First, knowing when a event will take place requires at a minimum knowledge of four things:
So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. (Revelation 9:15) [ESV]
Therefore, when Jesus "confesses ignorance" of the day and hour, that cannot be taken as ignorance of the year and month. At best (or worse depending on your theological perspective), the statement means Jesus knows the year and month but not the day and hour.
Second, there are different ways in which an event may be "scheduled." The most common method is to mark a day on the calendar. An example of this is the Passover which is to be observed on a specific day of a specific month:
In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. (Exodus 12:18)
This command seems to be clear cut. On the 14th day of the first month the event is to take place. Yet one only has to consider how this is actually observed during the present time to recognize the difficulty of following the command:
Passover 2020 begins at sundown on Wednesday, April 8, and ends Thursday evening, April 16. The first Passover seder is on the evening of April 8, and the second Passover seder takes place on the evening of April 9.
Why do some eat the Passover Seder on one day and others on the following day? The answer is "day" of the month and "evening" (i.e hour) depend upon location. When evening of the proper day in Jerusalem arrives, it is neither the proper day nor the proper time for those in a different location. In this day of modern communication, it is possible for everyone across the globe to begin the Passover at exactly the same moment. But, would a Passover Seder in Los Angeles be a correct observance because it was observed on the basis it was the proper time in Jerusalem, despite the fact it was neither evening nor the 14th day of the month when eaten in Los Angeles?
Another factor is knowledge of how an event is scheduled. In the case of the Passover, it is to be observed annually in the same month and on the same day. As such future Passovers can be placed on the calendar:
Passover 2021 begins at sundown on March 27 and ends Sunday evening, April 4. The first Passover seder is on the evening of March 27, and the second Passover seder takes place on the evening of March 28.
This is true for recurring events, but must this be true of those which are non-recurring? Another example from the Exodus points to an alternative means by which unique events may be scheduled:
The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:40-41)
Arguably, this event was scheduled using a predetermined interval, 430-years. After the required amount of time from the first event had been fulfilled, the second event took place. So if one had known in advance the exact day on which the first event took place and had knowledge of the required "waiting time" (430-years), one would have been able to know the correct date on which the second event would take place.
Omniscient but Not Knowing
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Mark 13:32)
Setting aside the complexities of date-setting or the vagaries of human wisdom in understanding when future non-recurring events will take place, the passage in question raises two possible veins:
- The lack of knowledge is evidence the Son is not God
- The Word which was God but became flesh caused a minor "disruption" in knowing exactly how much time had elapsed between unique events.
Of course the first option is seized by all who believe "the Father" only is God. Clearly, they reason, the self-proclaimed ignorance of the Son can mean nothing less then a deficiency which is inconsistent with characteristics such as omniscience reserved for God. Of course, they fail to acknowledge or consider a similar deficiency may be present in "the Father:"
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 13 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. (Revelation 19)
If the Father doesn't know the Name of His Son should that disqualify Him as God? Or should we consider whether the apocalyptic nature of non-recurring events may result in "minor" details being known to one person of the Trinity and not the other? Or is there some particular nuance in the written text which allows for full understanding where the literal text seems to say otherwise? I raised this same question on this site and find it amusing to see everyone immediately look for reasons why the plain reading of the text cannot be taken as such. Because, of course, everyone knows the Father is all knowing and so the text must be approached with that fact in mind.
In the case of the Return of The Word Who Became Flesh there are two possibilities which preserve the otherwise obvious deity of the Son:
- How His time in the tomb is counted - do those days continue to accrue toward the set amount of time before His return or does the Father have discretion in how He counts the days before the Son returns?
- Rather than see this as a deficiency, can it be seen as a sign of superiority?
That is to say, the Son alone has the authority to decide when He will return and where the Son's decision will be determined solely by affairs on the earth (i.e. the work of the Holy Spirit and man's response) the Father alone knows when the precise moment those events will be fulfilled. In other words, The Word Who Became Flesh is no longer "keeping track of time" as He used to and as the Father still does. Rather He has exercised His authority to use some other standard (i.e. saving people) rather than marking off days and hours?
I see no reason to deny the divinity of Jesus Christ which is clearly stated elsewhere when there plausible and practical considerations to account for what is only a partial lack of knowledge of the day and hour of His Return. Rather, I choose to look for that day when His Return will be the physical manifestation He is God.
- Passover 2020 Note: the specific day of April is not the 14th as the "calendar" used to schedule the Passover is not the secular calendar in use. The "proper" date on the Jewish calendar is converted so that it can be observed on the corresponding secular date.
- Passover 2021 Note: as there is no created means of determining the month (cf Genesis 1:14) even this simple date setting is subject to interpretation. For example, does a year always have 12 months or, as is the practice in Judaism of intercalating a 13th month appropriate?