The More Knowledge The More Grief?

Phil: I agree on your remark about thinking. I certainly enjoy it. But donʼt the Psalms or Proverbs say something like: “… knowledge brings sorrow and wisdom brings suffering?”
The More Knowledge The More Grief?

Edward: The line you are citing is from Ecclesiastes, “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” However, commentators debate the exact meaning of such a phrase. “Wisdom” is praised highly elsewhere in Scripture. And is this verse against seeking “knowledge?”

Ecclesiastes is also one of the strangest books in the Bible. When the author of Ecclesiastes asked himself whether there was life after death, he responded with a great big, “Who knows?” (Eccles. 3:21)

As for righteousness, his advice is, “Be not righteous overmuch.” (Eccles. 7:16)

And his advice concerning the best pursuit in life is, “A man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry.” (Eccles. 8:15)

And how come it says in Ecclesiastes (a book that evangelical Christians allege Solomon wrote), “The sun rises and the sun sets; And hastening to its place it rises there again” (Eccles. 1:5, NASB)? The wisest of men is telling us that the sun “hastens to its place” so it can “rise there again” each day? Thatʼs geocentrism, not modern day heliocentric astronomy. So whomever wrote such a thing appears to have been neither wise, nor inspired by God (at least not in the subject of astronomy).

Solomon (The Hebrew Philosopher-King)

History records the names of numerous ancient “philosophers” and “philosopher kings,” some mythical, some real, some a bit of both. But King Solomonʼs wisdom exceeded all of them if we are to believe what the Bible tells us, for it says that God gave King Solomon “a wise and understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee” (1 Kings 3:12). But to really drive the point home 1st Kings 4:31 adds that “Solomon was wiser than any other man, including Ethan the Ezrahite—wiser than Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol.” And we all know how wise they were.

Of course if Solomon was so wise, how come “his wives turned away his heart after other gods?” (1 Kings 11:4) I guess the wisest of men was outsmarted by his wives.

Christians take note: 1 Kings 3:12 says that “none” shall arise “after thee” who have as “wise and understanding a heart” as Solomonʼs. Doesnʼt the word, “none” mean “none,” and hence it excludes even Jesus from having as “wise and understanding a heart” as Solomon?

One can not discuss King Solomon without mentioning the temple that the Bible tells us he built—a relatively tiny temple only about ninety feet long and thirty feet wide (1 Kings 6:2 and 2 Chron. 3:3) but which must have been an extraordinary sight because King David allegedly provided his son, Solomon, with “a hundred thousand talents of gold, a million talents of silver, quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed, and wood and stone” to use in building it. “And you may add to them” David said. (1 Chron. 22:14) Add to “a hundred thousand talents of gold?” The NIV Bible says that a hundred thousand talents of gold is equal to 7.5 million lbs. The U.S. federal gold depository at Fort Knox holds only 19% more than that, or 9.2 million lbs. Moreover, a single ounce of gold can be beaten out to 300 square feet. So King Solomon could have gilded his entire nation with 7.5 million pounds of gold, or perhaps built the whole temple out of gold, without even needing to use the 75 million lbs. of silver he also had on hand. (Hmmm, maybe Solomon made the temple so small so he could pocket most of the gold and silver his father left him; or, more likely, the author of 1st Chronicles was inflating the wealth of King David and King Solomon just as he inflated the numerical sizes of their armies—after all, “a hundred thousand talents of gold,” is a nice large round figure.)

Of course itʼs difficult for anyone today to believe that ancient kings, ruling over relatively parched and moderately populated lands like ancient Palestine, lacking modern methods and machines for gold mining and refining, could have accumulated 81% of what currently lies at Fort Knox. (Though I admit that the above Bible verses have inspired myths galore concerning the amount of precious ore waiting to be rediscovered in “King Solomonʼs mines.”)

Unfortunately, no trace of Solomonʼs extraordinarily gaudy temple has ever been found, nor was it ever reported to have been seen by any non-Biblical traveler even though it was supposedly only a few miles from heavily traveled trade routes and “all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom” (2nd Chron. 9:23). Neither was Solomonʼs “wisdom” ever referred to by any non-Biblical travelers of that era. Probably because all ancient Near Eastern civilizations back then boasted large collections of “wise sayings,” some of which even the Bible plagiarized when it attributed them to “King Solomon.” [See, Old Testament Parallels : Laws and Stories From the Ancient Near East by Victor H. Matthews and Don C. Benjamin, Fully rev. and expanded ed, New York : Paulist Press,1997]

The verse also reminds me of some fundamentalists I have heard from, who have told me that they were discouraged from even attending college because they were women, or because the end was near, or because college would just ruin your faith, or because “knowledge brings sorrow and swells a person with pride.” So why not remain ignorant?

Fact is, there is joy in learning and seeking out knowledge and asking questions and being curious and reading. So why not have both an education and a more informed spirituality? Such a person with a curious mind tends to be more moderate, and more doubtful of every little doctrinal concern, but overall more informed.

Whatʼs sad is that “Religions promise a reward for excellence of the will or heart, but none for excellence of the head or understanding.” (Arthur Schopenhauer) “I do not believe that the same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect had intended for us to forgo their use.” (Galileo) “The silly fanatic repeats to me that it is not for us to judge what is reasonable and just in the divine Being. That His reason is not like our reason, that His justice is not like our justice. Eh? How, you mad demoniac, shall we judge justice and reason otherwise than by the notions we have of them? Do you want us to walk otherwise than with our feet, and speak otherwise than with our mouths?” (Voltaire)

I also believe “Humor is one of the most valuable things in the human brain. It is the torch of the mind - it sheds light. Humor is the readiest test of truth - of the natural, of the sensible. Ministers have always said you will have no respect for our ideas unless you are solemn. Solemnity is a condition precedent to believing anything without evidence.”
— Robert Ingersoll

“One horse laugh is worth a thousand syllogisms.”
— H. L. Mencken

“Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand,”
“Irreverence is the champion of liberty,”
“The funniest things are the forbidden.”
— Mark Twain

“He deserves paradise who can make his companions laugh.”
— Unknown

And speaking of being pro-knowledge, this is a great little song that might be a reply to the verse you cited:
Song: Would You Like To Swing On A Star
Would you like to swing on a star
carry moonbeams home in a jar
and be better off than you are
or would you rather be a mule

A mule is an animal with long funny ears
he kicks up at anything he hears
His back is brawny but his brain is weak
heʼs just plain stupid with a stubborn streak
and by the way if you hate to go to school
You may grow up to be a mule

Oh would you like to swing on a star
carry moonbeams home in a jar
and be better off than you are
or would you rather be a pig

A pig is an animal with dirt on his face
his shoes are a terrible disgrace
He has no manners when he eats his food
Heʼs fat and lazy and extremely rude
But if you donʼt care a feather or a fig
you may grow up to be a pig

Oh would you like to swing on a star
carry moonbeams home in a jar
and be better off than you are
or would you rather be a fish

A fish wonʼt do anything but swim in a brook
he canʼt write his name or read a book
to fool the people is his only thought
and though heʼs slippery he still gets caught
but if then that sort of life is what you wish
you may grow up to be a fish
a new kind of jumped up slippery fish

And all the monkeys arenʼt in the zoo
everyday you see quite a few
so you see itʼs all up to you,
you could be better than you are
you could be swinging on a star

I also agree about faith being a positive thing—reexamining what it means and where it is placed is a new challenge.
I had heard of CS Lewis agonizing over the faith—even remember reading somewhere (?) he referred to God as the great imbecile in the sky—after his wife died.
Okay, well many thanks again for the responses and pointers. Iʼll order your book and get back to you later.
Take care!

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