Contradiction #6 – Is it folly to be wise or not?

PRO 4:7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.

ECC 1:18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increased knowledge increased sorrow.

1CO 1:19: “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

Short answer:

Proverbs 4:7 – Is talking about a Godly wisdom that is desirable for man to have.
Ecclesiastes 1:18 – Is talking about human wisdom, thinking that he can rely on his own wisdom, not Gods.
1 Corinthians 1:19 – Is pointing out how God’s wisdom is received by different people.

Wisdom (that is: ‘knowing and obeying God’) is a good thing. However when it’s used incorrectly, (that is: ‘when we rely on our own wisdom, and leave God out of the picture’), it’s a bad thing. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians shows that when men try to do it their way, God will show them that they need Him. So there’s no contradiction.

Before I start the irony behind this contradiction is almost laughable. That’s because in essence, the person who came up with this contradiction is leaning upon his own understanding and not trusting in the Lord for true wisdom. A wise person would read the above verses in context and see that there is no contradiction.

Long Answer:

First, let’s tackle Proverbs 4:7. Seeing as we are speaking about wisdom, it’s probably important to note that Proverbs falls into a group of books within the bible called the ‘wisdom literature’.

Godly wisdom and discipline belong hand in hand. The word ‘wisdom’ (or חכמה – pronounced chokmah) is used in Proverbs has the connotation to know and obey God. More specifically in Proverbs 4, the author is saying that to seek knowledge of God and have obedience is a good thing.

Secondly, the wisdom from the perspective of a sinful man is displayed in Ecclesiastes 1:18. In stark contrast to Proverbs 4:7; the author is telling of his futile efforts to gain understanding of the world through his own efforts, leading him to sorrow. This verse shows that when we rely on our own understanding it leaves us craving more and more, to no avail.

Later in Ecclesiastes, after the author has appropriately put human understanding in its place, the author in chapters 9 and 10 show that wisdom that is used for the right purposes can be a good thing.

In 1 Corinthians 1:19, Paul (that’s the author) is writing about the things that oppose people ‘knowing and obeying God’. There is much to be said about the socio-political setting of the Pauline letters, a good book to read if you’re interested is: ‘Dr. Bruce Winter’s After Paul Left Corinth’. It goes into some depth about the issues that both the Jews and the Greeks were opposing. It is suffice to say that in the 1st century culture the Jews were looking backward for signs of the Messiah, and the Greeks were looking for scientific proof that the Christian religion was true. (Not unlike some people 2000 almost years later). But Paul writes that God will destroy the wisdom of the people who lean on their own understanding, and will ruin the discernment of those who try to understand God through the signs of man.

Even though the bible was written over 1000’s of years, in different languages, from different parts of the world and by different men,  it still proves the wisdom of the so called wise to be folly and the wisdom of God to be truely wise. So there’s no contradiction.

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