In a discussion of the NET’s translation of Matthew 12.25, found here, Daniel B. Wallace makes a strong case for the limited omniscience of Christ prior to the resurrection. This seems immediately to be an attack upon the foundational tenets that support orthodox Christology. The common understanding of patristic teaching and the embattled production of creeds in the fifth and sixth centuries has been to ascribe to Christ the fullness of deity. While there is no contention with Christ possessing the fullness of his divine nature, even from Wallace, there seem to be biblical, philosophical, and practical reasons to question exactly how the divine nature of Christ interacted with his human nature. Can Wallace, then, propagate the notion that Christ did not have full access to omniscience without doing irreparable damage to orthodox teaching? Within the context of our Christology, do Daniel B. Wallace’s designations for God’s attributes bring us closer to understanding the hypostatic union of Christ?
Wallace confronts the idea that certain biblical texts can be used to support the notion that Christ fully experienced omniscience prior to the resurrection. He has made his real contention, though indirectly at first, with the Doctrine of the Hypostatic Union of Christ. The Council of Chalcedon officially set into orthodoxy that in the incarnation, “a human nature was inseparably united forever with the divine nature in the one person of Jesus Christ, yet with the two natures remaining distinct, whole, and unchanged, without mixture or confusion, so that the one person, Jesus Christ, is truly God and truly man.” Whether Wallace’s conclusion is unorthodox remains to be argued. However, whatever the outcome of his argument, Wallace’s article is worthy of attention as it relates to our understanding of how the two natures function within the person of Christ.
The immediate question underlying Wallace’s essay is whether or not there is valid biblical support, at least in Matthew 12.25, for the claim that Christ possessed free access to divine omniscience. Concerning a deviation in translation in the NET of Matthew 12.25, Wallace proposes two questions: “First, is the NET more accurate than the other translations in this passage? And second, if so, what does this mean for Jesus’ omniscience?” While a prime facie treatment of his article reveals a kenotic undercurrent in the exegesis, the outcome has serious implications for the Hypostatic Union. If there is Biblical support for the notion that Christ did not have free access to the incommunicable attributes, which Wallace prefers to re-label the ‘amoral’ attributes, then what can be made of the notorious adverbs of the Chalcedonian Creed?
Wallace approaches his first question from a grammatical analysis of the Greek text. He prefaces his evaluation of the Matthew passage by citing other passages that have classically been used to establish Christ’s humanity by displaying the limitations of his knowledge. Wallace goes on to prove the validity of his claim that the aorist and perfect adverbial participles of perception are used regularly to communicate the notion of ‘growing in knowledge.’ He summarizes, stating that our translations are suspect of theological bias if grammatically similar texts are not all treated in the same fashion, even if they include Jesus as the subject.
Wallace concludes his explanation of the problem presented in the Matthew passage with a theological approach. He posits that, while few of the passages actually allude to omniscience, many of the passages concerning Christ’s knowledge as being greater than his contemporaries are questionable. However, he does not deny that there are passages that speak clearly and directly of Christ’s supernatural knowledge (Matt 17.27; John 1.48). He states succinctly that he believes that, “in some instances we can clearly see evidence of Jesus’ supernatural knowledge, knowledge that cannot be explained by any natural means.”
Wallace is left trying to reconcile his position on the omniscience of Christ through his take on the attributes of deity. He admits that while most theologians view God’s attributes as communicable and incommunicable his take on them is different. He prefers to view God’s attributes as moral and amoral. That is respectively those dealing with God’s justice, mercy, love, kindness, etc, and those dealing with God’s omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, etc. In this kind of distinction, Wallace sees Christ as the complete embodiment of God’s moral attributes. Christ is perfect in justice, mercy, love, kindness, etc. Here, Wallace makes claims that are essential to the evaluation of the orthodoxy of his exegesis. He does not deny Christ access to the ‘amoral’ attributes of God. Rather, he places stipulation on the function and mode of access through which Christ utilized the ‘amoral’ attributes, preferring the empowering of the Spirit in such circumstances to classic divine, regulatory kenosis.
It is certain that Wallace questions the validity of arguing for Christ’s free access to omniscience. He affirms biblically that Christ grew in wisdom (Luke 2.52), and then asserts logically “an omniscient being never grows in wisdom.” He believes it is illogical to assume that Jesus grew into omniscience. If he increased his knowledge and wisdom as a child, then he did so as an adult as well. Because it would be difficult to contradict such a statement without conceding to an Ebionite Christology, Wallace has a strong argument here. Additionally, Wallace reports that the biblical record testifies of Christ’s surprise and amazement, using terminology commonly associated with the emotional reaction of learning something new. Grammatically, Wallace has a well-presented argument. Without some internal indicator that the reader should receive the terms associated with Christ’s increase in knowledge with a different connotation than applies to the common usage of other passages, it is exegetically sound to assume that the author intended to communicate the same message about Christ.
Wallace’s distinction between the well-versed communicable/incommunicable description of God’s attributes and his own moral/amoral description of God’s attributes is ingenious in at least one regard. It allows him to have a fresh discussion about how we know God, and in that regard how God could reveal himself through the incarnation. Problematic to the theory, though, is the proposition’s nagging resemblance to ideas that sought to divide the attributes of God. An important question, both theologically and philosophically, is whether God’s attributes can be ‘divided’ or categorized in such a way. A more charitable characterization may be to say that Wallace has categorized the attributes of God. However, if both the moral and amoral attributes belong to God alone as tangible characterizations of his being, then how does one separate what becomes a manifestation of God’s being epistemologically and what becomes a component of God’s being ontologically?
 John H. Leith, ed. Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine from the Bible to the Present, 3rd ed. (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982), 36.
 Daniel B. Wallace, “When Did Jesus Know? The Translation of Aorist and Perfect Participle for Verbs of Perception in the Gospels.” Available from http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=1223. Internet; accessed 24 July 2009.