Monday, July 28, 2008

Teaching of Amenemope

It is commonly held that Proverbs 22:17-24:22 is dependent on the Egyptian wisdom text The Teaching (or Instruction) of Amenemope. This view is summarized as follows: "As has long been recognized, the first subsidiary collection (22:17-23:11) is closely related to the Egyptian Instruction of Amen-em-opet, which probably dates between the tenth and sixth centuries BC. The introductory poem (22:17-21) and the ten themes discussed (22:22-23:11) follow--often word for word--their Egyptian source. Even the division of this source into thirty chapters ("houses") seems to have been borrowed by the Israelite redactor for the entire collection 22:17-24:22 (cf. 22:20, where the RSV correctly reads "thirty sayings" for the Hebrew "day before yesterday" or "adjutants"). The redactor was not, however, a mere translator; he used a third of the Egyptian Instruction to produce an anthology that treats the themes in a different order; in 22:26-27 he has interpolated a saying of his own. The borrowing may have taken place toward the end of the Israelite monarchy." (Quoted from Introduction to the Old Testament by Georg Fohrer, Abingdon Press, 1968, p. 321.

The arguments for Proverbs' dependence on this Egyptian source are thus: 1) The Hebrew material in 22:17-23:11 often follows the Egyptian source word for word. 2) The "thirty chapters" of the Egyptian text is reflected in the arrangement of the Hebrew text. 3) The Hebrew word translated "excellent things" in the KJV ought to be translated "thirty." Whether this data is sufficient to support the conclusion will be examined in our next few postings.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

2 Corinthians

For those with any facility in Greek, the contrast between 1 and 2 Corinthians could not be more stark. It is not that there is not affection and love in 1 Corinthians, or that Paul does not care deeply about the church at Corinth. It is more that in 2 Corinthians these things appear more fully in his language. It is as if 2 Cor is a more personal letter, dealing not so much with the issues at Corinth (though these are not absent) as with his heart for the people and their connection to him. The letter outlines as follows:

I. The character of Paul's ministry, chs 1-7
II. The giving heart, chs 8-9
III. The defense of Paul's ministry, chs 10-13

Monday, July 21, 2008

On Proverbs

The Book of Proverbs outlines quite nicely as follows:
I. Introductory discussions, chs 1-9
II. Proverbs of Solomon, 10:1-22:16
III. The Words of the Wise, 22:17-24:35
IV. Proverbs of Solomon copied out by men of Hezekiah, chs 25-29
V. The Words of Agur, ch 30
VI. The Words of Lemuel, ch 31

This makes clear a number of things. First, the majority of the book is from Solomon. Second, the book reached its final form no earlier than the time of Hezekiah (roughly 700 BC). The origins of "the words of the wise" are uncertain, though there is a certain consensus on the matter that I will call into question. As to who Agur and Lemuel are, the older commentators generally took the view that they were pseudonyms of Solomon. Modern commentators generally take them to be otherwise unknown wise men.

Purpose of Proverbs: The purpose is concisely, and poetically, stated in the first six verses of the book. It is a book of instruction, intended to exercise the mind of the reader. Thus, a number of key words for the book show up in those opening verses: wisdom, instruction, understanding, insight, prudence, simple, knowledge, discretion, etc.

Theology of Proverbs: It should be remembered first of all that the proverbs are not guarantees. They are divinely inspired observations on the ordinary course of God's providence in a fallen world. It should also be remembered that they are part of the Old Testament, when the nation of Israel primarily defined the people of God as a theocratic nation. Thus the Christian reader should expect that some of the things that would have been the ordinary course of providence in the Old Testament period, are somewhat different in the New Testament period. For example, the Book of Proverbs says nothing about the persecution of the saints, but the New Testament tells us that "all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim 3:12).

Commentaries and such: That by Derek Kidner in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series is invaluable. Of course, in the brief span of that commentary he does not deal with each verse. He does, however, have an exceptionally helpful section in the Introduction that deals with several different themes in the book. The older commentary by Charles Bridges (kept in print by Banner of Truth) is also useful. The modern technical commentary that I would recommend for pastors or those who would be pastors is that by Bruce Waltke in the New International Commentary series. It is a masterful treatment even if I don't agree with all his conclusions.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Answering a Question

WCF 7.5 speaks of the Covenant of Grace being differently administered in the time of the law, namely through prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances all foresignifying Christ to come.

My question is, could not David and Solomon be considered administers of the Covenant of Grace in their function of ruling and defending God's people and restraining and conquering all their and God's enemies?

The reading of the WCF is such that the statement "This covenant was differently administered" refers to God's administration of the covenant, not to the various administrators who would have been part of the covenant of grace. David and Solomon thus fit under the category of "other types." That is, in their role as kings, they typified the work of Christ as king. Likewise, the Aaronic priesthood typified Christ's priestly work, and Isaiah and the other prophets were types of the prophetic work of Christ.

It is true that David, Solomon, Aaron, Zadok and other were administrators of the covenant of grace, as elders are in the New Testament context, but that is not what the WCF has reference to in this paragraph.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Shema Deut 6:4

Any look at a modern translation of Deut 6:4 will reflect the uncertainty that translators have concerning the proper translation of the verse. One rendering is, of course, given in the text, but usually several other possibilities are given in the margin.

A literal translation is: Hear, Israel, Yhwh our God Yhwh one. The verse is made up of three phrases. The first is straightforward, and all translations agree on the proper rendering. It is made up of the second person singular imperative, and a noun in the vocative; thus, Hear, O Israel. The other phrases are made up completely of nouns (not unusual in Hebrew, as a form of the verb "to be" is understood). Several ways of rendering these phrases are possible. One way is to consider them as parallel statements: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one. Another is to consider them as distinct clauses, with the second modifying the first: Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone. Another way is to consider them as linked clauses: Yahweh our God is one Yahweh. All of these are grammatically possible, though the second option is usually dismissed, since it requires a use of the cardinal number one in an adverbial fashion, which the standard grammars and lexicons do not seem to recognize. The only standard grammar that gives any particular discussion of this verse is Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax by Bruce Waltke and Michael O'Connor, paragraph 8.4.2g.

However, in an article published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47 (2004): 193-212, and available online at Daniel Block argues convincingly for the rendering "Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone." Arguing partially from the fact of grammatical possibility, but mostly from contextual considerations that this rendering makes the best sense. For those with more than passing interest in the issue, I recommend Block's article.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On Kings vs. Chronicles "Contradictions"

It is often proposed that the material in Chronicles "contradicts" the similar material found in the books of Samuel and Kings. This is usually based on the observation that Chronicles tells us many things about the kings of Judah that are not told to us by the Books of Kings. That, of course, does not constitute a contradiction, merely a difference. Most of the differences between Chronicles and Kings can be explained by a consideration of the intent of the writer of Chronicles insofar as he makes it plain to us. It is clear, for example, that Chronicles is concerned primarily with the Davidic dynasty and the Solomonic temple, the latter attended by the Aaronic priesthood and the Levites. Note, as something of a programmatic text for that theme, 2 Chron 13:1-12.

In brief, the statement can be accurately made that the Books of Kings probably reached their final form during the period of the exile, and were written to demonstrate to the people that the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile itself were the just judgment of God upon a long disobedient people. The Books of Chronicles were written in the postexilic period with a view to encouraging the people that all hope was not lost, and that God was still merciful and gracious.

It is also apparent that the author of Chronicles knew the books of Samuel and Kings, since he drew a great deal of material from them, either verbatim or almost verbatim. Thus, it seems likely that he also supposed that his readers would have known those works, or at least to some extent have been familiar with them. Thus, material in Samuel-Kings, not suitable to the purpose of the author of Chronicles, has simply been omitted, the author knowing his readers would have been aware of the material in his sources. This explains the omission of David's committing of adultery and murder in the affair of Bathsheba. That episode was not pertinent to the author's purpose, and was thus omitted. Likewise, the repentance of Manasseh, found in Chronicles but not in Kings, suits the purposes of the former, but not the latter. The two accounts together give us a fuller view of the events of the period of the Israelite monarchy.

The most substantive discrepancies between the two accounts have to do with the numbers reported on various occasions. For example, compare 2 Sam 24:9 with 1 Chron 21:5. Both accounts treat of David's census. The first says, "in Israel there were 800,000 valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were 500,000." The second passage says, "In all Israel there were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, and in Judah 470,000 who drew the sword." There are two possible ways of dealing with this discrepancy. The first is to take the view that we are dealing with textual difficulties in the source or sources used by the authors. That is certainly a plausible explanation. The second approach is to consider that the numbers have references to somewhat different groups of people. So with Israel, the 800,000 would be those who were "valiant men," whereas the 1,100,000 would be the total. For Judah, the 470,000 would be those who "drew the sword," whereas the 500,000 would be the total.

In short, most of the difficulties are more apparent than real. For intersted readers, I would recommend Haley's Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible and Gleason Archer's Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Books of Kings

In my daily reading schedule, we have now come to the Books of Kings. The outline of the books is pretty simple:
I. Solomon's Reign, 1 Kgs 1-11
II. The Divided Kingdom, 1 Kgs 12-2 Kgs 17
III. The Fall of Judah, 2 Kgs 18-25

These books are included as part of the Former Prophets in the Hebrew Canon. Once you get past the reign of Solomon, you can tell why. The story from 1 Kgs 17-2 Kgs 7 is devoted to the exploits of Elijah and Elisha. In other words, more than one-fourth of the two books is devoted to the lives of two prophets. As you read through, you will also see references to other prophets playing a significant role in the story. Thus, the books can be understood as the history of Israel from the perspective of the prophets, explaining why the kingdom started out so well, how it lasted as long as it did, and how it came to its ignominious end. This differs from the history in Chronicles, which tells roughly the same story, but from the priestly perspective.

Happy reading!

Blog Use

Dear Reader,

Whoever you may be. I intend this site primarily as a resource for Q & A. So if you have a question regarding the Bible, how should you pose it? My recommendation is that you pose your question as a comment on my most recent post. That way, even if you have questions about an earlier post, or even about something entirely unrelated, I don't have to scroll through all my previous posts in order to get to your question.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Lament for America, July 4, 2008

Ah, America, what pride, luxury, lasciviousness, licentiousness, wantonness, drunkenness, cruelties, injustice, oppressions, fornications, adulteries, falsehood, hypocrisy, bribery, atheism, horrid blasphemies, and hellish impieties are now to be found rampant in the midst of thee! Ah America, America, how are the Lord’s sabbaths profaned, pure ordinances despised, scriptures rejected, the Spirit resisted and derided, the righteous reviled, wickedness countenanced, and Christ many thousand times in a day by these cursed practices afresh crucified. Ah, America, America, were our forefathers alive, how sadly would they blush to see such a horrid degenerate posterity, as is to be found in the midst of thee! How is our forefathers hospitality converted into riot and luxury, their frugality into pride and prodigality, their simplicity into subtilty, their sincerity into hypocrisy, their charity into cruelty, their chastity into chambering and wantonness, their sobriety into drunkenness, their plain dealing into dissembling, their works of compassion into works of oppression, and their love to the people of God, into an utter enmity against the people of God?

I have adapted this from Thomas Brooks’s The Privy (Secret) Key of Heaven, under heading 16: Consider, the times wherein we live call aloud for secret prayer. The only change I have made is to substitute “America” for Brooks’s “England.”