Mark 13:32 Problem or Paradigm?

By: Timothy Miller[1]

“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mk 13:32). Mark may not have even slightly hesitated his pen stroke as he recorded these words of Jesus.[2] His readers, however, have spent hours over those three essential words — “nor the Son.” What does it mean that the Son does not know? Has Mark jeopardized the divinity of Christ? Has the text been corrupted? Might there be another definition for “know”? Could the Son be some­one different than Christ Himself? This seemingly enigmatic text has elicited a legion of questions of which the previous are merely a sample. So stunning is Mark’s lucid portrayal of Christ’s ignorance that one writer concluded that the verse “has been an exegetical embarrassment from the beginning.”[3]

Many pastors have felt the weight of this dilemma. They, seeking to preach the whole counsel of God, work methodically through Mark until they reach chapter 13. At this point, two problems emerge. First, the eschatological focus of the text often places expositors on uncomfortable soil. However, nestled within that uncomfortable soil rests the second problem—the “exegetically embarrassing” text of Mark 13:32. Facing this difficulty, some pastors question their exegetical method and choose to skip the selected passage. Others generalize and avoid making definitive comments. There is a better way.

In order to expose this more efficient option, this article will survey the landscape of solutions available to interpreters for the Markan quandary. We will find that many avenues have been traveled in an attempt to alleviate the force of Mark’s words. Each avenue will be examined to determine its biblical warrant. Having examined the pro­posed solutions, we will focus on one in particular which has gathered strong support within orthodox Christianity. Finally, we will argue that Mark 13:32 should not be looked at as an exegetical embarrassment, but as a clear paradigm for God’s interaction with his creatures. As such, pastors should not shy from preaching Mark 13:32, but should boldly proclaim its message.

Proposed Solutions

Certainly this article cannot exhaust the various opinions concerning the Markan text; nevertheless, the major opinions through church history can be fruitfully surveyed. The survey will begin by examining some views that are either heretical or close to becoming heretical.

Unbiblical Solutions


Arianism was the major issue leading to the Christo­logical debates of the third and fourth century. Arianism was the breeding ground of debate because its founder, Arius, believed that Jesus was created. As such, Jesus was not equal with the Father; neither was the Holy Spirit equal with the Father. It is not surprising, then, that Mark 13:32 became a central text in the debate; not only did it explicitly claim ignorance on the part of the Son, but if the “Father alone” knows, then the Holy Spirit is likewise ignorant. Athanasius (d. 373), remembered as the defender of the modern Trinitarian formulation, said of the Arians, “For being in great ignorance as regards [Mark 13:32], and being stupefied about them, they think they have in them an important argument for their heresy. But I, when the heretics allege it . . . see in them the giants again fighting against God.”[4]

It is beyond the scope of this article to fully challenge the claims of Arianism. Athanasius and the Cappadocian fathers, as church history proves, provided a sufficient defense of a biblical Trinity. For our purposes, it is important to see that Arianism sought to solve the problem of Mark 13:32 by attributing it to a false theological system. Because the system is foreign to Scripture, the interpretation is found to be foreign as well.


A second unbiblical approach to the Markan quandary challenges the essential nature of God. Proponents of this view claim that omniscience is not essential to the being of God. With this interpretation, there is no problem in Mark, for Jesus can be God and ignorant of a fact at the same time. Kris Udd explains the logic of the position:

Because Jesus clearly states that he is ignorant of an event, and because the New Testament clearly teaches that he was divine, we ought to follow the text in concluding that omniscience is not essential to divinity. Omniscience, according to the New Testament, is a contingent attribute of divinity. It is an attribute that is normal for God to have, but not necessary to his existence as God.[5]

Udd cites Franz Delitzsch in support of his position. Delitzsch serves only to compound the problems for the view, for in response to those who hold an orthodox view he says,

These all proceed upon the supposition, that the Logos, if He surrender His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, ceases to be God. But this assump­tion contradicts the declarations of the God-man Himself, who in the Gospels disclaims for Himself these attributes, and still does not thereby disclaim the divine nature. The historical Christ is of more importance to me than the unhistorical defenders of His divinity, and the bugbears of their bungling conclusions.[6]

The non-essentialist view, then, claims that omni­science, omnipotence, and omnipresence are not essential attributes of God.

Again, a lengthy response is not possible here. Nevertheless, it is important to determine the essential attributes of God. For non-essentialism, anything attributed to Christ, which is contrary to an attribute of God, is considered a contingent attribute for God. Thus, along with omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, nearly every other attribute is brought into question. This Kenotic Christology had never been taught prior to the nineteenth century.[7] Based on an errant interpretation of Philippians 2, Kenotic Christology asserts that Jesus “emptied” Himself of divine attributes.[8] Udd follows Kenotic theology as he dismisses omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence in an effort to alleviate the inherent tensions in the incarnation.[9] The benefit of a Kenotic Christology is that it releases one from a paradoxical solution. The central problem, however, is that Kenotic Christology strips Jesus of divinity. Grudem states, “If the kenosis theory were true . . . then we could no longer affirm Jesus was fully God while he was here on earth.”[10] God’s nature demands that He retain all of His attributes.[11] Any being without omni­science, omnipotence, and omnipresence is less than and in no way equal to God. Thus, the god presented in the Kenosis theory is merely a human who claimed divinity.[12] In sum, the Kenotic solution to Mark 13:32 does more than relieve the tension; it also destroys the gospel.

Jesus Misled the Disciples

A final unbiblical response to Mark 13:32 claims that Jesus misled the disciples for their benefit. It was not yet time for them to hear, and it would have been detrimental to the disciples if he had answered them. Ephraim Syrus may have stated this position most clearly when he said, “Christ, though He knew the moment of His advent, yet that they might not ask Him any more about it, said I know it not.”[13]

The best critique of this position is offered by Theodoret of Cyrus (d. 457) who said, “If He knows the day, but says that He is ignorant with the wish to hide it, you see in what a blasphemy the conclusion issues. For the truth lies and could not properly be called truth if it has any quality opposed to truth.”[14] How could the Truth—Jesus Christ—be found false? To alleviate the problem by placing deception on the lips of Jesus is not an appropriate way to solve the dilemma.

Text Critical Solutions

Another popular way of treating the Markan quandary is to contend that it is a foreign intrusion into the biblical text. Ambrose may have been the first one to popularize such a position. He contends that “the ancient Greek manuscripts do not contain the words, neither the Son. But it is not to be wondered at if they who have corrupted the sacred Scriptures, have also falsified this passage. The reason for which it seems to have been inserted is perfectly plain, so long as it is applied to unfold such blasphemy.”[15] Jerome (d. 420) apparently agrees with Ambrose for he says, “In some Latin manuscripts is added: ‘nor the Son,’ though in the Greek copies, and especially those of Adamantius and of Pierius, this addition is not found.”[16] James Brooks, a modern commentator on Mark’s gospel, appears to believe that this interpretation is still held today, for he says that “scholarly opinion is divided over the authenticity of the words ‘nor the Son.’”[17]

There is certainly warrant for doubting the authenticity of the phrase in the gospel of Matthew. Many manuscripts lack the expression “nor the Son.”[18] The textual evidence in Mark, however, is astoundingly in favor of the phrase in question. Vincent Taylor notes only a ninth-century codex and one Vulgate manuscript which omit the phrase.[19] The textual omissions for which Jerome and Ambrose contend are either lost to history or were greatly exaggerated.[20]

Along with the questionable manuscript support there is one other significant reason to doubt the credibility of the text critical solution: Why would someone insert the phrase into the text? Ambrose believed it was the Arians. However, this solution is problematic, for the distribution and proliferation of the manuscripts preceded the controversy in question. Others have claimed that Christians inserted the phrase to alleviate the problem of a delayed parousia.[21] However, as Brooks notes, “If the church felt a need to absolve Jesus from predicting an early return . . . it would have found a way to do it without attributing ignorance to him.”[22] Surely the early church could have constructed a better way to handle the problem than cause a larger one. Thus, Taylor summarizes why the phrase, though controversial, should be accepted: “Its offence seals its genuineness.”[23]

Exegetical Solution

One of the more distinctive solutions to the problem in Mark is proposed by Basil of Caesarea (d. 379). Instead of proposing the text had been modified, he proposed that the text has been misinterpreted. The Scripture has not been tampered; it has merely been misunderstood. His contribu­tion is not original, but was what he received in instruction as a child.[24] Basil essentially agreed with common interpretation of the text until the final line. Nearly all interpreters translate the last line (ei me ho pater monos), “but only the Father.” However, due to the variegated use of ei me in Scripture, it could be translated, “if not the Father.” Thus Basil contends the text really says, “No man knows, neither the angels of God; nor yet the Son would have known unless the Father had known. . . . Mark’s sense, then, is as follows: of that day and of that hour knows no man, nor the angels of God; but even the Son would not have known if the Father had not known, for the knowledge naturally His was given by the Father.”[25]

Basil’s reading is attractive in that it not only alleviates the Markan problem, but also turns it on its head. No longer is the text apparently denying Jesus’ omniscience, now it is asserting both the divinity and omniscience of God.[26] Despite the benefits of this approach, however, it appears strained. This is far from the most obvious reading of the text.[27] Further, the adjective only in the Matthew parallel seems to bring doubt on this interpretation.[28] In Matthew the text reads: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” Gumerlock summarizes the weakness of this approach succinctly: “Although Basil’s under­standing of the passage springs from the language of the biblical text itself, to me it seems like he is forcing a theological presupposi­tion into a biblical text for polemical reasons, rather than accepting the natural reading of the text.”[29]

Semantic Solutions

One of the more popular solutions to the Markan quandary relies upon the flexibility of language. For instance, what does the text mean when it says that Jesus did not know? Is the semantic range of know broader than most interpreters have allowed? Further, Son and Father are proven to have wide ranges of meaning in Scripture. The semantic solutions explore whether an alternative definition of key terms can explain the Markan enigma.

Son and Father

Gregory of Tours (d. 594) offered a semantic solution to Mark 13:32 when he suggested that Son was not referring to Jesus, but to the people of God. His solution comes amidst a reply to the Arians:

We shall here make answer to the heretics who attack us, asserting that the Son is inferior to the Father since he is ignorant of this day. Let them learn that the Son here is the name applied to the Christian people, of whom God says: “I shall be to them a Father and they shall be to me for sons.” For if he had spoken these words of the only begotten [sic] Son he would never have given the angels first place. For he uses these words: “Not even the angels in heaven nor the Son,” showing that he spoke these words not of the only-begotten but of the people of adoption.[30]

It is evident from this quote that there are two main reasons Gregory holds to this interpretation. First, Gregory imports 2 Cor 6:18 as an interpretive grid for Mark 13:32. By quoting 2 Corinthians, Gregory is asserting that the semantic range of the references in Mark 13:32 can have a broader meaning than has historically been recognized. Second, the order of beings in the passage—going from angels to Son—displays that he could not be talking about Christ, who should always receive preeminence.

While recognizing that Gregory has appropriately under­stood the value of semantic range, his attribution of 2 Cor 6:18 to the current passage seems more than dubious. First, in 2 Corinthians God is the speaker not Christ. However, in the current passage, Gregory seems to imply that Jesus is the Father. Second, in 2 Corinthians God references His people in the plural, but here the reference is singular. If Jesus meant to speak of the people of God, one would expect the plural. Third, on this interpretation Jesus would be saying, “No one knows the day, not the angels, not the people of God, but only Me.” But the disciples already knew that the people of God did not know the last day—that is why they were asking him! Finally, the context of the gospel is the context of Jesus as Son and God as Father. This is the common sense reading of the text; to force an interpretation from 2 Corinthians seems unjustified.

Gregory’s second beam of support—that “Son” would have been mentioned first if it was referencing Christ—is a strange assertion. Most commentators view the relationship in an ascending order of authority: from angels (3) to the Son of God (2), and then to the Father (1). Gregory’s interpretation mixes the order: the angels (3) to the people of God (4), and then to Christ (2). Further, Gregory has to prove that Mark is concerned with prioritizing his listings in the way that Gregory assumes. Couldn’t Mark have mentioned the Son first for emphasis? Gregory has to prove that Mark would not.

Overall, Gregory provides a noble attempt to alleviate the problem presented in Mark 13:32, but since he relies on a foreign interpretive grid, his solution is not compelling.

Know Means Experience

Another semantic solution is provided by Origen (d. 254). He maintained that interpreters misunderstand Mark’s use of know. Instead of head knowledge, Jesus is referencing experiential knowledge. So Origin says, “‘To know’ is given its own special meaning here (as is customary with sacred Scripture), for only he who remains to meet its arrival will know that day and hour.”[31]

Undoubtedly Origen is right that Scripture has more than one meaning for the verb “know.” In the Old Testament Adam is said to “know” his wife Eve in sexual encounter (Gen 4:1). The Hebrew word yd’ can have this experience-based meaning.[32] However, oida, the Greek word Mark employs, does not have an experience-based definition in the book of Mark. None of the twenty-one times Mark uses the word—including the use only two verses later—have the experience-based meaning. In fact, according to Louw and Nida, oida is never used in this sense in the New Testament.[33] Thus, Origen is transferring the semantic range of a word in one language to the semantic range of a similar word in another language.

A second problem inherent to Origen’s proposal is that the Father would have to be presently experiencing the last days in order for the interpretation to make sense. That is, if the Son and the angels do not know (experience), but the Father does, then the Father must be currently experiencing the final days. Perhaps Origen’s view of God’s relation to time answers the present predicament; if so, however, he would also have to account for why the Father, who is eternal and timeless, is experiencing the last days, but the Son, who is likewise timeless and eternal, is not. Ultimately, Origen’s proposal may have escaped one dilemma only to arrive at another.

Know Means Reveal

The most popular semantic solution to Mark 13:32 is found in the writing of Hilary of Poitiers.[34] He, like Origen, believed that “know” in this context had a different meaning than its normal usage. Instead of proposing that “know” is experience-based, Hilary posited that “know” means to reveal or act. To Hilary this means, “Whenever God says that He does not know, He professes ignorance indeed, but is not under the defect of ignorance. It is not because of the infirmity of ignorance that He does not know, but because it is not yet the time to speak or the divine plan to act.”[35] The implication of this view is that if Jesus had said he knew, he would have had to reveal the time. Therefore, Hilary can say that “God’s knowledge is not the discovery of what he did not know, but its declaration. The fact that the Father alone knows, is no proof that the Son is ignorant: he says that he does not know, that others may not know: That the Father alone knows, to show that he Himself also knows.”[36] On Hilary’s interpretation, Christ’s admission of ignorance had two effects. First, it answered the query of the disciples by noting that the time to reveal had not yet come. Second, it assured the disciples that Jesus actually did know, since the Father knew.

Augustine (d. 430) also endorsed this semantic solu­tion: “[The Son] is ignorant of [that day], as making others ignorant; that is, in that He did not so know at that time to show His disciples.”[37] Augustine believed that the solution to the problem of Mark 13:32 was as simple as understanding a figure of speech. In a letter to a friend Augustine wrote,

It is no falsehood to call a day joyous because it renders men joyous, or a lupine harsh because by its bitter flavour it imparts harshness to the countenance of him who tastes it, or to say that God knows something when He makes man know it. . . . These are by no means false statements, as you yourself readily see. Accordingly, when the blessed Hilary explained this obscure statement of the Lord, by means of this obscure kind of figurative language, saying that we ought to understand Christ to affirm in these words that He knew not that day with no other meaning than that He, by concealing it, caused others not to know it, he did not by this explanation of the statement apologize for it as an excusable falsehood, but he showed that it was not a falsehood, as is proved by comparing it not only with these common figures of speech, but also with the metaphor, a mode of expression very familiar to all in daily conversation. For who will charge the man who says that harvest fields wave and children bloom with speaking falsely, because he sees not in these things the waves and the flowers to which these words are literally applied?[38]

Following Hilary closely, Augustine also noted that Mark 13:32 is not showing a weakness in Christ but is showing Christ’s omniscience. Thus, both Augustine and Hilary claim that the text defends the omniscience of Christ rather than bring it into question. In sum, Augustine can say that “the text ‘the Father alone knows’ is correctly grasped if understood to say that he causes the Son to know, and the text ‘The Son does not know,’ if understood to say that the Son causes men not to know, i.e., does not disclose to them what would serve no useful purpose for them to know.”[39]

Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), another giant of Catholic­ism, followed Hilary and Augustine in proposing this view. Of Mark 13:32, Aquinas said, “This text is to be interpreted in the light of the usual style of speech found in the Scriptures, in which God is said to know a thing when He imparts knowledge of that thing, as when He said to Abraham, in Genesis 22:12: ‘Now I know that you fear God.’”[40] In fact, Aquinas joins Hilary and Augustine in chorus as they each base their understanding of know on the Old Testament concept portrayed in Genesis 22. In that chapter, God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham’s only son. Moments before the slaughter commenced, the Angel of the Lord called out to Abraham and said, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Genesis 22:12). Hilary, Augustine, and Aquinas agree that God already knew Abraham would obey; God’s purpose in the divine display was to show Abraham what God already knew.[41] Transporting this understanding of “know” to Mark 13:32 allows Christ to be cognitively aware of the day, but not yet willing to divulge the information to the disciples.

There are at least two theologians in recent centuries who have promoted this view. First, Lewis Sperry Chafer (d. 1952) espoused the view. He compared Mark 13:32 to 1 Cor 2:2. In the latter passage, Paul writes, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Chafer believed that the passages held the same form of “know”: “The thought is not to make known, or not to cause another to know. The truth mentioned was not then, as to its time, committed either to the Son or to the angels to publish.”[42]

The second writer, William G. T. Shedd (1894), named this form of “ignorance” as “official.”[43] By giving the phenomena a name, he hoped to clearly distinguish the different forms of knowledge and ignorance displayed in Scripture. Shedd seeking, as those before him, to establish the “official” ignorance of Christ cited Matthew 11:27: “No one knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth anyone of the Father but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” Shedd explains this verse: “A particular Trinitarian person is officially the one to reveal another, and in this reference the others do not officially reveal, and so are officially ‘ignorant.’”[44] By referencing 1 Cor 2:2 and Matt 11:27, the modern writers were seeking to situate their definition of “know” securely in the New Testament.

The official ignorance position proposed by Hilary, Augustine, Aquinas, Chafer, and Shedd is the most consis­tent of the semantic solutions. Each man has sought to establish from Scripture a definition of know which includes the idea of revealing. Indeed, this understanding of know is present in Scripture as their cross referencing has clearly shown.[45] However, it is doubtful whether this seman­­tic range is present in Mark. Out of the twenty-one uses of oida in Mark, none can be construed to mean “reveal.”[46]

Further problems exist with this interpretation. If the meaning of “know” is expanded over the whole context, the meaning makes little sense:

But of that day or hour no one reveals, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not reveal when the appointed time will come. It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not reveal when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. (Mark 13:32-36 modified from NASB)

Due to the context, Calvin opposes this interpretation: “According to [some] men, Christ did not know the last day, because he did not choose to reveal it to man. But since it is manifest that the same kind of ignorance is ascribed to the angels, we must endeavor to find some other meaning which is more suitable.”[47] Though Calvin took issue with the angels’ inclusion with the Son, the most problematic aspect seems to be the dramatic shift in the meaning of “know” throughout the context. Combined with the fact that οιδα lacks this definition anywhere in the book of Mark, it appears that giving the word this definition here is purely speculative and unwarranted.

Two-Nature Solutions

The vast majority of Evangelical theologians today hold a two-nature solution to Mark 13:32. This solution is the fruit of decades of Christological debate, where the nature of Christ and the nature of His incarnation were deliberated. Specifically, the two-nature approach owes its present form to the council of Chalcedon in 451, which solidified the doctrine of the hypostatic union. The Chalcedonian creed was a landmark in church history, and continues to hold a central part in modern Christology. Though there were some who held to a two-nature solution before the Chalcedonian creed, their formulations would have been more consistent had they have had access to such a clear exposition of the nature of Christ’s incarnation:

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we . . . teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man . . . of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; . . . recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.[48]

All of the two-nature approaches rely on the distinction provided in the Chalcedonian creed. Though there are some differences among the views—particularly how the attributes of both natures interact—they all share an appreciation for the two natures of Christ united in one Person.

Proponents of the Two-Nature Solution

The great defender of Christological orthodoxy of the fourth century, Athanasius (d. 373), was one of the first to propose a two-nature solution to the problem of Mark 13:32. Of course, the Arians had latched onto Mark 13:32 as an exegetical proof of their position. Athanasius proposed another solution: “When His disciples asked about the end, suitably said He then, ‘no, nor the Son,’ according to the flesh because of the body; that He might show that, as man, He knows not; for ignorance is proper to man.”[49] In this way, Athanasius attributed the ignorance to the human nature. For many, Athanasius’ depiction borders on Nestorianism. It is anachronistic to call Athana­sius a Nestorian; for he was simply trying to defend orthodoxy in the face of Arianism. In the next century other teachings would emerge which would call for greater particularity in expressing the two-natures of Christ. Thus, given the historical circumstances, Athanasius should not be faulted at this point.[50]

Gregory of Nanzianzus (d. 389) was another defender of orthodoxy against the Arian heresy. In responding to an Arian interlocutor, Gregory summarized his defense:

To give you the explanation in one sentence. What is lofty you are to apply to the Godhead, and to the Nature in Him which is superior to sufferings and incorporeal; but all that is lowly to the composite condition of Him who for your sakes made Himself of no reputation and was Incarnate. . . . The result will be that you will abandon these carnal and groveling doctrines . . . and you will not remain permanently among the things of sight, but will rise up with Him into the world of thought, and come to know which passages refer to His Nature, and which to His assumption of Human Nature.[51]

Both Gregory and Athanasius believe that the title “Son,” in Mark 13:32, is used without modifiers to indicate that Jesus is speaking specifically of His manhood.[52] While dubious, this assertion shows the early attempts by defenders of orthodoxy to be exegetically accurate and maintain an orthodox Christology.[53]

The following authors, who defended a two-nature view of Mark 13:32, are post-Chalcedonian and tend to be more careful in their postulations concerning the interaction between the two natures in Christ. However, sometimes, in an effort to avoid Nestorianism, theologians tended to allow the divine nature to overshadow the human nature. A prime example is John of Damascus (d. c.750) who proposed that “[Christ’s] human nature does not in essence possess the knowledge of the future, but the soul of the Lord through its union with God the Word Himself and its identity in subsistence was enriched . . . with knowledge of the future as well as with the other miraculous powers.”[54] Thus, Jesus’ human nature was omniscient because of its union with the divine nature. It is hard to see how such a view of the two natures could solve the problem of Mark 13:32 without asserting that Christ misled His disciples.

John Calvin (d. 1564), seeking to be biblical, is also found to have an orthodox view of the two natures of Christ. He believed that the problem with Mark 13:32 was solved by a proper understanding of the incarnation:

For we know that in Christ the two natures were united in 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, (The Divine nature was kept, as it were, concealed; that is, did not display its power) 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, 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.[55]

Calvin’s stress on the mediatorial role of Christ allowed him to see that it was necessary for Christ to experience life as a man. Christ never gave up his deity; rather he did not make full use of his divinity. Thus,

his being called the servant of the Father, his being said to grow in stature, and wisdom, and favor with God and man, not to seek his own glory, not to know the last day, not to speak of himself, not to do his own will, his being seen and handled, apply entirely to his humanity; since, as God, he cannot be in any respect said to grow, works always for himself, knows every­­thing, does all things after the counsel of his own will, and is incapable of being seen or handled. And yet he not merely ascribes these things separately to his human nature, but applies them to himself as suitable to his office of Mediator.[56]

A final contribution Calvin made to the two-nature solution to Mark 13:32 is his emphasis on the unity of the two natures in the statements of Scripture. For instance, Acts 20:28 says that God purchased the church with his own blood. Blood is certainly limited to humanity, but the statement concerns Christ’s divinity. Also 1 Cor 2:8 says that the Jews crucified the Lord of glory. “Crucified” must be applied to Christ’s humanity, but the nominal reference is undoubtedly directed towards his divinity. Calvin concludes the section with a summary remark: “Inasmuch as he was both God and man, he, on account of the union of a twofold nature, attributed to the one what properly belonged to the other.”[57] The application to Mark 13:32 is obvious; Christ can apply ignorance to his person even though he uses a reference which implies his deity.

In recent centuries, the two-nature solution has become more refined. Charles Hodge (d. 1878), the late Princeton theologian, following the Chalcedonian creed submits that:

The first and most obvious of the consequences of the hypostatical union is the communion of attributes. By this is not meant that the one nature participates in the attributes of other, but simply that the person is the partaker of the attributes of both natures, so that whatever may be affirmed of either nature may be affirmed of the person. . . . Thus we may say that Christ is finite and infinite, that He is ignorant and omniscient, that he existed from eternity and was born in time, that He created all things and was a man of sorrows.[58]

Hodge puts in clear and dramatic words what Calvin was asserting hundreds of years before. Hodge’s main contribution, however, is his assertion of two centers of consciousness in Christ. Previous to Hodge, and after the Council of Constantinople in 681, there was a general agreement that Christ had two distinct wills.[59] Hodge took the next logical step: “As there are two distinct natures, human and divine, there are of necessity two intelligences and two wills, the one fallible and finite, the other immutable and infinite.”[60] Wayne Grudem notes the helpfulness of this distinction when he says, “The distinction of two wills and two centers of consciousness helps us understand how Jesus could learn things and yet know all things. . . . This ignorance of the time of his return was true of Jesus’ . . . human conscious only, for in his divine nature he was certainly omniscient and certainly knew the time when he would return to the earth.”[61]

John F. Walvoord, late professor and president of Dallas Theological Seminary, also believed that a proper view of the incarnation solved the dilemma presented by Mark 13:32. He understood that Christ possessed the most brilliant mind, surpassing even the great geniuses of world history.[62] However, Christ, in his humanity, was not omni­scient. Did that mean that Christ was liable to sin out of ignorance? Walvoord concluded that this was impossible; for he believed it was “evident that the ministry of the Holy Spirit to the humanity of Christ supplied knowledge of every fact necessary to duty, to avoid sin, or to do the will of God.”[63] Norman Geisler adds, “Whatever limits there were in the extent of Jesus’ knowledge, there were no limits to the truthfulness of his teachings. . . . He was finite in human knowledge and yet without factual error in what he taught (John 8:40, 46). Whatever Jesus taught came from God and carried divine authority.”[64] Therefore, the limita­tion of Christ’s human knowledge cannot be used to indicate that His teachings were flawed or insufficient. It surely would be against the wisdom and foresight of God if Christ became man for the purpose of saving sinners, but because he took on flesh, he lost the ability to communicate the truth. Any god capable of such a blunder is not the God of the Scriptures.

Most recently, in his Introduction to Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem has expounded on the two-nature solution to the problem of Mark 13:32. Grudem helpfully organizes the teaching of orthodox theology on the incarnation. Specifically, Grudem posits three main points concerning the relation of the two natures. First, “One nature does some things that the other nature does not do.”[65] For instance, Christ’s divine nature knows all things, while His human nature is ignorant on many points. But even more dramatic is the fact that Christ’s divine nature holds the world together even as Christ is being held in the arms of Mary.[66]

Second, “Anything either nature does, the person of Christ does.”[67] Grudem gives a mundane example of how this is true of people as well as Christ: “If I type a letter, even though my feet and toes had nothing to do with typing the letter, I do not tell people, ‘My fingers typed a letter and my toes had nothing to do with it’ (though that is true). Rather I tell people, ‘I typed a letter.’ That is true because anything that is done by one part of me is done by me.”[68] For this reason, Christ is able to say that he does not know the time of his coming, because in his mediatorial role he truly did not. And what is true of his humanity can be said to be true of him. Thus, at one and the same time, Christ is both ignorant and omniscient.

Grudem’s final point states, “Titles that remind us of one nature can be used of the person even when the action is done by the other nature.”[69] His view here aligns closely with the exposition of Calvin above. Grudem, however, specifically points out the application to Mark 13:32. “In this way, we can understand Mark 13:32. . . . Though the term ‘ The Son’ specifically reminds us of Jesus’ heavenly, eternal sonship with God the Father, it is really used here not to speak specifically of his divine nature, but to speak generally of him as a person, and to affirm something that is in fact true of his human nature only.”[70]

Distinctions within the Two-Nature Solution

If Grudem’s three points are correct, then there is a solution to the Markan quandary. However, there are some difficulties that need to be worked through. Foremost is how one nature has knowledge while the other remains ignorant. Among those espousing a two-nature view, there has been a diversity of opinion on this question. Two options arise. The first claims that Christ did not know because in his incarnation he gave up the independent use of his attributes. Charles M. Horne succinctly summarizes this view: “He resigned not the possession, not yet entirely the use, but rather the independent exercise of the divine attributes. They were voluntarily, and conditionally, rendered without effect on the plane of historical exis­tence . . . the divine attributes of omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence are potential and latent rather than continually active.”[71]

Those who claim Christ gave up the independent exercise of His attributes stress the fact that Jesus did not lose his attributes. Instead, as Thomas Oden notes, “The Son permitted his natural human capacities and infirmities to prevail, as if alone in his human nature, for a time withdrawing and withholding from activity the divine virtue dwelling bodily in the human nature.”[72] Thus, in the case of Mark 13:32, Jesus actually did not know the time of the end, because he restrained his divine omniscience.[73] Proponents of this view claim that Christ only exercised his divine prerogatives when it was the will of the Father.

That Jesus gave up independent use of his attributes is an attractive option, because it appears to alleviate the problem in Mark 13:32: Jesus spoke frankly and honestly that he did not know. Further, it explains how Christ could display omniscience at times (John 4:18) and appear ignorant at others (John 11:34). Finally, it accords well with the general thrust in Scripture that the activity of the Son in redemption was subject to the will of the Father in all things (Matt. 26:39). The major weakness with this view, however, concerns how Jesus could be omniscient while not having access to His omniscience. That is, what is the difference between giving up use and giving up the attribute? If Jesus knew only what his Father allowed him, then it appears that he gave up omniscience when he came to earth.

Fortunately, there is a second understanding within the two-nature view. Instead of asserting that Jesus gave up use of his attributes, some assert that Jesus had two centers of consciousness. In our survey of writers endorsing two-nature views, it was seen that Hodge and Grudem both ascribe to this explanation. In fact, Grudem claims that a significant majority of the church has held to two centers of consciousness.[74] Essentially, this view asserts that the divine consciousness was fully omniscient, but the human consciousness was limited. The benefits of this view are evident. First, Mark 13:32 is explained without resorting to subterfuge or textual emendation. Second, using this position as an interpretive grid, many seemingly contra­dictory passages of Scripture come to resolution. One example comes from John 11, where Jesus plainly tells the disciples that Lazarus is dead (11:14). Within the same chapter John reveals that Jesus asked where the body of Lazarus lay (11:34). How could Jesus at one and the same time know that Lazarus was dead and not know where he was laid? The two-consciousness view provides an answer. Third, this view also allows for the subjection of the Son to the Father. Only when the Father wills does Jesus act and speak according to his divine nature through his human nature. The final benefit of this approach is that it balances the assertions of Jesus’ humanity and divinity without losing sight of either. Many of the other views have one nature engulfing the other. The result is a glorified man or a God who took over a body. The two-consciousness view carefully and successfully navigates away from the dangerous pitfalls of heresy.

Despite its encouraging benefits, the two-consciousness view does have detractors. One critic in particular con­demns the view because he believes that the divine consciousness would eradicate the similarities between Christ and every other person: “But an incarnate Word who had the enjoyment . . . of a supernatural consciousness is not exactly on our level. . . . If it can be said with any meaningfulness that Jesus enjoyed a superhuman con­scious­ness, then he was not sufficiently one of us.”[75] This critique is quite serious, for if Christ was insufficiently human, then he could not sympathize with our humanity (Heb 4:15). Nevertheless, it must be admitted that Christ had abilities that others did not. He at times displayed his omniscience (Mark 2:8), at other times he displayed his omnipotence (Matt 8:26-27), and he may also have dis­played his omnipresence (John 1:48). If none of these characteristics—unique to Christ—discredited his human­ity, then the fact that Jesus has two centers of conscious­ness does not discredit his humanity. The definition of humanity must derive from Scripture and not from any external criteria. According to Scripture, Jesus was a unique human, but nevertheless he was human.

The second critique of the two-consciousness approach is likewise serious. How can one hold to this Christology without being Nestorian? Put differently, the questioner is asking whether one can truly have two centers of consciousness and yet remain one person. Gerald O’Collins answers by noting that consciousness should not be attributed to the person but to the nature.[76] Therefore, since Christ had a human and a divine nature, he had a duality of consciousness. The one person of Christ, having two natures, has two consciousnesses. Certainly some will question O’Collin’s mental astuteness here; however Grudem defends the view when he says that “two wills and two centers of consciousness do not require that Jesus be two distinct persons. It is mere assertion without proof to say that they do.”[77] Again, Christians must allow Scripture to determine truth. If the Bible says that Jesus was one person with a duality of consciousness, then Scripture must prevail.[78] Grudem’s conclusion to his defense of a two-consciousness will also serve as the conclusion to this section: “To adopt any other solution would create a far greater problem: it would require that we give up either the full deity or the full humanity of Christ, and that we cannot do.”[79]

A Paradoxical Solution

The solution to Mark 13:32, outlined above, will not satisfy many Western thinkers. Not only does the view posit two natures in Christ, but it also holds that these natures have their own consciousnesses. In this context, it is good to listen to the wisdom of O’Collins as he speaks to his readers: “If we cannot imagine and describe what it would be like to be God, we cannot imagine or describe what it would be like to be God and man.”[80] Humans should not be ashamed to arrive at inexplicable mysteries. In fact, as Van Til taught, human knowledge is always paradoxical.[81] It is to deny the creaturely status that one seeks absolute knowledge as God knows. Admitting paradox, then, is not admitting weakness, but creatureliness.

A. N. S. Lane argues that the two-nature solution is not a paradox, but a blatant contradiction. He offers a comparison by saying that the two-nature approach “is like claiming that I am experiencing both poverty and wealth because there is no money in my left pocket while in my right pocket I have a million pounds. Wealth eliminates poverty. Omniscience and ignorance, omnipotence and impotence cannot coexist.”[82] Lane’s words strike a chord within every mind. Certainly it is true that a man with money in one pocket cannot righteously say that he is broke. However, Christ, being omniscient, can righteously say that he does not know the hour (Mark 13:32). In the first case it is a contradiction, in the second it is only an apparent contradiction. The difference is Scripture. When Scripture asserts something which is inexplicable in human terms, humans must admit their creaturely status and submit to God’s Word.[83]

Though the two-nature solution presents a paradox to the human mind, it is not a paradox to God’s mind. Vern Poythress confirms this by saying, “Apparent contradictions appear to be contradictions only against a standard for what a contradiction is. Since the standard is God himself, there can be no real contradiction.” There­fore, “When we feel that so-called paradoxes are a problem, the real problem is our pretended autonomy. . . .”[84] As creatures, man must submit to the Lord in all things of which human knowledge is only one sphere. Even in eternity man may never fully understand, since limitation is not a result of sin, but a consequence of being a creature. With this under­­standing, the assertion of Mark 13:32 though apparently contradictory, is found to be logically coherent.[85]

Problem or Paradigm

Having concluded that Mark 13:32 is best explained by a fuller understanding of the two-natures in the incar­nation, what should be done about passages which seem to reflect the humanity of Christ? It seems that most pastors are content to avoid the passages if possible.[86] B.B. Warfield, on the other hand, argued that it is “gain and nothing but gain, to realize in all its fullness that our Lord was made man even as we are men, made ‘in all things like unto his brethren’ (Heb. 2:17).”[87] What differentiates War­field from those who sheepishly avoid passages which explicitly declare Christ’s humanity? Undoubtedly, part of the reason resides in the central place Warfield gives to the incarnation.

The glory of the Incarnation is that it presents to our adoring gaze, not a humanized God or a deified man, but a true God-man – one who is all that God is and at the same time all that man is: on whose almighty arm we can rest, and to whose human sympathy we can appeal. We cannot afford to lose either the God in the man or the man in the God; our hearts cry out for the complete God-man whom the Scriptures offer us. It may be much to say that it is because he is man that he is capable of growth in wisdom, and because he is God that he is from the beginning Wisdom Itself. It is more to say that because he is man he is able to pour out his blood, and because he is God his blood is of infinite value to save; and that it is only because he is both God and Man in one person, that we can speak of God purchasing his Church with his own blood (Acts 20:28).[88]

It is of inestimable value to preach and extol the humanity of Christ, because in becoming man, Christ saved man. The incarnation was an act of love initiated by God, which was ultimately the greatest communication from God to man. Thomas Oden, following Calvin, understood the meaning of the incarnation when he said, “The divine humiliation was not an impoverishment of God but an incomparable expression of the empathic descent of divine love.”[89] Too many have viewed the incarnation as an exegetical embarrassment, when, in fact, it is the clearest teaching of God’s covenantal love.

John Frame develops this theme further when he asserts that Christ’s incarnation may yield fruit in under­standing God’s relation to mankind. For instance, Frame draws an analogy between Christ’s two natures and God’s interaction in time. Since God is an eternal Being, his relationship to time has caused many questions. Frame proposes a solution based on an incarnational model. Just as Christ took on the attributes of humanity, so God takes on the attributes of humanity. That is, God condescends and takes on human characteristics.[90] Christ’s incarnation, then, was the pinnacle of God’s condescension—a condescension He has been practicing since the world began. Even today in heaven Christ bears humanity, and for eternity future will bear that humanity as a banner of the condescending nature of God’s love.[91]

K. Scott Oliphint believes this understanding of God’s relation to his creation traces back to the Westminster Confession of Faith which says, “The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which He has been pleased to express by way of covenant.”[92] Thus, God condescends because man can never ascend. The love of God is displayed powerfully in those passages which seem to contradict his nature, for these passages show the volun­tary and loving condescension of God. Based on this understanding Oliphint writes,

Statements in Scripture that seem to confuse, that seem to be in stark contrast to other statements, should be interpreted in the context of God’s condescension such that his divinity operates through his covenant properties. When Scripture says, therefore, “and the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people” (Ex. 32:14). And “For I the Lord do not change” (Mal. 3:6), we should be aware that, while both statements are true, and while both show us something of God’s essential character through his contingent properties, the first verse should be seen in the context of God’s covenant, in which he takes on contingent properties in order to fulfill his promises to his people, while the second verse refers us to God’s immutable character (and the application of that essential property in the context of God’s covenant). It should not surprise us, therefore, that we will see in Scripture both “sides” of God’s activity with his creation, even as it does not surprise us when we see Christ both forgive sins (according to his essential character) and become tired (according to his covenantal character).[93]

As the quote suggests, Oliphint shows the continuity between God’s continual actions in relation to mankind and his ultimate condescension in Christ. At all times, when God relates to man, he is stooping down with the primary purpose of loving and redeeming his people. For this reason, Mark 13:32 should not be looked as an embarrassing problem but as a lucid paradigm for understanding God’s relation to his creatures.


Church history has provided many answers to the question prompted by reading Mark 13:32. Ambrose and Jerome led the way in offering a solution based on textual corruption. And though some modern scholars were found advocating this approach, ultimately it fails for lack of evidence. Basil of Caesarea added another solution, which sought to save the divinity of Christ by proposing a new translation of the Greek. Though Basil’s interpretation is possible, it is far from a natural reading and fails to explain the sister passage in Matthew. Augustine, Hilary of Poitiers, Aquinas, Gregory of Tours, Origen, and other modern interpreters proposed semantic solutions to the text. And though these solutions have fared well in public opinion, they fail to satisfy the language of Mark. As such, they are inventive and attractive, but not plausible.

Athanasius led the way in the final solution. He proposed that a two-nature model would answer the problem of Mark 13:32. Behind him have stood many who have accepted and built upon the two-nature structure. There are many advantages to this solution. First, the text is understood naturally without resorting to rare word uses or textual discrepancies. Second, both the humanity and the divinity of Christ are upheld without bringing either into jeopardy. Third, the two-nature solution is not limited to Mark 13:32; it can be used to decipher other enigmatic passages about Christ.[94]

A final benefit of the two-nature approach is that it provides a paradigm for understanding God’s relationship to the world. Christ added a human nature without subtracting anything from his divine nature. In the same way, the Godhead accepts human attributes in order to relate and communicate with his creatures. Though the Godhead’s additions are not all permanent like the incarnation was for Christ, nevertheless his covenantal additions are extravagant examples of God’s voluntary love for mankind. Therefore, passages—like Mark 13:32—from both the Old and New Testaments which have historically been hard to harmonize with the nature of God are actually the most intense examples of God’s love for his people. And though these passages may present an apparent paradox to the human mind, pastors should not avoid them, but preach them clearly, often, and with much passion.

[churchpack_divider style=”solid” margin_top=”20px” margin_bottom=”20px”][1] Timothy Miller is Assistant Professor of Bible and Apologetics at Maranatha.

[2] ”It is likely that this issue, and the embarrassment which it brings to his text at 13:32, would not have occurred either to him or to his readers.” R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 544.

[3] Ralph P. Martin, Mark, Evangelist and Theologian (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), 124.

[4] Athanasius, “Four Discourses Against the Arians,” 3.28.42.

[5] Kris J. Udd, “Only The Father Knows: A Response to Harold F. Carl,” Journal of Biblical Studies 1.4 (2001), http://journalof (accessed Decem­ber 4, 2009).

[6] Franz Delitzsch, A System of Biblical Psychology, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1867), 385 fn 2.

[7] Unfortunately a lengthy response to the interpretation of Philippians 2 is beyond the scope of this paper. For further analysis see, Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 550.

[8] Ibid., 549-552.

[9] Grudem is correct when he notes that the Kenotic theory had its beginning because, “It just seemed too incredible for modern rational and ‘scientific’ people to believe that Jesus Christ could be truly human and fully, absolutely God at the same time.” Udd’s article exemplifies this modernistic trend. In the end, his Kenotic theology seeks to avoid the inherent paradox in the incarnation. See, Udd, “Only the Father Knows” and Grudem, Systematic Theology, 551.

[10] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 551.

[11] Oliphint succinctly notes that “God is essentially God; there is nothing in him that is in any way contingent or otherwise not necessary.” See K. Scott Oliphint, Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology (Phillipsburg: P & R, 2006), 307.

[12] Though Udd would never accept this portrayal of his posi­tion, he comes close to saying it himself: “The fact that Jesus did evidence supernatural power and knowledge on various occasions indicated that he came from the Father, but those actions in and of themselves were not necessarily indicators of divinity. . . . It hardly seems coincidental that Jesus performed no miracles until after the Holy Spirit came upon him at his baptism, and that the disciples performed those same deeds through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Udd, “Only the Father Knows.”

[13] Quoted in Charles Gore, Dissertations on Subjects Connected with the Incarnation (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895), 130.

[14] Theodoret, “Counter-statements to Cyril’s 12 Anathemas,” IV.

[15] Ambrose, “Exposition of the Christian Faith,” trans. H. Romestin, New Advent, 5.16. 192, /fathers/34045.htm (accessed December 4, 2009).

[16] Jerome, Commentary on Matthew, trans. Thomas P. Scheck (US: CUA, 2008), 277.

[17] James A. Brooks, Mark (Nashville: Broadman, 1991), 217.

[18] Charles Powell, a PhD in New Testament from Dallas Theological Seminary, has contributed a thorough essay on this topic. “The Textual Problem of ‘oude ho huios’ in Matthew 24:36,”, 2004, (accessed December 4, 2009).

[19] Vincent Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark: The Greek Text with Introduction, Notes, and Indexes, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), 522.

[20] In fact, the translator and commentator of Jerome’s commentary notes that the Greek mss. support is in favor of the omitted phrase. He further notes that one of Jerome’s two sources actually contains the phrase in question, and Jerome must be referring not to a mss. but to the writings of the author. See Jerome, Commentary on Matthew, 277 fn 119-120.

[21] Carl, though not ascribing to the position, describes it well. See Harold F. Carl, “Only the Father Knows: Historical and Evangelical Responses to Jesus’ Eschatological Ignorance in Mark 13:32,” Journal of Biblical Studies 1.3 (2001), http:// (accessed Decem­ber 4, 2009).

[22] Brooks, Mark, 217.

[23] Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark, 522.

[24] Basil of Caesarea, “Letter 236 to Amphilochius,” trans. Blomfield Jackson, New Advent, 1, /fathers/3202236.htm (accessed December 1, 2009).

[25] Basil of Caesarea, “Letter 236 to Amphilochius,” 2.

[26] Francis X. Gumerlock, “Mark 13:32 and Christ’s Supposed Ignorance: Four Patristic Solutions,” Trinity Journal 28.2 (2007): 205-213.

[27] Basil recognized that his answer would not convince everyone—particularly the unregenerate—for he says that his answer “may . . . suffice to convince all that love the Lord, and in whom the previous assurance supplied them by faith is stronger than any demonstration of reason.” Basil of Caesarea, “Letter 236 to Amphilochius,” 1.

[28] Gumerlock, “Mark 13:32,” 207.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Gregory of Tours, “History of the Franks,” trans. Ernest Brehaut, Fordham University, “Prologue to Book One,” (accessed December 1, 2009).

[31] Quoted from Manlio Simonetti, Ancient Christian Commen­tary on Scripture: Matthew 14-28 (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2002), 207.

[32] Francis Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), Accordance 7.1.

[33] However, ginosko is used this way (Matt. 1:25) and certainly would have been the word Mark would have used if he had meant “to experience.” See Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, 2nd ed. (United Bible Societies, 1988), Accordance 7.1.

[34] Hilary is extremely hard to interpret on this issue. In the same article he posits multiple views: (1) Jesus knew, but said that he did not; (2) knowing means revealing; (3) ignorance should be attributed to Jesus’ human nature; and (4) it is a mystery how Jesus can know and not know at the same time. Hilary of Poitiers, “On the Trinity,” 9.63-75.

[35] Ibid., 9.63.

[36] Ibid., 9.71.

[37] Augustine, “On the Trinity,” 1.12.23.

[38] Augustine, “Letter to Oceanus,” 3.

[39] Augustine, Eighty-Three Different Questions, 114.

[40] Thomas Aquinas, Compendium Theologiae, trans. Cyril Vollert (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1947), 242, (accessed December 1, 2009).

[41] Thomas Aquinas, “Summa Theologica,” New Advent, 3.10.2, (accessed December 1, 2009); Hilary of Poitiers, “On the Trinity,” 64; Augustine, Eighty-Three Different Questions, 114-115.

[42] Lewis Sperry Chafer, “Trinitarianism,” Bibliotheca Sacra 97 (1940): 401.

[43] William Greenough Thayer Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 3rd ed. (Phillipsburg: P & R, 2003), 319.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Gumerlock, “Mark 13:32.”

[46] Verse 34, the very next verse, would make little sense at all given this definition of “know.” It would say, “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not reveal when the appointed time will come.”

[47] See John Calvin and William Pringle, “Commentary on Matthew, Mark, Luke,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 3.36, (accessed December 1, 2009).

[48] “Chalcedonian Creed,” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics, 451, /documents/index.html? mainframe= (accessed December 5, 2009). Emphasis mine.

[49] Athanasius, “Four Discourses Against the Arians,” 24.46.

[50] Gumerlock, “Mark 13:32.”

[51] Gregory Nazianzus, “Orations,” trans. Charles Gordon Browne and James Edward Swallow, New Advent, 29.17, (accessed Decem­ber 1, 2009).

[52] Athanasius, “Four Discourses Against the Arians,” 28.43; Gregory Nazianzus, “Orations,” 30.15.

[53] The title “Son” without any modifiers may actually be a clear declaration of Christ’s deity and not an indication that he is speaking of His human nature.

[54] John of Damascus, “Orthodox Faith,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 21, iii.iv.iii.xxi.html (accessed December 1, 2009).

[55] Calvin and Pringle, “Commentary on Matthew, Mark, Luke,” 24.36.

[56] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.14.2.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, abridged ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988), 359.

[59] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 560.

[60] Charles Hodge, “Systematic Theology,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2:405, theology2.iv.iii.v.html (accessed December 3, 2009).

[61] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 561.

[62] John F. Walvoord, “The Holy Spirit in Relation to the Person and Work of Christ,” Bibliotheca Sacra 98 (1941): 45.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Norman L Geisler, “Theory of the Limitation of Christ,” in Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 426.

[65] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 559.

[66] Ibid., 560.

[67] Ibid., 562.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Ibid., 562-563.

[71] Charles M. Horne, “Let this Mind Be in You,” Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society 3 (1960): 37-44.

[72] Thomas C. Oden, The Word of Life (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989), 87.

[73] Millard Erickson, while in general agreement with this view, holds that Jesus was unaware of the time of the end because it was in his unconscious. When the Father allowed, the knowledge in Christ’s unconscious would be called to memory by Christ. For this unique view and an interesting analogy, see Millard J. Erickson, The Word Became Flesh (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 558-559.

[74] Grudem, System­atic Theology, 561. For an alternative view, see Anthony T. Hanson, “Two Consciousnesses: The Modern Version of Chalcedon,” Scottish Journal of Theology 37 (1984): 474-476.

[75] Hanson, “Two Consciousnesses,” 481.

[76] Gerald O’Collins, Interpreting Jesus (London: G. Chapman, 1983), 190.

[77] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 561.

[78] Udd is a good example of one who argues that consciousness is on the side of person. See, Udd, “Only The Father Knows: A Response to Harold F. Carl.”

[79] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 561.

[80] Gerald O’Collins, Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus Christ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 234.

[81] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 4th ed. (Phil­lips­burg: P & R, 2008), 67-69.

[82] A.N.S Lane, “Christology Beyond Chalcedon,” in Christ the Lord: Studies in Christology Presented to Donald Guthrie, ed. Harold H. Rowdon (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1982), 270.

[83] Grudem specifically challenges Lane’s conclusions noting that Lane’s assertions “fundamentally deny that infinite deity and finite humanity can exist together in the same person—in other words, they deny that Jesus could be fully God and fully man at the same time. In this way, they deny the essence of the incarnation.” Grudem, Systematic Theology, 559-560 fn39.

[84] Vern S Poythress, “Reforming Ontology and Logic in the Light of the Trinity: An Application of Van Til’s Idea of Analogy,” Westminster Theological Journal 57 (1995): 214 fn14.

[85] Oliphint proposes a method of explanation which “will allow for meaningful discussion about Christ, such that we are not left with bare contradiction.” His strategy takes predicative compatibility inherent in Thomas Aquinas’ thought and combines it with the Reformed views on essentialism and ontology. The result is an ability to speak of the two natures in such a way that is not clearly contradictory, though “we are affirming something that is ultimately mysterious and beyond the pale of understanding for our finite (and sinful) minds.” For a fuller exposition see, Oliphint, Reasons for Faith, 304-315.

[86] To his knowledge, this writer has never heard a message on Mark 13:32 and only one or two messages on the many other texts which explicitly teach anthropomorphic activities of God.

[87] Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, “The Human Development of Jesus,” in Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970), 163.

[88] Ibid., 166.

[89] Oden cites Calvin’s Institutes 2.13.3-4. Oden, The Word of Life, 85-86.

[90] “Could it be that when God enters time he takes on some human characteristics, foreshadowing the incarnation?” For his full discussion, see John M. Frame, “Response to Howard Grif­fith,” in Speaking the Truth in Love: The Theology of John M. Frame (Phillipsburg: P & R, 2009), 972-973.

[91] Warfield notes that “Reformed theology . . . has not shrunk from recognizing that Christ, as man, had a finite knowledge and must continue to have a finite knowledge forever.” Warfield, “The Human Development of Jesus,” 162.

[92] “Westminster Confession of Faith,”, 7.1, (accessed Decem­ber 9, 2009).

[93] Oliphint, Reasons for Faith, 315.

[94] For instance, none of the other solutions can handle the seemingly contradictory comments about Christ which Gregory of Nanzianzus emphasized:


[Jesus] was baptized as man—but He remitted sins as God . . .

He was tempted as man, but He conquered as God . . .

He hungered—but He fed thousands . . .

He was wearied, but He is the Rest . . .

He pays tribute . . . He is King of those who demanded it . . .

He prays, but He hears prayer . . .

He weeps, but He causes tears to cease . . .

He asks where Lazarus was laid, but He raises Lazarus . . .

He is sold . . . but He redeems the world . . .

As a sheep He is led to the slaughter, but He is the Shepherd of Israel . . .

He is bruise and wounded, but He heals every disease and every infirmity . . .

He dies, but He gives life . . .

He is buried, but He rises again . . .

Gregory Nazianzus, “Orations,” 29.20.