September 16, 2010

Is fear of God the beginning of wisdom?


“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”  
       Psalms 111:10    
       The full verse in Psalms 111:10 says: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.” There’s a similar verse in The Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 1:7): “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Job 28:28 offers this variation: “And unto man he [God] said, Behold, the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”


“The fear of God is not the beginning of wisdom. The fear of God is the death of wisdom. Skepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom. The modern world is the child of doubt and inquiry, as the ancient world was the child of fear and faith.”
       Clarence Darrow (1857-1938)
       American lawyer, agnostic and free speech advocate
       In his essay “Why I am an agnostic” (1896) 


“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty.  To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom, in the pursuit of truth as in the endeavour after a worthy manner of life.” 
       Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
       British philosopher, mathematician, atheist and social critic
       Unpopular Essays, “An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish” (1950)


“The beginning of a thing is a part of it. But fear is not a part of wisdom, since fear is in the appetitive power, whereas wisdom is in the intellectual power. Hence it seems that fear is not the beginning of wisdom.”
       Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
       Italian Catholic priest, philosopher and saint 
       In his Summa Theologica (“Summary of Theology”), written 1265-1274 A.D.


“To question a wise man is the beginning of wisdom.” 
       German proverb
       Quoted in The Multicultural Dictionary of Proverbs (2005) 


“If the fear of God is not the beginning of wisdom, it is at least the beginning of religion.”
       George William Foote (1850-1915)
       British writer and social critic
       “Letters to the Clergy,” published in The Freethinker, Volume 10 (1890)

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