If you have been reading my blog, hanging out in my living room, attending aplacetotalk on Sundays, or even having a casual chat with me over a cup of coffee you know that I am wrestling with where the Bible came from and whether or not God ordained it being complied into the the exact 66 books that we carry around today. I don’t actually remember having any casual chats over a cup of coffee – I guess I just threw that in to make me sound cool and sophisticated.
Before we look at the first “possible contradiction” let me share a great video I came across about Jesus and how His life seems to be a contradiction! Don’t judge it by my introduction… I promise you will like it:
In my research I read about the arguments many Jewish Rabbis had about whether or not to allow Proverbs to be read in public because of the apparent contradiction between Proverbs 26:4 and 26:5 in the original language. Let me share with you Proverbs 26:4&5 from the good old faithful King James Version:
4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
So next time you are talking to a fool – what will you do? Answer him according to his folly, or not?
Now as far as my decision to believe or not believe the Bible is inerrant – this contradiction doesn’t really bother me at all. For some this is a major stumbling point, because they improperly read the Bible as a rulebook. I think Proverbs is full of wisdom, but only a fool would attempt to read Proverbs as a rulebook. Oops, I take that back. I wouldn’t want to call anyone a fool, in fact I used to see the Bible as a map for my life and a rulebook for my flesh too. I no longer look at the Bible like that. In fact I believe that making the Bible your rulebook or your law can cause sin to increase in your life. Romans 5:20 would support that idea.
Ok – how I understand Proverbs 26:4&5…. I think Solomon is simply saying that when you are talking to someone who is acting foolish you have two choices.
#1 – You could answer him / argue with him and possibly be as silly as he is. Because of that possibility, sometimes you should refrain from answering or arguing at all.
#2 – On the other hand sometimes it is ok or maybe even wise to give a foolish question a foolish answer so that the fool won’t be wise in his own eyes.
My point is this… remember that Proverbs is a compilation of wisdom and in this case Solomon is illustrating that he knows both what can happen when you answer and when you don’t. Fact is, sometimes it is wise to answer a fool and sometimes it isn’t.