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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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ig´nō̇ - rans ( שׁגגה , sheghāghāh ; ἂγνοια , ágnoia ): "Ignorance" is the translation of sheghāghāh , "wandering," "going astray" ( Leviticus 4:2 , etc., "if a soul sin through ignorance," the Revised Version (British and American) "unwittingly," margin "through error"; Leviticus 5:15; Numbers 15:24; compare Numbers 35:11; Joshua 20:3; Ecclesiastes 5:6; Ecclesiastes 10:5 , "an error"). In the Law sheghāghāh means "innocent error," such as had to be taken with consideration in judgment (see passages referred to). "Ignorance" is also expressed by the negative lō' with yādha‛ , "to know" (Isaiah 56:10; Isaiah 63:16; Psalm 73:22 ); also by bi -bhelı̄ da‛ath , literally, "in want of knowledge" (Deuteronomy 19:4; compare Deuteronomy 4:12; Joshua 20:5 , translated "unawares," "unwittingly").

In the New Testament the words are agnoia , "absence of knowledge" ( Acts 3:17; Acts 17:30; Ephesians 4:18; 1 Peter 1:14 ); agnóēma , "error" (Hebrews 9:7 , the Revised Version margin "Greek: ignorances"); agnōsı́a , "ignorance" (1 Peter 2:15 ), "no knowledge" (1 Corinthians 15:34 the Revised Version (British and American)); agnoéō , "to be without knowledge," "ignorant" (Romans 1:13; Romans 10:3; Romans 11:25 , etc.), "not knowing" (Romans 2:4 , etc.), "understood not" (Mark 9:32 , etc.), "ignorantly" (Acts 17:23 , the Revised Version (British and American) "in ignorance"; 1 Timothy 1:13 ); idiō̇tēs , translated "ignorant" (Acts 4:13 ), "unlearned" (1 Corinthians 14:16 , the Revised Version margin "him that is without gifts," and so in 1 Corinthians 14:23 , 1 Corinthians 14:14 ), "rude" (2 Corinthians 11:6 ); agrámmatos , once only in connection with idiōtēs (Acts 4:13 , "unlearned and ignorant men"); agrammatos corresponds to modern "illiterate" (compare John 7:15; Acts 26:24 ); idiōtēs originally denoted "the private man" as distinguished from those with a knowledge of affairs, and took on the idea of contempt and scorn. In Philo it denoted the whole congregation of Israel as distinguished from the priests (De Vita Mosis , III 29). With Paul (1 Corinthians 14:16 , 1 Corinthians 14:23 , 1 Corinthians 14:24 ) it seems to denote "plain believers as distinguished from those with special spiritual gifts." In Acts 4:13 it may refer to the want of Jewish learning; certainly it does not mean ignorant in the modern sense.

Paul in Romans 1:18 , Romans 1:32 attributes the pre-Christian ignorance of God to "the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness" (but the margin has, with the King James Version, " hold the truth, compare 1 Corinthians 7:30 , Gr"); many, however (Alford, De Wette, Meyer and others), translation "hold back the truth." A willful ignorance is also referred to in Ephesians 4:17 f; 2 Peter 3:5 . But there is also a less blameworthy ignorance. Paul at Athens spoke of "times of ignorance" which God had "overlooked" (Acts 17:30 ); Paul says of himself that he "obtained mercy, because (he) did it (against Christ) ignorantly in unbelief" (1 Timothy 1:13 ); Peter said to the Jews (Acts 3:17 ) that they and their rulers rejected Christ "in ignorance" (compare 1 Corinthians 2:8 ); and Jesus Himself prayed for those who crucified Him: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do"; (Luke 23:34 ); in Hebrews 5:2 the necessary qualification of a high priest is that he "can bear gently with the ignorant and erring" - those who sin in ignorance or go astray (compare Hebrews 9:7 , "blood, which he offereth for himself, and for the errors of the people," margin "(Greek: ignorances"). Growing light, however, brings with it increasing responsibility, and the "ignorance" that may be "overlooked" at one stage of the history of men and nations may be blameworthy and even criminal at another.

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Ignorance'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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