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?"


Win Groseclose said...

Thank you for your input on Amenemope. I think that it is also worth noting that if you hold to the more traditional older date of the Exodus, that places Joseph in Egypt about the same time of or slightly before the writing of Amenemope's writings, which provides a Hebraic influence on Amenemope and not an Egyptian influence on Solomon.



Win Groseclose said...

A clarification, it seems that scholars are leaning toward a later date for Amenemope than I remember from seminary, which places Joseph much earlier than Amenemope, adding to the potential for Joseph to be a major influence.


BK said...

Thank you for these thoughts. I have collected them and posted them on my group's blog, here.

Please let me know whether you post more to this series as I would love to make sure that the links are up to date.