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kardiognōstēs: does it mean omniscient?

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The Greek word kardiognōstēs ("heart-knower") is found in Acts 1:24 and Acts 15:8. This knowledge is expressed in many other passages of the Bible (1 Kings 8:39; Psalms 7:9; Jeremiah 17:10; Luke 16:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 2:23; etc).

Before I get to how this word is properly defined let me point out that although the Bible records that certain individuals had more insight than others (cf. 1 Kings 14:5; 2 Kings 6:12; 8:11-12; Acts 5:3-5) they were never said to be able to know the totality of the hearts of all people let alone the totality of just one of them (2 Kings 4:27). Only God has this knowledge (omniscience).


That God is "kardiognōstēs" is the same thing as saying He is omniscient.

1. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (NIDNTT): This belief in the omniscience of God is expressed succinctly by the adj. kardiognōstēs (2:183, Heart, T. Sorg).

2. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT): The designation of God as ho kardiognōstēs, "the One who knows the heart," expresses in a single term (Ac. 1:24; 15:8) something which is familiar to both the NT and OT piety...namely that the omniscient God knows the innermost being of every man where the decision is made either for Him or against Him (3:613, kardiognōstēs, J. Behm).

3. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (EDNT): On the one hand God is "in heaven" (Matt 6:9f. par.; 7:11; 11:25) and strictly distinguishable from everything that is of this world. On the other hand, however, he is present (Matt 6:1-18; Rev 1:8) and omniscient (Matt 6:8, 32; Acts 1:24; 15:8) (2:141, theos, G. Schneider).

4. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDOTTE): the psalmist acknowledged the omniscience of God who knows the secrets of the heart (44:21[22]) (3:426, ta`alummah - hidden, secret, Andrew Hill).

5. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BDAG, 3rd Edition): knower of hearts, one who knows the hearts, of God Ac 1:24; 15:8 (on these pass. s. JBauer, BZ 32, 88, 114-117); Hm 4, 3, 4. - M-M. DELG s.v. ginōskō. TW (kardiognōstēs, page 509).

TW stands for the TDNT (Theologisches Worterbuch zum NT)

See #2 for "omniscient."


In agreement with the above several others are noted:

1. David Pao and Eckhard Schnabel (Luke 16:15): The statement in 16:15 "God knows your hearts" - that is, the seat of human desire and volition, reaction and emotion - echoes OT passages such as Deuteronomy 8:2; 1 Sam, 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39; 1 Chron. 28:9; Ps. 7:10; 44:21; Prov. 21:2; 24:12; Jer. 11:20; 17:9-10 (cf. Acts 1:24; 15:8). The notion that God knows the innermost being of people affirms God's omniscience (Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, Editors G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson, page 343-344).

2. John Gill (Revelation 2:23): shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins and heart; or am the omniscient God


3. David Aune (Revelation 2:23): This allusion has important christological significance, since the original speaker in Jer 17:10 was Yahweh, but now it is the exalted Christ who possesses the same omniscience (Word Biblical Commentary, 52A, Revelation 1-5, page 206).

4. Karl Keil and Franz Delitzsch (1 Chronicles 28:9): To strengthen this exhortation, David reminds him of the omniscience of God. Jahve seeks, i.e., searches, all hearts and knows all the imagination of the thoughts; cf. Psalm 7:10; 1 Samuel 16:7; Jeremiah 11:20; Psalm 139:1.


5. Albert Barnes (Psalm 7:9): The phrase used here - of trying the hearts and reins - is one that is often employed to describe the Omniscience of God. Compare Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 20:12; Psalm 26:2; Psalm 139:13; Revelation 2:23.


6. Daniel Whedon (Jeremiah 12:3): A solemn appeal to the heart-searching God, not in the spirit of Phariseeism, but with a clear consciousness of thorough honesty. The fact that God is omniscient is terrible to the sinner, but a source of ineffably precious consolation and strength to the Christian.


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On 5/24/2017 at 9:03 PM, Faber said:

That God is "kardiognōstēs" is the same thing as saying He is omniscient.

The Lord Jesus possesses this same omniscience thereby demonstrating that He is God.



1. This is taught in the Old Testament.

Isaiah 11:3-4
(3) And He will delight in the fear of the LORD,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
(4) But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. (NASB)

     1. Edward J. Young: His judgments will not be based upon the ordinary sources of information to men, namely, what men see and what they hear. Such means, the eyes and the ears, can bring at best but an outward impression. For absolute justice, there must be absolute knowledge, one that cannot be derived merely by these two regular and ordinary sources of information (The Book of Isaiah, Volume 1, page 384, the underlined is mine).[*1]


2. This is taught in the Gospels.

Luke 6:8 (cf. Matthew 9:4; Mark 2:8; Luke 7:39)

But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. (NASB)

     1. William F. Arndt: (Luke 6:8) Jesus “knew” their thoughts. He did not have to ascertain them, for instance, by watching the countenances and actions of His critics. (Luke 6:9): Jesus reacts to the thoughts in their hearts by a direct question, which puts the matter in the true light (Luke, page 177).

John 1:42

He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). (NASB)
     1. Alfred Plummer (John 1:48):  This shews that Jesus did not overhear Nathanael’s question. S. John represents his knowledge of Nathanael as miraculous: as in John 1:42 He appears as the searcher of hearts. (Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges, John)


John 1:48-49
(48) Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
(49) Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” (NASB)

     1. A. W. Pink: "Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee" (John 1:48). How this incident evidences the Deity of Christ! It displayed His omniscience. Christ saw Nathanael, and read his heart, before he came to Him. And, dear reader, He sees and reads each of us, too. Nothing can be hid from His all-seeing eye. No guise of hypocrisy can deceive Him.


John 2:24-25
(24) But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men,
(25) and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man. (NASB)
     1. Geneva Study Bible: And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. 
         Christ is the searcher of hearts, and therefore truly God.


John 16:30
Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God. (NASB)
     1. William Hendriksen: The key to the interpretation of the words, "and dost not have need of anyone to inquire of thee" is found in the immediately preceding clause ("Now we know that thou knowest all things") and in verse 19: "Jesus knew that they were desiring to inquire of him." He knew it even though they never asked him any question! He had read their secret thoughts. He knew exactly what they were mumbling to each other. In fact, even before any word had been on their tongue, he had known it altogether. And such knowledge had been "too wonderful" for them (Ps. 139:4). Hence, verse 30a may be paraphrased as follows: "Now we know that thou knowest all things, and that thou dost not have need of anyone to inquire of thee, in order that by means of his questions thou mayest discover what he has on his mind. Thou knewest it before he even asked." The disciples draw the only logical conclusion: For this reason we believe that thou didst come from God. Only God is omniscient. Jesus is omniscient. Hence, Jesus must be God (New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to John, page 340).

John 21:17
He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Tend My sheep" (NASB).

     1. Paul E. Kretzmann: And the very tenderness of the reproof made the grief of Peter all the more poignant and his protestations of love all the more fervid. He finally appeals to the Lord's omniscience. He that knows all things, that searches hearts and minds, could and would read the feeling of his heart aright and know that the love he bore his Savior was genuine, based upon the faith in the redemption of the God-man. This is a mark of true faith, when Christians not only confess before men that they love their Lord, but when they challenge the omniscient God Himself to search their hearts in this respect.


3. This is taught in the rest of the New Testament.
Acts 1:24-26[*2]

(24) And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,
(25) That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. 

(26) And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (KJV)
     1. Nigel Turner: Kardiognōstēs is a coinage formed from existing words. It probably belongs to an early liturgical vocabulary, forming part of believers' prayer. At a meeting before the day of Pentecost Christ is addressed as, 'Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men' (Acts 1:24), and Peter at the council of Jerusalem testifies concerning 'God, which knoweth the hearts' (15:8) (Christian Words, kardiognōstēs, page 202).  

1 Corinthians 4:4-5

(4) For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. 
(5) Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God. (NASB)
     1. Moisés Silva: Concerning 'Lord' (kyrios): Under 'The lordship of Christ' (letter "c") it reads: Other passages speak of the coming of the kyrios, of meeting him, of his nearness (1 Cor 4:5; Phil 4:5; 1 Thess 4:16-17; Jas 5:7-8) (NIDNTTE 2:777).
 Concerning 'hearts' (kardia): God alone can reveal the things hidden in the human heart (1 Cor 4:5), examine them (Rom 8:27) and test them (1 Thess 2:4) (NIDNTTE 2:626).

2 Corinthians 8:21
for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. (NASB)

     1. John Gill: not only in the sight of the Lord: the same Lord as before, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is a diligent searcher of the hearts, and discerner of the thoughts, and observer of the ways and actions of all his people.


1 Peter 2:25
For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (NASB)
     1. H. W. Beyer: Christ is He who has the fullest knowledge of souls. He knows every inner secret, as is said of God...The phrase "shepherd and bishop of your souls" carries within it all that is said by Greek speaking Gentiles and Jews about God as episkopos (TDNT 2:615, episkopos).

Revelation 2:23
And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. (NASB) 

     1. David Aune: This allusion has important christological significance, since the original speaker in Jer 17:10 was Yahweh, but now it is the exalted Christ who possesses the same omniscience (Word Biblical Commentary, 52A, Revelation 1-5, page 206).



[*1] Whenever the Bible speaks of the Lord Jesus being our ultimate Judge this would necessitate He fully knows the hearts of all (Matthew 16:27; 25:31f.; John 5:22; Acts 10:42; 2 Timothy 4:8; etc.)


[*2] Every passage where the Lord Jesus is prayed unto demonstrates He fully knows the hearts of all (1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 5:19; etc.).





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On 5/24/2017 at 9:03 PM, Faber said:

That God is "kardiognōstēs" is the same thing as saying He is omniscient.



The Lord Jesus possesses this same omniscience thereby demonstrating that He is God.


  The bold face and underlined below are mine.


 Despite the fact how kardiognōstēs is properly defined, I have corresponded with several anti-Trinitarians in the past that deny it means the same thing as being omniscient. Seeing that this is a powerful argument for belief in the Deity of Christ I was sometimes told that because I am a Trinitarian[*1] this compels me to believe what I do about the meaning of this word. However, I would like to point out to them that to fully know the hearts of all is also used by others who are not Trinitarian to mean omniscience. Take for example the Mormons. They do not believe in the Trinity, and yet they also teach it refers to being omniscient.


 The Jehovah's Witnesses cite Hebrews 4:13 and affirm that it teaches Jehovah's omniscience.
  Insight on the Scriptures: Describing God's observation of the actions of all men, Jeremiah wrote that His "eyes are opened upon all the ways of the sons of men, in order to give to each one according to his ways." (Jer 32:19) Of Jehovah's omniscience and his purpose to exercise justice toward all, the apostle Paul wrote: "There is not a creation that is not manifest to his sight, but all things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting." (Heb 4:13; 2Ch 16:9; Ps 66:7; Pr 15:3) Of the searching quality of God's examination of men, the psalmist says: "His own eyes behold, his own beaming eyes examine the sons of men."-Ps 11:4. (Eye, volume 1, page 789)[*2]



[*1] Roman Catholics also affirm that it refers to being omniscient (citations will soon follow), but having this knowledge forms a foundation for being the recipient of prayer.

1 Kings 8:38-39

whatever prayer...is made...then hear in heaven...for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men. (NASB)

 Every person can come to God in prayer at anytime, in any language, speaking audibly and/or silently, and He will fully understand all the hearts from which all these prayers ascend, for He is omniscient. To attribute this ability to any other is an attack on who God is. Thus it is a sin to pray to "Mary and the other saints."


Christ Claimed to be Omniscient (All Knowing)

MATTHEW 9:4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?



United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
[42:15–43:33] These verses comprise another hymn; cf. 16:24–18:14. In them Ben Sira contemplates God’s power, beauty, and goodness as manifested in the mighty work of creating and preserving the universe (42:15–17, 22–25; 43:1–26), his omniscience (42:18-20), perfect wisdom and eternity (42:21). The conclusion is a fervent hymn of praise (43:27–31). 
Sirach 42:18-20
18 He sees int the oceans and into the human heart, 
and he knows the secrets of both.
The Most High knows everything that can be known
and understands the signs of the ages.
19 He knows all that has ever been and all that ever will be;
he uncovers the deepest of mysteries.
20 He takes notice of our every thought

and hears our every word. 


[*2] Hebrew 4:13 is in reference to fully knowing the hearts of all.
  The Watchtower: By way of contrast, however, Jehovah God is described as "the examiner of hearts." (Proverbs 17:3; 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 29:17) "There is not a creation that is not manifest to his [Jehovah's] sight," declares Hebrews 4:13, "but all things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting." Not surprisingly, Jehovah has granted the ability to examine hearts to his Son, Jesus. The resurrected Jesus declared: "I am he who searches the kidneys and hearts, and I will give to you individually according to your deeds."-Revelation 2:23. (Questions from Readers, June 15, 2003).


 One final and very important note to be made is that since Hebrews 4:13 refers to Jehovah's omniscience (see the citation in the main body), by affirming that the Lord Jesus has this ability the Jehovah's Witnesses have just (inadvertently?) affirmed that the Lord Jesus is omniscient. And since only God is omniscient this necessitates that the Lord Jesus is God!




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I was recently challenged by a person who denied that kardiognōstēs means to be omniscient despite how the word is properly defined (see the OP).


 But I think a case can be made by using only the Bible to affirm that fully knowing the hearts of all equates to knowing all things.

 Notice in Proverbs 15:11 that fully knowing the hearts of all is linked with knowing the fullness of the underworld.

 God fully knows both because His eyes are in every place (Proverbs 15:3). – That is omniscience.

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On 5/24/2017 at 6:03 PM, Faber said:

That God is "kardiognōstēs" is the same thing as saying He is omniscient.

On the surface it seems the concept of omniscience includes kardiognōstēs but is broader to also include non-heart matters as well. So I wouldn't equate the two. (But you probably stated that obvious fact...(guilty of skimming your posts).

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