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Holman Bible Dictionary


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Lack of knowledge or comprehension. Old Testament law distinguished between sins of ignorance or sin unintentionally (Leviticus 4:2 ,Leviticus 4:2,4:13-14 ; Numbers 15:24-29 ) and premeditated sins (“sin presumptuously” or with a high hand Numbers 15:30-31 ). Sins committed in ignorance incur guilt (Leviticus 4:13 ,Leviticus 4:13,4:22 ,Leviticus 4:22,4:27 ); however, the sacrificial system provided atonement for such sin (Leviticus 4:1 ; Leviticus 5:5-6 ). In contrast, “high-handed” or “presumptuous” sin is an affront to the Lord punishable by exclusion from the people of God. The Law provided no ritual cleansing for such sin (Numbers 15:30-31 ). Common images for sins of ignorance include error (Leviticus 5:18 ), straying (Psalm 119:10 ), and stumbling (Job 4:4 ). By extension these images can be applied to any sin. Thus Proverbs 19:27 warns against willful “erring” from words of divine counsel.

The New Testament speaks of past ignorance which God excuses. Such was the ignorance of those Jews who participated in crucifying Jesus (Acts 3:17 ; Acts 13:27 ), of Paul who persecuted Christians (1 Timothy 1:13 ), and of Gentiles who did not recognize the true God (Acts 17:30 ). Though God “winks at” such past ignorance, He requires repentance (Acts 3:19 ; Acts 17:30 ). Obedience characterizes lives of the converted just as ignorant desires characterize those without Christ (1 Peter 1:14 ). The New Testament speaks of deliberate ignorance as well as “excusable” ignorance. Most often deliberate ignorance involves the stubborn refusal to acknowledge nature's witness to the powerful existence of God (Romans 1:18-21 ; Ephesians 4:18 ; 2 Peter 3:5 ).

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Ignorance'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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