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And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:52

This question seeks to understand the process by which Jesus learned and to consider the possibility that he learned by fixing his mistakes.

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  • There are some similar questions, but none that I could see that asked about growing in wisdom and stature, which was surprising. But if anyone else does know of a question like that, please do help by flagging this as a duplicate.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 6:15
  • It should be flagged as low quality itself if not duplicate among countless questions questioning the humanity of Jesus.
    – Michael16
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 6:28
  • How does anyone learn? Your que assume that Jesus was not a human. See Hebrews 4:14-16 He could sympathize with our every weakness. Denying his humanity is denying him and his father. 1 John 2:22 see my answer here hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/54041/…
    – Michael16
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 6:38

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There is not enough evidence that Jesus learn by trial and error. However, verses Luke 2:46-47 has a small hint.

46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.

47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.

We know that asking the right question is the fast route to learn. But nobody can ask the right question with no knowledge. Thus Jesus should have learned the scripture by himself, and question the teachers to refine the understanding. Moreover, when the teachers questioned Him back about His understanding, Jesus replied with an answer exceeding the teachers' expectation, that was how people were amazed (vv47).

Luke 3:22 describes the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form like a dove, at time of His Baptism. So I would consider the Spirit was not in Jesus yet when He was a child. Jesus just grew up like an ordinary child, but certainly with a wisdom inherited from God, which had been described in Luke 2:40

And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. (NIV)

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  • "the Spirit was not in Jesus yet when He was a child". Then how was he able to refrain from sin for 3 decades? ¶ All human children naturally disrespect their parents. But Jesus never sinned, so he never disrespected his parents. How was that possible? Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 14:36
  • @Ray - let's think about this. We know Jesus is the son of God, He is 100% God, and 100% human. So as a child, He could not perform miracle, not until the Spirit descended on Him. His first sign happened after His Baptism. Jesus told His disciples in Acts 1:8 NIV, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you". Jesus did not sin, not because of the Holy Spirit, it is because He himself is God. Jesus restrain His power by sending away His Spirit, so that He can grow up like an ordinary child, 100% human. Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 2:47
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Did Jesus learn from trial and error?

No.

Luke 2:52 does not address how he learned - we get this understanding from Hebrews.

Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things which he suffered. Heb 5:8

Jesus had to learn obedience as the task required of him demanded absolute compliance with God's will and no deviation to sin would be allowed - the tasks would become exceedingly greater the closer to the cross and his ultimate testing.

he learned by fixing his mistakes

Again, no, this is not provided for us either. Jesus made no mistakes - being filled with the fulness of God (God's spirit) Jesus always knew the right thing to do or say, and while he was sorely tempted to do otherwise, he never did.

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. Heb 4:15

Being tempted, allowing thoughts of alternatives to God's will, (let this cut pass from me) is not a mistake - it's being human and subject to the ruler of this world which Jesus was, as we all are.

We might ask, what does it mean to 'learn obedience'? Specifically, what does 'learn' signify? To learn, demand that one understands something better after some experience (suffering for eg.) than before. So Jesus grew in obedience as he learned. What is obedience? To do as instructed, to behave as required. Jesus was not ready to go to the cross at the start of his ministry - he had to be equipped and prepared to be obedient to God's greatest requirement - to suffer death unlawfully and willingly.

The lead up to this final stage must have included many times when he was still learning obedience from his youth. Suffering teaches hard lessons and Jesus had many lessons to learn. So while Jesus must have done things (though there is nothing to affirm or deny) that were not fully obedient in the lead up to his ministry and the cross, we can safely affirm that he never did sin in that learning process - always submitting to God's will over his own.

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    I understand, how in many ways Jesus learned obedience through the experience of suffering; but when I think of Jesus as a toddler learning how to talk, it seems to me that the process would be similar to the way children have to make mistakes before they figure out how to put words together in a proper sentence. Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 15:22
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    @StevieC. I wonder if there is a conflation of "error" and "sin" in some perspectives about this question. Was Jesus without sin? Yes. However, is it a sin to, as a baby, take a step and become off-balance? I don't think so, but this could be called an "error", through which Jesus perhaps learned to walk "by trial and error". The terms "sin", "error", and "mistake" may need more refining for this conversation. I don't believe that a baby falling on uneven ground is a moral mistake, but it is still some kind of mistake, of which I tend to think Jesus probably made at times.
    – elmer007
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 15:52
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For trinitarian Christians the question is complicated. Does God learn by trial and error? Did Jesus' humanity NOT learn by trial and error? Is there a way to assert that Jesus learned that way, without falling into heresy?

To answer, one has to skate on thin ice. If the answer is clearly "No" then Jesus wasn't fully human, for all humans start out as babies and learn by playing and experimenting - trial and error. It is hard to think that Jesus, if he was fully human, didn't make mistakes like skinning his knee multiple times before learning to run competently, for example. Or that he never broke utensils or had to learn to respect the boundaries of his parents and playmates. Can we picture Baby Jesus as never having diaper "accidents" before learning how, through trial and error, how to control his bladder long enough to reach the toilet? Surely not.

On the other hand, affirming that Jesus DID learn by trial and error can be seen as compromising the dignity and omniscience of God Incarnate in Jesus. Do we really want to affirm that the Incarnate Deity makes mistakes?

There is not much in the Gospels to help us resolve this issue. This verse may shed some light:

And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:49)

This verse tends to support the idea that Jesus grew in wisdom. However, some may insist that he was already perfected in wisdom at birth, and only grew in the physical sense.

But if we turn to the Old Testament, we find confirmation that the Messiah has to learn in the spiritual and moral sense, as opposed to merely growing in physical strength. Isaiah's prophecy of Immanuel shows that this child was not endowed with perfect wisdom or even perfect moral sense from birth.

The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel... before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. (Is. 7:14-16)

Thus, the child Immanuel, as an infant and possibly a boy, would not know how to reject the wrong and choose the right. He had to learn, and it does not make good sense to insist that he learned only theoretically without making mistakes in the process. If this prophecy refers to Jesus, then Jesus was not completely mature in wisdom and moral sense as a child.

Thus, the preponderance of the biblical evidence supports the idea that Jesus did indeed need to learn, both practically and morally. Since one of the major ways that humans learn is by trial and error, we may presume that Jesus, who was fully human as well as fully divine according to Christian doctrine, learned this way as well.

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  • While the Is 7 prophecy has similarities, it isn't about Jesus, but was applied to Jesus because of the similarities installed in the former on purpose. God lays out a plan, simple enough at first, then magnifies it with whole new levels of meaning and application at a later time. Joshua/Jesus for eg.
    – Steve
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 3:59
  • NotE my disclaimer: "If this prophecy refers to Jesus'... BUT Don't Christians generally think it is about Jesus? I agree it was applied to him by Matthew. Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 4:14
  • Yes, Christians think a lot of things that have little or no biblical veracity. +1 btw
    – Steve
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 4:24
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Not through error, but through trial or undergoing - yes, sure! His eternal Hypostasis of Logos was never asleep and could not fall asleep - any more than the eternal Hypostasis of the Father could fall asleep - even when He slept according to His human nature. Thus, He became babe, and His human created intellectual soul developed just like His body developed, but this development did not and could not develop through any error, but only through undergoing/trial what He had not undergone before. Like, when ordinary children could be afraid and against loss of first teeth, He was not afraid and not against, knowing that this was according to nature that He Himself as Logos created. But He underwent the pain of loss of the first teeth and this was a complete novelty for Him, for in eternity with the Father before the World's creation neither He nor Father even had teeth.

At age 12 He bewildered the greatest Jewish theologians of the time gathered in the very Temple of Solomon by His questions and answers, without having even studied the Scripture, and this is impossible for any 12 years old kid and even for 72 years old man. If having not learned or even played tennis I would bewilder Roger Federer by my knowledge of the nuances of the game, this will be a clear and unalloyed miracle. How much more such a knowledge of theology by a 12-years old?

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  • "Not through error, but through trial or undergoing - yes, sure! His eternal Hypostasis of Logos was never asleep and could not fall asleep even when He slept according to human nature. Thus, He became babe, and His human created intellectual soul developed just like His body developed, but this development did not and could not develop through any error, but only through undergoing/trial what He had not undergone before..., What verses support this? Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 7:18
  • @AlexBalilo If I write "Jesus Christ ate bread like other humans, chewing it before swallowing and not swallowing immediately", and you, habitually, ask me: "what verses support this?" What can I answer? Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 7:21
  • "If I write "Jesus Christ ate bread like other humans, chewing it and not swallowing immediately", and you, habitually, ask me: "what verses support this?" What can I answer? –" But that is not what you wrote. Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 7:24
  • @AlexBalilo When I said that Logos who created the world could not fall asleep, it is even more self-evident than as to say that Christ ate bread by chewing it and then swallowing. I just gave an example. Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 7:25
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    @LevanGigineishvili, are denominational non-Biblical doctrines like "eternal Hypostasis" suitable for this site? Isn't it appropriate to question their use here? Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 14:45

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