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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Consciousness —We have to consider, so far as the facts recorded in the Gospels permit, our Lord’s consciousness of Himself and of His mission. The subject is difficult. It is beset by perplexing psychological and theological problems. It also demands very careful treatment, for it opens up discussions which may soon pass beyond the limits prescribed by reverence. We shall be guided by the following division:—

I. The data, as found in the Gospels.

i. Certain narratives that reveal the consciousness of Jesus.

ii. The implications involved in His teaching generally, and in the impression He produced upon His disciples.

II. Psychological problems.

i. Growth.

ii. The Divine consciousness and the human.

iii. Knowledge and ignorance.

III. Theological results.

i. Uniqueness of our Lord’s personality.

ii. His Divinity.

I. The Gospel Data

i. Narratives revealing the, consciousness of Jesus .— 1. Among the narratives which, in a specially clear way, reveal our Lord’s consciousness, one of the most remarkable refers to a very early period of His life. St. Luke tells us ( Luke 2:41-52) of His visit to Jerusalem at the age of twelve years. When, after long searching, He is found in the Temple, and His mother questions Him, ‘Why hast thou thus dealt with us?’ His reply shows plainly that extraordinary realization of God which is the most outstanding characteristic of His consciousness: ‘How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be in my Father’s house?’ (or, ‘about my Father’s business,’ ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατράς μου). Here is evident the work of the child’s imagination, in which the dominant idea controls absolutely everything else, and the most unlikely events appear perfectly natural: ‘How is it that ye sought me?’ What is extraordinary is the nature of this dominant idea. Already, at the age of twelve, our Lord knows God as His Father, and that in a manner so intimate and so peculiar that ordinary human relationships are as nothing in comparison with the relation to God. The doing of God’s will is already the supreme motive. It is to be noted also how the ‘ my Father’ of His reply contrasts with the ‘ thy father’ of Mary’s question. It is perhaps more natural to regard this as the inevitable reaction of His consciousness than as a deliberate correction of His mother. If so, it is all the more impressive. It shows how fundamental was the position in His mind of the filial relation in which He stood to God. How unlike this was to the Jewish mind of the time is shown by St. Luke’s statement about Joseph and Mary: ‘They understood not the saying which he spake unto them.’

2. The Baptism occupies an important place in the data of our subject. It is clear that all the Evangelists intend to point out that our Lord’s baptism was unlike all others performed by John the Baptist. It was not a baptism of repentance. This is most clearly shown in St. Matthew’s account. John felt the difficulty and ‘would have hindered him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? But Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it now; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.’ John discerned the incongruity, and our Lord acknowledged it, but gave a reason which showed how distinctly He realized His unique position and calling. The baptism was part of God’s will for Him. It had a necessary place in His life and work. It is also noteworthy that the descent of the Spirit and the voice from heaven are stated by St. Mark to have been manifested to our Lord Himself. With this St. Matthew and St. Luke agree. Only from St. John do we learn that the Baptist shared the experience. In view of what has gone before, we cannot look upon this event as the beginning of our Lord’s knowledge of His unique Sonship. It was, rather, an objective Divine confirmation of the truths which He already knew from the testimony of His inner consciousness. It was manifested to Himself and to the Baptist when the time had come for the public proclamation of the gospel of the Kingdom. It was a witness to His Sonship, ‘Thou art my beloved Son’; to His sinlessness, ‘in thee I am well pleased’; and to His Messiahship, ‘He saw the heavens rent asunder, and the Spirit as a dove descending upon him’ (see  Isaiah 42:1).

Careful study of the Gospels shows that these three elements in our Lord’s consciousness are those which are disclosed most frequently in His life and teaching.

Some able students ( e.g. Wendt, Teaching of Jesus , i. p. 96 ff., English translation) think that at the Baptism Jesus first attained to the consciousness of His Messiahship, though already aware of His Sonship. But, as has just been pointed out, the answer which He gave to John the Baptist reveals a fully developed sense, not merely of His sinlessness and relation to God, but of His mission. The testimony of even one Evangelist (St. Matthew) on a point like this is superior, as evidence, to any amount of psychological speculation.

3. The Temptation of our Lord, following immediately ( Mark 1:12) after His Baptism, shows the nature of the internal conflict which He had to face when He set about the work of His life. There was no struggle with doubt as regards God, or Himself, or the end which He sought. The force of every temptation depended indeed on the clearness with which these were realized. His victory was an overcoming of the tendency to escape from the limitation, the lowliness, and the self-sacrifice which, to human thought, seem so unbecoming the Son of God in His great work of establishing the Kingdom.

It is impossible in the short space available here to deal with all the definite instances of self-revelation which are given in the four Gospels. It must suffice to dwell briefly upon a few of the more remarkable, and to mention such of the rest as cannot be omitted. It may be added that, to those who have really considered the question, almost every incident in our Lord’s life is, in some way or other, a manifestation of His superhuman consciousness.

4. One of the most noteworthy instances is that given by St. Matthew ( Matthew 11:25 ff.) and by St. Luke ( Luke 10:21 ff.). St. Luke introduces the passage with the remarkable words, ‘In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, and said.’ It is a proof that the Apostles recognized our Lord’s utterance on this occasion as the open expression of His communion with God. The insight into the heart of God, which was the secret of the inner life of Jesus, finds here such utterance as human language can give it. He addresses God as ‘Father, Lord of heaven and earth,’ a great expression which foreshadows the truth which follows: ‘All things have been delivered unto me of my Father; and no one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him’ ( Matthew 11:27). It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of these words. They contain four great assertions about our Lord and His work: (1) His universal authority; (2) the mystery of His person, known in its fulness to the Father only; (3) the unique relation of the Son to the Father, as involved in the Son’s perfect knowledge of the Father; (4) the knowledge of the Father, so far as it is possible to man, is to be had only through the Son. This short passage contains the whole Christology of the Fourth Gospel. It records for us an occasion when our Lord permitted His hearers to gain some insight into His consciousness of God, of Himself, and of His mission.

Among the many important passages which agree with those which have been discussed, may be mentioned the following: (1) The account of our Lord’s reception of the disciples of John the Baptist who brought their master’s doubts to Him for solution ( Matthew 11:2-7 and  Luke 7:19-24). Here our Lord’s perfect confidence in His mission is obviously based upon His consciousness. The contrast with the intensely human searchings of heart displayed by John in his time of trial is very striking. (2) The narrative which includes the confession of St. Peter and the teaching which followed it ( Matthew 16:13 ff.,  Mark 8:27 ff.;  Luke 9:18 ff.). The announcement of His approaching death and the tremendous terms in which He claims the utmost self-sacrifice from His disciples, give an extraordinary depth to the revelation of our Lord’s self-knowledge contained in this narrative. (3) Every incident and every teaching belonging to the last period of the ministry reveals the overpowering intensity of His consciousness of the mission which He had to fulfil and of its dependence upon Himself. All the circumstances of His public entry into Jerusalem are notable in this respect ( Matthew 21:1-16,  Mark 11:1-11,  Luke 19:29-47,  John 12:12-19; see especially  Luke 19:39-45 in St. Luke’s account). (4) His answers to those who questioned His authority ( Matthew 21:23–end,  Mark 11:27 to  Mark 12:12,  Luke 20:1-19) are equally impressive. The parable of the Wicked Husbandmen, which is given in all the Synoptic Gospels, is very striking, as showing how our Lord made an essential distinction between Himself and all other messengers of God. (5) The description of the Future Judgment ( Matthew 25:31-46, cf.  Mark 8:38, which shows the same conception, and proves that the idea is not peculiar to St. Matthew among the Synoptists), contains as lofty a conception of the dignity of the Son as any passage in the Fourth Gospel: ‘Then shall the king say’ ( Matthew 25:34; Mat_25:40). What a depth of consciousness is involved in the words, ‘ye did it unto me’ and ‘ye did it not to me’ ( Matthew 25:40; Mat_25:45).

It would be possible to give many more instances almost as impressive. The fact is important, as showing that here we are dealing with an essential element in the Gospel history. So far our instances have been taken from the Synoptic Gospels, and mainly from narratives which are common to them all. When we turn to St. John, we find the self-revelation of Christ on every page, almost in every paragraph. See, as examples,  John 1:51;  John 2:19;  John 4:26;  John 5:17-29;  John 6:38-42;  John 6:61-62;  John 8:14;  John 8:46, (sinlessness)  John 8:55; Joh_10:38; Joh_12:49-50; Joh_13:3; Joh_14:9-10 etc. The climax is reached in ch. 17, in which we are admitted to the sanctuary in which the Son pours out His heart in the presence of His Father. Here are evident all the elements already noted as peculiar to our Lord’s thought about Himself and His mission: His unique Sonship, His sinlessness, His Messiahship, His universal authority, the mystery of His relation to the Father.

ii. Implications of His teaching and the impression He produced .—When we come to consider how this consciousness is implied in His teaching generally and in His effect upon mankind, we find ourselves face to face with a mass of materials so great that selection becomes very difficult. It must suffice to point out certain classes of facts—

1. His mode of thinking and speaking about God. God is, for Him, ‘the Father.’ Sometimes, with clear reference to His own unique relationship, our Lord calls God ‘my Father’ ( Matthew 7:21;  Matthew 10:32-33;  Matthew 11:27;  Matthew 16:17;  Matthew 18:19;  Matthew 18:35,  Mark 8:38;  Mark 13:32,  Luke 10:22;  Luke 22:29,  John 5:17;  John 6:32;  John 8:19, and throughout chs. 14–17, etc.). But it is perhaps even more remarkable that when Christ is teaching His disciples to think about God as their Father in heaven, and speaking of Him as ‘the Father’ or ‘your Father,’ He always adopts the manner of one who knows this truth from within. It is not a doctrine which He has learned from Scripture, or proved by reason, or even gained by vision or revelation. It is spontaneous, a truth welling up from the depths of His being, and as essential and natural to His thought as breathing to His bodily life. To Him God, His Father, was an ever-present reality, the greatest and most intimate of all realities. He knew God as none else knew Him ( Matthew 11:27). He abode in His Father’s love ( John 15:10). These expressions describe in the simplest possible way the spirit which is manifested in all our Lord’s utterances. Take, as an example, the Sermon on the Mount, the most distinctively ethical part of His teaching. Here, if anywhere, we should expect this purely religious apprehension of God to become dormant. In the introduction ( Matthew 5:3-13), the promises all reveal a deep insight into the purposes and nature of God: they view the world with its many kinds of people from the Divine point of view (see also  Matthew 5:16;  Matthew 5:20;  Matthew 5:45;  Matthew 5:48;  Matthew 6:1;  Matthew 6:4;  Matthew 6:6;  Matthew 6:8-9;  Matthew 6:14-15;  Matthew 6:18;  Matthew 6:20;  Matthew 6:24;  Matthew 6:26 ff.,  Matthew 7:11;  Matthew 7:21), All through, human things are viewed in the light of God’s character. Jesus knew all these things about human life because He first knew God. Instances of this underlying consciousness might be multiplied indefinitely.

2. His self-assertion. It has often been pointed out (especially by Liddon in his Divinity of our Lord , Lect. iv.) that qualities which are incompatible in any other character combine freely and harmoniously in the character of Jesus. The most remarkable instance is the union of self-assertion with the most perfect humility. To those who believe in the Deity of Christ, the reason, the ‘why,’ of this fact is not far to seek. ‘But the how’ remains a difficulty. How is it that all seems natural and inevitable in the portrait as we find it in the Gospels? The answer must surely be that the self-assertion is the necessary expression of a real consciousness. It is well to be reminded how tremendous the self-assertion is. The following passages are a selection:  Matthew 5:11;  Matthew 5:22;  Matthew 5:28;  Matthew 5:34;  Matthew 5:39;  Matthew 5:44;  Matthew 7:21-22;  Matthew 7:28-29 (the former verses show this ‘authority’ which astonished the multitude)  Matthew 8:6;  Matthew 8:10;  Matthew 8:22;  Matthew 10:15;  Matthew 10:32-33;  Matthew 10:37-39;  Matthew 11:27-29 (in these passages we have the self-assertion and the humility side by side: ‘I am meek and lowly in heart’ follows the illimitable claim of  Matthew 11:27-28)  Matthew 12:6-8;  Matthew 12:41-42;  Matthew 16:24 ff;  Matthew 22:45;  Matthew 25:31 ff.,  Mark 2:28;  Mark 8:34 ff;  Mark 10:29;  Mark 12:6;  Mark 13:26,  Luke 9:23-28;  Luke 14:26 ff;  Luke 21:12 ff., and throughout St. John’s Gospel (see especially  John 5:17-18 ff.,  John 8:12 ff.,  John 10:30;  John 14:6 ff. etc.). In these passages our Lord declares Himself greater than Abraham, David, Solomon; greater than the Temple, the Sabbath, the Law; He claims for Himself all the homage and devotion of which the hearts of men are capable; He calls Himself ‘the King,’ and describes Himself as the Judge of all the nations; He demands as His right that honour which belongs to God alone ( John 5:17-24). Yet He is among men ‘as he that serveth’ ( Luke 22:27).

3. The effect of this consciousness upon those who were brought under His influence is very evident. The impression which Jesus produced upon the minds and hearts of men was quite unique. He not only preached Himself, He revealed Himself. This revelation carried conviction with it. It is plain that He designed His ministry to be such a revelation. It was not His usual method to say exactly who He was, but rather to lead His hearers on until they were able to make that discovery for themselves ( Matthew 16:13-20). We speak of our Lord ‘claiming’ such and such things; but whenever He made an assertion about Himself, it was because it was necessary that His hearers should know the truth on account of its essential importance for themselves. His object was to lead them to give Him the whole faith and love of their hearts, because in so doing they attained their highest good. A notable instance of the effect of our Lord’s self-revelation occurs in the case of St. Peter ( Luke 5:8), ‘Depart from me: for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ Here the depth of the impression is shown by the moral effect (cf.  Job 42:5-6 and  Isaiah 6:5). It is clear that St. Peter was impressed not merely by the miracle, but by the moral glory of Christ. The miracle was but the occasion when there came to him a sudden insight into the character of Jesus. The intense faith which our Lord awakened in the hearts of those who responded to Him testifies to His self-revelation. He looked for a faith which rested in Himself as its object. Such faith always called forth His highest approbation. Almost every page of the Gospels witnesses to the truth of this. The case of the Centurion ( Matthew 8:5-13,  Luke 7:1-10), though perhaps the most striking instance, is yet only typical. The principle involved in it may be found everywhere; see  Matthew 8:2-3;  Matthew 8:22;  Matthew 9:22;  Matthew 9:28;  Matthew 10:22;  Matthew 12:30;  Matthew 13:58;  Matthew 15:22-28;  Matthew 19:29,  Mark 1:40-41;  Mark 2:5-11;  Mark 5:34;  Mark 9:23-24;  Mark 9:37;  Mark 10:29;  Mark 10:52;  Mark 13:9;  Mark 14:3-9,  Luke 7:37-50;  Luke 9:23-26;  Luke 10:13-16;  Luke 10:42;  Luke 13:34;  Luke 14:25-33;  Luke 17:17-19;  Luke 18:22;  Luke 19:40,  John 5:24;  John 6:29;  John 6:35;  John 7:37-38;  John 8:12 etc. The extraordinary claim involved in these passages, and in many others, would strike us much more than it does were it not for the fact that the experience of the Christian centuries has amply justified it. Christianity, together with all the moral and spiritual benefits which it has bestowed upon mankind, is the effect produced not primarily by any doctrinal system or method of organization, but by a personality. It was the deliberate aim of our Lord, with full consciousness of the method He was adopting, to influence humanity by the revelation of Himself.

II. Psychological problems.—These are many and difficult.

i. Growth .—In the case of a merely human intelligence, growth is a necessary element; and a psychological examination would aim at tracing the course of development by showing how the mind reacted upon the circumstances or its history and environment. Our Lord was truly human; but He was not merely human, and therefore it is unsafe to reason from ordinary experience apart from the facts of His life as given in the Gospels. Concerning His early years, we are distinctly told that there was development. ‘The child grew and waxed strong, filled (becoming full, πληρούμενον) with wisdom’ ( Luke 2:40). And again ( Luke 2:52), ‘Jesus advanced (προέκοπτεν) in wisdom and stature.’ The language in both places implies growth in the true sense of the term. We are not, then, to imagine the infant Jesus looking out upon the world, from His mother’s arms, with eyes already gleaming with the fulness of that superhuman knowledge which He afterwards possessed, as certain ancient pictures would suggest. In His consciousness, as in His bodily frame, He developed from helpless infancy to maturity. But there is unmistakable evidence that, as His consciousness unfolded, it attained, in ways which were to it perfectly normal and proper, experiences which are unique among the phenomena of human existence. It is clear from what has been already stated, that Jesus, from His childhood, possessed a consciousness of God as His Father which was utterly different from the faith to which others attain through teaching and the influence of religious surroundings. The incident of His childhood which reveals this fact must be viewed in the light of the self-revelation which fills all His teaching. Then its meaning is clear. We learn that His knowledge of His Father in heaven and of the loving harmony of will which subsisted between them was not a revelation imparted when the time of His public ministry drew near. It was an essential element in His earliest spiritual experiences. So far we are carried by the mere facts. Every attempt at a theological, or even psychological, co-ordination of these facts will carry us much further, and show that this inexplicable knowledge of God and consciousness of harmony with Him form together the ruling and guiding principle of our Lord’s whole life.

We have already passed in review the large classes of passages which show most distinctly our Lord’s self-revelation of His consciousness of union with His Father. The force of these passages is greatly augmented when certain negative characteristics most clearly manifested in the Gospels are taken into consideration.

1. There is no trace in our Lord’s teaching or life of any effort to arrive at truth by means of reasoning. Jesus was never a seeker for truth: it was not any task of His to discern God’s will before He began to do it, or to satisfy His own intelligence before He taught others. In dealing with the things of God, He moves with the absolute certainty of One who knew the truth from within. His use of Holy Scripture is never an effort to fortify His own mind: He speaks and acts as One who knew Himself a superior authority. Just as He was greater than the temple and Lord of the Sabbath, so is He above the Law and able to take the position of One who has the right to modify it or deepen it on His sole authority (see  Matthew 5:17;  Matthew 5:21-22;  Matthew 5:28 etc.  Matthew 7:28-29;  Matthew 12:6,  Mark 2:28). When, in His teaching, He reasons from Scripture or from nature, it is simply that He may convey to others, in a way which corresponds to their mental equipment, the truth which He Himself knows independently. In such cases there is always some degree of that ‘fulfilling of the Law,’ that drawing out of a deeper meaning, of which so many instances occur in the Sermon on the Mount. Perhaps the most remarkable example is His proof of the future life from the revelation at the Bush ( Matthew 22:32,  Mark 12:26-27,  Luke 20:37-38). Here the real proof is the manifestation of the character of God as it is involved in the declaration to Moses. See for other instances of argument of this kind from Scripture, from reason, or from nature,  Matthew 5:45;  Matthew 6:8;  Matthew 6:24;  Matthew 6:26 ff.,  Matthew 7:11;  Matthew 7:16;  Matthew 12:3 ff.,  Matthew 12:11-12;  Matthew 12:25 ff.,  Mark 2:9;  Mark 2:17;  Mark 3:4;  Mark 7:17 ff;  Mark 10:3 ff;  Mark 12:35 ff.,  Luke 13:15;  Luke 14:5;  Luke 14:28 ff.,  John 13:14. It is quite plain in these and all other instances that our Lord is reasoning, not in order to satisfy His own mind, but to carry conviction to the minds of His hearers. There is not the faintest trace of the struggle for truth.

2. There is no sign that progressive revelations were made to Him during the course of His ministry. Many efforts have been made to show that Jesus attained at certain turning-points to new views of His mission, and of the means by which His work was to be accomplished. It is certainly true that in His teaching it is possible to discern two stages, the first marked by a broad and more ethical treatment of the Gospel of the Kingdom, the second dealing with the means by which the Kingdom is to be established, His own Person, sufferings, and death. But it is quite impossible to show that these two stages are not essential parts of one organic whole. The truth is that they are perfectly consistent, and form together one great scheme of revelation. To suppose any change of purpose, or even fresh insight into the means by which our Lord’s mission was to be accomplished, during His ministry, is to go beyond the evidence afforded by the Gospel history, in obedience to some a priori psychological or theological theory. It is supposed by some that He began with the belief that the Kingdom would be, somehow or other, introduced miraculously when the people as a whole were ready to receive it, but that, as time went on, and He found Himself rejected by the leaders, He became convinced that the Kingdom was already being realized in the hearts of the faithful, and finally saw that it was necessary that He Himself should die for its advancement. But how is this consistent with such passages as these:  Mark 1:17;  Mark 1:25;  Mark 1:34;  Mark 1:37-38;  Mark 1:43;  Mark 1:45;  Mark 2:20;  Mark 3:12, and the corresponding passages in St. Luke; also the whole Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew? Why should our Lord so sternly and so consistently forbid the spread of popular excitement if He thought the Kingdom would suddenly appear, supervening miraculously upon the old order? Here is clear proof that from the beginning He understood the spiritual nature of the Kingdom. Why again should He, from the beginning, foreshadow the days of mourning ‘when the Bridegroom shall be taken away,’ unless He had in view all along the great sacrifice which was to end His ministry? (See  Matthew 9:15,  Mark 2:19-20,  Luke 5:34-35. This saying obviously belongs to the earlier days, when the disciples of Jesus were marked by their joyous acceptance of all the good gifts of their Father in heaven). These conclusions are greatly strengthened by a consideration of the crisis which was brought about by the feeding of the five thousand. That there was a crisis is evident from  John 6:15;  John 6:24;  John 6:66 compared with  Matthew 14:23-24 and  Mark 6:45-47. But it was not a crisis in the consciousness of Jesus. It concerned rather the response of the people. Now at last they are utterly disappointed of their hopes of a worldly Messiah, and the very manner of their disappointment shows our Lord’s perfect consistency. His conduct throughout is that of one whose mind is made up and whose course is absolutely clear. At the very end, it may be thought, we have, in the Agony in the Garden, a crisis at which He became at last fully persuaded of the necessity of His death. But surely it is much more in accordance with the whole history to regard this as a moral crisis, when, for the last time, He was tempted to turn aside. There are indications that, all along, this temptation was presented to Him (see  Matthew 16:22-23,  Mark 8:32-33,  John 12:27). Our Lord’s utterances before the Agony show the very fullest consciousness of His mission, and of how it was to be accomplished.

3. Repentance had no place in the consciousness of Jesus. As Harnack ( What is Christianity? , p. 32 f.) puts it, ‘No stormy crisis, no breach with His past, lies behind the period of Jesus’ life that we know. In none of His sayings or discourses … can we discover the signs of inner revolutions overcome, or the scars of any terrible conflict. Everything seems to pour from Him naturally, as though it could not do otherwise, like a spring from the depths of the earth, clear and unchecked in its flow.’ This is the strongest proof of our Lord’s perfect sinlessness. It is incredible that the keenest spiritual insight ever possessed by man should have been blind to its own condition. In confirmation of this the following passages are important:  Matthew 5:20 ff;  Matthew 7:11;  Matthew 18:24-25;  Matthew 18:35,  Mark 9:42 ff.,  Luke 13:3;  Luke 13:5;  Luke 17:10 etc. show our Lord’s sensitiveness to the presence of sin in the hearts of men; how He recognized its universality in the world, and how high was His standard.  Mark 1:11,  Luke 6:40,  John 4:34;  John 8:29;  John 8:46, give a direct insight into His consciousness of His own moral condition.  Luke 5:8;  1 Peter 2:22; 1Pe_3:18,  1 John 2:29;  1 John 3:5;  1 John 3:7,  2 Corinthians 5:21,  Hebrews 4:15 etc. show the impression He produced, in regard to this matter, upon the minds of His disciples. Our Lord’s consciousness of union with His Father was not marred by any sin within His own soul.

On the subject of growth, then, our data lead us to the conclusion that there was a real development in the consciousness of Jesus during His youth, but that this development was completed, certainly in all its essential elements, before He began His ministry.

ii. The most perplexing of all the psychological problems opened up by our subject is that which is presented by the endeavour to distinguish the Divine and human elements in our Lord’s consciousness, and to define the mode of their union . What in general the contents of His Divine consciousness were, so far as they have been revealed to us, we have seen above. But it is extremely hazardous to draw negative conclusions from these positive results, and every attempt at definition of the two elements involves negative as well as positive statements. Psychologically, we are presented with an insoluble problem. There are no facts, and no laws, known to the science of mind which can help us to understand the consciousness of Jesus. That He knew as man knows there can be no question. All the evidence we possess points to mental growth during the years of His youth; and though, as we have seen, the facts of His history during the period of His ministry do not warrant us in attributing to Him progressive attainments in the knowledge of Divine things, it is clear that ordinary human knowledge came to Him as it comes to us. It is often said of Him, that He ‘came to know’ (γνῶναι,  Matthew 12:15;  Matthew 22:18;  Matthew 26:10,  Mark 2:8;  Mark 8:17,  John 4:1;  John 5:6;  John 6:15;  John 16:19; see Mason, Conditions of our Lord’s Life on Earth , p. 130 ff.). Again, we are told that He was guided by the evidence of His senses: ‘When Jesus saw it, he was moved with indignation’ ( Mark 10:14); ‘He came forth and saw a great multitude, and he had compassion on them’ ( Matthew 14:14); ‘When he drew nigh, he saw the city and wept over it’ ( Luke 19:41). Such passages are convincing; and others, which tell of a supernatural knowledge of the thoughts and motives of men or of events ( e.g.  John 1:48;  John 4:18,  Matthew 21:2,  Mark 14:13, etc.), do not weaken their force. But side by side with this human consciousness we find unmistakable evidence of a consciousness which knows the heart of God from within, and which therefore sheds an unparalleled illumination over the whole realm of spiritual things. Jesus could say of Himself, ‘No one knoweth the Son save the Father; neither doth any know the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him.’ Such an assertion would be folly or worse were it not justified by the contents of His teaching. But the truth is that what Jesus showed mankind about the Father and His Kingdom, His Love and His holiness, and the revelation which Jesus gave of human life as seen in the light of this Divine manifestation, have ever remained the highest heights of spiritual vision. And, more wonderful still, this revelation has proved itself, as He foretold, inseparable from the Person who gave it. The teaching, Divine though it is, has ever been subordinate to the Teacher. It is always Jesus Christ who reveals the Father. Here then are the two elements, a consciousness of God and of Himself in relation to God different in kind from anything known in our experience, and side by side with it ordinary human knowledge based on the evidence of the senses. Harnack puts the problem thus: ‘How He came to this consciousness of the unique character of His relation to God as a Son, how He came to the consciousness of His power, and to the consciousness of the obligation and the mission which this power carries with it, is His secret, and no psychology will ever fathom it’ ( What is Christianity? p. 128).

iii. Knowledge and ignorance .—We cannot enter here upon a general discussion of this question. It must suffice to note that our Lord in one instance pointedly confessed ignorance ( Mark 13:32), that He asked questions, evidently to gain information ( Mark 5:30;  Mark 6:38;  Mark 9:21,  John 11:34), that He showed surprise ( Matthew 8:10,  Mark 6:6), that He sought for what He could not find ( Matthew 21:19,  Mark 11:13), and that there is no trace in the Gospels of His possessing supernatural knowledge of human and secular things beyond what was necessary for His work. These facts may be connected with the following statements made by our Lord Himself: ‘The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing’ ( John 5:19); ‘I can of myself do nothing; as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me’ ( John 5:30); ‘My teaching is not mine, but his that sent me’ ( John 7:16); ‘He that sent me is true; and the things which I heard from him, these speak I unto the world’ ( John 8:26); ‘I do nothing of myself, but as the Father taught me, I speak these things’ ( John 8:28); ‘I speak the things which I have seen with my Father’ ( John 8:38); ‘The Father which sent me, he hath given me a commandment, what I should say and what I should speak’; ‘The things therefore which I speak, even as the Father hath said unto me, so I speak’ ( John 12:49-50); ‘The words that I say unto you I speak not from myself; but the Father abiding in me doeth his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me’ ( John 14:10-11; see also  John 14:24;  John 14:31,  John 15:15,  John 17:7-8). From these statements it surely follows that our Lord’s Divine knowledge was imparted to Him in His communion with His Father. Apart from this means of knowing, He depended simply upon His human faculties. ‘This being the case, we must see that, if anything which could not be known naturally was not made known to Him by the Father, it would not be known by Him’ (Bishop O’Brien of Ossory, quoted by Canon Mason, op. cit. p. 192). The psychology of this communion with the Father, as a means of knowledge, is doubtless beyond us; but the facts given in all the Gospels agree with the statements of our Lord Himself as recorded by St. John. See, further, Authority of Christ.

III. Theological results.

i. The first result is an extraordinary emphasis upon the uniqueness of our Lord’s personality . In the psychological sphere the consciousness of Jesus Christ is as miraculous as His resurrection is in the physical. There is this difference, however, that His consciousness is a fact which comes in all its freshness before everyone who reads with clear eyes the story of His life. It is the most truly living element in the Gospels, and it is the same in them all. It is a concrete fact, not an abstract doctrine. To attribute its unity and concreteness to the sudden development of a dramatic instinct among certain religiously-minded Jews of the 1st cent., is as impossible as to derive its amazing spiritual elevation from an idealizing tendency among those who believed in God and His promises, and were looking for the Messiah and His Kingdom. Every attempt at explanation of this kind has proved, and must ever prove, a failure. The truth and vividness of the Gospels flow from the reality of the Christ whom they portray, and the consciousness of Jesus is the soul of that reality.

ii. The study of the consciousness of our Lord is the most convincing proof of His Divinity . When such passages as  John 5:17-30;  John 8:12-58;  John 10:27-38;  John 14:1-10 are compared with such as these from the Synoptics— Matthew 11:25-30;  Matthew 25:31-46,  Mark 8:34-38;  Mark 10:28-30;  Mark 12:35-37;  Mark 14:7,  Luke 9:22-27;  Luke 9:57-62;  Luke 10:21-24;  Luke 10:42;  Luke 12:8-10;  Luke 19:40;  Luke 20:13-15—and both series are discerned to be the inevitable and consistent utterances of the mind of Him who called Himself the Son of God and the Son of Man, the conclusion is irresistible, unless, indeed, preconceived views of the nature of the Universe forbid the inference, that the traditional doctrine of Christianity is the only adequate interpretation of the facts of the life of Jesus.

Literature.—Weiss, Leben Jesu  ; Wendt, Lehre Jesu  ; Mason, Conditions of Our Lord’s Life on Earth  ; Gore, Dissertations and Bampton Lectures  ; Liddon, Divinity of Our Lord  ; Baldensperger. Das Selbstbewusstsein Jesu  ; Beyschlag, Leben Jesu  ; Adamson, Studies of the Mind in Christ  ; Fairbairn, Place of Christ in Modern Theology  ; Godet, New Testament Studies  ; Row, Jesus of the Evangelists  ; Keim, Jesu von Nazara  ; Harnack, Das Wesen des Christentums [English translation What is Christianity? ]; Seeley, Ecce Homo  ; R. Mackintosh, articles on ‘The Dawn of the Messianic Consciousness’ in Expos. Times , 1905.

In some of these, and in many other works which might be named, will be found a great deal of rather free speculation based upon psychological considerations, and often but loosely connected with the statements of the Gospels. The present writer has endeavoured to keep as closely as possible to the historical evidence. On account of the peculiar nature of the problem, he is convinced that psychology affords but little assistance, and he regards even an isolated statement by one of the Evangelists as evidence of higher quality than a priori arguments of any description. Yet he has not forgotten the views of modern critics, and has been careful to show, by an array of references to texts, that the principal contents of our Lord’s consciousness are witnessed to by all the original authorities.

Charles F. D’Arcy.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [2]

The perception of what passes in a man's own mind. We must not confound the terms consciousness and conscience; for though the Latin be ignorant of any such distinction, including both in the word conscientia, yet there is a great deal or difference between them in our language. Consciousness is confined to the actions of the mind, being nothing else but that knowledge of itself which is inseparable from every thought and voluntary motion of the soul. Conscience extends to all human actions, bodily as well as mental. Consciousness is the knowledge of the existence; conscience of the moral nature of actions. Consciousness is a province of metaphysics, conscience of morality.

Webster's Dictionary [3]

(1): (n.) Feeling, persuasion, or expectation; esp., inward sense of guilt or innocence.

(2): (n.) The state of being conscious; knowledge of one's own existence, condition, sensations, mental operations, acts, etc.

(3): (n.) Immediate knowledge or perception of the presence of any object, state, or sensation. See the Note under Attention.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [4]

is the perception of what passes in a man's own mind. We must not confound the terms consciousness and conscience; for though the Latin be ignorant of any such distinction, including both in the word conscientia, yet there is a great deal of difference between them in our language. Consciousness is confined to the actions of the mind, being nothing else than that knowledge of itself which is inseparable from every thought and voluntary motion of the soul. Conscience extends to all human actions, bodily as well as mental. Consciousness is the knowledge of the existence; conscience, of the moral nature of actions. Consciousness is a province of metaphysics; conscience, of morality.