Re: (Fwd) Re. Know in John 6 (OIDAMEN vs EGNWKAMEN)

Carl W. Conrad (
Thu, 10 Oct 1996 10:44:27 -0500

At 4:51 AM -0500 10/10/96, wrote:
>I remember in the back of my mind an assertion that the difference
>between the synonyms was that GINWSKW referred to knowledge gained
>by experience and OIDA to knowledge of a more intuitive nature, the
>later being used often of God's own knowledge. A cursory
>investigation seems to link GINWSKW with sensory perception. Little
>Kittle remarks that OIDA is more or less similar to GINWSKW.
>Lawrence Richards writes that, "A number of words are used to express
>the Greek concept. Ginosko and oida are the basic terms. Each
>indicates knowing and understanding. Each emphasizes the organization
>of one's perceptions so as to grasp the true nature of an issue,
>concept, or thing. In Greek thought, knowledge comes through the
>senses, and that which is known can be verified by observation." I
>can find no one who addresses this with a degree of depth and I can
>find little convincing confirmation of what I vaguely remember from a
>Greek class 14 years ago! Most of the writers get sidelined
>by the issues of knowlege from a classical perspective or from the 2nd
>century Gnostic angle.
>Is there in fact a significant distinction in the words themselves
>that John seems to deliberately exploit in this passage? That is,
>does Peter say, in effect, that they have learned by their
>association with Christ and his teaching what the "many" could not
>know in the intuitive sense based upon their over whelmingly
>materialistic perspective (see the passage for evidence of this
>perspective) that Christ was naturally and could only be the son of
>Mary and Joseph?

I'm not going to cite the rest of the inquiry, but wanted to leave enough
of it so that the issue in question is clear.

I was pretty sure that Raymond Brown dealt with this question in an
appendix to the first volume of his Anchor commentary on John's gospel, and
I was not mistaken. Appendix I, on pp. 513-515 discusses the difference
between GINWSKEIN and EIDENAI in Johannine writings and offers a
bibliography. As his discussion is lengthy, I'll only cite his data and

John 1-2-3 John Revelation
GINWSKEIN 56x 26x 4x

"... De la Potterie has made a strong case for distinguishing between the
two verbs. In his view GINWSKEIN refers to the acquisition of knowledge; it
covers the field of experiential knowledge which a man has gained through
long effort. EIDENAI (OIDA), on the other hand, does not mean "to come to
know," but simply "to know"; it refers to immediate certitude possessed
with assurance. ...
"There is some basis for the distinction ... However, it is not
always easy to be certain that the evangelist means us to think ..."
"We may also concede that EIDENAI is frequently used for the
intuitive knowledge that Jesus has of the Father and of the things of God.
However, the distinction breaks down when we realize that GINWSKEIN is used
in many of the same instances where EIDENAI is used. Note the following
isntances: ..."
"The proponents of distinction have elaborate explanations for the
instances when either verb is used in a way that seems to violate the
meaning proposed for it. However, there are so many exceptions that it is
probably best to come to the same decision here that we reached about the
attempts to distinguish the various verbs "to love" and "to see." John may
tend to use one verb in one way and the other verb in another way, but it
is really a question of emphasis and not of sharp distinction. The
evangelist is not so precise as his commentators would make him."

I rather like that last statement. Coming from one of the most exhaustively
thorough commentators ever to write on John's gospel, it is truly humbling.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR