Science Ch.23 - Can God Become a Real Human?

Jesus was fully man, with a limited human mind, so how could he know everything that God knows? One solution lies in analogies with computers and especially some popular computer games.

When my young daughters discovered the life-simulation computer game The Sims, they became creators of their own universe. They could “make” virtual people, giving them the physical features and personality characteristics that they determined – “cheerful,” “creative,” “romantic,” “self-assured,” and so on. And they could then prompt their virtual creations to do things such as cleaning the toilet (otherwise it became infested with flies) or applying for a job. If their Sim wasn’t knowledgeable or creative enough to perform their job well, their characteristics could be adjusted. You could make them practice so that they gradually improved, or you could employ a cheat code to immediately download extra skills into them.

       This type of game is the modern equivalent of the ant farm that I remember building as a child. You half fill a thin glass or plastic container with sandy soil, and put sticks and leaves on top. Then you introduce a colony of ants and watch them dig out tunnels and make a home. You can choose to help the ants by supplying more leaves and other food, or you can disrupt their plans by pushing a twig into the soil to cut off some of their tunnels.

       Thinking about these computer characters and ants is a good starting point for us to try to imagine how Jesus felt about becoming a human. In Philippians we read that Jesus humbled himself, leaving behind his greatness, glory, and power, and that he became as lowly as a slave (Phil 2:6-8). But this is only half the story. Because the human brain is limited, Jesus also had to leave behind most of his knowledge. He could no longer be omniscient – knowing everything in the universe – because there is only so much room inside the human skull. So how did Jesus cope with the limitations of our human brain? And could he still be regarded as being God if he could only remember as much as we can?

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A serious downgrade

Perhaps we can begin to have an idea of what it was like for Jesus if we try to imagine becoming an ant – a serious downgrade, to say the least. Our brain has about 100,000,000,000 nerve cells, but an ant brain has only 250,000. We would also lose most of our independence because we’d do things only in response to the aims of the colony. Our communication would be limited; instead of having about a million words of English at our disposal, we could only pass signals using a few chemicals. And our job satisfaction would be reduced to carrying things, such as pieces of dismembered enemies or half-chewed leaves.

       Children soak up information, but as we get older, we have to forget things in order to make room for new knowledge. Mostly we do this by simplifying what we know – discarding most of the details and remembering only the smell or the emotion associated with it, or perhaps a single image of the event. But eventually the whole event is lost, and the engram (a unit of memory) is reused for something completely different.

       Was Jesus ever actually ignorant of something? One possible example was when he said about the coming destruction: “that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt 24:36 = Mark 13:32). It isn’t surprising that some early Christians tried to deny this. Some scribes went as far as leaving out the words “even the Son” from these verses, so that it was only people and angels who were ignorant.1 Others said that Jesus wasn’t limited by having a merely human mind, but he actually retained his divinely omniscient mind within a human body. Irenaeus vehemently denied this revision as a heresy because he said that Jesus had to be fully human in his mind, as in every other part of his humanity, in order to save us. He said that salvation involved Jesus becoming like us, and if he became only partly like us he would only partly save us.2

Supernatural knowledge

And yet, Jesus also had supernatural knowledge at times. When some Pharisees thought that he had blasphemed, “Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts” (Mark 2:8 = Luke 5:22), and similarly he knew the thoughts of other people (Luke 6:8; 9:47). John said that Jesus didn’t entrust himself to certain people because “he knew what was in each person” (John 2:25), and he records that Nathanael’s doubts disappeared when Jesus told him “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you” (John 1:48). Luke records a story from Jesus’ childhood that implies he already understood more than the teachers in the Temple (Luke 2:46-47).

       If Jesus had a normal human mind, how did he also have this supernatural knowledge? It might be that, in these instances, he was using a “word of knowledge” whereby the Holy Spirit told him what he needed to know (as in 1 Cor 12:8). However, the way Mark describes it, Jesus knew these things in his own “spirit” (Mark 2:8), and the other texts simply state that Jesus knew these things.

       So we are left with something of a dilemma. As Jesus’ human mind could not hold all of his divine knowledge, and a human mind cannot read the minds of others, the implication is that he had special powers and wasn’t really a normal human. But this is precisely the heresy that Irenaeus was so concerned about.

       One solution is that the knowledge that Jesus needed was communicated directly to his spirit by his Father. Something like this happens in computer games or the Matrix movies when a character needs extra skills (such as how to fly a helicopter): that knowledge is downloaded straight into their brains. Although that character’s brain can only hold a limited amount of information, they can potentially know anything that is stored on a server, ready for download.

Ready for download

Similarly, as Jesus’ spirit was in constant communication with his Father, anything that his Father knew could be communicated to him. It was as though he had an instant-access connection to the largest information server in the universe, so whatever he needed to know could be downloaded as required.

       This doesn’t mean that Jesus was superhuman, because he wasn’t doing anything that wasn’t possible for a believer or a prophet who was listening to God. The unique thing about Jesus was his sinlessness and holiness, by which he was able to remain so close to his Father that he could receive such knowledge easily. This meant he could even claim, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me” (John 8:28).

       Considering theological questions about the incarnation in the light of computer technology raises some intriguing possibilities for ourselves, as well as Jesus. For instance, as one day we will be “like Jesus” (1 John 3:2), we too may have access to this knowledge, at least in part. I love being able to look things up quickly on the internet, and I can only imagine what it would be like to download anything from the omniscient mind of God into my own mind whenever I need it.


• God’s reduction to human limitations was greater than us becoming an ant with four hundred thousand times less memory.
• Jesus’ limited human brain couldn’t know everything, and yet he knew what people were thinking.
• In fiction and computer games, we are familiar with the idea that knowledge can be downloaded into someone’s mind.
• Proposal: Jesus was able to download knowledge from his Father as needed because he was so close to him.

1^ See the data from at
2^ See Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2.28.6 (

This was previously published in a similar form in Christianity magazine

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