Question 10. The Beatific Knowledge of Christ’s Soul


Did the soul of Christ comprehend the Word or the Divine Essence?

The Divine Essence is not finite with respect to the soul of Christ, since It infinitely exceeds it. Therefore the soul of Christ does not comprehend the Word. As always, we reaffirm the true humanity of Christ.  And a human sol cannot comprehend the infinite.  Only the infinite can comprehend the infinite, and so the human soul, created as it is, cannot do this.

We must not confuse, we must not “mix” the natures in Christ.  He is not part man, part God.  He is fully man and fully God.  And man cannot comprehend the infinite God.  His soul then, has human limits, or it would not truly be human.

Did it know all things in the Word?

This to me is one of the most difficult of questions. St. Thomas says yes, if we are asking if He knew “all that in any way whatsoever is, will be, or was done, said, or thought, by whomsoever and at any time. In this way it must be said that the soul of Christ knows all things in the Word.” Still, Thomas insists, as he had just said above, that the intellect of the man Jesus cannot comprehend God.

Thomas does not fail to address that ultimate question, pertaining to Christ’s saying “But of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father.” He answers that “He is said, therefore, not to know the day and the hour of the Judgment, for that He does not make it known, since, on being asked by the apostles (Acts 1:7), He was unwilling to reveal it.”

“The soul of Christ knows all things that God knows in Himself by the knowledge of vision, but not all that God knows in Himself by knowledge of simple intelligence; and thus in Himself God knows many more things than the soul of Christ.”

To me, it is hard to see that this is conclusive, but I also do not doubt that Thomas pondered this mystery much before stating this.  We should do likewise, and know that we should never try to remove all mystery from revelation.

In reply to a later objection, but helpful here also, he also says “Therefore, although the knowledge of the soul of Christ which He has in the Word is equal to the knowledge of vision as regards the number of things known, nevertheless the knowledge of God infinitely exceeds the knowledge of the soul of Christ in clearness of cognition.”

Did the soul of Christ know the infinite in the Word?

Objection: The knowledge of the infinite is infinite. But the knowledge of the soul of Christ cannot be infinite, because its capacity is finite, since it is created. Therefore the soul of Christ cannot know the infinite. (Was this not Thomas’ position above?)

“In the power of the creature there is an infinite number of things, it knows the infinite, as it were, by a certain knowledge of simple intelligence, and not by a knowledge of vision.”

We must ponder the infinite for a moment.  The infinite, according to Aristotle, is always possible in potential (we can always add one more) but never in act (if it was, we couldn’t add one more). In the respect of the possible, even as humans we can contemplate the infinite, but not infinite in actual act (which is God, and as we said before, we cannot comprehend God).

To state something similar in Thomas own words: “If there were an infinite number of men, they would have a relative infinity, i.e. in multitude; but, as regards the essence, they would be finite, since the essence of all would be limited to one specific nature. But what is simply infinite in its essence is God.”

This second and actually existing infinite essence is unknowable and not comprehendible to anything created, including man, angels, and the human soul of Christ.

Ponder this example as an exercise in contemplating infinity:

We observe this (a “greater” infinity in multiple infinite things than in a singular) in numbers also, for the species of even numbers are infinite, and likewise the species of odd numbers are infinite; yet there are more even and odd numbers than even.

Did it see the Word or the Divine Essence clearer than did any other creature?

God has set Christ “on His right hand in the heavenly places, above all principality and power and virtue and dominion and every name that is named not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.”

If we return to Question 2, we are well reminded that the union of the human nature to the Son of God is the greatest of unions.  It is in and because of this union that the soul of Christ can see the divine essence better than any creature, be they an angel or a human who has obtained the beatific vision.

The degree of this vision depends on the order of grace in which Christ is supreme, rather than on the order of nature, in which the angelic nature is placed before the human.


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