Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 146:581 (Jan 1989)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Periodical Reviews

“Proverbial Pairs: Compositional Units in Proverbs 10–29 ,” Ted Hildebrandt, Journal of Biblical Literature 107 (1988): 207-24.

Having recently completed a dissertation on the problem of the arrangement of single line proverbs in the Book of Proverbs, this writer was naturally interested in Hildebrandt’s article on proverb pairs. Much of the article recalled similar investigations in this writer’s own research-investigations, however, that did not lead to a satisfactory solution to the problem.

The biggest obstacle facing Hildebrandt and others trying to make sense of the arrangement of these proverbs is subjectivity. Associations between proverbs are easy to make. Demonstrating that they are the product of a compiler’s intention, rather than the reader’s imagination, is more difficult. Crawford Toy noted this in his commentary on Proverbs at the end of the last century when he remarked that the attempts of Ewald, Delitzsch, and others to demarcate proverb clusters, were commonly arbitrary and useless. A comparison of the pairs Hildebrandt isolates, with those of other scholars indicates this is still a problem. For instance, two Jewish medieval commentators, Joseph and Moses Kimhi, attempting to demonstrate a thematic cohesion between proverbs, isolated 40 and 60 small clusters and pairs respectively in 10:1–22:16. Of Hildebrandt’s 30 pairs in this section, 11 (37%) and 15 (50%) match those of the Kimhis. More recently Steven Voorwinde and R. B. Y. Scott arranged these proverbs by subjects. The proverbs sharing the same subject and being adjacent to one another form 40 and 35 clusters respectively. Hildebrandt’s 30 clusters match theirs 17 (57%) and 11 (37%) times.

Hildebrandt also weakens his case by proposing that the associations linking proverbs are based on multiple linguistic features (i.e., semantic, syntactic, and thematic) rather than any single organizational principle. This fact alone does not invalidate Hildebrandt’s research. However, his thesis is also considerably weakened by a lack of comprehensiveness. His identification of 62 pairs of proverbs in the second half of the book does not advance one’s understanding of its organizational structure.

Gustav Boström demonstrated in 1929 that the majority of these proverbs are linked by catchwords (stichworter) and other forms of paronomasia. But though Hildebrandt recognizes catchwords as a means of linking proverbs, and even remarks that “the noun form of a word may parallel the verbal form of the same word root,” he overlooks this technique in one of his five detailed...

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