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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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I. Human knowledge

1. In the OT . Knowledge, so far as it has a theological use, is moral rather than intellectual. It is assumed that a knowledge of God is possible, but this is the result of a revelation of Himself by God, and not a speculative knowledge achieved by man. So knowledge becomes practically equivalent to religion ( Psalms 25:14 , Isaiah 11:2 ), and ignorance to irreligion ( 1 Samuel 2:12 , Hosea 4:1 ; Hosea 6:6 ). The Messianic age is to bring knowledge, but this will be taught of God ( Isaiah 54:13 ). This knowledge of God is therefore quite consistent with speculative ignorance about the universe ( Job 38:1-41 ; Job 39:1-30 ). Perhaps some expressions in the NT which seem to refer to Gnostic ideas may be explained by this view of knowledge.

2. In the NT . ( a ) In the Gospels knowledge is spoken of in the same sense as in the OT. Christ alone possesses the knowledge of God ( Matthew 11:25-27 ). This knowledge gives a new relation to God, and without it man is still in darkness ( Matthew 5:8 , John 7:17 ; John 17:3 ). ( b ) In St. Paul’s Epistles . In the earlier Epistles knowledge is spoken of as a gift of the Spirit ( 1 Corinthians 1:30 ; 1 Corinthians 1:2 ; 1 Corinthians 12:8 ), although God can to a certain extent be known through nature ( Acts 14:7 , Romans 1:19-20 ). 1 Cor. especially urges the subordination of knowledge to charity. In Colossians 2:1-23 and 1 Timothy 6:20 a wrong kind of knowledge is spoken of perhaps an early form of Gnosticism. True knowledge, however, centres in Christ, who is the mystery of God ( Colossians 2:2 ). In Him all questions find their answer, and this knowledge is not, like Gnosticism, the property of a few, but is intended for all men ( Colossians 1:28 ). In the Pastoral Epp. knowledge is spoken of with reference to a definite body of accepted teaching, which is repeatedly alluded to; it is, however, not merely intellectual but moral ( Titus 1:1 ). ( c ) In the other NT books knowledge is not prominent, except in 2 Peter, where, however, there is nothing specially characteristic. In Hebrews the ordinary word for ‘knowledge’ does not occur at all, but the main object of the Epistle is to create and confirm a certain kind of Christian knowledge. Although knowledge in both OT and NT is almost always moral, there is no trace of the Socratic doctrine that virtue is knowledge.

II. Divine knowledge. It is not necessary to show that perfect knowledge is ascribed to God throughout the Scriptures. In some OT books Job and some Psalms the ignorance of man is emphasized in order to bring God’s omniscience into relief (cf. also the personification of the Divine Wisdom in the Books of Proverbs and Wisdom).

III. Divine and human knowledge in Christ. The question has been much debated how Divine and human knowledge could co-exist in Christ, and whether in His human nature He was capable of ignorance . It is a question that has often been argued on a priori grounds, but it should rather be considered with reference to the evidence in the records of His life. The Gospels certainly attribute to Christ an extraordinary and apparently a supernatural knowledge. But even supernatural illumination is not necessarily Divine consciousness, and the Gospel records also seem to attribute to our Lord such limitations of knowledge as may be supposed to make possible a really human experience. 1 . There are direct indications of ordinary limitations. He advanced in wisdom ( Luke 2:52 ); He asked for information ( Mark 6:38 ; Mark 8:5 ; Mark 9:21 , Luke 8:30 , John 11:34 ); He expressed surprise ( Mark 6:38 ; Mark 8:5 ; Mark 9:21 , John 11:34 ). His use of prayer, and especially the prayer in the garden ( Matthew 26:39 ) and the words upon the cross ( Mark 15:34 ), point in the same direction. 2 . With regard to one point our Lord expressly disclaimed Divine knowledge ( Mark 13:32 ). 3 . In the Fourth Gospel, while claiming unity with the Father, He speaks of His teaching as derived from the Father under the limitations of a human state ( John 3:34 ; John 5:19-20 ; John 8:28 ; John 12:49-50 ). 4 . While speaking with authority, and in a way which precludes the possibility of fallibility in the deliverance of the Divine message, He never enlarged our store of natural knowledge, physical or historical. If it be true that Christ lived under limitations in respect of the use of His Divine omniscience, this is a part of the self-emptying which He undertook for us men and for our salvation (see Kenosis).

J. H. Maude.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Knowledge'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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