Who is Wise?
Who is Wise?
From Jesus' time until now, in Jewish culture it has been customary to confront, discuss and even argue with those whom you disagree. We might think that every difficult question asked of Jesus was to antagonize or trap him, but debating with respected rabbis was a common practice in his culture. Because of the emphasis on argumentation, rabbis had some wisdom about how to deal with those whom you disagree.
They had a saying -- "Who is wise? He who learns from all others."1 The idea is that a person can always learn from another person's perspective, even those with whom he disagrees. We see this in the life of Paul - that he didn't just walk away from the Jews who didn't believe in the gospel, but spent time reasoning about the faith in the synagogue. And, with Gentiles, even though Paul was offended by their many gods, he learned enough about their beliefs in order to compliment their "great religiousness" and speak as if the true God was the "unknown God" to whom the Athenians had set up a shrine among their many altars. Because he had learned from both groups about their perspective, he was a powerfully effective evangelist.
We can learn from an incident that involved two debating rabbinic groups of Jesus' time, the disciples of Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai. (Some of their discussions come up in the gospels, and Jesus usually sided with Hillel.) Both had good insights, but ultimately the opinions of Hillel won out. Why? Because the Shammaites presented their views as absolute answers and ignored those of Hillel, while the Hillelites studied both sides, and then presented Shammai's opinions before giving their own. Because they considered both sides, they had greater intellectual depth in their reasoning, and their opinions won the day. 2
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