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Holman Bible Dictionary

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Translation of several Hebrew and Greek words covering a wide range of meanings: intellectual understanding, personal experience, emotion, and personal relationship (including sexual intercourse, Genesis 4:1 , etc.). Knowledge is attributed both to God and to human beings.

God's knowledge is said to be omniscient. He knows all things (Job 21:22; Psalm 139:1-18 ); His understanding is beyond measure (Psalm 147:5 ). He knows the thoughts of our minds and the secrets of our hearts (Psalm 44:21; Psalm 94:11 ). He knows past events (Genesis 30:22 ), present happenings (Job 31:4 ). and future events (Zechariah 13:1; Luke 1:33 ).

The knowledge which God has of nations and human beings indicates that He has a personal interest—not merely an awareness—of people (Psalm 144:3 ). To be known by God may mean that a nation or individual is chosen by God to play a part in God's purposes in the world (Jeremiah 1:5; Amos 3:2; Galatians 4:9 ).

The Bible speaks often about human knowledge. Knowledge of God is the greatest knowledge (Proverbs 9:10 ) and is the chief duty of humankind (Hosea 6:6 ). In the Old Testament, the Israelites know God through what He does for His people (Exodus 9:29; Leviticus 23:43; Deuteronomy 4:32-39; Psalm 9:10; Psalm 59:13; Psalm 78:16; Hosea 2:19-20 ). This knowledge of God is not simply theoretical or factual knowledge; it includes experiencing the reality of God in one's life (compare Philippians 3:10 ) and living one's life in a manner that shows a respect for the power and majesty of God (compare Jeremiah 22:15-16 ).

In the New Testament one knows God through a knowledge of Jesus Christ (John 8:19; Colossians 2:2-3 ). The apostle Paul closely connected knowledge to faith. Knowledge gives direction, conviction, and assurance to faith (2 Corinthians 4:14 ). Knowledge is a spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:8 ) which can grow, increase, be filled, and abound (Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9-10; 2 Corinthians 8:7 ). It consists in having a better understanding of God's will in the ethical sense (Colossians 1:9-10; Philippians 1:9 ), of knowing that God desires to save people (Ephesians 1:8-9 ), and of having a deeper insight into God's will given in Christ (Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 3:18-19 ).

But though Paul recognized the importance of knowledge, he also knew that it could be a divisive factor in churches such as at Rome and Corinth where some Christians claimed to be more spiritual because of their knowledge of spiritual matters (Romans 14:1-15:6; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 ). Paul argued that knowledge puffs up but love builds up, and the knowledge exercised by the “strong” in faith could cause the “weak” in faith to go against their Christian conscience and lead to their spiritual ruin. Knowledge can be misused (1 Corinthians 8:1 ). Love is more important than knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:1 ), yet knowledge is still a gift, necessary for Christian teaching (1 Corinthians 14:6 ) and for Christian growth toward a mature faith (1 Corinthians 8:7; 2 Peter 1:5-6; 2 Peter 3:18 ).

In the Gospel of John, knowledge is a key concept, although the noun “knowledge” itself never occurs in John's Gospel. John instead frequently uses the verbs “to know.” Jesus and the Father have a mutual knowledge (John 10:14-15 ), and Jesus' knowledge of God is perfect (John 3:11; John 4:22; John 7:28-29 , for example). Jesus brings to lost humankind the knowledge of God which is necessary for salvation (John 7:28-29; John 8:19 ), but which humankind has distorted through sin (John 1:10 ). God's knowledge of Jesus consists of giving Jesus His mission and the power to perform it (John 10:18 ). Jesus' knowledge of the Father consists of His hearing God's word and obediently expressing it to the world.

Knowledge of God is closely related to faith, expressing the perception and understanding of faith. Full knowledge is possible only after Jesus' glorification, since the disciples sometimes failed to understand Jesus (John 4:32; John 10:6; John 12:16 ). In John, knowledge is expressed in Christian witness which may evoke belief in Jesus (John 1:7; John 4:39; John 12:17-18 ) and in love (John 17:26 ). Whereas Jesus' knowledge of the Father is direct, the disciples' knowledge of Jesus is indirect, qualified by believing. The Christian's knowledge of Jesus is the perception of Jesus as the revelation of God which leads to obedience to His word of love. So the Christian is caught up into God's mission of love to the world in order that the world may come to know and believe in Jesus as the revelation of the Father's love for the world.

Roger L. Omanson

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Knowledge'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​k/knowledge.html. 1991.
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