When I was in college, I had a Bible professor bring this idea up to me over lunch one day. And I initially thought that he was a heretic. To be fair, I actually assumed that a lot my first two years at Harding. I didn’t understand the tradition that God had given us of being able to wrestle with and question Him. So my first couple of years in school,  my major was Witch Hunting.

But my professor pointed out that in Philippians 2:1-11, Paul seems to think that Jesus had emptied himself. The word for this is Kenosis. It means that Jesus laid down his divine prerogatives to become fully human. He could have picked them back up, but He never did. Through the years I’ve shared this idea a few times in different venues, and it always starts some good conversation. So what do you think?

Did Jesus always know He was God? If not, when do you think He figured it out? Did Jesus doubt? And why do you think this question seems to spark so much debate?

Thanks to Scot Mcknight at for passing this on.

About jonathanstorment

My family and I love reading, traveling, daddy/daughter dates, playing hide and seek, good music, and long meals with friends. We still miss LOST, and all four of us have Superman uniforms. We are passionate about bringing Heaven to Earth and want to follow Jesus while repainting discipleship for those around us. We are followers of Jesus and I preach at the Highland Church of Christ. We participate in something called A Restoration Movement, and we've come to realize that might be larger than we thought.

10 thoughts on “Kenosis

  1. My navel has lint in it. (g)

    What’s at stake here? If we admit that there was a point that Jesus was not aware of his divinity, then are we then saying that there is a progressive nature to the identity of God Himself? That is, that God can learn & develop, and get better, and progress from earlier stages of development? I’m curious if that’s really where this question leads.

  2. Clearly Jesus had faith, since the writer of Hebrews states that without faith it is impossible to please God, and God (at Jesus’ baptism) declares that he is well pleased in Jesus. The question is in what or in whom did Jesus have faith, and what does that mean?

    Another question that remains is if we affirm that Jesus was God, what does it mean to be God? Omnipresent? Omnipotent? Unable to be tempted? Clearly there are some attributes of God that Jesus did not possess, so those cannot be essential divine characteristics. What are the essential divine characteristics that Jesus had?

    If Jesus did indeed know that he was God by faith instead of some divine self-awareness, his life becomes much more meaningful to me.

  3. Philip, most of the push-back I’ve seen on this comes from the idea of what kind of God we would be if we were God. i.e. We would use power differently, politically, etc. There are profound implications that go along with the Incarnation. I don’t think, at least for me, this is an argument for progress, as much as it is viewing power differently. You are a beautiful person.

    Jonathan, very well said. I love that last sentence: If Jesus did indeed know that he was God by faith instead of some divine self-awareness, his life becomes much more meaningful to me. Amen.

  4. In Luke it says that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature. Therefore, he wasn’t always omniscient. Nor was He always fully aware of His divinity. He chose to limit himself in many ways when he became human. Another question along these lines is did He know everything about the people around him or what they were thinking because of omniscience or because He was listening to the Father? Jesus said that He only does what the Father tells him to (John 5:19). He’s of course the wisest man to ever live, but when He obtained supernatural knowledge about a situation, was it omniscience or listening?

    Jonathan, I’m so thankful for your new ministry in Abilene. I’m missing you here which is one reason I’m responding to your blog. Blessings to you!

  5. Ryan!!! I’m so glad to hear from you! So that’s how to get you to read your friend’s blogs, just move away? I loved your thoughts here connecting Luke to Jesus’ laying down His power. That’s good stuff, I hope your talk went well in San Antonio. Love and miss you brother!

    Wes, that’s where I tend to land as well. Mark’s account seems to make that make sense. God affirms Jesus by telling Him, “You are my son.”

  6. Long time reader, first time commenter.

    We see that time and time again knowledge was held back from the disciples until a time that they were ready to handle it. Even in Luke 2:51 it says that Mary kept Jesus’ sayings in her heart. This indicates that she didn’t fully understand anything even though she knew He was special. We must remember that Jesus laid down His Godhood to become man. To me that would include His omniscience. I’m sure He suspected things long before He knew for sure. I like to think that Jesus opted for the whole experience of man, and that includes ignorance.

  7. I find it funny that we argue over whether a first-century Jew knew that he was the incarnation of a Hellenistic concept of deity.

    Furthermore if Jesus were omniscient in any sense, I wonder greatly why he didn’t tip anyone off on some basics of chemistry, or go ahead and invent penicillin to save a few billion lives . . .

  8. Brandon, thanks for commenting! I’m glad to hear from you. Good point about Mary, I think one of the things that happens when we try to read the Scriptures from a fresh perspective (at least for me) is that we find out how messy this story really was. We tend to want things neatly summed up, but tell that to the peasant girl who had the Messiah. She, at points, thinks her son is crazy. You raise a good point, I wonder if Jesus self-awareness has a correlary with Mary’s.

    Joe, you are always pithy man. I love your take on stuff. Thanks for making me smile…jerk. 🙂

  9. The 12 year-old in the temple must have known what was ahead for him in his life — “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” It was at the time of his baptism and the Father’s affirmation that was his inauguration into ministry. During those years in between, surely there was an intense time of communication and communion between Father and Son in preparation for what would be a very challenging ministry and ultimately an excruciating death and devastating separation from the Father. Without that relationship with the Father and promise of glory, the human could not have endured.

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