Zeal Without Knowledge

 

The translators of Proverbs 19:2 are in agreement: Zeal without knowledge is dangerous. I’m a little hesitant on the accuracy of this as a translation, since the word zeal apparently does not appear in the Hebrew. (Even the ancient Greek translations lack the word zelos–along with, apparently, the whole verse!)

But I’m not hesitant at all about the idea. It’s a correct idea. Zeal is lauded in the Bible in any number of places, like Psalm 69:9 and John 2:17, Romans 12:11, and Psalm 119:139. But zeal doesn’t create righteousness or wisdom out of nothing. Zeal is meant to be a righteous stand for a truth coming from elsewhere. Zeal is to be built on knowledge; see also Romans 10:2.

The context of Psalm 119:139 is particularly instructive. Why is the Psalmist zealous? Because he knows and loves G-d’s Word. May we never be zealous save in proportion to our love and understanding of important truths, and especially those in the Bible.

 

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  1. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Truth.

    • #1
  2. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Part of this month’s group writing project on zeal.

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Indeed, it is part of our Group Writing Series under October’s theme of Zeal. If it inspires anyone or reminds of something, we can still double up on dates.

    On the other hand, November is coming, and our schedule and sign-up sheet for Elimination has plenty of openings.

    The best way to get to be a writer is to read and to write. Group Writing is an opportunity for you to hone your writing skills and to read the writing of other members of Ricochet on interesting topics that are not necessarily related to the News Media’s crisis of the moment. Come join us.

    • #3
  4. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Saint Augustine: I’m a little hesitant on the accuracy of this as a translation, since the word zeal apparently does not appear in the Hebrew.

    The word (kuf-nun-aleph) is consistently used as “jealousy” in the Torah.

    • #4
  5. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    iWe (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine: I’m a little hesitant on the accuracy of this as a translation, since the word zeal apparently does not appear in the Hebrew.

    The word (kuf-nun-aleph) is consistently used as “jealousy” in the Torah.

    Hebrew 7068?

    Yeah, I remember discovering something I didn’t expect about “zeal.” I think it was that zeal and jealousy were actually the same word in older English, or in Latin, or in Greek.

    It was probably Greek. I was in the parking lot after church, if memory serves, so I must have been using my phone. It was 2016, the year our fifth kid was born, so I definitely had the Greek app by then, since I first started using it while visiting Thailand, which was when the fourth kid was a baby.

    Whatever it was, that topic would have made a great post, but I don’t have that kind of time.

    • #5
  6. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson
    @MarkWilson

    This reminds me of a clip from Mark Steyn a few years back. The windup is long, but the delivery is worth the wait. 

    • #6
  7. OldDanRhody Member
    OldDanRhody
    @OldDanRhody

    We see lots of zeal without knowledge in young people, who have lots of energy and idealistic ideas, but not so much real-world knowledge. This can be tempered by time and experience – part of the process of maturing, but eventually one arrives at the other end: Knowledge without zeal is fruitless.

    • #7
  8. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine: I’m a little hesitant on the accuracy of this as a translation, since the word zeal apparently does not appear in the Hebrew.

    The word (kuf-nun-aleph) is consistently used as “jealousy” in the Torah.

    Hebrew 7068?

    Yeah, I remember discovering something I didn’t expect about “zeal.” I think it was that zeal and jealousy were actually the same word in older English, or in Latin, or in Greek.

    jealousy

    noun, plural jeal·ous·ies
    1) jealous resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc., or against another’s success or advantage itself.
    2) mental uneasiness from suspicion or fear of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims.
    3) vigilance in maintaining or guarding something.
    4) a jealous feeling, disposition, state, or mood.

    #3 seems pretty close.

    • #8
  9. Bo Grimes Coolidge
    Bo Grimes
    @BoGrimes

    I have always felt the same about Courage. I know the ancients considered it a primary virtue, but I think of it as secondary. If the cause is Good or Just, Courage is a virtue. If the cause is evil, Courage is not.

    Likewise, Duty without Love and Honor without Integrity are hollow shells of hypocrisy. 

    • #9
  10. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Bo Grimes (View Comment):

    I have always felt the same about Courage. I know the ancients considered it a primary virtue, but I think of it as secondary. If the cause is Good or Just, Courage is a virtue. If the cause is evil, Courage is not.

    Likewise, Duty without Love and Honor without Integrity are hollow shells of hypocrisy.

    Amen!

    Courage is a cardinal virtue. But it’s not independent of other virtues. According to the unity of the virtues hypothesis (very common in ancient and medieval ethics), no virtue can exist apart from the other virtues.

    C. S. Lewis: “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, . . . .”

    Plato in Republic: Courage is preservation of wisdom.

    And then there’s Worf in “Heart of Glory.”

    • #10
  11. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Mark Wilson (View Comment):

    This reminds me of a clip from Mark Steyn a few years back. The windup is long, but the delivery is worth the wait.

    Yes.

    • #11
  12. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    OldDanRhody (View Comment):

    We see lots of zeal without knowledge in young people, who have lots of energy and idealistic ideas, but not so much real-world knowledge. This can be tempered by time and experience – part of the process of maturing, but eventually one arrives at the other end: Knowledge without zeal is fruitless.

    Yes.

    One thing that helps is to not neglect the experiences of those who learned first. Why waste time testing life in experience when the lessons were already written down by Solomon, J. S. Mill, and hundreds others in between?

    • #12

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