Jesus learned

September 26, 2012

I have been talking a lot lately about how Biblical inerrantists are forced to twist the Bible in order to defend their doctrine about the Bible.

People with a certain way of viewing Jesus do the same to Luke's Gospel.

There is a famous story in Luke 2 about Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem when his family had gone up for a festival. In most of the artistic depictions of that story (see the one on the right as an example), in film renderings and other retellings, many Christians rewrite the story so that Jesus is teaching his elders in the temple at the age of twelve.

But what the story in Luke actually says is that Jesus was impressing them by listening and asking wise questions, as well as giving impressive answers when he was asked questions (Luke 2:46-47). In other words, he was learning.

Luke emphasizes the point again at the end of the story. Jesus returns home and is obedient to his parents, and, as Luke 2:52 says, he grew in wisdom as well as stature, and in favor with God as well as with human beings.

For many Christians, their view of Jesus has gone so far down the path of the heresy known as Apollinarianism – treating Jesus as though he were a divine being dressed up as a human being and pretending to be human – that they fail to realize the extent that in order to defend their doctrine about Jesus they have to rewrite the Bible, whether conciously or subconsciously.

I mention this not only because of the problematic approach to Scripture it entails. It is the view of Jesus as one who knew all things, had no need of human learning, that often leads those who claim to follow Jesus, and yet who view him in this unbiblical way, to become arrogant and resist learning. As followers of one who had no need to learn, according to them, they can follow him and have no need to learn anything either.

The Gospel of Luke depicts a different state of affairs. It depicts Jesus as learning.

If you claim to be Jesus's follower and to take what the Bible says seriously, then presumably you will want to learn too, and will not think that you can jump straight to offering impressive answers without first listening and asking wise questions.

Originally posted at Exploring Our Matrix


getting wise

Thanks for your note, James. 

"As followers of one who had no need to learn, according to them, they can follow him and have no need to learn anything either."

Agree that this is an especially glaring problem with a lot of followers these days. But I suspect the problem is not limited to Christian folk.

There does seem to be a large-scale forgetting of what it means to be wise and what it takes to get that way. On the one hand, as you point out, the fashion is not "to think" but "to know" or a least claim that status for oneself. On the other hand is the biblical witness, which I suppose is not fashionable at all:

"If you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures--then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God." (Prov. 2:3-5)

The metaphor here suggests that you actually have to work at learning: digging, mining, sweating, and so forth. That's one problem. The bigger problem for many of the holy people, though, is the problem of humility; that is, having to admit, first, that they are low on silver. 

It's apparently very hard to admit you don't know things. It's much easier to pretend that you do. 

Perhaps if Jesus had been a little clearer about the things he didn't know?