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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

‘Foreknowledge’ is the rendering of a Greek word (πρόγνωσις,  Acts 2:23,  1 Peter 1:2, the cognate verb being προγινώσκειν,  Acts 26:5,  Romans 8:29;  Romans 11:2;  Romans 1:20,  2 Peter 3:17) which occurs nowhere in the Septuagintand not very often in the NT. In the apocryphal book of Wis. it occurs three times ( Wisdom of Solomon 6:13;  Wisdom of Solomon 8:8;  Wisdom of Solomon 18:6), always in the plain sense of ‘knowing beforehand.’ In this sense St. Paul uses the verb in his speech before Agrippa, when he tells him how his manner of life was known to all the Jews, ‘having knowledge of me from the first, if they be willing to testify’ ( Acts 26:5); and in this sense also St. Peter uses it in the concluding warning of his Second Epistle when he reminds his readers of their ‘knowing these things beforehand’ ( Acts 3:17).

In the remainder of the references given above it is the Divine foreknowledge which is in the mind of the Apostle, the object or objects being not facts or things but persons-these persons being objects of favourable regard-and the theme under consideration being some aspect of the Divine purpose of grace towards men. When St. Peter, in addressing the Jewish multitudes on the day of Pentecost, describes them as having by the hand of lawless men crucified and slain Jesus of Nazareth, he speaks of Him as ‘delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God’ ( Acts 2:23). That death had been designed and planned in the counsels of eternal love, and the ‘foreknowledge of God’ had rested with satisfaction upon the Divine sufferer who had undertaken, by the sacrifice of Himself, to win redemption for men. Of the same purport is the expression used by St. Peter when in his First Epistle he speaks of the blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish and without spot, ‘who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but was manifested at the end of the times for your sake’ ( 1 Peter 1:20). Mere prescience in the sense of previous knowledge does not exhaust the meaning in either of the foregoing passages. Hort ( The First Epistle of Peter , 1898, ad loc. ) sees in the latter reference ‘previous designation to a position or function.’ And he notes the pregnant sense of ‘know’ in such passages as  Jeremiah 1:5, ‘Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee’;  Isaiah 49:1, ‘The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name’; and  Exodus 33:12 (spoken of Moses), ‘I know thee by name, and thou hast found grace in my sight’ (cf.  2 Timothy 2:19). The pregnant sense belonging to ‘knowledge’ may well belong also to ‘foreknowledge’ ( 1 Peter 1:2, κατὰ πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ πατρός).

‘This knowledge,’ says Hort in his note on the expressions, ‘is not a knowledge of facts respecting a person, but a knowledge of himself; it is, so to speak, a contemplation of him in his individuality, yet not as an indifferent object but as standing in personal relations to Him who thus “foreknows” him. It must not therefore be identified with mere foreknowledge of existence or acts (prescience); or again, strictly speaking, with destination or predestination (ὁρίζω, προορίζω), even in the biblical sense, that is, in relation to a Providential order, much less in the philosophical sense of antecedent constraint,’

When we turn to St. Paul’s more exact and precise exposition of doctrine we see that ‘foreknowledge’ is still directed to poisons as its object, and also that ‘prescience,’ ‘knowing beforehand,’ is inadequate to the expression of the mysterious thought convoyed. With St. Paul ‘foreknowledge’ is the first link in the chain of the Divine purpose of grace, the first step in the spiritual history of the believer ( Romans 8:29, οὔς προέγνω), ‘foreordination’ the second, ‘effectual calling’ the third, ‘justification’ the fourth, ‘glory’ the fifth and last.

‘Mere prescience [on God’s part] of human volition,’ says O. J. Vaughan, ‘leaves man the originator of his own saivation, in utter contradiction to Scripture here and everywhere. That πρόγνωσις which la made the first step in the spiritual history seems to express, not indeed so much as predetermination (which would confuse προέγνω with προώρισεν), but yet a resting of the mind of God beforehand upon a person with approval (cf.  Exodus 33:12,  Psalms 1:6), which can only he mentally and doctrinally severed from the second step, προώρισεν’ ( St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans 3, 1870, ad loc. ).

That the expression is used also of Israel by St. Paul is quite in keeping with this pregnant sense: ‘God did not cast away his people which he foreknew’ ( Romans 11:2). It is ‘the chosen people,’ ‘the covenant people’ (ὁ λαός), of whom the Apostle declares that God ‘foreknew’ them. Here, again, ‘foreknowledge’ is thought of as directed not to a person or a people simply, but to a person or a people in relation to a function, for Israel was ‘designated afore’ to fill that place in the purpose of God which has been theirs among the nations.

There is no ground in the teaching of St. Paul for the view that because God foreknow that certain persons would respond to the gospel call, and remain true to their first faith to the end, He therefore foreordained them to salvation. Those whom God foreknew as His own of sovereign grace, He also foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son; but St. Paul makes this conformity to be the result, not the foreseen condition, of God’s foreordination. ‘Foreknew’ points backward to God’s loving thought of them before time began; their conformity to the image of His Son points to the realization of this thought of God and its being carried to its furthest goal in the course of time. Of any ‘foreknowledge’ by God of others than those who are effectually called according to the Divine purpose neither St. Paul nor any other NT writer has anything to say. According the teaching of the two apostles already referred to, the Divine foreknowledge represents the first step in the scheme of redemption, marking out the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world which taketh away the sin of the world, and the first movement of grace in the heart of God towards those who shall be saved.

The Patristic usage of the word takes no notice of its theological significance as we find it in St. Peter and St. Paul. Clement speaks of the first apostles being endowed with ‘perfect foreknowledge’ to enable them to hand on to approved successors the ministry and service they had fulfilled (1 Clem. xliv. 2). Hermas attributes to the Lord the power of reading the heart, and with foreknowledge knowing all things, even the weakness of men and the wiles of the devil ( Mand. iv. iii. 4).

Literature.-F. J. A. Hort, The First Epistle of St. Peter. I. 1-II. 17 , 1898, pp. 18, 80; Commentaries on  Romans 8:29-30 by C. J. Vanghan (31870), Sanday-Headlam (5 International Critical Commentary , 1902). J. Denney ( Expositor’s Greek Testament , 1900), and T. Zahn ( Introd. to NT , Eng. translation, 1909); C. Hodge, Systematic Theology , i [1872] 397-400, 545; A. Stewart, article‘Foreknowledge’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) .

Thomas Nicol.

Holman Bible Dictionary [2]

proginosko prognosis

In the Bible, God alone has foreknowledge. Nothing is outside of His knowledge—past, present, or future. Nothing is hidden from Him, and only fools think they can hide their deeds from God ( Psalm 10:11;  Psalm 11:4-5;  Proverbs 15:11;  Isaiah 29:15-16 ). God knows completely the thoughts and doings of human beings ( Psalm 139:1 ). Jesus taught that God has complete knowledge of human beings ( Matthew 10:29-31 ), and the author of Hebrews wrote that “nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight” ( Hebrews 4:13 NIV).

Foreknowledge of the Future God's foreknowledge encompasses future events. The perspective of faith can say that all that happens has been previously planned by God. Events of history are perceived in faith as the unfolding of God's eternal plans ( Genesis 45:4-8;  Isaiah 14:24-27;  Isaiah 42:9;  Jeremiah 50:45 ). The New Testament writers perceived in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the outworking of God's eternal plans to save sinful humanity. Thus Paul proclaimed the gospel which God had promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures ( Romans 1:2 ). The gospels similarly declare that those things which the prophets had said were now fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus ( Matthew 1:22-23;  Matthew 2:5-6:15;  John 19:24 ).  Acts 2:23 and   1 Peter 1:20 declare that the crucifixion of Christ was not a chance happening of history. It was according to the foreknowledge of God, according to His eternal plan.

Even the prophets' knowledge of future events presupposed God's revelation to the prophets.  Amos 3:7 (NRSV) proclaims, “Surely the Lord God does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets,” indicating that the prophets acted and spoke on behalf of God and not at their own initiative. Concerning the false prophets in Israel, God says, “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned from their evil way” (  Jeremiah 23:21-22 )

Foreknowledge and God's Will In the Bible, God's foreknowledge of people is not primarily a reference to His intellect, but to His kind will by which He sets people apart to Himself. So Jeremiah heard God's word to him saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” ( Jeremiah 1:5 NIV). Similarly, the apostle Paul perceived that God had “separated me from my mother's womb that I might preach him among the heathen” (  Galatians 1:15-16 ). God's foreknowledge must be understood in terms of personal relationship of God to His creation. To affirm God's foreknowledge is a statement of faith—that God's purpose existed before mankind's response to God ( Psalm 139:16 ). The initiative lies with God. Thus Paul wrote, “But now that you know God—or rather are known by God” ( Galatians 4:9 NIV).

In Romans Paul wrote that those whom God foreknows, He predestines to be conformed to the image of His Son; and those whom God predestines, He calls; and those whom He calls, He justifies; and those whom He justifies, He glorifies ( Romans 8:29-30 ). In the same letter, Paul declared that God had not rejected the Jewish people whom He foreknew ( Romans 11:2 ).

Foreknowledge and Human Freedom Such statements raise the difficult theological question of human freedom. If God already knows in advance who will be saved or elected, does that not eliminate free human will? Does God predestine some people to salvation and others to damnation?

One major attempt to answer this question is associated with James Arminius (1560-1609) who argued, as did the pre-Augustinian church fathers, that God's foreknowledge is a prescient knowledge, that is, God knows in advance what a person's response will be, so He elects to salvation in advance those whom He knows will freely accept Christ. This Arminian view is called conditional predestination , since the predestination is conditioned on God's foreknowledge of the individual's acceptance or rejection of Christ.

Another major Christian tradition is the Augustine-Luther-Calvin tradition. This view claims that God's foreknowledge is not simply God's foreknowledge of faith. Rather, for God to foreknow means that His knowledge determines events. He predestines some to be saved, but not on the foreknowledge of how they will respond; rather in His foreknowledge He foreordains apart from any human response.

Both views are supported by texts from Scripture. While  Romans 8:29-30 are key verses in any discussion of God's foreknowledge, it is perhaps more correct to interpret these verses in terms of the doctrine of assurance rather than of predestination. Paul's point in   Romans 8:29-30 is not to discuss who is foreknown and predestined to be saved and who is not. This passage may naturally give rise to that question, but it does not lead to any one answer. The doctrine of predestination was developed in the reformed tradition in an attempt to solve problems raised by Paul's writings and by other biblical texts. Paul's concern in this passage was rather to assure the Christian readers that their security is based upon God's eternal purpose and not upon the Christian's initiative. Nothing, therefore, can separate them from God's love!

 1 Peter 1:20 also declares that the Christian readers in Asia Minor were chosen by God according to His foreknowledge. Directed to Christians experiencing persecution because of their faith in Jesus, 1Peter's reference to the foreknowledge of God was intended to bring assurance that their existence is part of God's will and plan and that they have a sure and certain hope that is not tied to changing circumstances or events. Other such affirmations in the New Testament (  Ephesians 1:4 ,Ephesians 1:4, 1:11-12;  2 Thessalonians 2:13;  Revelation 17:8 ) should be read from the same faith perspective. The writers were not attempting to answer the question of whom God saves and whom He rejects, nor were they intending to limit free human choice. They were rather expressing the conviction and assurance of faith that the individual's salvation lies entirely and securely in God's hand and in God's eternal purpose. See Knowledge; Election; Predestination .

Roger L. Omanson

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [3]

In his omniscience God knows what the future holds both for individuals and for nations. He knows and sees everything in advance and his will is carried out in accord with his plans and purposes. In the Old Testament God's foreknowledge is usually represented by the verb yada [דָּעָה יָדַע], which is the normal verb for "know." In the New Testament the main verbs are proginosko [Προγινώσκω], "to know in advance, " and proorao, "to see what is ahead." Foreknowledge is closely connected to election and predestination and to God's sovereign rule of his universe.

As the all-knowing One, God knows everything about us, including "all the days ordained for me before one of them came to be" ( Psalm 139:16 ). He knows our thoughts and words even before they are expressed ( Psalm 139:4;  Matthew 26:34 ), and he can determine our life's work before we are born. Jeremiah was set apart in the womb to be a prophet, chosen to minister to the nations ( Jeremiah 1:5 ). The idea of choice is also evident in the call of Abraham to be the founder of God's covenant nation. When  Genesis 18:19 says "I have chosen him, " the verb is literally "I knew him." The same is true of Amos's description of Israel, "You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth" (3:2a). Compare Paul's statement in   Romans 11:2 : "God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew." God's sovereign choice of Israel established a unique relationship with a particular people.

Through the ministry of the Old Testament prophets, God often revealed specific information about the future. Micaiah accurately predicted that Ahab would die in an upcoming battle ( 1 Kings 22:17 ). Elisha knew that the Syrian siege of Samaria would be lifted the next day ( 2 Kings 7:1 ), and Isaiah anticipated the coming of the Persian king Cyrus, who would rescue Israel from exile (41:2; 44:28; 45:1). Isaiah also spoke of the advent of the Servant of the Lord who would come to Zion to be the Redeemer of the world (42:1; 59:20; 61:1). And Isaiah's contemporary, Micah, prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (5:2).

In accomplishing his purposes, God is able to work through the evil actions of those who have no desire to do his will. When Joseph's brothers sold him as a slave, God was in reality sending Joseph to devise a plan that would save the whole family from starvation ( Genesis 45:5-7 ). The brothers intended to harm him, but God knew that many lives would be saved through Joseph's wise planning (50:20). By storing food in Egypt, Joseph partially fulfilled the promise to Abraham that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" ( Genesis 12:3 ).

In the New Testament God's foreknowledge is clearly linked to the death of Christ and to the salvation of the elect. "Before the creation of the world" Christ was "chosen" or "foreknown" to be the Redeemer ( 1 Peter 1:20 ), a clear indication that God knew from the beginning that humankind would fall into sin. On the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter denounced the wicked men who put Christ to death, but he acknowledged that they had acted in accord with "God's set purpose and foreknowledge" ( Acts 2:23 ). Evil rulers conspired to kill the Son of God, but yet his death was something that God "had decided beforehand should happen" ( Acts 4:28 ).

The same juxtaposition of foreknowledge, election, and predestination also applies to individual salvation. We, too, were chosen "before the creation of the world, " in accord with the foreknowledge of God ( Ephesians 1:4;  1 Peter 1:2 ). And the apostle Paul tells us that "those God foreknow" were also predestined and called to be justified by faith ( Romans 8:29-30 ). In each case foreknowledge precedes election and is intricately linked with God's will and purpose. Yet we should not think of this as some kind of fatalism or determinism. God does not force anyone to become a believer but works in a person's heart so that the individual freely chooses to receive Christ as Savior. When Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites leave Egypt, it appeared that he had no choice, because God would harden his heart ( Exodus 4:21 ). But not until the sixth plague does the text say that the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart ( Exodus 9:12 ). During the first five plagues Pharaoh hardened his own heart, refusing to listen to Moses and Aaron; after that the Lord confirmed him in his hardened condition ( Exodus 7:13-14;  8:15,19 ,  32 ). In accord with his sovereign purposes, God brings some to salvation and others to perdition.

Herbert M. Wolf

See also Election Elect; God; Predestination

Bibliography . G. W. Bromiley, EDT, pp. 419-21; J. Murray, ZPED, 2:590-93.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [4]

Foreknowledge. The foreknowledge of God is repeatedly spoken of in Scripture.  Acts 2:23;  Romans 8:29;  Romans 11:2;  1 Peter 1:2. There are curious and intricate questions in reference to his foreknowledge, which it would be quite foreign to the character of this work to attempt to discuss. It must be sufficient to say that the Scripture attributes the most perfect prescience to the Deity. It is one of those high attributes which place him immeasurably above all pretended gods.  Isaiah 41:22-23;  Isaiah 42:9;  Isaiah 44:6-8. God does not gather knowledge as we do: before his eye all things past, present, or to come, are spread with equal clearness: he sees all possibilities, those events which may happen as well as those which will happen.  1 Samuel 23:9-13;  Jeremiah 38:17-23;  Jeremiah 42:9-22;  Matthew 11:21;  Matthew 11:23;  Acts 27:24;  Acts 27:31. Yet this divine foreknowledge does not compel men; it fetters not their free action; it does not deliver them from the responsibility of their own deeds.  Genesis 50:20;  Isaiah 10:6-7. And, if we are unable exactly to comprehend this, we may well remember that God's judgments are unsearchable,  Romans 11:33, his ways higher than our ways, his thoughts than our thoughts.  Isaiah 60:9.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [5]

Human knowledge is governed by the awareness that people have of a past, a present and a future, but God’s knowledge is not. God is eternal, and his knowledge is not related to a sequence of events that he must experience in a world of time and space ( Isaiah 57:15;  Jeremiah 23:24; see Eternity ; Time ). Human language uses the word ‘foreknowledge’ in relation to God because it is the most convenient word available to indicate knowledge of events that human beings sees as future. From their viewpoint, God’s knowledge of the entire history of the universe is foreknowledge ( Psalms 139:4-6;  Psalms 139:16;  Isaiah 46:9-10;  Acts 2:23).

When the Bible speaks of God’s foreknowledge it means more than merely that he knows what will happen. Usually God’s foreknowledge is linked with God’s purpose, which means that it is often the same as his pre-determined will. God’s foreknowledge is according to his plan, and therefore may be another word for predestination ( Acts 2:23;  Romans 8:29;  Hebrews 11:40; see Predestination ).

God’s sovereignty does not alter the fact that people are responsible for their actions. This may be a mystery beyond our understanding, but we do not solve the mystery by weakening the truth. We accept the perfect purposes of a sovereign God and at the same time acknowledge the free will of responsible human beings ( Luke 22:22;  Acts 2:23; see also Election ).

Morrish Bible Dictionary [6]

πρόγνωσις. A knowledge of persons and events before they exist. It is one of the divine attributes of God, by which persons were foreknown of Him and events determined. It is a capacity altogether beyond the mind of man to grasp.  Acts 2:23;  Romans 8:29;  Romans 11:2;  1 Peter 1:2 . The verb is also translated 'know before,'  2 Peter 3:17; and 'foreordain.'  1 Peter 1:20 .

King James Dictionary [7]

FOREKNOWL'EDGE, n. Knowledge of a thing before it happens prescience.

If I foreknew, foreknowledge had no influence on their fault.

Webster's Dictionary [8]

(n.) Knowledge of a thing before it happens, or of whatever is to happen; prescience.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [9]

FOREKNOWLEDGE . See Predestination.