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End Notes

This page revised and Copyrighted: Theon Doxazo

23 March, 2024


Commentators on Knowledge


“. . . and in your moral excellence, knowledge; . . .”  2 Pet 1:5d.


In this section we will review what the various commentators have to say about Knowledge, the third character quality of the Second Peter sequence.


Knowledge/gnōsis/γνῶσις is to be distinguished from wisdom/sophia, the knowledge of "deep and ultimate things" (Barclay, 2017).  It is also distinguished from:  epignōsis by Davids, P. H. (2011, p.43, l. 20) where he defines it as "'knowledge, acknowledgement (sic), recognition' (Friberg, 163; cf. BDAG, 369), and thus implies more than just 'knowing about' something."  Just to complicate things, Bultmann (1964, p. 703, l. 44) notes that:  "ἐπιγινώσκειν is often used instead of γινώσκειν with no difference in meaning."  Thus, it would seem that, in practice, there can be quite a bit of overlap between how γνῶσις and ἐπίγνωσις are actually used.


(Green, M., 1976) describes gnōsis as: "practical wisdom".  From this 'practical' understanding, several commentators have gone on to wax eloquent over the spirituality they see implied by this term.  Specifically, 'knowledge' is seen as leading from discernment to prudence in one's actions.  It is this knowledge "which distinguishes the good from the bad" (Green, M., 1976).  Finally, one that I particularly like:  "This discrimination as to truths and motives duly exercised by the mind itself, and faithfully applied to our outward conduct, constitutes knowledge as a practical thing" (Thompson, J. P., 1859, PDF p. 59-60, l. 22).  Thus, this knowledge/gnōsis/γνῶσις ranges from the 'practical' to a support for spirituality itself.



Note that my reactions or clarifications to what these commentators have to say are [bracketed] and most are found below each comment, so as to identify them as my reactions and not those of the listed Commentators.



Commentators on Knowledge


Abernethy, J.  (1762)

[p. 119, l. 2]  "That knowledge which the text recommends, is, according to this rule, the most valuable;  the object of it are the most excellent things, it is what Solomon calls the knowledge of the holy [Prov. ix, 10], of God himself, and of his will," . . .

[p. 120, l. 9]  "If we observe the connection of the apostle’s discourse, that he has placed knowledge in the middle of the Christian virtues, it will appear plainly enough that he means a right understanding of them, such a knowledge as is necessary to our practising them. . . .

[p. 121, L. 13]  "the apostle in the text, exhorts us to add knowledge to our faith and virtue, that is, a right understanding of christianity to our receiving it, and to our professing and adhering to it, and to all the duties it prescribes with zeal and courage;" . . .

[p. 124-125, l. 23]  "but virtue is perfected in action;  our knowledge, therefore, is not to be mere speculation, to be dormant and unactive in the mind, nor to be sought with that view, but in order to use it to its true ends, that is to practise what we have discovered to be our duty." . . .

[p. 126, l. 20  "First, that this is the way to be preserv'd from snares, of which we are always in danger thro' temptation and the deceitfulness of sin.  There is not any thing a sincere christian is so solicitous about as maintaining his integrity, and making a successful stand against all temptations, that he do not fall into such wickedness as is inconsistent with sincerity and a good state towards God, and so commit sin as to be its servant.  A multitude of occasions there are whereby he may be misled, a multitude of infirmities which St. James calls the lusts of his own heart, by which he is in danger of being drawn away and inticed.  One of the best preservatives from this is religious knowledge;  to have the understanding and the memory stored with divine Truths, so as readily to suggest what our duty is," . . .

[p. 137, l. 10]  "it is above all things necessary, that we use the means of knowledge, and particularly the last mentioned, namely, that we search the holy scriptures without prejudice and prepossession.  If we suffer our minds to be under any bias, and corrupt inclinations, or worldly interests to get into our religious counsels, and influence our enquiries;  or if we give up ourselves implicitly to the direction of human authority, in matters of faith and conscience, this is not the way to attain to the knowledge of truth, but to imbibe error, to be overwhelmed with thick darkness, and to run into superstition and a contentious party-zeal, instead of rational piety, meekness and charity, which are pure and undefiled religion before God the Father," . . .

[p. 138, l. 23]  "the best means of attaining to religious knowledge, is, doing what we know to be the will of God.  The efficacy and success of this means rests upon the promise of our Saviour, If any man will do his (God's will,) he shall know the doctrine which is of God;  not that he shall be infallible in all points, or set above the possibility of error or ignorance in matters of religion;  but he shall certainly know what is absolutely necessary to be known, and be preserv'd from pernicious mistakes."


[Abernethy seems to have presented us with a rather 'spiritualized' understanding of Gnosis.  Something more likely to be found among the more mature Christians, as opposed to the recent converts.]

[Even though he writes in an older style of English, I much prefer reading Abernethy in the primary sources, as opposed to reading him in Excell in the Biblical Illustrator.  I had to remove a boat-load of f's that should be s's from this text.  His original thoughts, and much of his spelling 'uniquenesses' were left intact, however.]



Alford, H.  (1878, p. 392;  PDF p. 682).

"and in your virtue, knowledge (probably that practical discriminating knowledge, of which it is said Eph. v. 17"


[This comes down on the more 'practical knowledge' side.]



Bagster, S.  (1975, p. 80).

"KNOWLEDGE . . . KNOWLEDGE of an especial kind and relatively high character . . . more particularly in respect of Christian enlightenment . . . "





Barbieri, L. A.  (1977, p. 97, l. 14).

"Knowledge is an important element of the Christian faith.  Peter probably refers to practical wisdom.  Although wisdom was one of the catch words of the false teachers, note that Peter was not afraid to make use of it.  Since God is the source of all truth, the Christian need never fear the truth.  The cure for false knowledge is not less knowledge, or a retreat from knowledge, but more knowledge.  It is significant that knowledge was included in the list of characteristics, and that it appears after faith.  Faith is never achieved through the mental process only, but is founded upon knowledge.  Faith apprehends that which knowledge cannot comprehend."


[What he says is correct, though it comes out somewhat confusing.  The 'practical wisdom' term seems very correct.  The jump to 'wisdom' in the next line seems out of place.  He notes confusion near the end with his comment about knowledge following faith.  He then goes on to say that faith is 'founded on' knowledge.  The use of gnosis following faith is very appropriate.  As you will see when we discuss Kittle,  Weiser/Bultmann stress the importance of knowledge preceding faith, and Bultmann identifies this knowledge as epignosis!  Understanding the different impacts of these two, different, types of knowledge clears up the confusion.]



Barclay, W.  (2003, p. 348, l. 18).

"To courage must be added knowledge.  The word is gnōsis.  In ethical Greek language, there are two words which have a similar meaning with a very significant difference.  Sophia is wisdom, in the sense of 'knowledge of things both human and divine, and of their causes.'  It is knowledge of first causes and of deep and ultimate things.  Gnōsis is practical knowledge; it is the ability to apply to particular situations the ultimate knowledge which sophia gives.  Gnōsis is that knowledge which enables people to decide to take the right course and to act honourably (sic) and efficiently in the day-to-day circumstances of life."


[This is a nice discussion of the gnosis/sophia contrast that comes down cleanly on the more 'practical knowledge' side.]



Bauer, W.  (1979, p. 163).

"1. knowledge as an attribute of God . . . and of man. . . . 2. specif. of Christian knowledge. . . . is also specif. understanding of the Scriptures. . . . Although here γ. and σοφία are almost synonymous, Paul distinguishes betw. them 1 Cor 12:8 . . . 3. of the heretical Gnosis (Gnosticism)."


[concise up, clarity down]



Beecher, H. W.  (1977, p. 33).

". . . and in your virtue or from out of your virtue, develop knowledge.”  By this is not meant, evidently, that knowledge which we gather by our senses--scientific knowledge, ideas, facts;  but a higher knowledge that subtle intuition of truth which men have who live high and noble lives."


[This describes a very spiritualized form of 'knowledge'.  It doesn't sound like the 'practical knowledge' the other commentators have described at all.  Note that he provides no rationale for this choice.]



Bengel, J. A.  (1873, p. 88;  PDF, p. 628).

"Next in order is [the fruit of virtue] γνῶσις, knowledge or moderation; comp. Rom. xv. 14, note.  Virtue makes us active, watchful, circumspect, separate [or discreet], so as to consider what is to be done or avoided, for the sake of God, ourselves, and others; and in what manner this is to be done, and where and when, etc.; 1 Cor. Xvi. 18, at the end."


[This sounds like very practical, lived advice.  I could imagine a real person at this stage responding in just this way.]



Bigg, C.  (1902, p. 258;  PDF p. 272, l. 4).

"Thus Virtue leads to Knowledge, not of spiritual mysteries as in 2 Cor. viii. 1, xiii. 2; Col. ii. 2, but of the goodness and reasonableness of the will of God.  It is that knowledge which makes the friend as distinct from the servant, John xv. 15.  Knowledge has been taken to mean practical skill in the details of Christian duty".


[This comes down sorta on the 'practical knowledge' side, though is somewhat spiritualized.]



Brown, C.  (1986, p390-391)

"Cognition, practical knowledge and theoretical understanding are attained when the mind reflects on and judges sense experience.  Originally both aisthanomai and ginōskō referred to experiencing an object through the senses.  But whereas aisthesis and its cognates expressed physical apprehension through the senses apart from the intellectual act of interpretation, ginōskō and its cognates included from the very first the idea of grasping and understanding the object perceived by the mind.  Owing largely though not exclusively to the usage of the LXX, aisthanomai came to be confined to perception by the senses.  The words of the ginōskō group, however, embrace the whole gamut of knowledge from knowing things to knowing persons.  When this process results in an item or body of knowledge which may serve as a basis for further thought and action, oida (infin. eidenai), to know, is used parallel to the perf. of ginōskō.  Both contain the implication of certainty based on experience."


['Certainty based on experience.'  Almost sounds like Hebrew.]



Bullinger, E. W.  (1901 B, App 132 p. 163;  PDF B p. 775)

"The Verb.  i.  oida = to know (intuitively) without effort, to understand.  No. i  is subjective, while No. ii is objective.  ii.  ginōskō = to know (by experience, or effort);  to acquire knowledge, become acquainted with;  hence, to come or get to know, learn, perceive. . . .  iii.  epi-ginōskō .  . . . to know thereupon, to become thoroughly acquainted with;  to know thoroughly and accurately, recognize. . . . iv.  pro- ginōskō. . . . to get to know beforehand, to foreknow.  v.  epistamai = to obtain, and thus have a knowledge of anything by proximity to it, or as the result of prolonged attention;  in contrast with the process of getting to know it, or with a mere casual, dilettante acquaintance with it. . . .The Noun.  i.  gnōsis = knowledge acquired by learning, effort, or experience. . . . ii.  epignōsis = precise or further knowledge, thorough acquaintance with, true knowledge.  iii.  sunesis = native insight, understanding, capacity to apprehend;  used of reflective thought, while sophia (wisdom) is used of productive thought."


[Oida subjective, ginōskō objective?  I can think of several usages of ginōskō that seem to have a subjective component.  Sunesis reflective vs. sophia productive?  That doesn't seem to fit with my understanding of sophia.]



Burkitt, W.  (1844B, p. 696;  PDF p. 701).

"To virtue, knowledge;  that is, a more exact knowledge of your duty, and a farther increase of it;  for knowledge is the light, without which the Christian cannot see to do his work."


[This knowledge sounds very practical.]



Calvin, J.  (1855, p. 373;  PDF p. 371).

"Knowledge is what is necessary for acting prudently;"


[This comes down on the more 'practical knowledge' side.]



Cedar, P. A.  (1984, p. 210).

"Add knowledge to virtue ( v. 5).  Faith is not blind.  It does not exist in a vacuum.  If faith is to be active obedience to God, then we must have 'knowledge' (epignōsis) of God and of His will for us.  This knowledge is in stark contrast to our former ignorance which led us to live former lusts (1 Pet 1:14)."


[He got the Greek wrong.  The term here is gnōsis not epignōsis.  Sorry, no cigar.]



Clarke, A.  (1850, p. 880; PDF p. 888).

"Knowledge] — True wisdom, by which your faith will be increased, and your courage directed, and preserved from degenerating into rashness."


[This comes down on the more 'practical knowledge' side, though is somewhat spiritualized.]



Constable, T. L.  (2021, PDF p. 21).

"'Knowledge' (Gr. gnosis) refers to acquired information.  In particular, the Christian needs to know all that God has revealed in His Word, not just the gospel (cf. Matt. 28:19-20)."


[This describes a very advanced form of 'knowledge'.]



Darby, J.  (1820, p. 409, l. 4).

"But where there is this virtue, it is very precious to add knowledge to it.  We have then divine wisdom and intelligence to guide our walk: the heart is enlarged, sanctified, spiritually developed, by a more complete and profound acquaintance with God, who acts in the heart and is reflected in the walk.  We are guarded from more errors-we are more humble, more sober-minded: we know better where our treasure is, and what it is, and that everything else is but vanity and a hindrance.  It is therefore a true knowledge of God that is here meant."


[This describes a very spiritualized form of 'knowledge'.]



Demarest, J. T.  (1865, p. 93).

"And with boldness, knowledge: the knowledge here meant is both theoretical and practical; or an increasing aquaintance (sic.) with the gospel, and prudence, which is practical knowledge.  That your boldness may not degenerate into rashness, grow in the knowledge of your duty to Christ (3: 18), and do not foolishly put yourselves in the way of danger, Matt. 10: 23.  Many, in the Ante Nicene church, forgot or disregarded this precept of Christ and his apostle, or they would not have courted martyrdom as they did.  And they equally forget or disregard this apostolic precept, who are mere passive recipients of evangelical knowledge, not searching the Scriptures for themselves, as the Bereans did, Acts 17: 11."


[This comes down on the more 'practical knowledge' side, though with somewhat spiritualized examples.  There's the 'rashness' we saw in Clarke earlier.]



Gaebelein, A. C.  (1913-1922, p. 103;  PDF p. 107).

"The truth of God and the things of God are known and learned by obedience, by walking in them. . . . A true knowledge of God is heart acquaintance with Him."


[While this describes a spiritualized style of 'knowledge', I think he is really trying to approach a 'practical' understanding of gnosis.]



Gifford, O. P.  (1977, p. 31).

“'And to energy knowledge'--intelligence, understanding, spiritual discernment.  This looks two ways: understanding of truth, and discernment of what is right and wrong in life.  As the years go by we should know more and more of God’s will as made known in His Word.  Astronomy is ever finding new stars.  Christians should find new depths, new heights, and new breadths in God’s Word as the years go by."


[This comes down on the more 'practical knowledge' side, though is somewhat spiritualized.]



Gill, J.  (1746-48A, PDF p. 6408-6409).

"and to virtue, knowledge;  not of Christ, mentioned 2 Pe 1:8 and which is included in faith, for there can be no true faith in Christ, were there not knowledge of him;  but of the will of God, which it is necessary men should be acquainted with, in order to perform it;  or else though they may seem zealous of good works, their zeal will not be according to knowledge;  they ought to know what are virtues or good works in God's account, and what are the nature and use of them, lest they should mistake and misapply them;  or of the Scriptures of truth, and of the mysteries of the Gospel, which should be diligently searched, for the increase and improvement of knowledge in divine things, and which has a considerable influence on a just, sober, and godly living;  or by knowledge may be meant prudence and wisdom, in ordering the external conversation aright towards those that are without, and in showing good works out of it, to others, by way of example, and for the evidence of the truth of things, with meekness of wisdom."


[Thats one long sentence!]



Green, M.  (1976, p. 68).

"It is not certain whether gnōsis, the word used here, is significantly different in meaning from epignōsis employed there.  If there is a difference, the nuance of gnōsis would be 'sagacity', 'practical wisdom'.  This is its customary meaning in Greek ethical language.  Bengel has caught its meaning when he describes it as the wisdom 'which distinguishes the good from the bad, and shows the way of flight from the bad' (cs. Heb. v. 14).  This knowledge is gained in the practical exercise of goodness (the virtue of which he has just been speaking), which, in turn, leads to a fuller knowledge of Christ (verse 8; cf. Jn. vii. 17).


[This comes down on the more 'practical knowledge' side.  I think Green has done a better job of expressing the idea that Gaebelein (above) was trying to provide.]



Henry, M.  (1853, p. 817).

"The believer must add knowledge to his virtue, prudence to his courage;  there is a knowledge of God's name, which must go before our faith, (Ps. 9. 10) and we cannot approve of the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, till we know it; but there are proper circumstances for duty, which must be known and observed;  we must use the appointed means, and observe the accepted time.  Christian prudence regards the persons we have to do with, and the place and company we are in;  every believer must labour after the knowledge and wisdom that are profitable to direct, both as to the proper method and order wherein all Christian duties are to be performed, and as to the way and manner of performing them."


[This comes down on the more 'practical knowledge' side.]



Huther, J. E.  (1887, p. 382).

"ή γνῶσις is not here ή τῶν τοὺ θεοὺ ὰποκρύφων μνστηρίων εἴδησις (Oecum.), nor is it "the knowledge of God which the Christians possess" (Dietl.);  but as the matter in hand here is the practical proof of the Christian temper, it must be understood as denoting the perception of that which the Christian as such has to do in all relations of life, and of how he has to do it . . . Brückner, in agreement with this: 'discretion'."


[The Greek text above translates as:  the hidden mysteries of the gods.]

[This comes down on the more 'practical knowledge' side.]



Irwin, C. H.  (1928, p. 555).

"Knowledge.  Moral discernment in general, γνῶσις (distinguished from 'full knowledge,' ver.2)."





James, M. R.  (1912, p. 12;  PDF p. 76).

" . . . the knowledge that will come of ἀρετή is not only knowledge about God, but knowledge of Him and of His will."


[This describes a spiritualized form of 'knowledge'.  It seems that, for this author, knowledge is something we acquire as we get to know Christ for ourselves.  It seems to imply experiential knowledge of Him.  This is more like what I would describe as 'epignosis'.]



Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D.  (1880, p. 444;  PDF p. 494).

"'and in (the exercise of) your virtue knowledge,' viz. practical discrimination of good and evil: intelligent appreciation of what is the will of God in each detail of practice."


[This comes down on the more 'practical knowledge' side.]



Jay, W.  (1977, p. 30).

"A second addition is knowledge.  And this very properly follows the former.  It teaches us that courage is a force which wisdom is to employ;  courage may urge us to undertake the war, but judgment is to manage it.  And hence it will be easy to determine the nature of this qualification.  It is practical knowledge;  it is what we commonly mean by prudence, which is knowledge applied to action.  It is what Paul recommends when he says, “Be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.  Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.  Walk in wisdom towards them that are without, redeeming the time.”  This kind of knowledge results principally from experience and observation;"


[This is a very telling commentary.  It clearly comes down on the more 'practical knowledge' side.]



Kelly, W.  (1906, p. 50;  PDF p. 61).

"But clearly spiritual vigour is not all.  Knowledge is necessary as well as courage.  Scripture supplies it reliably, and in the N. T. both amply and with special precision to Christian privilege for direction and instruction. . . . As partakers of a divine nature we have a new capacity from above; and yet more we received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is of God, that we might consciously know the things freely given us by God.  There is thus the fullest provision made for these wants, and no excuse for a Christian's ignorance of divine things."


[This describes a very spiritualized form of 'knowledge'.]



Lumby, J. R.  (1893, p. 247).

"For, with duty rightly done, there comes illumination over the path of life: men understand more of God's dealings, and hence bring their lives into closer harmony with His will.  And we have Christ's own assurance, "If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the teaching" (John vii. 17)."


[This describes a spiritualized form of 'knowledge'.]



Maclaren, A.  (1977, p. 44).

"What is meant here is a practical insight into what Christian people ought to do, not only in general, but at each moment in accordance with the circumstances and demands of the instant.  The more we can rule our lives by the intelligent application of principles, and not by mere use and wont, instinct, imitation, mechanism, necessity, the more we shall be the men and women that God meant us to be.  But Peter does not stop with such a mere toothless generality as that;  for everything depends on what the law is which we apply to conduct.  So this knowledge is not only of what it is right and wise to do at the moment;  but it is knowledge of what it is right and wise, on Christian ground, to do at the moment and in the circumstances.  Let the perception of duty be a perception illuminated and determined by the principles of the gospel, and bring that law to bear upon all life. . . . The believing man is the truly sagacious man.  The real prudence is got in communion with Jesus Christ.  The eye that looks at the sun is blinded, but the eye that looks constantly at God sees all things as they are, and is delivered from the illusions which deceive the rest of mankind.  To see all in God and God in all, that is the way to understand the depths of things, and to know what, at each moment, they call upon us to do.  What we want to know is not only what circumstances and self-advantage require, but what Christ requires, and that we shall learn when we keep near to Him in faith. . . . The practical duties which come out of this exhortation.  First, study, and keep very near the pattern of Jesus Christ. . . . Then, again, I would say try and get a more firm and intelligent grip of the principles of the New Testament as a whole.  I believe there is the weakness of much of our modern popular Christianity.  You do not read your Bibles half enough. . . . regard all Christian truth as being meant to influence conduct."


[This starts out describing a 'practical knowledge' and then turn to describe a very spiritualized form of it.]



Macmillan, H.  (1910, PDF p. 87, l. 20).

"To this strength or manliness we are further commanded to 'add' knowledge.  The quality of courage is to be shown by the fearlessness of our researches into all the works and ways of God.  We are not to be deterred by any dread of consequences from investigating and finding out the whole truth.  The Bible places no restrictions upon an inquiring spirit.  It does not prevent men from examining and proving all things, and bringing even the most sacred subjects to the test of reason.  God says to us in regard to the holiest things, "Come and let us reason together."  He has given to us the faculties by means of which we may find out truth and store up knowledge;  and He wishes us to exercise these faculties freely in every department of His works."


[This comes down on the more 'practical knowledge' side, though he takes in a novel direction.]



Mayor, J. B.  (1907, p. 92;  PDF p. 308).

". . . the object of γνῶσις is not here limited to doctrine.  It agrees also with the relation between moral and intellectual virtues in the systems of Plato and Aristotle."


[This comes down on the more 'practical knowledge' side, though seems rather philosophically oriented.]



Oberst, B.  (1962, p. 142).

"KNOWLEDGE – gnosis, the acquisition of information (concerning spiritual truth) and the understanding and discrimination which results from having such information."


[This seems sorta on the 'practical knowledge' side, but specifies an ephemeral content for the knowledge.  Note that he provides no rationale for his parenthetical statement.]



Oberst, B.  (1988, PDF p. 268).

"Gr. gnosis.  This is the acquisition of information (concerning spiritual truth) and the understanding and discrimination which results from having such information.  (See further discussion under v. 2).  However, knowledge by itself, standing alone, is ruinous (1 Cor. 13: 2, 8)."


[The actual definition seems very straight-ahead.  I like it.  I don't like his conclusion, however.  'Ruinous?'  a bit strong, don't you think?  Yes, gnosis (which is the word for knowledge in 1 Cor 13:2, 8) is a human, incomplete knowledge  It will be 'gone,' replaced in heaven.  Even epignosis is, essentially, similar.  Sophia, maybe that is what things will be like in heaven heaven (see: Barclay, 2017).  Maybe?  Consider Plummer (next commentator) and his discussion of επιστἓμἓ.]



Plummer, A.  (1877-1879B, p, 445;  PDF p. 438, l. 61 Left).

"The word for 'knowledge' here is not the compound used in verses 2 and 3, but the simple substantive.  It means, therefore, knowledge that still admits of growth, not yet ripe or complete.  It is worth noting that the word for absolute knowledge, επιστἓμἓ, does not occur in the New Testament.  Βy 'knowledge' here is probably meant spiritual discernment as to what is right and what is wrong in all things;  the right object, the right way, the right time."


[This comes down on the more 'practical knowledge' side.]



Powers, D. G.  (2010, p. 185).

"Knowledge (gnōsin) does not refer to the saving knowledge (epignōsis) that makes a person a Christian (1:2. 3).  Instead, gnōsis depicts 'the wisdom and discernment which the Christian needs for a virtuous life and which is progressively acquired' (Bauckham 1983, 186).  Saving knowledge (epignōsis) is an immediate gift of God to those who repent of their sin and place their faith in Christ for salvation.  In contrast, knowledge (gnōsis) within this catalog of virtues depicts the knowledge of Christ that is gradually acquired throughout the Christian walk."


[I would agree with the main thrust of his definition of Knowledge (gnosis), but I don't think it's completely constrained to the knowledge of Christ.  There are other things that are also learned.]



Robinson, J. A.  (1909, p. 254;  PDF p. 264).

"So far then as we are to distinguish between γνῶσις and ἐπίγνωσις, we may say that γνῶσις is the wider word and expresses 'knowledge' in the fullest sense:  ἐπίγνωσις is knowledge directed towards a particular object, perceiving, discerning, recognising (sic):  but is not knowledge in the abstract:  that is γνῶσις.  It follows that the genitive after γνῶσις may be either subjective or objective:  but the genitive after ἐπίγνωσις denotes the object of the knowledge."


[This is a different understanding of epignosis.  It generally is taken to mean that epignosis is a higher, more developed knowledge.  Robinson says it is a more particularized knowledge.  These two different conceptions do not have to be in conflict.  One can easily imagine that, by focusing one's attention one would be able to better understand it.  Medical specializations spring to mind.  Apparently, with our limited human intellect, if one is to really understand something, one must specialize!  I suppose that, IF one could gain an in-depth understanding of something without specializing, that something would probably be somewhat simplistic.  The more I think about this, the better I like it.]

[This comment by Robinson has been favorably reviewed by others that I respect.]



Senior, D.  (1980, p. 110-111).

"'knowledge' (gnosis) here probably has the more limited sense of knowing good from evil. . . . This whole section demonstrates that by 'knowledge' he means not an intellectual exercise but a dynamic relationship with Christ that transforms our entire lives."


[Yes, gnosis is more limited that epignosis.  Yet, he then goes on to describe that 'dynamic relationship' that seems to parallel what Bultmann describes as the action of epignosis!  It may be that he's confusing the distinction in these sections on 'knowledge.']



Sherlock, J.  (1977, p. 29).

"But then the apostle says we are to associate also “knowledge”; that is, he enjoins upon us to be intelligent professors of faith in Christ Jesus.  God puts none of our faculties under ban;  God does not ask any man whom He has endowed with faculties, by which He may be glorified by His creature, to keep them in abeyance, to leave them uncultivated.  We are to have the soul filled with wisdom from above, and to seek all kinds of wisdom, that we may consecrate them to the service of God.  And mark how necessary it is for the believer in Christ Jesus ever to be growing in intelligence.  New errors creep into the Church; new forms of error are presented to the believer.  He is not to be satisfied with the instruction which God blessed to the bringing him into living relationship with Christ Jesus.  We ought, as a matter of conscience, and as a matter of duty, to seek to increase our intelligence, that we may be ready always to give an answer to every man, and a reason of a hope that is in us."


[This describes a very advanced application of 'knowledge'.]



Simeon, C.  (1844, p. 295;  PDF p. 303, l. 28).

“'To our virtue we must add knowledge.”  By 'knowledge' I understand, not general information, but wisdom and prudence, without which our courage may lead us astray, and prove injurious to the cause which we profess to serve.  We must seek 'a spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind' [Note: 2 Timothy 1:7].  Among the children of Issachar, we are told, 'there were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do' [Note: 1 Chronicles 12:32].  Such should we be.  The same conduct, if pursued at all times, and under all circumstances, would be very absurd: and perhaps scarcely in any thing does the adult Christian differ from the child more than in the exercise of 'sound wisdom and discretion,' by which he is enabled to avoid the errors of the inexperienced [Note: Proverbs 3:21-23], and to 'walk wisely before God in a perfect way [Note: Psalms 101:2].'”


[This author, again, seems to confabulate epignosis and sophia with gnosis, which I take to be a simpler, more 'practical' knowledge.]



Sumner, J. B.  (1840, p. 234, l. 14).

"And to virtue, add knowledge.  Be not satisfied with the 'first principles of the doctrine of Christ:' but pray 'that God may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and understanding in the knowledge of him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened.'  Search the Scriptures, and meditate on them; 'that your profiting may appear to all.'  'That the soul be without knowledge, is not good.'"


[Like Simeon, above, this seems to mix the more esoteric forms of knowing with the simpler, more basic gnosis.]



Thayer, J. H.  (1886, p. 119).

"knowledge. . . by itself, signifies in general intelligence, understanding:  . . . moral wisdom, such as is seen in right living, . . . objective knowledge."


[As a Psychologist, I'm somewhat uncomfortable equating Knowledge with Intelligence.]



Thompson, J. P.  (PDF 1859, p. 54-76, l. 11).

"The meaning of the term 'knowledge' must be ascertained by a comparison of the text with other passages in which this word occurs.  It is of course knowledge with respect to spiritual things and religious duties of which the apostle here speaks.  This word is used in the New Testament some thirty times, and with various shades of signification.  Sometimes it denotes a supernatural gift, knowledge by immediate inspiration.  Perhaps it is in this sense that the 'word of knowledge' is classed with the gifts of healing and of tongues, and with other miraculous powers.  But since all Christians are exhorted to add knowledge to their faith, the apostle cannot intend a miraculous gift which God only could bestow.  And for the same reason he cannot here intend the power or faculty of knowing in which sense the word is used when it is said that 'the love of Christ passeth knowledge,' i.e, is beyond the natural comprehension of men.  We cannot add a new sense or faculty to our natural endowments.  Again, the word 'knowledge' is used for the object of knowledge, and especially the system of truth made known in the gospel.  But this must be known, in a measure, before we can have faith; and the knowledge spoken of in the text comes after faith.  Knowledge is used also to denote a general apprehension of religious truth;  but, as this is essential to the act of faith in Christ, it could hardly be referred to as a something to be added to faith.  Isaac Taylor says this knowledge is 'neither human erudition nor general intelligence, but that specific knowledge of which the gospel is the subject.'  There is another use of the word which applies it to the deep, clear, and cordial perception of truth, followed by the discriminating adaptation of truth to practical ends.  Thus the apostle Paul speaks of the Christians at Rome as 'full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able to admonish one another' (Romans 15:14); i.e., they possessed that discriminating insight into truth which would shed light upon questions of practical duty.  Knowledge is a spiritual apperception of Divine things, forming and controlling the practical judgment.  A soul informed by such knowledge discerns the way of truth and duty.  This knowledge is not the mere perception of the truths of the gospel in their objective form, but an apperception of gospel truths in their inward spiritual relations. . . . This inward experimental knowledge of Christ and His truth differs from the intellectual perception of truth, just as the feeling that we know the mind and heart of another differs from the knowledge of his person which we gain through the eye; it is the difference between heart knowledge and knowledge merely by perception or intellection. . . . But having gained this faith, and rested ourselves in it, we are exhorted to add to it knowledge; not the mere knowledge of the doctrine of Christ as a Saviour--for that we have already--but knowledge of Christ Himself, which comes through the heart, proving His doctrine, His promises, His love, in its own blessed experience.  3. But this inward knowledge of Christ has its outward expression in a judgment wisely exercised upon truth and duty.    We need to cultivate the judgment as well as to fortify the spirit, to attain to a sound discernment of duty as well as to firmness in duty.  It is a proverb that discretion is the better part of valour; a critical judgment as to the time and manner of acting is important to the success of the boldest and bravest action.  In his description of the good man the Psalmist happily combines a sound judgment with boldness and firmness as essential qualities of his character.  'He will guide his affairs with discretion;  surely he shall not be moved for ever.  His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.  His heart is established, he shall not be afraid.'  Such knowledge is not what men of the world call prudence, which is exercised more in the cautious avoidance of evil to one’s self than in devising and executing that which is good.  There are two or three words which somewhat approach to this meaning--discernment, discretion, and discrimination; these all in their radical idea mean 'to separate,' 'to distinguish,' to 'make a difference,' especially between the true and the false, the right and the wrong, in theory and in practice.  This discrimination as to truths and motives duly exercised by the mind itself, and faithfully applied to our outward conduct, constitutes knowledge as a practical thing. . . .This knowledge gives us power for good and even great achievements.  It is no modern discovery that 'knowledge is power.'


[This describes a very spiritualized form of 'knowledge'.  I can't help the feeling that he's gotten different types of 'knowledge' combined in odd ways.  I hear aspects of sophia and epignosis in his discussion of gnosis, simple, 'practical' knowledge.]



Thompson, J. P.  (PDF 1859, p. 51, l. 11).

"Classical usage helps us little as to the meaning of γνῶσις (gnosis) in the New Testament.  Plato uses it commonly of 'understanding,' though sometimes of a deeper philosophical insight.  But with the Neo-Platonists, gnosis came to be almost a technical term for higher insight, deeper wisdom, a certain mysterious knowledge reserved to the initiated.  In this sense of deep spiritual insight, but without the associations of mysticism or mystery, the word gnosis is often used in the New Testament.  It is a term peculiarly liable to abuse by enthusiastic minds, and before the close of the apostolic age there began to appear a sect of Gnostics, who claimed to have 'an extraordinary insight into Divine things beyond the system of faith, which the people commonly received on authority.'  This insight they professed to have gained through certain secret traditions handed down from Christ, the higher light.  Their gnosis corresponded to the esoteric doctrines of the old Greek philosophers, mysteries to be communicated only to the initiated.  The Epistles of John seemed to have been aimed in part at this Gnostic tendency.  The true Christian knowledge is as far as possible both from the obscureness of mysticism and from the pretensions of clairvoyance.  The gnosis of the New Testament is the privilege of all Christians alike."


[This is more a discussion of Gnosticism than of Gnosis.]



Tuck, R.  (1896, p. 175-176).

"Apostles never exaggerate, as we are apt to do, the importance of mere head-knowledge.  But it is quite as true that they urge with much earnestness the intelligent apprehension of revealed truth.  The more practical form of knowledge is, however, most prominent in their minds;  it is the 'wisdom' of the Book of Proverbs, which means 'moral discernment,' cultured skill in the actual ordering and ruling of our lives.  Knowing how to behave ourselves in the house of God, and everywhere else.  Not mere head-knowledge, but what may properly be called life-knowledge, the basis of good self-ruling."


[This comes down on the more 'practical knowledge' side, though is somewhat abstracted.]



Williams, W. R.  (1977, p. 45;  Online p. 81-82).

"Now our text and, in full harmony with it, the entire body of the Divine Scripture, require that the Christian profit in his religious course, by going on from faith to virtue, and from virtue to knowledge.  The first great necessity of our nature is that we know ourselves, that we learn from the book of God our origin, destiny, and redemption.  But to have a just and safe knowledge of ourselves it is needful that we know our God.  Framed by Him and for Him we cannot ascertain the moral bearings or calculate, so to speak, the latitude and longitude of our own drifting course over the ocean of life;  but, as we refer to Him whose will is the meridian line by which we estimate the position of all beings, and whose favour (sic) is the Light and central Sun of our moral life.  And knowing ourselves, and knowing our God in Scripture, we are called upon to know this world, that portion of it called Nature which we can reach and survey; and that march of the Divine purposes in the government of the race which we call history; and to know life, or those arts, and occupations, and relations, and human laws, and local customs that are to affect us in the discharge of our duties to our fellows.  We are required to know man, not only as he should be, and as in his original innocence he was, but man as he is, in his selfishness, craftiness, and wretchedness, and yet, withal, in the long and tangled train of all his susceptibilities, and his capabilities, and his hopes and his fears, his grovelling desires and his soaring aspirations.  The order of Christian knowledge as following and tending to guard and crown faith and virtue. Why should it be set here, and not at an earlier place, in the rank of Christian excellences?  1. We suppose the reason to have been this: it was to remind us of a great truth, that practical obedience or virtue is necessary if we would gain any great advancement in Christian knowledge.  Not only is such obedience an evidence of a sound understanding, but it is also a safeguard for it.  No man can keep a healthy and sound intellect who is perpetually sporting with known error, and wallowing in known iniquity.  The very conscience may become defiled, and the eyes of the soul contract blindness, by disuse and misuse."


[This describes a very spiritualized form of 'knowledge'.  While not as dramatic as the commentary of Thompson above, it has a strong flavor of it.  Again, I think aspects of gnosis have been pushed till they inhabit the space of epignosis and sophia.]



Zerr, E. M.  (1952, PDF p. 269;  Online p. 5).

"Knowledge. The general meaning of this word is 'information' and the particular kind of information that is meant in any case must be determined by the connection.  Colossians 2:3 states that all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid (contained) in the Lord.  Then the verses in the beginning of our chapter clearly show that such knowledge is to be learned through the Gospel.  Thus the instruction of the apostle is for the Christian to study the Gospel (the New Testament) and add such knowledge to the faith he had that caused him to become a servant of Christ."


[This comes down on the more 'practical knowledge' side.]



Author's Summary


Knowledge/gnōsis/γνῶσις is to be distinguished from wisdom/sophia, the knowledge of 'deep and ultimate things' as well as the deeper knowledge/epignōsis.  Gnōsis is described as 'practical knowledge'.  Personally, I like to think of this 'practical' understanding as similar to a recipe to bake a cake.  Follow the directions, add specified ingredients, and you'll wind up with a cake.  Thus, this knowledge ranges from the simple, basic, 'practical' knowledge to being a supporting player for spirituality itself.  Apparently there is some breadth to the scope of it's use.