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Does Matthew 24.36 ('the Son doesn't know the day or hour') rank Father and Son?


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#1 S. Rey

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Posted 26 January 2010 - 06:55 AM

Dear all,

I was pondering on the meaning of Mat. XXIV: 36:

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.


Does this verse draw a distinction between the Father and the Son with respect to importance (if the Father knows something that the Son doesn't know, the Father must be greater, and the Son is no longer whole and one with the Father) and therefore break the unity between Father and Son? Certain manuscript do not have "nor the Son," but it remains that "only the Father" knows, which doesn't change the meaning. So how do we understand this verse? Is there truly something that the Son, Christ Himself, doesn't know?

#2 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 26 January 2010 - 11:46 AM

The explanation is given by St John Chrysostom (Homily LXXVII on Matthew) and the Blessed Theophylact (the latter's commentary being really a summary of the former's). Of course, Christ knows the Day when He will come. In chapter 24, He has told the disciples, and so us, much about the last times. But it is not good for us know 'the hour' because we must always be in a state of readiness - we must watch. Christ honours the disciples but at the same time curbs any enquiry as to the hour by saying that if even the angels and He don't know the hour, but only the Father, they should be content and not ask about it. As Blessed Theophylact puts it, it is as if Christ, says, 'I know, but I do not wish to tell you'. St John Chrysostom cites similar passages from scripture, as when, at the Fall, Adam and Eve hid themselves, God called out, 'where are you?' Obviously God knew where they were.

#3 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 26 January 2010 - 02:36 PM

The words "nor the Son" do not appear in Robinson and Pierpont's 2005 Byzantine Textform New Testament, which is based on the consensus of Greek manuscripts. It would appear, then, that "nor the Son" is a minority reading.

On the broader issue of what Christ knew, the Fathers are fairly consistent that He was omniscient and only asked questions to prompt answers He already knew. But there is a way to understand His omniscience that would allow from temporary ignorance, by analogy to the modern computer, which operates with two sets of memory, ROM and RAM. The Son's infinite knowledge is like ROM, but His human knowledge is like RAM, because the human brain has a finite number of brain cells and so can only contain a finite amount of knowledge. Christ could therefore call to mind any information He wanted, without actually having it all in His human mind at the same time. Paradoxically, if He willed, He could leave Himself ignorant of a fact until such a time as He wished to retrieve the information.

This is purely conjecture on my part. I like it because it makes Christ more human and, in a sense, more honest. He isn't just pretending not to know; He doesn't humanly know at the particular moment.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

#4 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 26 January 2010 - 06:24 PM

When Christ was born, He did not get up out of the manger, dress Himself and feed Himself. Perhaps He could have if he desired, but He didn't do it. He was cared for, changed, nursed, His human body had to learn to walk, speak, and do the things we do, even though He is God. Evidently aspects of His Godhead where certainly not brought to the fore in His humanity, while other things were. If He chose that He had to learn how to walk, I suppose He could also choose to not be "humanly" aware of other things.

Sorry but that is about as far as this bear of little brain can take it, I look forward to the contributions of better minds than mine.

Herman the Pooh

#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 26 January 2010 - 11:09 PM

We've already had the contributions of better minds than ours - those of St John Chrysostom and Blessed Theophylact. This forum is about Orthodoxy through patristic study, not through the proffering of personal opinions.

#6 S. Rey

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Posted 27 January 2010 - 01:13 AM

Thank you all very much for your replies, it helped a lot. Perhaps I should read St. John Chrysostom and get a better understanding of the matter.

The words "nor the Son" do not appear in Robinson and Pierpont's 2005 Byzantine Textform New Testament, which is based on the consensus of Greek manuscripts. It would appear, then, that "nor the Son" is a minority reading.


This is one of the things I was puzzled about. The version that I have includes these words. But the meaning of the verse remains the same, it seems, whether they are included or not.

#7 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 27 January 2010 - 02:23 PM

Forgive me, Andreas, but you seem to be telling us to shut up. Surely you don't believe that all we are to do is quote the Fathers, and not to try understand them better or add to what they believed? The Fathers weren't perfect, didn't know everything, hadn't seen everything, and didn't agree on everything. They don't have the answers to all questions, and if you do a search, I'm sure you will find scores if not hundreds of "IMHO" in the posts of our most respected contributers. I've offered my humble opinion, plainly marked as such. If you disagree, tell us why. Don't just say opinions aren't welcome.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

#8 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 27 January 2010 - 03:04 PM

I couldn't see the point in speculating about an answer to this question when there is already an answer from very high patristic authority.

#9 Angelos

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 01:14 AM

Hebrews 45:15 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin". Jesus was 100% human, in everything except sin. That means that he had human limitations. We see Jesus in the Gospels asking for information (asking his disciples to find loaves to help feed the 5,000), being surprised, being tempted, struggling between the human and divine will. To say that the human incarnation of the Son had no limitations is to deny his humanity.

Also in Luke 2:40 "And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him." The Son's human incarnation grew in wisdom like all humans do.

Why did the Son lower Himeself to become finite like us? St. Paul gives us the answer.

Philippians 2:6-9 "(Jesus) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!"

So the Son is not lower than the Father, but of course the human incarnation of the Son has limitations that the Father does not have, and that includes limitations in knowledge

#10 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 01:53 PM

Amen, Angelos. It only stands to reason that Christ as God could have known anything at any time, but as man could not have known everything at once.

It's another question whether God the Father reveals everything to the Son eternally, which would mean that the Son, like the Father, is absolutely omniscient. Equality with the Father would seem to require that this is so, and that seems to be the assumption behind the claim of omniscience for Christ made by the saints cited above.

But it's still another question whether the Son's absolute omniscience as God requires the Son's absolute omniscience as man. My computer analogy above suggests a way to understand how Christ could have known everything as God but not as man. This is not errant speculation. Our Lord Himself speaks as if He does not always know everything. If, on the contrary, we assume that Christ always did know everything, we raise the question of whether Christ was truly man — whether He would have been more a man if He had faced death not knowing everything, having to simply trust the Father for some things.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

#11 Olga

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 08:51 PM

Amen, Angelos. It only stands to reason that Christ as God could have known anything at any time, but as man could not have known everything at once.

It's another question whether God the Father reveals everything to the Son eternally, which would mean that the Son, like the Father, is absolutely omniscient. Equality with the Father would seem to require that this is so, and that seems to be the assumption behind the claim of omniscience for Christ made by the saints cited above.

But it's still another question whether the Son's absolute omniscience as God requires the Son's absolute omniscience as man. My computer analogy above suggests a way to understand how Christ could have known everything as God but not as man. This is not errant speculation. Our Lord Himself speaks as if He does not always know everything. If, on the contrary, we assume that Christ always did know everything, we raise the question of whether Christ was truly man — whether He would have been more a man if He had faced death not knowing everything, having to simply trust the Father for some things.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick


A careful examination of the Vigil for Lazarus' Saturday should shed light on the "paradox" of Christ's omniscience.

#12 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 08:55 PM

Dear friends,

It is probably best not to delve too much into this now (we should wait until Holy Week and Pascha are past; our hearts and minds have enough to dwell on in these days!); but in terms of the patristic understanding, it is essential that we confess that Christ is omniscient in His humanity - i.e., that He is never not omniscient, but that His omniscience, like everything else, is experienced by Him in the incarnation humanly, with all the limitations of humanity. So we cannot say that He is not omniscient, but that omniscience is lived out humanly (paradoxically, in a limited, developmental way).

As Olga says, this is also very clear in the hymns of various feasts.

INXC, Hieromonk Irenei

#13 Olga

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 10:23 PM

Some selections from the Lazarus' Saturday vigil:

O Fountain of wisdom and foreknowledge, You asked the companions of Martha when You came to Bethany: “Where have you laid My friend Lazarus?” Shedding for him tears of tender love, You called to him in Your compassion and raised him by Your voice, though he was four days dead; for You are Giver of Life and Lord.

In the beginning You brought all creation out of nothing, and You know the secrets of our hearts; and now as Master You foretold the falling asleep of Lazarus to Your disciples.

O Christ, You became man, taking human nature from the Virgin, and as man You asked where Lazarus was buried, although as God You were not ignorant of this.

Displaying Your two energies, O Saviour, You made manifest Your two natures: for You are both God and man.

Though You are the Abyss of knowledge, You asked where they have laid the body of Lazarus. For it was Your purpose, O Giver of Life, to raise him from the dead.

Going from one place to another as a mortal man, You have appeared circumscribed; but, as God uncircumscribed, You fill all things.

O Lord who works miracles, standing in Bethany by the tomb of Lazarus, You shed tears for him in accordance with the law of nature, confirming the full reality of the flesh which You have taken, O Jesus my God.

The sisters of Lazarus stood beside Christ and, lamenting with bitter tears, they said to Him: “O Lord, Lazarus is dead.” And though as God He knew the place of burial, yet He asked them, “Where have you laid him?” Coming to the tomb, He called Lazarus that was four days dead; and he arose and worshipped the Lord who had raised him.

Foreknowing all things as Creator, You warned the disciples at Bethany, saying: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep today.” And, though You were not ignorant, You asked: “Where have you laid him?” Weeping as a man, You prayed to the Father; You called Your friend Lazarus from hell, O Lord, and raised him when he had been four days dead. Therefore we cry to You: Accept, O Christ our God, the praise we dare to offer, and count us all worthy of Your glory.

You prayed to the Father, not because You are in need of any help, but to fulfil the mystery of Your Incarnation; and so, almighty Lord, You raised up a corpse that was four days dead.

Co-eternal with the Father, the Word that was revealed from the beginning as God, now offers prayers as man, though it is He that receives the prayers of all.

You have prayed and glorified the Father, for Your power is not opposed to His. To confirm the faith of the multitude that stood around You, You thanked Your Father, O longsuffering Lord, and then raised Lazarus by Your command.

As mortal man You asked where Lazarus was buried; as Maker, You raised him from the dead by Your royal command. Hell was afraid of him when he cried out to You: Praise the Lord and exalt Him above all to all ages.

#14 Darren

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 10:43 PM

Some interesting posts, I liked Fr Dcn Mitchell's analogy with the computer. I have often thought of it like the scene in superman were superman willingly gives up some of his power to become more human. You could also maybe argue that it was Christ speaking of his human nature and not of his divine nature.

#15 Kelil

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Posted 02 April 2010 - 01:32 AM

Ver. 36. No man knoweth ... but the Father alone. The words in St. Mark (xiii. 32.) are still harder: neither the angels, nor the Son, but the Father. The Arians objected this place, to shew that Christ being ignorant of the day of judgment, could not be truly God. By the same words, no one knoweth, but the Father alone, (as they expound them) the Holy Ghost must be excluded from being the true God. In answer to this difficulty, when it is said, but the Father alone, it is certain that the eternal Son and the Holy Ghost could never be ignorant of the day of judgment: because, as they are one and the same God, so they must have one and the same nature, the same substance, wisdom, knowledge, and all absolute perfections. 2. It is also certain that Jesus Christ knew the day of judgment, and all things to come, by a knowledge which he could not but have, because of the union by which his human nature was united to the divine person and nature. See Colossians ii. 3. And so to attribute any ignorance to Christ, was the error of those heretics called Agnoitai. 3. But though Christ, as a man, knew the day of judgment, yet this knowledge was not due to him as he was man, or because he was man, but he only knew the day of judgment, because he was God as well as man. 4. It is the common answer of the fathers, that Christ here speaks to his disciples, only as he was the ambassador of his Father; and so he is only to know what he is to make known to men. He is said not to know, says St. Augustine[5], what he will not make others know, or what he will not reveal to them. (Witham) --- By this Jesus Christ wished to suppress the curiosity of his disciples. In the same manner after his resurrection, he answered the same question: 'Tis not for you to know the times and the moments, which the Father has placed in his own power. This last clause is added, that the apostles might not be discouraged and think their divine Master esteemed them unworthy of knowing these things. Some Greek manuscripts add nor even the Son, as in Mark xiii. 32. The Son is ignorant of it, not according to his divinity, nor even according to his humanity hypostatically united to his divinity, but according to his humanity, considered as separate from his divinity. (Bible de Vence)
http://haydock1859.t...d.com/id42.html

#16 Paul Cowan

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 01:54 AM

Forgive me. I am still struggling with this. So he basically told a white lie. ?

#17 Ben Johnson

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 04:58 AM

At times I have stopped people from telling me something so that I would not know it. Of course, I am finite while Jesus is infinite. Even though Jesus is infinite, I wonder if He could choose not to know something?

#18 Olga

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 07:28 AM

Even though Jesus is infinite, I wonder if He could choose not to know something?


Ah, but isn't that a feature of the mystery of Him being both fully God and fully Man, which the hymnody of the Raising of Lazarus vigil deals with? Or so it seems to this she-bear of little brain ...

#19 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 03:11 PM

At times I have stopped people from telling me something so that I would not know it. Of course, I am finite while Jesus is infinite. Even though Jesus is infinite, I wonder if He could choose not to know something?


This is exactly what Christ chooses to do through His incarnation. He purposely chooses to accept the limitations of the human condition (in this case as it relates to knowledge) but in order to restore it to its original purpose as created by God.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#20 Evan

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 05:34 PM

I think we must say that He did (and does) know the day and the hour, as God, but He voluntarily assumed our poverty of the same knowledge as Man. Just as He was never literally forsaken by the Father on the cross, or indeed was ever apart from His presence, but nonetheless cried out as one cursed and forsaken by God. It's not as if He was putting on a pretense (telling a white lie) or donning a mask on either of these occasions-- He experienced the conditions of abandonment and ignorance in a a way that we cannot fully comprehend, sanctifying the experiences of being evilly treated by sinners and being ignorant of the final vindication of God's righteous historical purposes, rendering those experiences salvific for those who suffer with Him and in Him and wait for the consummation of the world with eager expectation and endurance without being able to count the days.

I think of the the little Baby nursing at His Mother's breast while holding the universe in the palm of His hand. And then I stop thinking that I can ever think enough to penetrate the mystery.

St. Ambrose, from his "Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke":

"He knows the end of time, not through the nature of man, but through the Nature of God... How can the Son not know what the Father knows, when the Son is in the Father, and the Spirit also searches out the depths of God, when the Son Himself is the height of the riches of the knowledge and wisdom of God?... He also knows the hour, but He knows it for Himself; He does not know it for me."

In Christ,
Evan




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