Early incarnational Christologies allowed that the Logos took on human form and that this resulted in his ‘divinity’ being limited, at every stage of development, by his ‘humanity.’ This meant, in effect, that Jesus was always encountering new situations and effectively learning during every waking moment in his whole life, from birth to death. In the medieval Christologies, however, Jesus was being presented as the God-man who, as a result, effectively and continually brought together “the divine mind” and “the human mind.” This effectively led Thomas Aquinas to speculate that Jesus knew everything that God knew (but in the human modality). For Thomas this was not limited to “religious knowledge,” for Jesus knew all languages, all history, all science by virtue of his “divinity.” A God who didn’t know all languages could not listen to all prayers. A God who did not know all history, could not take into account the strengths and weaknesses of every human within its own environment. In sum, it was inconceivable, for Thomas Aquinas, not to have both God and Jesus as omniscient (=knowing everything).
This meant, in effect, that Jesus never truly learned from his parents or teachers for he was, as a human being, always intellectually guided by his nature as a divine being. This theology of Thomas was splendid in so far as it guaranteed the truth of everything that Jesus taught; however, it presented a problematic side that sometimes even the best of theologians lose sight of. Let me explain. Are we to imagine that, as an infant, Jesus knew Hebrew and Aramaic perfectly (in all their dialects) but that he resorted to the crude device of crying when he was hungry or sick because that was what was expected of him “as an infant”? And, later, when Mary used baby talk or when she erroneously corrected his pronunciation or grammar, must we imagine that Jesus willingly embraced her errors so as to allow her to retain the illusion that he needed his parents help by way of acquiring his native tongue? And, still later, at the age of twelve, must we suppose that Jesus knew all the Hebrew and Aramaic texts by heart as well as all of the interpretations of the rabbis (those in the past and those in the future)? If so, must we further suppose that Jesus in his discussions with the experts in the Temple would have to deliberately fake his religious ignorance in order to be able to ask questions with sincerity?
If one says “yes” to all these questions, then one has to face the image of Jesus as always “holding back” on his true knowledge and his true powers. A perceptive homilist expressed this quite nicely:
It is not easy to imagine how Christ can be God and not be omniscient. Evidently the incarnate Christ was able somehow to bracket or limit the actual exercise of his divine powers so that he had the personality of God (basically, the motives and will of God), but the powers of knowing all and the infinite strength of God he somehow restrained. They were his potentially, and thus he was God; but he surrendered their use absolutely, and so he was man (http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/the-son-of-god-at-12-years-old).
Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., pondered this difficult question in the 60s because wherever he gave lectures, Catholics were asking him “Is Jesus truly God?” The reason that Catholics were asking this question was that they had been fed with a Christology that presented “God” as coming into the world and “pretending” to be like a human. This is technically known, Schillebeeckx reminds us, as the heresy of docetism. The Catholic boys from Cleveland who invented Superman had effectively created an unconscious image of the sort of Christology with which they had grown up. Superman was an extraterrestrial being who came into the world looking like a human baby, but, in reality, for the whole of his life he was like God (a Kryptonite) and only appears to be like man (Clark Kent). In view of the prevailing climate of docetism, Schillebeeckx began speaking of Jesus as “making God present by revealing the mind of God in human form” or as “the human being who makes visible is his human conduct the aspirations of God among us.” For Schillebeeckx, everyone expresses, to some degree, God’s dream for them and for the society in which they live. Jesus did this, in a superlative way, for many of his contemporaries and, the movement he left behind, endeavors to continues to do this for subsequent generations. The central question is not, therefore, “Is Jesus truly God?” Rather, the question is “How does Jesus’ way of acting and thinking reveal our own deepest sense of what God wants us to be and to do?” To accomplish this, one must set aside the theology books and reflect upon the life of Jesus within its historical context. . . . For Schillebeeckx, the Synoptic Gospels enable us to encounter the concrete instances wherein the compassion of Jesus goes out for those who are suffering—a reflection of God’s compassion. To admire Jesus is to follow his example; to follow his example is to be empowered by God’s redeeming compassion for his people.
The “faith statement” (n. 1 above) regarding Superman (i.e., “More powerful than a locomotive. . . .”) is likewise misguided and incomplete. There are plenty of “superbeings” showing up in our comic books that fit this description. What is distinctive about Superman is that he has compassion for the those who suffer as victims of abusive power on this planet. He uses his superpowers to liberate rather than to promote his own selfish designs. Interestingly enough, this illustrates how the “faith statement” is not enough. We can’t really understand the inner core of Kal-El until we read and reflect upon episodes in the life of Superman. It is these narratives that reveal the heart and mind of the one superpower that has a beloved and powerful dedication in behalf of the lowly.