A Mind-Blowing Fact about the Incarnation

Here is a taste of a recent piece I wrote for the Catholic Weekly:

What does it mean that Jesus is really human?

We Christians believe, of course, that God the Son is the Word made Flesh. That is, he is not just fully God, but fully human with a fully human body, soul, mind, and will.

Many weird paradoxes flow from this.  For instance, since the “human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge”, it follows that “this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time.” (CCC 472).

So the gospels tell us that Jesus “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). He had to learn things like the rest of us.  He needed to ask questions to get information he did not have.  He had to stumble along making mistakes like every other kid learning a game or studying a trade or practicing his times tables. He really and truly “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:7).

Yet, mind-blowingly, the reason the omniscient God assumes a human nature with a human mind is precisely so that “’this truly human knowledge of God’s Son expressed the divine life of his person’” (CCC 473).

This is displayed in a strange paradox.

And what is that paradox and the weirdness of it? You have to click here and read my column, of course!


3 Responses

  1. Thanks Mark. Great article.

    You might want to update your bio at the end of your articles. (It still says, “blogs at Catholic and Enjoying It”)

    I have a question. My family was discussing the readings yesterday. Since God can do no evil, how do you explain the final plague in Egypt in which the first born of every family and every creature was killed by the angel of death? As always, I try not to be a heretic.

    Clearly, the blood of the lamb protected the Jewish families, which must have been remarkable and clearly evident to the Egyptians, mourning their dead.

    I was telling my kids that the term “firstborn” is a title that is packed with meaning and symbolism (even Jesus is called firstborn…) but my take on “the angel of death” and the people and creatures that perished probably had more to do with a terrible disease that ripped through Egyptian society and struck down many Egyptians and their animals. It must have been the culmination of all of the other pestilences combined, and the result of an obviously grave imbalance of nature.

    How do you explain it? It kind of reminds me of that part of the OT, when God supposedly told the Israelites to slay every “man, woman and child” in the land of Canaan. They might have done the deed but God wouldn’t order genocide–so they added God’s “signature” so to speak, to give themselves credibility for what they had done. — And I guess you could say that this dishonesty continues to fuel the injustice still taking place there to this day.

  2. It is indeed fascinating to think about.

    The apparent paradox strikes me as a matter to approach cautiously. The Incarnation is a mystery, and I think we should be careful not to presume we can know too much about it. That said, I find your treatment fair and helpful, because you are not merely asserting it, but supporting what you write with relevant passages from the Catechism and the Bible.

    In contrast, I once heard a priest follow a similar train of thought in a homily, but he went so far as to assert that prior to the baptism by John, when God said, “This is my Beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased,” that Jesus as man did not know that He was divine.

    He was discussing the significance of the humanity of Jesus, and I think he was trying to resolve this same paradox. I think what really fixated me on it was the explicitness of what he said seemed to contradict the finding in the temple: “Do you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).

    It struck me as almost certain he was taking the train of thought too far. In fact, when I got home from Mass, I started looking up information on some of the more significant heresies because what he had said just seemed wrong. In the end, I decided it had some parallels to, but was not Arianism. Nestorianism seemed closest, but did not quite fit.

    Looking back on this, I just revisited that research, and went a little further down the web of related heresies that arose after the condemnation of Arianism.

    I would now say that I’m pretty sure the priest in question promoted the Agnoetae or Themistian heresy in a homily, which was condemned alongside several better known, related heresies at the Lateran Council of 649. I’m troubled by this, although at least this was not a matter that affects daily moral decision making, so at the time, it did not seem necessary to attempt any follow up.

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