Used in a twofold sense in both the Old Testament and New Testament. This double meaning appears in two Hebrew and two Greek words which signify in turn
(1) mental or spiritual perception,
(2) capacity to hold or contain, as in a measure or in an all-inclusive principle, e.g.:
(1) yadha`, "to see with the eyes or the mind," hence, "know," "understand." Job was urged by Elihu to accept as inscrutable the ways of God, inasmuch as His operations in the physical world are so mighty and mysterious that "we cannot comprehend" them (Job 37:5). Modern science, in unveiling the secrets of Nature, is opening the way for a better understanding of God's creative purpose and plan.
katalambano, "to lay hold of," hence, mentally to apprehend:
used of the spiritual capacity of the Christian "to comprehend (the Revised Version (British and American) "apprehend") with all saints" (Ephesians 3:18) the measureless love of God; and of the inability of the unrenewed heart to know or perceive the revelation of God made in Christ: "the darkness comprehended it not" (John 1:5 the Revised Version (British and American) "apprehended"; the Revised Version, margin "overcame"; compare John 12:35).
(2) kul, "to measure" or "contain," as grain in a bushel. So God's immeasurable greatness is seen in His being able to hold oceans in the hollow of His hand and "comprehend the dust of the earth in a measure" (Isaiah 40:12).
anakephalaioo, "to sum up under one head," e.g. love includes every other moral principle and process. The entire law on its manward side, says Paul, "is comprehended (the Revised Version (British and American) "summed up") in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Romans 13:9).
Dwight M. Pratt
These files are public domain.