Word Studies

The Examination of Biblical Words in Their Context

by James T. Bartsch

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." 1 John 4:7

"Know" (ginōīskō, 1097)

I was taught in my Greek studies in Bible College that ginōīskō (1097) refers to experiential knowledge, while its counterpart, oîda (6063) refers to intuitive knowledge. That may be true in a limited number of instances, but as in all word studies, the context is the key. There follows here a brief look at the Greek verb ginōīskō (1097), to "know." The various definitions of knowing are based, rather loosely, on the definitions of Friberg. The comments are my own.

(1) To know intellectually (Luke 8:10). Jesus spoke to a large crowd by way of a parable of the four soils (Luke 8:4-8). His disciples asked him what the story meant (Luke 8:9). Jesus replied that it had been granted to them (apparently by God) to know (ginōīskō1097) the mysteries of the kingdom of God. But Jesus used parables to conceal truth from the masses (Luke 8:10). So the connotation here is knowing facts about something, in this case, the mysteries of the kingdom of God.

    In another example, Paul was rescued by a Roman chiliarch (literally, "ruler [commander] of 1000") from a blood-thirsty Jewish mob (Acts 21:27-40). Paul asked the chiliarch if it were possible to speak to him. Surprised, the chiliarch asked Paul, "Do you know
(ginōīskō1097) Greek?" (Acts 21:37). On an intellectual (and skill) level, Paul knew Greek. His fluency in the Greek language helped the chiliarch distinguish Paul from an Egyptian revolutionary (Acts 21:38).

(2) To know something by way of sensory perception (Mark 5:29). After the woman with a 12-year hemorrhage had touched Jesus' cloak, she felt (literally, she knew, ginōīskō1097) in her body that she was healed of her affliction.

(3) To know a person in a relational sense (2 Cor. 5:16). Here Paul asserts that the Apostles (and other, early believers) had known 
(ginōīskō1097) Jesus Christ in a face-to-face manner while he was here on earth. This is what Paul said, "...even though we have known Christ according to the flesh ...." We use this expression often in English, "Oh yes, I know John Smith, but I have never met his son." Outside of this one passage (2 Cor. 5:16), however, this meaning is not used in the NT. And this is not even a good example, for Paul's precise meaning is a bit obscure here.
    Another instance in which this verb is used in this sense, albeit from a negative point of view, is 1 John 3:1. After stating that God has loved us by calling us His children, John asserts that the world, for that reason, does not know us Christians. The world of people as a system run by Satan does not know us Christians. The world does not understand us, appreciate us or agree with us. In fact the world is hostile to us because the world does not know God, and so it does not know His children. This meaning is not often used in the NT in relation to one's knowledge of another human being. It is used more frequently in relation to believing humans' knowledge of God and Jesus, and the Godhead's knowledge of us believing humans. See meaning #4.

(4) To know God or Christ in an intimate, spiritual sense, and, in turn, be known by them (John 10:14; 10:27; 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:3; Php. 3:10).
    In John 10:14, Jesus, as the Good Shepherd knows 
(ginōīskō1097) His own intimately, and they, in turn, know (ginōīskō1097) Him intimately. This is a spiritual knowledge inasmuch as the vast majority of Jesus' sheep have never met their Shepherd personally.
    In John 10:27, Jesus asserted that His sheep  keep hearing His voice, that  He Himself keeps knowing 
(ginōīskō1097) them, and that they keep following Him. To "the Jewish ones" who kept asking Him if He were, in fact, the Messiah (John 10:24), Jesus replied, "I told you, and you are not believing;" (John 10:25a, JTB). He added, "the works that I myself am doing in the name of My Father – these are testifying concerning me," (John 10:25b, JTB) "but you are not believing because you are not of my sheep" (John 10:26, JTB). We conclude, then, that as far as man's knowing God or Jesus, an active, ongoing faith in God or Jesus is a necessary component of knowing Him.
    Jesus revealed, in His High Priestly prayer in John 17:3, "This, moreover, is the eternal life, that they might be knowing 
(ginōīskō1097) you, the only true God, and the One You sent, Jesus, Anointed One" (JTB). To know God and Jesus intimately results in eternal life.
    In 1 Cor. 8:3 we are informed that, if anyone presently is loving God, that person has been known 
(ginōīskō1097) by God. The Perfect tense  of the verb ginōīskō conveys the idea that, at some time in the past, God knew someone intimately, and the results continue to the present time. The implication is that the person who is presently loving God is doing so because, at some time in the past, with results continuing to the present time, God knew him intimately as His own.
    In a statement well known to serious readers of the NT, Paul wrote of his intense desire to know 
(ginōīskō1097) Christ (Php. 3:10). He wrote that he had counted his status as an elite "Hebrew of Hebrews" (Php. 3:4-6) as "loss" or disadvantage for the sake of the Messiah (Php. 3:7). Indeed, Paul wrote that he counts all things as loss and rubbish so that he might gain the advantage of Christ (Php. 3:8). He wished to be found in Christ, not on the basis of a "works" righteousness, but on the basis of a righteousness imparted by God on account of his faith in Christ (Php. 3:9). Paul's supreme desire was to know (ginōīskō1097) Christ, the power of His resurrection, the commonality of His sufferings, and conformity to His death (Php. 3:10), if somehow he might reach the goal of the resurrection from among the dead ones (Php. 3:11). This extended statement by Paul marks, perhaps, the most eloquent statement in the NT on a believer's desire to know the Messiah intimately.
    It is the greatest desire of God, and His Anointed King, Jesus, to know their creatures intimately. By the same token, it should the greatest desire of us redeemed creatures to know God and Jesus intimately.

(5) As a euphemism for sexual intercourse (Matt. 1:25). Having learned of his betrothed wife Mary's pregnancy, Joseph was intending to divorce her secretly (Matt. 1:18-19). But a messenger from the Lord appeared to him in a dream, instructing him not to fear to take her [into his home] as his wife. This was permissible because that having been conceived within her was of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20). She would, moreover, bear a son, and Joseph was to call his name Jesus, for He Himself would save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). This whole thing, moreover, had come about in order that what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "Behold, a virgin will conceive in her womb, and will bear a son, and they will call his name Emmanuel, which is, being translated, "With us, the God!" (Matt. 1:22-23; quoting Isa. 7:14). Having been awakened, moreover, from the sleep, Joseph did as the messenger of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife (Matt. 1:24), and he was not knowing 
(ginōīskō1097) her until she bore a son; and he called his name, "Jesus" (Matt. 1:25). This use of the verb suggests an intimate knowing in a physical and emotional sense. When this verb is used, for example, between God, Jesus, and humans, it also suggests an intimate knowledge, though, of course, in a spiritual, personal sense.

(6) To know with certainty. As believers, the certainty of our knowledge of God is linked to our obedience (1 John 2:3, 4, 5; 5:2); our practice of righteousness (1 John 2:29); our loving others in deed and truth, not merely with words (1 John 3:17-19; 4:16); and the presence of the Holy Spirit within us (1 John 3:24).



(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB.)

Updated August 31, 2018

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