Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Colossians 2:8 The Wisdom Meter

Since the origin of the word “philosophy” is rooted in both Latin and Greek, and the Greek original word “philosophia,” literally means "love of knowledge, pursuit of wisdom,” why does the Bible seem to treat it as something bad in Colossians 2:8?

An article appearing in the August 1, 2001 Watchtower stated: Paul sounded that warning because he sensed a real danger lurking behind the thinking of those attracted by the world. His use of the term “philosophy and empty deception” is especially significant. The word “philosophy” literally means “the love and pursuit of wisdom.” That in itself may be beneficial. In fact, the Bible, particularly in the book of Proverbs, encourages the pursuit of the right kind of knowledge and wisdom. (Proverbs 1:1-7; 3:13-18) Paul, however, coupled “philosophy” with “empty deception.” In other words, Paul viewed the wisdom that the world had to offer as empty and deceptive. Like an inflated balloon, it had the appearance of solidity, but there was no substance to it. It would certainly be futile, even disastrous, to base one’s choice of right and wrong on something as insubstantial as “the philosophy and empty deception” of the world.

In agreement with that is the “David Guzik Commentary on the Bible.” In section B, items 1.a.ii and 1.a.iii, are quoted in the following two paragraphs:

This philosophy that threatened the Colossian Christians was a strange eclectic mix of early Gnosticism, Greek philosophy, local mystery religions, and Jewish mysticism. The philosophy threatening the Colossian Christians was so dangerous because it was not obviously sinful and licentious. It was a high-sounding and seemed highly intelligent.

Vincent on the word philosophy: “It had originally a good meaning, the love of wisdom, but is used by Paul in the sense of vain speculation, and with special reference to its being the name by which the false teachers at Colossae designated not only their speculative system, but also their practical system, so that it covered their ascetic practices no less than mysticism.

So what conclusion have I reached? Here are my reflections:
One main problem God has with human philosophy is that it is usually opposed to the wisdom God offers. Proverbs 3:7; 19:21; 21:30. Although it may sound very intelligent and open-minded, it really doesn’t amount to anything better than what the Bible offers. (And in most cases actually amounts to little more than “hot air.” Or, as the Bible calls it, “empty deception.”)  In fact, usually people seek out human wisdom because it frees them from the moral obligation to their creator. They “think” they are wise, but in reality they are only fooling themselves. Another concern God has with human wisdom is the negative effect it has. Whereas true, godly wisdom ought to help its owner develop humility and a peaceful disposition. The qualities of humility and peace are a powerful lesson even for those who think they know the Bible well. If what they know makes them cocky, arrogant, unapproachable, then they really have not learned godly wisdom.

(See also this 2014 article "Colossians 2:8 Taken As Spoil.")

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