ST. BASIL OF CAESAREA’S EXEGESIS OF MARK 13:32 AND MATTHEW 24:36

In this post I am going to quote the exegesis of one of the greatest Christian theologians and apologists of the early church in respect to Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32, where our risen Lord speaks of not knowing the day and hour of his destroying Jerusalem and the temple from heaven:

“Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” Matthew 24:36

“But concerning that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Mark 13:32

St. Basil of Caesarea was one of the greatest defenders of the Trinity, especially of the Divine Personhood of God’s glorious Holy Spirit. All bold and underline emphasis ours.

To the same Amphilochius.

  1. Enquiry has already frequently been made concerning the saying of the gospels as to our Lord Jesus Christ’s ignorance of the day and of the hour of the end; Mark 13:32 an objection constantly put forward by the Anomœans to the destruction of the glory of the Only-Begotten, in order to show Him to be unlike in essence and subordinate in dignity; inasmuch as, if He know not all things, He cannot possess the same nature nor be regarded as of one likeness with Him, who by His own prescience and faculty of forecasting the future has knowledge coextensive with the universe. This question has now been proposed to me by your intelligence as a new one. I can give in reply the answer which I heard from our fathers when I was a boy, and which on account of my love for what is good, I have received without question. I do not expect that it can undo the shamelessness of them that fight against Christ, for where is the reasoning strong enough to stand their attack? It may, however, suffice to convince all that love the Lord, and in whom the previous assurance supplied them by faith is stronger than any demonstration of reason.

Now no man seems to be a general expression, so that not even one person is excepted by it, but this is not its use in Scripture, as I have observed in the passage there is none good but one, that is, God. For even in this passage the Son does not so speak to the exclusion of Himself from the good nature. But, since the Father is the first good, we believe the words no man to have been uttered with the understood addition of first. So with the passage No man knows the Son but the Father; Matthew 11:27 even here there is no charge of ignorance against the Spirit, but only a testimony that knowledge of His own nature naturally belongs to the Father first. Thus also we understand No man knows, Matthew 24:36 to refer to the Father the first knowledge of things, both present and to be, and generally to exhibit to men the first cause. Otherwise how can this passage fall in with the rest of the evidence of Scripture, or agree with the common notions of us who believe that the Only-Begotten is the image of the invisible God, and image not of the bodily figure, but of the very Godhead and of the mighty qualities attributed to the essence of God, image of power, image of wisdom, as Christ is called the power of God and the wisdom of God? 1 Corinthians 1:24 Now of wisdom knowledge is plainly a part; and if in any part He falls short, He is not an image of the whole; and how can we understand the Father not to have shown that day and that hour — the smallest portion of the ages — to Him through Whom He made the ages? How can the Creator of the universe fall short of the knowledge of the smallest portion of the things created by Him? How can He who says, when the end is near, that such and such signs shall appear in heaven and in earth, be ignorant of the end itself? When He says, The end is not yet. Matthew 24:6 He makes a definite statement, as though with knowledge and not in doubt. Then further, it is plain to the fair enquirer that our Lord says many things to men, in the character of man; as for instance, give me to drink John 4:7 is a saying of our Lord, expressive of His bodily necessity; and yet the asker was not soulless flesh, but Godhead using flesh endued with soul. So in the present instance no one will be carried beyond the bounds of the interpretation of true religion, who understands the ignorance of him who had received all things according to the economy, and was advancing with God and man in favour and wisdom.

  1. It would be worthy of your diligence to set the phrases of the Gospel side by side, and compare together those of Matthew and those of Mark, for these two alone are found in concurrence in this passage. The wording of Matthew is of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. That of Mark runs, But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Mark 13:32 What is noticeable in these passages is this; that Matthew says nothing about the ignorance of the Son, and seems to agree with Mark as to sense in saying but my Father only. Now I understand the word only to have been used in contradistinction to the angels, but that the Son is not included with His own servants in ignorance.

He could not say what is false Who said All things that the Father has are Mine, John 16:15 but one of the things which the Father has is knowledge of that day and of that hour. In the passage in Matthew, then, the Lord made no mention of His own Person, as a matter beyond controversy, and said that the angels knew not and that His Father alone knew, tacitly asserting the knowledge of His Father to be His own knowledge too, because of what He had said elsewhere, as the Father knows me even so know I the Father, John 10:15 and if the Father has complete knowledge of the Son, nothing excepted, so that He knows all knowledge to dwell in Him, He will clearly be known as fully by the Son with all His inherent wisdom and all His knowledge of things to come. This modification, I think, may be given to the words of Matthew, but my Father only. Now as to the words of Mark, who appears distinctly to exclude the Son from the knowledge, my opinion is this. No man knows, neither the angels of God; nor yet the Son would have known unless the Father had known: that is, the cause of the Son’s knowing comes from the Father. To a fair hearer there is no violence in this interpretation, because the word only is not added as it is in Matthew. Mark’s sense, then, is as follows: of that day and of that hour knows no man, nor the angels of God; but even the Son would not have known if the Father had not known, for the knowledge naturally His was given by the Father. This is very decorous and becoming the divine nature to say of the Son, because He has, His knowledge and His being, beheld in all the wisdom and glory which become His Godhead, from Him with Whom He is consubstantial. (Letter 236 http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3202236.htm)

 

 

 

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