Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous
WTJ 75:2 (Fall 2013) p. 375
Reviews Of Books
Sun Myung Lyu, Righteousness in the Book of Proverbs. FAT 2/55. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012. Pp. x +154. $79.00, paper.
An outgrowth of his University of Wisconsin-Madison dissertation written under the guidance of Michael V. Fox, Sun Myung Lyu’s Righteousness in the Book of Proverbs offers a fresh treatment of the biblical concept of righteousness by examining its unique meaning and function in the book of Proverbs. According to Lyu, the benefit of limiting the study of righteousness to Proverbs is that it isolates the concept from its associated biblical concepts of social justice and justification, concepts with which it is typically treated and, as a consequence, often confused.
In chapter 1, Lyu argues that many previous treatments of righteousness in the HB are deficient on account of their tendency to identify the concept of righteousness with words typically translated “righteousness,” most notably tsedaqah. The distinction (famously expressed by James Barr) between a concept and words used to refer to a concept is foundational to Lyu’s methodology. Lyu offers the following working definition which serves as a touchstone throughout the rest of the work: “Righteousness is the all-encompassing quality of human or divine character in toto above and beyond specific behaviors, which is actualized as rectitude in moral choices and fairness and benevolence in social transactions. A righteous person embodies righteousness as an internalized and pervasive character trait, cultivates the desire to be righteous, and finds pleasure when that desire is met” (pp. 13–14, italics original).
In chapter 2, Lyu surveys previous descriptions of righteousness and helpfully categorizes various theories under two basic headings: those that regard righteousness as conformity to an external objective norm and those that regard righteousness as conformity to obligations established by and within a relationship. Lyu maintains that while a given relationship in some way informs what constitutes righteous behavior, there nevertheless must exist an objective standard by which those actions in relationship can be evaluated. Lyu finds Pedersen’s notion of righteousness as “integrity of soul” particularly helpful as it makes righteousness essentially a character issue, something “seated deep within the human heart” (p. 24). The interiority of righteousness as a quality of character is foundational for Lyu’s thesis.
Chapter 3 explores the characterization of the righteous person in Proverbs. Lyu ably demonstrates that Proverbs is unique in its use of righteousness as a “controlling motif of moral discourse” (p. 36). In this respect, Proverbs e...
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