Matthew 9:4 (ESV):

4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?

Did Jesus know their thoughts because 1) he was omniscient, 2) the Holy Spirit revealed the information to him (known as "word of knowledge" or "gift of knowledge") or 3) some other explanation?

  • 2
    It is impossible for any man to peer into the unique Personage of Jesus, the Christ, and to know, definitively, exactly what relates to his Deity and what relates to his humanity. Scripture says he knew something, but says no more. This question can only be answered with speculation and therefore remains, firmly and totally, a matter of individual opinion and private interpretation.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 12:37

2 Answers 2


In commenting on Matt 9:4, Barnes says this:

Jesus, knowing their thoughts - Mark says, "Jesus perceived "in his spirit" that they so reasoned." The power of searching the heart, and of knowing the thoughts of people, belongs only to God, 1 Chronicles 28:9; Romans 8:27; Revelation 2:23; Jeremiah 17:10. In claiming this, as Jesus did here, and often elsewhere, he gave clear proofs of his omniscience, John 2:24-25.

While I agree with the first part of this statement, I would beg to differ with the second part about Jesus using His innate divine omniscience. While I do not doubt that Jesus was fully divine and possessed omniscience, the incident here does not necessarily display such because of several considerations:

  • Others such as Paul and Barnabas, Peter & John, etc, did great miracles and these are never taken as evidence of their divinity - only their imparted use of Jesus' Power.
  • Jesus promised that His disciples would do greater miracles that He did in John 14:12
  • Several other references make it clear that Jesus acted at all times during his incarnation in the same way as we should in order to set us an example of complete dependence of the Father:

1 Peter 2:21 - To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Heb 4:14-16 - Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

1 John 2:5, 6 - By this we know that we are in Him: 6Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked.

Thus, it is clear that Jesus lived (among other things) to set an example of dependence on the Father - a much greater temptation for Jesus who did not need to live that way; but we must.


Therefore, on the basis of the above, I suggest that Jesus used no power not available to any of the disciples - in Matt 9:4 Jesus was presumably prompted by the Holy Spirit to perceive the thoughts of the leaders.

  • This aspect of Christology is a difficult one that goes beyond our understanding, as such attempts to explain it usually are inadequate. It is definitely true that Jesus set an example for us to follow.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Jul 3, 2021 at 11:24
  • @PerryWebb - I agree. The fact that Jesus was called a prophet means that He used the Holy Spirit as a source and not His own innate ability.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 3, 2021 at 11:31

Jesus, we are told consistently is a man and we have no evidence to suggest he was also God. We are told ’he and the Father were one’. We know this has nothing to do with one substsnce, but being of one mind and purpose with God. He was filled with God’s spirit, and being without sin, his understanding of all that was going on around him was crystal clear.

We do have some examples of Jesus not knowing exactly the facts - the woman who touched his cloak, the time of his return are two.

We have little reason to think Jesus needed any ‘gifts of understanding or knowledge’. What he did know was men’s thoughts in general, made possible by the ‘fullness of God in him’. This enabled him to know what was in their hearts and what their motives were - being of the devil and not of God.

And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them… Matt 12:25

But Jesus, knowing the thoughts of their hearts Luke 9:47

And Jesus, having known their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts Matt 9:4

Jesus had no special powers. Apart from his intimate closeness to God, he was made like us in every respect, Heb 2:17. God’s perfect and timely provisions didn’t make Jesus omniscient like God is, he was simply enabled to do his job with wisdom, discernment and love.

  • How do you explain John 4:16-19 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.
    – user38524
    Commented Jul 3, 2021 at 4:22
  • How does a prophet know anything? God reveals it to them.
    – Steve
    Commented Jul 3, 2021 at 4:44

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