To Attribute Omniscience To Christ's Human Nature Is Monophysitism

Within recent times the question as to the limitation of Christ's

knowledge was hotly debated. That debate showed how much uncertainty

on Christological questions exists and how strong monophysite opinion

still is. In spite of Christ's own dicta, in spite of the dogma of

two natures, denial of the limitation was widespread and persistent.

To many devout minds it seems impious to speak of Christ's ignorance.

This is a
case in which the Chalcedonian definition is an invaluable

guide. If one brings to an examination of Christ's nature the

preconceived notion of His omniscience, the doctrine of the limitation

of His knowledge seems an outrage on belief; but if one approaches the

question with the orthodox formula in mind, one is prepared to find

that His cognitive faculties were perfectly human and humanly perfect.

So we find it. His knowledge and His faculties of knowledge on the

lower plane of His experience were essentially the same as ours. He

thought in our categories. He used our organon, perfect of its kind,

but still a human organon. As man, inevitably, He had thoughts

uncognised; and such a mental state we call "ignorance." His mind

passed through stages of development as ours does. Education widened

His horizon, strengthened His faculties, and increased His knowledge.

Advance in knowledge implies a prior state of relative ignorance. The

word "ignorance" as applied to Christ sounds very terrible; but

investigation of its meaning robs it of its terrors. We use the word

in two senses. On the one hand it may mean the absence of a thought,

its absolute non-presence in consciousness. On the other it may mean

thought unrelated to experience, one whose implications are not or

cannot be fully deduced, in fact, the incomplete cognition of an idea.

In neither case does it involve imperfection in the instrument or moral

fault. On the contrary ignorance is a mark of the normal in cognition.

If ignorance and limitation of knowledge were not found in Christ, we

should be forced to agree with Apollinaris that the divine Logos had

superseded His human intellect.

Ignorance in so far as it is a positive attribute is far from being a

mark of imperfection. It is a true paradox that ignorance like

obliviscence forms part of the process of human cognising. Probably in

the truth of things memory is of the essence of mind. Thoughts

naturally and spontaneously reproduce themselves. The past of

experience tends automatically to carry forward into the present. The

function of the brain then, or of a mental faculty intimately

co-operating with the brain is to discriminate, to sift and select, to

prolong into present consciousness what is of importance for action and

to relegate the irrelevant to partial or total oblivion. From this

psychological standpoint ignorance and obliviscence are seen to be

achievements of the intellect. The presence of all facts in a human

consciousness is unthinkable. If it were possible, it would paralyse

action. If we exempt Christ from the law of ignorance and

obliviscence, we ipso facto dehumanise his cognition. When we say

that Jesus was ignorant of much scientific truth, or that his

prescience was limited, we do not compromise His dignity. We simply

assert the naturalness of His intellect and the true humanity of that

element of His nature. To do otherwise, to claim omniscience for His

human intellect is gross monophysitism. His knowledge was deeper,

surer, more penetrating than ours, because the light of His divine

intuition streamed through the veil of sense and illumined the lower

phases of intelligence. This is an instance of the communicatio

idiomatum. The properties of the two natures act and react upon one

another. But we must make the distinction of natures our

starting-point, or fusion will take place. There must be idiomata

first, or the communicatio is meaningless.