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Bible Dictionaries
Ignorance (2)

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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1. Religious ignorance is uniformly regarded in the Bible as a moral and spiritual, and not merely as an intellectual, defect. Religious ignorance is always culpable, because the true light ‘lighteth every man’ (John 1:9). The light of reason and of conscience shines even in the darkness of heathenism, and the heathen are plainly in fault if they ‘apprehend’ it not (John 1:5). To put the matter in another way, the truths of Natural Religion carry their own evidence with them, and those who worship the creature instead of the Creator, or who deny that there is a God, or who think that there is no essential difference between virtue and vice, wilfully blind themselves to the truth (cf. Romans 1:19-20, Acts 14:17). Yet the culpability of the heathen, great as it is, is less than that of those who have received the light of revelation (Matthew 10:15; Matthew 12:41). Our Lord specially blames the Samaritans because, having received the Law, they nevertheless remained in ignorance of its Author (John 4:22 Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885), and neglected to worship Him in the place which He had chosen. But far more culpable than the half-heathen Samaritans were the Jews, who had behind them a long religious ancestry of patriarchs and prophets (Romans 9:5), who inherited the promises, and to whom were committed the oracles of God (Romans 3:2, Romans 9:4). The chosen race, wilfully blinding themselves to the true meaning of the Scriptures (John 5:45) and to the signs of the times (Matthew 16:3), especially the testimony of the Baptist (John 3:26; John 3:32) and the words and works of Jesus (Matthew 11:20, John 10:38; John 14:11; John 15:24), were punished by having the truth hidden from them in parables (Matthew 13:13), and by having their spiritual understanding darkened (Matthew 13:15, 2 Corinthians 3:14). Of the Jews the most culpable were the leaders—the Sadducees, because they were ignorant of the resurrection and the future life, truths inculcated by Moses himself (Matthew 22:29); and the Pharisees and scribes, those blind leaders of the blind, who led their unwary followers into a pit (Matthew 15:14). The case of the Pharisees was particularly hopeless, because, being ignorant, they thought themselves wise: ‘If ye were blind [and acknowledged it], ye would have no sin; but now ye say, We see: your sin remaineth’ (John 9:41).

Ignorance of Jesus is treated in the Gospels as equivalent to ignorance of God: ‘Ye know neither me nor my Father; if ye knew me, ye would know my Father also’ (John 8:19); ‘No man cometh to the Father but by me. If ye had known me, ye would have known my Father also’ (John 14:7). If men do not come to a knowledge of Christ in this world, Christ will profess Himself ignorant of them in the next, and this will exclude them from the joys of heaven (Matthew 25:12; Matthew 7:23). Yet the obligation to know Christ in this world applies only to those to whom the gospel has been actually preached (Mark 16:15-16).

The reason why ignorance of Christ is regarded as a sin is that the truth as it is in Jesus is spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14). Lovers of truth, whose lives are virtuous and holy, perceive intuitively that the teaching of Jesus comes from God: ‘Every one that doeth ill hateth the light, and cometh not to the light.… But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light,’ etc. (John 3:20).

Among the ‘Seven Words’ spoken by Jesus from the Cross there is one which bears upon this sin of ignorance: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34). In saying this He renewed that condemnation which He had often passed upon religious ignorance, for He implied that those who slew Him had need of the Father’s forgiveness—His own forgiveness the words themselves express. But what the saying immediately proclaims is that the sin of ignorance is not beyond forgiveness, even when it has led to the darkest of crimes; nay, that ignorance itself may be pleaded in extenuation (γάρ) before Him who knoweth all. (On the genuineness of the saying see Meyer, Alford, WH [Note: H Westcott and Hort’s text.] [Appendix]).

2. Christ’s ignorance, or limitation of knowledge—See Consciousness, Kenosis.

Literature.—Müller, Chr. Doct. of Sin, i. 209; Paget, Stud. in Chr. Character, p. 154.

C. Harris.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Ignorance (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​i/ignorance-2.html. 1906-1918.
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