Matthew 8:5-10 (NLT)
 5 When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, 6 “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.”
 7 Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.”
 8 But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. 9 I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”
 10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!

[Emphasis mine.]

If Jesus is God and therefore omniscient, how could He possibly be surprised by the Roman officer's words?

  • "amazed" is not the same as "surprised". Maybe ask about the difference on english.SE? ;-) Sep 11, 2011 at 23:48
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    @Jurgen: In the dictionary, "amazed" is actually a stronger word for "surprised". Sep 11, 2011 at 23:50
  • The NLT is not the most precise translation and is, therefore, not a good basis for the precise meaning of a particular word usage.
    – Narnian
    Dec 14, 2011 at 20:51
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    We should go back to the Hebrew and look at the word used there. Not the English translation.
    – user1054
    Dec 20, 2011 at 13:33
  • @DanAndrews: An answer that uses such research would be great! Dec 22, 2011 at 0:54

4 Answers 4


I don't have a definitive answer, but here are a few things to keep in mind about the text. When I consider some combination of these, it doesn't bother me that an omniscient God is "surprised".

  • The word in the text is not usually translated "surprised" as if it was an unexpected event. The sense is one of wonder or awe or marvel or (as in your translation) amazement. God being omniscient had to have known this ahead of time, but that doesn't preclude a sense of wonder.

  • Jesus was fully man. This means he felt and knew the things that men and know feel in addition to the things that God feels and knows. This could just the the human side of him expressing wonder.

  • The narrator of the story is NOT omniscient and, in spite of being guided by the Holy Spirit in the authoring of the text, is unable to know what was in Jesus mind and exactly how it worked. He described things as they appeared.

  • Jesus was deliberate communicator. If having a visible physical/emotional reaction to something would help his audience understand the situation better, I'm sure he could manage that. If we needed to know that that kind of faith was a wonderful thing, his marveling at it is a great way to mark it's importance.

  • This is a poor answer. I know this is an old post - would this standard of answer pass muster for you today? Sep 21, 2014 at 16:22
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    @bruisedreed Do you want more sources? (I don't think it's a poor answer, but I think youR point on standards is worth making... edit edit edit!) Oct 11, 2016 at 19:42
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    @KorvinStarmast If you check this answer below (what lead me to this Q&A) and the comment I made there, you'll see that I commented at roughly the same time as this one. That answer looked ok to me in terms of its accuracy & relevance, but just lacking in sources & development; however, when I scrolled up & considered judging this answer under similar standards, I was a little surprised at the naive Christology it represents - it looks like unsupported opinion that doesn't address the underlying problem raised or does so incorrectly. Oct 12, 2016 at 4:47
  • @bruisedreed Understood, needs better support/edit. Oct 12, 2016 at 6:52
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    I don't have time to rewrite this right now, but if you think its poor content people shouldn't be referencing then downvote it and write something up they should be reading. If the question isn't recoverable or too prone to conflicting valid answers, then vote to close it.
    – Caleb
    Oct 12, 2016 at 8:42

From Phillippians 2:5-7

Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself

The theological term for this is kenosis - emptying. Jesus undid his divinity while on earth, and thus chose to put himself in a place where he could be surprised.

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    Exactly. From my reading of the New Testament, Jesus was not all powerful or all knowing while on earth but, as a pattern for us, relied on prayer and power from God. Dec 15, 2011 at 11:33
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    @Wikis: What do you think of this wording: "Jesus put His omnipotence and omniscience 'on hold,' though He exercised them from time to time as His Father directed"? Jesus did not cease BEING all powerful; He did, however, relinquish His power when by "rights" He did not have to. IOW, He CHOSE to divest Himself of these rights, for a time and for the most part. We do see "flashes" of divinity in the many miracles and signs which emanated from His divinity, but we also see His humiliation at His arrest, where He could have asked His Father to send 72,000 angels to aid Him, but did not(Mt 26:53). Jan 7, 2014 at 14:31
  • @rhetorician: possible, or possibly the "powers" that He had came from The Holy Spirit and on Earth He was "just human" (for want of a better expression). Suggest that, if you wish to continue, we go to Christianity Chat. Jan 7, 2014 at 14:34
  • @Wikis: I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to initiate a chat, but I'll give it a go, as our British counterparts say! Don Jan 7, 2014 at 14:38
  • @rhetorician: I've posted you a chat message to which you can reply. Jan 7, 2014 at 14:46

It is not difficult to understand if we consider the incarnation of Christ. His divine aspects were subconscious. He was truly a man without ceasing to be God in his identity. The kenotic idea suggests that Christ gave up certain divine attributes, but that is controversial and contradicts the unchangeable nature of God. Below is a quote from a ReasonableFaith podcast.

William James has referred to the subliminal self as that realm of the subconscious in the human personality. What I am suggesting is that the primary locus of these superhuman elements of Jesus’ life were in the subconsciousness of the divine Logos. This sort of a model, I think, provides a very satisfying account of Jesus as we see him in the Gospels. In his conscious experience, Jesus grew in wisdom and in knowledge, just as a human child does. On this model, we don’t have the monstrosity of the baby Jesus lying in the manger having the full conscious omniscience of the second person of the Trinity. In his conscious experience, Jesus grows and increases in knowledge as he grows older.

Moreover, this makes sense of the temptations of Jesus. In his conscious human experience, Jesus can be genuinely tempted, even though he is, in fact, incapable of sin. He can feel the allure of sin. He can feel the allure of the temptations. These temptations were really felt and couldn’t just be blown away like smoke. It required him to depend upon God. It required spiritual disciple and moral resoluteness on Jesus’ part, even though, in fact, he is incapable of sin because he is the second person of the Trinity.

This model makes sense of Jesus’ ignorance of certain facts. In his waking consciousness, Jesus was ignorant of various facts such as the date of his second coming, even though he was kept from error by the divine subliminal and occasionally would be informed by the divine subliminal about certain supernatural facts. We could imagine that certain aspects of the subconscious might sometimes come to consciousness in the same way that we are able to retrieve deep memories of events that perhaps have been forgotten long ago. So even though the Logos possesses all knowledge of everything from auto mechanics to quantum mechanics, there is no reason to think that Jesus could have responded to questions about auto mechanics or quantum mechanics if we had asked him. He had stooped so low in taking on the human condition that that knowledge was reserved to the divine subliminal and so not available in human consciousness.

Moreover, this makes sense of Jesus’ struggles and prayer life. In his conscious life, Jesus knew the whole gamut of human anxieties and worries. He felt physical hurt and pain and fatigue. The struggles in the Garden of Gethsemane were real and not just showpieces. This model preserves the integrity of Jesus’ prayer life and the sincerity of his prayer life. It explains why, even though Jesus was God, nevertheless he had to depend upon his heavenly Father by seeking him in prayer and seeking the face of God. It explains how Jesus could be perfected through suffering, even though he is the perfect second person of the Trinity in his divine nature. In his human nature, he learned moral virtue through what he suffered and so was capable of being perfected through suffering. Like us, sharing our human condition, he needed to be dependent moment by moment by moment upon his heavenly Father in order to carry out successfully the mission that God had given him. So the struggles, the anxieties, the wrestling with God in the Garden of Gethsemane are all real; they are genuine struggles of the incarnate Logos in his waking consciousness.

So I think all of the traditional objections against the Logos’ being the soul of Jesus’ human nature fall away before this understanding of the incarnation. For here we have a Christ who is not only divine but who also truly shares the human condition by having this theologically significant differentiation of consciousness and subconsciousness. I hope it doesn’t need to be said that this isn’t two persons, just as any ordinary person has a subconsciousness and a consciousness. So what we do is exploit those levels of human personhood by differentiating them in this theologically significant way.

Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s6-7


Jesus was both GOD and Man. As the Holy of Holy one GOD. Holy Trinity he knew everything Past, present and Future.But he did not -Never ever use his divinity or the perks that go with it for his own self.Instead he put it aside to take our place so that in Him we may find our Salvation.Therefore this man from Nazareth born to a Virgin as a human endured every thing even death on the cross, pain, passion, sufferings, surprises included( though not many from the Biblical point of view) so that YOU and ME may have a place in the Kingdom of GOD

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    Hi and welcome to the site! Please take the time to review our site guidelines in our help centre as this site can take a bit of effort to get the hang of. Although your answer seems to be faithful to common Christological views, it lacks support in terms of citations that will show it is anything other than your personal opinion. Try editing to improve it a little along those lines if you can. Sep 21, 2014 at 16:30
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    This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. On this site, we're not looking for personal interpretation, but rather focusing on what various Christian groups teach. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? Sep 21, 2014 at 19:24

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