Christ acted for our advantage in being unwilling to reveal the day of judgment. This is made plain by other words of our Lord and by a not dissimilar passage from Pauls writings. Other passages in which the same ignorance seems to be attributed to the Father are brought forward to meet those who are anxious to know why Christ answered His disciples, as though He did not know. From these Ambrose argues against them that if they admit ignorance and inability in the Father, they must admit that the same Substance exists in the Son as in the Father; unless they prefer to accuse the Son of falsehood; since it belongs neither to Him nor to the Father to deceive, but the unity of both is pointed out in the passage named.
208. But we ask for what reason He was unwilling to state the time. If we ask it, we shall not find it is owing to ignorance, but to wisdom. For it was not to our advantage to know; in order that we being ignorant of the actual moments of judgment to come, might ever be as it were on guard, and set on the watch-tower of virtue, and so avoid the habits of sin; lest the day of the Lord should come upon us in the midst of our wickedness. For it is not to our advantage to know but rather to fear the future; for it is written: “Be not high-minded but fear.” 2788
209. For if He had distinctly stated the day, he would seem to have laid down a rule p. 311 of life for that one age which was nearest to the judgment, and the just man in the earlier times would be more negligent, and the sinner more free from care. For the adulterer cannot cease from the desire of committing adultery unless he fears punishment day by day, nor can the robber forsake the hiding places in the woods where he dwells, unless he knows punishment is hanging over him day by day. For impurity generally spurs them on, but fear is irksome to the end.
210. Therefore I have said that it was not to our advantage to know; nay, it is to our advantage to be ignorant, that through ignorance we might fear, through watchfulness be corrected, as He Himself said: “Be ye ready, for ye know not at what hour the Son of Man cometh.” 2789 For the soldier does not know how to watch in the camp unless he knows that war is at hand.
211. Wherefore at another time also the Lord Himself when asked by his Apostles (Yes, for they did not understand it as Arius did, but believed that the Son of God knew the future. For unless they had believed this, they would never have asked the question.)—the Lord, I say, when asked when He would restore the kingdom to Israel, did not say that He did not know, but says: “It is not for you to know the times or years, which the Father hath put in His own power.” 2790 Mark what He said: It is not for you to know! Read again, “It is not for you.” “For you,” He said, not “for Me,” for now He spoke not according to His own perfection but as was profitable to the human body and our soul. “For you” therefore He said, not “for Me.”
212. Which example the Apostle also followed: “But of the times and seasons, brethren,” he says, “ye have no need that I write unto you.” 2791 Thus not even the Apostle himself, the servant of Christ, said that he knew not the seasons, but that there was no need for the people to be taught; for they ought ever to be armed with spiritual armour, that the virtue of Christ may stand forth in each one. But when the Lord says: “Of the times which the Father hath put in His own power,” 2792 He certainly cannot be without a share in His Fathers knowledge, in whose power He is by no means without a share. For power grows out of wisdom and virtue; and Christ is both of these.
213. But you ask, why did He not refuse His disciples as one who knew, but would not say; and, why did He state instead that neither the angels nor the Son knew? 2793 I too will ask you why God says in Genesis: “I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry that is come unto Me. And if not, that I may know.” 2794 Why does Scripture also say of God: “And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men builded.” 2795 Why also does the prophet say in the Book of the Psalms: “The Lord looked down upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and that did seek God”? 2796 Just as though in one place, if God had not descended, and in the other, if He had not looked down, He would have been ignorant either of mens work or of their merits.
214. But in the Gospel of Luke also thou hast the same, for the Father says: “What shall I do? I will send My beloved Son; it may be that they will reverence Him.” 2797 In Matthew and in Mark thou hast: “But He sent His only Son, saying: they will reverence My Son;” 2798 In one book He says: “It may be that they will reverence My Son;” 2799 and is in doubt as though He does not know; for this is the language of one in doubt. But in the two other books He says: “They will reverence My Son;” that is, He declares that reverence will be shown.
215. But God can neither be in doubt, nor can He be deceived. For he only is in doubt, who is ignorant of the future; and he is deceived, who has predicted one thing, whilst another has happened. Yet what is plainer than the fact that Scripture states the Father to have said one thing of the Son, and that the same Scripture proves another think to have taken place? The Son was beaten, He was mocked, was crucified, and died. 2800 He suffered much worse things in the flesh than those servants who had been appointed before. Was the Father deceived, or was He ignorant of it, or was He unable to give help? But He that is true cannot make a mistake; for it is written: “God is faithful Who doth not lie.” 2801 How was He ignorant, Who knows all? What could He not do, Who could do all?
216. Yet if either He was ignorant, or had not power (for you would sooner agree to say that the Father did not know than own that the Son knows), you see from this very p. 312 fact that the Son is of one Substance with the Father; seeing that the Son like the Father (to speak in accordance with your foolish ideas) does not know all things, and cannot do all things. For I am not so eager or rash in giving praise to the Son as to dare to say that the Son can do more than the Father; for I make no distinction of power between the Father and the Son.
217. But perhaps you say that the Father did not say so, but that the Son erred about the Father. So now you convict the Son not only of weakness, but also of blasphemy and lying. However if you do not believe the Son with regard to the Father, neither may you believe Him with regard to that. For if He wished to deceive us in saying that the Father was in doubt as though He knew not what would take place, He wished also to deceive us about Himself in saying that He did not know the future. It would be far more endurable for Him to stretch the veil of ignorance in front of that which He does of His own accord, than that He should seem to be deluded by a result contrary to what He had foretold in the things He had declared of His Father.
218. But neither is the Father deceived, not does the Son deceive. It is the custom of the holy Scriptures to speak thus, as the examples I have already given, and many others testify, so that God feigns not to know what He does know. In this then a unity of Godhead, and a unity of character is proved to exist in the Father and in the Son; seeing that, as God the Father hides what is known to Him, so also the Son, Who is the image of God in this respect, hides what is known to Him.
S. Matt. xxiv. 44.311:2790 311:2791 311:2792 311:2793
S. Mark xiii. 32.311:2794 311:2795 311:2796 311:2797
S. Luke xx. 13.311:2798
S. Matt. xxi. 37.311:2799
S. Mark xii. 6.311:2800
S. Matt. xxvii. 29 ff.311:2801