The discussion thread to my article “Eric Seibert on biblical violence and the Canaanites” includes an interesting discussion between Geoff and Steven Jake regarding whether Jesus may have had false beliefs, and in particular false theological beliefs. I don’t believe Jesus had any false theological beliefs about matters of soteriological import. In other words, Jesus knew just how to be reconciled to God. But that doesn’t change the fact that in his humanity Jesus did have many false theological beliefs about matters of soteriological indifference.
The argument is quite simple. We begin by recognizing that God is omniscient and as omniscient God knows all truths and believes no falsehoods. Thus it follows that for any p, if p is true then God knows that p.
Next, we can note that any belief about God is a theological belief. Thus, the belief God knows p is a theological belief.
Now we note that as a first century Jew, Jesus had non-culpable false beliefs which were the product of his time and culture. For example, Jesus likely believed the earth is a flat disk (or something similar), from which it follows that Jesus would have thought God believes the earth is a flat disk.
(Don’t get caught up quibbling over the flat disk example. The point is that Jesus had at least one false belief about the nature of the world. So if you don’t like my example, slot in your own.)
But it is false that God believes the earth is a flat disk because the earth is not a flat disk and God has no false beliefs.
Thus, Jesus had at least one false theological belief.
In closing, note that to avoid the consequence that Jesus had at least one false theological belief you would have to posit of Jesus the following:
For any p, if p is true then Jesus knows that p or withholds belief that-p or that not-p or refrains from inferring any beliefs about God’s knowledge regarding that-p or that not-p.
The problem is that this imputes a bizarre psychology to Jesus which undermines the humanity of Jesus, separating it drastically from the common human experience it is meant to emulate. Consequently, it has nothing to commend it. In conclusion, we are far better off accepting that Jesus had at least one, and likely an indeterminate number, of false theological beliefs, so long as there are no false theological beliefs of soteriological import among them.