Was Jesus Omniscient?

Orthodox Christian theology teaches that Jesus is God incarnate.  When we speak of God, we speak of a being who is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient.  The problem is that when the disciples asked Jesus about his return, he said: “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32 ESV)  This has caused some problems (including for those who like to predict the date).  Skeptics point at this as evidence that Jesus could not be divine and did not think of himself as so.  Some Christians are just confused or come up with some wild theories as to how this could be.

I would like to provide some perspective on this and demonstrate that Jesus’ ignorance and his divinity are compatible.  First of all, people get worked up at how this affects omniscience, have they ever considered how the incarnation affected his omnipresence?  When Jesus was in Jerusalem, do you really think he was also in Canada and on Mars and on the far side of the universe?  It is not likely.  The incarnation localized the presence of God the Son in one specific location: a human body.

This may be more controversial, but I would argue that Jesus was not omnipotent either.  Jesus did not have any super powers.  His body was that of a normal human being.  So how did Jesus perform all those miracles?  Unlike the infancy gospels, who portray a miracle working child, there is no reason to suspect that Jesus performed any miracle before his baptism, when he received the Holy Spirit.  How did Jesus perform miracles?  The same way everyone else did in the Bible, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

So if Jesus was not omnipresent or omnipotent, why should we have a problem with him not being omniscient?  Let us reflect on this a bit more.  To suggest that Jesus was omniscient is to not take the incarnation seriously enough.  What kind of brain did Jesus have?  Was it a super brain far beyond normal human limits or was it a normal human brain?  If an autopsy was performed during the two days that Jesus was dead, what would they find in his skull?  The incarnation demands that Jesus must have had a normal human brain.  However, a normal brain could never contain all the information for all the events of the past from the beginning of time across the universe, much less all the events of the future.  If Jesus was truly incarnated into a human body, there is no way that he could be omniscient.

What does this do to the doctrine of the incarnation?  It makes it more glorious!  I like what Paul wrote: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:5–7 ESV)  The incarnation was not Jesus pretending to be human, putting on something the way we put on a hat.  Something real happened, something that was a sacrifice.  The Word went from being completely omniscient to having the brain of a fetus and then a baby and then a child and then a man.  There is something beautiful here.  This is not a weakness for Christianity, this is one of our most treasured beliefs.

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