Some time ago I spent a year studying the New Testament book of Galatians with a group of college students. One evening we got into a discussion comparing know and know.
It sounds like a play on words—know versus know—and it sort of is to us who speak English, but not to the writers and readers of the New Testament in biblical times. The majority of the New Testament was originally written in a form of antiquated Greek called, Koine (pronounced, coin’-a, with a long “a” sound).
Before looking at the complexity of Paul’s argument in Galatians, which is what’s really on my mind as I write to you, here is the comparison between know and know laid out more simply by John. He quotes Jesus speaking about God and writes, “You have not come to know Him, but I know Him” (8:55).
Know versus know. Same word to us, but Jesus is obviously making an important comparison that isn’t evident—without some help from the original Greek.
In the first use of “know”, Jesus uses a Greek word suggesting a process. His hearers, and John’s Greek-speaking readers, immediately grasped that Jesus was talking about a process of coming to know God. They were knowing God, but their knowledge was not yet complete.
The second time Jesus uses “know”, “…but I know Him (God),” John records a different word indicating that Christ fully knew, entirely understood, His Father, God. His knowledge of God was fully and entirely complete.
The first “know” is a process. The second “know” conveys a knowing that is entirely completed and fully understood.
We could camp here for a very long time—knowing about God versus knowing God. In and of itself, this is a profound focus leading into a new year.
Next, we turn to Galatians, our original destination.