Using The Brains God Gave You – figuring out Bible contradictions

The Bible seems to contradict itself repeatedly, like these two verses:

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.(Ecclesiastes 12:12.)

… let the wise listen and add to their learning,
    and let the discerning get guidance … (Proverbs 1:5.)

Which is it: be smart and get smarter, or stop learning so much because too much smartification will just wear you out? Whichever it is, this kid is smartifying early:


Just as synonyms are – by definition – not contradictory, neither are Bible passages. The key to understanding synonyms is knowing what the words mean and how they are used, and the key to understanding Bible passages is knowing the context and what the writer meant.

One Writer, One Point

Both Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are attributed to Solomon.* You would think that he would be able to write without contradicting himself.

He did.

The introduction to Proverbs speaks of the value of learning for the wise, and then explains:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
    but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7.)

Similarly, Ecclesiastes concludes with this observation:

Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.)

This idea of fearing God has a couple of components. One is a healthy fear of what life is like without God. The other is a reverential, grateful and joy-filled relationship with our awesome God. After all, the root of the word “awesome” is “awe” and derives from the Old English word for fear (ege) which in turn came from the Greek word for pain and grief (akhis).

Awe is nothing to take lightly, but it does help one understand fear. It means that fear is not necessarily a matter of being scared. Sometimes fear is a sense of being truly in awe of something or someone.

This is what Solomon’s writings get at. We should understand God sufficiently to be in awe of him. God gave you brains for a reason, after all, and in using those brains you can see that God’s awesome. His love is awesome, his grace is awesome, his blessings are awesome, his power is awesome. He just keeps being awesome, eternally awesome.

To get back to the issue of learning, here’s what you should do. Keep learning about things that help you see how awesome God is. Creation declares his glory so everything he has created is worth studying.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge. (Psalm 19:1-2.)

Now that’s awesome.


*Most of Proverbs is attributed to Solomon, although the first few verses might be an introduction supplied by the compiler of the proverbs of Solomon. As for Ecclesiastes, while Solomon is not specifically identified he’s considered the most likely author.


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14 Responses to Using The Brains God Gave You – figuring out Bible contradictions

  1. Jeannie says:

    I love this sentence: “Keep learning about things that help you see how awesome God is.” And there are so many of those things: nature, language, literature, music, just to name a few.

  2. I like how you tie it together with the fear of the Lord. Even without that tie though its not like those statements are completely contradictory. Wisdom doesn’t appear formulaic. So taking those verses together one could say that never learning anything doesn’t make you wise, but the truth is you could spend all your life learning and miss out on other things in life. Or even worse think that you are actually able to learn it all. That could reduce the awe we have of God.

  3. Kelly says:

    My kids have grumbled a few times, as kids are wont to do, about certain assignments I’ve given them for school. We’ve had lots of heart-to-heart conversations about why learning is important and the main reason that has come up is that we would miss out on so much of God and his creation if we didn’t gain knowledge. In my view, academics does more than open up a world of knowledge; it impresses on me personally the vastness of His glory and power. It is, indeed, awe-inspiring!

  4. Michelle says:

    “To get back to the issue of learning, here’s what you should do. Keep learning about things that help you see how awesome God is. Creation declares his glory so everything he has created is worth studying.”

    This is so good I just may have to adopt this as our homeschool motto! 🙂

  5. Carmen S. says:

    “To know wisdom.” “To perceive the words of understanding.” In the King James translation “think” is found 82 times, “understand” is found 266 times, “consider” is found 98 times, “judge” is found 674 times, “know” is found 1,454 times. In the Merriam-Webster 7th edition “think” is defined as: to reason, to subject to the processes of logical thought. Many people spend their entire lives avoiding thought, including people with a Ph.D behind their names. Those verses are not about learning, but thinking.

    • Tim says:

      Besides the KJV word choice, do you have a cite to a translation scholar who considers “think” to be a better word there than “learn”? Strong’s interlinear chooses “learn” in Proverbs 1:5.

  6. Pingback: Does the Apostle Paul Really Contradict Jesus? | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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