We read in John 5:2-6 (KJV):

Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

Even before approaching the pool, Jesus would have known that the paralytic person had been lying there for 38 years. But the Evangelist writes that Jesus "learned" of it, that is, either he asked the onlookers, or was told by the man himself of his plight. But in the given form, John 5:6 suggests that Jesus continued to top up his knowledge in the capacity of a human being.

My question therefore is: According to Catholic scholars, what does John 5:6 tell of the "fully human" nature of Jesus ?

1 Answer 1


The Knox version says

Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had waited a long time; Hast thou a mind, he asked, to recover thy strength?

The DRA says

Him when Jesus had seen lying, and knew that he had been now a long time, he saith to him: Wilt thou be made whole?

The Vulgate says

Hunc autem cum vidisset Jesus jacentem, et cognovisset quia jam multum tempus haberet, dicit ei: Vis sanus fieri?

The word here, is cognosco which means 1

  1. I learn, get to know
  2. I am acquainted (with someone), I recognize, apprehend
  3. (in perfect tense) I know, perceive, understand

It is also the word used as the biblical metaphor for sex (e.g. Adam knew his wife). I don't think anyone ever translates this sense as "learn"

So it seems this question comes down to translation. Does that help?

There is the Greek as well, which looks like:

τοῦτον ἰδὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς κατακείμενον, καὶ γνοὺς ὅτι πολὺν ἤδη χρόνον ἔχει, λέγει αὐτῷ: θέλεις ὑγιὴς γενέσθαι;

Unfortunately my grasp of Greek is much less than my grasp of Latin.

In any case, "learned" could simply be in the sense of "was informed that..." rather than the sense of acquiring knowledge that hadn't been there before.

  • 1
    Another way to understand this (though I agree with your answer) is to say that Jesus limited himself in foreknowledge and general knowledge when he became man.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Mar 29, 2022 at 1:09
  • @LukeHill Do you have any textual support for that theory ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 29, 2022 at 2:59
  • @NigelJ sure. The first would be the Bible saying that not even Jesus knows that day or hour, which implies that Christ’s omniscience is limited in his nature. The second would be from 2nd Philippians, where we are told that Christ humbled himself. The exact implications of what that means is never precisely stated, but I don’t think it’s the wrong conclusion to draw.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Mar 29, 2022 at 3:26
  • @LukeHill I would suggest that something being known within the Person of Deity (or not known) is not a matter of nature but of person. And I agree that the implications of the Philippians text is not fully revealed. These are mysteries of an intimate kind.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 29, 2022 at 8:58

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