“Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He Himself is doing; and He will show Him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.’” (Jn. 5:19-20)
Jesus Christ, as a divine person, enjoyed the Beatific Vision of the Father from the moment of His conception. Jesus had a divine consciousness in which He continuously perceived God the Father, face-to-face with infinite knowledge and beatitude. As Jesus reveals, “I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence.” (Jn. 8:38) And again, “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; He has seen the Father.” (Jn. 6:46) Scripture is clear on this: Christ beheld the Beatific Vision. From His first second on Earth, Jesus’ human nature was assumed by the Logos, the Word of God, and had immediate and direct knowledge of God and the knowledge of all things. St.Thomas understood this as Christ knowing “whatsoever is, will be, or was done, said, or thought, by whomsoever and at any time.” (Summa, III, Q.10, a.2) He was both fully human and fully divine, with two natures, two intellects, and two wills, that worked perfectly together, in the hypostatic union, as the one divine person. The finite, in all its humanly facets, was linked seamlessly to the infinite. In this same way, Christ’s consciousness was also both human and divine, united together in the hypostatic union. His finite human brain and human consciousness were united to the infinite mind and infinite consciousness of the Logos. Not that these are two separate beings. They are not. This was the error of Nestorianism, a fifth century heretical movement that wrongly espoused Christ as two separate persons, one, the divine Logos, and the other, the human Jesus of Nazareth. Rather, there is only one Christ, one divine being, one divine person, who is concurrently both the eternal Logos and the human son of Mary. This is the mystery of Christ, and the theandric mystery of the hypostatic union.
Yet, because His human body, human brain and human consciousness were created, they were necessarily finite. He did not perceive the infinite number of possibilities of all things of all eternity at any given moment. For, the finite cannot fully realize or actuate all that is infinitely possible simultaneously in any one moment. Following this Aristotelian logic, St.Thomas surmised, “and thus in Himself God knows many more things than the soul of Christ.” (Summa, III, Q.10, a.2, a.3) This is the great paradox of Jesus. As a divine person, Jesus knew all things, but at any given moment, He did not contain infinite knowledge. In effect, Christ is theandric in nature, in His intellect and operation, as both God and man, where the human side works in perfect harmony with the divine side. His human soul was united perfectly with the infinite Word of God. Although His finite human consciousness could not hold the infinite possibilities in every moment, He did still have access to the divine infused knowledge and Beatific Vision, from which, to draw knowledge towards anything He turned His attention. The infinite knowledge of Christ was manifested in specific, finite instances in His life. The Beatific Vision remained intact, from which, Jesus drew from it as necessary in His finite, human consciousness.
This in no way undermines dignity of Jesus as the divine Word. He is ontologically always the Son of God, meaning He was never at any point anything less than the divine being. Of this, He was acutely aware. Throughout His whole life He understood His own divinity and being eternally begotten of the Father. From the first instance of His Incarnation into human nature, Jesus enjoyed infused divine knowledge and the Beatific Vision of God. No one had to teach Christ who He was. No one ever had to show Him the Father. Jesus Himself knew all this innately. Jesus says, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made Him known.” (Jn. 1:18) There was at no point in His life when He did not know of His own divinity, or did not perceive the Beatific Vision of the Father, or did not have access to all knowledge. We read in scripture that at the age of twelve, the boy Jesus was sitting amongst the teachers of Israel in the Temple, and “And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.” (Lk. 2:47) When His distraught parents found Him after three days of searching and questioned Him, He reveals His divine self-consciousness as already present, saying, “Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” (Lk. 2:47) He was ignorant of nothing, or no thing to which He directed His gaze. This has been affirmed and reaffirmed through the centuries from the trajectory of teaching of the Church Fathers to the Magisterium. This truth still holds true. As the Catechism instructs, “The human nature of God’s Son, not by itself but by its union with the Word, knew and showed forth in itself everything that pertains to God. Such is first of all the case with the intimate and immediate knowledge that the Son of God made man has of His Father.” (CCC 473)
However, this truth has been sporadically under attack through the millennia. The First Council of Ephesus in 431 AD had to deal with the error of Nestorianism by declaring Jesus one person, fully God and fully man, united in the hypostatic union, and consubstantial with the Father. Yet, from that, another heresy quickly emerged in the sixth century, the Agnoites, or “the Ignorants,” who espoused that there were things that Jesus did not know, or for which, He was ignorant of. They attacked Christ’s divinity in particular by saying He did not know the day or hour of the final judgment. In response, Pope Vigilius declared in his “Constitutum” on May 14, 533 AD:
“If anyone says 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 judgment, and says He could know only as much as the divinity dwelling in Him as in another made known to Him: let him be anathema.” (Fr.Most, Consciousness of Christ, p.137)
Yet, the error has persisted into modern times, focusing primarily around questions that Jesus grew in knowledge, and that He did not know the hour of the Parousia. In regard to the former, the Gospel of Luke says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years.” (Lk. 2:52) In regard to the latter, the Gospel of Mark says, “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mk. 13:32) The historical deniers of Christ’s divine knowledge, and indeed, some modern theologians use these passages as the primary proof that Jesus was ignorant. But, are they correct? The arc of Church Father teachings and the Magisterium, again, say no. They are not correct. Jesus had infused divine knowledge, beheld the Beatific Vision, and knew all things. St.Thomas argues that Jesus, in addition to His divine knowledge, did in fact, possess acquired or experiential knowledge, and advance and progress in the acquisition of experiential knowledge. (Summa, III, q.12, a.2) To grow in wisdom, then means perhaps, Christ manifested His wisdom more and more as He grew older. Another explanation is that Christ advanced in acquired knowledge, but possessed the full Beatific Vision and infused divine knowledge from the moment of His conception. Hence, there was no growth in His divine knowledge. He possessed it fully from His first moment. Christ did have two channels of knowledge, divine and human. His knowledge and consciousness, like all the other aspects of His being, are theandric in nature, operating at two separate levels, human and divine, yet in complete harmony together. So, even if, as a child, He learned, for example, the Aramaic word for bread, this is the human, experiential knowledge. At the same time, He already knew this, and everything besides, from the divine knowledge within Him.
And, what of the knowledge, or lack of knowledge, Jesus had of the day and hour of the End? Most scholars and theologians ascribe that Jesus was using oikonomia, a dispensation, or an adaptation to the human conditions Jesus found Himself in. It was not fitting that humanity should know the day and hour of the End. Jesus knew in His divinity the day and hour of the End, but He had not come to reveal that. It was not part of His mission, and it was of no benefit to humanity to know this exactly. Thus, Jesus chose to not reveal this in order to preserve, as St.Cyril said, “the order proper to humanity.” This was an assumed unawareness, where Jesus identifies with His human brethren, in our human nature, as part of a divinely providential oikonomia. The Catechism answers this directly: “By its union to 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. What He admitted to not knowing in this area, He elsewhere declared Himself not sent to reveal.” (CCC 474) In the Book of Acts, Jesus replies to the Apostles’ questions about the End, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority.” (Acts, 1:7) Or, in other words, Jesus tells them it is not fitting for humanity to know when the End will come, and it is not His mission to reveal it to them. This does not attest to ignorance, but to the fitness of humanity to have this knowledge of the Parousia. For, in other parts of the Gospels, such as Matthew 24, Jesus speaks with great specificity about future events and the signs of the End and what would happen.
The Magisterium continues to address these issues and errors, Neo-Nestorianisms, if you will, up till today, as the current manifestations of old heresies keep popping up, cloaked in the veneer of modernity. In 1907, Pope Pius X issued Lamentabili Sane (“It is Lamentable”) in condemnation of “The Errors of the Modernists.” One such error condemned in the Syllabus is that Christ having “knowledge without limits…cannot be historically conceived.” (LS, 34) In condemning this error, the Church affirms the infinite knowledge of Christ. In 1928, Pope Pius XI published Miserentissimus Redemptor, “Merciful Redeemer,” in which he addressed reparations to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He argues that Jesus’ Sacred Heart was oppressed as He foresaw our future sins, and was consoled as He foresaw our future reparations. Jesus in His infused divine knowledge and Beatific Vision continuously beheld God, and as part of that, He also perceived His Mystical Body, made up of His believers and followers through the centuries. The encyclical attests to this saying, “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..” (MR, 13) In 1943, Pope Pius XII wrote the encyclical, Mystici Corporis Christi, “On the Mystical Body of Christ.” In this document, the Church addresses the question of the knowledge of Christ in one of the most clear and profound statements ever on the topic. It is worth quoting it at length:
“Now the only-begotten Son of God embraced us in His infinite knowledge and undying love even before the world began. And that He might give a visible and exceedingly beautiful expression to this love, He assumed our nature in hypostatic union: hence – as Maximus of Turin with a certain unaffected simplicity remarks – “in Christ our own flesh loves us.” But the knowledge and love of our Divine Redeemer, of which we were the object from the first moment of His Incarnation, exceed all that the human intellect can hope to grasp. 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. O marvelous condescension of divine love for us! O inestimable dispensation of boundless charity! In the crib, on the Cross, in the unending glory of the Father, Christ has all the members of the Church present before Him and united to Him in a much clearer and more loving manner than that of a mother who clasps her child to her breast, or than that with which a man knows and loves himself.” (MCC, 75)
In this, with the authority of the Apostolic teaching commissioned to the Church, we can see that Christ had infinite knowledge, beheld the Beatific Vision, and perceived us always, as part of His Mystical Body, all from the moment of His conception, indeed, from before the foundation of the world. In 1951, Pope Pius XII also issued Sempiternus Rex Christi, “Christ, the Eternal King,” reaffirming the truths of the Council of Chalcedon, that Christ was both fully human and fully divine, united together in the hypostatic union, as one divine person. Moreover, he reiterates, “Each nature possesses its properties without defect.” (SR, 21) Jesus is “perfect in His divinity, perfect in His humanity, true God, and true man.” (SR, 23) Again, Pope Pius XII, in 1956, published another encyclical, Haurietas Aquas, “You Will Draw Waters” in regard to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He speaks again of Jesus’ divine knowledge, saying: “since ‘in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily.’ It is, besides, the symbol of that burning love which, infused into His soul, enriches the human will of Christ and enlightens and governs its acts by the most perfect knowledge derived both from the beatific vision and that which is directly infused.” (HA, 55-56) In the year 2,000, Pope John Paul II put out the encyclical Novo Millenio Ineunte, “At the Beginning of the New Millenium.” In it, he refers to Jesus in the Garden of Olives as “oppressed by foreknowledge of the trials that await Him.” (NMI, 25) The Church consistently teaches that Jesus is divinely aware, knowing the intimate details of future events and all that would befall Him, as predicted in His Passion. Lastly, in 2013, Pope Francis put out his first encyclical Lumen Fidei, “The Light of Faith.” In it, Pope Francis alludes to the divine understanding Christ has of the Father. He says, “Christ’s life, His way of knowing the Father and living in complete and constant relationship with Him, opens up new and inviting vistas for human experience.” (LF, 18) The infinite knowledge and consciousness is important because it is united to Jesus’ humanity. God reached down to become part of man, so man could be lifted up to become part of God. We are adopted children of God, who are made partakers in the divine nature, through Christ’s humanity. This is the new and inviting vistas for human experience Pope Francis refers to, and which, is an intimate aspect of the sacramental life.
Scripture, too, repeatedly and unequivocally affirms and reaffirms Christ’s divinity, and in doing so, incidentally professes His divine knowledge and consciousness. Jesus takes for Himself the name of God, declaring Himself “I Am.” (Jn. 8:58) And, He openly declares, “The Father and I are one.” (Jn. 10:30) Jesus takes to Himself special titles, such as “The Son of Man” and “The Son of God.” He refers to God as Abba, or Father. He declares Himself “greater than the Temple” and “Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mt.12:6; 8) Authority for, both of which, belongs only to God Himself. Jesus can read the interior thoughts of other people and knows future events. He ascribes for Himself the power to forgive sins and the power to judge, particularly as the eschatological final judge of all humanity. He can only be the true and just judge of all humanity if He truly knows all the deeds and interior motivations of all humans, as He does in His divine knowledge. Occasionally, Jesus uses simple rhetorical ploys, often times to elicit a response from someone. For example, when Jesus is talking with the Samaritan woman, He asks her, “Go, call your husband, and come back,” even though He already knows that she has had many husbands, and the one she is with now is not her husband. (Jn. 4:16) He gently elicits her moral conscience to sins she has committed, and at the same time, reveals His divinity. This is reminiscent of God coming into the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned, asking “But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9) God, of course, knew where Adam and Eve were, but elicited a moral response from them after they had sinned. This is the same oikonomia that Jesus practiced in His lifetime, in tempering down His divine knowledge and consciousness to the human condition. Nevertheless, we should not be fooled by Christ’s humility and fall into error by questioning His divine knowledge and consciousness. For, in His final revelation to humanity, Jesus proclaims His omnipotence saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev. 1:8)