QUESTION 9: OF CHRIST'S KNOWLEDGE IN GENERAL
We must now consider Christ's knowledge; concerning which the
consideration will be twofold. First, of Christ's knowledge in general;
secondly, of each particular kind of knowledge He had.
Under the first head there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether Christ had any knowledge besides the Divine?
(2) Whether He had the knowledge which the blessed or comprehensors have?
(3) Whether He had an imprinted or infused knowledge?
(4) Whether He had any acquired knowledge?
Article 1: Whether Christ had any knowledge besides the Divine?
Objection 1: It would seem that in Christ there was no knowledge except the
Divine. For knowledge is necessary that things may be known thereby. But
by His Divine knowledge Christ knew all things. Therefore any other
knowledge would have been superfluous in Him.
Objection 2: Further, the lesser light is dimmed by the greater. But all
created knowledge in comparison with the uncreated knowledge of God is as
the lesser to the greater light. Therefore there shone in Christ no other
knowledge except the Divine.
Objection 3: Further, the union of the human nature with the Divine took place
in the Person, as is clear from Question , Article . Now, according to some there
is in Christ a certain "knowledge of the union," whereby Christ knew what
belongs to the mystery of the Incarnation more fully than anyone else.
Hence, since the personal union contains two natures, it would seem that
there are not two knowledges in Christ, but one only, pertaining to both
On the contrary, Ambrose says (De Incarnat. vii): "God assumed the perfection of human nature in the flesh; He took upon Himself the sense of man, but not the swollen sense of the flesh." But created knowledge pertains to the sense of man. Therefore in Christ there was created knowledge.
I answer that, As said above (Question ), the Son of God assumed an entire
human nature, i.e. not only a body, but also a soul, and not only a
sensitive, but also a rational soul. And therefore it behooved Him to
have created knowledge, for three reasons. First, on account of the
soul's perfection. For the soul, considered in itself, is in potentiality
to knowing intelligible things. since it is like "a tablet on which
nothing is written," and yet it may be written upon through the possible
intellect, whereby it may become all things, as is said De Anima iii, 18.
Now what is in potentiality is imperfect unless reduced to act. But it
was fitting that the Son of God should assume, not an imperfect, but a
perfect human nature, since the whole human race was to be brought back
to perfection by its means. Hence it behooved the soul of Christ to be
perfected by a knowledge, which would be its proper perfection. And
therefore it was necessary that there should be another knowledge in
Christ besides the Divine knowledge, otherwise the soul of Christ would
have been more imperfect than the souls of the rest of men. Secondly,
because, since everything is on account of its operation, as stated De
Coel. ii, 17, Christ would have had an intellective soul to no purpose if
He had not understood by it; and this pertains to created knowledge.
Thirdly, because some created knowledge pertains to the nature of the
human soul, viz. that whereby we naturally know first principles; since
we are here taking knowledge for any cognition of the human intellect.
Now nothing natural was wanting to Christ, since He took the whole human
nature, as stated above (Question ). And hence the Sixth Council [*Third
Council of Constantinople, Act. 4] condemned the opinion of those who
denied that in Christ there are two knowledges or wisdoms.
Reply to Objection 1: Christ knew all things with the Divine knowledge by an
uncreated operation which is the very Essence of God; since God's
understanding is His substance, as the Philosopher proves (Metaph. xii,
text. 39). Hence this act could not belong to the human soul of Christ,
seeing that it belongs to another nature. Therefore, if there had been no
other knowledge in the soul of Christ, it would have known nothing; and
thus it would have been assumed to no purpose, since everything is on
account of its operation.
Reply to Objection 2: If the two lights are supposed to be in the same order, the
lesser is dimmed by the greater, as the light of the sun dims the light
of a candle, both being in the class of illuminants. But if we suppose
two lights, one of which is in the class of illuminants and the other in
the class of illuminated, the lesser light is not dimmed by the greater,
but rather is strengthened, as the light of the air by the light of the
sun. And in this manner the light of knowledge is not dimmed, but rather
is heightened in the soul of Christ by the light of the Divine knowledge,
which is "the true light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into
this world," as is written Jn. 1:9.
Reply to Objection 3: On the part of what are united we hold there is a
knowledge in Christ, both as to His Divine and as to His human nature; so
that, by reason of the union whereby there is one hypostasis of God and
man, the things of God are attributed to man, and the things of man are
attributed to God, as was said above (Question , Articles ,6). But on the part of
the union itself we cannot admit any knowledge in Christ. For this union
is in personal being, and knowledge belongs to person only by reason of a
Article 2: Whether Christ had the knowledge which the blessed or comprehensors have?
Objection 1: It would seem that in Christ there was not the knowledge of the
blessed or comprehensors. For the knowledge of the blessed is a
participation of Divine light, according to Ps. 35:10: "In Thy light we
shall see light." Now Christ had not a participated light, but He had the
Godhead Itself substantially abiding in Him, according to Col. 2:9: "For
in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead corporeally." Therefore in
Christ there was not the knowledge of the blessed.
Objection 2: Further, the knowledge of the blessed makes them blessed,
according to Jn. 17:3: "This is eternal life: that they may know Thee,
the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent." But this Man
was blessed through being united to God in person, according to Ps. 64:5:
"Blessed is He Whom Thou hast chosen and taken to Thee." Therefore it is
not necessary to suppose the knowledge of the blessed in Him.
Objection 3: Further, to man belongs a double knowledge---one by nature, one
above nature. Now the knowledge of the blessed, which consists in the
vision of God, is not natural to man, but above his nature. But in Christ
there was another and much higher supernatural knowledge, i.e. the Divine
knowledge. Therefore there was no need of the knowledge of the blessed in
On the contrary, The knowledge of the blessed consists in the knowledge
of God. But He knew God fully, even as He was man, according to Jn. 8:55:
"I do know Him, and do keep His word." Therefore in Christ there was the
knowledge of the blessed.
I answer that, What is in potentiality is reduced to act by what is in
act; for that whereby things are heated must itself be hot. Now man is in
potentiality to the knowledge of the blessed, which consists in the
vision of God; and is ordained to it as to an end; since the rational
creature is capable of that blessed knowledge, inasmuch as he is made in
the image of God. Now men are brought to this end of beatitude by the
humanity of Christ, according to Heb. 2:10: "For it became Him, for Whom
are all things, and by Whom are all things, Who had brought many children
unto glory, to perfect the author of their salvation by His passion." And
hence it was necessary that the beatific knowledge, which consists in the
vision of God, should belong to Christ pre-eminently, since the cause
ought always to be more efficacious than the effect.
Reply to Objection 1: The Godhead is united to the manhood of Christ in Person,
not in essence or nature; yet with the unity of Person remains the
distinction of natures. And therefore the soul of Christ, which is a part
of human nature, through a light participated from the Divine Nature, is
perfected with the beatific knowledge whereby it sees God in essence.
Reply to Objection 2: By the union this Man is blessed with the uncreated
beatitude, even as by the union He is God; yet besides the uncreated
beatitude it was necessary that there should be in the human nature of
Christ a created beatitude, whereby His soul was established in the last
end of human nature.
Reply to Objection 3: The beatific vision and knowledge are to some extent above
the nature of the rational soul, inasmuch as it cannot reach it of its
own strength; but in another way it is in accordance with its nature,
inasmuch as it is capable of it by nature, having been made to the
likeness of God, as stated above. But the uncreated knowledge is in every
way above the nature of the human soul.
Article 3: Whether Christ had an imprinted or infused knowledge?
Objection 1: It would seem that there was not in Christ another infused
knowledge besides the beatific knowledge. For all other knowledge
compared to the beatific knowledge is like imperfect to perfect. But
imperfect knowledge is removed by the presence of perfect knowledge, as
the clear "face-to-face" vision removes the enigmatical vision of faith,
as is plain from 1 Cor. 13:10,12. Since, therefore, in Christ there was
the beatific knowledge, as stated above (Article ), it would seem that there
could not be any other imprinted knowledge.
Objection 2: Further, an imperfect mode of cognition disposes towards a more
perfect, as opinion, the result of dialectical syllogisms, disposes
towards science, which results from demonstrative syllogisms. Now, when
perfection is reached, there is no further need of the disposition, even
as on reaching the end motion is no longer necessary. Hence, since every
created cognition is compared to beatific cognition, as imperfect to
perfect and as disposition to its term, it seems that since Christ had
beatific knowledge, it was not necessary for Him to have any other
Objection 3: Further, as corporeal matter is in potentiality to sensible forms, so the possible intellect is in potentiality to intelligible forms. Now corporeal matter cannot receive two forms at once! one more perfect and the other less perfect. Therefore neither can the soul receive a double knowledge at once, one more perfect and the other less perfect; and hence the same conclusion as above.
On the contrary, It is written (Col. 2:3) that in Christ "are hid all
the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), it was fitting that the human
nature assumed by the Word of God should not be imperfect. Now everything
in potentiality is imperfect unless it be reduced to act. But the passive
intellect of man is in potentiality to all intelligible things. and it is
reduced to act by intelligible species, which are its completive forms,
as is plain from what is said De Anima iii, 32,38. And hence we must
admit in the soul of Christ an infused knowledge, inasmuch as the Word of
God imprinted upon the soul of Christ, which is personally united to Him,
intelligible species of all things to which the possible intellect is in
potentiality; even as in the beginning of the creation of things, the
Word of God imprinted intelligible species upon the angelic mind, as is
clear from Augustine (Gen. ad lit. ii, 8). And therefore, even as in the
angels, according to Augustine (Gen. ad lit. iv, 22,24,30), there is a
double knowledge---one the morning knowledge, whereby they know things in
the Word; the other the evening knowledge, whereby they know things in
their proper natures by infused species; so likewise, besides the Divine
and uncreated knowledge in Christ, there is in His soul a beatific
knowledge, whereby He knows the Word, and things in the Word; and an
infused or imprinted knowledge, whereby He knows things in their proper
nature by intelligible species proportioned to the human mind.
Reply to Objection 1: The imperfect vision of faith is essentially opposed to
manifest vision, seeing that it is of the essence of faith to have
reference to the unseen, as was said above (SS, Question , Article ). But
cognition by infused species includes no opposition to beatific
cognition. Therefore there is no parity.
Reply to Objection 2: Disposition is referred to perfection in two ways: first,
as a way leading to perfection; secondly, as an effect proceeding from
perfection; thus matter is disposed by heat to receive the form of fire,
and, when this comes, the heat does not cease, but remains as an effect
of this form. So, too, opinion caused by a dialectical syllogism is a way
to knowledge, which is acquired by demonstration, yet, when this has been
acquired, there may still remain the knowledge gained by the dialectical
syllogism, following, so to say, the demonstrative knowledge, which is
based on the cause, since he who knows the cause is thereby enabled the
better to understand the probable signs from which dialectical syllogisms
proceed. So likewise in Christ, together with the beatific knowledge,
there still remains infused knowledge, not as a way to beatitude, but as
strengthened by beatitude.
Reply to Objection 3: The beatific knowledge is not by a species, that is a
similitude of the Divine Essence, or of whatever is known in the Divine
Essence, as is plain from what has been said in the FP, Question , Article ; but
it is a knowledge of the Divine Essence immediately, inasmuch as the
Divine Essence itself is united to the beatified mind as an intelligible
to an intelligent being; and the Divine Essence is a form exceeding the
capacity of any creature whatsoever. Hence, together with this
super-exceeding form, there is nothing to hinder from being in the
rational mind, intelligible species, proportioned to its nature.
Article 4: Whether Christ had any acquired knowledge?
Objection 1: It would seem that in Christ there was no empiric and acquired
knowledge. For whatever befitted Christ, He had most perfectly. Now
Christ did not possess acquired knowledge most perfectly, since He did
not devote Himself to the study of letters, by which knowledge is
acquired in its perfection; for it is said (Jn. 7:15): "The Jews
wondered, saying: How doth this Man know letters, having never learned?"
Therefore it seems that in Christ there was no acquired knowledge.
Objection 2: Further, nothing can be added to what is full. But the power of
Christ's soul was filled with intelligible species divinely infused, as
was said above (A. 3). Therefore no acquired species could accrue to His
Objection 3: Further, he who already has the habit of knowledge, acquires no
new habit, through what he receives from the senses (otherwise two forms
of the same species would be in the same thing together); but the habit
which previously existed is strengthened and increased. Therefore, since
Christ had the habit of infused knowledge, it does not seem that He
acquired a new knowledge through what He perceived by the senses.
On the contrary, It is written (Heb. 5:8): "Whereas . . . He was the Son
of God, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered," i.e.
"experienced," says a gloss. Therefore there was in the soul of Christ an
empiric knowledge, which is acquired knowledge.
I answer that, As is plain from Article , nothing that God planted in our
nature was wanting to the human nature assumed by the Word of God. Now it
is manifest that God planted in human nature not only a passive, but an
active intellect. Hence it is necessary to say that in the soul of Christ
there was not merely a passive, but also an active intellect. But if in
other things God and nature make nothing in vain, as the Philosopher says
(De Coel. i, 31; ii, 59), still less in the soul of Christ is there
anything in vain. Now what has not its proper operation is useless, as is
said in De Coel. ii, 17. Now the proper operation of the active intellect
is to make intelligible species in act, by abstracting them from
phantasms; hence, it is said (De Anima iii, 18) that the active intellect
is that "whereby everything is made actual." And thus it is necessary to
say that in Christ there were intelligible species received in the
passive intellect by the action of the active intellect---which means
that there was acquired knowledge in Him, which some call empiric. And
hence, although I wrote differently (Sent. iii, D, xiv, Article ; D, xviii, Article ), it must be said that in Christ there was acquired knowledge,
which is properly knowledge in a human fashion, both as regards the
subject receiving and as regards the active cause. For such knowledge
springs from Christ's active intellect, which is natural to the human
soul. But infused knowledge is attributed to the soul, on account of a
light infused from on high, and this manner of knowing is proportioned to
the angelic nature. But the beatific knowledge, whereby the very Essence
of God is seen, is proper and natural to God alone, as was said in the
FP, Question , Article .
Reply to Objection 1: Since there is a twofold way of acquiring knowledge---by
discovery and by being taught---the way of discovery is the higher, and
the way of being taught is secondary. Hence it is said (Ethic. i, 4): "He
indeed is the best who knows everything by himself: yet he is good who
obeys him that speaks aright." And hence it was more fitting for Christ
to possess a knowledge acquired by discovery than by being taught,
especially since He was given to be the Teacher of all, according to Joel
2:23: "Be joyful in the Lord your God, because He hath given you a
Teacher of justice."
Reply to Objection 2: The human mind has two relations---one to higher things,
and in this respect the soul of Christ was full of the infused knowledge.
The other relation is to lower things, i.e. to phantasms, which naturally
move the human mind by virtue of the active intellect. Now it was
necessary that even in this respect the soul of Christ should be filled
with knowledge, not that the first fulness was insufficient for the human
mind in itself, but that it behooved it to be also perfected with regard
Reply to Objection 3: Acquired and infused habits are not to be classed together;
for the habit of knowledge is acquired by the relation of the human mind
to phantasms; hence, another habit of the same kind cannot be again
acquired. But the habit of infused knowledge is of a different nature, as
coming down to the soul from on high, and not from phantasms. And hence
there is no parity between these habits.