Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Fear of God . . .

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Prov. 1:7). A fellow blogger on another blog I write on happened to mention this quote from the Holy Bible.

I have heard this phrase before. Perhaps, in the context in which it is quoted it means something different - but as a standalone statement (which it should be given that it is a 'proverb') I find its apparent meaning very distasteful.

Of course, I approach the statement with an inherent theistic assumption. Hang on, let me qualify that - given that 'theistic' most commonly tends to get interpreted in reference to the context of the Abrahmic deity. So I should perhaps say 'deitiestic' assumption - meaning a generic assumption of the existence of deities, (Zeus or Amaterasu as much as Yahweh or Shiva).

Depending upon the particular translation Prov. 1:7 is also sometimes quoted as "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." Makes me wonder what the original Hebrew word was and what it meant. But it makes me think of the Sanskrit word Jnana. Which is also translated as both knowledge or wisdom. In either case, it is not the knowledge part but the 'Fear' part of statement that I find distasteful; unless that too has been mistranslated and the original Hebrew word means something different.

It is difficult to envisage 'fear' being a vehicle of knowledge acquisition. Perception, cognition, cogitation, intuition - the common modes of acquisition of knowledge are not principally triggered by fear. While one could argue that the adrenaline surge triggered by fear may enhance mental activity in these spheres leading to heightened acquisition of knowledge, that would still be only a 'side' effect of fear. We know more efficient ways of acquiring knowledge.

The only way this makes sense is to think of knowledge / wisdom as one of the result of the 'life morally lived'; 'fear' of God being the stick that makes people live the moral life. And yet, this may not always be the case. There would be many simpletons who live morally enough and fear God mortally enough and yet seem to possess little knowledge and / or wisdom.

Perhaps the whole problem is that I am the 'outsider' approaching a Biblical statement. may be it would be simpler to just ask a Christian and see if his/her response makes any sense.

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