The Beginning of Wisdom
As I am preparing to teach Proverbs I try to search for wisdom as much as I can. Wisdom has always fascinated me, not only because I am missing it (:)), but also because I am attracted by sages.
Sometimes wisdom is found in unlikely places. This time I found some with Leon Kass who was born to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe (maybe Romania?). He wrote a book that caught my attention: The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis.
While I have not read the whole book, what he says in the introduction shows me that he is a wise man. He understands what many intelligent and scientifically minded people have missed.
Here are some points worth quoting:
p. xii – The stories of Genesis took hold of me…There was, it seemed evident, deep WISDOM to be found here, but it would not be available without great effort. I knew I had to persist…
p. xiv – The reader may well wonder how these studies have affected my own outlook on life, morals, and religion. I wish I could give a definite answer, but I am still in the middle of my journey. There are truths that I think I have discovered only with the Bible’s help, and I know that my sympathies have shifted toward the biblical pole of the age-old tension between Athens and Jerusalem.
I am no longer confident of the sufficiency of unaided human reason…
p. xv – Little did I imagine that I would later come to see the insufficiency of the scientific understanding of human life and the Enlightenment’s view of the world. It would have been inconceivable to me that I would later find a most compelling kind of wisdom in the oldest of the still living religions…
Who is to say that the Lord does not work in mysterious ways?
p. 3 – PHILOSOPHY, born of wonder, seeks ultimately to know the nature and being of things, as well as the reasons or causes why things are the way they are.
For the BIBLE, in contrast, the beginning of WISDOM comes not from wonder but from awe and reverence, and the goal is not understanding for its own sake but rather a righteous and holy life.
TRUE, the Psalmist sings that “the heavens declare the glory of God…” BUT “the beginning of wisdom is the fear [awe; reverence] of the Lord, and good understanding comes to all who practice it.”
The path to WISDOM and happiness lies not through wondrous sights seen by the eye but through the awesome command heard by the ear:
[p.4] The works of his hands are truth and justice; all his percepts are enduring…Happy is the man who fears the Lord, that delights greatly in His commandments. [Passage??]
Not the attractive, beautiful, ceaselessly circling, and seemingly imperishable heavenly bodies, but the awe-inspiring, sublime, ceaselessly demanding, and imperishable divine covenant and commandments provide the core of biblical wisdom. The wisdom of Jerusalem is not the wisdom of Athens.