Interpreting the Book of Proverbs (Part 8)

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With our first seven posts (for the last post, click here), we have looked at three principles for interpreting Proverbs. With this post and the next, we will look at the fourth guideline.

IV. Observing Literary Clues in a Specific Context.

I will give a brief overview of the literary features that are found in paragraphs of proverbial material and in one-verse units.

A. Three Literary Clues

When examining units containing more than one verse, there are many literary clues on which to focus. We will examine three of these.

1. Repetition

This is a major device in biblical poetry for showing emphasis. In the Hebrew text of Proverbs 30:11–14, the Hebrew word translated as “kind” in NASB stands at the head of each verse.

    11There is a kind of man who curses his father; and does not bless his mother.
    12There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes; yet is not washed from his filthiness.
    13There is a kind—oh how lofty are his eyes! And his eyelids are raised in arrogance.
    14There is a kind of man whose teeth are like swords; and his jaw teeth like knives, to devour the afflicted from the earth, and the needy from among men (bold print reflects my emphasis).

The Hebrew term translated in NASB as kind places an emphasis on those characterized by whatever is described in this context. This term is best correlated with a group of society having similar characteristics. It is not just an occasional individual but a group within the society who are characterized in this context by showing disrespect for their parents, self-righteousness, arrogance, and oppression of the needy.

2. Synonyms

The use of synonyms will also show an emphasis in a passage. This is demonstrated in Proverbs 6:20–35. After an exhortation to follow his commandments in vv. 20–23, Solomon provides his “son” with a proverbially packaged treatment of “You shall not commit adultery.” He uses a number of synonyms to describe a potential partner in adultery. She is called an “evil woman,” an “adulteress” (v. 24), a “prostitute” who has cheap price tag and a “married woman” who “hunts down a precious life” (v. 26). She is also characterized in v. 25 as having “beauty” and knowing how to use her eyes (“eyelashes”). The build up of synonyms shows that the adulteress is an evil and cunning foe of God’s moral will.

Through the use of synonyms for wisdom and folly, as well as examples of each, the overall unifying theme of Proverbs 1–9 is an extended conflict between wisdom and folly. The addressees of these chapters are encouraged to choose wisdom over folly (for a fuller development, see Ryken, Words of Delight, pp. 317–19).

3. Other Literary Features

Certain literary aspects of a given text may show the emphasis of a passage. For example, the numerical saying places an emphasis on the enumerated item that corresponds to the highest digit in the last line. In Proverbs 30:18–19 the sage indicates that there are four items which are too wonderful for him to understand. The emphasis of the text is on the fourth enumerated item, “the way of a man with a virgin” (see earlier discussion of poetic parallelism with the first principle of interpretation).

More needs to be developed about observing literary clues, but this will have to wait for the next post.

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A Young-Earth Creationist’s Response to Erickson, Grudem, and Lewis and Demarest

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I did a post on November 23 about Dr. Terry Mortenson‘s response to William Dembski’s theodicy. In the current issue of the Answers Research Journal, Terry initially provides evidence that supports a young-earth creationist position followed by his response to the treatment of the age of the earth presented in three well-known theologies (Erickson, Grudem, and Lewis & Demarest). Here is the abstract for this article.

In the past few decades there has been a growing controversy in society and in the Church over evolution and the age of the earth. Some Christians accept the idea of billions of years, as taught by the scientific establishment, while others contend that Scripture requires that we believe that creation is only a few thousand years old. Systematic theology texts are influential in this debate as they are used in the training of future pastors, missionaries, and seminary and Christian college professors and are also read by many lay people, thus affecting the Church’s witness. After briefly explaining the evidence in defense of the young-earth creationist view and why this subject is important, three deservedly respected theology textbooks will be examined regarding their teachings on the age of the earth. It will be argued that in spite of their many helpful remarks, these scholars have not adequately explained the biblical truth on this subject nor have they persuasively defended their old-earth positions and provided convincing rebuttals to the young-earth view. On this subject then, I conclude, these systematic theology texts are not helping but rather hindering the Church in her witness in our evolutionized world.

To read the full article, go to the Answers Research Journal.

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Climategate: Global Warming & Lies

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The scandal known as Climategate started on the night of November 19 when a compressed file with 1,073 emails and about 3,600 other files showed up as a download in Siberia. These emails and files had been removed from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, in the United Kingdom. To get quick information about key facts with this scandal, check out “Fast Facts About Climategate.”

Before Climategate began on November 19, evidence was available to call into question global warming, even though ex-presidential candidate, Al Gore (I did not vote for him), disagreed (for starters with this evidence, go here, here, here, and here). Unfortunately, because of the foolishness of our President (as you might expect, I didn’t vote for him either!) and the majority of our Congressmen, the American public will have to pay for their arrogance.

However, what concerns me more than our flawed governmental leaders are the evangelicals who have signed the questionable Evangelical Call to Action on Climate Change (here is a list of the signatories). If you want more information about this evangelical compromise, check out Fred Butler’s “False Prophets (for some helpful links, go to Steve Hays’ “Linkfest on Climategate“). In the last few weeks, the recent exposé “Climategate: the Final Nail in the Coffin of ‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’?” should challenge us to be careful before we get on any evangelical bandwagon.

I have been skeptical of global warming for many years and even did my first post on it in the first few months when I started blogging. However, you should not take my opposition to the climate change movement to indicate that I have no concern about the environment. Because of the dominion mandate in Genesis 1, I have some level of concern for my stewardship in taking care of the environment. However, IMNSHO, most of our politically correct governmental leaders and some evangelicals have elevated climate change to a virtual apocalyptic nightmare and this is unbiblical. Since all of life is in the hands of an absolutely sovereign God, the heavens and earth will not be destroyed until he choses (2 Pet 3:12). However, until that time, let me suggest that we attempt to think biblically. For example, Genesis 8:22 contains a divine promise: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” If we believe God, we should regulate our lives by this promise.

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