Knowledge in the Bible

I surveyed the Bible to find its position on the status of knowledge. Does the Bible say knowledge/certainty is impossible to the unbeliever? Actually, I found that sinners can know many things. What they can’t know is the deceit of their own heart. But they can know good and evil. In fact, it is for knowing the good, yet choosing the evil, that people are condemned (Romans 1-2).

Chinese painting of a thinker

Below is a set of verses to help combat the mystical approach to knowledge (presuppositionalism). We see the common-sense view of knowledge: we learn by observation and reasoning. People come to faith because they see evidence; seeing leads to believing.

Knowledge plays a huge role in Scripture. In these verses we find a treasury of insight about what knowledge is possible to man and about how knowledge works. Enjoy!Sinners can know good and evil.

Genesis 3:22

And the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become as one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live for ever”—

 

Sinners can know the deeds of others.

Exodus 2:14
14And he said, “Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? Intendest thou to kill me as thou killed the Egyptian?” And Moses feared and said, “Surely this thing is known.”

 

Sinners can gain knowledge of good and evil as they grow into adulthood.

Deuteronomy 1:39-40

Moreover your little ones, who ye said should be a prey, and your children, who in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither; and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it. But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea.’

 

Sinners can learn to know the Lord is God by his miracles.

Deuteronomy 4:33-35

Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? Or hath God deigned to go and take Him a nation from the midst of another nation by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? Unto thee it was shown, that thou mightest know that the LORD He is God: there is none else besides Him.

 

Sinners can know history by listening to reputable sources.

Joshua 4:21

And he spoke unto the children of Israel, saying, “When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What mean these stones?’ then ye shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel came over this Jordan on dry land.’

 

Sinners can know God is speaking by miraculous signs of confirmation.

Judges 6:36-37

And Gideon said unto God, “If Thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as Thou hast said–37behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that Thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as Thou hast said.”

 

Sinners can know that some people are virtuous.

Ruth 3:11

And now, my daughter, fear not. I will do for thee all that thou requirest, for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.

 

All the earth can know that there is a God by his mighty works in battle.

1 Samuel 17:46

This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand. And I will smite thee and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.

 

Sinners can know that their own hearts are wicked.

1 Kings 2:44

The king said moreover to Shimei, “Thou knowest all the wickedness which thine heart is privy to, that thou did to David my father. Therefore the LORD shall return thy wickedness upon thine own head.

 

Only God knows the hearts of all men.

1 Kings 8:39

Then hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart Thou knowest (for Thou, even Thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men),

 

Sinners can know God’s messengers are true by seeing them work miracles.

1 Kings 17:23

And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother; and Elijah said, “See, thy son liveth.” 24And the woman said to Elijah, “Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.”

 

Sinners can repent at the sight of a miracle.

1 Kings 18:36-39

And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word. Hear me, O LORD! Hear me, that this people may know that Thou art the LORD God, and that Thou hast turned their heart back again.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and they said, “The LORD, He is the God! The LORD, He is the God!”

 

We cannot know all the greatness of God.

Job 36:26
Behold, God is great, and we know Him not; neither can the number of His years be searched out.

 

God can do everything.

Job 42:2
I know that Thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withheld from Thee.

 

For some, knowledge is easy.

Proverbs 14:6
A scorner seeketh wisdom and findeth it not, but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.

 

People may know the character of children by their behavior.

Proverbs 20:11
Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure and whether it be right.

 

People may gain knowledge by study.

Proverbs 23:12
Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.

 

People do not know the future.

Proverbs 27:1
Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

 

Knowledge gives life.

Ecclesiastes 7:12

For wisdom is a safeguard, as money is a safeguard, but the excellency of knowledge is that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.

 

Sinners may know that they have done evil.

Ecclesiastes 7:22

For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.

 

Young children do not know how to choose between good and evil.

Ecclesiastes 9:5
For the living know that they shall die; but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

 

Sinners are able to know their own sins.

Isaiah 59:12
For our transgressions are multiplied before Thee, and our sins testify against us. For our transgressions are with us, and as for our iniquities, we know them:

 

Sinners can have knowledge of how to do evil, but not of how to do good.

Jeremiah 4:22
For My people are foolish, they have not known Me; they are sottish children, and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.

 

Sinners are sometimes able to know their own sins.

Jeremiah 14:20

We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness and the iniquity of our fathers; for we have sinned against Thee.

 

Sinners are not able to know the deceit of their own hearts.

Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? 10 “I, the Lord, search the heart; I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”

 

God blesses some with skill in knowing.

Daniel 1:17

As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

 

People can reject knowledge and forget the truth.

Hosea 4:6

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to Me. Seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

 

Leaders have the responsibility to gain knowledge.

Micah 3:1

And I said: “Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel: Is it not for you to know judgment”

 

Sinners know how to give good gifts to their children.

Matthew 7:11

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in Heaven give good things to them that ask Him?

 

People may know the character of others by their deeds.

Matthew 7:16

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?

 

Jesus expected people to know the content of Scripture.

Matthew 12:7

But if ye had known what this meaneth, ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice,’ ye would not have condemned the guiltless.

 

Jesus pointed out that people know the principle of cause and effect.

Matthew 24:32

Now learn a parable of the fig tree: When his branch is yet tender and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh.

 

By Jesus’ miracles, he says we may know that he has power to forgive sins.

Mark 2:10-11

10 But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins—” He said to the one sick with the palsy, 11 “I say unto thee, arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.”

 

Jesus expected people do know the power of God.

Mark 12:24

And Jesus answering, said unto them, “Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God?

 

By the report of the early Christians we may be certain of our faith.

Luke 1:3-4

It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed.

 

God may send angels to make a thing known.

Luke 2:15

And it came to pass, when the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”

 

Jesus points out that people have knowledge of patterns in nature.

Luke 12:54-56

And He said also to the people, “When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, ‘There cometh a shower’; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, ‘There will be heat’; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites! Ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it that ye do not discern this time?

 

People can know who Jesus is by his miracles. Even then, they can deny him.

John 3:2

The same came to Jesus by night and said unto Him, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, unless God be with him.”

 

Jesus expects teachers to master spiritual truths.

John 3:10

Jesus answered and said unto him, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

 

Those who obey God’s words will learn to know more of his doctrine.

John 7:17

If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be from God, or whether I speak from Myself.

 

A healed person was able to reason from Jesus’ power to an inference of his divine nature.

John 9:30-33

The man answered and said unto them, “Why, herein is a marvelous thing: that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners, but if any man be a worshiper of God and doeth His will, him He heareth. Since the world began it was not heard that any man opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

 

Sinners may know that Christians are disciples of Christ.

John 13:35

By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples: if ye have love one for another.”

 

People may know the truth about Jesus based on the record of the early Christians.

John 19:35

And he that saw it bore record, and his record is true, and he knoweth that he saith truly, that ye might believe.

 

Peter appealed to sinners to repent based on their own observed knowledge of Jesus’ miracles.

Acts 2:22

Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God among you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did through Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know —

 

Even the gentiles knew of Jesus’ miracles.

Acts 26:26

For the king himself knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely; for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him, for this thing was not done in a corner.

 

Sinners are able to know that God exists, and they may choose to reject him.

Romans 1:20

For from the creation of the world the invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood through the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.

 

Sinners are able to judge sin in others and chose to maintain a double standard for themselves.

Romans 2:1

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art who judgest; for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself, for thou that judgest doest the same things.

 

Sinners are condemned when they choose a double standard.

Romans 2:1

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art who judgest; for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself, for thou that judgest doest the same things.

 

We are not always able to know how to pray.

Romans 8:26

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

 

We know that all things work together for our good.

Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

 

God can make his mysteries known to people by miraculous visions.

Ephesians 3:3

How by revelation He made known unto me the mystery…

 

The most excellent knowledge is knowledge of Christ.

Philippians 3:8

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but dung, that I may win Christ

 

We are able to know how to do good, and yet not choose to do it.

James 4:17

Therefore to him that knoweth how to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

 

The majesty of Christ was known by eyewitnesses.

2 Peter 1:16-18

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when there came such a voice to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And this voice, which came from Heaven, we heard when we were with Him on the holy mount.

 

To know God’s commandments and not do them is worse than to not know them.

2 Peter 2:21

For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they had known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.

 

We can know we are Christians by our actions.

1 John 2:3

And hereby we know that we know Him: if we keep His commandments.

 

We can know that Christ will return.

1 John 3:2

Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.