When I was in a Vatican II sect high school during the early 1980s (I would leave the sect and become a Traditionalist at the beginning of my junior year) it was taught to the students that Christ didn't know He was God. As the Marianist brother, old enough to know better, said, "That would be like having an 'ace up the sleeve.' How can Christ be fully human and know He was God?" Obviously, the poor brother was himself ignorant of Church teaching (or purposefully pushing the Modernist agenda to denigrate Our Lord). The Modernists had once more started pushing the (false) theory of kenosis, whereby Christ "emptied Himself" of His Divinity. They wrongly interpret Philippians 2:6-7, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing ["emptied Himself"] by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." The idea of Christ being ignorant to one degree or another is rampant today, as belief in the Divinity of Christ continues to be eroded in our society.
The two apostate theologians most responsible for denying Christ's infallible and perfect knowledge in the wake of Vatican II were arch-heretics Frs. Karl Rahner (d. 1984) and Raymond Brown (d. 1998). Rahner and Brown denied many more truths of faith, but for these purposes, I will focus on this particular denial exclusively. In this post, the objections against Our Lord's knowledge will be examined, and the teaching of the One True Church will be set forth.
Modernist Teaching Against The Knowledge Of Christ
The Modernists make several attacks claiming ignorance on the part of Christ, and use Philippians as part of the justification. If Christ "emptied" Himself, He must have somehow become "less." Karl Rahner, in his book Theological Investigations, , 5:210, states:
This consciousness in Christ realized itself only gradually during his spiritual history, and this history does not consist only, or even first and foremost, in being occupied with this or that fact of external reality but consists rather in the never quite successful attaining of what and who one is oneself, and this precisely as what and whom one always already possessed oneself in the depths of one’s existence. (Emphasis mine).
Rahner's heretical disciple, Raymond Brown, has stated in his book Jesus God and Man :
"There are texts in the Gospels that seem to indicate that Jesus shared normal human ignorance about the affairs of life . . ." (p. 45; Emphasis mine).
And again: But when all is said and done, the great objection that will be hurled again and again against any exegete (or theologian) who finds evidence that Jesus’ knowledge was limited is the objection that in Jesus Christ there is only one person, a divine person. And so, even though the divine person acted through a completely human nature, any theory that Jesus had limited knowledge seems to imply a limitation of the divine person. Perhaps the best answer to this objection is to call upon Cyril of Alexandria, that Doctor of the Church to whom, more than to any other, we are indebted for the great truth of the oneness of person in Christ. It was that ultra-orthodox archfoe of Nestorianism (two persons or powers in Christ) who said of Christ, “We have admired his goodness in that for love of us he has not refused to descend to such a low position as to bear all that belongs to our nature, included in which is ignorance...(pg. 102; Emphasis mine). Brown adds in footnote #92, "We do not mean to suggest that Cyril grappled with the problem of Jesus’ limited knowledge in the way in which that problem is treated today, but only that the admission which Cyril makes is significant."
Oft Cited Scriptural Citations to "Prove" the Ignorance of Christ
- St. Mark 13:32: "But of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father." Christ didn't know when He would return in glory.
- St. Mark 5:30-33: "And a woman who was under an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things from many physicians; and had spent all that she had, and was nothing the better, but rather worse,When she had heard of Jesus, came in the crowd behind him, and touched his garment. For she said: If I shall touch but his garment, I shall be whole. And forthwith the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the evil. And immediately Jesus knowing in himself the virtue that had proceeded from him, turning to the multitude, said: 'Who hath touched my garments?'And his disciples said to him: 'Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou who hath touched me?' And he looked about to see her who had done this.But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth." Christ didn't know who touched His garment.
- St. Luke 2:46: "And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions." Twelve-year-old Christ didn't know things and need to ask the learned scholars in the Temple.
- St. Luke 2:52: "And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men." How could Christ "advance in Wisdom" if He knows all things?
- Although Modernists disparage the Infancy narratives in the Gospels, they pose the difficulty, "If the Infant Christ knew everything, was He just pretending to crawl and not speak at birth?"
The Magisterium Against The Modernist Heretics
Pope Vigillius May 14, 553 "If anyone saith that the One Jesus Christ, True Son of God and True Son of Man, was ignorant of future things, or of the Day of the Last Judgement, and saith that He could know only as much as the Divinity dwelling in Him as in another made known to Him: let him be anathema."
Pope St. Gregory the Great, Letter to Eulogius, 600 AD "...in the nature of His humanity He knew the day and hour of the Judgement, but not, however, from this nature of humanity did He know it." (Emphasis in original).
Pope St. Pius X, Lamentabili Sane (1907), CONDEMNED propositions of the Modernists numbers 33-35:
32. It is impossible to reconcile the natural sense of the Gospel texts with the sense taught by our theologians concerning the conscience and the infallible knowledge of Jesus Christ.
33 Everyone who is not led by preconceived opinions can readily see that either Jesus professed an error concerning the immediate Messianic coming or the greater part of His doctrine as contained in the Gospels is destitute of authenticity.
34. The critics can ascribe to Christ a knowledge without limits only on a hypothesis which cannot be historically conceived and which is repugnant to the moral sense. That hypothesis is that Christ as man possessed the knowledge of God and yet was unwilling to communicate the knowledge of a great many things to His disciples and posterity.
35. Christ did not always possess the consciousness of His Messianic dignity.
Pope Benedict XV, Decree of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office (1918):
On June 5, 1918, the Holy Office issued a Decree, approved by Pope Benedict XV, in which it answered several questions: "Can the following propositions be safely taught? 1. It is not evident that there was in the soul of Christ living among men the knowledge which the blessed who have attained [God] have. 2. Nor can that opinion be called certain which states that the soul of Christ was ignorant of nothing, but that from the beginning He knew in the Word all things, past, present, and future, that is, all things which God knows by the knowledge of vision. 3. The view of certain recent persons about the limited knowledge of the soul of Christ is not to be less accepted in Catholic schools than the view of former [theologians] about [His] universal knowledge.
Response of the Holy Office (approved by Pope Benedict XV on June 6, 1918): To all three questions, In the Negative.
Pope Pius XI, Miserentissimus Redemptor (1928):
"Now if, because of our sins also which were as yet in the future, but were foreseen, the soul of Christ became sorrowful unto death, it cannot be doubted that then, too, already He derived somewhat of solace from our reparation, which was likewise foreseen, when "there appeared to Him an angel from heaven" (Luke xxii, 43), in order that His Heart, oppressed with weariness and anguish, might find consolation." (par. #13; Emphasis mine).
Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis (1943):
"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." (par. #75; Emphasis mine).
Theologian Ott summarizes well the teaching of the theologians on the knowledge of Christ:
- Christ's soul possessed the immediate Vision of God (Beatific Vision) from the first moment of its existence
- Christ's human knowledge was free from positive ignorance and error
- From the beginning of Christ's life, His soul possessed infused knowledge from God
- Christ's soul possessed acquired (experimental) knowledge through sense perception
Modernist Objections Refuted
- Christ "emptied Himself." As Pope Pius XII teaches, "There is another enemy of the faith of Chalcedon, widely diffused outside the fold of the Catholic religion. This is an opinion for which a rashly and falsely understood sentence of St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians (ii, 7), supplies a basis and a shape. This is called the kenotic doctrine, and according to it, they imagine that the divinity was taken away from the Word in Christ. It is a wicked invention, equally to be condemned with the Docetism opposed to it. It reduces the whole mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption to empty the bloodless imaginations. 'With the entire and perfect nature of man' - thus grandly St. Leo the Great - 'He Who was true God was born, complete in his own nature, complete in ours' (Ep. xxviii, 3. PL. liv, 763. Cf. Serm. xxiii, 2. PL. lvi, 201)." (See Sempiterna Rex Christus, para. #29; Emphasis mine). Theologian Ott teaches, that kenosis is really a "humbling or debasement" as the proper linguistic and theological interpretation. The debasement consists in the renunciation (in His human nature) of the Form of God. (Ibid, pg. 135-136)
- Christ didn't know the day of the Second Coming and Judgement. According to theologian Parente, "...if Jesus says He does not know the day of the final judgement, this expression must be understood in the sense He cannot manifest it (thus the Fathers)." (See Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology, , pgs. 255-256).
- Christ didn't know who touched His garment and asked questions in the Temple. Many teachers use the same ploy to elicit answers and responses in their students (as a former science teacher, I'm fully aware of this technique). Christ was called "Rabbi" or "teacher" and with good reason. He came to rule, teach, and sanctify, both personally and then perpetually through His One True Church. He wanted the women who touched His garment to come forth and tell what He had done for her. She did so, and Christ responds in St. Mark 30:34, "And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague." The doctors of the law in the Temple were being made aware, through the Socratic method of asking questions, as to what to expect of the Messiah. That's why St. Luke 2:47 states, "And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers."
- If Christ was omniscient, He couldn't "advance in wisdom," and how could He have been a "normal" Child? The knowledge Christ acquired through use of the human senses ("experimental knowledge") was already contained in His infused knowledge and by virtue of the Beatific Vision, so the knowledge was not new in its content, only in the mode by which Christ attained it. In this sense He advanced in wisdom. He allowed Himself to experience human growth in the usual process without recourse to using His infinite and perfect knowledge. (See Ott, Ibid, pg. 168).
- If Christ possessed the Beatific Vision, which brings Infinite Happiness, how could He suffer in the Passion? St. Thomas easily explains how the bodily suffering of Christ can be reconciled with the Beatific Vision, since bodily pain is felt with the lower powers of the soul and the joy Christ experiences through the Beatific Vision is limited to His spiritual soul. Aquinas teaches: "As was said above, by the power of the Godhead of Christ the beatitude was economically kept in the soul, so as not to overflow into the body, lest His passibility and mortality should be taken away; and for the same reason the delight of contemplation was so kept in the mind as not to overflow into the sensitive powers, lest sensible pain should thereby be prevented' (III, Q. 15, art. 5). This follows from the nature of the Incarnation, in which Christ, because of His union to the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, should experience the Beatific Vision, but as true man should still suffer the conditions natural to man (sensible pain, hunger, etc). Again, theologian Ott writes, "that the bliss proceeding from the immediate vision of God did not overflow from the ratio superior (=the higher spiritual knowledge and will directed to the bonum increatum) to the ratio inferior (=human knowledge and will directed at the bonum creatum) nor from the soul to the body." (Ott, Ibid)Thus, Christ experiences sorrow and sadness in His soul insofar as His truly human soul is directed towards things of earth; but insofar as Christ's soul, reason and will are fixed on God, He experiences joy. This joy of the higher reason (ratio superior) does not overflow into Christ's ratio inferior (STh III, Q. 46, art. 8).
With Church teaching on the knowledge of Christ so clear, how do heretics like Rahner and Brown explain it all away? Modernist heretic Avery Dulles, made a "cardinal" by Wojtyla, said it best, "No generation can formulate the abiding content of the faith 'chemically pure,' so as to commit all future generations." (See "Contemporary Understanding of the Irreformability of Dogma," in CTSA Proceedings 25  136). They believe (as all Modernists do) that dogma evolves from one meaning to another over time. What was sly in lessening belief in the Divinity of Christ 40 years ago, is now being boldly asserted, as Bergoglio himself teaches dogmatic evolution.
The Vatican News released a statement of how (allegedly) Limbo for unbaptized babies has "developed" into salvation; religious toleration has "developed" into religious liberty, etc. (See https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2019-10/development-of-doctrine-is-a-people-that-walks-together.html). I could add to the list of "developments" that capital punishment is now intrinsically wrong, and adulterers may receive "communion."
At the beginning of this post, I wrote how attributing ignorance in Christ erodes belief in His Divinity. In a sense it is a very real and implicit denial of His Godhood. One of the Divine Attributes is omniscience. How could God forget Who He Is? If God isn't omniscient He ceases to be God. In the near future, I can see the Vatican II sect come out with the Revised Modernist Version of the Bible. In St. Matthew 16, we will read:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Thanks, Pete. I had forgotten."