Spurious knowledge, or “knowledge falsely so called” (1 Tim. 6:20), is that which a man possesses when he thinks he knows what he has never known.

It is worse than complete ignorance, says St John Chrysostom, in that its  victim will not accept correction from any teacher because he thinks that this worst kind of ignorance is in fact something excellent.

For this reason the fathers say that we ought to search the Scriptures assiduously, in humility and with the counsel of experienced men, learning not merely theoretically but by putting into practice what we read; and that we ought not to inquire at all into what is passed over in silence by Holy Scripture.

Such enquiry is senseless, St Antony the Great tells us, speaking with reference to those who want to know about the future rather than renouncing any claim to such knowledge on the grounds of their unworthiness.

If God in His providence does impart such knowledge, as He did to Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Dan. 2:31-45) and Balaam (cf. Num. 23:8-10), He imparts it for the benefit of all, even if some of the recipients are unworthy of the gift.

[…] We are not told much about these things, lest we search the Scriptures simply – with our minds and then out of pride think that we have grasped something.

For the Lord commands that we should search the Scriptures above all by means of bodily and moral actions, and in this way find eternal life (cf. John 5:39-40).

In particular we should bear in mind that things have been hidden from us for our greater humility, and so that we may not be condemned for sinning knowingly.

The man who has been enabled by grace to acquire spiritual knowledge should struggle to study the divine Scriptures and this knowledge with deep dedication, humility, attention and fear of God;

for unless he does this he will be deprived of his knowledge and threatened with punishment, as unworthy of what God has given him, in the same way as Saul was deprived of his kingdom, as St Maximos explains.

But he who devotes himself to spiritual knowledge and struggles to attain it, St Maximos states, should call upon God at all times, as did David, saying: “Create in me a pure heart, God, and renew an upright Spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).

In this way he may become worthy of God’s indwelling, like the apostles who received grace “at the third hour” (Acts 2:15).

For the Spirit came down on the apostles, as St Luke declares, at the third hour of the day.

Peter of Damascus (?12th Century): A Treasury of Divine Knowledge  Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 3 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 191-192.