QUESTION 12: OF THE ACQUIRED OR EMPIRIC KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST'S SOUL
We must now consider the acquired or empiric knowledge of Christ's soul;
and under this head there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether Christ knew all things by this knowledge?
(2) Whether He advanced in this knowledge?
(3) Whether He learned anything from man?
(4) Whether He received anything from angels?
Article 1: Whether Christ knew all things by this acquired or empiric knowledge?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ did not know everything by this
knowledge. For this knowledge is acquired by experience. But Christ did
not experience everything. Therefore He did not know everything by this
Objection 2: Further, man acquires knowledge through the senses. But not all
sensible things were subjected to Christ's bodily senses. Therefore
Christ did not know everything by this knowledge.
Objection 3: Further, the extent of knowledge depends on the things knowable.
Therefore if Christ knew all things by this knowledge, His acquired
knowledge would have been equal to His infused and beatific knowledge;
which is not fitting. Therefore Christ did not know all things by this
On the contrary, Nothing imperfect was in Christ's soul. Now this
knowledge of His would have been imperfect if He had not known all things
by it, since the imperfect is that to which addition may be made. Hence
Christ knew all things by this knowledge.
I answer that, Acquired knowledge is held to be in Christ's soul, as we
have said Question , Article , by reason of the active intellect, lest its action,
which is to make things actually intelligible, should be wanting; even as
imprinted or infused knowledge is held to be in Christ's soul for the
perfection of the passive intellect. Now as the passive intellect is that
by which "all things are in potentiality," so the active intellect is
that by which "all are in act," as is said De Anima iii, 18. And hence,
as the soul of Christ knew by infused knowledge all things to which the
passive intellect is in any way in potentiality, so by acquired knowledge
it knew whatever can be known by the action of the active intellect.
Reply to Objection 1: The knowledge of things may be acquired not merely by
experiencing the things themselves, but by experiencing other things;
since by virtue of the light of the active intellect man can go on to
understand effects from causes, and causes from effects, like from like,
contrary from contrary. Therefore Christ, though He did not experience
all things, came to the knowledge of all things from what He did
Reply to Objection 2: Although all sensible things were not subjected to Christ's
bodily senses, yet other sensible things were subjected to His senses;
and from this He could come to know other things by the most excellent
force of His reason, in the manner described in the previous reply; just
as in seeing heavenly bodies He could comprehend their powers and the
effects they have upon things here below, which were not subjected to His
senses; and for the same reason, from any other things whatsoever, He
could come to the knowledge of yet other things.
Reply to Objection 3: By this knowledge the soul of Christ did not know all
things simply, but all such as are knowable by the light of man's active
intellect. Hence by this knowledge He did not know the essences of
separate substances, nor past, present, or future singulars, which,
nevertheless, He knew by infused knowledge, as was said above (Question ).
Article 2: Whether Christ advanced in acquired or empiric knowledge?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ did not advance in this knowledge. For
even as Christ knew all things by His beatific and His infused knowledge,
so also did He by this acquired knowledge, as is plain from what has been
said (Article ). But He did not advance in these knowledges. Therefore
neither in this.
Objection 2: Further, to advance belongs to the imperfect, since the perfect
cannot be added to. Now we cannot suppose an imperfect knowledge in
Christ. Therefore Christ did not advance in this knowledge.
Objection 3: Further, Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii, 22): "Whoever say
that Christ advanced in wisdom and grace, as if receiving additional
sensations, do not venerate the union which is in hypostasis." But it is
impious not to venerate this union. Therefore it is impious to say that
His knowledge received increase.
On the contrary, It is written (Lk. 2:52): "Jesus advanced in wisdom and
age and grace with God and men"; and Ambrose says (De Incar. Dom. vii)
that "He advanced in human wisdom." Now human wisdom is that which is
acquired in a human manner, i.e. by the light of the active intellect.
Therefore Christ advanced in this knowledge.
I answer that, There is a twofold advancement in knowledge: one in
essence, inasmuch as the habit of knowledge is increased; the other in
effect---e.g. if someone were with one and the same habit of knowledge to
prove to someone else some minor truths at first, and afterwards greater
and more subtle conclusions. Now in this second way it is plain that
Christ advanced in knowledge and grace, even as in age, since as His age
increased He wrought greater deeds, and showed greater knowledge and
But as regards the habit of knowledge, it is plain that His habit of
infused knowledge did not increase, since from the beginning He had
perfect infused knowledge of all things; and still less could His
beatific knowledge increase; while in the FP, Question , Article , we have
already said that His Divine knowledge could not increase. Therefore, if
in the soul of Christ there was no habit of acquired knowledge, beyond
the habit of infused knowledge, as appears to some [*Blessed Albert the
Great, Alexander of Hales, St. Bonaventure], and sometime appeared to me
(Sent. iii, D, xiv), no knowledge in Christ increased in essence, but
merely by experience, i.e. by comparing the infused intelligible species
with phantasms. And in this way they maintain that Christ's knowledge
grew in experience, e.g. by comparing the infused intelligible species
with what He received through the senses for the first time. But because
it seems unfitting that any natural intelligible action should be wanting
to Christ, and because to extract intelligible species from phantasms is
a natural action of man's active intellect, it seems becoming to place
even this action in Christ. And it follows from this that in the soul of
Christ there was a habit of knowledge which could increase by this
abstraction of species; inasmuch as the active intellect, after
abstracting the first intelligible species from phantasms, could abstract
others, and others again.
Reply to Objection 1: Both the infused knowledge and the beatific knowledge of
Christ's soul were the effects of an agent of infinite power, which could
produce the whole at once; and thus in neither knowledge did Christ
advance; since from the beginning He had them perfectly. But the acquired
knowledge of Christ is caused by the active intellect which does not
produce the whole at once, but successively; and hence by this knowledge
Christ did not know everything from the beginning, but step by step, and
after a time, i.e. in His perfect age; and this is plain from what the
Evangelist says, viz. that He increased in "knowledge and age" together.
Reply to Objection 2: Even this knowledge was always perfect for the time being,
although it was not always perfect, simply and in comparison to the
nature; hence it could increase.
Reply to Objection 3: This saying of Damascene regards those who say absolutely
that addition was made to Christ's knowledge, i.e. as regards any
knowledge of His, and especially as regards the infused knowledge which
is caused in Christ's soul by union with the Word; but it does not regard
the increase of knowledge caused by the natural agent.
Article 3: Whether Christ learned anything from man?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ learned something from man. For it is
written (Lk. 2:46,47) that, "They found Him in the temple in the midst of
the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions." But to ask
questions and to reply pertains to a learner. Therefore Christ learned
something from man.
Objection 2: Further, to acquire knowledge from a man's teaching seems more
noble than to acquire it from sensible things, since in the soul of the
man who teaches the intelligible species are in act; but in sensible
things the intelligible species are only in potentiality. Now Christ
received empiric knowledge from sensible things, as stated above (Article ).
Much more, therefore, could He receive knowledge by learning from men.
Objection 3: Further, by empiric knowledge Christ did not know everything from
the beginning, but advanced in it, as was said above (Article ). But anyone
hearing words which mean something, may learn something he does not know.
Therefore Christ could learn from men something He did not know by this
On the contrary, It is written (Ps. 45:4): "Behold, I have given Him for
a witness to the people, for a leader and a master to the Gentiles." Now
a master is not taught, but teaches. Therefore Christ did not receive any
knowledge by the teaching of any man.
I answer that, In every genus that which is the first mover is not moved
according to the same species of movement; just as the first alterative
is not itself altered. Now Christ is established by God the Head of the
Church---yea, of all men, as was said above (Question , Article ), so that not
only all might receive grace through Him, but that all might receive the
doctrine of Truth from Him. Hence He Himself says (Jn. 18:37): "For this
was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give
testimony to the truth." And thus it did not befit His dignity that He
should be taught by any man.
Reply to Objection 1: As Origen says (Hom. xix in Luc.): "Our Lord asked
questions not in order to learn anything, but in order to teach by
questioning. For from the same well of knowledge came the question and
the wise reply." Hence the Gospel goes on to say that "all that heard Him
were astonished at His wisdom and His answers."
Reply to Objection 2: Whoever learns from man does not receive knowledge
immediately from the intelligible species which are in his mind, but
through sensible words, which are signs of intelligible concepts. Now as
words formed by a man are signs of his intellectual knowledge; so are
creatures, formed by God, signs of His wisdom. Hence it is written
(Ecclus. 1:10) that God "poured" wisdom "out upon all His works." Hence,
just as it is better to be taught by God than by man, so it is better to
receive our knowledge from sensible creatures and not by man's teaching.
Reply to Objection 3: Jesus advanced in empiric knowledge, as in age, as stated
above (Article ). Now as a fitting age is required for a man to acquire
knowledge by discovery, so also that he may acquire it by being taught.
But our Lord did nothing unbecoming to His age; and hence He did not give
ear to hearing the lessons of doctrine until such time as He was able to
have reached that grade of knowledge by way of experience. Hence Gregory
says (Sup. Ezech. Lib. i, Hom. ii): "In the twelfth year of His age He
deigned to question men on earth, since in the course of reason, the word
of doctrine is not vouchsafed before the age of perfection."
Article 4: Whether Christ received knowledge from the angels?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ received knowledge from the angels. For
it is written (Lk. 22:43) that "there appeared to Him an angel from
heaven, strengthening Him." But we are strengthened by the comforting
words of a teacher, according to Job 4:3,4: "Behold thou hast taught many
and hast strengthened the weary hand. Thy words have confirmed them that
were staggering." Therefore Christ was taught by angels.
Objection 2: Further, Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. iv): "For I see that even
Jesus---the super-substantial substance of supercelestial
substances---when without change He took our substance upon Himself, was
subject in obedience to the instructions of the Father and God by the
angels." Hence it seems that even Christ wished to be subject to the
ordinations of the Divine law, whereby men are taught by means of angels.
Objection 3: Further, as in the natural order the human body is subject to the
celestial bodies, so likewise is the human mind to angelic minds. Now
Christ's body was subject to the impressions of the heavenly bodies, for
He felt the heat in summer and the cold in winter, and other human
passions. Therefore His human mind was subject to the illuminations of
On the contrary, Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. vii) that "the highest
angels question Jesus, and learn the knowledge of His Divine work, and of
the flesh assumed for us; and Jesus teaches them directly." Now to teach
and to be taught do not belong to the same. Therefore Christ did not
receive knowledge from the angels.
I answer that, Since the human soul is midway between spiritual
substances and corporeal things, it is perfected naturally in two ways.
First by knowledge received from sensible things; secondly, by knowledge
imprinted or infused by the illumination of spiritual substances. Now in
both these ways the soul of Christ was perfected; first by empirical
knowledge of sensible things, for which there is no need of angelic
light, since the light of the active intellect suffices; secondly, by the
higher impression of infused knowledge, which He received directly from
God. For as His soul was united to the Word above the common mode, in
unity of person, so above the common manner of men was it filled with
knowledge and grace by the Word of God Himself; and not by the medium of
angels, who in their beginning received the knowledge of things by the
influence of the Word, as Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. ii, 8).
Reply to Objection 1: This strengthening by the angel was for the purpose not of
instructing Him, but of proving the truth of His human nature. Hence Bede
says (on Lk. 22:43): "In testimony of both natures are the angels said to
have ministered to Him and to have strengthened Him. For the Creator did
not need help from His creature; but having become man, even as it was
for our sake that He was sad, so was it for our sake that He was
strengthened," i.e. in order that our faith in the Incarnation might be
Reply to Objection 2: Dionysius says that Christ was subject to the angelic
instructions, not by reason of Himself, but by reason of what happened at
His Incarnation, and as regards the care of Him whilst He was a child.
Hence in the same place he adds that "Jesus' withdrawal to Egypt decreed
by the Father is announced to Joseph by angels, and again His return to
Judaea from Egypt."
Reply to Objection 3: The Son of God assumed a passible body (as will be said
hereafter (Question , Article )) and a soul perfect in knowledge and grace (Question , Article , ad 1; Article ). Hence His body was rightly subject to the impression
of heavenly bodies; but His soul was not subject to the impression of