The Doctrine of the Conscience -- By: Roy B. Zuck

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 126:504 (Oct 1969)
Article: The Doctrine of the Conscience
Author: Roy B. Zuck


The Doctrine of the Conscience

Roy B. Zuck

[Roy B. Zuck, Executive Director, Scripture Press Foundation, Wheaton, Illinois.]

A study of the conscience is perhaps one of the most neglected aspects in biblical anthropology and psychology. Comparatively few systematic theologies even make mention of it. And how many sermons on the subject of the conscience can the reader recall having heard?

The conscience is a very important part of the immaterial nature of man and therefore deserves attention. Sanders stresses the need for knowing what the Bible teaches about the conscience: “Ignorance of the function of conscience and of the divine provision for its healthy exercise leads to serious spiritual disorders. Many sensitive Christians have limped through life because of a morbid and weak conscience whose condemning voice allowed them no respite. Their very sincerity and desire to do the will of God only accentuated the problem and caused them to live in a state of perpetual self-accusation. Deliverance from this unhappy state is possible through the apprehension and appropriation of the teaching of Scripture on the subject.”1

The Meaning of the Conscience

The English word conscience, is from the latin conscientia, a compound of con (“together” or “with”) and scio (“to know”). This in turn is a translation of the Greek συνείδησις, literally “knowledge with.” This noun is used in the Greek New Testament thirty times (nineteen times in Pauline writings, five times in Hebrews, three times in 1 Peter, twice in Acts, and once in John).2

The verb συνεῖδον, from which the noun συνείδησις is derived, is used only four times in the New Testament (three times in Acts, and once in 1 Corinthians). In Acts 12:12 and 14:6 συνεῖδον clearly means “to see in one’s mind, to understand or perceive” and, therefore “to know with one’s self.” The perfect tense may also carry this same meaning in Acts 5:2. In 1 Corinthians 4:4 the perfect tense σύνοιδα is used with the reflexive dative pronoun ἐμαυτῷ.”3 The inept rendering of 1 Corinthi...

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