An Analysis of Proverbs 1:1-7 -- By: John E. Johnson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 144:576 (Oct 1987)
Article: An Analysis of Proverbs 1:1-7
Author: John E. Johnson


An Analysis of Proverbs 1:1-7

John E. Johnson

Senior Pastor
Lents Conservative Baptist Church, Portland, Oregon

In his address to the Society of Biblical Literature about 20 years ago, John McKenzie reflected what he believed to be a common sentiment toward wisdom literature. Concluding that Proverbs has never been the most thrilling area of biblical study, he declared, “The wisdom books attract readers from the general public which reads the Bible, whoever they may be, no more than they attract scholars.”1

Since that time, however, the church has come to a greater appreciation of the Old Testament, and wisdom literature in particular. Articles and books have devoted much space to the sufferings of Job, the observations of the sages in Proverbs, and the despair of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes. Scobie recently observed, “In few areas of biblical scholarship is there more lively interest at the present time than in the study of ‘Wisdom.’“2

Yet the material of such books as Proverbs continues to inspire few sermons. A recent writer suggests this is because of the failure

to see the present-day relevance of the book. “The crisis of relevance, which confronts any preacher who tries to bring to life a two-thousand year old scripture, is especially acute in books like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.”3 True, the study of wisdom literature has increased. And yet theological works still give scant attention to the contribution of wisdom literature to theology proper, bibliology, and anthropology.

The secular world, for all its intellectual pursuits, also maintains a lack of fondness for wisdom. Carl Henry has summarized its present condition: “Despite its pursuit of knowledge, our generation, snared in relativities, is a stranger to wisdom. Wisdom—which Augustine viewed as ‘the unum necessarium’—is no longer considered as the mind’s indispensable acquisition, even by most intellectuals.”4

The consequence of such priorities is a modern society of intellectual giants who are pygmies in the art of living. Robinson, in the foreword of Alden’s commentary on Proverbs, makes this sad observation: “Alumni from noted universities have mastered information about a narrow slice of life but couldn’t make it out of the first grade when it comes to living successfully with family and friends.”5

If Proverbs is to make a greater impact, if ...

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