St. Paul says that faith, hope and love remain and the greatest of these is love; I've heard it reasoned that faith and hope aren't needed once you've been in the presence of God - but love alone remains in Heaven.

So, while Jesus was man roaming the Earth (who since the beginning was with God and was God), did he have recourse the theological virtues of Faith or Hope?

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    In Greek, "faith" and "belief" are the same word - pistis. It's hard to envision a life with God without believing in Him.
    – guest37
    Jan 25 '18 at 18:50
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    Revelation 3:14 and 19:11 both refer to him as faithful.
    – user32540
    Jan 25 '18 at 21:12

1. Jesus enjoyed the Beatific Vision from his conception.

From the moment of his conception Jesus enjoyed the Beatific Vision, i.e. his human soul saw the divine essence with an intuitive vision and face to face, and in this vision his soul enjoyed the divine essence.

2. As a consequence, Jesus did not need faith.

Believing, an act whose enabling virtue is propositional faith, is assenting to the truth of a proposition which is not seen, either directly or by logical inference from first principles which are seen, on the basis of the authority of God Who revealed that proposition and Who cannot deceive.

But by seeing the divine essence, Jesus saw directly everything He needed to know about God, Himself as man, his mission and the world, so that for his human intellect there was no "unseen" proposition that He had to believe. Therefore He did not have propositional faith (usually called just "faith").

This point is treated by St. Thomas Aquinas in ST III, q.7, a.3 [1].

3. As another consequence, Jesus did not need hope.

Since this point is explained so briefly and clearly in the next ST article (ST III, q.7, a.4) [1], I will just quote its answer:

As it is of the nature of faith that one assents to what one sees not, so is it of the nature of hope that one expects what as yet one has not; and as faith, forasmuch as it is a theological virtue, does not regard everything unseen, but only God; so likewise hope, as a theological virtue, has God Himself for its object, the fruition of Whom man chiefly expects by the virtue of hope; yet, in consequence, whoever has the virtue of hope may expect the Divine aid in other things, even as he who has the virtue of faith believes God not only in Divine things, but even in whatsoever is divinely revealed. Now from the beginning of His conception Christ had the Divine fruition fully, as will be shown (Question [34], Article [4]), and hence he had not the virtue of hope. Nevertheless He had hope as regards such things as He did not yet possess, although He had not faith with regard to anything; because, although He knew all things fully, wherefore faith was altogether wanting to Him, nevertheless He did not as yet fully possess all that pertained to His perfection, viz. immortality and glory of the body, which He could hope for.


  • Is "propositional faith" a Roman Catholic theological term?
    – guest37
    Jan 26 '18 at 1:12
  • I think the right term is "proposition of faith". Jan 26 '18 at 2:16
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    Guest37, from the definition of faith given by the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) in #150, "Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed.", the first aspect is usually called in contemporary theology (though not in the CCC) "personal faith" and the second "propositional faith", or better yet, "explicit propositional faith". To note, when scholastic theologians and the pre-Vatican II Magisterium spoke of "faith", they usually referred to the second aspect only.
    – Johannes
    Jan 26 '18 at 4:22

I think I am correct in stating that the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Eastern Orthodox Church, hold to the belief that Christ was both truly God and truly man (I am a convert from the former to the latter, not that it matters here). Even if one accepts that "faith and hope aren't needed once you've been in the presence of God" (which is somewhat dubious), one probably agrees that it is necessary for man on earth. Teaching that while he was on earth Christ didn't really require the same things that other men required amounts to a rejection of Christ's full humanity.

The belief that Christ's humanity was somehow absorbed or overcome by his divinity amounts to Monophysitism (also sometimes referred to as Eutychianism). Monophysitism was condemned at the 4th Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon in 451, leading to a schism that is referred to today by the "Chalcedonian" churches as "Oriental Orthodoxy", comprising the Coptic, Armenian, Syriac, Ethiopian/Eritrean, and Malankara Orthodox Churches. An article in the Catholic Encyclopedia (linked above) explains:

Eutychianism and Monophysitism are usually identified as a single heresy. But as some Monophysites condemned Eutyches, the name Eutychians is given by some writers only to those in Armenia. It seems best to use the words indifferently, as no party of the sect looked to Eutychius as a founder or a leader and Eutychian is but a nickname for all those who, like Eutyches, rejected the orthodox expression "two natures" of Christ. The tenet "one nature" was common to all Monophysites and Eutychians, and they affected to call Catholics Diphysites or Dyophysites. The error took its rise in a reaction against Nestorianism, which taught that in Christ there is a human hypostasis or person as well as a Divine. This was interpreted to imply a want of reality in the union of the Word with the assumed Humanity, and even to result in two Christs, two Sons, though this was far from the intention of Nestorius himself in giving his incorrect explanation of the union. He was ready to admit one prósopon, but not one hypostasis, a "prosopic" union, though not a "hypostatic" union, which is the Catholic expression. He so far exaggerated the distinction of the Humanity from the Divine Person Who assumed it, that he denied that the Blessed Virgin could be called Mother of God, Theotókos. His views were for a time interpreted in a benign sense by Theodoret, and also by John, Bishop of Antioch, but they all eventually concurred in his condemnation, when he showed his heretical spirit by refusing all submission and explanation. His great antagonist, St. Cyril of Alexandria, was at first vehemently attacked by Theodoret, John, and their party, as denying the completeness of the Sacred Humanity after the manner of the heretic Apollinarius.

A related heresy from the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox perspective is Monothelitism - a belief that Christ had only a divine will and no human will. It was condemned at the 6th Ecumenical Council at Constantinople, in 681.

According to the Vatican Catechism, an Ecumenical Council is seen as authoritative (see, e.g. I.III.9 para 4, nos. 884 and 891). Although the Vatican and the Eastern Orthodox disagree on which councils may or may not have been "Ecumenical", they both agree that the first seven were so.

  • This is what I was talking about For even among the three theological virtures--so called, because they have God as their direct object--the Apostle teaches that the greatest of these is charity, for it never ends--the possession of God in eternity., I think I heard the "faith hope and love" thing on Relevant Radio a few years back,
    – Peter Turner
    Jan 25 '18 at 19:22
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    The life of St. John says that at the end of his life, he was always muttering, "Little children, love one another." When asked why, he always said, "It is enough." Love covers a multitude of sins (Proverbs 10:12, in 1 Peter 4:8).
    – guest37
    Jan 25 '18 at 19:24
  • I think that confusion arises from thinking of faith as some kind of action and not as a state of being.
    – guest37
    Jan 25 '18 at 19:25
  • Read the article. First head-scratcher was the meaning of "theological virtue".
    – guest37
    Jan 25 '18 at 19:27
  • Theological Virtue is one of those things Catholic Catechists drill into their students "Faith Hope and Love" are the three theological virtues, like Patience Prudence Justice and Fortitude are the four cardinal virtues.
    – Peter Turner
    Jan 25 '18 at 19:37

According to the Catholic Church, did Jesus have faith or hope?

It is the common opinion of the greatest theologians of the Catholic faith and Sacred tradition that Our Lord Jesus Christ enjoyed the beatific vision from the moment of his conception and as a result did not have need of faith or hope.

The question of the knowledge of Jesus is a reflection of what one thinks about the Incarnation, and it has been a puzzling one throughout the centuries. Only in the latter part of the 20th century did Catholics begin to think that Jesus had faith and ignorance like any other man. The solution to this question is obviously of paramount importance for any true picture of Christ.

At the outset, one must state that this question is not about the knowledge of Christ as God in his divine nature. He had two natures and so two intellects. This is a question of the knowledge enjoyed by his human intellect.

The question of the human knowledge of Christ is a very difficult one. Though the Gospels state that “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52), this was always interpreted to mean that he showed the wisdom characteristic of his age.

In fact, whatever Jesus assumed when he became man must fit into his mission, and the tradition of the Church was always that ignorance would not contribute to his perfect, loving obedience.

Until the 1960s, the common teaching of the Church enunciated most clearly by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century was that Jesus enjoyed three kinds of human knowledge: ordinary knowledge based on sense experience, a special knowledge of the “eternal plans he had come to reveal” (Catechism, 473), and the unique knowledge of his Father that St. Thomas said was the Beatific Vision of heaven.

Why was each of these kinds of knowledge posited by theologians about Christ? They were acting on the idea that if it was fitting and possible then Christ as a perfect man must possess it. All three of these kinds of knowledge are fitting and possible.

The Fathers of the Church and the Scholastic philosophers (such as Sts. Anselm, Albert the Great, Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas) posited the fact that Christ had the Beatific Vision from the moment of his conception for several reasons.

First, if he did not have it he could have sinned. The Gospels do not record any sin on the part of the Christ. In fact, it was just the opposite — and it would not have been fitting for his mission of perfect obedience.

Second, if he did not have the vision of heaven, he would have to merit it for himself. Church tradition is clear that Christ came to earth only to merit for us.

The second kind of knowledge was fitting to Christ because he did not have to learn he was the Messiah. In fact, Paul is clear that Christ exercised obedience from the moment he was conceived in Mary’s womb (Hebrews 7:5-7).

He had a knowledge that God infused into his human mind from above of his mission and all it entailed. Some people made much about the fact that Christ said he did not know certain things about his mission, but as the Catechism (474) remarks: “What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal” (Mark 13:32, Acts 1:7).

Finally, many of the Scholastic theologians thought that if Christ had these two sources of knowledge it would be superfluous to think that he had to know like we do, through the everyday experience of the five senses.

Aquinas thought this in his youth, but in his more mature work, he concluded that if Jesus was to have the perfect use of all kinds of human knowledge open to the human race that he also had to be able to experience knowledge, just as the rest of the human race does.

Jesus kept the knowledge he received from higher sources from affecting his life precisely so he might suffer. For this reason he is often described as both a pilgrim on his way to heaven and a comprehensor — one who already understands heaven.

9There are many theologians today who speak of Jesus having faith. This does not correspond to the Scriptures or the Tradition of the Church.

Faith, which is a virtue by which we experience knowledge of things we cannot directly know, “the essence of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1), is attributed to all sorts of people in Scripture. It is never attributed to Christ.

Some contemporary thinkers hold that if Jesus experienced the vision of God on earth, he lost it on the cross and merely gave himself up to God in darkness and absurdity. This is simply not possible.

Christ came to earth to reverse our unloving disobedience. For this to occur, he has to make a strong and informed choice of the cross, not in itself, but as the fitting means to redeem the human race. - The Knowledge of Christ

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