Was Jesus Able to Formulate Thoughts Inside of Mary's Womb?

Hello everyone,
This is my question/whatever this is:
I understand that Christ had unlimited human knowledge (that is, unlimited knowledge of all things created, past, present, and future) and prayed for us from the time of his conception due to his ability to experience the Beatific Vision as a result of his divinity. I have also understood that this would require for him to be rational and to possess a free-will from the very moment of his conception. I read in an article that He only performed acts that fit accordingly to his age and body abilities (i.e. as an embryo without hands or feet He could only move around Mary’s virginal womb and could not kick or talk yet). The former statements seem to imply that He could formulate thoughts and had self-awareness from the very moment of his conception, while the latter imply that Jesus did not make use of reason until he developed the brain tissue necessary to formulate thoughts and the nervous tissue to sense and collect information to build memories. My question is, assuming my premise is correct, how could He have been rational as an embryo if his sacred tiny body had not yet developed the tissue necessary for the expression of rationality and the use of free-will?

Your question is in the realm of speculative Christology. We don’t have a definitive teaching of the Magisterium on this point yet.

Certainly, Jesus had the Beatific vision from Conception, due to the hypostatic union. But I don’t agree with the rest of your premise. Do you have a theological argument or any other support for those claims?

His human knowledge was not unlimited. Only the Divine Nature has truly unlimited knowledge (omniscience). As an adult, Jesus only knew the things that he ordinately willed to know. His human finite mind could and did know anything knowable by a finite mind. But he did not continually consider in his human mind, for example, every sin that ever would be committed, for he did not wish to do so. And he did not consider every detail of every patent that ever would be filed in the U.S. patent office, for that would not be useful to him.

Mind (reason, knowledge) is always subject to free will. To speak as if his human mind could not help but hold in his thoughts every fact is to speak as if he had no free will. So it makes sense that he would only know whatever he wished to know.

As a prenatal, though, it is more difficult to say what his human knowledge was like. Before the prenatal has a brain, his soul still had the beatific vision. We don’t know what that would be like. But since the soul is the form of the body, we might speculate that the soul develops as the body develops. And this would suggest that his ability to exercise human reason and human free will was limited by the body early in development.

As God, HE always had full knowledge (which does not require what we call “thought.”

As a human being however, HE had to grow a usable head just like everybody else.


St. Thomas writes about Christ’s knowledge here and here

Essentially, what he says is that Christ knew all things that have, do, or will exist, though He did not comprehend the Divine Essence in His humanity, since it is finite and the Divine Essence is infinite. Infused knowledge perfected His passive intellect. Acquired knowledge perfected His active intellect. As concerns His acquired knowledge, He learned through discovery (not being taught) according to His age. This means that, though He held all knowledge in His intellect from conception, He would not be forming thoughts in the womb, because children that age do not naturally form thoughts. This is why St. Luke (2:52) says, "Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace with God and men. If I’m on the right track with understanding St. Thomas, I would say that Christ’s acquired knowledge connected His reasoning and sense experience to the infused knowledge already in His passive intellect, though I’m not completely clear on this point.

Christ did have the Beatific Vision from His conception though, and was never without it.

A finite human mind cannot know that which is infinite. Every human person and every angel continues in existence forever, whether in Heaven or in Hell. And as they continue, they think thoughts. The number of these thoughts is infinite, since they exist forever. Therefore, a finite human mind cannot know every thought that ever will be thought by all persons. This implies a limit to the human knowledge of Christ in addition to the inability to fully comprehend any mystery of God (the Trinity, transubstantiation, salvation, grace and free will, etc.).


But do remember that Christ is not a human person, He is ony a Divine Person. So, as God, His knowledge was unlimited, as man His knowledge was relatively limited, even though He possessed the Beatific Vision from the very moment of the Incarnation.

Benedicat Deus,

I see what you mean, but St. Thomas Aquinas argues otherwise:

He has been appointed Judge of all by God, “because He is the Son of Man,” as is said John 5:27; and therefore the soul of Christ knows in the Word all things existing in whatever time, and the thoughts of men, of which He is the Judge, so that what is said of Him (John 2:25), “For He knew what was in man,” can be understood not merely of the Divine knowledge, but also of His soul’s knowledge, which it had in the Word.

The human thoughts that have been thought and will be thought, I would argue, aren’t infinite in the sense that God is infinite. God hasn’t a beginning nor an end. All created rational creatures have a beginning, and thus though they continue in existence indefinitely, nonetheless their thoughts can be numbered from the first thought. I stand to be corrected on this, as I’m not an expert. But I do know that St. Thomas is pretty explicit about Christ’s knowledge. Check out the link though. He goes into more detail, and makes some important distinctions that I haven’t made here.

Christ is both fully human AND fully Divine.
He certainly was human. He bled. He wept. He was hungry. He had a human mother.

Hi pianistclare. What Latinitas is saying is that Christ, though He is human, is not a human person, because it was the Person of the Son that assumed a human nature. So, Christ is fully Divine and fully human because He has a Divine nature and a human nature, but His Person, Which is in both natures, is Divine.

I seem to have made an error. Here, St. Thomas is speaking of Christ’s beatific knowledge, not His infused or acquired knowledge. So, His soul knew these things in the Word, since He beheld the beatific vision. St. Thomas does say here that Christ knew the infinite in His soul in the Word because He could atone for infinite sin.

St. Thomas does say that Christ knows all things by infused and acquired knowledge, though only to the extent that He is able to in His passive and active intellect. So, He only knew the Essence of God by His beatific knowledge, not by His infused or acquired knowledge.

Lastly, regarding infused knowledge, St. Thomas does say:

since Christ had the fulness of prudence by the gift of counsel, He consequently knew all singular things–present, past, and future.

Infused knowledge is in His soul, so He at least had knowledge pertaining to past, present, and future singular things.

Saint thomas: “absolutely speaking, the Divine knowledge exceeds the knowledge of the soul of Christ, not only as regards the mode of knowing, but also as regards the number of things known”

So I would still assert that Christ did not know all things, which can be known by a finite human mind, in the sense of number: the number of future thoughts of created persons is infinite, and so cannot be known (each and every thing) in its entirety. However, Christ could know any of these thoughts, as he willed. So all that a finite mind can know, he did know, though not in the sense of possessing all facts, nor of reviewing all facts, in his mind.

A human being, but not a human person.

He was the only being for whom the two terms were not synonyms.


I’m still growing mine.


A physical brain is not necessary to form thoughts. God thinks but does not have a physical brain; angels think but do not have physical brains. Human beings are able to think in their rational souls whether or not those souls are united with physical brains. Until the resurrection of the body, the human souls of the dead are able to think but do not have physical brains. Like other men, before his physical brain developed Jesus was able to think in his rational human soul from the first moment of his conception.

Jesus Christ THE PERSON has both a human nature and a Divine Nature.

Those two natures were united by the Hypostatic Union and could not be mingled or separated.

Therefore we always speak of Jesus the PERSON as having two natures. He was not a Divine Person or a Human Person, (as that would imply a separation of the two natures.)

However Jesus THE PERSON, did have a Divine Nature as well as a human nature (both body and soul.)

Therefore His Person is NOT IN both natures, but rather both natures IN the Hypostatic Union ARE the PERSON Jesus Christ.

IOW, Jesus Christ the PERSON IS the Hypostatic Union i.e.: The Incarnation. There is NO OTHER.

This is very specialized Christological language, and it should be carefully adhered to. See the Athanasian Creed for the standard formula.

Respectfully, I can’t agree with you here, as it’s quite accurate to call Christ a Divine Person. He is One of the Three Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity, Who share one Divine Nature. The Word assumed human nature to His Person and united it therein with His Divine Nature. I just completed a course in Christology (I say this not boastfully, but to explain my source) and the technical language that was specified was that though we often say that the Person of Christ has two natures, the proper language is that He is one Person in two natures. The Council of Chalcedon uses this language as well:

one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the difference of the natures being by no means taken away because of the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person [prosopon] and one Subsistence [hypostasis], not divided or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten God, Word, Lord Jesus Christ

One might put it another way: that the Word subsists in two natures, a Divine one and a human one. My human nature, for example, is not my person. I am a human person subsisting in a human nature.

That Christ is a Divine Person is also the language of St. Thomas here, and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church 470:

Christ’s human nature belongs, as his own, to the divine person of the Son of God, who assumed it.

I know. But people think that He didn’t experience things as we do. He did.
When you say things like that it sets up a weird notion about how He lived His early years.

I absolutely agree! I was speaking technically, but by no means did I intend to suggest that Jesus experienced life in any other way than a human one. My apologies for any ambiguity on my part :slight_smile:


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