don't be discouraged ... the Lord will have his Day ... and the prideful "scholars" will have no answer.

Anonymous said...

"What fool would say there are an unlimited number of created truths?"

I am fool enough to CONJECTURE that. There are an infinite number of mathematical truths, certainly, but I don't know if you would count mathematical truths as created truths. Also, it is possible, but not certain, that the universe is of infinite size, in which case there would be an unlimited number of truths relating to, for example, the positions of the infinite number of stars. I do not claim that many of these truths would be of interest to us!

Would you say that thinking is not in the brain as seeing is not in the eye and smelling is not in the nose -- in other words, the brain is something like a sense organ for perceiving intellectual truths as the eye is a sense organ for perceiving light?

-- Howard

Vincent Torley said...


Thank you for your very interesting post. I have no trouble accepting that Jesus, in His human nature, knew the date of the Second Coming. But to say that He knew all future events would mean that He knew what choices He was going to make in His human nature, before He made them, from the first moment of His conception. I understand, of course, that Jesus, being a Divine Person, was not free to sin; but perfect knowledge of His future human choices would give Him no human freedom at all.

Would it not be more reasonable (and perfectly in keeping with Church tradition) to say that as man, Jesus knew whatever future events He wished to know, without necessarily knowing all of them at once? Thus He could instantly access the date of the Second Coming if He wished.

Re Nestorianism: it is a heresy to say that Christ was two persons, but my understanding was that He had two Minds (just as He had two Wills): one Divine and infinite, the other human and finite. To say otherwise would be Monophysitism. Wouldn't Jesus' Divine Mind have illuminated His human mind with certain supernatural truths? Thanks, Father.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Father. The execrable Catholic columnist, Fr. Richard McBrien, whose heresies were published all over America in Diocesan newspapers, once wrote a column that claimed that Jesus was ignorant, in error, and sexually tempted.

I picketed my local Chancery in response and the Bishop's mouthpiece told me, "The Bishop agrees with Fr McBrien:" later, The Chancellor told me that all the Priests in the Chancery considered me insane.

Taking into account what it was they held as orthodoxy, I took that as a compliment.

helgothjb said...

Thank you Father, this is very helpful regarding something I have tried to understand for a long time.
A few things that have been helpful to me- The reason God knows the 'future' is that He is outside of time, so there is no future for Him. Rather, all time is present in an instant. He knows it as it happens, but it all happens instantanously. He knows all created things because he created them. He did not have sense knowledge of things except in the humanity of Jesus.

Anonymous said...

This seems to contradict what is said in the Catechism in paragraphs 472-474. It says "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... This corresponds to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself," (CCC 472).
However paragraph 474 continues "By its union with 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." Since Christ was not sent to reveal the day of final judgment these passages seem to imply that He did not know.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

If you will use a pseudonym (as requested), I will happily respond to your comment.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I do not mean to say that you are foolish or have claimed anything that is foolish ... my point is that it would take a fool to say that the finite world has an infinite number of truths -- for the very point is that all created things are finite (including the human mind of Christ), and therefore he cannot know the infinite.

But, if we were to suppose that the world is not finite, then neither would we need to suppose that the human mind of Jesus were finite -- however, the world is finite, the human mind is finite, and the human mind is capable of knowing all of the truths in this finite world (because there are not an infinite number of created truths).

Hope that helps! +

jdesch67 said...

I commented on the apparent contradictions between your assertion that Christ knew the day of final judgment with what is said in the Catechism in paragraphs 472-474. I do not mean any disrespect, but I am a catechist in training. What can I make of this apparent contradiction?

mattymous said...

The human remembers only with a brain. Without a brain there is no remembering. The brain works by neuronal connections of which there could only be a finite number; call this number x. The world may be finite and the number of truths we can call y. Is there anything to suggest that x=y or x > y ? In other words, is there anything to suggest that the finite human brain could know all truths ?

Anonymous said...

Father, you appear to be using "finite" and "infinite" in ways that are different than those used by mathematicians and physicists. That is only a problem if you do not clearly define what you mean. If all you mean by "finite knowledge" is "insufficient knowledge to comprehend God", remember that this is very different than "knowing a bounded number of truths". Knowing the positions of an infinite number of stars would be of no great use in contemplating the Trinity.

Speaking from the perspective of physics, though, it is by no means clear that the universe is finite. That part which we can observe is finite, but that is a different assertion altogether. Barring divine revelation, which seems extremely unlikely to address such a triviality, we will probably never know. St. Thomas asserts that we would not even know that the universe is of finite age without divine revelation!

-- Howard

Anonymous said...

Dear Fr. Ryan: In Luke 2:5, "Jesus grew in age and wisdom" seems to contradict that His human mind knew all things. Fr. John C. Haughey, in his book, "The Consiracy of God" (Preface by Cardinal Suenens as the best book in English on the Holy Spirit, states:"the function that the Holy Spirit played in teaching Jesus the Father and the Kingdom, now plays in teach us Jesus" How do you respond to these two references? Deacon John Edgerton, Tarpon Springs, FL.

Anonymous said...

In re the OP:
Jerome, a Father of your Church, I believe, has “neque angeli in cælo, neque Filius, nisi Pater.” “the plain words of the Bible” as In re the OP:
Jerome, a Father of your Church, I believe, has “neque angeli in cælo, neque Filius, nisi Pater.” “the plain words of the Bible” as you put it.”
OTOH Mt 24 has “neque angeli cælorum, nisi solus Pater”. No mention by the Son of the Son. Except …
The “original hand” of the Sinaiticus- Codex Aleph, to the scholars and superior to any ms. that Jerome had- has ‘nor the Son’ in Matthew; later copies are missing it. (Removed?) In any case, Mark is enough, it seems to me. Do we ask God or his Son to repeat themselves until we are satisfied that they have given us accurate information? Are we theological Gideons?
There is one doctrine that does demand your view of the matter- the Trinity. Otherwise the Bible explains itself, as when it shows Jesus still subservient to Jehovah at John 17:3, Rev 3:12, Rev 14:14-16. These last two involve the risen, glorified Son, raised to life “at the right hand” of the Father, as the Bible and the creeds agree; not ‘is the Father’.
But you’re aware of these things. My purpose in writing is to thank you for putting in writing what the Catholic leaders believe, but which the laymen I speak to deny: When it is a choice between tradition, magisterium, and the [Catholics’ own] Bible, the first two always trump God’s clear word. Mt 15; Mr 7.
Without the Trinity, a word and doctrine only from post-apostolic tradition and magisterium, there is no contradiction nor confusion. What else should we expect from a book given to us by our heavenly Father for our benefit? Isa 48:17,18
Doug [not "anonymous"

Anonymous said...

Just want to say something about the scholar whom Marko Ivančičević mentioned (Wilfred Harrington O.P.). I haven't had too much exposure to him, but I don't think he's entirely reliable in his views and I think it's fair to say that he would be of a liberal slant. So for what it's worth, I would indeed counsel caution as far as he is concerned. Just my two cents.

-- Charles Johnson

Anonymous said...

Jesus has two intellects, one human and one divine. His knowledge is unified in his divine Person. What he naturally knows by his human intellect is limited, as the Catechism affirms. But what he knows by his divine intellect is unlimited, and he does not lose this knowledge in assuming a limited mode of knowledge. When he says that the "Son of Man" does not know the time of the Parousia, he means that this future time is unknown through his natural human intellect, not that it is unknown through his divine intellect or unknown to his Person. Thus he knows it insofar as he is God, and he does not know it insofar as he is man. Correct? --TJ

Carl said...

If matter is infinitely divisible, then is there not an infinite number of relations (and thus true statements) within the material world? I trust that you are correct here, and I am not understanding something correctly.

Joshua said...

Flamen, the problem is if you deny that Christ had the Beatific vision, you run into the pesky problem of claiming He had Faith, and introducing a split in the unity of the person.

Some of the "new theology" and ressourcement have claimed, instead, that Christ had not faith, but prophetic species of knowledge. They in effect agree with those holding He had the beatific vision that Christ was never ignorant of His divinity, didn't have faith, but seek to attribute a lesser explanation. But it ends up incoherent. For all the hackeneyed accusations against the scholastics diminishing the humanity of Christ, that is all rather poppycock. St. Thomas, as opposed to say Bonaventure and earlier authors, introduced truly human knowledge (acquired) in his treatment of Christ's knowledge. In fact, the whole move from the 11th century through the early modern period was to emphasize more and more the humanity of Christ and the historical details of the Gospel. You see this in St. Francis, in the introduction of the Crucifix rather than the Pantocrator, even in the reduction of rood screens.

Fr. Galot is well intentioned. He is one of those who advances the "prophetic knowledge" rather than faith argument. But he thoroughly is wrong on the direction of the development of doctrine in the scholatic period (which again was emphasizing more and more His sacred humanity), and he severely misunderstands St. Thomas' arguments. Grace is the germ of eternal life, Christ through His theandric actions merits grace and ultimately glory for men, therefore He must Himself even as man possess such glory. This argument is very reasonable and the objection that He could obtain the beatific vision after the Resurrection is missing the point. Christ was redeeming men through all the actions of His life, not just the resurrection. All grace has as a final cause glory, and so if at any point Christ lacked the beatific vision He would lack the cause of causes of the redemption. Fr. Galot misunderstands the thrust of this argument, by insisting that the beatific vision only need be obtain with the resurrection.

Fr. Galot's "solution might sound appealing, but it is utterly impossible. For to have knowledge of something is nothing less than to have an intentional species of that thing in the intellect. That is, man does not have knowledge without something actually existing in His intellect, the conception or word that represents this thing, called an impressed species. But there is no ability for there to be a created species of God. To have knowledge of God would mean to have the form of God in one's mind, just as to have knowledge of man is to have the form of man in one's mind. But God does not fall under a genus, He is not an individual of a species. He is that very form. Therefore to have knowledge and not faith in God is nothing other than the beatific vision. Anything less is not knowledge of God but faith through external signs that are not God.

And we cannot retreat from Fr. Galot's "via media" to the position that He had faith, for if Christ had faith that He was God and did not know this, then the Logos Himself is, through the human nature He has, dividing Himself from Himself. He both knows and does not know who He is, and further He stands as other to Himself through the act of Faith. There is an excellent article in the Thomist on this very question, that goes into the reasons why Christ could not have had faith, and why Fr. Galot's solution is ontologically impossible in far better detail than I did. But I cannot find it right now.

Marko Ivančičević said...

Thank you Charles Johnson.

I was asking because on our theology college we get very much exposure to him and alas to Raymond E. Brown. :(

Martin said...

Cell phone post, short sentences:

Does this mean that when my wife asks, " How much money is in the bank? " I can say - " I don't know. " Meaning, " I'm not telling you. "


From the verse, " that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only"

Does this mean that God the Father has or will reveal the day-before the actual event?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

To the 1st question, "No". Because we must ordinarily use clear speech ... it is only for a good reason (as communicating the highest mysteries of the faith) that we can speak in an obscure way.

To the 2nd question, "No". The Father knows the hour and makes it known to the Son. Both to the Son in his Divinity, but even in his humanity. This is why the Father is said to know and make it known, but the Son is said to not know and does not make it known.

Matthew Rose said...


Try the Catechism of the Council of Trent (a.k.a. the Roman Catechism), or the Catechism of St. Pius X. Both are vastly superior.

Matt25 said...

Thank you for posting. I had never wrestled with this particular point before.

Post a Comment

When commenting, please leave a name or pseudonym at the end of your comment so as to facilitate communication and responses.

Comments must be approved by the moderator before being published.