Foolishness leaves a bad smell (Ecclesiastes 10:1-11)

As dead flies give perfume a bad smell,
    so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
The heart of the wise inclines to the right,
    but the heart of the fool to the left.
Even as fools walk along the road,
    they lack sense
    and show everyone how stupid they are.

(Ecclesiastes 10:1-3)

Some fools are very clever, shrewd, and intelligent people. There is much more to foolishness than low IQ. It’s seen in the impact of our decisions, the quality of our choices, the fruit of our lips, and the way we treat others others. Fools can be recognised by their their self-obsession and blatant disregard for God.

6 thoughts on “Foolishness leaves a bad smell (Ecclesiastes 10:1-11)”

  1. Your perspective on the words of Jesus relies on the reliability of the Gospels as historical accounts. Are those of us who reject their reliability fools? The evidence from a close reading of the Gospels themselves speak to the reasonableness of our position. One example pointed out by Bart Ehrman in Jesus Interrupted is “In Matthew, Jesus declares, “Whoever is not with me is against me.” In Mark, he says,“Whoever is not against us is for us.” Did he say both things? Could he mean both things? How can both be true at once? Or is it possible that one of the Gospel writers got things switched around?”.
    Do you think it is reasonable to assert that the Gospel of John (90 A.D.) reports the words of Jesus when the “I AM” statements (I am the bread of life, I am the way, the truth and life, I am the vine, I am the resurrection and the life etc) are absent from the gospels Matthew (80 A. D) , Mark (65 A.D.) and Luke (85 A.D.)! That three gospels apparently based on eye witness testimony failed to record any of these self revelations of Jesus is almost beyond credulity!….the gospels have a significant number of discrepancies and historical implausibilities yet you propose our position is foolishness?

    1. I don’t have any difficulty reconciling Jesus’ statement in Mark with his statement in Matthew. The two are in totally different contexts. To my mind, they only seem incompatible when removed from their setting. I could say two things to the same people: a) you can all come with me, and b) everyone must stay at home. It’s the context that explains the differences.

      I do think it reasonable to believe that John records the I AM sayings of Jesus, whereas the Synoptics do not. John is clearly structuring his record of Jesus around his sayings and signs, and so he gives special focus to these words and events. There are so many other differences to how John is structured, and the content, that also mark it out from the others.

      I have not focused on rejecting the historical reliability of the Gospels as foolish, but rather referenced the message of Psalm 14, which is repeated in Psalm 53. It is the perspective of David as he writes his psalms that to say in your heart ‘there is no god’ is foolish. If there is a god, as David believes and writes, then this is an important point he makes. We can ask if he is correct, but if he is correct then this is a coherent point to make.

      1. You are right about it being possible that Jesus said both sayings. Both the Markan and Q source/Matthean saying are in Luke at 9:50 and Luke 11:23. I should have fact checked Ehrman.
        A very good examples of how errors can occur in minutes. Why couldn’t we expect the same processes at work with the gospel authors?

      2. “I do think it reasonable to believe that John records the I AM sayings of Jesus, whereas the Synoptics do not. John is clearly structuring his record of Jesus around his sayings and signs, and so he gives special focus to these words and events. There are so many other differences to how John is structured, and the content, that also mark it out from the others.”
        Your comment is addressing John not the omission of the material from the Synoptics. I agree the structure is unique in John indeed Jesus’ vocabulary is different (indistinguishable from the narrator at times), John has Jesus delivering seven long spiralling metaphor laden discourses of self disclosure which stand in stark contrast to the Synoptics (where aphorisms are more common and purpose obscuring parables….the word “parable” doesn’t even appear in John…and the Sermon on the Mount stands in disparity with John’s motif of belief) …these enormous differences aren’t to be expected if John is an eyewitness account of a real historical persons teaching (especially given that Jesus’ ministry only spanned three years).

        The action is different in John with no exorcisms, the Resurrection of Lazarus (a key reason why “the Jews” want to kill him) and the crucifixion which in discontinuity with the Synoptics occurs on the day before Passover (but in coherence with John’s theme that Jesus is the Lamb of God). Furthermore we can be pretty sure that the structure of the Gospel is not that of the original author. We know for certain that Christians have added to the text e.g.the Pericopae Adulterae and there are other redactional seams which indicate the addition/deletion of material e.g. Jn 14:31 is naturally followed by 18:1…not a lengthy discourse, Jn 7:19-24 is completely out of place and the Gospel naturally ends at Jn 20:31 which adds weight to the observation that Chapter 21 is a later addition by another hand.

        My main concern in the original comment was the unlikely omission by the Synoptics of the voluminous and clear self disclosures of Jesus in John. Such an omission is highly unlikely in any one of the Synoptics (and Paul for that matter) with each covering the period of Jesus’ ministry. To suggest that these authors missed or supposedly omit the Johannine material is not consistent with the information we have within and about the Synoptics. Papias clearly stated that Mark “gave attention to leave out nothing” of Peter’s teaching. Do you propose that Peter decided to leave unmentioned the “I AM” statements?…that is like writing a biography of Donald Trump and not mentioning the word “Great”. Furthermore Luke did a “careful investigation” of “things… taught” yet not coverage of these seven discourses!! If true that has damning implications for the competency of Luke as a historian.

        Given the evidence I can’t see any other conclusion other than the obvious that the discourses of Jesus in John and especially the I AM statements have been placed on Jesus’ lips though a process of legendary development. I would be happy to entertain an analysis of the facts to the contrary.

      3. Hi Grant
        The Synoptics do record “I am” (ego eimi) sayings of Jesus in Matthew 14:27 and Mark 6:50 which correspond to John 6:20. I believe the synoptic writers were aware of Jesus’ “I am” sayings. They simply chose to structure their gospels in a different manner to John. John begins outlining Jesus divinity and structures his gospel around the sayings and signs, for his status purpose that people believe in Jesus and have life. John also makes it very clear that it is a very small selection of Jesus’ teaching. Your view that that John simply places fictional “I am” statements on Jesus’ lips does not account for the versos in Matthew and Mark above.
        Matthew and Mark both raise the question of Jesus identity, reaching a partial climax with Peter’s declaration, “You are the Christ”. They follow a who am I?, and what have I come to do structure/ Luke is similar, yet structured differently again.
        I see no problems with the different authors presenting their material differently for particular purposes.

  2. Your comment “The Synoptics do record “I am” (ego eimi) sayings of Jesus in Matthew 14:27 and Mark 6:50 which correspond to John 6:20” shows the shortcomings of my Trump analogy. But my comments are in relation to the “metaphor laden discourses of self disclosure” which are absent in the Synoptics. There are no examples of this predicate nominative construction in the Synoptics. Interesting your Synoptic example of Ego Eimi (and others) is theorised by Raymond Brown to have been the seed for John’s development of figurative discourses…that makes a lot of sense and comports with my legend theory (we can’t go back in a time machine so I am basing this on the balance of probabilities….along with the examples of other supportive evidence in my earlier comments).

    We have no way of knowing if any of the words attributed to Jesus in any of the Gospels are actually his. The Synoptic writers don’t claim to be eyewitnesses and they all write in the third person. Your claim that Matthew, Mark and John are all recounting eyewitness reports of the same incident seems highly improbable when in John 6:15 Jesus withdraws to a mountain specifically to get away from the crowd and the disciples return to get in the boat to go to Capernaum. Where in Mark and Matthew Jesus makes the disciples get into the boat to head for Bethsaida and he personally disperses the crowd and subsequently goes to the mountain. The differences between the accounts of Peter and Jesus walking on the water and the silences especially of Luke don’t seem consistent with Papias, Luke’s assertions about his research and a general congruence expected from eyewitness testimony. How can the disciples “not understanding” in Mark and “pay homage” in Matthew?….again that fits legendary development rather than eyewitness reportage. The account in John 6 ends with the boat reaching its planned destination while Mark and Matthew has them land at Gennesaret on the same side of the lake! What you need to ask yourself when you embark on the rationalisation of this state of affairs is: What is more likely? that these are eyewitness reports of real events or they are something else?

    If your response can support your assertions and provide a counterpoint to my arguments I will be most interested?

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