What type of knowledge is Peter asserting we attain?

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,” ‭‭II Peter‬ ‭1:5‬

Peter never says to add to Scriptural knowledge or book knowledge.

Q: So can this text be used to justify study outside of Scripture alone? Some people assert they should ONLY rely on the Spirit of God & the Bible, yet, Peter doesn’t specify what type of knowledge. Can anyone help me interpret this?

3 Answers 3


2 Peter 1:5 “what type of knowledge?”

Peter had just spoken about this knowledge in the preceeding verses:

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,–2 Peter 1:2,3 (NKJV) [bold mine]

So can this text be used to justify study outside of Scripture alone?

If you are asking about book knowledge such as literature, art, or science, these are helpful but what can they provide that has the quality of salvation?

Jesus himself attested to the need for knowledge and its saving quality:

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.–John 17:3 (NKJV)

So, knowledge of the scriptures, Jehovah God, his son Jesus Christ, etc. can provide us with much more than what this imperfect world ruled by Satan can give. (1 John 5:19)

  • When we are saved, there is the certain knowledge of Christ via the Holy Spirit’s work. As you quoted: “… the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him…” Having the knowledge of the truth or the knowledge of Him is one thing, but how does that fare with Christian books, sermons, seminary? Ephesians 4:11, for example, says that certain people were made as pastors & teachers; given to the church by Christ. Peter also mentions to grow in grace & knowledge of Christ 2 Pet 3:18
    – Cork88
    Feb 3, 2022 at 1:36
  • 1
    If the Christian book, sermon, or seminary has as its source the Bible, then we are gaining knowledge of the truth. We must beware as there are those that both Jesus and Paul attested to "wolves" that would try and draw us away from the truth. (Matt 7:15; Acts 20:29, 30)
    – agarza
    Feb 3, 2022 at 3:38
  • I totally agree with you on those points in your comment. ;)
    – Cork88
    Feb 3, 2022 at 4:03

The operative word in 2 Peter 1:5, 6, is γνῶσις (gnósis). When referring to divine/spiritual knowledge is often referenced as follows:

  • Luke 1:77 - to give to His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,
  • Rom 2:2 - an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth
  • Rom 11:33 - O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and untraceable His ways!
  • 1 Cor 12:8 - To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by the same Spirit,
  • 2 Cor 2:14 - But thanks be to God, who always leads us triumphantly as captives in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.
  • 2 Cor 4:6 - For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
  • 2 Cor 10:5 - We tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
  • Phil 3:8 - But indeed, therefore, I also count all things to be loss because of the excelling knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, because of whom I have lost all things, and esteem them rubbish, that I may gain Christ
  • 2 Peter 3:18 - But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Indeed, the closely related word, ἐπίγνωσις (epignósis) is found in many places with an almost identical meaning when it is used spiritually: Rom 1:28, Eph 1:17, 4:13, Col 1:9, 10, 1 Tim 2:4, 2 Tim 2:25, 3:7, Heb 10:26, 2 Peter 1:2, 3, 8, 2:20.

Thus, the meaning in 2 Peter 1:5, 6 is clear - Peter is refering to the knowledge of God, the truth about Jesus Christ. This is usually understood to be the knowledge of God's saving grace in Christ Jesus.

  • well spoken Dottard, but wouldn’t you agree that Peter has in mind the reality of “adding knowledge” as something scriptural? You said: “This is usually understood to be the knowledge of God's saving grace in Christ Jesus.” Yet, believers already have this, they can grow in grace & knowledge of Christ, but the primary means would be Scripture, no? “ “and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” ‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭3:15‬. Peter doesn’t seem to make a distinction between knowledge of God & “writings”.
    – Cork88
    Feb 3, 2022 at 20:13
  • I noticed you also said: "The operative word in 2 Peter 1:5, 6, is γνῶσις (gnósis). When referring to divine/spiritual knowledge is often referenced as follows" I am assuming you mean since it is used in these other scriptures; therefore it is the same meaning in this context?
    – Cork88
    Feb 3, 2022 at 20:28
  • 1
    gnosis can refer to knowledge of various things including knowledge of pagan gods (1 Cor 8:1, 8) that makes people arrogant; However, most of the time it refers to the knowledge of the true God and salvation
    – Dottard
    Feb 4, 2022 at 10:40

Knowledge is not necessarily a knowledge of information written in the Scriptures. One can know how to fight sin of, say, alcoholism, and this is not a bookish knowledge, but a one that comes from an experience of fighting this damaging passion.

Here also, we have a logical sequence of a) faith, b) virtue and c) knowledge. Take an analogy: a) Bjorn Borg conceives faith that he can win Wimbledon; b) he develops and strengthens this faith by training and gaining the virtues of a superstar tennis player; c) having entered the Wimbledon tournament he gradually sets himself on the victorious course until he wins also the final and knows, already by experience and not merely a dream or expectation, what it is to win the Wimbledon final.

Same in life of faith in Christ: a) a promiscuous woman had faith that her sins could be forgiven by Jesus Christ; b) she augments and develops this faith by a virtue of humility and daring of overcoming the public opinion and public shame, thus she becomes virtuous alongside with being faithful, for virtue is formed by practicing the faith; c) she is actually forgiven by Jesus Christ and she experiences this forgiveness, coming therefore to its experiential/existential knowledge, and this will imply knowledge of Jesus Christ's divinity, for only God can forgive immediately, as Jesus Christ did to her, having forgiven her authoritatively, Himself, without asking or praying to God, which was immediately noticed as scandalous by the expert-theologians, probably the Pharisees present there (Luke 7:47-50).

Now, the profligate woman could not know about divinity of Christ from any text of the Jewish Holy Scriptures, but she existentially experienced the forgiveness of her sins and saw with her own eyes that Jesus Christ did it with His own self-sovereign authority, and that was enough for her to conclude that He was God. Similarly, when holy apostles worked miracles among non-Jews, they came to knowledge of the power of Christ sometimes without even knowing about any Scriptures whatsoever.

  • So you’re suggesting Peter “could” be asserting adding experiential knowledge into our lives? (I read your entire 4 paragraphs.)
    – Cork88
    Feb 3, 2022 at 22:05
  • @Cork88 Absolutely so Feb 3, 2022 at 22:27
  • In modern terms then, how does this method play out? You mentioned the alcoholism analogy, yet wouldn’t Peter have more in mind scriptural knowledge? We may experience scripture by reading it, or by contrast experience forgiveness as you mentioned with the promiscuous woman, yet I’m struggling to understand the flow still of Peter’s method. Elsewhere in his first epistle he says: “and like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:2-3‬ ‭- I need to think.
    – Cork88
    Feb 3, 2022 at 23:01

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