He who hears the shema drinks the shekar!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Gott Proverbs?

Norman K. Gottwald argued nearly 50 years ago that the Hebrew Proverbs are "generally mediocre as literature, tedious as ethics, banal as religion" (A Light to the Nations, New York: Harper, 1959: 472). For someone who was quite critical of the historical-critical school, it's remarkable how little Gottwald's sociological models and ethnographic parallels -- seen chiefly in his 'peasant revolt' theory of Israel's origins -- move us beyond what the critical school had been saying for decades prior.

Thankfully, numerous studies in 'Wisdom literature' more recently have demonstrated how woefully wrong Gottwald is on all three accounts. Raymond van Leeuwen's Context and Meaning in Proverbs 25-27 should be required-reading for anyone trying to work their way through Proverbs' poetic skill, rhetorical subtleties, and theological acumen. Bruce Waltke's recent commentary on Proverbs works this out in even greater detail.