One professor in Talbot playfully describes the birth of Jesus this way.

There is Jesus, lying in the manger and looking out through the doorway of the stable at the stars in the night sky. I made all those stars. The baby then has another sensation alongside this new experience of seeing His creation through eyeballs, and it’s uncomfortable. I’m suddenly wet all through my diaper, and it’s getting cold! A normal infant would scream at this point until mom showed up. But not Jesus. He looks over at His teen-aged mom and thinks, I’d like to have this wet diaper changed, but Mary’s had such a hard night after so long of a trip. I’ll wait a few hours until she’s had some more rest. And so, baby Jesus, the pint-sized God-man waits until His mom has gotten the rest she needs.

Probably not. It strains at plausibility to think that Jesus lived with His full divine consciousness from the beginning of His human life. We can be sure that Jesus knew His unique identity and relationship to God as His Father when He was twelve, having declared as much to Joseph and Mary in Jerusalem (Luke 2:49). Luke adds, “Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (v. 52, NASB). Jesus certainly knows who He is when He begins teaching, but beyond these details we don’t have revelation how much He knew before age twelve, or when.

Behind the cute story and the speculation about Jesus’ self-awareness is the question of the mind of Christ—does He have one mind or two minds? Our mind seems to be very close in to our identity as individuals, so it’s hard to see how Jesus could have more than one mind and remain one person. To live with two minds seems to defeat the unity of the Incarnation as one person in two natures. The closest thing to a declaration on this topic is the creed of Chalcedon (451) that Jesus is consubstantial with us as to His human nature, “body and soul.” Later theology considered the question of one or two wills in Jesus in 681 (you can read my blog on Jesus Christ’s two wills here). In response to the question, I offer two arguments and one explanation.

My first argument is that the New Testament presents Jesus as functioning with a human mind. We can presuppose His possession of a divine mind since He is eternally the Word and Son of God. The Gospels present Jesus’ humanity in normal development and functioning with growth as a child (Luke 2:40, 52). Growth is contradictory to omniscience, so this “growing in wisdom” must be according to His human mind. As an adult, Jesus asks questions as part of teaching, and sometimes to gather information, such as at Lazarus’ tomb (John 12:33-34), where Jesus “was deeply moved in spirit and troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” Either this is a sham question from a man with omniscience, or Jesus is really seeking information that He lacks.

Another indicator of His human mind is Jesus’ admission that He does not know the time of His return (Mark 13:32 || Matt 24:36): “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (NASB). The main point in this declaration is not Jesus’ consciousness, but the impossibility of any human knowing when Jesus will return. Not even the Messiah and the angels know, since God has kept this secret to Himself. It seems to me that we have three options for understanding this statement. First, some say that Jesus knows, since He is God the Son, but He is not permitted to reveal this information to others. Some early theologians offered this explanation. Second, Jesus affirms that there are some things that God the Father keeps secret from God the Son. I think that is unlikely, since the Son and the Spirit would be something less than the Father for lacking full omniscience. Third, Jesus speaks with reference to His humanity, so that “nor the Son” is the Son of Man, not His divine existence as the Son of God. In other words, He admits to not knowing this according to His human mind. Notice that Jesus does not say, “I don’t know,” possibly since, as the God-man, He does know at the level of His divine consciousness. He is accurate, then, to specify what He knows “as the Son of Man,” in His human nature with a true, created human mind.


This was Part One of a two part series; we recommend reading Part Two as well.