© 2003, E. K. P. Chong. All rights reserved
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.An identical verse appears in Matthew 24:36. How is this compatible with the orthodox view that Jesus is God and hence is omniscient? Over the centuries, groups like the Ebionites, Arians, Nestorians, and Eutychians have used this verse to argue that Jesus was not fully divine.2 In response, the church fathers developed interpretive approaches to Mark 13:32, which today continue to form the basis for theological solutions to this problem. In 451 A.D., the Council of Chalcedon, in Act V, defined the union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ.3 According to this definition, Christ is "truly God and truly man." This Chalcedonian formula has since become a hallmark of orthodox Christology. How exactly does this orthodox view reckon with Mark 13:32? In this essay, I outline the prevalent solutions to the controversy surrounding Mark 13:32, the major proponents of each solution, and its basis. I also provide some evaluation of these solutions, indicating which have garnered mainstream acceptance, and why.
To "know" means to "make known," ... A particular Trinitarian person is officially the one to reveal another, and in this reference the others do not officially reveal, and so are officially "ignorant." ... When it is said that the "Father only" knows the time of the day of judgment, this must be harmonized with the truth that the Holy Spirit is omniscient, and "searcheth the deep things of God," 1 Cor. 2:10. The Holy Spirit is not ignorant of the time of the day of Judgment, but like the incarnate Son he is not commissioned to reveal the time ... Again, it is not supposable that Christ now seated on the mediatorial throne is ignorant, even in respect to his human nature, of the time of the day of judgment, though he is not authorized to officially make it known to his church.The official-ignorance view was held as far back as by Hilary of Poitiers (315-367); it was also the view espoused by Augustine (354-430). Today, this view is a minority view. As Carl points out, "The only other modern author found [other than Shedd], and he not so modern, to espouse the official ignorance view is Lewis Sperry Chafer."13 This view remains appealing to those who cannot accept that Christ could be ignorant in any real sense.14
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.Kenosis, often translated "to empty" or "to make into nothing," is how Christ's incarnation is described here. Thus, in explaining Mark 13:32, kenosis theologians (kenoticists) would say that Christ was ignorant because He willingly emptied Himself of His divinity when He became incarnate. Kenoticism developed with the work of Gottfried Thomasius (1802-75), a German Lutheran. The view continued to develop in Germany in the period 1860-80, and in England in 1890-1910.15 Over the years, several views of the kenosis have developed, some more liberal than others in reconciling this view with the rest of Scriptures:16
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.As Robert L. Thomas describes, based on this reading, "Boyd reasons that the Father could not know precisely the day or hour because that date has not yet been set."25 Boyd's rationale is that, as Roger Nicole explains, "the Father himself really could not determine this in advance because of the smog of human liberty."26