Some Notes on Scriptural Epistemology Pt.5

Nous[Continued from Pt. 4]

Immediate Knowledge

What is taken for granted in the preceding section is the fact that the x iff y is known immediately by man. That is to say: There is no condition which must be met in order for x iff y to be known. Immediate knowledge can be observed in other places in Scripture. We have already mentioned the fall narrative of Genesis 3, but we can include other events. For example, the impartation of the knowledge of Ham’s sin to Noah is recorded in Gen 9:23-25. There is no mention of how he came to know Ham’s sin. Rather, the language is curiously similar to that which we find in Gen 3:7a. Observe:

(a.)Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.

(b.)Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him…[1]

The Hebrew word used in both instances is the same (יָדַע, yadah’), and has a large semantic domain covering literal as well as figurative uses of the word.

The first use of the word is in Gen 3:5, where the serpent says “God knows…[etc].” This use is confined to knowledge in the strict intellectual sense, as it is in 3:7 & 22. It is used figuratively, however, in the following chapter, where it is revealed that “Adam knew Eve his wife…”.[2] This use is reflected in many other texts, signifying either a purely sexual relationship or a deep intimacy reciprocated by two parties.[3] Our concern is with the literal use of the word when it occurs without any conditional requirements, as mentioned per § 6.  What kind of intellectual knowing is in view in the intellectualist passages? Many argue that the Old Testament writers held to a view of knowledge that was, more or less, experiential. Yet this assumption seems to be based upon nothing more than a privileging of the figurative use of the word (in contexts respecting sexual intercourse and/or covenantal/relational intimacy). Such a treatment of the word is backward, virtually stripping the figurative and the literal of their respective meanings.

Note that the Scriptures use the word first in its literal sense before moving on to use it figuratively. Note, moreover, that the literal use has to do with God’s thoughts. The serpent states that “God knows that…” Clearly, this is not a figurative use of the word, for it speaks of the propositional content in God’s mind. Finally, note that the nature of the knowledge God supposedly possesses is knowledge of the future subsequent to Adam and Eve’s breaking of the commandment. The knowledge spoken of in this chapter, therefore, is not experiential but propositional, concerning states of affairs that either will or won’t obtain. The serpent’s representation of God as one who knows the causal relationship between eating the forbidden fruit and becoming “like God,” nevertheless, reduces God to a creature who only knows that some causal relationship beyond his control obtains. This is implicit, I believe, in the fact that the serpent tempts Eve to eat the forbidden fruit while God is not tangibly/phenomenally (Christophanically?) present, as if the causal relationship between the serpent’s temptation and Eve’s falling into sin was not known by God.

-h.

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[1] Gen 9:24.

[2] Gen 4:1a.

[3] e.g. Gen 4:17 & 25, 19:5 & 8, 24:16, 38:26, et al. A comprehensive listing of all such instances is neither relevant nor practical for our present purposes.

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6 thoughts on “Some Notes on Scriptural Epistemology Pt.5

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