On The Meaning Of “Foreknew” In Romans 8:29, As Illustrated -- By: L. S. Potwin

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 049:194 (Apr 1892)
Article: On The Meaning Of “Foreknew” In Romans 8:29, As Illustrated
Author: L. S. Potwin


On The Meaning Of “Foreknew” In Romans 8:29, As Illustrated

L. S. Potwin

John 10:27.

I remember an ordination at which the examiner questioned as follows: “Will you explain the text ‘Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate’?” The candidate hesitating, the questioner went on, “Does it mean that God foreknew the faith of certain persons, and for that reason predestinated them to eternal life?” “I think not.” “Doesn’t it mean that he foreknew his own act in choosing certain persons to eternal life?” “Perhaps so.”

In English usage we do not speak of foreknowing a person. In fact we use the word seldom even with an impersonal object, preferring “foresee;” as, “He foresaw the result,” “He foresaw the man in the child.” But our usage is different from that of the New Testament. Not except in a translation should we write such a sentence as this: “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew” (Rom. 11:2). The Latin usage resembles the English. The Greek itself is without usage, so far as I can find, outside of the New Testament in connecting the compound προγιγνώσκω with a personal object. In the Septuagint the word occurs but three times (in the Apocrypha, Sap. 6:13; 8:9; 18:6), and with an impersonal object.

This state of the case plainly directs us to consult the usage of the un-compounded verb. Even here classical Greek gives little help; but we get some light from the Old Testament and the Hebrew יָדַע (LXX. γινώσκω).

This word, which, like all the other Hebrew verbs, admits no prepositions in composition, has a very wide meaning; and there are two or three examples that remind one of the passage in Romans. “The Lord … knoweth them that put their trust in him” (Nah. 1:7); “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2).

But the clearest light comes from the New Testament itself, and especially from the tenth chapter of John. For comparison let us take Rom. 8:29, 30, 35, 38, 39. “For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom he foreordain...

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