How Human Was Christ’s Humanity?

June 22, 2011

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David Murray

How Human Was Christ's Humanity

Note: You’re reading Part One of a two-part blog mini-series by Dr. David P. Murray on the humanity of Christ. Be sure to return tomorrow for Part Two: Did Jesus Ever Ask, “Who Am I?”

Christ’s Full Humanity

In our understandable zeal to defend the deity of Christ and exalt His divine glory, we can sometimes neglect or even distort the equally important truth of Christ’s full humanity. There seems to be much confusion especially around His physical, emotional, and intellectual development. Let’s just take the last of these and explore and explore it for a few paragraphs.

First, Christ’s humanity needed teaching. We are not here speaking of Christ’s divine mind—which was all-knowing. We are speaking of His finite and limited human mind. He was not born with perfect knowledge of everything. There were things He did not know—even divine things (Mark 13:32).

Second, Christ grew in knowledge (Luke 2:40). As He aged and matured, He also developed in His knowledge and understanding.

Third, Christ learned by listening, reading, and studying. Although there were undoubtedly times when the Holy Spirit revealed truth directly to His human mind, He usually learned in the normal human way—by listening, reading, etc.

Fourth, Christ’s most important source of knowledge was the Old Testament. The Old Testament was Christ’s most important book. His knowledge of it came to Him through His mother’s teaching, His own reading, and His hearing it read and preached in the synagogue.

Fifth, Christ knew the Old Testament better than anyone ever did. In His short time on this earth he studied it more effectively and with more understanding than anyone before or since. Christopher Wright has thought deeply and written beautifully about this area of Christ’s life, and introduces his own insights with this thought-provoking passage:

In the midst of the many intrinsically fascinating reasons why Old Testament study is so rewarding, the most exciting to me is the way it never fails to add new depths to my understanding of Jesus. I find myself aware that in reading the Hebrew Scriptures I am handling something that gives me a closer common link with Jesus than any archaeological artifact could do. For these are the words he read. These were the stories he knew. These were the songs he sang. These were the depths of wisdom and revelation and prophecy that shaped his whole view of “life, the universe and everything.” This is where he found his insights into the mind of his Father God. Above all, this is where he found the shape of his own identity and the goal of his own mission. In short, the deeper you go into understanding the Old Testament, the closer you come to the heart of Jesus. (After all, Jesus never actually read the New Testament!) (Christopher Wright, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament, p. ix.)

Sixth, Jesus knew everything he needed to know and never forgot anything he should have remembered. His sinlessness protected him from foolish, lazy, or sinful ignorance.

Mysterious Ordinariness

Many mysteries remain in this area of what Christ knew and how He learned. For example, what effect did the fact that Christ inspired the Old Testament have on His human knowledge of the Scriptures? How much did Christ learn directly, via the ministry of the Spirit? Did His human mind ever “access” His divine mind? etc.

However, whatever answers we suggest, we must jealously guard the normal ordinariness of Christ’s maturing humanity.

In his comments on Luke 2:52, John MacArthur summarizes this well:

Luke is saying that every aspect of Jesus’ development into full manhood (intellectually, spiritually, and socially) was ordinary not extraordinary… His conscious mind was therefore subject to the normal limitations of human finitude. In other words, as Luke says here, Jesus truly learned things. Although He knew everything exhaustively and omnisciently as God, He did not always maintain full awareness of everything in His human consciousness. The questions He asked those rabbis were part of the learning process, not some backhanded way of showing the rabbis up. He was truly learning from them and processing what they taught him” (John MacArthur, The Jesus You Can’t Ignore, p. 29).

The Rest of the Story

Tomorrow we’ll look at some of the specifics of how and what Christ learned.

Join the Conversation

How can we apply Jesus’ human growth and development to our own lives and ministries?

4 thoughts on “How Human Was Christ’s Humanity?

  1. David,
    Thank you for this article!  I think it’s important for believers to understand (at least to the best of our limited ability) the hypostatic union, and especially we biblical counselor types as we seek to engage the ministry of reconciliation between people and God.  One question that I have about your points here is how do you reconcile Christ’s omniscence with His having learned?  Thank you!

  2. Good question Jeff about reconciling Christ’s omniscience with his humanity requiring the need to learn. The same issue could be said of his omnipotence and his physical maturing in a human body. Although Fully God; in his incarnation, he set aside the independent use of those divine attributes. So His “Omni-ness” was not at His beck and call. Regarding omniscience; His understanding, wisdom, memory, knowledge in all areas had to progress but without the effect of sin.

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