Everyone With Good Sense Wants to Learn

“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”
— Proverbs 18:15 (ESV)

“Everyone with good sense wants to learn.”
— Proverbs 18:15 (CEV)

Notice the way that the Contemporary English Version avoids the more literal sense of the English Standard Version in a way that loses the poetic parallelism of the ESV, yet makes the meaning so clear that any one who can read can understand it completely.  These passages illustrate some of the difficulties facing Bible translators, teachers, preachers, and readers.  The ESV more accurately conveys the literal sense of the original Hebrew, but the CEV more clearly and directly conveys the point of the verse.  While some of us might be tempted to think that the ESV is "more accurate" than the CEV, the reality is that they are both accurate; it's just that they are accurate about different aspects of the original text.  

What's really great is that in many of the world's most widely read languages (and certainly in English) we have many versions which we can read.  This means that we don't necessarily have to choose which way is best, we can read several versions and come to a deeper understanding.  We can see the beautiful way, rich with meaning, that the Bible expresses thoughts by repeating the same idea in slightly different ways.  A sort of ancient 3D conceptual holograph giving readers and listeners a fuller, deeper picture of a thought.  We can also see how simple and true, almost self-evident the point is.  The verse makes a point that anyone with good sense would understand and that implies that those who don't want to learn anything new might be foolish.

Let's explore these two views a little more deeply.  Earlier I said that the original Hebrew (reflected in the ESV) expresses the same idea in two slightly different ways.  Why?  What's the difference?  Why say the same thing twice?  In addition to making it easier to remember and more interesting to read, hear, and think about, restating it in different ways expresses different nuances about the idea.  

An "intelligent heart acquires knowledge" focuses on the part of us which thinks and feels, our mental and emotional faculties.  This part of us gets knowledge...in fact, this part of our self requires knowledge in order to function.  We need facts and data to think, feel, and make decisions.  The more knowledge we have, the more intelligent we become and the more intelligent we are, the more knowledge we are able to acquire.  Paraphrasing Jesus, the one who has knowledge and understanding will be given more, while those who lack knowledge and understanding will understand even less as time goes on.

The "ear of the wise seeks knowledge" focuses more on our perceptions, on the ways we take in information such as our senses which are represented here by "the ear", which implies a more social type of information gathering...listening...observing...taking things in.  Wisdom, rather than intelligence, is the capacity to make the right decisions given what we already know or can find out.  A wise person seeks not just facts and data, but significance and meaning.  How are people being affected?  What do others think?  What is the common understanding?  What are the personal and social contexts?  Not just "what can I do?" but "What should I do?" "What ought I do?" "What's the right or best thing to do?"

Reflecting on the nuances and differences of each half of the verse allows us to arrive at a deeper, fuller sense of the meaning while the CEV ignores much of that in favor of making sure that we get the main point: smart/wise people want to learn.   No one has to prod them, push them, or entice them to learn.  Evenually, they will desire to learn things that they can see are good for them to know.  Like the Bible.  Don't let your Bible sit on your shelf or sit untouched and unread on your phone.  Pick it up, touch it, open it, read it.  Your heart will be happy at the new knowledge, your ear will seek out more of the same type of wisdom as that found in the Bible from people who are trying their best to live by it.  Have the good sense to want to learn more about yourself, about the God who loves you so much that he sent himself in the form of his son to become just like you, so that you would have a chance to become more like him.