Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jesus, Knowledge, and Stories From Egypt

Folks often use words like "infinite" and "almighty" when trying to describe God.1 (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 268-271)

The idea of God being immeasurably vast, all-powerful, and all-knowing, isn't too difficult to believe.

Believing that Jesus is God: not so much. Folks have had trouble believing that from the start, even when Jesus was right there, talking to them:
"So the Jews said to him, 'You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?' 23

"24 Jesus said to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.' "
(John 8:57-58)

"Philip said to him, 'Master, show us the Father, 7 and that will be enough for us.'

"Jesus said to him, 'Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father"? "
(John 14:8-9)
Maybe believing was hard because God was right there, quite visible, taking up a specific amount of space, speaking literally face-to-face. Later, after Jesus stopped being dead - - - and that's another topic. (March 11, 2012)

Metaphysical Knots and Pondering the Infinite

Folks have tied themselves in metaphysical knots, trying to explain how God Almighty could fit 'inside' one human being: or explain that God didn't.

I like to understand things, but have long since had to admit that God's God, and I'm not. I'm a finite creature, using a few pounds of neural circuitry to ponder the infinite and eternal.

The Incarnation

That brings up an interesting point. God is almighty. A human being is not. How could Jesus, the Son of God, possibly be God and human: and keep all that infinite power?

He didn't. As Paul put it, Jesus "emptied himself" to become one of us. (Phillipians 2:7)

I'd better back up a little. Jesus is human. Jesus is God. How, I don't know: and I don't need to. I accept the Incarnation as the least-complicated explanation for what's happened. Occam's razor, and all that.

Some folks balk at the idea that God would really become human. Maybe it doesn't seem 'spiritual' enough. They've said that Jesus is:
  • Is not really human (Gnosticism)
    • Catechism, 465
  • Is human, with a God implant (Nestorianism)
    • Catechism, 466
  • Started human, then became purely divine (Monophysitism)
    • Catechism, 467
    (December 26, 2012)
Then there's the currently-fashionable notion that God isn't involved, and that's yet another topic.

A Human Soul

A decade or so back, I ran across a discussion of the stories and parables Jesus told. Apparently they're a lot like stories folks told in Egypt around that time. That's hardly surprising. Jesus spent time in Egypt. He or his parents could easily have picked up a few stories while there. (Matthew 2:14-21)

I think it's a mistake to imagine Jesus as merely a wise man - who said "before Abraham came to be, I AM"?! I also think it's a mistake to imagine Jesus as purely 'spiritual,' someone who was just pretending to be human.

Jesus has a human soul: and had human, limited, knowledge. He was born in a particular time and place, learned to speak, and grew up: just as we all do. (Catechism, 472)
"And Jesus advanced (in) wisdom and age and favor before God and man."
(Luke 2:52)

"He asked them, 'How many loaves do you have? Go and see.' And when they had found out they said, 'Five loaves and two fish.' "
(Mark 6:38)

"6 Now Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say that I am?' "
(Mark 8:27)

"When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed 7 and deeply troubled,

"and said, 'Where have you laid him?' They said to him, 'Sir, come and see.'"
(John 11:33-34)

About questions like "Who do people say that I am," I suppose Jesus could have been using the Socratic method: asking questions to elicit answers. It's a pretty good method for getting students to think about a subject, rather than just record what an instructor says: and that's yet again another topic.

Some commentary on the fifth chapter of Mark focuses on belief that physical contact and faith in Jesus' saving power. I'm also interested in this brief glimpse of my Lord's awareness:
"Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, 'Who has touched my clothes?'

"But his disciples said to him, 'You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, "Who touched me?" '

"And he looked around to see who had done it."
(Mark 5:30-32)
Jesus not knowing everything doesn't make my Lord seem 'too human,' as far as I'm concerned. If the Son of God wasn't human, Christ's death on Golgotha would have been an interesting bit divine play-acting. And that's still another topic.

Related posts:

1 Titles of God include:

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