I have quoted John 15:21 and Romans 1:21 from the ESV.

ESV John 15:21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know (οἴδασιν) him who sent me.

ESV Romans 1:21 For although they knew (γνόντες) God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

In John 15 the word translated as know is οἴδασιν, and in Romans 1 it is γνόντες. Since I believe Paul would not be teaching something in contradiction to Jesus recorded by John. So the apparent contradiction must arise from not understanding the original languages.

From BLB, a definition for οἴδασιν is:

get knowledge of, understand, perceive

and a definition for γνόντες is:

to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel.

After reading these definitions, they seem quite similar and I don't see a difference.

  • 1
    Thayer says that 'γνῶσις is simply intuitive'.Of διδάσκω he says 'to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them', The first is knowledge known intuitively or experienced intuitively. The second is learned by didactic instruction. The Doctrine of the Gospel is taught didactically by the apostolic writings. The Knowledge of God is entered into, intuitively and experimentally.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 15:35
  • That makes sense
    – WnGatRC456
    Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 15:38
  • 1
    I don't know yet if there's a difference in the two words. There is a difference in the tenses, but the largest difference is in their context.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 22:15

2 Answers 2


W E Vine ("Expository Dictionary of NT Words) specifically discusses the fine difference in meaning between these two words under his article "KNOW - Verbs". However, before quoting this let me clarify by saying that the word ""oidasin" is from the root "oida" and the same root "eidon" to see (personally) and thus come to know. "gnontes" is from the root "ginosko".

Vine says, "(a) ginosko frequently suggests inception or progress in knowledge, while oida suggests fullness of knowledge, eg, John 8:55 'ye have not known him', (ginosko), ie, begun to know, 'but I know him' (oida), ie, know Him completely."

In the question's two verses we see the following (my translation):

John 15:21 - But all these things they will do to you on account of my name because they do not know (oida - to know completely and fully) the one who sent me.

Rom 1:21 - because having known (ginosko - begun to know or know in a yet incomplete way) God they did not glorify him as God nor thanked him but became vain...

Therefore, I see no contradiction between these two verses at all- both discuss the consequences (in different contexts) of not knowing God personally through personal experience to gain that personal irrefutable, unshakable conviction that God is love and just.


Many Indo-European languages have two distinct words for what we now refer to in modern English as "know":

  • One word signifying knowledge of some object or fact (e.g. "I know that Texas is in the United States")

  • Another word signifying intimate familiarity (e.g. "I have known John since I was a child")

German, for example, uses the words wissen and kennen to express these two senses, respectively. Spanish uses the words saber and conocer. Koine Greek uses the words οἶδα (oida) and γινώσκω (ginōskō). Hence the definitions provided by Vine's and other lexicons.

English once also preserved these distinctions. John 15:21 in Wycliffe's Bible (c.1390) reads

But thei schulen do to ȝou alle thes thingis for my name, for thei witen not him that sente me.

whereas Romans 1:21 reads

For whanne thei hadden knowe God, thei glorifieden not as God, ʽor diden thankyngis; but thei vanyscheden in her thouȝtis, and the vnwyse herte of hem is derkid, ʽor maad derk.

English has since dropped witen (related to the German wissen) and now uses only the word know (itself related to the Greek ginōskō, as are the Latin and Spanish cognates cognōscere/conocer).

Oida (ME witen) is used instead of ginōskō (ME knowe) in John 15:21 because the sense is of knowing who it was that sent Jesus - i.e. the answer to the question, "Who sent Him?"

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