OK, so I’m on a Proverbs kick tonight. In advance of the online colloquium entitled on recent trends in the interpretation of the Book of Proverbs on the Biblical Studies discussion list, I thought I could offer a modest survey of commentaries available on the Book of Proverbs.
Proverbs is one biblical book that is better to take in small doses, rather than read straight through. That being said, there have been some recent scholarship on the composition and redaction of the book of Proverbs that suggests it was not compiled haphazardly (see my post on the compilation and redaction of the Book of Proverbs here). Most of the more recent commentaries also explore the connections and smaller collections within the book of Proverbs. In this regard note especially Garrett, Van Leeuwen, and Waltke.
When we turn to commentaries on the book of Proverbs there are a lot of different options. Murphy is one of the preeminent scholars on the wisdom literature of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. His three works on Proverbs are all worth consulting, though his WBC is perhaps the best of his work. Fox is also excellent for scholars and pastors, as is Clifford. I would be remiss to not mention the excellent and extremely thorough (albeit somewhat conservative) commentary by one of my former professors, Bruce Waltke. I highly recommend it. Hubbard is a good popular commentary, and I have been impressed with Farmer and Koptak. Wright‘s volume is invaluable for a historical perspective.
Beginning next week, the Biblical Studies discussion list will be hosting an online colloquium entitled “Proverbs — Recent Trends in Interpretation and Exegesis.” The guest scholar for the colloquium is Knut Martin Heim, Tutor in Biblical Studies at the Queen’s Foundation in Birmingham, England.
Knut has recently published Like Grapes of Gold Set in Silver: An Interpretation of Proverbial Clusters in Proverbs 10:1-22:16 (Walter de Gruyter, 2001; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com; see RBL review here). Knut’s volume is one of a growing number of works exploring the compilation, redaction, and structure of the book of Proverbs. This exciting avenue of research bucks the traditional view that ignores a contextual reading of individual proverbs or contends that once a proverb is included in a written collection it is effectively “dead.” In contract, Knut, and others mentioned below, contend that the redactors of the book of Proverbs purposefully arranged individual sayings into pairs and larger groups based on common themes, wordplay, catchwords, paronomasia, etc., creating a new literary context for interpretation and performance.
In addition to Knut’s book, there are a number of other significant works in this area, including the volumes by Snell, Van Leeuwen, and Whybray. In addition, some other important studies are noted below.
According to Van Leeuwen, one of the most crucial problems in the interpretation of literary texts is the determination and use of context in establishing meaning. While form criticism helps define the context of individual pericopes, it doesn’t help with larger contexts. Form criticism was founded on the assumption that smaller oral or literary units had a Sitz im Leben out of which they arose and whose life concerns they served. However, the search for a Sitz im Leben and a concrete referents are particularly acute in certain biblical texts (Psalms, wisdom, legal texts, etc.) where the givens for reconstructing the life situation or historical referent of a text are few or lacking. This problem is acute with Prov 10-22:16; 25-29, as in these chapters we have self-sufficient literary units that are extremely terse and without any historical “hooks.” The concern of this work is the literary context of the proverbs, their Sitz im Buch. This involves two types of contexts: (i) immediate: the juxtaposition of letters, words, sentences, and pericopes, more of less in contiguity; and (ii) distant context: meaningful literary similarities or contrasts that are created and discerned in texts that are not contiguous. Van Leeuwen focuses on the question of contiguous context in the interpretation of Prov 25-27 and argues chapters 25 and 26 are independent literary units, while chapter 27 is a “proverb miscellany” of sorts.
This study important study by Whybray investigates the process by which the disparate material in Proverbs was brought together to form a single book, and also to seek to understand the structure and character of the book in its final form. Whybray assumes that the proverbs were originally independent and were then assembled into collections employing two criteria for discerning deliberately organized groups of proverbs: (1) identity of sense; and (2) identity of sound (alliteration, assonance, rhyme, verbal repetition). He concludes the book of Proverbs is composed of a number of originally distinct sections of which the majority had complicated pre-histories. Despite the disparate origins, these different sections exhibit some common themes, like the importance of the acquisition of wisdom and the contrast between the righteous and the wicked, etc. There is, however, no evidence of a systematic editing of the whole work for dogmatic or theological reasons. In contrast, the book of Proverbs was compiled as a compendium of traditional educational or instructional material in order to gather on to a single scroll all writings of this kind which the final editor thought should be preserved.
Some other noteworthy works include the following:
Theodore A. Hildebrandt, “Proverbial Pairs: Compositional Units in Proverbs 10-29,â€? JBL 107 (1988) 207-224. Hildebrandt discusses the formation of “proverbial pairs,” but doesn’t touch on the issue of larger groups of proverbs in Prov 10-29.
A. Meinhold, Die SprÃ¼che. I. SprÃ¼che Kapital 1-15 (ZÃ¼rcher Kommentare AT, 16.1. ZÃ¼rich: Theologischer Verlag, 1991). Meinhold includes some attempts to discover the process of composition of the book of Proverbs. For 10:1-22:16 and chaps. 25-29 he postulates a series of stages of composition from the formation of pairs and triads to that of larger groups that have further developed into chapters and sub-collections (10-15; 16:1-22:16; 25-27; 28-29) and then finally into main collections (10:1-22:16; 25-29).
Otto PlÃ¶ger, SprÃ¼che Salomos (Proverbia) (BKAT 17; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1984; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com). PlÃ¶ger conceives Proverbs to have assumed its present shape in the early postexilic period, the result of the gathering together of three collections: (1) that of chaps. 1-9 could have had a seperate existence; (2) that of 10:1-22:16, with two independent appendices in 22:17-24:22 and 24:23-34; and (3) that of chaps. 25-29 with individual appendices in chaps. 30 and 31, each of which is in two parts. In general, the material of the second collection can be assigned to the middle period of the monarchy and that of the third to the latter period. The introductory first collection, while it may contain some preexilic material, in substance represents that final stage of the book’s composition.
Patrick W. Skehan, Studies in Israelite Poetry and Wisdom (CBQMS 1: Washington, D.C.: Catholic Biblical Association, 1971; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com). This collection contains Skehan’s classic essays on the structure of Proverbs, complete with scintillating — and compelling — numerical patterns.
If this post has whetted your appetite for this sort of research into the book of Proverbs, I encourage you to participate in the online colloquium with Professor Knut Heim on the Biblical Studies discussion list.
I have been negligent in my posting of new reviews in the Review of Biblical Literature (bad Tyler!). I almost decided to forego the ones that I missed, but I just couldn’t do it! So here they are in all of their glory — this post brings me up to date.
Take special note of the the review of Hossfeld and Zenger’s new Psalms commentary (I have sung their praises often on this blog), a review of the latest editions of the new French translation of the Septuagint, La Bible d’Alexandrie, as well as Joe Cathey’s review.
Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
Britt, Brian. Rewriting Moses: The Narrative Eclipse of the Text. Reviewed by Mark Mcentire
Chapman, Cynthia R. The Gendered Language of Warfare in the Israelite-Assyrian Encounter Reviewed by Mayer Gruber
Eschelbach, Michael A. Has Joab Foiled David?: A Literary Study of the Importance of Joab’s Character in Relation to David Reviewed by Regine Hunziker-Rodewald
Fischer, Irmtraud (Translated by Linda Maloney). Women Who Wrestled with God: Biblical Stories of Israel’s Beginnings. Reviewed by Athalya Brenner
Freedman, Amelia Devin. God as an Absent Character in Biblical Hebrew Narrative: A Literary-Theoretical Study. Reviewed by Walter Brueggemann
Gass, Erasmus. Die Ortsnamen des Richterbuchs in historicher und redaktioneller Perspektive. Reviewed by Uwe Becker and Ernst A. Knauf
Grabbe, Lester L. and Alice Ogden Bellis, eds. The Priests in the Prophets: The Portrayal of Priests, Prophets and Other Religious Specialists in the Latter Prophets. Reviewed by Henrietta Wiley
Hossfeld, Frank-Lothar and Erich Zenger (Edited by Klaus Baltzer; translated by Linda M. Maloney). Psalms 2: A Commentary on Psalms 51-100. Reviewed by Thomas Kraus
Phil Harland over at Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean blog has started a series of posts on the History of Satan, inspired by an undergraduate course of the same name he is teaching this term. In his first post (Satan 1), Phil describes the upcoming series as follows:
Welcome to ongoing discussions regarding the origins, development, and significance of personified evil — Satan and his demons — in early Judaism and in the history of Christianity. We will be tracing the history of Satan (a.k.a. the Devil, Beelzebul, Beliar, Mastema, Lucifer, Mephisto) and his minions from ancient Mesopotamian chaos-monsters to early Jewish and Christian fallen angels to modern portrayals in music, television, and film.
His second post (Satan 2) looks some at important predecessors of Satan from the Ancient Near East which help us to understand the rise of the figure of Satan, such as the different chaos monsters like Lotan/Leviathan. His third post (Satan 3) covers some terms often associated with Satan in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, including the term satan “the adversary” often translated (perhaps incorrectly) as “Satan.”
The series is off to a great start and looks to be a very interesting series of posts. I have some ideas about the development of Satan in the Hebrew Bible (especially 1Chronicles 21) as well as the influence of the Septuagint translation to the notion of Satan that I may blog on in the near future if time permits. Of course, it would be interesting to look at Satan in popular culture, as well.
Make sure to take a look at Phil’s blog. You can always say the “Devil made me do it!”
OK, in my heart of hearts I am a Macintosh user. I get excited on days like today when Steve Jobs announces new screaming fast Macintosh laptops and iMacs (all running on Intel chips!). While I wondered about the move to Intel (see here), it looks as if Jobs pulled it off! Read CNET news for up-to-date reporting from Macworld here.
And then there’s my Dell Laptop. I like my laptop (Inspiron 8600), though sometimes I wonder if I got a lemon! I have had to replace the harddrive, motherboard, memory, DVD drive over its 2.5 years lifespan (I’m just glad I bought the extended warranty!). I am in the process of doing a complete re-install of Windows XP. I am hoping that this will get rid of the demons that have been plaguing my system for the last month or so. I don’t know if I picked up some malware or something, if I did I couldn’t find it with all of the spyware programs I ran! At any rate, part of me is really tempted to return to the Macintosh whole-heartedly and forget this cross platform stuff. (I am typing this on my dual processor Mac G4)
But, alas, my workplace is a Windows workplace and I do have a bunch of software that is Windows only which I find indispensable — not as indispensable as my Accordance Bible Software for the Macintosh! — but indispensable nonetheless!
Well, Windows XP has finished re-installing. Now to rebuild my configurations…
The 1936 film Green Pastures — a fascinating retelling of a number of stories from the Old Testament — has just been released today on DVD by Warner Home Video. This film was innovative for its day in that black actors fill every role — from God to Moses, Noah to Pharaoh. The film was adapted from Marc Connelly’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. It has been available on VHS for a while, but this is the first time on DVD.
The Green Pastures (Director: Marc Connelly and William Keighley, 1936).
Buy from Amazon.ca: VHS or DVD | Buy from Amazon.com: VHS or DVD
Modern viewers may be uncomfortable with some of the racial stereotypes in the film, though I am not sure it warranted a disclaimer such as Warner put at the beginning.
At any rate, it has to be understood and appreciated as a product of its time. Order yours today… I know I did!
I have always wondered why my Atom site feed wasn’t working properly for people to easily subscribe to my blog easily. I finally decided to figure it out and I believe I have it all fixed. I also added a feedburner RSS 2.0 feed for my blog. Links to both feeds may be found in my left navigation column. Here they are as well:
I have finally figured out why Jonah took off to Tarshish when God told him to go to Nineveh! Jonah wasn’t being disobedient to God, he was just obeying a higher authority — his wife Anak! I have it on good evidence that Jonah’s wife evidently kicked him out of bed because of his snoring! At least that is my theory based on the Septuagint translation of Jonah 1:5-6!
My theory has nothing to do with the fact that I snore a little bit. OK, full confession: I snore really loud — just ask my wife or my kids! In order to gain some appreciation for how loud I snore, let me provide two illustrations. (1) As many of you know, I recently moved into a new house — a new house with a spare bedroom upstairs (also know as the “snoring room”). One night I had been sent to the snoring room and subsequently fell fast asleep. For some reason, in the middle of the night my wife had to go downstairs. She discovered that in the middle of the night she could hear my snoring everywhere in the house! (2) Last spring when I was in Toronto, I stayed at a good friend’s house. I ended up sleeping in his kids’ playroom. I am told that in the middle of the night his oldest son woke up and heard a horrible growling noise coming from the playroom. He ran to his parents’ room scared and told them all about the monster in his playroom. (Just in case you need the dots connected, I was the monster and my snoring was the growling. Also, don’t worry — I don’t have sleep apnea.)
Anyway… back to Jonah and my amazing theory. The Hebrew of Jonah 1:5 is pretty standard. Jonah takes off and boards a ship and goes down to the hold to catch a few zees. I guess it isn’t that boring since his sleep is described as ×¨×“×?, which is typically rendered as “deep sleep” or even “trance” (the cognate nominal is used in Genesis 2:21 to describe Adam’s Yahweh-induced sleep when having his rib removed). What I find interesting is how the Septuagint translates ×¨×“×? with the verb á¿¥á½³Î³Ï‡Ï‰ “snore.” And Jonah’s snoring was apparently loud enough for the captain of the ship to hear him from above deck as he comes down to Jonah and asks him what is he doing snoring when a life threatening storm has been thrown to the Sea by Yahweh.
So, the moral of the story is if you snore, you’re in good company! Even the prophet Jonah snored… and we all know what a paragon of faithfulness and mercy he was!
If you like to pretend to be civilized and enjoy a good cup of tea with your scones, you may be interested in the exchange between some (biblio)bloggers about the best cup of tea. Joe Cathey likes the exotic, Jim West prefers the pre-packaged, while Jim Spinti likes the French. (And it appears they can’t agree — see Joe’s follow-up here and Jim’s here)
I personally don’t get into hot drinks much, whether tea or coffee, and I probably haven’t had a cup of tea since my grandmother passed away four years ago. But I did enjoy having a spot of tea with her — especially if it was in conjunction with some of her famous Welsh Cakes! I do know that my Grandma was very particular about tea — and she insisted that the only tea worth drinking was Red Rose Tea, a Canadian classic since 1860. Furthermoe, you should never drink tea with anything in it — it must be clear. And, of course, don’t forget to raise that pinkie!
So sorry, my American friends, my beloved Grandma (RIP) trumps you all!
Red Rose Tea — “Only available in Canada? Pity”
(While Red Rose is available in Britain and the U.S. now, the original Canadian variety is still considered the best!)