Some Notes on Scriptural Epistemology Pt. 4

Knowledge and Remembrance

In John 2, after Jesus had overturned the money changers’ tables, “his disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’”[1] Several verses later, John reports that the apostles, subsequent to the resurrection, remembered his declaration that he would raise the temple of his body in three days.[2] Similarly, later in John’s Gospel he explains that “when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.”[3] These events of remembrance are important to note given Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room Discourse. In particular, consider John 14:26:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

The Holy Spirit, as the one who is to lead the apostles into all truth,[4] will bring to remembrance the Word of Christ. This is what John’s remarks about remembrance remind us of when we read and reread his gospel. But the event of remembrance leading to knowledge can be seen in the narrative of the crowing rooster. After having denied Jesus, “…Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”[5]

Significantly, the manner of knowing in these passages exhibits the following pattern:

  1. God says x will be known iff y.
  2. y occurs.
  3. God reminds man of x.
  4. Man knows x.

What is important to note here is that the knowledge is being revealed by God, not the events themselves. That is to say, the meaning of y is given first by God’s assertion x, and the identification of  x as knowledge is immediately imparted to man. We see this pattern in the Old Testament as well, though the word remember isn’t used explicitly. The idea conveyed by the Old Testament prophecies which state that man will know x upon God’s causation of x1 is that upon the fulfillment of x1 man will immediately know that x:x1. Additionally, we see that men can set forth the conditions upon which a proposition will be known. Consider the following examples.

  1. “Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”[6]
  2. “Then the man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I shall know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, and take grain for the famine of your households, and go your way.’”[7]
  3. “Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’”[8]
  4. “If these men die as all men die, or if they are visited by the fate of all mankind, then theLord has not sent me. But if the Lord creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the Lord.”[9]
  5. Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said”…[10]
  6. If your father misses me at all, then say, ‘David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city, for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the clan.’ If he says, ‘Good!’ it will be well with your servant, but if he is angry, then know that harm is determined by him. Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the Lord with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself, for why should you bring me to your father?”[11]
  7. “Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.”[12]
  8. “And my eye will not spare you, nor will I have pity, but I will punish you for your ways, while your abominations are in your midst. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”[13]
  9. “Behold, I will shake my hand over them, and they shall become plunder for those who served them. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me.”[14]
  10. So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.”[15]

In these verses, a condition whereby knowledge is gained is set down by one party (God or man). While remembrance is not explicitly mentioned, the idea seems to be present implicitly, as the meeting of the condition is always a future event.

This is a distinct form of anamnesis, to use the term very loosely, for in it experience does not bring to remembrance knowledge already possessed by the subject (and gained via sensation at some prior time). Rather, what is to be known is revealed as knowable upon the meeting of some condition. Upon the meeting of that condition, that which was already identified as the object of knowledge is known by the subject. It is is important to note that this is not an example of the fallacy of affirming the consequent, for the conditional “if” is actually to be understood as “if and only if.”



[1] John 2:17.

[2] John 2:22.

[3] John 12:16.

[4] John 16:13.

[5] Luke 22:61. cf. Matt 26:75, Mark 14:72.

[6] Gen 24:14.

[7] Gen 42:33. cf. 42:34.

[8] Exo 6:7. cf. 7:5 & 17, 8:9-11, 8:21-23, 9:13-15, 10:2, 11:7, 14:4 & 18, 16:6 & 12,

[9] Num 16:29-30.

[10] Jud 6:36-37.

[11] 1st Sam 20:6-8.

[12] Isa 49:23. cf. Isa 49:26.

[13] Eze 7:4. cf. 7:9, 20:38, 24:24, 25:5 & 7, 29:9 & 21, 35:9 & 15, 36:11 & 36, 37:14.

[14] Zech 2:9. cf. 4:9.

[15] John 8:28.

9 thoughts on “Some Notes on Scriptural Epistemology Pt. 4

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