Monday, August 6, 2012

Knowing yourself

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,
                             - 1 Corinthians 2:11-12 (NASB)

A giddy thought, knowing God the way you know your own thoughts. Even the second hand contact of having received a spirit that knows God that way is exciting. But how well do we really know ourselves? When I looked at this in Greek, trying to puzzle it out with a dictionary and a translation, I noticed that Paul has used two different greek verbs for ‘to know’ in these two verses.
First who but a man’s own spirit can οἶδεν* his thoughts. Here the verb is εἴδω which is a word for knowing the is derived from a word for seeing. Then only God’s Spirit does ἔγνωκεν God’s thoughts. The verb γινώσκω referring more to substantial knowledge.  Then we may εἰδῶμεν what is given us by God. Back to εἴδω.
Of course part of this is that Paul has just been alluding to Isaiah where it talks about whose eye get to see God. So it makes sense to use a word that ties the ideas of seeing and knowing together. But in switching to γινώσκω and then back to εἴδω I think something more might be implied.
Humans don’t really know themselves very well. Even with our own thoughts we may be more aware to the surface appearances and not aware of deeper truths. God isn’t like this. He has true comprehension of truths from foundations to grace notes. The Holy Spirit’s knowledge of God is more intimate than our knowledge of our thoughts and is absent any human self deception. By the Spirit’s power, we can gaze on the incredible gifts God has given us, but we shouldn’t expect to grasp all that they are.

*I don’t know Greek. I’m coping and pasting these from The form/accent/spelling may not be properly adapted to how I am pulling these out of context. 

image by Giardini Cargale-Vittorio

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