Author Tim Barnett
Published on 04/29/2024

How Can Jesus Be God if He Didn’t Know This?

Many Muslims love to cite Mark 13:32 as proof that Jesus cannot be God. Tim Barnett explains why this objection doesn’t work.


Christian: You also don’t believe that Jesus is God.

Muslim: I don’t believe he’s God, no, because, for example, does God know everything? Yes. But did Jesus know the hour of his return?

Christian: I’m assuming he does. Oh, no, he doesn’t.

Muslim: Let me give you the Bible. Let me show it to you. So, if Jesus didn’t know the hour, and you said God knows everything, then how could he be God?

Tim: Many Muslims love to cite Mark 13:32 as proof that Jesus cannot be God. Speaking of the second coming, Jesus says, “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Here’s the challenge: If Jesus is God, then he is all knowing, but this text says Jesus is not all knowing. After all, it identifies something Jesus doesn’t know: his second coming. Therefore, Jesus can’t be God.

Though I don’t think this is the gotcha that many people think it is, it does require a thoughtful response. I think this can be explained by the incarnation of Jesus. When the second person of the Trinity took on human flesh, he also took on certain limitations. Like any other human, Jesus had to learn to walk and talk and read. Now, by limitations, I mean that there was a voluntary restricting or veiling of his divine attributes. He did not give up his divine attributes. If he did, he’d cease to be God. Rather, he willingly chose not to use them.

Maybe an analogy might help, though no analogy is perfect. Imagine I veiled my eyes with an eye mask. Notice that I voluntarily restricted my eyesight so I can’t see, even though I retain my eyesight when the veil is removed. In a similar way, Jesus has veiled his divine attributes. This isn’t mere speculation. Paul describes the mystery of the incarnation in a letter to the Philippians. Listen to these words. “Jesus...did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6–8). This emptying is best understood as a voluntary limiting or veiling of the divine attributes. The clearest example of this is how Jesus limits his glory. In his high priestly prayer, Jesus says, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5).

Jesus had a glory before the world existed, but it was veiled during his earthly ministry. We can only go so far in trying to understand the mystery of the incarnation, but I think this response is adequate to meet the challenge.