Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wisdom as Relational Justice in Proverbs 22:1-16

Yesterday I turned in my exegesis paper for the second semester of Intro to Old Testament Interpretation with Dr. Stephen Chapman. I actually experienced something like postpartum depression because I had so enjoyed working on this paper all semester. It's 18 pages long with lots of footnotes, so I'll limit this post to a few key excerpts. If you decide you want to read my whole paper (which includes the passage itself), you can link to the PDF on my Duke webspace here.


Introduction/Thesis:
"Proverbs 22:1—16 includes sayings on various subjects, all of which inform an understanding of wisdom not as an intellectual inclination but as a commitment to living out discerning and just relationships in light of Israel’s status as God’s chosen people. Statements on poverty and wealth begin and end the passage, framing a sustained call to interpersonal, relational justice. Although the aphorisms on poverty, wealth, discipline and generosity may on the surface appear to be aimed at reinforcing an unequal status quo, when understood in its cultural and canonical context, this passage carries an ethical imperative that shapes a definition of justice as relational, personal and distributive."

A Killer Quote:
From J. K. Nyerere's Man and Development on Proverbs 22:2 ("The rich and the poor have this in common: the LORD is the maker of them all."): "At this time in man’s history, it must imply a divine discontent and a determination for change. For the present condition of men must be unacceptable to all who think of an individual person as a unique creation of a living God. We say man was created in the image of God. I refuse to imagine a God who is poor, ignorant, superstitious, fearful, oppressed, wretched—which is the lot of the majority of those He created in his own image. Men are creators of themselves and their conditions, but under present conditions we are creatures, not of God, but of our fellow men."

Theological Reflection (Paragraph on Charity and Justice):
"There are two words in Hebrew that can be translated as 'justice,' משפט (mishpat) and צדקה (tzedakah). Neither is found in 22:1—16, but the ideas embedded in the language inform the theology of this passage nonetheless. In his book The Dignity of Difference, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks meditates on the distinction between these two terms: 'Mishpat means retributive justice or the rule of law. ...Tzedakah, by contrast, refers to distributive justice.' Tzedakah does not have a direct synonym in English; Sacks explains that this word contains the ideas of both charity and justice—two terms that are translated separately and therefore perceived as being mutually exclusive in both Latin (iustitia and caritas) and English. When [David J.] Pleins claims [in The Social Visions of the Hebrew Bible], 'Proverbs rarely moves beyond charity,' he is interpreting through a lens that is tempered by his temporal and linguistic location, a lens that is incongruous with ancient Israelite ideas of justice."

2 comments:

Lechion said...

I have enjoyed reading your paper and pray that we have as many young people of your mind and spirit in this world that is almost one-eyed.
In the love of Christ

Rev Dr Lechion Peter Kimilike
Coordinator, Njombe University College Project
P.O. Box 97, Njombe, TANZANIA

Sarah said...

Thank you so much, Dr. Kimilike! I am so surprised and honored that you found me and read the paper. Your book was such an exciting find (I had to order it from another university's library) because it articulated so well what I felt the Proverbs text was meant to convey but which I wasn't hearing other scholars say. I am so pleased to learn about the Njombe University Project and will be following its progress and your work with great interest! Blessings to you!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wisdom as Relational Justice in Proverbs 22:1-16

Yesterday I turned in my exegesis paper for the second semester of Intro to Old Testament Interpretation with Dr. Stephen Chapman. I actually experienced something like postpartum depression because I had so enjoyed working on this paper all semester. It's 18 pages long with lots of footnotes, so I'll limit this post to a few key excerpts. If you decide you want to read my whole paper (which includes the passage itself), you can link to the PDF on my Duke webspace here.


Introduction/Thesis:
"Proverbs 22:1—16 includes sayings on various subjects, all of which inform an understanding of wisdom not as an intellectual inclination but as a commitment to living out discerning and just relationships in light of Israel’s status as God’s chosen people. Statements on poverty and wealth begin and end the passage, framing a sustained call to interpersonal, relational justice. Although the aphorisms on poverty, wealth, discipline and generosity may on the surface appear to be aimed at reinforcing an unequal status quo, when understood in its cultural and canonical context, this passage carries an ethical imperative that shapes a definition of justice as relational, personal and distributive."

A Killer Quote:
From J. K. Nyerere's Man and Development on Proverbs 22:2 ("The rich and the poor have this in common: the LORD is the maker of them all."): "At this time in man’s history, it must imply a divine discontent and a determination for change. For the present condition of men must be unacceptable to all who think of an individual person as a unique creation of a living God. We say man was created in the image of God. I refuse to imagine a God who is poor, ignorant, superstitious, fearful, oppressed, wretched—which is the lot of the majority of those He created in his own image. Men are creators of themselves and their conditions, but under present conditions we are creatures, not of God, but of our fellow men."

Theological Reflection (Paragraph on Charity and Justice):
"There are two words in Hebrew that can be translated as 'justice,' משפט (mishpat) and צדקה (tzedakah). Neither is found in 22:1—16, but the ideas embedded in the language inform the theology of this passage nonetheless. In his book The Dignity of Difference, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks meditates on the distinction between these two terms: 'Mishpat means retributive justice or the rule of law. ...Tzedakah, by contrast, refers to distributive justice.' Tzedakah does not have a direct synonym in English; Sacks explains that this word contains the ideas of both charity and justice—two terms that are translated separately and therefore perceived as being mutually exclusive in both Latin (iustitia and caritas) and English. When [David J.] Pleins claims [in The Social Visions of the Hebrew Bible], 'Proverbs rarely moves beyond charity,' he is interpreting through a lens that is tempered by his temporal and linguistic location, a lens that is incongruous with ancient Israelite ideas of justice."

2 comments:

Lechion said...

I have enjoyed reading your paper and pray that we have as many young people of your mind and spirit in this world that is almost one-eyed.
In the love of Christ

Rev Dr Lechion Peter Kimilike
Coordinator, Njombe University College Project
P.O. Box 97, Njombe, TANZANIA

Sarah said...

Thank you so much, Dr. Kimilike! I am so surprised and honored that you found me and read the paper. Your book was such an exciting find (I had to order it from another university's library) because it articulated so well what I felt the Proverbs text was meant to convey but which I wasn't hearing other scholars say. I am so pleased to learn about the Njombe University Project and will be following its progress and your work with great interest! Blessings to you!

 

Designed by Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates, Modified by Sarah Howell