GNWSIS vs EPIGNWSIS
Bryant J. Williams III
bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Wed Sep 11 14:12:07 EDT 2002
I would recommend the article in NIDTHT, Vol. 2, pp. 390-406, by E.D. Schmitz. It is a very good
article dealing with the issue of GNWSIS vs EPIGNWSIS. Schmitz makes the following statement on
"4. 'Later Developments. (a) In the Pastorals, and to some extent in 2 Pet., epignosis, has
received a special stamp through the controversy with gnosticism which deviates from the OT
usage. In the earlier Pauline Epistles and Johannine writings church doctrine was still in the
course of development in the controversy with gnosticism. In the Pastorals, however, a definite
doctrinal tradition is evident, and all entanglement with 'godless and silly myths' (1 Tim. 4:7)
is forbidden. Hence, gnostic terminology has bee in great measure eliminated and replaced by
other terms. gnosis is regarded as a technical term for the gnostic heresy (cf. i Tim. 6:20) and
epignosis takes its place, when it refers to Christian knowledge (I Tim. 2:4; 2 Tim 2:25; 2:7;
Tit 1:1). It has, however, quite clearly an intellectual, semi-dogmatic stress. The knowledge of
God's truth is of equal importance with experiential profession of the Lord, and finally pushes
it into the background. Hence, conversion to the Christian faith can be described almost
technically as coming to a knowledge (epignosis) of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Tim. 3:7; cf. Heb.
10:26; 1 Tim. 5:3; 2 Tim 2:25; Tit. 1:1; 2 Pet. 2:21) Examples of this concept of truth may be
found in Eth.Enoch 105:2 and Sib. 1:20.
In 2 Pet. epignosis is used in similar theoretical, technical way in connection with God's
call Knowledge is here of the orthodox tradition, of the catholic doctrinal teaching (2 Pet.
1:2, 3, 8; 2:20) which, as in the Pastorals, must become effective in a corresponding manner of
life. It is interesting that gnosis has a good sense in 2 Pet. (cf. 1:5f.; 3:18).This does apply
to ch. 2, where an anti-gnostic writing (Jude) has been incorporated which uses only epignosis
(2:20) and epiginosko (2:21)."
Aside from some differences on the date of writing of Jude and II Peter, it is a well-written
article and the bibliography is priceless in itself.
I would also add that there may be some overlap in meaning between GNWSIS and EPIGNWSIS. The
overall use of GNWSIS is wide-range and EPIGNWSIS seems to indicate a narrowing of the idea of
knowledge to more than "recognize, acquainted" to that of "personal recognition and
acquaintance, i.e., objective truth that is personally experienced and believed. This
corresponds with OT usage and is against the gnostic idea of separating "faith and knowledge."
Rev. Bryant J. Williams III
Rev. Bryant J. Williams III
----- Original Message -----
From: "Peter Osborne." <s351016 at student.uq.edu.au>
To: "Biblical Greek" <b-greek at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
Sent: Monday, September 09, 2002 4:26 AM
Subject: [b-greek] GNWSIS vs EPIGNWSIS
> Just resending this - I sent it at a bad time last time (I think it was a
> I have a query on the meaning of GNWSIS vs EPIGNWSIS. I have had a look at
> the archives on it as follows:
> Mark E. Millar 1994 - suggested EPIGNWSIS could be translated
> "participation" on the grounds that it implied a participation in the
> Carl Conrad, 1995 - EPIGNWSIS depending on context could mean recognition,
> acknowledgement, familiarity, or knowledge.
> Wes Williams, 2001 - in Matt. 11:27 EPIGNWSIS contrasts with hidden
> knowledge and therefore could suggest "full" or "complete" knowledge. When
> contrasted with "truth" EPIGNWSIS has the sense of "accurate knowledge".
> I'm wondering if anyone has had any more recent thoughts on this subject?
> 1. depending on context again, (and given the contrast with "hidden"
> knowledge in Matt 11:27) could the use of the word signal that the writer is
> countering the beliefs of the gnostics? ie one must go beyond the
> "knowledge" of the gnostics...
> 2. If Mark's still out there, I was interested in your idea of
> participation. How did you derive that idea, and what do others think about
> it, there didn't seem to be any response to the 1994 message.
> "Participation" might be a message Paul was trying to get across to
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