What He Said

All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

—Mt 11:27

Jesus claims that his Father (i.e., God, cf., vv. 25-26) and the Son (himself) share a reciprocal and unique knowledge of each other (see also Lk. 10:22). The passage is not found in Mark and, therefore, is likely in the “Q” sayings which are said to predate all four Gospel accounts [Note: “Q” is understood to be a hypothetical written source of Jesus’ teachings (approx. 235 verses) common to both Matthew and Luke, but not found in Mark (see here for details). Verbal parallelisms between these non-Markan sayings of Jesus strongly suggests the existence of a common written source dated circa 40s-50s CE and available to both Matthew and Luke as one of two sources for their Gospel account (the other source being Mark’s Gospel). On the pros and cons of positing the existence of Q, as well as relevant bibliographic information, cf., D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament, 34-36. See also Eta Linnemann’s analysis and counterpoints on the existence of Q]. Quite possibly this would put it very close, chronologically, to Jesus’ utterance. Moreover, since Jesus frequently referred to God as Father, and if he was in the habit of speaking of himself in the third person, then there is no good reason to doubt that he referred to himself as “the Son” (cf., Matt. 8:20; 12:8; Mk. 8:38; 9:31; Lk. 9:22; 18:8; Jn. 3:13-14; 13:31-32). Put differently, “if Jesus’ use of Abba is authentic, then his language about sonship in Matthew 11:27 par. should also be accepted.” [Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, p. 251.] And if his language about sonship is accepted, it is a short distance to accept what he says about his unique relationship with God the Father. Indeed, there is no reason not to.

Earlier in the same passage, Jesus addressed God as “Father” (vv. 25, 26). In Matt. 11:27 he declares himself to be a Son in the exclusive sense of mediating knowledge of the Father to whomever he chooses. This presupposes a unique relationship of the Son to the Father. Especially interesting is the claim that “no one knows the Son except the Father.” This is a claim no mere mortal could make, since what is known of the Son is available only to the Father and no other. Craig states that since the “verse says the Son is unknowable [as to his essential identity as God], which is not true for the post-Easter Church . . . This strongly implies a pre-Easter origin of the saying” [William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 246]. More astounding, however, is the claim that “no one knows the Father except the Son.” In effect, Jesus is saying that persons must acquire their knowledge of God from him.

“No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” is Jesus’ claim to be God’s Son in an absolute and sovereign sense. He is the only one who can reveal the Father. This exclusive claim in revealing the Father is because of Jesus’ unequaled relationship to God the Father; a relationship that no other could possess. Though a filial consciousness is involved between Jesus and God the Father, it is like no other.

The uniqueness of the relationship is seen in Jesus’ claim to know and reveal the Father to whomever he pleases. This is not just another expression of a father and son relationship. The relationship Jesus has with God the Father is a peculiar one. To have mutual knowledge of God the Father is to have the mind of God. To have the exclusive right to reveal God the Father is to possess the sovereignty of God. As Reymond states, “a higher expression of parity between the Father and the Son in possessing divine knowledge and sovereignty and dispensing saving knowledge is inconceivable” [Robert L. Reymond, Jesus: Divine Messiah, 73.].

More importantly, if Matt. 11:27 is a “Q” saying, then it seriously upsets the notion of an evolving Christology. This pre-Johannine statement by Jesus dissolves the idea of a steady development toward a Johannine Christology. Hence, Matthew and Luke (cf., Lk. 10:22) must have already had in place the possibility of a deity Christology. Simply because some of the Gospel writers do not explicitly make all, or even some Christological claims in the way that, say, John did (e.g., pre-existence of the Word, cf., Jn. 1:1), does not mean they did not believe them. Silence concerning an idea is not the same as ignorance of that idea.

The primary focus of Jesus’ prayer is on the flow of revelation. Revelation passes from the Father to the Son, who in turn passes that revelation on to those whom the Son chooses. The process is that the Father, whom Jesus has already identified as “the Lord of heaven and earth,” commits both knowledge and authority to the Son, whom Jesus has identified as himself. This unique mutual knowledge of God the Father guarantees that the revelation the Son gives is true. There is tremendous emphasis put upon Jesus’ person and authority by Matthew.

Moreover, if this passage is read in light of earlier Christological beliefs that had already come to be accepted, it is hardly difficult to dismiss it for what it actually says and means. For example, no less than eleven times is Jesus referred to as the “Lord Jesus” in 1 Thessalonians (1:1, 3; 2:15, 19; 3:11, 13; 4:1, 2; 5:9, 23, 28). Including Galatians we have an additional three times where Jesus is explicitly referred to as Lord in early New Testament writing (1:3; 6:14, 18). It is important to see that the Father and the Son are named together as the origin of salvation and the attributes of the one are the attributes of the other (Gal. 1:3; 1 Thess. 1:1).

Furthermore the pre-existence of the Son of God, who’s identified as Jesus of Nazareth, is clearly not a late development (cf., Gal. 4:4f). Paul is able to say that he did not receive his apostleship from a man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father (Gal. 1:1). The close proximity of Jesus to God in Gal. 1:1, and the contrasting of Jesus and God to “men,” demonstrates that Paul puts Jesus on the divine side of reality [I. H. Marshall, Jesus the Savior: Studies in New Testament Theology , 209.].

Therefore, this early attestation of a ‘God the Son Christology’ puts Matthew 11:27 in a far more defensible light, historically speaking.

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