16:1 “I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling.

 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. 3 And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me.

It appears on the surface here that Jesus and Paul would have disagreed had they ever had the chance to discuss the question of the knowledge of God.

In Romans chapter one, Paul describes

those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18)

Paul argues that those who practice “ungodliness and wickedness” are guilty for their behaviour because,

what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. (Romans 1:19, 20)

If “what can be known about God is plain” even to those who are caught up in lives of “ungodliness and wickedness” how can Jesus claim that there are people who “have not known the Father or me”?

In fact it seems even possible that Jesus contradicts himself in the space of a few verses. At the end of chapter 15, in an argument similar to Paul’s, seeking to assert the guilt of those who “hate” him, Jesus says,

If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. (John 15:24)

How can those who have both experienced the unique “works” of Jesus and have “seen” Jesus and his “Father” be said to not know “the Father” or Jesus?

The key here lies in the word “known” – “they have not known my Father”. The Greek word is ginosko. It is the same word used by Matthew in when, speaking about Mary and Joseph, he says that Joseph

did not ginosko Mary until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. (Matthew 1:25)

Matthew uses the word ginosko to refer to the most intimate vulnerable human relationship. But ginosko is also used at times the New Testament in the superficial sense that we might say, “I ginosko that it is raining outside”.

Clearly, in this second sense of ginosko both Jesus and Paul believed that those who are persecuting Jesus and will later persecute his followers had some kind of knowledge of God and of who Jesus was. But they certainly did not have the inner “knowing” that is the deep intimate relationship with the Divine that Jesus came to invite all people into.

The persecutors of the early disciples have some knowledge of the love, light, goodness, truth and beauty that radiated from the followers of Jesus. They had enough knowledge that could have made it possible for them to choose to walk the way that Jesus walked. But their knowledge was not enough to keep them moving towards the light to the point where their lives would be filled with the Spirit of God and empowered by the presence of love.

How do I “know” Jesus?

Am I living in a “knowing” relationship with the power of love and goodness that Jesus embodied?