HOW DOES THE BOOK OF PROVERBS RELATE TO THE THEOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
SUBMITTED TO REV. ALASTAIR MEWAN IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF OT302—FROM ISRAEL TO JUDEA
BY 200816337 OCTOBER 9, 2009
A is essay seeks to answer the question of how the Proverbs relate to the theology of the Old Testament by following through the history of interpretation, predominantly over the previous century, and by addressing many of the criticisms of the Book of Proverbs. It will conclude with the present state of solarship, and suggest further steps to consolidate an evangelical answer to the problems and issues faced.
I Despite the Old Testament being an ancient collection of texts, OT solarship has anged remarkably over the last century. is is particularly true of the Book of Proverbs, and of Israelite wisdom literature generally. Proverbs whi began the twentieth century as the orphan of the family amongst biblical literature,¹ experienced a period of pronounced fame and recognition, and also a period as an outcast, and by the end of the century was being drawn ba into the ﬂo. For most of this time of transition, however, Proverbs has been undervalued theologically, and has oen been seen by many solars as separate from the practice of theology, and always an enigma.² is essay seeks to answer the question of how the Proverbs relate to the theology of the Old Testament by following through the history of interpretation, predominantly over the previous century—in whi mu aention has been given, and a diverse range of ideas have been suggested—and by addressing many of the criticisms of the Book of Proverbs. It will conclude with the present state of solarship, and suggest further steps to consolidate an evangelical answer to the problems and issues faced.
A H I In 1958 Hartmut Gese wrote, “It is well known that the wisdom literature constitutes and alien body in the world of the Old Testament.”³ By so doing he summarised the previous thirty years of solarship on wisdom literature, and particularly the Book of Proverbs. For it was in 1923 that the Instruction of Amenemope was discovered. Almost overnight a decade of focused sol-
¹ James L. Crenshaw, Studies in Ancient Israelite Wisdom (ed. Harry M. Orlinsky; New York: KTAV Publishing House, 1976), 1–3. ² Katharine J. Dell, ‘Reviewing Recent Resear on the Wisdom Literature’, ExpTim 119, no. 6 (Mar 2008): 261–269. ³ Hartmut Gese, Lehre und Wirklikeit in der alten Weisheit (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebe], 1958), 2, cited by James L. Crenshaw, ”Prolegomenon,” in Studies in Ancient Israelite Wisdom (New York: KTAV Publishing House, 1976), 2.
2 arship began, from 1925 to 1936 the Book of Proverbs was the centre of aention. e verses in particular were Prov. 22:1–23:23.⁴ Focused solarship almost unanimously declared that Proverbs as more akin to the ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature than to the OT canon. While biblical solars centered on the salvation-historical approa to biblical theology they found it diﬃcult to reconcile the sapiential texts of the Israelites to the remainder of the canon.⁵ ough as the biblical theology movement began, a broader picture of theology was seen, requiring that the whole canon be brought under the title of theology. us, Proverbs and the other sapiential texts received another decade of spotlight. Goldingay summed up the 1960s by saying that Proverbs was beginning to be seen in light of the whole OT canon.⁶
C P OT C As mentioned above, the Proverbs was seen as an orphan in biblical literature. is was the case since the Protestant Reformation, whi focused on systematic, or dogmatic, theology.⁷ e Proverbs, with their focus on the individual, la of salvation-history motifs, and seemingly secular dealings amongst society were oen set aside, or simply ignored. is continued with the discovery of many Ancient...