THE ALL-IMPORTANT KNOWLEDGE (2 Peter 1:2)
1:2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you by the knowledge of God, and of Jesus, our Lord.
Peter puts this in an unusual way. Grace and peace are to come from knowledge, the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Is he turning Christian experience into something dependent on knowledge? Or is there some other meaning here? First, let us look at the word which he uses for knowledge (epignosis, Greek #1922). It can be interpreted in two directions.
(a) It can mean increasing knowledge. Gnosis (Greek #1108), the normal Greek word for knowledge, is here preceded by the preposition epi (Greek #1909) which means towards, in the direction of. Epignosis (Greek #1922) then could be interpreted as knowledge which is always moving further in the direction of that which it seeks to know. Grace and peace are multiplied to the Christian as he comes to know Jesus Christ better and better. As it has been put: "The more Christians realize the meaning of Jesus Christ, the more they realize the meaning of grace and the experience of peace."
(b) Epignosis (Greek #1922) has a second meaning. Often in Greek it means full knowledge. Plutarch, for instance, uses it of the scientific knowledge of music as opposed to the knowledge of the mere amateur. So it may be that the implication here is that knowledge of Jesus Christ is what we might call "the master-science of life." The other sciences may bring new skill, new knowledge, new abilities, but the master-science, the knowledge of Jesus Christ, alone brings the grace men need and the peace for which their hearts crave.
There is still more. Peter has a way of using words which were commonly on the lips of the pagans of his day and charging them with a new meaning. Knowledge was a much used word in pagan religious thought in the days when this letter was written. To take but one example, the Greeks defined sophia (Greek #4678), wisdom, as knowledge of things both human and divine. The Greek seekers after God sought that knowledge in two main ways.
(a) They sought it by philosophic speculation. They sought to reach God by the sheer power of human thought. There are obvious troubles there. For one thing, God is infinite; the mind of man is finite; and the finite can never grasp the infinite. Long ago Zophar had asked: "Can you (by searching) find out the deep things of God?" (Job 11:7). If God is ever to be known, he must be known, not because man's mind discovers him but because he chooses to reveal himself. For another thing, if religion is based on philosophic speculation, at its highest it can be the preserve of only the few, for it is not given to every man to be a philosopher. Whatever Peter meant by knowledge, he did not mean that.
(b) They sought it by mystical experience of the divine, until they could say, "I am thou, and thou art I." This was the way of the Mystery Religions. They were all passion plays; the dramatically acted story of some God who suffered and died and rose again. The initiate was carefully prepared by instruction in the inner meaning of the story, by long fasting and continence, and by the deliberate building up of psychological tension. The play was then played out with a magnificent liturgy, sensuous music, carefully calculated lighting and the burning of incense. The aim was that, as the initiate watched, he should so enter into this experience that he became actually one with the suffering, dying, rising, and eternally triumphant God. Again there are troubles here. For one thing, not every one is capable of mystical experience. For another thing, any such experience is necessarily transient; it may leave an effect, but it cannot be a continual experience. Mystical experience is the privilege of the few.
(c) If this knowledge of Jesus Christ does not come by philosophic speculation or by mystical experience, what is it and how does it come? In the New Testament knowledge is characteristically personal knowledge. Paul does not say, "I know what I have believed"; he says, "I know whom I have believed" (2 Timothy 1:12). Christian knowledge of Christ is personal acquaintance with him; it is knowing him as a person and entering day by day into a more intimate relationship with him.
When Peter speaks of grace and peace coming through the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, he is not intellectualizing religion; he is saying that Christianity means an ever-deepening personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
From William Barclay's Daily Study Bible
2 Peter 1:2
2 Peter 1:2
For further studies on this watch:*The Christian Mysteries