Does Jesus Know Everything (Mark 13:32)? By Jack Kettler
According to Mark 13:32, Jesus says there are some things He does not know. How can this be if He is God?
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32)
How do we understand this passage? The Scriptures present Jesus as God. It seems in the passage Jesus admits to not knowing the time of His second coming. If He is God, should not he know this? In this study, we will explore some commentary evidence to find answers to this question.
From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Mark 13:32, we read:
“(32-37) But of that day and that hour.—See Notes on Matthew 24:36-41.
Neither the Son.—The addition to St. Matthew’s report is every way remarkable. It indicates the self-imposed limitation of the divine attributes, which had belonged to our Lord as the eternal Son, and the acquiescence in a power and knowledge which, like that of the human nature which He assumed, were derived and therefore finite. Such a limitation is implied by St. Paul, when he says that our Lord “being in the form of God . . . made Himself of no reputation” (or better, emptied Himself), “and took upon Him the form of a servant.” (See Note on Philippians 2:6-7.) It is clear that we cannot consistently take the word “knoweth” as having a different meaning in this clause from that which it bears in the others; and we must therefore reject all interpretations which explain away the force of the words as meaning only that the Son did not declare His knowledge of the time of the far-off event.” (1)
Ellicott refers to Philippians 2:6-7. This text needs to be looked at in detail since it sheds light upon the understanding of Mark 13:32.
Two translations of Mark 13:32:
“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7 ESV)
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7 KJV)
From Strong’s Concordance:
kenoó: to empty
Original Word: κενόω
Part of Speech: Verb
Phonetic Spelling: (ken-o’-o)
Definition: to empty
Usage: (a) I empty, (b) I deprive of content, make unreal.
Ellicott is using the King James Version on the Philippians text; hence, the phrase “made himself” as opposed to “emptied himself.”
Continuing with Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Philippians 2:7:
“(7) But made himself . . .—This verse needs more exact translation. It should be, But emptied (or, stripped) Himself of His glory by having taken on Him the form of a slave and having been made (or, born) in likeness of men. The “glory” is the “glory which He had with the Father before the world was” (John 17:5; comp. Philippians 1:14), clearly corresponding to the Shechinah of the Divine Presence. Of this He stripped Himself in the Incarnation, taking on Him the “form (or, nature) of a servant” of God. He resumed it for a moment in the Transfiguration; He was crowned with it anew at the Ascension.
Made in the likeness of man.—This clause, at first sight, seems to weaken the previous clause, for it does not distinctly express our Lord’s true humanity. But we note that the phrase is “the likeness of men,” i.e., of men in general, men as they actually are. Hence the key to the meaning is to be found in such passages as Romans 8:3, God sent His own Son in “the likeness of sinful flesh;” or Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 4:15, “It behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren,” “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” It would have been an infinite humiliation to have assumed humanity, even in unique and visible glory; but our Lord went beyond this, by deigning to seem like other men in all things, one only of the multitude, and that, too, in a station, which confused Him with the commoner types of mankind. The truth of His humanity is expressed in the phrase “form of a servant;” its unique and ideal character is glanced at when it is said to have worn only the “likeness of men.” (2)
Vincent’s Word Studies elucidates the Philippians text correctly and supports Ellicott’s interpretation:
“Made Himself of no reputation (ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν).
Lit. Emptied Himself. The general sense is that He divested Himself of that peculiar mode of existence which was proper and peculiar to Him as one with God. He laid aside the form of God. In so doing, He did not divest Himself of His divine nature. The change was a change of state: the form of a servant for the form of God. His personality continued the same. His self-emptying was not self-extinction, nor was the divine Being changed into a mere man. In His humanity He retained the consciousness of deity, and in His incarnate state carried out the mind which animated Him before His incarnation. He was not unable to assert equality with God. He was able not to assert it.
Form of a servant (μορφὴν δούλου)
The same word for form as in the phrase form of God, and with the same sense. The mode of expression of a slave’s being is indeed apprehensible, and is associated with human shape, but it is not this side of the fact which Paul is developing. It is that Christ assumed that mode of being which answered to, and was the complete and characteristic expression of, the slave’s being. The mode itself is not defined. This is appropriately inserted here as bringing out the contrast with counted not equality with God, etc. What Christ grasped at in His incarnation was not divine sovereignty, but service.
Was made in the likeness of men (ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος)
Lit., becoming in, etc. Notice the choice of the verb, not was, but became: entered into a new state. Likeness. The word does not imply the reality of our Lord’s humanity, μορφή form implied the reality of His deity. That fact is stated in the form of a servant. Neither is εἰκών image employed, which, for our purposes, implies substantially the same as μορφή. See on Colossians 1:15. As form of a servant exhibits the inmost reality of Christ’s condition as a servant – that He became really and essentially the servant of men (Luke 22:27) – so likeness of men expresses the fact that His mode of manifestation resembled what men are. This leaves room for the assumption of another side of His nature – the divine – in the likeness of which He did not appear. As He appealed to men, He was like themselves, with a real likeness; but this likeness to men did not express His whole self. The totality of His being could not appear to men, for that involved the form of God. Hence the apostle views Him solely as He could appear to men. All that was possible was a real and complete likeness to humanity. What He was essentially and eternally could not enter into His human mode of existence. Humanly He was like men, but regarded with reference to His whole self, He was not identical with man, because there was an element of His personality which did not dwell in them – equality with God. Hence the statement of His human manifestation is necessarily limited by this fact, and is confined to likeness and does not extend to identity. “To affirm likeness is at once to assert similarity and to deny sameness” (Dickson). See on Romans 8:3.” (2)
The reader will notice how Vincent addresses what is known without using the name as the Kenosis theory when explicating how Christ “emptied” or “made” Himself in the Incarnation.
The Kenosis theory is a false teaching that says that Christ, when emptying himself, gave up some or all of the attributes of Deity, such as omniscience to exist as a man. The danger in this theory is that the implications are that Christ was not fully God during His time on earth.
In certain charismatic prosperity churches, the Kenosis theory teaches that Jesus gave up His divinity while on earth. Jesus was no longer divine from His birth to His Ascension according to this theory. According to this theory, logically, the Triune nature of God must have been suspended or ended during the time of Christ’s earthly ministry. It is impossible for God to cease to exist as He is. Therefore, this theory is false and heretical.
Calvin answers this supposed problem of Christ emptying Himself and yet remaining truly God:
“For we know that in Christ the two natures were united into one person in such a manner that each retained its own properties; and more especially the divine nature was in a state of repose, and did not at all exert itself, whenever it was necessary that the human nature should act separately, according to what was peculiar to itself, in discharging the office of mediator. There would be no impropriety, therefore in saying that Christ, who knew all things (John 21:17), was ignorant of something in respect of his perception as a man; for otherwise he could not have been liable to grief and anxiety, and could not have been like us (Hebrews 2:17).” (3)
Calvin answers this question of Jesus not knowing in Mark 13:32 by explaining the two natures of Christ. During Jesus’s earthly ministry, He submitted to the Father along with the self-imposed limitation of His divine attributes. Said another way, He did not fully exercise His Divine attributes, in particular, His omniscience. In His earthly ministry, Jesus was still was fully Divine and at the same time a man. Considering His divinity, Jesus knew the time of His coming. In Mark 13:32, we see the humanity of Jesus.
The implications of Christ’s self-imposed limitations of His Divine attributes are enormous. The self-imposed limitations mean Jesus truly lived as a man. Jesus felt pain when He died on the Cross.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 ESV)
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) And “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
1. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Mark, Vol. 6, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 225-226. 1.
2. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Philippians, Vol. 8, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 74.
3. Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies In The New Testament, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARY, e • Albany, Oregon), p. 472.
4. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Mark, Volume 111, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), p. 154.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: THERELIGIONTHATSTARTEDINAHAT.COM