[Regarding the Lord Jesus Christ] in John 16:30, it is written,

30 Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. KJV, 1769

Λʹ νῦν οἴδαμεν ὅτι οἶδας πάντα καὶ οὐ χρείαν ἔχεις ἵνα τίς σε ἐρωτᾷ ἐν τούτῳ πιστεύομεν ὅτι ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθες TR, 1550

And in John 21:17, it is written,

17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. KJV, 1769

ΙΖʹ λέγει αὐτῷ τὸ τρίτον Σίμων Ἰωνᾶ, φιλεῖς με ἐλυπήθη ὁ Πέτρος ὅτι εἶπεν αὐτῷ τὸ τρίτον Φιλεῖς με καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Κύριε σὺ πάντα οἶδας σὺ γινώσκεις ὅτι φιλῶ σε λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς Βόσκε τὰ πρόβατά μου TR, 1550

[Regarding Christians] in 1 John 2:20, it is written,

20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. KJV, 1769

Κʹ Καὶ ὑμεῖς χρίσμα ἔχετε ἀπὸ τοῦ ἁγίου, καὶ οἴδατε πάντα TR, 1550

[Regarding God the Father] in 1 John 3:20, it is written,

20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. KJV, 1769

Κʹ ὅτι ἐὰν καταγινώσκῃ ἡμῶν ἡ καρδία, ὅτι μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ Θεὸς τῆς καρδίας ἡμῶν, καὶ γινώσκει πάντα TR, 1550

Do these scriptures suggest that the Lord Jesus Christ, Christians, and God the Father are each omniscient (truly know all things)? If not, how are they to be interpreted? Also, are the lemmas εἴδω and γινώσκω essentially synonymous in this context?

  • Given the grammatical similarities between the passages, it's interesting that most modern translations render 1 John 2:20 as 'you all have knowledge', applying the πάντα to the plurality of the people rather than quantifying the knowledge. It's enough to make me wonder whether there's a solid grammatical reason for this or whether this rendering is theological eisegesis.
    – Steve can help
    Jan 3, 2017 at 14:58
  • 1
    @SteveTaylor: Textual variant in 1 Jn 2:20. Majority text reads accusative case (πάντα), UBS/NA reads nominative case (πάντες). Whether that textual change occurred for theological reasons is still possible, but it is not purely a translational choice.
    – ScottS
    Jan 3, 2017 at 19:52
  • @ScottS: More support for the reading πάντα, IMO. It’s also the more difficult reading.
    – user862
    Jan 3, 2017 at 20:04
  • @SimplyaChristian: I'm a Majority text person anyway in philosophy of textual transmission, so no argument from me there. I just wanted to point out to Steve that there was a textual reason for the other translation. The reading is "more difficult" depending upon interpretation (i.e., the point of your question here).
    – ScottS
    Jan 3, 2017 at 20:38

4 Answers 4


OP's interest in the Johannine "knowing all things" passages requires attention to the theme of "knowledge" more broadly in gJohn in particular, which also bears on the language of 1 John, although these related books remain distinct in some important aspects.

(OP) [1a] Do these scriptures suggest that the Lord Jesus Christ, Christians, and God the Father are each omniscient (truly know all things)? [1b] If not, how are they to be interpreted?

To answer 1a in a word: no. Unpacking that "no" brings us swiftly to 1b!


It is well known that John's gospel is deeply marked by the themes of perception, knowing, etc. The prologue in ch. 1 already makes this clear with the use of the logos motif, themes of light/dark, sight/blindness, coming together already in John 1:9-10:1

9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens [φωτίζει] every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know [οὐκ ἔγνω] Him.

Scholars discuss the ways in which this language involves gJohn in "gnostic" connections, but that need not detain us here.2 A survey of John's "knowing" language shows the following pattern:

  1. Where the knowledge applies to Jesus, it involves his "knowing" (a) the "mind" of the Father, and (b) the thoughts of human beings.

    (a) Jesus knowing the Father arises in particular in John 7:29 and 8:55:

    [7:29] “I know Him [ἐγὼ οἶδα αὐτόν], because I am from Him, and He sent Me.”
    [8:55] “...and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word.” = καὶ οὐκ ἐγνώκατε αὐτόν, ἐγὼ δὲ οἶδα αὐτόν· κἂν εἴπω ὅτι οὐκ οἶδα αὐτόν, ἔσομαι ὅμοιος ⸀ὑμῖν ψεύστης· ἀλλὰ οἶδα αὐτὸν καὶ τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ τηρῶ.

    (b) There is a distinctive set of vignettes showing Jesus' knowledge of other peoples' thoughts throughout the gospel. The "thesis" statement for these could be taken as 2:24-25 =

    24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting [ἐπίστευεν] Himself to them, for He knew all men [αὐτὸν γινώσκειν πάντας], 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew [αὐτὸς γὰρ ἐγίνωσκεν] what was in man.

    Such "knowledge" is amply demonstrated throughout the gospel, e.g. with Nathanael (1:48); with the "woman at the well" (ch. 4); with "the Jews" (5:42); and others.

  2. Where the knowledge applies to the disciples, it involves a response of faith, of believing that Jesus is the Messiah. Again, this occurs at various points through the gospel, but a clear statement can be found in Peter's "confession" in 6:69 =

    68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know [καὶ ἐγνώκαμεν] that You are the Holy One of God.”

These threads are not entirely distinct, but are woven together in the texts of interest to OP, as well as some others, in particular in the Upper Room discourse (John 13-16) which culminates in 16:30, cited by OP. But the Upper Room discourse is introduced by words which draw together Jesus' "knowing" in both a Father-ward and human-ward direction in the carrying out of his mission, the impending betrayal by Judas, etc.:

13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing [εἰδὼς ὁ Ἰησοῦς] that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2 During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing [εἰδὼς ὅτι πάντα ἔδωκεν]3 that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4 got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.

Knowing all things?

These wider contextual considerations, then, constrain our understanding of the "knowing all [things]" references in 16:30 and 21:17:

  • 16:30 represents the disciples coming to know Jesus' true identity, in recognizing (more perception language) Jesus knowledge of the Father -- as evidenced by Jesus' reply in v. 31,

    31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?...”

  • Likewise, 21:17 draws together Jesus' "knowing" (just as he "knew" Nathanael, the woman at the well, etc.) Peter's inner thoughts, elicits a response from Peter which has not to do with "omniscience", but with Jesus' discernment of Peter's heart, seen clearly when Peter's words are quoted in full:

    17 He *said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” [πάντα σὺ⸃ οἶδας, σὺ γινώσκεις ὅτι φιλῶ σε] Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

There may well be an unlikely anticipation of this combination of divine knowing which brings discernment. Proverbs 24:12 in both Hebrew (MT) and Greek (LXX) conveys the same point, but through quite different formulations. First in Hebrew:

כִּֽי־תֹאמַ֗ר הֵן֮ לֹא־יָדַ֪עְנ֫וּ זֶ֥ה הֲ‍ֽלֹא־תֹ֘כֵ֤ן לִבּ֨וֹת ׀ הֽוּא־יָבִ֗ין וְנֹצֵ֣ר נַ֭פְשְׁךָ ה֣וּא יֵדָ֑ע וְהֵשִׁ֖יב לְאָדָ֣ם כְּפָעֳלֽוֹ׃
If you say, “See, we did not know this,” Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?

For which the Septuagint has:

ἐὰν δὲ εἴπῃς οὐκ οἶδα τοῦτον γίνωσκε ὅτι κύριος καρδίας πάντων γινώσκει καὶ ὁ πλάσας πνοὴν πᾶσιν αὐτὸς οἶδεν πάντα ὃς ἀποδίδωσιν ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ
If you say: “I do not know this person,” be aware that the Lord is familiar with the heart of everyone, and he who formed breath for all, he knows everything, he who will render to each according to his deeds. [NETS translation by Johann Cook]

This is one of the very few places (perhaps only place?) where the Johannine "knowing all" language is echoed outside the Johannine corpus. I'm only noting the resonance here, and not claiming much for it -- except to note that it reinforces the notion that "knowing all things" isn't about the philosophical notion of of omniscience, but has to do in particular with divine knowledge of the human "heart", and by implication, human response to that knowledge -- a combination seen neatly in 1 John 3:20 (and context), in fact.

(OP) [2] Also, are the lemmas εἴδω and γινώσκω essentially synonymous in this context?

Yes. Even in the examples cited above it can be seen that the two are used interchangeably. I think the judgement of Heinrich Seesemann in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Eerdmans, 1967), vol. 6, pp. 116-119 still stands:4

But [οἶδα] can also be synon[ymous] with γινώσκω; in the abs. use in the koine it is hard to establish any distinction of meaning. ... [texts cited] ... One must thus beware of pressing the distinctive senses. (pp. 116-7).


  1. All English Bible citations come from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. Greek is cited from SBL GNT.
  2. There is a rich bibliography on this, but for quick orientation see several of the essays in Richard Bauckham & Carl Mosser (eds), The Gospel of John and Christian Theology (Eerdmans, 2008). What follows has been informed in part by Cornelis Bennema, "Christ, the Spirit and the Knowledge of God: A Study in Johannine Epistemology", in The Bible and Epistemology: Biblical Soundings on the Knowledge of God, ed. by M. Healy and R. Parry (Paternoster, 2007), pp. 107-133.
  3. The text critical problem of whether the Greek repeats Ἰησοῦς here doesn't bear on this discussion.
  4. See also the brief but impressive discussion of this question by J. H. Bernard, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel of St. John (T & T Clark/Charles Scribner's, 1929), Vol. 1, pp. 40-41.


Clearly from experiential reality, Christians are not omniscient, so that cannot be the point of 1 John 2:20.1

John's writings do reflect regular uses of the neuter plural form of the adjective πᾶς used as a direct object of a verb for seeing/knowing (such as οἶδα or γινώσκω). And BDAG makes clear that the accusative plural πάντα has the idea of "all things" or "everything."

But it is a mistake to assume that "all things" or "everything" is necessarily a universal statement, truly meaning ALL THINGS (but it may mean that). Context still determines the limits of the "all" as it does in any situation. So as an example, John 18:4 was not given (for good reason) by the OP (English is NKJV):

4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”

Ἰησοῦς οὖν, εἰδὼς πάντα τὰ ἐρχόμενα ἐπʼ αὐτόν, ἐξελθὼν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τίνα ζητεῖτε;

In that context, the εἰδὼς πάντα has the "all" functioning as an adjective, not a substantive, limiting the τὰ ἐρχόμενα ἐπʼ αὐτόν. So it is everything "that would come upon Him" that is known.

But when πάντα is substantively used by itself, there may still be a contextual limit to what the "all things" is referring to. That is what needs to be determined. "All" always means "all," but it only refers to the whole of whatever is being referred to.2

So does context reveal anything more that might limit any of these "all things"?


John 16:30

While the verse may be an acknowledgement of universal knowledge the disciples believe Christ to have, it may also be that they refer to "all things" Christ has just spoken to them about regarding His leaving them. That was the primary topic from verses 16-30, their question on their mind about what He means about seeing and not seeing Him and only for a "little while" (v.16-18). Christ's explanation and expansion is in v.19-27, the very last part of which indicates He speaks of going out of the world to the Father (v.28), which is plain enough for the disciples to understand (v.29). So "all things" related to His coming and going from the world may be the implicit referent that limits the "all" in this context.

John 21:17

The context here could implicitly have "all" limited to the points Jesus just expressed, namely that if Peter does love Him, he will do the feeding (v.15) and tending (v.16) that were just requested of Him based on Peter's previous two testimonials of loving Jesus. So "you know all" may be Peter stating he is aware Christ knows Peter will do what He asks.

However, this passage does lend a bit more credence to a universal all being acknowledged by Peter in his statement. There are two contextual items especially that lean that way:

  1. The form of Peter's reply in v.17: "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." This seems to be an argument of greater to lesser. That is, Peter is saying, "Lord, You know all things [i.e., EVERYTHING THERE IS TO KNOW]" (the greater), so therefore (the lesser) "You know that I love you."
  2. After Jesus expresses some future knowledge of Peter (v.18), Peter questions Jesus about another man's future (v.21, John's), showing that Peter knows Jesus knows their futures.

So a universal "know all things" has more weight in this passage. Let's skip 1 John 2:20 for a moment, and move to...

1 John 3:20

The context here indicates that the "knows all things" refers to the fact that what we know in our heart about our actions and motivations, God knows (v.18-20), for "God is greater than our heart." So the "all things" is "all things" of peoples hearts. While this may not be a reference to God's full omniscience, that God can know things individuals keep to themselves in their innermost being is certainly a subset of full omniscience.

1 John 2:20

The context of this verse is a lead in from John that there is an Antichrist to come (v.18a), but even now there are antichrists who have come (v.18b). These antichrists "went out from us" because they were "not of us" (v.19).

Then he says to those who have remained, the fact that they have remained shows that they have "an anointing from the Holy One" (v.20a) such that they "have continued with us" (v.19b), and with this anointing, John declares they "know all things." But John can mean a few possible things:

  1. Because of the anointing they have gained a knowledge of all things
  2. Because of a knowing all things they have gained the anointing
  3. Circumstantially, the anointing and the knowledge come at the same time
  4. The knowledge is simply a tacit admission from John based on their anointing

That is, the "and" that links the knowledge to the anointing simply shows there is some relationship between the two, but as of this point, John has not clarified what that relation may be. So let me describe further what I mean by the four possibilities, in reverse order:

As to #4, John may be saying "all things" in relation to what verses 18-19 refer to, the coming and outcome of the antichrists. John may simply be acknowledging that he knows they are annointed and he knows they know all these things regarding antichrists coming and leaving among them. This fits the context.

As to #3, that would mean that at the same time they were annointed they were given knowledge of all things (in some universal sense). As I opened here, experience shows that is not the case.

As to #2, this has merit of "know all" in a proleptic sense, for the following verse (v.21) may well be expanding on the "all" John is referring to. Those that have been anointed were anointed because they "know the truth," all the truth that they need to know to have gained the anointing and prove they are not antichrists, that they will not deny the Son (v.22-23). So contextually, this possibility also fits.

This "all things" being a reference to truth tends to be the normal interpretation of those that see πάντα (rather than πάντες) in this verse. A sampling of commentaries show this (bolding added):

  • H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., 1 John, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 27 (NOTE: as the quote shows, he is not totally decided):

    It is hard to decide between three readings: (1) καὶ οἴδατε πάντα, “and ye know all things” necessary to salvation, i.e. “the truth” (ver. 21; John 16:13); (2) καί οἴδατε πάντες, “and ye all know” that ye have this anointing; (3) οἴδατε πάντες, “ye all know—I did not write to you because ye know not the truth.” There is evidence of a fourth variation, πάντας, “ye know all” the antichrists. If (1) be right, it does not mean that the Christian is omniscient, but that he has the basis of all knowledge; he can see things in their right proportions.

  • D. Edmond Hiebert, “An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 4 (of 10 Parts): An Exposition of 1 John 2:18–28,” Bibliotheca Sacra 146 (1989): 84 (NOTE: Hiebert does not support the TR reading):

    The Textus Receptus reading certainly cannot mean that the readers “know all things”; but those supporting the reading reply that “all things” is limited by “the truth.”

  • Daniel L. Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 38, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 119 (NOTE: He support TR reading):

    The verse concludes with the statement that all believers know the truth (“the truth” is not in the Gk. text but is supplied from v. 21; see also the NLT). John seeks to encourage these believers by explaining that they are the ones who truly know God and that it is this knowledge of God that enables them to understand the false nature of what the heretics are teaching.

  • Gary W. Derickson, First, Second, and Third John, edited by H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris III, and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), 236 (NOTE: They support the TR reading):

    “All things” does not mean “everything.” This is not a promise of omniscience, an incommunicable divine attribute. Rather, it describes what one needs to know to resist the false teachers (2:21). The church of John’s day was already faced with false doctrines involving the person and work of Christ. Gnosticism was in its early stages of development and would blossom to a major controversy in the following century. Gnostic Christians claimed to receive secret knowledge of the truth. This knowledge was necessary for salvation, and only the élite could know these secret truths and thus have salvation. John opposed this concept by affirming that believers know the truth, everything they need to know. Furthermore, what John is writing is not something new or secret but something known by all.

As to #1, that would mean that because they were annointed they were given knowledge of all. This could not be in the universal sense (else a similar problem to #3), but also has a challenge as being a cause to know the truth (i.e., opposite of #2) for the whole premise of the argument is that knowing the truth of the Son's relation to the Father = accepting that truth = why they are anointed, as v.24 also relates implicitly (and cf. John 8:31-32).

Therefore let that [i.e. the truth] abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you [i.e., by the anointing] also will abide in the Son and in the Father.


While it cannot be fully dismissed from possibility that #4 is the intention in 1 John 2:20, that John is simply acknowledging he knows they know these things about the antichrists, context to me favors #2: that "knows all things" is limited in the next verses to be referring to all the necessary truths of the relation of the Son to the Father that bring one to abiding in that truth and thus in the Son and the Father. Additionally, commentaries indicate that those who take v.20 to read πάντα follow similar logic to arrive at the same conclusion.

But it is clear that John does not use "knoweth all things" in any fixed sense. It is a favorite phrase of his, but the context limits what he means by the "all things" in any particular passage.

1 This answer works under the assumption that the Majority text reading of an accusative case πάντα is in 1 John 2:20. That seems to be the key crux of the question here, and my textual philosophy follows the Majority text reading as reflective of the original text. According to the NA28 apparatus the witnesses for that reading are:

A C 5. 33. 81. 307. 436. 442. 642. 1175. 1243. 1448. 1611. 1735. 1739. 1881. 2344. 2492 Byz latt sy; CyrJ Did

The minority reading of a nominative case πάντες that NA28 itself follows is witnessed by:

א B P Ψ 1852 sy sa; Hes

2 If I say: "The apples are in the barrel. I know all are good." The hearer knows my substantive "all" is not inclusive of everything that exists by the context of what was stated around it, specifically my mention of apples in the barrel prior to the "all" statement. So the "all" is limited to the whole of the apples implicitly by context alone, rather than by a direct, explicit adjectival statement such as "I know all the apples are good."


I think that in the first passage John is not so much making some declaration of his own as he is recounting the words and actions of the disciples. Their statement certainly acknowledges Jesus’ omniscience, but in the verse that follows he upbraids them for having acknowledged it so late: Do ye now believe? According to Theophylact’s explanation of this passage, they should have understood His nature much earlier:

Hearing that they would have God the Father as their friend (v.23ff), that as intimates of the Father they would no longer need Christ’s intercession, and that Christ had come forth from the Father, the disciples declare “Now we are sure that Thou knowest all things.”

To show them how imperfect they still were, that their gaze remained fixed upon the earth, and that they had not yet comprehended His true greatness, Christ asks, Do ye only now believe?” He is reproaching them for taking so long to acquire faith. “The hour … is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own." So saying, Christ indicates that He is not especially pleased by what they were thinking and saying. “You imagine that you have formed a profound conception of who I am. But your knowledge of Me is so paltry that you will scatter in all direction, each one to his own hiding place.

The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to John (tr. Chrystostom Press, 2007), pp.254-255.

Nonetheless, despite the imperfection of their confession and their lack of steadfastness, John’s witness here (and Peter’s witness in John 21:17) bears testimony that the disciples did, in fact, see Christ as being omniscient. Furthermore, this recognition of omniscience was tantamount to a recognition of Christ’s divinity, since only God knoweth the secrets of the heart (Psalm 44:22) and only of God’s understanding is there no measure (Psalm 147:5). As you point out, John also affirms this in his first Epistle: God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things (3:20).

What is being said in 1 John 2:20, however, does not refer to his readers being in some sense omniscient. It refers, rather, in their being able to discern what is true from what is not true. It is, in my opinion, a reflection of the Beatitude, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8). Both Augustine (Commentary on 1 John) and Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lecture XXI) exegete the passage in this sense, but I think a more modern commentator, the Orthodox theologian and monk Justin Popovic, explains the verse most clearly:

Ye know all things: God and Satan, Christ and Antichrist, good and evil, life and death, righteousness and unrighteousness. For you, all the main questions are solved: you do not have any hesitations, dilemmas or doubts. Ye know all the paths that lead to God as well as those that lead to the devil. Who do you know this from? From the Holy One. Through the Holy One, you know everything. Unction from the Holy One - this is the consecration of the entire being of man, starting with his organs of perception: the mind, reason, soul, and heart. If man fills himself with the holiness of the Holy One, he will arrive at a genuine knowledge of everything else that is necessary for man’s being.

Commentary on the Epistle of St. John the Theologian (Sebastian Press, 2009), p.33

Regarding the Greek οἶδα and γινώσκω, I do not think it is fruitful to impute degrees of omniscience according to whether one or the other word is used. Moulton and Milligan note that the distinction between the two “cannot be pressed in Hellenistic Greek” and offer examples where one or the other is used to refer to knowledge in a more or less absolute sense (Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, p. 439).


This is partly a translation issue in that the word translated "know" would be better translated as "recognize". If they knew everything he would not have to write to them in the first place.

Also, "all things" is in the context of the things being discussed. He's essentially saying "you recognize all these things".

This is in contrast to the ignorant masses of humanity that have unenlightened perspective on the things of God:

1 John 4: 5They are of the world. That is why they speak from the world’s perspective, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. That is how we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.

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