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This page revised and Copyrighted: Theon Doxazo

14 December, 2023

 

Exegesis of Knowledge

02.7.4

Knowledge/gnosis/γνῶσις is the general Greek word for practical knowledge.  Knowledge generally is derived from experience and observation which results in an understanding of the situation.  In describing the Greek understanding of Knowledge Bultmann contrasts it with αἰσθάνεσθαι [feeling] and δοκει̑ν [appearing] thus concluding that "γινώσκειν [knowing] embraces things as they really are."  (Kittle Vol. I, page 690, line 1&11)  This is an 'objective' approach to Knowledge.  Vine seems to describe just such a classical Greek usage in his initial/general definition.

 

Bultmann (p. 694, l. 6) describes Knowledge in the Gnostic context as: "a χάρισμα [free gift] which is given by God to man.  It is thus radically distinguished from rational thought;  it is illumination."

 

In still another contrast, "the OT usage is much broader than the Greek, and the element of objective verification is less prominent than that of detecting or feeling or learning by experience."  "The OT both perceives and asserts the significance and claim of the knowing subject." (697, 9&26)  If the Greek understanding of Knowledge is 'objective', then it seems reasonable to describe the Hebrew understanding as 'subjective'.  If the reader recalls the OT understanding of 'Faith in relationship' described previously, then understanding this Hebrew approach to Knowledge should be much easier.  The Hebrew concept, again, stresses the 'relation' between the knower and the known.  It emphasizes how the knower is impacted by that which is known.

 

Bultmann argues that Knowledge in a Christian context "diverges at this point from that which characterizes the Greek world.  It approximates to the OT view." (704, 34)  Thus, the NT use of Knowledge is heavily influenced by the OT understanding.  Vine (1940;  p. 1033) describes something similar as he notes;  "In the N.T. ginōskō frequently indicates a relation between the person knowing and the object known;  in this respect, what is known is of value or importance to the one who knows, and hence the establishment of the relationship".  It is "a knowledge which accepts the consequences of knowledge." (Bultmann 704, 37)  With experience and skill, this Knowledge allows one to identify the right course of action and implement it honorably.  This 'moral discernment' is the cultured skill in the actual ordering and ruling of our lives.  It allows a practical distinction between good and evil.  This will ultimately provide an intelligent appreciation of what the will of God is in practice.  For the Hebrew and the writers of the NT, Knowledge is acknowledgment and grateful submission to knowing God's will.  This is Knowledge that still admits of growth.  We ought, as a matter of conscience, and as a matter of duty, to seek to increase our knowledge.

 

Bultmann extends this understanding by noting that there is little apparent difference between Gnosis and Epignosis in the way the words are used in the NT (707, 21).  The one difference he notes is that Epignosis is "almost a technical term for the decisive knowledge of God which is implied in conversion to the Christian faith." (707, 5)  Vine sees more distinctive differences between the two terms, but understands  Epignosis in a way that seems compatible with Bultmann's description of Epignosis in conversion.  To wit, Epignosis "denotes exact or full knowledge, discernment, recognition, and is a strengthened form of No. l, [Gnosis] expressing a fuller or a full knowledge, a greater participation by the knower in the object known, thus more powerfully influencing him." (1940; p. 1036)

 

Robinson (1909, p. 254;  PDF p. 264) disagrees with Bultmann by holding that Gnosis is the more general term and Epignosis is an in-depth knowledge within a specialized area.  These are not, necessarily, at odds, but can be seen as compatible.

 

Summary - Therefore, Knowledge/Gnosis is:

  • (1)  Related to daily affairs and current problems, practical,
  • (2)  An outgrowth of our deeply personal experiences,
  • (3)  Allows one to identify the right course of action and implement it honorably,
  • (4)  An obedient spur to action and a changed life.