Understanding The Bible
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BY THE AUTHOR
Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible
Special Note on Mark 13:32
CHRIST'S ALLEGED IGNORANCE OF THE TIME OF HIS RETURN
from Sidney Collett's "All About the Bible"
There is abroad among the critics a blasphemous suggestion that our Lord's testimony on the subject of His Second Coming is invalidated because, they dare to say. He partook of the ignorance and shared in the prejudices of His day. To support their theory, they refer to Mark 13:32, where Christ, speaking of His own return, says, "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. "
It ought, however, to be more widely known that the Greek translated "but" consists of two words, the simple English of which is "if not"; thus, ei means "if" and me means "not."
The late Archbishop Trench, one of the greatest authorities on words, called attention to this many years ago. The clause should read, "Neither the Son if not the Father." In other words, "If I were not God as well as man, even I should not know." We have exactly the same thought in John 9:33, where these two Greek words are rightly translated "if not, " viz., "If (ei) this Man were not (me) of God, He could do nothing. "
This is, I believe, the correct reading of this much misunderstood passage, in which there seems to be a distinct reference to the Messiah's title in Isaiah 9:6, "the Everlasting Father. " Hence, the literal truth of Christ's words, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father, " for "I and My Father are one. "
So that the actual words used by the Lord, instead of being a confession that His knowledge was limited, are in reality a declaration of His omniscience--since He claimed in this very passage to be One with the Father, and as such knew all things. (0f course, the usual position is that He could have known, but chose self-restriction on this one point, i.e., He deliberately left it in His Father's hands (Acts 1:7) as a token of His devotion to, and full trust in, the Father.)
A similar misinterpretation is often given to our Lord's words about Himself and His Father in John 5:19: "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son, likewise. " As the whole context shows, this is not a confession of weakness or inability; it is rather a strong statement that the Father and the Son do not work separately but together (v.l7, cp. v.21). The Father does not act independently of the Son, nor does the Son act independently of the Father, this is the intent of "the Son can do nothing of Himself." It is not inability to do, but inability to do anything apart from the constant cooperation in activity which is the way the Father and Son relate to each other in whatever either does.
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