Was Jesus wrong?

By Robin Schumacher

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Originally posted at The Christian Post

An article in Christianpost summarized a recent Liturgists podcast where Christian music artist Michael Gungor, along with Mike McHargue and Lissa Paino, discussed the book of Genesis and Jesus' specific knowledge of history, creation and the world. Gungor suggested Jesus was either wrong about the Biblical creation account and the existence of certain persons Scripture portrays as historical (e.g. Adam, Noah) or that Christ deliberately accommodated Himself to the beliefs of the first century people to fit in and in essence chose not to be truthful about those topics.

How should Christians address these assertions? In my view, there are three key topics that, when properly understood, help us reach a reasonable conclusion on the claims made by Gungor and McHargue.

The Mystery of the Incarnation

Did the baby in the manger know that the earth is round?

There's no doubt that theologians down through Church history have wrestled with questions like the above and with the concept of God becoming man. There's also little debate among Christians that, in this life, we will not fully understand such a deep mystery as Christ's incarnation (1 Corinthians 13:12).

But that said, Scripture does provide us with enough information so that we are not left completely in the dark as to Christ's nature and the knowledge He had regarding history and reality in general.

In the podcast, McHargue presented the following argument on the topic: "The scripture seems to indicate, at least in some degree, that Christ is not as omniscient as God the Father; because if we just take Scripture at face value, it seems to indicate that the only being with knowledge of how and when things will end is God, the Father, and not even Jesus knows." [1]

Is this an accurate description of what the Bible teaches?

The answer is both yes and no. What McHargue is likely referencing in the latter part of his statement is a declaration from Christ in His Olivet Discourse that concerns His second coming, which says: "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone" (Matthew 24:36).

Regarding this, the Bible makes it clear that Jesus, during His incarnation, willingly limited the full use of His divine attributes. Paul describes it this way: "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:5-8).

Theologians refer to Paul's description of Jesus' incarnation in this passage as the Kenosis, which comes from the Greek word kenos "to be or make empty". The voluntary divine limitation on Christ's part and His very real humanity necessitates that we be able to smartly distinguish between His two natures. [2]

As an example, does God ever get tired or hungry? No, but did Jesus in His humanity experience both? Yes.

With this as background, let's now ask how the Kenosis affected Christ's knowledge. As Matthew 24:36 points out, at that time, Jesus said He didn't know the exact hour of His return. Does that equate to Christ having a flawed understanding of history and Scripture as McHargue and Gungor assert?

The answer is no. First, we should understand that there is a distinction between not knowing a particular fact at a particular time and being so completely wrong in one's understanding of a topic that it leads to the communication of false information.

Second, the book of John alone demonstrates numerous times that Jesus relied fully on God the Father for His knowledge:

• "For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God" (John 3:34).

• "I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge" (John 5:30).

• "My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me" (John 7:16).

• "I have many things to speak...He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world" (John 8:26).

• "I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me" (John 8:28).

• "I speak the things which I have seen with My Father" (John 8:38).

• "For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak....I speak just as the Father has told Me" (John 12:49-50).

• "The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works" (John 14:10).

• "All things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15).

In other words, whatever statements Jesus made were true and complete because they came straight from God the Father — the One who Jesus relied on in His earthly life. This being the case, we can rest assured that when Jesus spoke about persons such as Noah and Jonah, as well as the creation, whatever He said about them was accurate.

Or, put another way, Jesus many not be recorded in the Bible as saying He was omniscient at all times during His first coming, but He certainly claimed to be infallible (e.g. John 12:49).

This then leads us to Gungor's assertion about Jesus being deceptive where these Biblical characters and creation as a whole are concerned.

The Character of Christ

The idea that Christ was deliberately untruthful and accommodated Himself to the supposed flawed thinking of His listeners needs to be immediately corrected. Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17), that He was truth embodied (John 14:6), with the Bible adding that no deceit was found in His mouth (1 Peter 2:21) and that He was sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Gungor's idea that Jesus lied about the historicity of persons like Adam, Noah, Jonah, etc., is one that should be quickly dismissed from any Christian's thinking.

But what about the idea that Jesus knew these characters were fictional and never intended for His listeners to believe otherwise?

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Image: Michael Gungor

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Published 9-17-14