In its original form, the word “philosophy” meant “love of wisdom”. It was of intense concern to the ancient Greeks who coined the word. In his two-chapter prelude (Proverbs 8-9) to the compilation of his succinct and pithy proverbs (chapters 10-29), Solomon focuses on the value and many virtues of genuine wisdom.
In the beginning verses of Proverbs 8, Solomon seeks to set forth the distinguishing traits and truths about genuine wisdom. These are his words: “Does not wisdom cry out, and understanding lift up her voice? She takes her stand on the top of the high hill, beside the way, where the paths meet. She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city, at the entrance of the doors: ‘To you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men. O you simple ones, understand prudence, and you fools, be of an understanding heart. Listen, for I will speak of excellent things, and from the opening of my lips will come right things; for my mouth will speak truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; nothing crooked or perverse is in them. They are all plain to him who understands and right to those who find knowledge. Receive my instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her” (vv. 1-11).
Unlike its many counterfeits—ancient and modern—genuine philosophy possesses the following distinctive characteristics:
- It is available and knowable to everyone (vv. 1-5). Genuine wisdom does exist. She willingly seeks to share all her knowledge, prudence, and understanding with anyone who desires her expertise.
- It is of the highest quality (vv. 6-7). Things which are excellent and things which are right in the sight of God are at the heart of genuine wisdom.
- It harmonizes perfectly with truth and righteousness (vv. 7-9). Falsehood and wickedness are an abomination to genuine wisdom; it has nothing crooked or perverse in it. All the intellectual babble and educational mumbo jumbo which has been spewed in the name of philosophy through the centuries may sound impressive, but when they fail this enduring litmus test, their fraudulent identity has been exposed.
- It is of inestimable value (vv. 10-11). Genuine philosophy pays dividends beyond the grave. Unlike gold and silver, wisdom’s currency is usable beyond the grave. What an invaluable commodity to have.