QUESTION 9: OF THE GIFT OF KNOWLEDGE
We must now consider the gift of knowledge, under which head there are
four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether knowledge is a gift?
(2) Whether it is about Divine things?
(3) Whether it is speculative or practical?
(4) Which beatitude responds to it?
Article 1: Whether knowledge is a gift?
Objection 1: It would seem that knowledge is not a gift. For the gifts of the
Holy Ghost surpass the natural faculty. But knowledge implies an effect
of natural reason: for the Philosopher says (Poster. i, 2) that a
"demonstration is a syllogism which produces knowledge." Therefore
knowledge is not a gift of the Holy Ghost.
Objection 2: Further, the gifts of the Holy Ghost are common to all holy
persons, as stated above (Question , Article ; FS, Question , Article ). Now Augustine
says (De Trin. xiv, 1) that "many of the faithful lack knowledge though
they have faith." Therefore knowledge is not a gift.
Objection 3: Further, the gifts are more perfect than the virtues, as stated
above (FS, Question , Article ). Therefore one gift suffices for the perfection
of one virtue. Now the gift of understanding responds to the virtue of
faith, as stated above (Question , Article ). Therefore the gift of knowledge does
not respond to that virtue, nor does it appear to which other virtue it
can respond. Since, then, the gifts are perfections of virtues, as stated
above (FS, Question , Articles ,2), it seems that knowledge is not a gift.
On the contrary, Knowledge is reckoned among the seven gifts (Is. 11:2).
I answer that, Grace is more perfect than nature, and, therefore, does
not fail in those things wherein man can be perfected by nature. Now,
when a man, by his natural reason, assents by his intellect to some
truth, he is perfected in two ways in respect of that truth: first,
because he grasps it; secondly, because he forms a sure judgment on it.
Accordingly, two things are requisite in order that the human intellect
may perfectly assent to the truth of the faith: one of these is that he
should have a sound grasp of the things that are proposed to be believed,
and this pertains to the gift of understanding, as stated above (Question , Article ): while the other is that he should have a sure and right judgment
on them, so as to discern what is to be believed, from what is not to be
believed, and for this the gift of knowledge is required.
Reply to Objection 1: Certitude of knowledge varies in various natures, according
to the various conditions of each nature. Because man forms a sure
judgment about a truth by the discursive process of his reason: and so
human knowledge is acquired by means of demonstrative reasoning. On the
other hand, in God, there is a sure judgment of truth, without any
discursive process, by simple intuition, as was stated in the FP, Question ,
Article ; wherefore God's knowledge is not discursive, or argumentative, but
absolute and simple, to which that knowledge is likened which is a gift
of the Holy Ghost, since it is a participated likeness thereof.
Reply to Objection 2: A twofold knowledge may be had about matters of belief. One
is the knowledge of what one ought to believe by discerning things to be
believed from things not to be believe: in this way knowledge is a gift
and is common to all holy persons. The other is a knowledge about matters
of belief, whereby one knows not only what one ought to believe, but also
how to make the faith known, how to induce others to believe, and confute
those who deny the faith. This knowledge is numbered among the gratuitous
graces, which are not given to all, but to some. Hence Augustine, after
the words quoted, adds: "It is one thing for a man merely to know what he
ought to believe, and another to know how to dispense what he believes to
the godly, and to defend it against the ungodly."
Reply to Objection 3: The gifts are more perfect than the moral and intellectual
virtues; but they are not more perfect than the theological virtues;
rather are all the gifts ordained to the perfection of the theological
virtues, as to their end. Hence it is not unreasonable if several gifts
are ordained to one theological virtue.
Article 2: Whether the gift of knowledge is about Divine things?
Objection 1: It would seem that the gift of knowledge is about Divine things.
For Augustine says (De Trin. xiv, 1) that "knowledge begets, nourishes
and strengthens faith." Now faith is about Divine things, because its
object is the First Truth, as stated above (Question , Article ). Therefore the
gift of knowledge also is about Divine things.
Objection 2: Further, the gift of knowledge is more excellent than acquired
knowledge. But there is an acquired knowledge about Divine things, for
instance, the science of metaphysics. Much more therefore is the gift of
knowledge about Divine things.
Objection 3: Further, according to Rm. 1:20, "the invisible things of God . .
. are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." If
therefore there is knowledge about created things, it seems that there is
also knowledge of Divine things.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Trin. xiv, 1): "The knowledge of
Divine things may be properly called wisdom, and the knowledge of human
affairs may properly receive the name of knowledge."
I answer that, A sure judgment about a thing formed chiefly from its cause, and so the order of judgments should be according to the order of causes. For just as the first cause is the cause of the second, so ought the judgment about the second cause to be formed through the first cause: nor is it possible to judge of the first cause through any other cause; wherefore the judgment which is formed through the first cause, is the first and most perfect judgment.
Now in those things where we find something most perfect, the common
name of the genus is appropriated for those things which fall short of
the most perfect, and some special name is adapted to the most perfect
thing, as is the case in Logic. For in the genus of convertible terms,
that which signifies "what a thing is," is given the special name of
"definition," but the convertible terms which fall short of this, retain
the common name, and are called "proper" terms.
Accordingly, since the word knowledge implies certitude of judgment as
stated above (Article ), if this certitude of the judgment is derived from
the highest cause, the knowledge has a special name, which is wisdom: for
a wise man in any branch of knowledge is one who knows the highest cause
of that kind of knowledge, and is able to judge of all matters by that
cause: and a wise man "absolutely," is one who knows the cause which is
absolutely highest, namely God. Hence the knowledge of Divine things is
called "wisdom," while the knowledge of human things is called
"knowledge," this being the common name denoting certitude of judgment,
and appropriated to the judgment which is formed through second causes.
Accordingly, if we take knowledge in this way, it is a distinct gift from
the gift of wisdom, so that the gift of knowledge is only about human or
Reply to Objection 1: Although matters of faith are Divine and eternal, yet faith
itself is something temporal in the mind of the believer. Hence to know
what one ought to believe, belongs to the gift of knowledge, but to know
in themselves the very things we believe, by a kind of union with them,
belongs to the gift of wisdom. Therefore the gift of wisdom corresponds
more to charity which unites man's mind to God.
Reply to Objection 2: This argument takes knowledge in the generic acceptation of
the term: it is not thus that knowledge is a special gift, but according
as it is restricted to judgments formed through created things.
Reply to Objection 3: As stated above (Question , Article ), every cognitive habit regards
formally the mean through which things are known, and materially, the
things that are known through the mean. And since that which is formal,
is of most account, it follows that those sciences which draw conclusions
about physical matter from mathematical principles, are reckoned rather
among the mathematical sciences, though, as to their matter they have
more in common with physical sciences: and for this reason it is stated
in Phys. ii, 2 that they are more akin to physics. Accordingly, since man
knows God through His creatures, this seems to pertain to "knowledge," to
which it belongs formally, rather than to "wisdom," to which it belongs
materially: and, conversely, when we judge of creatures according to
Divine things, this pertains to "wisdom" rather than to "knowledge."
Article 3: Whether the gift of knowledge is practical knowledge?
Objection 1: It would seem that the knowledge, which is numbered among the
gifts, is practical knowledge. For Augustine says (De Trin. xii, 14) that
"knowledge is concerned with the actions in which we make use of external
things." But the knowledge which is concerned about actions is practical.
Therefore the gift of knowledge is practical.
Objection 2: Further, Gregory says (Moral. i, 32): "Knowledge is nought if it
hath not its use for piety . . . and piety is very useless if it lacks
the discernment of knowledge." Now it follows from this authority that
knowledge directs piety. But this cannot apply to a speculative science.
Therefore the gift of knowledge is not speculative but practical.
Objection 3: Further, the gifts of the Holy Ghost are only in the righteous,
as stated above (Question , Article ). But speculative knowledge can be also in
the unrighteous, according to James 4:17: "To him . . . who knoweth to do
good, and doth it not, to him it is a sin." Therefore the gift of
knowledge is not speculative but practical.
On the contrary, Gregory says (Moral. i, 32): "Knowledge on her own day
prepares a feast, because she overcomes the fast of ignorance in the
mind." Now ignorance is not entirely removed, save by both kinds of
knowledge, viz. speculative and practical. Therefore the gift of
knowledge is both speculative and practical.
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Article ), the gift of knowledge, like
the gift of understanding, is ordained to the certitude of faith. Now
faith consists primarily and principally in speculation, in as much as it
is founded on the First Truth. But since the First Truth is also the last
end for the sake of which our works are done, hence it is that faith
extends to works, according to Gal. 5:6: "Faith . . . worketh by charity."
The consequence is that the gift of knowledge also, primarily and
principally indeed, regards speculation, in so far as man knows what he
ought to hold by faith; yet, secondarily, it extends to works, since we
are directed in our actions by the knowledge of matters of faith, and of
conclusions drawn therefrom.
Reply to Objection 1: Augustine is speaking of the gift of knowledge, in so far
as it extends to works; for action is ascribed to knowledge, yet not
action solely, nor primarily: and in this way it directs piety.
Hence the Reply to the Second Objection is clear.
Reply to Objection 3: As we have already stated (Question , Article ) about the gift of
understanding, not everyone who understands, has the gift of
understanding, but only he that understands through a habit of grace: and
so we must take note, with regard to the gift of knowledge, that they
alone have the gift of knowledge, who judge aright about matters of
faith and action, through the grace bestowed on them, so as never to
wander from the straight path of justice. This is the knowledge of holy
things, according to Wis. 10:10: "She conducted the just . . . through
the right ways . . . and gave him the knowledge of holy things."
Article 4: Whether the third beatitude, "Blessed are they that mourn," etc. corresponds to the gift of knowledge?
Objection 1: It would seem that the third beatitude, "Blessed are they that
mourn," does not correspond to the gift of knowledge. For, even as evil
is the cause of sorrow and grief, so is good the cause of joy. Now
knowledge brings good to light rather than evil, since the latter is
known through evil: for "the straight line rules both itself and the
crooked line" (De Anima i, 5). Therefore the aforesaid beatitude does not
suitably correspond to the gift of knowledge.
Objection 2: Further, consideration of truth is an act of knowledge. Now there
is no sorrow in the consideration of truth; rather is there joy, since it
is written (Wis. 8:16): "Her conversation hath no bitterness, nor her
company any tediousness, but joy and gladness." Therefore the aforesaid
beatitude does not suitably correspond with the gift of knowledge.
Objection 3: Further, the gift of knowledge consists in speculation, before
operation. Now, in so far as it consists in speculation, sorrow does not
correspond to it, since "the speculative intellect is not concerned about
things to be sought or avoided" (De Anima iii, 9). Therefore the
aforesaid beatitude is not suitably reckoned to correspond with the gift
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Serm. Dom. in Monte iv): "Knowledge
befits the mourner, who has discovered that he has been mastered by the
evil which he coveted as though it were good."
I answer that, Right judgment about creatures belongs properly to
knowledge. Now it is through creatures that man's aversion from God is
occasioned, according to Wis. 14:11: "Creatures . . . are turned to an
abomination . . . and a snare to the feet of the unwise," of those,
namely, who do not judge aright about creatures, since they deem the
perfect good to consist in them. Hence they sin by placing their last end
in them, and lose the true good. It is by forming a right judgment of
creatures that man becomes aware of the loss (of which they may be the
occasion), which judgment he exercises through the gift of knowledge.
Hence the beatitude of sorrow is said to correspond to the gift of
Reply to Objection 1: Created goods do not cause spiritual joy, except in so far
as they are referred to the Divine good, which is the proper cause of
spiritual joy. Hence spiritual peace and the resulting joy correspond
directly to the gift of wisdom: but to the gift of knowledge there
corresponds, in the first place, sorrow for past errors, and, in
consequence, consolation, since, by his right judgment, man directs
creatures to the Divine good. For this reason sorrow is set forth in this
beatitude, as the merit, and the resulting consolation, as the reward;
which is begun in this life, and is perfected in the life to come.
Reply to Objection 2: Man rejoices in the very consideration of truth; yet he may
sometimes grieve for the thing, the truth of which he considers: it is
thus that sorrow is ascribed to knowledge.
Reply to Objection 3: No beatitude corresponds to knowledge, in so far as it
consists in speculation, because man's beatitude consists, not in
considering creatures, but in contemplating God. But man's beatitude does
consist somewhat in the right use of creatures, and in well-ordered love
of them: and this I say with regard to the beatitude of a wayfarer. Hence
beatitude relating to contemplation is not ascribed to knowledge, but to
understanding and wisdom, which are about Divine things.