Two Kinds of Knowledge

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There are two kinds of knowledge. It says in 2 Peter 1: 2-8 that “grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge (First term) of God, and of Jesus our Lord. According as his divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge (First term) of him that called to us to glory and virtue: whereby are given to us great and precious promises that by these we might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge (This is the second term and is a different Greek word that the first term) and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you and abound they make you so that you won’t be either barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of our lord Jesus Christ”.

The first term used above that is translated “knowledge refers to the type of knowledge that is related to “recognition and discernment”, whereas the second term translated “knowledge” refers to a more “mental and scientific knowledge”. So, if someone said I know about John Doe then they would use the second term. But if someone said that they used to live with John Doe and they know him well they would use the first term.

So, Peter is saying that since “you know God (that is have met Jesus) then learn (in your mind) more about him since it is one of the virtues that will help you grow in Him.

Both of these types of knowledge are important, and both are used widely in the new testament to describe knowledge, both in humans and in God. When we say as Christians that “we know Jesus Christ” we are referring to the first type of knowledge: a personal relational knowledge. When Paul prays that we might “know the love of Christ, that passes knowledge” (Eph 3:19), he is asking that we might personally experience the love of Christ that goes beyond mental knowledge.

We need both to know Jesus both in a personal and direct way, and we need to have knowledge of Him that is accurate and true. Orthodoxy is right knowledge of God. It is not unimportant compared to direct experience of God. The 2 types of knowledge have different roles. Mere subjective experience without good doctrine is deficient, as is mere head knowledge without a soul changing knowing of Jesus in the heart.

How do we “know” more of God? In both cases we need grace. In both cases we need to be taught by the Holy Spirit. One could say that “heart knowledge” is obtained through prayer, and doctrine is obtained by study; but this is only partly true. In both cases the knowledge comes from God. In both cases prayer will increase our ability to hear and to learn. In both cases our obedience and yielding to God in right behavior and attitude will bring more knowledge.

Contemplative prayer is one way to gain personal and direct experience with God. Such encounters, infusions, visitations, consolations and touches will deeply change a person and increase their love of God.  Monastic disciplines like silence and solitude are valuable additions to service and action.


Likewise, sanctification, whether obtained through monastic principles or by responding to good evangelical protestant preaching, will increase all knowledge.

Those who want to take a closer look at monastic practices that lead to sanctification can follow 2 series of essays: The series starting with Stage One of Monastic Purification, and the series starting with The Dark Night.