Friday, April 20, 2007

Meandering mashal musings

[...a title that will only amuse my Hebrew readers. (Mashal is a hamfisted transliteration of the Hebrew word for "proverb," as in mishley shlomoh — "Proverbs of Solomon.")]

Over on Pyro I just reviewed Longman's commentary on Proverbs. Since I didn't want the review to equal the book in length, there were some things I left out, among which are the following:

I really liked Longman's handling of many of the sapiential terms (the Hebrew words behind "wisdom," "discernment," "understanding," "insight"). I will go back and revisit my own translations, and perhaps reconsider some of them.

And while I'm not dead-sure I agree, Longman's wrestling with Proverbs 8, with issues of the afterlife, with gender-issues, was beneficial. One area with which I know I disagree, however: on the one hand, he unapologetically affirms that the supposed audience is male, but says we can just turn around remarks about men or women, genderwise. For instance, things Solomon says about marriage to an argumentative and angry women can simply be flipped to apply to an argumentative and angry man.

Now, in the first place, of course it is true: marriage to an argumentative and angry man has to be nightmarish.

On the other hand: it seems to me that respect for verbal inspiration leads us to wonder why some things are recurrent themes in Proverbs. The argumentative woman, the woman driven to destroy her family (14:1b) and specifically her husband (12:4b); by contrast the excellent woman who makes her husband feel like a king (12:4a), and is so encouraging that he achieves excellence and prominence himself (31:23).

Is it really just a flip of the coin that these are all gender-aimed as they are? I don't think so.

Also, I wish the book had been laid out different. The Theological sections are not well set apart, as far as the printed layout. I wish a smarter "hand" had guided the composition of the book, in terms of typesetting — if that isn't an archaic term.

I was puzzled that Longman didn't interact with Kidner more. On that, Pyro readers may be puzzled that I consider Waltke and Kidner as indispensible. Waltke is about 95,000 pages, and misses nothing; Kidner is about 12 pages, and brief. How can I say that they are both "must-haves"?

That was my initial impression of Kidner as well: too brief! But as the years passed, and my understanding of Proverbs (I hope) deepened, so did my appreciation for Kidner. Kidner is simply a marvel of compression. His style is almost Proverbial in itself. One title, one phrase, will be so well-crafted, so pithy, so memorable, that it will suggest a whole line of thought all its own.

Oh, theologically I'm to the right of Kidner. For that matter, I'm to the right of most writers. But his comments, while brief, expose a depth of thought and reflection, and a mastery of wordcraft, that Longman and I both would do well to pursue, but to which neither of us has attained.

I do read commentaries on Proverbs with some trepidation. It has long been a dream of mine to write a commentary on Proverbs myself. For that matter, it's a dream of mine to be published, period. (I was given hope on that a year or so ago, but it has dwindled.)

But Proverbs has lacked commentaries that are academically and exegetically sound, theologically rich, and both pastorally and homiletically useful. Something like Leupold, only in Proverbs.

So I read each commentary with the thought in the back of my mind: is there still a need for such a commentary?

I read Waltke and think "Yes," because it is almost too deep — though it is certainly excellent. I read Longman and think "Yes," for reasons suggested in the Pyro review.

I'm reading Kitchen now... and it's worrying me.

5 comments:

Highland Host said...

After being treated to Philip H. Eveson dismantling Longman's view of Ecclesiastes, I am not terribly surprised that he's knuckled under a bit to feminism, though I'm glad he hasn't gone completely off the wall in Proverbs as he did in Ecclesiastes. Of course the gender-roles are important! People are divided into two categories, male and female, ignorance of this fact can lead to great confusion!!!

Garry Weaver said...

I am not prodigal with my compliments, so please take me seriously when I say that you have a tremendous gift in writing. If you would write a commentary on any portion of Scripture, I would buy it and use it.

I can't tell you how many times I've come to this blog and found you articulating things that I have thought about, but was never able to put into coherent, systematic verbiage. So, if you are waiting to be asked; please write a commentary on Proverbs.

DJP said...

Pastor Weaver, thanks for your kind words and encouragement.

I'm sure you have a full prayer-list, but if I could, I'd ask you to put two things on it for me, however briefly:

1. That the Lord would guide and give success to my search to devote myself fulltime to the ministry of the Word.

2. That the Lord would give me a publisher willing to act to publish me.

Thanks again.

Ashen White said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Stilley said...

I'll add my voice to Gary's saying "Keep writing, brother."

And, I will continue to pray for you and your ministry.