Was Jesus Omniscient?

Many people seem to think that Jesus had the total mind of God while on earth. But is this true? Should we think that when Jesus was placed in the manger he looked around and thought, ‘Well here I am; the plan has begun!’ No, Jesus was a baby and he thought like a baby. He was really no different from any other baby. He cried, he wet his pants, and he wanted his mother.

There is an old story about Jesus playing with other children. They were molding birds out of clay but Jesus’ clay bird flew away. I am sure nothing like that ever happened. Jesus was a normal, human child; he grew and he learned like any other child, as stated in Luke 2:

Jesus grew in wisdom and stature.

Jesus lived among us as a human, and humans are not omniscient.

Jesus Was Not Omniscient

jesus omniscient

If Jesus was omniscient, why did he not share technical and scientific information with his listeners? There were times when sharing more accurate information could have been very useful. Here is a case in point.

Last time, we said that when Jesus cast out demons he was really healing physical and mental disorders not involving demons at all. To correct the people’s views about demons, why did Jesus not just tell them ‘This boy has epilepsy’ or ‘This man has multiple personality disorder.’ Instead, Jesus went through the motions of casting out demons. One might say that sharing such advanced information was not Jesus’ mission, but another explanation is that Jesus, himself, didn’t know. He was not omniscient; to a great extent he was a person of his time and culture like everyone else.

Even if we believe Jesus was pre-existent with God in eternity and was therefore omniscient, we need not think he carried over his divine knowledge into his human existence. Philippians 2 refers to an early hymn about Jesus:

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 by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

This hymn reflects the understanding that Jesus was human while he was among us. The ‘making himself nothing’ is called kenosis—Jesus ’emptied’ himself of any divine attributes and was human.

But What about Jesus’ Prophecies and Knowledge of the End-Times?

Wouldn’t Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem temple imply omniscience? Perhaps it would if it were a prophecy but, as we discussed before, Jesus had great insight that did not require omniscience; he could foresee what would happen to the temple if the Jews continued their efforts to drive out the Romans.

And what many people understand to be descriptions of the end-times were, instead, apocalyptic illustrations drawn from well-known stories circulating at the time.

Now this is not to say that Jesus, in his humanity, was nothing more than human. Jesus on earth had one very special quality that no other person ever had—a special connection to God. Jesus was God’s anointed one in a way that was much different from any anointed king or prophet. Jesus was God’s special emissary on earth for all time with God’s message to all people. Jesus was very aware of his special connection with God, but this did not make him omniscient. Jesus was human.

The Importance to Us of Jesus’ Humanity

As a human, Jesus was one of us! Can you relate to that? Jesus understood about being human. He experienced hunger (have you eve noticed how often Jesus ate or talked about eating?). Jesus was human and he was hungry. He was one of us!

Jesus experienced exhaustion and sometimes had to withdraw from the crowds and rest. Jesus experienced disappointment; in John 6, after many who followed him turned away, Jesus asked the twelve, ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus experienced sorrow to the point of weeping over the death of his friend Lazarus.

Even during his painful trial and execution, Jesus experienced it as a human—just as any of us would have—with no extra buffers. Jesus experienced distress in Gethsemane, pain on the cross, and abandonment by God as he was dying. Jesus had no advantage on the cross over any others being crucified that day except for his steadfast determination to fulfill God’s mission.

How Do We Relate to Jesus Now?

Some people talk of God coming down and dying on the cross, and what they have in mind is God the father. This is a confused misunderstanding; Jesus was NOT the father, and he died as a human. What would be the significance to us of God coming down to walk among us with all of his divine attributes and being crucified with those same divine attributes. It would not be genuine. We could not relate to that.

But we can relate to Jesus because he was born human, dwelt among us as human, and died human. Of course the resurrection really changed things, but while he walked among us Jesus was human as we are except for his special connection with God.

Why is Jesus’ humanity important to us? Because Jesus identifies with us; and we can identify with him in a way that we could never identify with a god walking among us. Jesus is one of us! He understands us experientially. And we can follow him because he was one of us. But Jesus is now resurrected and lives again so that one day we can be resurrected and live again—like him. And then we can identify with Jesus in a new way.

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26 Responses to Was Jesus Omniscient?

  1. Tim, I agree with you that Jesus was not omniscient. He stated that He did not know the time of His return. I agree that He had this special relationship with the Father. He stated that He spoke what His Father told Him. But if the Father is omniscient, then what He revealed to Jesus in terms of the future would be prophetic would it not?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. scraffiti says:

    Bit of a coincidence. I’ve recently been reading about Nestorius who was Archbishop of Constantinople who didn’t believe Jesus was truly God. This brought him into conflict with Cyril of Alexandria who accused him of heresy. This led to the Council of Chalcedon (451) which repudiated the idea of a single nature Jesus and declared that he has two natures but was still inconclusive in resolving the issue. The dispute continues to this day. A simple illustration would be to take a glass of water and add oil. The two are in the same vessel but the oil would not mix with the water but sit on top. This was Nestorius’s idea of Jesus and God. If you mix water with wine it becomes one. The latter was Cyril’s idea of Jesus’ divinity. Today, you’re pretty much asking the same question, Tim.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thanks Scraffiti. I am aware of, but not as familiar with, Nestorius as I am some other early players. Perhaps I should read about him more.

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  3. theotherlestrangegirl says:

    In the case of John 6, I would even go so far as to say that Jesus was experiencing hurt feelings when those that followed him were abandoning him. When he said “You do not want to leave too, do you?”, I don’t believe he meant it in a judgmental way. I think it was more of a “Wait, don’t leave me” type of plea.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. newtonfinn says:

    Reading Schweitzer has brought home to me the distinction between knowledge and will. He says that we cannot connect to Jesus by ascertaining or sharing his knowledge, which Schweitzer believed was time and culture-bound, but that we can connect our wills to his by believing in and working for the Kingdom of God come on earth. If Schweitzer is right, then what Jesus knew is really beside the point. It’s what Jesus willed that mattered, and because Christians believe that his will was one with God’s will, the goal is to join our wills with Jesus’ will and thus with God’s. This insight of Schweitzer’s spare us from so much theological wrangling…at least it does for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Newton, thanks for sharing from Schweitzer. I had not previously read his thoughts you presented–but I really like them!

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  5. Paz says:

    Newton, these are really interesting insights from Schweitzer on knowledge and will. I think Jesus’ life of achieving God’s will in his HUMAN nature and experiences demonstrates that he also accomplished this by even defeating death itself!!!
    Free will and knowledge make quite an interesting combination… considering that we make choices within the bounds of our abilities, awareness and knowledge (?).

    Liked by 3 people

  6. The Gospels went from the oldest, Mark, in which Jesus is nowhere near regarded as a persona of a trinitarian deity, to the youngest, John, where Jesus is the Logos and very much God. Same with his alleged atonement death – the nature of belief in it changes as the Gospels become more and more embellished. I’m a former evangelical who left both because of theological differences, but also due to ‘God’s (alleged) elect’ having gone a whoreing with the Republican Party. In a symbolic way I no longer consider myself ‘Christian’ in the sense that I do not believe in a ‘Christ’ person, but do still consider myself a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, the prophet, mystic, seer, healer, and Wisdom teacher, whose death as a mistaken insurrectionist was at the hands of the combination of religion-&-state combined. His vision of the Kingdom of God isn’t for either ‘someday’ when we die, nor as something we can bring to fruition in the ultimate sense here on Earth – but it exists in ‘this’ moment, in ministering with the face of the person in nelooed who’s right in front of us. I’m also an ordained minister who graduated from a conservative Baptist seminary, and left the Baptists and joined the United Church of Christ (ucc.org). Indeed, I was once a local ‘star’ of the Jesus Rock scene (now Contemporary Christian music), opening for all the big names in that genre thru the ’70s thru the early ’90s. My point being, I had a 40+ yr career in ministry, both as pastor to 2 churches (1 Baptist, one UCC), and as chaplain and social worker to the homeless. I know where y’all are coming from, and know my Bible like you do, and yet come away with quite different conclusions as I read it over the years, based on histotical criticism, and belief in God’s guidance that ‘the’ most powerful aspects of ministry and faith, are Love and empathy. Blessings, all…, Rev Michael Hollingshead

    Liked by 3 people

    • scraffiti says:

      Hi Michael, I really enjoyed reading that. The British academic Diarmaid MacCulloch, who comes from two generations of Anglican ministers (who was refused ministry himself due to his being being gay) states that whilst he is no longer a Christian for pretty much the same reasons that you state, he still regards himself a friend of Christianity. I think that a lot of us that came from the evangelical explosion of the seventies (Billy Graham 1973 myself) are thinking the same way.

      Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Michael, thanks for your comment. I am a former evangelical as well, having begun as a fundamentalist. In fact, I still consider myself an evangelical in solidarity with other progressive evangelicals, though I no longer mention that much because evangelicalism has become so compromised in the public mind (and in the evangelical mind as well for the most part).

      However, I too am a follower of Jesus of history rather than the cosmic Christ of faith.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Paz says:

      Michael, I also believe that faith ( in a spiritual sense or not ) can often be helpful in providing hope, inner strength and trust, in the message of Love and empathy. Blessings…

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Ross Jarvis says:

    Hi Tim. I’m not sure but I think I may diverge from you on your final paragraphs. I can’t say I have solved or even understood whatever “the trinity” may or may not be, but from where I’m at, at the moment I would say that God did come down, live with us and die on the cross. However, maybe as you say, this is God without the attributes of the “Father”. This is God being born as human as the rest of us. Limited and not omniscient or omni-anything-else. Dying on the cross, not knowing for sure of the resurrection but hoping by faith. No “magical powers”, able to be hurt and rejected and feel all the pain we can feel (and the joy too maybe). I think I could relate to this sort of God, one who is totally with us, down here.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. jesuswithoutbaggage says:

    Thanks for your comments, Ross. Of course, I could be mistaken in my views, but this is what I have come to believe.

    I really like you final statement, “This is God being born as human as the rest of us. Limited and not omniscient or omni-anything-else. Dying on the cross, not knowing for sure of the resurrection but hoping by faith. No “magical powers”, able to be hurt and rejected and feel all the pain we can feel (and the joy too maybe). I think I could relate to this sort of God, one who is totally with us, down here.”

    I can relate as well.

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  9. Ross Jarvis says:

    Thanks for your honesty and input Tim. I may also be mistaken (perish the thought!!). I find the nature of Jesus and God is ultimately one of those mysteries which may be beyond human understanding. I am always very drawn to the introduction to John’s Gospel, where it appears Jesus is pre-existant and divine and think this bit of literature may be related to Philo’s thoughts on Wisdom. Word and Wisdom being synonymous, somehow Jesus being the same as God’s Wisdom and therefore existing from the very beginning and being part of God. It seems anyone who seeks true wisdom may be seeking that which is Jesus and being one with Jesus is having true Wisdom. The seeker may not necessarily equate Wisdom with Jesus, whether they are aware of him or not, but this makes me think that anyone, regardless of; race, creed, geographic position, hairstyle etc can seek and find “Wisdom/God”. This may be offensive to some “Christians”, particularly those who seem to believe that God wishes us to assent to and cling to a propositional ideology (Christianity) and that this is in opposition to any other ideology (not-Christianity).
    As I said, I have no claim to being right, but these are thoughts that I kick around inside my head a lot.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Ross, I think you are right on target! We both could be mistaken, but I agree with your comments here. You may be right about Plato’s influence on Wisdom, but perhaps another source for John might be Proverbs 8 where Wisdom speaks of creation:

      22 The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old;
      23 I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
      24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water;
      25 before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth,
      26 before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth.
      27 I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
      28 when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
      29 when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command,
      and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
      30 Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence,
      31 rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.

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  10. Ross Jarvis says:

    Thanks for the quote from proverbs, it seems very in line with where my thoughts are and probably helped form them. I wonder if v:31 where Wisdom delights in mankind links to our seeking God/Wisdom leading to loving mankind (others), which seems to me to be the core of where our faith should lead us.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. michaeleeast says:

    Tim, I agree that Jesus was a human being who established a special relationship with God.
    He was the Guiding Spirit of the Age of Pisces. I do not think that Jesus mission was for all time.
    But of all the spiritual teachers of history Jesus is the best. His special understanding of God’s mercy and forgiveness and his radical love for all, even enemies, is unique.
    He is needed as much today as ever.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Michael, I respect other major spiritual teachers; but I agree that “of all the spiritual teachers of history Jesus is the best. His special understanding of God’s mercy and forgiveness and his radical love for all, even enemies, is unique. He is needed as much today as ever.” Good point!

      Like

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