Religious Studies Paper on Understanding God

We understand God by studying the way He communicates to people in the Bible. However, the question has remained whether we can understand God comprehensively as He knows Himself. “Can humans know everything that there is to know about God?” Most theologians insist that it is impossible to understand God comprehensively. Bible scholars also distinguish between archetypal knowledge and ectypal knowledge of God. Archetypal knowledge is considered indispensable and original, and it is the boundless wisdom that God has about Himself as a person and all the creations based on His infinite knowledge.[1] On the contrary, ectypal knowledge is created and not original; it is an image of the actual thing. This paper argues that the way God presents himself in the Bible is just a reflection of God as He knows Himself, but not really how He perceives Himself.

All theological discourse is based on ectypal knowledge obtained from the original (archetype), and conveyed in a manner that is proportional to the capacity of the human mind. This means that humans cannot know God as He knows Himself, but they can know God from the way God reveals Himself to accommodate us. It would have been impossible for humans to know God if He had not communicated with us.[2] The archetypal-ectypal distinction of the knowledge of God is not just a creation of theology scholars. The concept is backed by Deuteronomy 29:29, which states, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Our understanding of God, therefore, is determined by our finite capacity to understand and by the encounters we have with God.

From the verse, it is evident that there are certain things that are secret, so only God knows them. For example, only God knows about our future and about the people who will be admitted to heaven in the afterlife. Hence, our responsibility is not to know God’s secrets, but to live based on what God has shown us. The distinctions between God as He presents himself in the Bible and God as He knows Himself can therefore be expressed through archetypal and ectypal knowledge. The representation of God in the Bible is ectypal knowledge derived from the archetypal knowledge, which is God’s knowledge of Himself.[3] The things we know about God are a reflection of the knowledge God has about Himself at a human level.

In the Bible, God uses a number of ways to reveal Himself to humans. For example, He reveals Himself to Moses as a burning bush, and tells him “I am who I am”. This is an indication that God is beyond the comprehension of the human mind, and uses ways that best reflect His true self to reveal Himself to humans.[4] Moreover, in Isiah 55:8, God states “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”. This is further evidence that we can never know God the way He knows Himself. We can only know God through what He reveals to us in the Bible.

In conclusion, God, as He presents himself in the Bible, is a reflection of God as He knows Himself. This does not mean that God does not present Himself accurately. The only deriving is that God reveals Himself in a manner that humans can understand. God’s knowledge is infinite while human knowledge is finite; the finite cannot contain the infinite, and therefore there must be a significant divergence from human knowledge of God, and His knowledge of Himself.



Kim, Jae. Can We Know God as He Knows Himself? 19 April 2016. 16 June 2017.


[1] Jae.Kim, Can We Know God as He Knows Himself? 19 April 2016. 16 June 2017.



[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.