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IGNORANCE

ig'-no-rans (sheghaghah; agnoia): "Ignorance" is the translation of sheghaghah, "wandering," "going astray" (Lev 4:2, etc., "if a soul sin through ignorance," the Revised Version (British and American) "unwittingly," margin "through error"; Lev 5:15; Nu 15:24 ff; compare 35:11; Josh 20:3 ff; Eccl 5:6; 10:5, "an error"). In the Law sheghaghah means "innocent error," such as had to be taken with consideration in judgment (see passages referred to). "Ignorance" is also expressed by the negative lo' with yadha`, "to know" (Isa 56:10; 63:16; Ps 73:22); also by bi-bheli da`ath, literally, "in want of knowledge" (Dt 19:4; compare 4:12; Josh 20:5, translated "unawares," "unwittingly").
In the New Testament the words are agnoia, "absence of knowledge" (Acts 3:17; 17:30; Eph 4:18; 1 Pet 1:14); agneoma, "error" (Heb 9:7, the Revised Version margin "Greek: ignorances"); agnosia, "ignorance" (1 Pet 2:15), "no knowledge" (1 Cor 15:34 the Revised Version (British and American)); agnoeo, "to be without knowledge," "ignorant" (Rom 1:13; 10:3; 11:25, etc.), "not knowing" (Rom 2:4, etc.), "understood not" (Mk 9:32, etc.), "ignorantly" (Acts 17:23, the Revised Version (British and American) "in ignorance"; 1 Tim 1:13); idiotes, translated "ignorant" (Acts 4:13), "unlearned" (1 Cor 14:16, the Revised Version margin "him that is without gifts," and so in 14:23,14), "rude" (2 Cor 11:6); agrammatos, once only in connection with idiotes (Acts 4:13, "unlearned and ignorant men"); agrammatos corresponds to modern "illiterate" (compare Jn 7:15; Acts 26:24); idiotes originally denoted "the private man" as distinguished from those with a knowledge of affairs, and took on the idea of contempt and scorn. In Philo it denoted the whole congregation of Israel as distinguished from the priests (De Vita Mosis, III 29). With Paul (1 Cor 14:16,23,24) it seems to denote "plain believers as distinguished from those with special spiritual gifts." In Acts 4:13 it may refer to the want of Jewish learning; certainly it does not mean ignorant in the modern sense.
Paul in Rom 1:18,32 attributes the pre-Christian ignorance of God to "the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness" (but the margin has, with the King James Version, "hold the truth, compare 1 Cor 7:30, Gr"); many, however (Alford, De Wette, Meyer and others), translation "hold back the truth." A willful ignorance is also referred to in Eph 4:17 f; 2 Pet 3:5. But there is also a less blameworthy ignorance. Paul at Athens spoke of "times of ignorance" which God had "overlooked" (Acts 17:30); Paul says of himself that he "obtained mercy, because (he) did it (against Christ) ignorantly in unbelief" (1 Tim 1:13); Peter said to the Jews (Acts 3:17) that they and their rulers rejected Christ "in ignorance" (compare 1 Cor 2:8); and Jesus Himself prayed for those who crucified Him: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do"; (Lk 23:34); in Heb 5:2 the necessary qualification of a high priest is that he "can bear gently with the ignorant and erring"--those who sin in ignorance or go astray (compare 9:7, "blood, which he offereth for himself, and for the errors of the people," margin "(Greek: ignorances"). Growing light, however, brings with it increasing responsibility, and the "ignorance" that may be "overlooked" at one stage of the history of men and nations may be blameworthy and even criminal at another.
W. L. Walker
Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'ignorance'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE; 1915.

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