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Did Jesus always have explicit knowledge that he is God? Or, did he figure out he is God by reading the old testament, and realizing the prophecies were about him? Or some other means? And, how did he know that he knew, instead of it being a matter of opinion?

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    In Luke 2 the 12 year old Jesus knew God as his own Father (literally, the Father of me). This was quite different than the predominant notion of the Fatherhood of God. Sep 25, 2023 at 12:27
  • How is that not close to asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, please? Sep 25, 2023 at 19:09
  • @RobbieGoodwin it isn't obvious to me. For instance, there are many people today who think they are god, and I'm sure there were during Jesus' time. How did he know he really was God, and not another crazy person? So far none of the answers explain how Jesus knew he was God, only that some verses indicate Jesus knew he was God, which my question already presupposes. I think the closest is the answer proposing maybe Jesus didn't know he was God.
    – yters
    Sep 25, 2023 at 23:33
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    Presumably he knew all along. When you awoke this morning, how did you know you were yters? The better question is how do we know that Jesus is God (and not just "another crazy person"), and that the things in the Bible happened the way it's written. At least if you're a fundamentalist, that is. If you interpret some things in the Bible more figuratively, the problem of knowing that the extraordinary claims are literal gets much harder. People try to justify it, but there isn't much concrete beyond presuppositions.
    – NotThatGuy
    Sep 26, 2023 at 8:27
  • @yters the ability to perform miracles would be pretty conclusive.
    – OrangeDog
    Sep 26, 2023 at 10:34

7 Answers 7

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That is not a question the Bible directly addresses, but it certainly is one that people have pondered for centuries. Going back to Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) he wrote that "We do better to adore the mysteries of deity than to investigate them." (in the Preface to his Loci Communes.) Later, he wrote that "To know Christ means to know his benefits, and not as they [the Scholastics] teach, to reflect upon his natures and the modes of his incarnations."

A reason for such words of caution when trying to probe details of Christ's incarnation was that, by the time of Melanchthon's warnings, the Church had already devoted a huge amount of time and effort in Christological reflection. Boundaries had been set up by the Church which a wise man would hesitate to trespass. Reflection was needed because enemies of the Church had so speculated on such matters that two main heresies had arisen.

The first attack came in the form of Docetism, with a refusal to accept that God could, in any real sense, become man. This resulted in some of them making a sharp distinction between Christ, and Jesus (so that Jesus was an ordinary man, born in the ordinary way, but it was Christ the heavenly being who only came upon Jesus at his baptism, leaving just before he was crucified.) Others regarded the humanity of Christ as a phantom, appearing to be man, but an image without substance (hence docetism, from the Greek, dokeo, (I seem').

The second threat to the Christian doctrine of the incarnation came from what was called Apollinarianism, which shared with Arianism the view that the Logos, as incarnate did not possess a human mind. A human body was believed, but not a human pneuma (spirit) or nous (mind). They claimed the incarnate Christ had neither a human intellect nor a human will. Apollinaris was right, however, to be suspicious of Paul of Samosata who portrayed Christ as inspired man rather than as enfleshed God. Yet Apollinaris ended up with a truncated Christ: "He is not man, though like man; for he is not consubstantial with man in the most important element" (quoted in C.E. Raven, 'Apollinarianism' p.188, Cambridge 1923) Apollinarian said Jesus "is divine spirit united to flesh"; neither God nor man but a tertium quid', "a mean between God and man, neither wholly man nor wholly God, but a combination of God and man" (see The Person of Christ, Donald Macleod, p.159, InterVarsity 1998)

Before venturing into the depths of such a question as this one here, it would be wise to be forearmed with knowledge of the pitfalls many intellectuals have fallen into over the centuries. That may serve to keep curious souls from tipping over the edge.

The Bible tells us very little, but what it does say is profound. We are told that the baby Jesus was called "holy" and "undefiled" from the womb (Luke 1:35 & Galatians 4:4). The substance of the virgin Mary was sanctified and set apart, from the moment of conception, for the sacred work of Jesus saving sinners (Luke 2:25-33 & 1 Peter 2:22). Even as a youth, he was growing "in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:45-52). This shows that the 12-year-old Jesus understood God the Father to be HIS Father in a unique way, even by that very young age. The Father was always well pleased with him - even before his baptism - because of his perfect obedience (Matthew 3:15-17). The role of the Holy Spirit, from conception, is not enlarged upon in the scriptures, but must have been of monumental importance. As John the Baptist said of Jesus,

"He that cometh from above is above all... For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand." John 3:31-35 A.V. - see also Isaiah 11:2 & 42:1

Christ was sent into this world, and given the words of God, as well as given "all things into his hand", which would surely include words of knowledge that he and the Father were in unique relationship (John 3:12-18 - Jesus knew all those particular things by then), conveyed by the teaching and assurance of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and not the mere workings of his imagination.

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  • Should also note that Melanchthon was a very prominent Protestant founder, and his work is viewed by many as heretical itself.
    – OrangeDog
    Sep 26, 2023 at 10:25
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    The Protestant author of the book I quote from criticizes Melanchthon pp.155/6. Macleod says reverent reflection on the person of Christ is not inappropriate, also disagreeing that "to know Christ means to know his benefits" as Melanchthon claimed. Calvin also sharply criticized him for his later synergistic turn, which the Gnesio Lutherans also rejected. That does not cancel out the sound things he wrote. He warned of a danger that holds good today. We should adore the mysteries of deity even if we haven't plumbed its depths (whoever could?) But the Q is not about Melanchthon.
    – Anne
    Sep 26, 2023 at 12:51
  • But the bit you are relying on for your answer is that bit, which as you say was condemned by many, both Catholic and Protestant. The answer should mention this, and not present it as a general Christian position.
    – OrangeDog
    Sep 26, 2023 at 13:55
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    @OrangeDog Melanchthon's quote flags up his reaction against the excesses that went before him. His position may have been flawed on that point, going towards another extreme even, but it was understandable. The heresies that emerged trying to intellectually dig themselves out of the theological holes they dug dismayed Melanchthon, and it should warn all of us down till this day. I'm not relying on that bit of his - it's merely my introduction! Why not look at the biblical points?
    – Anne
    Sep 26, 2023 at 14:33
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    @David The Apollinarian religious group taught "the idea that Jesus did not have a human mind/intellect." That's what my answer shows. All mainstream Christian doctrine teaches that Jesus was fully divine and fully human, which I've subscribed to for over 40 years.
    – Anne
    Sep 27, 2023 at 11:09
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Emmanuel is the term used to foretell the coming of Jesus by prophet Isaiah which means God with us or Jesus with us

Jesus existed before he was incarnated into the flesh. Check the verses where he argued with the Pharisees concerning his age and where they told Jesus "You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?" And Jesus replied with, "Believe me I tell you, before Abraham was I am."

Now I want you to pause for a moment and think of the only being that transcends lifetimes. The only being in the Bible that has immortality. You have heard the testimony from John of the word from the Old Testament becoming flesh and dwelling among us, the same word was with God in the beginning alongside the Holy Spirit who was moving over the waters.

John 1:1, 10

1 In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God and everything that was made, was made through the word . . . 10 Yet the word(Jesus) was in the world and the world knew him not

That is the Holy Spirit bearing witness to the Sonship of Jesus as the Christ and the second in command to God. Some people say Jesus is God but Jesus said the Father is greater than he and gave him glory.

When they called Jesus Good Teacher He refused the glory and said No one is good except God

Also when he called out his disciples and commissioned them to preach the good news, he commanded them to baptise in the names of the three members of the God cabinet, yes God has a cabinet and you can see in Genesis that he talks to the other three that is Jesus and the Holy Spirit

Genesis 1:26

Let us make man in our own image and likeness

Jesus told them to baptize in the name of:

  • The Father who is greater than all
  • And of The Son who has all authority in heaven and on earth
  • And of the Holy Spirit who knows the depths of God and searches for all truth and knows every hidden thing

Jesus was present when Satan who is the prince of this world revolted against God in heaven and this ordeal he remembers very clearly when he said I beheld Satan fall like lightning from heaven. He has always existed since the beginning to behold the fall of Lucifer, the fall of Adam and became incarnated and remembers all those things.

Behold the day is coming when all the nations of the earth shall the see the son of man coming in the clouds of heaven and they shall weep.

Anyone who gives glory to the things of man and not the things of God is under a curse.

'Clean your robe that you may be able to stand before the son of man in the day of judgment for many will come from the east and the west and shall seat with the son of man in his kingdom'

The promise God made to Abraham has been fulfilled through the kingship of Jesus and his kingdom, the whole earth will be ruled by the saints who are the new Israel and they shall see the face of God and the capital of the new earth shall be new Jerusalem prepared by God himself

'Behold no eye has seen what God has prepared for his children, marvelous things beyond our understanding'

We do know that the Christ and The Holy Spirit were not created by God but everything else including the angels and men are his creation and that's what puts them in the God league.

God is powerful, He raises billions of souls from the dead and then he knows them all for all had his spirit, the spirit he breathed into the first man, that's why when we die, the spirit returns to God who gave it and God orders his angels to either deliver it to paradise (Bossom of Abraham) if the man was righteous or to Hades (Gehenna) if the man was wicked but these are just waiting rooms before God calls the soul and the body of that man to life at the end of the age to account, God wants you to explain your actions before giving you a reward.

The above is to avoid a situation where souls in the Lake of Fire are reasoning this way, "God, what did I do to deserve such a horrific judgment?"

So God brings souls to trial where guilt is confirmed by the Holy Spirit who knows all truth and a soul is asked why did thou act so wickedly?, if a soul remains speechless then the angels are ordered to throw the soul to the lake of fire.

But the saints will not be judged as their sins have been atoned for by the lamb with seven eyes who is Jesus, the saints directly come to the Resurrection of Life.

When God said the descendants of Abraham will number in billions like the stars he meant his descendants by means of faith who are Christians. The father of faith is Abraham and Christians number in the billions.

Satan is an angel who tried to be God and lost, he lusted after the glory of God in his heart not knowing the Creator has access to the thoughts of his heart and mind, and he was brought down to the pit.

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    But: does he say that because he remembers it, or because he figured out that it was him?
    – OrangeDog
    Sep 26, 2023 at 10:26
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    @OrangeDog, He had that knowledge because he says he saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. He was present in heaven when the revolt happened and still remembered it when he was here on earth and the revolt happened before Adam and Eve sinned. Sep 26, 2023 at 13:57
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    Then put that in your answer (with source).
    – OrangeDog
    Sep 26, 2023 at 14:01
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Philippians 2:5 implies that Jesus always knew of his divinity and humbly obeyed the Father when he found himself in the form of a human.

Philippians 2:5-8 ESV

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

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    – agarza
    Sep 25, 2023 at 17:30
  • A counter example is when Jesus was a fetus. Fetuses aren't capable of self knowledge, at least at the point of conception when they are a single cell. So, at least at that early stage of life Jesus certainly didn't know he was God.
    – yters
    Sep 27, 2023 at 11:47
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    @yters When humans can became self-aware is debatable. To argue the minutia of the neurological abilities of single cell fetuses, is a tangent. If we can restrain the argument to Jesus being born with the knowledge of his divinity, then we can point to John the Baptist recognizing Jesus even when they were both in the womb as evidence towards Jesus knowing at the time of his birth.
    – SargeATM
    Sep 29, 2023 at 4:23
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    @SargeATM very interesting point. John's leap in remarkable in a number of ways: 1) a preborn infant is capable of recognizing God, which is way beyond what modern science thinks infants are capable of doing, 2) he only heard Mary's voice, so he must have also known Mary was pregnant with Jesus, besides knowing who Jesus was, since he didn't perceive Jesus directly in any way as they were both in the womb, 3) preborn babies can receive revelation from God, since there was no way for John to acquire that knowledge. This passage upsets the whole theory of baby development.
    – yters
    Sep 29, 2023 at 18:43
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How did Jesus figure out he is God?

The question essentially is not when did Jesus know that He was God but rather how did Jesus figure out he is God?

Most Christians believe that Jesus had two natures and thus here lies the essence of this question. In his Divine Nature, Christ knew he was God at the moment of his conception. As for his human nature, that is a little bit more complicated.

From the very beginning of his conception, Jesus possessed the Beatific Vision.

In the end the knowledge of how he knew he was God was by direct infusion by the Sacred Trinity into his human intellect.

Jesus Christ possessing two natures, and therefore two intellects, the human and the Divine, the question as to the knowledge found in His Divine intellect is identical with the question concerning God's knowledge. The Arians, it is true, held that the Word Himself was ignorant of many things, for instance, of the day of judgment; in this they were consistent with their denial that the Word was consubstantial with the Omniscient God. The Agnoetae, too, attributed ignorance not merely to Christ's human soul, but to the Eternal Word. Suicer, s.v. Agnoetai, I, p. 65, says: "Hi docebant divinam Christi naturam . . .quaedam ignorasse, ut horam extremi judicii". But then, the Agnoetae were a sect of the Monophysites, and imagined a confusion of natures in Christ, after the Eutychian pattern, so as to attribute ignorance to that Divine nature into which His human nature (as they held) was absorbed. An honest profession of the Divinity of Christ necessitates the admission of omniscience in His Divine intellect.

Kinds of knowledge in Christ's human intellect

The Man-God possessed, not merely a Divine, but also a human nature, and therefore a human intellect, and with the knowledge possessed by this intellect we are here mainly concerned. The integrity of His human nature implies intellectual cognition by acts of its human intellect. Jesus Christ might be wise by the wisdom of God; yet the humanity of Christ knows by its own mental act. If we except Hugh of St. Victor, all theologians teach that the soul of Christ is elevated to participation in the Divine wisdom by an infusion of Divine light. For the soul of Christ enjoyed from the very beginning the beatific vision; it was endowed with infused knowledge; and it acquired in the course of time experimental knowledge.

Christ's infused knowledge

The existence of an infused science in the human soul of Jesus Christ may perhaps be less certain, from a theological point of view, than His continual and original fruition of the vision of God; still, it is almost universally admitted that God infused into Christ's human intellect a knowledge similar in kind to that of the angels. This is knowledge which is not acquired gradually by experience, but is poured into the soul in one flood. This doctrine rests on theological grounds: the Man-God must have possessed all perfections except such as would be incompatible with His beatific vision, as faith or hope; or with His sinlessness, as penance; or again, with His office of Redeemer, which would be incompatible with the consummation of His glory. Now, infused knowledge is not incompatible with Christ's beatific vision, not with His sinlessness, not again with His office of Redeemer. Besides, the soul of Christ is the first and most perfect of all created spirits, and cannot be deprived of a privilege granted to the angels. Moreover, a created intellect is simply perfect only when, besides the vision of things in God, it has a vision of things in themselves; God only sees all things comprehensively in Himself. The God-Man, besides seeing them in God, would also perceive and know them by His human intellect. Finally, Sacred Scripture favours the existence of such infused knowledge in the human intellect of Christ: St. Paul speaks of all the treasures of God's wisdom and science hidden in Christ (Colossians 2:3); Isaias speaks of the spirit of wisdom and counsel, of science and understanding, resting on Jesus (Isaiah 11:2); St. John intimates that God has not given His Spirit by measure to His Divine envoy (John 3:34); St. Matthew represents Christ as our sovereign teacher (Matthew 23:10). Beside the Divine and the angelic knowledge, most theologians admit in the human intellect of Jesus Christ a science infused per accidens, i.e., an extraordinary comprehension of things which might be learned in the ordinary way, similar to that granted to Adam and Eve (cf. St. Thomas, III., Q. i, a. 2; QQ. viii-xii; Q. xv, a. 2).

As a side note, there are traditions and/or legends of the Child Jesus speaking to his Mother Mary while yet in the cradle. See here and here.

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  • Very interesting claim that a human soul is capable of the beatific vision at the point of conception. It seems strange to think that a single human cell is capable of any sort of consciousness or knowledge.
    – yters
    Sep 27, 2023 at 17:46
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Personally I believe the question is "moot." I say that because one does not know the operation of the mind.

It's basically an argument from silence. Take John 17:5. "Jesus said He had glory with the Father before the world was." So who can tell me at what point in Jesus' life He came to that conclusion? Too me, it's enough to know that the Scriptures teach that He is God, not at some point when He incarnated and figured it out, "I think I'm God?"

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  • I too couldn't resist that thought crossing my mind where the OP asks a question as if Jesus didn't have access to his infinite divine knowledge after his incarnation Oct 1, 2023 at 17:28
  • John says Jesus "emptied himself" which means Jesus' human mind was not omniscient. He was like humans in every way except sin (Hebrews 2:17), and humans aren't omniscient. For example, Jesus doesn't know everything, e.g. he doesn't know when the end of the world will occur.
    – yters
    Oct 1, 2023 at 17:49
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I know "Jesus is God" is a popular slogan, but it can be misleading. The doctrine of the Incarnation is that the Son is BOTH God AND man. Fully divine and fully human. Fully human in every sense, including his mind (but without sin, of course).

Quoting the Athanasian Creed, "Perfect God and perfect Man; of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting."

Perhaps we need to consider the possibility that the human mind of Jesus, while on earth, did not know about the other aspect of his identity (which would help to explain why he did not talk about it).

P.S. And if anyone is thinking "He must have had the mind of God instead of a human mind", be advised that this is the heresy of Apollinarianism which was condemned in the fourth century.

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    You are saying Jesus may have not known he was fully divine while on earth?
    – yters
    Sep 25, 2023 at 3:37
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    That could be one of the implications of "he emptied himself". Sceptics are always trying to exploit the fact that he does not talk about it, and this could be the explanation. How else could he have had a fully human mind, which is part of the church's Incarnation doctrine? Sep 25, 2023 at 4:50
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    This has significant implications. "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself". This verb is active ... the subject humbled himself. Did he not know that he had humbled himself, or did he not remember from what state he humbled himself even though he had previously reckoned that his equality with God was not inappropriate? Sep 25, 2023 at 12:15
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    Why could a human mind be unable to know of this fact?
    – OrangeDog
    Sep 26, 2023 at 10:33
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    @User14 That article concludes that KJV is correct. Did you read the whole thing? Sep 26, 2023 at 13:10
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Cardinal Angelo G.Roncalli was ordained as Pope John XXIII on 28.10.1958. For many days thereafter, he would see dreams in sleep, concerning the troubles in the Church. But, in the dreams he would see himself as Cardinal Roncalli and find himself determining that he would take up the burning issues with the Pope for a solution . Then, his room- boy would break the dream saying :" Holy Father, it is time to wake up ". Roncalli would get up with the memory of the dream, only to realise that he himself was the Pope ! It is natural for human beings to forget, on certain occasions, what we are. Jesus also was fully human when he lived on the earth. The question arises if he had the awareness 24 by 7 of being the Son of God, right from the day of his birth in human form. Let Jesus alone, did his parents have that awareness when he was a baby--helpless and dependent on the parents for everything, right from the daily food and bathing, to learning the words Mom and Dad . We see the holy man Simon predicting that Mary would later go through great sufferings, for her son' s sake ? Did Simon think that baby Jesus was listening ? After all, did Infant Jesus have a fully grown up mind in his tender body ? Researchers say that we do not remember the events of our childhood simply because we were yet to learn the language of communication. Visualise the day when Child Jesus was taken to the Temple and made to say a small prayer to God the Father. He would have turned to his parents and said : " Yes, I am praying to my Father. Join me " .

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  • Great point. Jesus existed at the point of conception, and a fetus doesn't have self knowledge at that point, and is barely conscious. So, at least at that early stage of Jesus' life he did not know he was God.
    – yters
    Sep 27, 2023 at 11:45

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