sea of galilee where Yeshua taught

Contribute to the Dialogue: Yeshua and Omniscience

sea of galilee where Yeshua taught
We’ve had a great deal of discussion here on Messianic Jewish Musings and also on my Facebook profile about my recent post: “Jesus and Mosaic Authorship of Torah”. Why not join the dialogue about Yeshua?

Two points in particular have been raised, but I think even more could be. Here are two questions I invite you to weigh in on:

1. John asked, “I agree that Philippians 2 teaches that Yeshua emptied Himself of His divine attributes, including omniscience, but does that mean that Yeshua, in His humanity, is fallible?”

2. Michael asked, “Okay, just playing with the logical argument here: How do you know that he didn’t know those things?” He was responding to my statement: “Yeshua did not know e=mc2. He did not know what actors would portray him in future movies. He did not know English, not even King James English. And he did not know who wrote the Torah.”

Was Yeshua the Man Fallible?

John added this to the discussion of the fallibility question: “It’s one thing to say Yeshua isn’t omniscient; it’s another to say He was wrong. If Yeshua attributes Mosaic authorship to the Torah, perhaps we should give heavy weight to that opinion? This doesn’t mean that Yeshua attributed every word to Moses. Perhaps Enn’s other suggestions give credible options of how to understand Yeshua’s view of Mosaic authorship, but to say He just didn’t know seems to suggest fallibility.”

I replied, “Good point to bring to the discussion. I think limited knowledge means fallibility is inevitable. In the area of natural science for example, I’m sure Yeshua accepted wrong notions that were believed by all. Flat earth. Etc.”

John came back with: “That’s a tough pill to swallow. How far can we push His fallibility? I’m assuming it wouldn’t be corralled to the natural sciences. Could He be fallible in His religious teachings? What would differentiate Him from Hillel or Akiva in that regard? I find a temporary limit on omniscience to be easy enough, but is there no distinction between Yeshua and the rest of humanity in regards to fallibility?”

How Do We Know Yeshua Didn’t Know?

I replied to Michael’s question about how we know Yeshua didn’t know e=mc2 by saying: “He demonstrated limited knowledge in other areas. So it is logical to extend the principle of limited knowledge.”

Michael asks: “Have you written an article demonstrating that, or could you point me to one?”

No, I have no article on examples of Yeshua admitting limited knowledge. We see it in a few things. The mustard seed he calls the “smallest seed.” The saying that even he did not know the day or the hour the Son of Man would come in power.

I’d be interested in seeing others weigh in on the discussion.

Meanwhile, Society of Biblical Literature Is This Weekend!

I’m leaving well before the crack of dawn to meet friends in San Antonio, TX, for this year’s SBL Conference. As I am sure I will say at least one more time in coming days, “It’s 10,000 plus Bible scholars all in one place for an extended weekend!”

I’ll do my best to track with your comments while I’m gone and I plan to post some ramblings from the sessions I attend at SBL.

I generally try to go to all the “Formation of Isaiah” sessions, “Paul within Judaism,” and then I look for things like Leviticus and atonement and other favorite topics.

TTYL

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7 Comments

  1. Continuing the discussion from FB, here is my contribution in response to the questions posed in the OP:

    John said: I agree that Philippians 2 teaches that Yeshua emptied Himself of His divine attributes, including omniscience, but does that mean that Yeshua, in His humanity, is fallible?

    My answer: (different than Derek’s) is, no. Yeshua was and is infallible in the truths he taught and affirmed, and in the statements he made. However, this necessitates taking into account figures of speech, hyperbole, as well as the need for Yeshua to accommodate his communication to the level of understanding of his listeners (i.e. that of Jewish individuals living in 1st Century Israel).

    Derek said: Yeshua did not know e=mc2. He did not know what actors would portray him in future movies. He did not know English, not even King James English. And he did not know who wrote the Torah.

    My response would be that Yeshua DID (and does) know ALL these things but there was no reason for him to make reference to them or even for him to access this knowledge (which was most likely in self-limitation mode) while he was on earth.

    Derek said: I think limited knowledge means fallibility is inevitable. In the area of natural science for example, I’m sure Yeshua accepted wrong notions that were believed by all. Flat earth. Etc.

    My take: I believe Yeshua DID know that the earth was spherical. He DID know e= mc2, etc. However there was no reason for him to explain this while he was on earth (or even bring it up). It wasn’t pertinent to his mission to explain physical science, future languages, extraneous future (or even past ) history, etc.

    Derek said: He [Yeshua] demonstrated limited knowledge in other areas. So it is logical to extend the principle of limited knowledge.… We see it in a few things. The mustard seed he calls the “smallest seed.” The saying that even he did not know the day or the hour the Son of Man would come in power.

    My take: When Yeshua stated that the mustard seed was the “smallest of all seeds” he was not making a statement of literal fact. Yeshua was simply using a comparative literary technique to make a point. Nothing more, nothing less.

    The statement by Yeshua that he did not know the “day or hour” of his return is more of a conundrum. There could be a number of different answers to this. Here are a couple of suggestions:

    1) He was using self-limitation of his ontological omniscience while on earth however once he returned to the Father, all his omniscience was fully restored and therefore he NOW knows the day and hour of his return (though he didn’t then).

    2) Though Yeshua is fully God he always defers to the Father’s will, even while in his eternal state. So though Yeshua is ontologically omniscient (just as the Father is ontologically omniscient) he self- restricts his omniscience even in the eternal realm as per the Father’s authority.

    3) There could be a sort of “middle knowledge” in play here. Though Yeshua (like the Father) knows everything about anything/everything (past, present, future) he doesn’t always access this knowledge at all times unless it is necessary for the purposes he wishes to accomplish.

    (Personally I think number 2 is the most plausible answer here, though #3 comes in as a close second.)

    1. Okay, after pondering this some more, I’m going to do a big U-turn and retract my first statement.

      In response to John’s question, what I should have said is, YES, Yeshua was fallible in his humanity however everything he said and did was 100% within the Father’s will therefore everything he said and did, he did perfectly and in that sense was “infallible”.

      I do not believe however that Yeshua used any of his OWN omniscient power while on earth. He purposely CHOSE to empty himself of this capacity rendering it inactive. (Phil 2:7). All the transcendent supernatural knowledge he had (prophetically and eschatologically, knowing people’s inner thoughts, perfectly explaining the law and eternal truths, etc) were all given to him by the Father. By emptying himself he was truly a full human being in every sense just as we are, except without sin.

      Therefore, since Yeshua perfectly obeyed the Father in every aspect of his life and ministry, we can reliably say there was nothing “imperfect” that he said or did. Though he may not HIMSELF been infallible while in the flesh, what he did say and do WAS infallible because it PERFECTLY reflected the will and knowledge of the father.

  2. Good point, Merrill, to notice that there is a critical difference between the *potential* to err that comes with human limitation and fallibility, and the actuality of teaching or doing something wrong. To paraphrase slightly a statement made by Capt. James T. Kirk in an episode of StarTrek TOS: “We can admit that as a species we are killers, but as individuals we can decide that we’re not going to kill, *today*. That’s all it takes — the decision that we’re not going to kill, today.” Similarly, an individual who is aware of sin or fallibility can decide that he or she will trust HaShem and rely on His power to strengthen the resolve of the will to conform with the Torah’s teachings, including a resolve not to claim certain knowledge of things that one cannot or does not know (similarly a resolve not to act upon tempting impulses). This could be done, day after day, with the result that such a person would be upright, perfect in all his ways (viz: Jam.3:2). In this category we can place Rav Yeshua’s statement that the day and hour of his return was beyond his knowledge, at least at the time his disciples asked about it. There is no reason to expect of him any knowledge beyond that of his peers in the first century, except for insights given him by HaShem about individuals with whom he spoke, or about the application of Torah, or about the requirements for entering into the kingdom of heaven (viz: Mt.5:19-20), or about any other matter for which his ministry required him to speak or to act.

    Humans must learn to cope with their characteristic fallibility. They ultimately can do it only by reliance on the power of trust in HaShem. Rav Yeshua did it very well, in an exemplary manner which any of us would do well to emulate.

    1. I agree, PL. Yeshua was the perfect Adam (pre-Fall). One day we’ll be restored to our pre-Fall state. That will mean unlimited unsullied, unencumbered fellowship with our Creator. Can’t wait!

  3. The difference between the way I look at Yeshua’s omniscience while he was in the flesh and the way Derek Leman looks at it is this: I see Jesus possessing his full omniscience while in the flesh (yes, even as a fetus according to Col 2:9) but making the deliberate CHOICE not to use it (according to Phil 2:6-7) He deliberately put all his supernatural ability aside during his sojourn on earth. However this doesn’t mean he didn’t have access to it if he had CHOSEN to use it. He deliberately CHOSE NOT to tap into his OWN omniscience in order to be 100% human. He allowed himself no advantage over a normal human being. He experienced life exactly like we experience life. He felt and struggled with temptation just as we do, only he never succumbed to it.
    So the basic difference here between the way I look at it and Derek looks at it is this:
    Derek sees Yeshua as being completely dispossessed of his omniscience while in the flesh whereas I see Yeshua not “losing” any of his supernatural power, but rather making the deliberate CHOICE not to use it, though ontologically it was still present. This is how I reconcile Colossians 2:9 with Phil 2:6-7.

    1. Thought of this verse too: “For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure”. John 3:34

      If the Father gives to the Son “Spirit WITHOUT MEASURE”, then it stands to reason that everything Yeshua said, did, and affirmed is, for all intents and purposes, “infallible”.

  4. How Do We Know Yeshua Didn’t Know ?
    Anyone looking for an article on the subject would do well to read what was written years ago by the NT scholar Raymond E. Brown. He published an article titled, “How Much Did Jesus Know ?” in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 29 no 3 July 1967, pages 315-345. That article then became the basis of chapter 2 in a small book he wrote called, “Jesus: God and Man”. The book can be found and read at this link
    https://openlibrary.org/books/OL5550375M/Jesus_God_and_man.

    Here are 3 other web articles on the subject:
    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/you-asked-how-can-jesus-not-know-but-still-be-divine
    https://www.icr.org/article/9157/
    http://www.gty.org/resources/bible-qna/BQ121712/what-jesus-didnt-know

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