“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” – Mark 13:32
Mark 13:32 has been a hard verse for a long time. The words are not complicated, and the point seems clear: it expresses the same thought as Matthew 25:13.
What makes Mark 13:32 especially challenging is that in describing who does not know of that day and that hour, it includes “neither the Son”.
If the Bible and Christianity merely taught Jesus to be a man, however extraordinary, then this poses no problem whatsoever, but the difficulty lies in the fact that the Bible teaches that Jesus is God, that God knows all things, and expressly states that Jesus knows all things.
It would seem to be a contradiction to say on the one hand that Jesus is God and knows all things, and then on the other to say that he does not know something in Mark 13:32.
As a result of this apparent contradiction, Mark 13:32 is one of the most cherry picked passages by cults, liberals, and false teachers that would reduce, diminish, or deny altogether the deity attributes of Jesus. Orthodox scholars have tried to excuse the verse by saying that the phrase is not genuine. Neither is right.
Below are eight reasons Mark 13:32 does not reduce, diminish, or deny the deity attributes of Jesus.
1. It does not stand alone.
Mark 13:32 is not the only verse that addresses the topic of what Jesus knows. As mentioned before, there are verses that explicitly say the opposite (John 16:30; Col 2:3; 1 Sam 2:3; Ps 147:5). Both must be considered and explained. All verses must be considered together, not one to the exclusion of others.
2. Jesus is both God and man.
Jesus is God (Col 2:9; John 1:1; 1 Tim 3:16). He is also a man (1 Tim 2:5; Heb 2:14; Matt 1:23-25). God is omniscient. Man is not. The Bible teaches that Jesus is both at the same time. What his human brain was not born with, he knew from eternity in his deity (Acts 15:18). This doctrine is called the hypostatic union and it concerns one Jesus having two natures (God and man), one not altering the other. Mark 13:32 speaks to what men did not know, it does not abrogate the omniscience of God. Jesus was God manifest in the flesh.
The two natures of Jesus may also explain why he speaks of himself in the third person (i.e “neither the Son” instead of “nor I”). The third person perspective is someone speaking outside of themselves. This would be appropriate for Jesus who could be speaking as God about himself as man or vice versa. Otherwise, how could he know that the Father knows?
3. Jesus hungered, thirsted, slept, and wept, too.
It is harder for people to grasp Jesus knowing and not knowing something at the same time (being both God and man), but other paradoxes are somehow easier to accept, yet are exactly the same. God never sleeps (Ps 121:4), but Jesus slept (Matt 8:24). God never thirsts, but Jesus thirsted. God is never born, but Jesus was born. God never dies, but Jesus died. Of course, it should be apparent that the latter part of each comparison describes humanity. Jesus was both God and man. He does not select some attributes from one, and some attributes of the other. He is fully both at the same time.
While he slept, he heard everyone’s prayers. While he hungered, he was holding the world together. While he wept, he possessed power to resurrect Lazarus. While Mark 13:32 says what man does not know, he knew every thought in your head and every hair on it (Matt 9:4; Luke 12:7).
4. His deity expressed in the same passage.
Most often wherever an expression of the humanity of Jesus exists in the gospel accounts, there is an equal expression of his deity nearby. This is how the doctrine of Jesus being both God and man came to be from the scriptures.
For example, when Jesus slept during the tempest (humanity – Matt 8:24), two verses later he rose up and commanded control over the winds and seas (deity – Matt 8:26).
For the previous dozen verses in Mark 13 Jesus had been prophesying things that could not be known by man. Mark 13:32 is obviously an expression of the humanity of Jesus, but Mark 13:31 is an obvious expression of his deity (Isa 40:8).
The deity of Christ is not diminished by expressions of his humanity.
5. “Ye” not “we”. If Jesus were trying to express his own ignorance, then why would he not include himself in Mark 13:33? Jesus does not say, “we know not”, but rather “ye know not.” The point of Mark 13:28-37 is not that Jesus is ignorant, but that the disciples did not have access to knowing the time, and so needed to watch and be ready. No other man could tell them; no angel would be sent to tell them; and Jesus would die before telling them. At the same time while expressing that there was no way man could access that knowledge, he explains that it is known by the Father, whom no man could access… except the Son (John 6:46).
6. Son and Father.
In expressing that the Father knows of that day and hour, Jesus is making a distinction between the first and second person of the Godhead, but is not separating himself from deity. If he had said, “no man, no angel, nor the Son, but God”, then it might be considered whether he was making a statement about lacking deity attributes. However, since he uses the titles ‘Son’ and ‘Father’, then it draws attention to the differences in responsibilities among persons in the Godhead, not a diminishing of the nature of the Godhead in Christ.
Jesus explains this responsibility over times and seasons being of the Father later when Peter tries to draw it out of him before his divine ascension. The time of the Son of Man’s coming is in the Father’s power (Acts 1:7). Just as the Father sent the Son the first time (John 5:36; Gal 4:2), he will send him again in the future (Acts 1:11).
7. Not given him to make known.
Due to the relationship and responsibilities of the Father and the Son in the Godhead, Jesus frequently makes comments about what is “given him” to do and say. Jesus says in Matt 28:18 “all power is given unto me”; in Matt 20:23 he says there are positions that are “not mine to give”; and in John 17:8 he says:
“For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.” – John 17:8
Mark 13:32 is another one of these expressions of Jesus doing the Father’s will. Contrary to making him less than God, these expressions were intended to indicate that Jesus came from the Father and was one with him (John 5:19; John 17:8). How else could Jesus know that the times and seasons were put in the Father’s power unless he was the fullness of the Godhead bodily and knew what the Godhead knew?
8. The Holy Spirit.
You might say that any man who reads scripture could know that God knows all things, even the times of future events. However, Jesus did not say “God” but “the Father”. This raises the question, what about the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead? Jesus also spoke of the Holy Spirit being God, and yet the Holy Spirit did not go through the incarnation with the Son and was not subject to any human limitations. Why isn’t the Holy Spirit mentioned, and does the Holy Spirit know of that day and hour?
The Holy Spirit and the Father share every deity attribute including omniscience. Of course, the Son shares every deity attribute as well as being one of the three in one God. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in Mark 13:32 because the Holy Spirit had not been given for the disciples to access, and also it was not the Spirit’s responsibility to reveal that information which was put in the Father’s power.
Ultimately, if Mark 13:32 excludes Jesus as God from knowing the time, then it would seem to exclude the Holy Spirit from knowing it as well since it says only “the Father”. However, if the Holy Spirit as God knows just as the Father does, then so does the Son.
The Holy Spirit knows just as every person of the Godhead knows.
Mark 13:32 is a difficult verse, and has been the cause of much confusion concerning the deity attributes of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13), but it is not impossible.
You can go your whole life without understanding Mark 13:32, but you will not reap eternal life unless you believe the fundamental Christian truth that God was in Christ as he died on the cross for your sins and rose again from the dead.
Do not be shaken or troubled by the cherry picking of those whose faith in Jesus Christ with every deity attribute is damaged by the misuse of Mark 13:32. The above are good reasons to remember to avoid such error when reading Mark 13:32.