The Book of Proverbs and Old Testament Theology -- By: Bruce K. Waltke

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 136:544 (Oct 1979)
Article: The Book of Proverbs and Old Testament Theology
Author: Bruce K. Waltke


The Book of Proverbs and Old Testament Theology

Bruce K. Waltke

[Bruce K. Waltke, Professor of Old Testament, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia.]

[The author is delighted to express his indebtedness to students in an Old Testament seminar on Proverbs (spring 1979) who contributed to his thinking for this article. Papers deserving recognition include Nigel Biggar, “Wisdom in Weakness”; Kathy Brown, “Wisdom’s Veil” and Judy Krzesowski, “The Power of Words.]

Hartmut Gese wrote, “It is well known that the wisdom literature constitutes an alien body in the world of the Old Testament.”1 This implied concensus is founded on two superficial observations: the striking similarities between the Book of Proverbs and the ancient, panoriental wisdom literature,2 and the lack of reference in Israel’s wisdom circles to national Israel’s election and covenants.

In an earlier article this writer surveyed the affinities of the Book of Proverbs with the international sapiential literature in its literary forms, arrangement, and contents.3 On account of these striking parallels Preuss went so far as to suggest that Israel’s wise men attempted to shape Israel into the image of their pagan environment.4

In contrast to the scholarly success in showing the comparative similarity of Israel’s wisdom with its pagan environment, Old Testament theologians proved unable to integrate the Book of Proverbs into the rest of the Old Testament which builds around Israel’s covenants and its history of salvation. In the heyday of the biblical theology movement Wright commented that “in any outline of biblical theology, the proper place to treat the Wisdom literature is something of a problem.5 Rylaarsdam put the problem this way: “This striking neglect of Jewish history and religion by the canonical wisdom writers clearly indicates that the Hebrew Wisdom movement had not yet been integrated into the national movement.”6 The attempts of Eichrodt to integrate wisdom into “covenant” and of von Rad into

salvation history have proved notable failures.7 Kaiser’s recent proposal to relate wisdom to the rest of the Old Testament by the common concept of “the fear of God/Lord” also fails because he relates this theme to “promise” which he seems to define in terms of Israel’s organic covenantal his...

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