Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How Can Jesus Be God but Still Learn?

Q - As the mother of Jesus, Mary obviously would have been the one who raised him and taught him everything that he knew about the world. So was it Mary who taught Jesus that he was the Son of God, or was he just aware of that? Did Mary teach him the things he would eventually go out and preach to the world? Were there certain things he learned from his mother, but others he just knew because of his omnipotence?


A - Thanks for the questions. This is a question that deals with Christology - the study of Christ.

The first thing we need to know is that the person of Jesus is fully God and fully man.
Vatican II talks about him being fully human:
“The Son of God...worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin” - GS 22
So, Jesus has a human body, a human intellect, and a human will.

But, he also has a divine intellect, and a divine will. The divine nature does not absorb the human, but it assumes it.

This means that his human intellect is limited by being human and cannot know all that the divine intellect knows (a finite thing cannot fully comprehend an infinite thing). But, because the two natures are joined in a hypostatic union, Christ knows all that a human can know. He has the highest of all human intellects - therefore he knows all that a human could know about being God.

Therefore, Christ had three different kinds of human knowledge:

  1. Knowledge of the beatific vision - his human soul knew his divinity as we will know God in heaven - face-to-face.
  2. Infused knowledge - Christ's humanity is given knowledge immediately as a divine gift. It is poured into his humanity and not learned gradually.
  3. Learned knowledge - Christ also learned as any human would - by experiencing the world and his humanity.
The Catechism puts it all this way:
472 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: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, "increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man", and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience. This corresponded to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking "the form of a slave".

473 But at the same time, this truly human knowledge of God's Son expressed the divine life of his person. "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. The Son in his human knowledge also showed the divine penetration he had into the secret thoughts of human hearts.

474 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
I hope this helps.

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