Problem: Proverbs contradicts itself on fools
Verses: Proverbs 26:4-5; Status: Weak

Here are the verses Proverbs 26:4 and Proverbs 26:5:

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. (ESV)

I don't regard this as a problem at all - it's what I would call "contradiction for rhetorical effect". The fact that the two verses are right next to each other indicates that the contradiction is deliberate. The intended meaning appears to be: Arguing with a fool: you're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't.

Updated: Summer 2008

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