Saturday, 19 April 2008

What did Jesus know? Part 2

In my previous post I posited 4 categories which we can reasonably split the concept of knowledge into (there are others such as mathematical/ logical but this is unnecessary for our purposes here):
  • History
  • Future events
  • General facts
  • Personal thoughts
Of these, men usually only have access to 2 categories: history, if it has been documented; and general facts, if they have been discovered.

Men in general do not know the other 2 categories. Future events can only be known by God and those whom he chooses to reveal them to. Personal thoughts are only known to the man who has them and those to whom he reveals his thoughts; as well as God and those whom God chooses to reveal them.

Therefore discussion about whether Jesus knows facts concerning Joe Future is irrelevant to whether he knows historical events and whether he believes them. Now I happen to think that Jesus did not know every future event during his sojourn on earth. He knew a lot because the Father revealed it to him. Further, he could easily have known about Michael, Chris and James in the same way he knew about the way Peter was to die—revelation. But being human limited his ability to know everything in the universe at that time. And even if he did not give thought to every person he redeemed as he died on the cross, he certainly did in heaven before the incarnation and does so now.

Jesus' opinion about Genesis is not so much a question of knowledge in general but the knowledge of historical events and general facts (though predominantly history). Did Jesus concede to the worldview of the day and the documents of the past? If he was taught false belief the Father was able to correct him, whether the Father did so a further question. We need to deal with history versus myth and fact versus pseudofacts.

Dealing with factual knowledge first: I am not certain that many of the beliefs of the ancients were incorrect. What needs to be remembered is incomplete knowledge is not false knowledge. Further, an alternative classification scheme is neither incomplete nor false, it is just different. Examples of these:
  • Thinking we need to breathe air to survive is incomplete knowledge, thinking that oxygen is the component of air required for respiration is more complete knowledge.
  • Categorising animals based on locomotion or habitat is correct knowledge even though moderns prefer to use a more complete body plan for classification. (This is type of knowledge is always true because it involves making definitions).
  • Thinking maggots spontaneously generate from the essence of rotten food is incorrect knowledge.
Not knowing something and deferring an opinion till more information is available is not incorrect knowledge.

It is my suspicion that much of the ancients' factual knowledge was correct, even if, at times, it was incomplete. One could find several ancient ideas that were incorrect, however I suspect they would predominantly be amongst the speculations of the philosophers of the age. The reason for this is that most factual knowledge is merely observation, and the ancients were perfectly able to do as such. Errors are more likely to creep in where the gaps in knowledge were unobservable and speculation was made. Of course men are free to refrain from speculation and acknowledge ignorance. I do not see evidence in Scripture that Jesus held to false views of the world.

When considering history it matters if the history recorded is indeed accurate; and if not, is it inappropriately accepted, or dismissed for suspicion of error. That Jesus held to the truth of Scripture is easily provable. Whenever Jesus references Scriptures that record historical events he clearly believes they accurately describe reality.

Evidence that Jesus thought the biblical narrative reflected reality is seen in 2 ways in which Jesus interacted with it.

Firstly, Jesus' claims are based on the truth of the historical record. That Jesus' contemporaries will be judged harshly is based on the fact that Jonah was a real prophet and the Ninevites really repented. Examples could be extended to other historical personages such as Abel, Abraham and Zechariah. The form of Jesus' argument is based on the activities of these people really happening.

Secondly, Jesus affirms the truth of Scripture. Claims like,
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,... (Joh 5)
presuppose that Scripture is a reliable witness. More striking is how Jesus states that Scripture itself can prove men are in error:
Jesus said to them, "Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? (Mar 12)
When we suggest that Jesus falsely believed the historical nature of the Bible because of cultural considerations we both invalidate the premises on which Jesus corrects error, and deny his claim that Scripture is the arbiter of truth. If we destroy the premises our options become:
  • Jesus' comments were based on the incorrect views of the day therefore we can disregard them, or
  • we believe Jesus conclusions even though they were based on faulty logic
That the Father revealed the heart of Nathanael to Jesus yet did not inform him that parts of the Bible were untrue, or that passages that Jesus assumed were literal for his argument were in fact metaphorical, seems to stretch credibility.

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