(Yes, yes; probably more of a "putt" than a "drive.")
Full disclosure. Many don't think that you can have spirited disagreements with someone, and still cherish enthusiastic admiration for him. I can. I do, for Dr. Waltke.
Waltke is a towering Old Testament scholar. He has a high view of the authority of Scripture, and is first-rate in his possession and use of the tools of academia. His commentary on Proverbs may well be the best one ever written. If you listen to his lectures—and I recommend that you do—you gain the impression of a man who humbly and ardently loves the Lord and His Word. The church will be indebted to him for decades to come, or centuries, should the Lord tarry.
You're waiting for the "but." Here it comes.
But he says things that sometimes just drive me a bit batty. I have already ranted about Waltke's bizarre (and, to me, non-sensical) dance with "Yahweh" in his otherwise-breathtaking Proverbs commentary. Well, now he's rattled my cage again.
I'm in the process of listening through Waltke's lectures on preaching Proverbs, given at Dallas Theological Seminary, as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lecture speaker. They're thought-provoking, challenging, deep, as you'd expect.
But in the course of the first lecture, Dr. Waltke jarred me a few times. First, he said that "all translations" except the JW's New World version "are faithful and adequate." He clarifies that he means that "all translations lead their audience to faith in Jesus Christ, into sound doctrine, and never into heresy." He then said that a congregation can respond to any passage of Proverbs using any English translation.
This in itself was fairly dizzying to me, especially coming from a Hebrew scholar. Why study Hebrew, then? Just trust the experts. Every argument I've used when teaching Hebrew is smashed to the ground, if Dr. Waltke is saying, "Just trust the translators. They're experts. You're a novice."
Then Waltke did go on to allow that not all translations were equal as to exegetical accuracy or fluency. One begins to relax — except that he immediately states that he thinks the best translation is the TNIV! Yes, that's right; that bastard child of political correctness, which (as I've read the saga) never should have been published. This is a model translation, to the good Doctor (who, himself, was involved in its translation).
Now, honestly and sincerely, such is my respect for Dr. Waltke that I thought I should probably give it another look, and see if I was missing something. I didn't get very far. In Proverbs 16, the first two verses' singulars (in Hebrew) are changed to plurals, to avoid offending radical feminists. Same with verse 9. Same with verse 20. I could go on, and on, and on.
This is a very trendy fad, and I know an advocate could make himself look very sophisticated in browbeating down a simple reader such as myself. But as one who advocates verbal plenary inspiration, and who knows enough Hebrew to know that the authors could have used plural numbers if they'd meant to, I can never imagine being convinced that the pluralization of singulars arises from fidelity to the text of Scripture.
Nor would Dr. Waltke be impressed by my refusal to acquiesce. He speaks dismissively of "novices" (like me, I suppose) and their insistence on more literal renderings, and expresses some horror at pastors who dare to correct established translations. He sniffs that he's never heard a pastoral correction that hadn't been rejected by committee. Waltke further expresses agreement with Erasmus' objection that Luther's break with Rome would put a Pope in every pulpit.
Think that one over for a moment.
I suppose that, if anyone has earned a right to an elitist attitude, it would be a man like Bruce Waltke. I say that without sarcasm. As I wrote, and will likely say every time I write of him, Waltke is a towering scholar, and doubtless a seasoned brother in the Lord, worthy of deep respect. If I had achieved half of Dr. Waltke's accomplishments, I fear I'd be impossible to live with.
But this dismissive attitude concerns me. I'll go ahead and anger some of my friends by expressing aloud my curiosity as to whether this played any part in Waltke's move from dispensationalism into covenantalism. I've read Waltke's article in the S. Lewis Johnson Festschrift. Inherent in CT is a contempt for those who insist on thinking that the OT is not a codebook, that God actually meant what He said to His original audience, and that He spoke to be understood. If we think all these prophecies about Israel are really about Israel, we're just not being deep and nuanced enough. We need the magisterium to explain them down to us.
For my part, I respectfully decline the offer. If the Bible is that deeply coded, that in need of expert re-writing, then it is not as it represents itself (God's true and perspicuous word to man), and I want no part of it. The perspicuity of Scripture played a major role in my conversion. If I'm to give that up, my reason for becoming a Christian will also be undone.
Oh, and one more thing: Waltke does yet something else about "Yahweh" in these lectures. He doesn't use "Yahweh" or "Lord" (as in the commentary); he says that YHWH means "I AM," so he says "I AM" every time the text says "Yahweh." I didn't know many argued today that YHWH actually means "I am." If Waltke says it, there must be some good reason for it, and I'd like to read it.