Thursday, October 30, 2008

Follow-up Regarding the Public Reading of Scripture

The following question was prompted by my last post: A woman in the congregation shares her testimony during the service. Said testimony includes the reading of a passage of Scripture. Is such a practice allowable?

I'll probably get myself in trouble with my answer, as it will be so hopelessly out of date and so terribly rigid. Neither the Westminster Confession of Faith nor the PCA Book of Church Order include "testimonies" as an element of worship. Hence, I think testimonies ought not be allowed in the public worship of the church. They are fine in any other setting, such as group Bible studies or prayer meetings. By extension, someone reading a passage of Scripture in the context of such a testimony is disallowed.

Further, I think women reading Scripture in public worship is disallowed. The Word of God is authoritative, which makes its reading in public worship an authoritative act. This would be disallowed by the strictures of 1 Tim 2:12

Monday, October 27, 2008

On Reading the Bible to the Congregation

One word--preparation. First, you should look over the passage. Are there any words you doesn't know? Then you need to look them up and learn how to pronounce them. Are there names? Ditto. (On this point, I would recommend that anyone who is going to read Scripture in public should purchase a "self-pronouncing" edition of the KJV and learn how to use the diacritical marks for the pronunciation of names.) Third, look at the punctuation of the passage. Where are the commas, the semi-colons, and the periods? These tell you where the pauses are. Fourth, practice. Read it aloud to someone. Try to follow the rhythm of the text, pausing and stopping where the punctuation indicates, and stressing important words and phrases. Have your listener critique your reading. Then you are ready to read the passage to the congregation.

One further note on names. If you mispronounce them, do so boldly, with certainty in your voice, and without stumbling. The one or two people who know how the name is pronounced will value your lack of stumbling, and the rest won't know the difference.

Amenemope 6 "Literary Dependence"

I realized that I had left my Amenemope posts incomplete. What still needs to be considered is the answer to the question, "What constitutes literary dependence of one work upon another?" Or in other words, on what basis do we determine that one literary work has depended on another for part of its content? Obviously, there would have to be similarity of content. Without that similarity, there would be no reason to consider dependence. But similarity of content, while it might be necessary, is not sufficient. I would think there would also have to be similarity of wording, and similarity of design.

Now we have seen that there is similarity of content between Amenemope and Prov 22:17-24:22. There is also some similarity of wording. If one buys the "thirty" argument, then there is also similarity of design. But is this enough to demonstrate literary dependence?I think not. It seems that one more thing would be necessary to demonstrate literary dependence. That would be that the similarities could not be explainable on any basis other than that of literary dependence.

We have already looked at the similarities of content. To anyone familiar with Proverbs, and with the proverbial literature of the Ancient Near East as a whole, these similarities are found throughout the whole gamut of proverbial literature. There is nothing in the content of Proverbs tying it to Amenemope that would not also tie it to a number of other collections of proverbial literature. Second, the similarity of wording linking Proverbs and Amenemope is not distinctive to the Proverbs-Amenemope intersection. The language used is typical of the whole range of proverbial literature. Finally, there is no similarity of design between Proverbs and Amenemope.

In short, while there are indeed some similarities between Proverbs and Amenemope, they are more likely due to the common style of the literature and the similar cultural contexts out of which the literature arose. It is hardly likely that one was literarily dependent upon the other.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mental Images of Jesus

The answer to Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 109 says in part that the second commandment forbids "the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind . . ." If you are not in a denomination with the Westminster Standards as its doctrinal foundation, or if you are in the the PCA and the OPC but have been living in a fog, you don;t know that many, if not most, men now coming for licensure and/or ordination in these denominations take exception to this statement. Their rationale is usually along the lines that it goes beyond Scripture, or how can we avoid making an image of Jesus when we think about him, or when we pray.

My response is twofold. First, the commandment forbids the making of images as well as it forbids the worshiping of them. Second, tells us that the man who looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery in his heart. That is, the mental image constitutes a violation of the commandment against adultery. It seems likely then, that the making of a mental image of Jesus constitutes a violation of the commandment not to make images.

Second, as any godly man disciplines himself against the entertaining of adulterous images in his mind, so it should be possible for a man to so discipline his mind that he does not create for himself mental images of Jesus. In fact, it should be easier for a man to do this, than to discipline himself against lustful images. After all the particular woman may be right in front of the man, but the Scripture gives us no description of Jesus. Hence one really has to work at constructing an image of Jesus, which we know from the start is idolatrous, because it is false. We have no idea what Jesus looked like, so to construct any image of him is to construct a false image.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Exodus 6:3

This is one of those verses that "proves" the Documentary Hypothesis concerning the origin of the Pentateuch. This verse says, "And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai; and my name Yhwh I did not make known to them." Hence every use of Yhwh in Genesis must be anachronistic.

This strikes me as a pretty literalistic reading of the text; far beyond the kind of literalism evangelicals are often charged with. The name Yhwh appears approximately 144 times in Genesis. Now either the writer of Exodus 6:3 was unaware of that fact, or he means something other than "pronounced" by "made known to." It has been commonly observed that though Yhwh is frequently used in Genesis, it is never explained there. It is not until Exodus 3 that some explanation is given of the meaning of God's name. Hence, the simple reading of the passage is "I did not explain my name to the patriarchs. They primarily knew me as El Shaddai."

Now this, by itself, does not prove the Documentary Hypothesis is incorrect. But it does suggest that such approaches to understanding the Old Testament as that promoted by the Documentary Hypothesis seem unwilling to deal with the Biblical text on its own terms. Rather, the scholars seek to create different terms for a basis on which to read the Old testament text. The Old Testament on its own terms is a dangerous body of literature. It always calls into question our assumptions about God and man, the world and our life in it. It is when we try to read the Bible on our terms that we tame it, and we no longer hear its corrective voice.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Amenemope 5: Thirty Chapters?

Under the influence of the idea that Proverbs 22:17-24:22 was dependent on "The Teaching of Amenemope," scholars have sought to find a thirty-part arrangement that parallels the thirty chapters of the Egyptian work. This is most obvious in the Good News Bible (GNB), which has each of the thirty sections numbered in the text. Most other versions are more subtle, indicating the arrangement of the "chapters" by the spacing of the text. But the difficulty for the translators and editors is to find a consistent division of the text that is really defensible.

For example, the GNB has Prov 22:17-21 serving as a sort of prologue to the entire thing, while 22:22-23 is the first chapter. It ends up with a total of thirty-one sections; the prologue and thirty numbered chapters. The HCSB on the other hand (by following the spacing of the text) has a total of twenty-nine sections--one short of thirty, and entirely absent a prologue. The ESV has only fourteen or fifteen sections (it's difficult to tell if they intend a new section starting at 24:1). It is difficult to tell on what basis one might divide sections, as there is little in the text itself to guide the division. Some sections clearly stand out on the basis of their content, such as the one on drunkenness in 23:29-35. However, much of the material is so generically "wisdom" that no real divisions seem to exist. Further, there seems to be nothing in the arrangement of the Hebrew text, or in word usage that would seem to lay out a clear pattern, let alone a clear thirty-chapter pattern. For example, the adverb of negation ('al) appears some twenty-five times in the text, but not in any way that allows for twenty-five subdivisions. The use of the imperative, and of the negative particle (lo') is even more infrequent.

In short, a comparison of various translations that uses "thirty" in 22:20 shows that there is no consensus in how the text should be subdivided, and most do not even achieve thirty sections. But clearly the attempt to find thirty (or almost thirty) sections in this material is driven by the assumption that Proverbs is dependent on Amenemope. Once again, the question, based on the evidence, becomes, "Is such.a dependence really likely?"

Friday, October 17, 2008

Amenemope 4: "Excellent Things" or "Thirty?"

In the KJV, Prov 22:20 reads: Have I not written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge? The ASV, published in 1901, and the Jewish Publication Society translation published in 1917 say essentially the same thing, having "of" in the place of "in," but otherwise identical. The NASB and the NASB update read the same. The ESV, and most other modern versions, read something like: Have I not written for you thirty sayings of counsel and knowledge?

How do the translators get from "excellent things" to "thirty sayings," and is that move legitimated by the text itself? The first thing to recognize is that the word that is so variously rendered is itself something of a difficulty in the Hebrew text. The consonantal text, as inherited by the Masoretic scribes, reads shilshom, but the scribes themselves indicate that the word is to be read shalishim.

The word shilshom literally means "the day before yesterday," more loosely meaning "formerly." However, it always elsewhere occurs as part of the phrase tmol shilshom meaning "yesterday and the day before" but with the general sense of "formerly." One could thus assume that this is simply a case where tmol has been omitted, and translate it, "I have written to you previously." This is suggested by the Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) lexicon.

The word shalishim is the plural of shalish meaning an officer of some sort. This does not seem to fit the context, hence the BDB comment that this is impossible. The older versions seem to have taken the term "officer" as a figure for excellence, hence their renderings of this verse. (A fuller discussion of this view tracing the development of the thinking on the rendering can be found in the Keil & Delitzsch commentary on this verse.

The Septuagint is not helpful in clearing up the difficulty, because it renders the word by trissos, meaning "three times." This seems to be roughly equivalent to the meaning of shilshom. This is also the reading reflected in the Syriac Peshitta and the Targum.

How then, did the modern versions arrive at "thirty?" They arrived at this view under the influence of the supposition that this section of Proverbs was derived from Amenemope. None of the versions done prior to the discovery of Amenemope suggests taking the consonantal shlshwm as sheloshim. But virtually all of the modern versions do so.

One would think that if Prov 22:17-24:22 were in fact dependent on Amenemope that there would be stronger parallels in order and wording of content than there in fact are. One would also assume that one could easily find thirty "chapters" in the Proverbs material, matching the thirty chapters of Amenemope. But is that the case?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Amenemope 3

The previous post deserves a number of explanatory comments.

First, I listed the parallels following the order of Amenemope. The careful reader will note that this does not match the order of verses in Proverbs. If Proverbs really was literarily dependent on Amenemope, why the radical changes in sequence?

Second, Proverbs 22:17-23:11 consists of 24 verses. The full section is actually Proverbs 22:11-24:22, which is 70 verses, but there are no parallels to Amenemope in 23:12-24:22. Amenemope itself runs about 230 lines. If this section of Proverbs were dependent of Amenemope, would there not be more and more frequent parallels. In fact, only about one-fifth of the whole section "The Words of the Wise" (22:11-24:22) is paralleled by Amenemope. Even if one limits the Proverbs material to 22:17-23:11, only about 60% of the material is parallel. This does not make a strong case for literary dependence, or even necessarily familiarity.

Third, even a casual reading makes it clear that some of the parallels are strained. See especially, nos. 2, 5, 6, 8, and 10. More than a third of the "parallels" are at best questionable.

Fourth, you don't see this, and most of the commentators don't mention it, but the Pritchard text of Amenemope lists sixteen parallels between Amenemope and passages in Proverbs outside the bounds of that section supposedly dependent on Amenemope, some of which are parallels to passages in other books of the Bible.

All of this combined leads to the conclusion that Proverbs was not literarily dependent on Amenemope.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Amenemope, Part 2

The first of the three reasons I gave for scholars seeing Proverbs 22:17-23:11 as being dependent on Amenemope is that the Hebrew material often follows the Egyptian source word for word. The only way to show this and evaluate it is to give the Proverbs text and the Amenemope text together. For the text of Amenemope, I am using the translation given in James B. Pritchard, The Ancient Near East: Volume I, An Anthology of Texts and Pictures, pp. 237-43. I will cite by page and line number (counting lines from the beginning of each chapter). For Proverbs, I will use the ESV. I am using the parallels as they are specified in Pritchard.

First Parallel
Proverbs 22:17-18a Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you.

Amenemope (1st Chapter) p. 237, lines 1-3 , Give thy ears, hear what is said, Give thy heart to understand them. To put them in thy heart is worthwhile.

Second Parallel
Proverbs 22:18b-19 If all of them are ready on your lips. That your trust may be in the Lord, I have made them know to you today, even to you.

Amenemope (1st Chapter) p. 237, lines 8-10 They shall be a mooring-stake for thy tongue. If thou spendest thy time while this is in thy heart, thou wilt find it a success.

Third Parallel
Proverbs 22:22 Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate.

Amenemope (2nd Chapter) p. 237, lines 1-2 Guard thyself against robbing the oppressed and against overbearing the disabled.

Fourth Parallel
Proverbs 22:28; 23:10 Do not move the ancient landmark that you fathers have set. Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless.

Amenemope (6th Chapter) p. 238, lines 1-8 Do not carry out the landmark at the boundaries of the arable land, nor disturb the position of the measuring-cord; be not greedy for a cubit of land, nor encroach upon the boundaries of a widow, guard against encroaching upon the boundaries of the fields.

Fifth Parallel
Proverbs 23:11 for their Redeemer is strong, he will plead their cause against you.

Amenemope (6th Chapter) p. 239, lines 10-11 One satisfies god with the will of the Lord who determines the boundaries of the arable land.

Sixth Parallel
Proverbs 23:4-5 Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When you eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.

Amenemope (7th Chapter) p. 239, lines 17-18 They have made themselves wings like geese, and are flown away to the heavens.

Seventh Parallel
Proverbs 22:24 Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man.

Amenemope (9th Chapter) p. 240, lines 1-2 Do not associate to thyself the heated man, nor visit him for conversation.

Eighth Parallel
Proverbs 22:25 Lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare

Amenemope (9th Chapter) p. 240, lines 13-14 Do not leap to hold such a one, lest a terror carry thee off.

Ninth Parallel
Proverbs 23:6-8 Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy, do not desire his delicacies, for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. Eat and drink, he says to you, but his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten, and waste your pleasant words.

Amenemope (11th Chapter) p. 240, lines 1-2, 8-10 Be not greedy for the property of a poor man, nor hunger for his bread. The mouthful of bread (too) great thou swallowest and vomitest up, and art emptied of thy good.

Tenth Parallel
Proverbs 22:26-27 Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you.?

Amenemope (13th Chapter) p. 241, lines 8-10 If thou findest a large debt against a poor man, make it into three parts, forgive two, and let one stand.

Eleventh Parallel
Proverbs 23:9 Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.

Amenemope (21st Chapter) p. 242, lines 11-12 Spread not thy words to the common people, nor associate to thyself one outgoing of heart.

Twelfth Parallel
Proverbs 23:1-3 When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.

Amenemope (23rd Chapter) p. 242, lines 1-6 Do not eat bread before a noble, nor lay on thy mouth at first. If thou art satisfied with false chewings, they are a pastime for thy spittle. Look at the cup which is before thee, and let it serve thy needs.

Thirteenth Parallel
Proverbs 22:22-23 Do not rob the poor because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate, for the Lord will plead their cause and rob of life those who rob them.

Amenemope (28th Chapter) p. 243, lines 6-7 God desires respect for the poor more than the honoring of the exalted.

Fourteenth Parallel
Proverbs 22:29 Do you see a man skillful in his work? He shall stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.

Amenemope (30th Chapter) p. 243, lines 10-11 As for the scribe who is experienced in his office, he will find himself worthy to be a courtier.

This is the sum of the parallels indicated between Amenemope and Proverbs 22:17-23:11. I'l make some comments in my next post.