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The Apologists  Bible Commentary



Mark 13

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32 But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.


Commentary This verse has often been used to demonstrate that Jesus could not be true God because God is all-knowing, and Jesus here admits that there is something His Father knows that He does not.

It cannot be denied that in these verses, Jesus plainly says that He did not know the exact timing of His second coming.  Why would Christ say this if He truly was equal with His Father?  An answer to this can be found in Philippians 2:7, where we find that Jesus "made Himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men."  While we cannot be certain about all aspects of this "emptying," it seems clear that Christ intentionally and temporarily laid aside certain elements of His power when He took on human form.  We can see this all throughout the Gospels as Christ was constantly depending upon His Father, and yet was doing everything the Father did and in the same manner (e.g., John 5:19ff & 30).

While this verse teaches the limited knowledge of the Son during His earthly ministry, it does not follow that His knowledge remains limited now.  If the Bible taught that Jesus continues to lack knowledge after His resurrection, there might be grounds for concluding that He is not equal to His Father.  But this is not the case.  In Revelation 22:12-13, we find that the Son apparently does know the hour of His return:   "Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be."

Further, Paul teaches us that in Christ are hidden "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3).  If Christ now has all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, there is no knowledge that He lacks. 

The real thrust of this verse, of course, is not to diminish the Son in respect to His Father.  In the verse immediately preceding this one, Jesus proclaims that His words will never pass away - placing His authority on equal footing with His Father.  The point Jesus is making is the futility of speculating about the Son's return and the coming Kingdom.  Ironically, many groups which have used this verse to teach the inferiority of the Son have ignored its fundamental teaching.  

Don't speculate, but be ready.  The Lord of Glory, the storehouse of all wisdom and knowledge, could return at any time!

Verses 28-37 We have the application of this prophetic sermon. As to the destruction of Jerusalem, expect it to come very shortly. As to the end of the world, do not inquire when it will come, for of that day and that hour knoweth no man. Christ, as God, could not be ignorant of anything; but the Divine wisdom which dwelt in our Saviour, communicated itself to his human soul according to the Divine pleasure. As to both, our duty is to watch and pray. Our Lord Jesus, when he ascended on high, left something for all his servants to do. We ought to be always upon our watch, in expectation of his return. This applies to Christ's coming to us at our death, as well as to the general judgment. We know not whether our Master will come in the days of youth, or middle age, or old age; but, as soon as we are born, we begin to die, and therefore we must expect death. Our great care must be, that, whenever our Lord comes, he may not find us secure, indulging in ease and sloth, mindless of our work and duty. He says to all, Watch, that you may be found in peace, without spot, and blameless (Henry).

Other Views Considered

Jehovah's Witnesses

The Watchtower and its defenders have offered several arguments suggesting that this verse confirms that Jesus cannot be true God because He does not know everything His Father knows.  Robert M. Bowman, Jr., President of, responds to these objections (1).


objection:   1). Jesus' statement indicates a progression of man-angels-the Son-the Father, showing that by "the Son" he did not mean merely that he, like other men, didn't know, but that even he, the Son, as distinguished from human beings, did not know.  2).  Jesus' statement that no one knows indicates already that no human knows, so that it would be redundant to say that he didn't know because he was human.

ResponseThe first two objections are even more problematic for the opposing view than they are for the Trinitarian view. According to Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus the Son was, at the time, a mere human being--nothing more, nothing less. Therefore, if Jesus' first words in Mark 13:32 ("No one knows") refers to human beings, then adding "not even the Son" was indeed redundant.

There is indeed a progression in Mark 13:32. "No one" is general and in the context immediately excludes human beings; "not the angels" excludes beings regarded as more knowledgeable and powerful than human beings; "not even the Son" shows that the Son was even then above the angels, at least in some sense.


objection:   The two-natures explanation makes Jesus' statement into a riddle that his hearers could not be expected to understand.

ResponseThis criticism approaches the subject in a way that does not engage the real strength of the orthodox position. I suggest one look at the question hypothetically. Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that God incarnated himself. That is, suppose that the infinite Creator, without ceasing to be who and what he is, became a human being, thereby uniting to himself the nature of a finite creature (Phil. 2:5-7).  What would we expect to find in terms of the phenomena of his life and experience? If he experienced unlimited divine powers without any qualification he would not be truly human. If he experienced no transcendent qualities or powers he would not be truly God. What we would expect, if he was indeed both God and man, is paradox.

And that, of course, is exactly what we do find. That is, we find that Jesus was life itself and yet died; that Jesus was the Son who could only do what the Father would do (John 5:19), and yet he was tempted like we are; that Jesus had the power to give life to the dead and still a storm with a word, yet got hungry, thirsty, and tired (in fact, he was asleep in the boat before he stopped the storm). Likewise, we find that Jesus somehow knew all things (John 16:30) and yet also somehow did not know when he would return (Mark 13:32).

It may seem easier to resolve these paradoxes by denying or short-changing one side of them in favor of the other. But if we want to be biblical in our view of Jesus, we must accept both. Better to accept the truth even if it is beyond our comprehension than to accept a cheap substitute that seems easier to grasp.


(1).  The following is adapted from a message posted on the Evangelicals and JWs discussion board, posted June 13, 2003.  I have reformatted Mr. Bowman's post, removed personal remarks, and added some Scriptural references mentioned in a subsequent post..

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