Did Jesus know He Was God? Duh!

This was a question that was seriously discussed in high school through college through seminary catholic theology classes during the seventies. Seriously. It was. I was there.

And the answer the teachers led us to was generally  “No”. Or–get ready for the subtle  nuance, here– not at first. Not when he was an infant. Nor as a child, or a young man. He (probably)  figured it out eventually sometime between his baptism by John and the resurrection.  But like the rest of us earnest and angsty adolescents of the boomer generation, it took  a while for Jesus to find  himself.

The fact that you don’t hear of clergy   floating this idea very often any more tells me that  the Catholic Church really has made progress in leaving post-conciliar silliness behind.

But gather ’round, children, while I ease my creaking back into my rocker and  tell you a true story. Seems like only yesterday I heard a cassette tape recording of a  seminary prof–later to become a bishop–lecturing on the text, Who do men say that I am?  According  to this teacher, Jesus was asking the question not in order to give his disciples a chance to profess their faith. He asked them because he hadn’t quite figured it out himself and was looking for information!  So when Peter made his response–you are the Christ–Jesus was hugely relieved.

And this  prof’s  commentary on  Blessed are you, Simon son of John  ? That was Jesus’ way of saying, “Thank you, Peter! I think that’s right, I feel  that’s right, and I appreciate you affirming me in my identity as God’s son.”

Out of charity, I won’t reveal the name of this teacher-turned-bishop, God rest his soul. Pray for him.

It was the Office of Readings for the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel that took me on this little trip down memory lane today. In the second reading, Pope St.Leo the Great argues that the infinite power of God can certainly combine the grace of virginity with the blessing of divine motherhood. From there, he speaks of how seeming opposites were made one in the Incarnation:

He stooped down to take up our lowliness without loss to his own glory. He remained what he was; he took up what he was not. He wanted to join the very nature of a servant to that nature in which he is equal to God the Father. He wanted to unite both natures in an alliance so wonderful that the glory of the greater would not annihilate the lesser, nor the taking up of the lower diminish the greatness of the higher.

Yes, figuring out the interplay of the human and divine knowledge of Jesus is tricky. In fact, it’s a mystery, so our attempts to understand should always be tempered by the fact that we won’t get it just right this side of eternity. Pious devotiona lwritings of past centuries depict the infant Jesus proclaiming the gospel to his mother from the moment of his birth. That isn’t any sillier (if anything i’ts closer to the truth) than the confused Jesus of the 1970s. If God doesn’t know he’s God, how can he be God?

The glory of the greater would not annihilate the lesser, nor the taking up of the lower diminish the greatness of the higher.

Leo had it right. The rest is mere details.

The Office of Readings is a daily treasure from the wisest and holiest Christians that have ever lived. It’s worth the effort it takes to integrate it into your spiritual routine. Give it a try.










Daria Sockey


Daria Sockey is a freelance writer from western Pennsylvania. Her articles have appeared in many Catholic publications. She authored several of the original Ignatius Press Faith and Life catechisms in the 1980s, and more recently wrote five study guides for saints' lives DVDs distributed by Ignatius Press. She now writes regularly for the newly revamped Catholic Digest. Her newest book, The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, will be published by Servant Books this spring. Feel Free to email her at thesockeys@gmail.com

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  • Pargontwin

    Those pious devotional writings of earlier centuries are mirrors of what was revealed to St. Mary of Agreda by Our Lady, detailed in “The Mystical City of God.”  The child Jesus did indeed speak to His mother about the Scriptures.  The full, unabridged, four-volume set has been a major eye-opener in my own journey of faith, and I highly recommend it to everyone.  It certainly fully explains why theologians  have long referred to the Blessed Virgin as a “Co-Remptrix,” and the things she revealed about events like the slaughter of the Holy Innocents are a message of hope to our troubled time. (God sanctified them in their un-baptized infancy so they could enter Heaven,  and gave them the use of reason so they could offer their sufferings as a prayer.  What a beautiful hope for today’s victims of abortion!)

  • David

    Don’t jump ahead to quickly; there are still some theologians in Catholic seminary proffering that Jesus wasn’t certain about his divinity until later in his life, maybe not even until the Passion took place.  I know this because I am living through this nonsense.

  • Gwenlinde

    This was taught in our diaconate formation, a newly ordained deacon friend told us. Our rector quoted a brother Franciscan theologian. His answer to the silly proposition that Jesus didn’t know he was God until some late date: “Surely his mother would have told him!”

  • Darab99

    Very smug and self appreciating article. As if anyone really knows the answer to this question. To be fully human and fully God is an oxymoron to say the least. This article clearly diminishes Christs humanity.

  • RayG

    Jesus was not a human person.  Jesus is a DIVINE person with two natures, human and divine.  To assume he did not know that he was not divine is to treat him as a human person.

    The article does nothing to diminish his divine nature nor his human nature.  It only serves to show that some theories about Jesus has not stood the test of time nor of serious theological scrutiny.

  • Bbsbcv

    The question is not about Christ’s nature, but about his intellect and will. And we all know the difficulties surrounding a coherent account that does not reduce or conflate what is human with what is divine.

  • RayG

    Intellect is a componant of learning from experience which would be consistent with the ability to learn to speak, etc.

    I believe we are in agreement with that.

    Knowledge about Jesus knowing that he is divine must come outside of human experience since it is beyond human understanding and cannot be known strickly with rational learned thought.

    It can only be revealed by the divine regardless of one’s personal natural knowledge. This, I believe, would not conflict with learning as he matures while still having known of his divinity.