Gumerlock. Mark 13:32 and Christ’s Supposed Ignorance: Four Patristic Solutions. 2007.
Trinity Journal 28 (2007):205-213
Mark 13:32 and Christ’s Supposed Ignorance:
Four Patristic Solutions
THE PROBLEM OF CHRIST’S SUPPOSED IGNORANCE
Referring to the time of His Second Coming, Jesus is recorded as saying, “But of
that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father
alone” (Mark 13:32, NASB. The word alone is italicized because it was supplied by the
translator). The church fathers spilled much ink explaining this statement of the Lord,
most often because of its import regarding Christology.2 Since the passage allegedly
presents Christ as ignorant, the Arians of the early church, who denied that the Son was
consubstantial with the Father, used it as a proof-text for their belief in a less-than-divine
Son of God.3 On the other hand, those who held to Nicene orthodoxy and believed that
Jesus was fully God and possessed all the attributes of divinity, including omniscience,
responded to the Arians with Colossians 3:2, “In Him are all the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge.” The adherents of Nicene orthodoxy, besides asserting Christ’s omniscience,
also had to make sense out of Mark 13:32, which seemed to teach that Jesus was ignorant
of at least one detail concerning the future, i.e. the time of His return. To solve the
theological dilemma of the omniscient Son of God not knowing the time of His own
Second Coming, the church fathers proposed a variety of explanations. This article
presents and evaluates four of their solutions—the philological solution of Basil of
Caesarea, two “figures of speech” solutions offered by Augustine of Hippo and Gregory
of Tours respectively, and the anthropological solution of Athanasius of Alexandria.
Article kindly provided by Francis X. Gumerlock, through his website.