Dec 4, 2006

Did Jesus Know Who He Was?

Mrs. M in the nursing home was her usual ebullient self. Today she showed me a book by Anne Rice, Christ the Lord Out of Egypt. I listened as Mrs. M said that some of her friends had told her to avoid reading the book, but she was obviously ignoring their advice. Mrs. M told me that Jesus didn't know who He was when He was a child--the major premise of the story. I believe this is a form of the heresy, Kenosis, which states Jesus gave up some divine attributes while on earth.

Anne Rice is said by Newsweek to be the "chronicler of vampires, witches and—under the pseudonym A. N. Roquelaure—of soft-core S&M encounters." Yet she is also described as returning to the Catholic church of her youth in 1998, and has said "I promised that from now on I would write only for the Lord." The problem is, which church did she return to? To the non-changing traditional Church of all time, or to a changing church that reflects beliefs of the present generation?

In the novel by Rice, a 7-year old Jesus is returning from exile in Egypt to the Holy Land. The boy Jesus is a miracle-maker who doesn't know who He is or where He gets His power to turn clay birds into living ones or to raise a playmate from the dead. When Mary and Joseph don't seem to know the answers, the story says He searches for His identity in legends, rumors, and dreams.

Was the boy Jesus aware of His identity? Did he need to search for Himself in the past and the present (but not the future)? Did the boy Jesus know what His role in salvation history would be? Rice seems to have gotten all those answers wrong.

The Church teaches that Jesus grew in human knowledge, but did not grow in Divine knowledge because the Divine is always complete and perfect. Moreover, Jesus is fully man and fully God. He has a human nature and a Divine nature--as defined in the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The Divine nature of Jesus always knew He was God and possessed the Beatific Vision.

Unorthodox Christians sometimes state that Jesus "grew in awareness" or "gradually figured out" who He was, culminating in his 33rd year (Mt 16:21-23, Lk 9:21-22, and Mk 8:31-33) when Jesus finally knew His future. He told His disciples He must go to Jerusalem, suffer much, be put to death, and rise again on the third day.

If Jesus finally knew the future when he was 33 years old, then when did he develop this skill? Is it a human skill or a Divine power? If seeing the future is a Divine power, then his human nature and Divine nature worked together. The correct doctrine is the Hypostatic Union, that Jesus is both fully God and fully man (Col. 2:9) and did not give up any divine attributes while as a man on earth.

If Jesus didn't have the power to see the future at the age of 7 years (as implied in the story), then the ability to see the future was a skill to be learned and developed. Let's take the skill argument to its logical conclusion. If Jesus began to see the future little by little, then the skill required practice or growth to become better. That sounds like crude theology and has no basis in the writings of the New Testament or the early Church Fathers.

Logically Jesus would have had to know His entire future from the beginning and this supports the Church's teaching on infused knowledge. Moreover, Jesus would have known the will of God the Father all through Jesus' life.

Interestingly, Anne Rice conjectures that the 7-year old Jesus could raise a classmate from the dead and turn clay birds into living ones. However, she fails to note that if He had this power, it's reasonable to assume He also had the power to see the future. If Jesus knew His own future, then He knew who He was because His future contained His identity. Moreover, His knowledge of the future was Divinely complete because seeing the future is not a skill to be developed. Seeing the future is an all-present, all complete Divine power, not a human skill.


cranky said...

I have a question: Could he have known the future as God but not as Man? He is the God-Man. I know the hypostatic union is more complicated than that, but I've wondered.

I have always believed he knew the future period, regardless of how we slice and dice the theology, but if my question is true, that would explain what he knew as a baby versus what he knew as a man. But it would seem to make him a bit of a multiple personality, something that spooks me as much as Anne Rice.

cranky said...

I should have proofed my first entry. NEW SECOND PARAGRAPH TO REPLACE THE ONE IN FIRST POST.

"I have always believed that while on Earth he knew all the future the Father wanted him to know, period. And he knew/knows it regardless of how we slice and dice the theology, but if my question is true, that would explain what he knew as a baby versus what he knew as an adult man. But that would seem to make him a multiple personality, something that spooks me at least as much Anne Rice spooks me."

Dust I Am said...

Could Jesus have known the future as God but not as Man? An interesting question.

If the man, Jesus, could see the future (as well as perform all kinds of other miracles), then it was His divine nature that we see, because a human nature does not possess such power.

Even though His two natures are separate and distinct, Jesus is nevertheless ONE person. This does not make Jesus "a bit of a multiple personality" because the two natures totally cooperate and were not opposed to each other. In other words, there was only one WILL of Jesus--that of the Father in heaven.

BTW, my viewpoints are my own. I welcome any correction by the Church magisterium, which must obviously be consistent with early teachings by the Apostles and the Church Fathers.

cranky said...

I am in total agreement with your last paragraph for me, too.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post ! thank you !

Elliot said...

Hmmmm... I quite enjoyed Anne Rice's book. It was suprisingly orthodox, really. She seems quite serious about her return to Catholicism. I hadn't heard that kenosis was a heresy - I thought it was simply a theological term to describe God's self-emptying and 'con-descension' in becoming Incarnate.

But I could be wrong!

Elliot said...

PS: And, strictly speaking, as an Anglican I'm an unorthodox Christian. So my enjoyment of the book doesn't necessarily say much!

Sofia said...

Guess what? This heresy was just preached from the pulpit today (along with a bunch of completely untraditional assertions about St. Joseph having been married before) at the local NO parish, and of course we had to leave. Now we have to figure out where to go to Mass. :(

So please say a prayer for us...