“It is from within,
From the human heart,
That evil intentions come.
All these evil things
Come from within.
They defile a person.”
ἔσωθεν γὰρ ἐκ τῆς καρδίας τῶν ἀνθρώπων οἱ διαλογισμοὶ οἱ κακοὶ ἐκπορεύονται, πορνεῖαι, κλοπαί, φόνοι,
μοιχεῖαι, πλεονεξίαι, πονηρίαι, δόλος, ἀσέλγεια, ὀφθαλμὸς πονηρός, βλασφημία, ὑπερηφανία, ἀφροσύνη·
πάντα ταῦτα τὰ πονηρὰ ἔσωθεν ἐκπορεύεται καὶ κοινοῖ τὸν ἄνθρωπον.
There is something similar to this in Matthew, chapter 15:19-20. Mark indicated that Jesus said that it is from within the heart of a person (ἔσωθεν γὰρ ἐκ τῆς καρδίας τῶν ἀνθρώπων) that evil or wicked thoughts come forth spreading out (οἱ διαλογισμοὶ οἱ κακοὶ ἐκπορεύονται). This included such evil things as fornication or pornography (πορνεῖαι), theft (κλοπαί), murders or killings (φόνοι), adulteries (μοιχεῖαι), avarice (πλεονεξίαι), wickedness (πονηρίαι), deceit (δόλος), licentiousness or wanton sensuality (ἀσέλγεια,), envy or the evil eye (ὀφθαλμὸς πονηρός), slander, abusive language, or blasphemy (βλασφημία), pride (ὑπερηφανία), and folly or foolishness (ἀφροσύνη). This list in Mark was longer and different than the list in Matthew. All these evil things came from within (πάντα ταῦτα τὰ πονηρὰ ἔσωθεν). They come forth from the person (ἐκπορεύεται). They are the things that defile a person (καὶ κοινοῖ τὸν ἄνθρωπον). You can clearly see what Jesus, his disciples, and the early Christian community considered as sins or defilements that made a person unclean or defiled.
“All this I have tested by wisdom.
‘I will be wise.’
But it was far from me.
It is far off.
It is deep.
It is very deep.
Who can find it out?
I turned my mind to know it.
I turned my mind to search it out.
I turned to seek wisdom.
I turned to seek the sum of things.
I know that wickedness is folly.
I know that foolishness is madness.”
Qoheleth was tested by wisdom. He wanted to be wise, but it was far away and too deep for him. He wanted to know who was able to find wisdom. Unlike the psalms, where the beginning of wisdom was simply fear of Yahweh, Qoheleth has a hard time finding wisdom, since he does not make the connection here with the fear of God. He wanted to know about wisdom and calculations. He knew that wickedness and foolishness were folly and madness.
“So I turned to consider wisdom.
I considered madness.
I considered folly.
What can one do
Who comes after the king?
Only what has already been done.
Then I saw that wisdom excels folly
As light excels darkness.
‘The wise have eyes in their head.
But fools walk in darkness.’”
Now Qoheleth considered, wisdom, madness, and folly again. What happens when a king dies? The next king will pretty much do what the preceding king had done. Finally, he saw the light. He realized that wisdom exceeds folly just like light exceeds darkness. Wisdom is light while folly is darkness. This picks up the main theme of Proverbs again. The wise have eyes in their head, but the fools are blind, walking in darkness.
“I said to myself.
I will make a test of pleasure.
This also was vanity.
I said of laughter.
‘It is mad.’
I said of pleasure.
‘What use is it?’
I searched with my mind
How to cheer my body with wine.
My mind was still guiding me with wisdom.
How am I am to lay hold of folly?
I wanted to see
What was good for mortals
To do under heaven
During the few days of their life.”
Qoheleth was once again talking to himself. He wanted to enjoy pleasure. However, he found that it too was useless and in vain. He laughed, but it was kind of a mad laughter. What was the use of all this pleasure? He tried to cheer his body with wine, even though he was able to maintain the wisdom in his mind. He wanted to enjoy folly and foolishness. What kind of things can mortals do during their short span of life under the heavens?
“‘What is crooked cannot be made straight.
What is lacking cannot be counted.’
I said to myself.
‘I have acquired great wisdom.
My wisdom surpasses all
Who were over Jerusalem before me.
My mind has had great experience of wisdom.
My mind has had great experience of knowledge.
I applied my mind to know wisdom.
I applied my mind to know madness.
I applied my mind to know folly.
I perceived that this also is but a chasing after wind.
In much wisdom
Is much vexation.
Those who increases knowledge
This book once again has the first person singular of Qoheleth speaking. He points out, quite correctly, that the crooked cannot be made straight. However, you can come close. On the other hand, there is no doubt that you cannot count something that is not there. Then Qoheleth gets quite personal. He explains that he has great wisdom and knowledge, greater than anyone whoever was in Jerusalem before him. He knows the difference between wisdom, madness, and folly. In a kind of reversal of the Proverbs, he seems to imply that that with all this wisdom, he is still like chasing after the wind. More problems and vexation come with wisdom. There is an increase in sorrow that comes with more knowledge. Wisdom is not the be all and end all like in Proverbs.
“Whoever plans to do evil
Will be called a mischief-maker.
The devising of folly is sin.
The scoffer is an abomination to all.
If you faint in the day of adversity,
Your strength is small.”
Mischief-makers are those who plan to do evil. The very planning of folly is a sin. The scoffer or the mocker cynic is an abomination to all people. If you faint during hard times, your strength is obviously small.