THE RHETORIC OF THE FATHER:

A RHETORICAL ANALYSIS OF THE FATHER/SON

                    LECTURES IN PROVERBS 1-9

 

 

 

 

                                             A Dissertation

 

 

 

 

 

                                              Presented to

                   the Faculties of The Iliff School of Theology and

                     The University of Denver (Colorado Seminary)

 

 

 

 

 

                                       In Partial Fulfillment

                         of the Requirements for the Degree

                                      Doctor of Philosophy

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                      by

                                        Glenn D. Pemberton

                                                 June 1999

                                           Denver, Colorado

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                  © Glenn David Pemberton 1999

                                          used with permission


                                                    ABSTRACT

            Proverbs 1-9 contains 10 instructions/lectures in which a "father" addresses

his "son(s)." These lectures are in many respects similar. They address a "son" or

"sons," urge the son(s) to listen, not forget or guard the father's teaching, and affirm

the value of this teaching. However, a curious diversity (which scholars have yet to

explain adequately) exists within these lectures. Despite their similarities, the appeals

and the argumentation of the lectures reflect differences in the father's rhetorical

objectives and strategies.

            This dissertation uses rhetorical criticism to address the diversity within these

ten lectures. Analysis of the artistic proofs (logos, pathos, and ethos) of each lecture

reveals that the ten lectures may be classified into three groups or subsets on the basis

of their rhetoric: 1) calls to apprenticeship (1:8-19, 2:1-22, 4:1-9, 4:10-19), 2) calls

to remember and obey (3:1-12, 3:21-35, 4:20-27), and 3) warnings against illicit

sexual relations (5:1-23, 6:20-35, 7:1-27). Further, although the lectures of each

subset possess common features that distinguish them as a group, each lecture also

possesses unique features that distinguish it from other group members. One may

conclude that Proverbs 1-9 contain three distinct subsets of lectures with diverse

members, ten lectures with ten different rhetorical strategies. Put simply, the ten

lectures are a remarkable rhetorical anthology.

 


            Scholars generally have assumed that these speeches were written, collected,

and edited to address important issues in the life of the community. This dissertation

proposes another option, namely, rhetorical education. The ten lectures provide

rhetorical models for different needs or situations. This hypothesis is congruent with

long standing theories regarding the composition of Proverbs 1-9 (the lectures are the

original core of these chapters) and the purpose of this composition (youth

education). The ten lectures of Proverbs 1-9 not only demonstrate the presence of

formal rhetorical interests in ancient Israel, but these lectures formed a book devised,

in part, to serve the purposes of rhetorical education.

 

 

 


 

 

                        THE ILIFF SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY

                                                  AND

     THE UNIVERSITY OF DENVER (COLORADO SEMINARY)

 

 

 

                       Upon the recommendation of the Director

                      of the Joint PH.D. Program this dissertation

                          is hereby accepted in partial fulfillment

                           of the requirements for the degree of

 

                                        Doctor of Philosophy

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                   _____________________________

                                                                                    Dr. David L. Petersen

                                                                                    Dissertation Advisor

 

 

 

                                                                                   _____________________________

                                                                                     Dr. Larry Kent Graham

                                                                                     Director, Joint Ph.D. Program

 

 

 

______________________

Date

 


                                         TABLE OF CONTENTS

                                                                                                                                    Page

LIST OF TABLES                                                                                                       viii

 

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS                                                                                     ix

 

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION                                                                         1

 

A.        Proverbs 1-9 as Rhetoric                                                                                  1

 

B.         The Interpretive Web: Research on Proverbs 1-9                                              4

            1.         Form-Critical Studies                                                                            4

            2.         Traditio-Historical Studies                                                                     12

            3.         Studies of the Women of Proverbs 1-9                                                 16

            4.         Literary Critical Studies                                                                         20

            5.         Rhetorical Analyses                                                                              29

 

C.        Summary                                                                                                          36

 

CHAPTER TWO: RHETORICAL CRITICISM                                                          38

 

A.        A Brief Survey of the Emergence of Rhetoric in the Ancient West                      39

 

B.         Rhetorical Criticism in Biblical Studies                                                               46

            1.         Early History to the Demise of Rhetoric in Twentieth

                        Century Biblical Studies                                                                        46

            2.         The Reemergence of Rhetoric in Late Twentieth Century

                        Biblical Studies                                                                                     52

 

                                                         ii


            3.         Rhetorical Methods in Twentieth Century Biblical Studies                      55

                        a.         The "Rhetorical Criticism" of James Muilenburg:

                                    The Definition of Rhetoric                                                         56

 

                        b.         The "New Rhetoric" of the Postmodern Bible:

                                    Rhetoric as Cultural Criticism                                                    60

 

                        c.         The "Socio-Rhetorical Criticism" of Vernon Robbins:

                                    Rhetoric and Methodological Pluralism                                     63

 

                        d.         The "Classical Rhetoric" of George Kennedy:

                                    Western Rhetorical Theory and non-Western Texts                   65

 

            4.         Summary                                                                                              74

 

C.        Rhetorical Method for Analysis of the Ten Lectures                                           75

            1.         Text and Translation                                                                             75

            2.         The Limits of the Rhetorical Unit                                                           76

            3.         Analysis of the Artistic Proofs                                                               77

                        a.         Logos                                                                                       78

                        b.         Ethos                                                                                        80

                        c.         Pathos                                                                                      81

            4.         Summary & Conclusions                                                                       81

D.        Summary: Rhetorical Criticism                                                                           82

 

CHAPTER THREE: RHETORICAL ANALYSIS OF GROUP I: THE CALLS TO

APPRENTICESHIP                                                                                                    84

 

A.        Proverbs 1:8-19                                                                                               87

            1.         Text and Translation                                                                             87

            2.         The Limits of the Rhetorical Unit                                                           89

            3.         Analysis of the Artistic Proofs                                                               91

                                                iii

                                    a.         Logos                                                                           91

                                    b.         Ethos                                                                            104

                                    c.         Pathos                                                                         107

            4.         Summary & Conclusions                                                                       108

B.         Proverbs 2:1-22                                                                                               109

            1.         Text and Translation                                                                             109

            2.         The Limits of the Rhetorical Unit                                                           111

            3.         Analysis of the Artistic Proofs                                                               112

                        a.         Logos                                                                                       113

                        b.         Ethos                                                                                        122

                        c.         Pathos                                                                                     125

            4.         Summary & Conclusions                                                                       130

C.        Proverbs 4:1-9                                                                                                 132

            1.         Text and Translation                                                                             132

            2.         The Limits of the Rhetorical Unit                                                           133

            3.         Analysis of the Artistic Proofs                                                               134

                        a.         Logos                                                                                       135

                        b.         Ethos                                                                                        140

                        c.         Pathos                                                                                     142

            4.         Summary & Conclusions                                                                       145

D.        Proverbs 4:10-19                                                                                             147

            1.         Text and Translation                                                                             147

           

                                                                iv


 

                        2.         The Limits of the Rhetorical Unit                                               148

                        3.         Analysis of the Artistic Proofs                                                   148

                                    a.         Logos                                                                           149

                                    b.         Ethos                                                                            153

                                    c.         Pathos                                                                         154

                        4.         Summary & Conclusions                                                           155

 

E. Conclusions: The Rhetoric of the Calls to Apprenticeship                                           156

 

CHAPTER FOUR: RHETORICAL ANALYSIS OF GROUP II: THE CALLS

            TO REMEMBER AND OBEY                                                                        158

A.        Proverbs 3:1-12                                                                                               159

            1.         Text and Translation                                                                             159

            2.         The Limits of the Rhetorical Unit                                                           160

            3.         Analysis of the Artistic Proofs                                                               161

            a.         Logos                                                                                                   161

            b.         Ethos                                                                                                    166

            c.         Pathos                                                                                                 168

            4.         Summary & Conclusions                                                                       170

B.         Proverbs 3:21-35                                                                                             171

            1.         Text and Translation                                                                             171

            2.         The Limits of the Rhetorical Unit                                                           173

            3.         Analysis of the Artistic Proofs                                                               176

                        a.         Logos                                                                                       176

                        b.         Ethos                                                                                        185

 

                                                                        v


                        c.         Pathos                                                                                     189

            4.         Summary & Conclusions                                                                       190

C.        Proverbs 4:20-27                                                                                             192

            1.         Text and Translation                                                                             192

            2.         The Limits of the Rhetorical Unit                                                           193

            3.         Analysis of the Artistic Proofs                                                               194

                        a.         Logos                                                                                       195

                        b.         Ethos                                                                                        202

                        c.         Pathos                                                                                     204

            4.         Summary & Conclusions                                                                       205

D.        Conclusions: The Rhetoric of the Calls to Remember and Obey                         207

 

CHAPTER FIVE: RHETORICAL ANALYSIS OF GROUP III: WARNINGS

AGAINST ILLICIT SEXUAL RELATIONS                                                             212

A         Proverbs 5:1-23                                                                                               213

            1.         Text and Translation                                                                             213

            2.         The Limits of the Rhetorical Unit                                                           215

            3.         Analysis of the Artistic Proofs                                                               218

                        a.         Logos                                                                                       219

                        b.         Ethos                                                                                        231

                        c.         Pathos                                                                                     232

            4.         Summary & Conclusions                                                                       233

B.         Proverbs 6:20-35                                                                                             234

            1.         Text and Translation                                                                             234

 

                                                            vi
            2.         The Limits of the Rhetorical Unit                                                           237

            3.         Analysis of the Artistic Proofs                                                               238

                        a.         Logos                                                                                       239

                        b.         Ethos                                                                                        246

                        c.         Pathos                                                                                     250

            4.         Summary & Conclusions                                                                       252

C.        Proverbs 7:1-27                                                                                               254

            1.         Text and Translation                                                                             254

            2.         The Limits of the Rhetorical Unit                                                           256

            3.         Analysis of the Artistic Proofs                                                               257

                        a.         Logos                                                                                       258

                        b.         Ethos                                                                                        270

                        c.         Pathos                                                                                     272

            4.         Summary & Conclusions                                                                       274

D.        Conclusions: The Rhetoric of the Warnings Against Illicit

            Sexual Relations                                                                                               275

 

CHAPTER SIX: THE RHETORIC OF THE FATHER                                                278

A.        Summary: The Father's Rhetoric in Proverbs 1-9                                               280

            1.         Rhetorical Subsets in the Ten Lectures                                                 280

            2.         Rhetorical Variety with the Subsets of Lectures                                     285

B.         Implications of Rhetorical Variety within Subsets                                               291

C.        Areas for Further Research                                                                               295

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                                                                        300

                                                            vii


                                       LIST OF TABLES

Table                                                                                                                            Page

            1.         Concurrence of Verbs in the Propositions of the Ten Lectures               86

            2.         The Rhetoric of the Father: A Comparison of Subsets                            282

            3.         The Rhetoric of Subset I: The Calls to Apprenticeship                           286

            4.         The Rhetoric of Subset II: The Calls to Remember and Obey                288

            5.         The Rhetoric of Subset III: The Warnings Against Illicit Sexual

                        Relations                                                                                              290

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                        viii


                                    LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

 

AB                   Anchor Bible

ACW               Ancient Christian Writers

AJP                  American Journal of Philology

AJSL               American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures

ANET              J.B. Pritchard (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts

AOAT             Alter Orient and Altes Testament

ATAbh             Alttestamentliche Abhandlungen

ATD                Das Alte Testament Deutsch

AV                   English Authorized Version (King James)

AzTh                Arbeiten zur Theologie

BAGD             W. Bauer, W.F. Arndt, F.W. Gingrich, and F.W. Danker, Greek-English

                        Lexicon of the New Testament.

BDB                F. Brown, S.R. Driver, and C.A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of

                        the Old Testament

BETL               Bibliotheca ephemeridum theologicarum lovaniensium

BHS                 Biblia hebraica stuttgartensia

Bib                   Biblica

BN                   Biblische Notizen

BTB                 Biblical Theology Bulletin

                                                            ix


BZAW             Beihefte zur Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenshaft

CAD                The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of

                        Chicago

CBQ                Catholic Biblical Quarterly

CBQMS          Catholic Biblical Monograph -- Monograph Series

ConBOT          Coniectanea biblica, Old Testament

DSB                 Daily Study Bible

ExpTim           Expository Times

FAT                 Forschungen zum Alten Testament

FOTL              Forms of the Old Testament Literature

GBS                 Guides to Biblical Scholarship

GKC                Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, ed. E. Kautzsch, trans. A.E. Cowley

HAR                Hebrew Annual Review

HS                   Hebrew Studies

HUCA             Hebrew Union College Annual

ICC                 International Critical Commentary

Int                    Interpretation

ITC                  International Theological Commentary

JB                    Jerusalem Bible

JBL                  Journal of Biblical Literature

JETS                Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

JNES               Journal of Near Eastern Studies

JNSL               Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages

 

                                                  x

 


JQR                 Jewish Quarterly Review

JSOT               Journal for the Study of the Old Testament

JSOTSup         Journal for the Study of the Old Testament - Supplement Series

JSS                  Journal of Semitic Studies

JTS                  Journal of Theological Studies

KB                   L. Koehler and W. Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti libros

KBW               Zentrales Komitee des Kommunistischen Bundes Westdeutschland

KHC                Kurzer Hand-Commentar zum Alten Testament

LCL                 Loeb Classical Library

LD                   Lectio divina

LXX                Septuagint

MT                  Massoretic Text

NCB                New Century Bible

NIB                 New Interpreter's Bible

NIV                 New International Version

NJV                 New Jewish Version (Tanakh, 1985)

NRSV              New Revised Standard Version

OBO                Orbis biblicus et orientalis

OLP                 Orientalia lovaniensia periodica

OTE                 Old Testament Essays

OTG                Old Testament Guides

OTL                 Old Testament Library

                                                            xi


PEQ                Palestine Exploration Quarterly

RB                    Revue biblique

REB                 Revised English Bible

ResQ                Restoration Quarterly

RSV                 Revised Standard Version

SBFLA             Studii Biblici Franciscani liber annus

SBLDS            Society of Biblical Literature - Dissertation Series

SBLWAW       Society of Biblical Literature - Writings from the Ancient World

SBS                 Stuttgarter Bibelstudien

SBT                 Studies in Biblical Theology

SJOT               Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament

TynOTC          Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries

VT                   Vetus Testamentum

VTSup             Vetus Testamentum, Supplements

WMANT         Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten and Neuen Testament

ZAH                 Zeitschrift fur Althebraistik

ZAW                Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft

ZTK                 Zeitschrift fur Theologie und Kirche

 

 

 

 

 

                                                  xii

 

 


 

 

                                                  Chapter One

 

                                              INTRODUCTION

 

                                          Proverbs 1-9 as Rhetoric

            Proverbs 1-9 is composed, almost exclusively, of speeches. Following a brief

introduction (1:1-7), these chapters consist of ten lectures by a "father" to his "son(s)."

The delimitation of these lectures is debated, but may tentatively be defined as 1:8-19,

2:1-22, 3:1-12, 3:21-35, 4:1-9, 4:10-19, 4:20-27, 5:1-23, 6:20-35, and 7:1-27.

Interspersed within these lectures are five interludes (1:20-33, 3:13-20, 6:1-19, 8:1-36,

and 9:1-18),1 three of which are speeches by woman wisdom.2  Further, four of the ten

father/son lectures cite speeches made by other persons or groups.3

            Proverbs 1-9, however, is not only composed of speeches; these speeches

express vital concern for persuasive speech, i.e., rhetoric. On the one hand, each of

the ten father/son lectures attempts to persuade the reader to accept the father's counsel

and to pursue wisdom (e.g., 1:8, 4:10-11, 7:1-4).4 To this end, the father/rhetor

employs diverse rhetorical devices and strategies. On the other hand, the lectures

_______________________

 

     1 The terminology of "lectures" and "interludes" is adopted from Michael Fox ("Ideas of

Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9," JBL 116 [1997], 613-619).

 

     2 1:20-33, 8:1-36, 9:1-12 (expanded by the speech of woman folly in vv. 13-18).

 

     3 The speech of the sinners (1:10-14), the speech of the father's father (4:3-9), the speech

of the foolish son (5:12-14), and the speech of the adulteress (7:10-21).

 

     4 See also 2:1-11, 3:1-2, 3:21-23, 4:1-2, 4:20-22, 5:1-2, 6:20-22.

 

                                                             1


                                                                                                                                    2

caution the reader about the seductive rhetoric of the opposition. This warning occurs

in five of the ten father/son lectures (e.g., 5:3, 6::3-24, 7:13,21).5 So, interest in

rhetoric, both that of the father and the opposition, abounds in the ten lectures.

            Several scholars (e.g., Aletti, Yee, Newsom, and Crenshaw; see below) have

noted the rhetorical nature and concern of Proverbs 1-9. There is, however, a lacuna

in present research. Although Proverbs 1-9 contains ten lectures, a sustained analysis

of these lectures as lectures, i.e., as rhetoric, does not exist. This dissertation seeks to

fill this lacuna by offering a fresh investigation of the ten father/son lectures from the

perspective of rhetorical criticism. More specifically, rhetorical analysis of the lectures

offers two types of contributions to present scholarship.

            First, rhetorical analysis will contribute a new perspective and, thus, new

insights on old interpretive problems in the ten lectures of Proverbs 1-9. Several

interpretive cruxes continue to plague the study of these texts, e.g., the delimitation of

the lectures, the identity of the strange/foreign woman, the presence of textual

allusions, and the relationship denoted by the vocative ynib; ("my son"). Rhetorical

analysis will offer fresh testimony on these and other issues that may break present the

scholarly impasses. In addition, this dissertation will consider the rhetorical

implications of these interpretive problems and their proposed solutions.

            Second and more significant, a rhetorical analysis that focuses on how each of

the ten lectures attempts to persuade its audience promises to uncover new data about

the ten lectures and the practice of rhetoric in ancient Israel. For example, rhetorical

_______________________

 

   5 See also 1:10-19 and 2:16.

 


                                                                                                                                    3

analysis will reveal that there are three types of lectures in Proverbs 1-9 (calls to

apprenticeship, calls to remember and obey, and warnings against illicit sexual

relations) and that the individual members of each subset employ different rhetorical

strategies. The implications of this finding may seem minimal, but, in fact, they reach

from revisions in our understanding of the lectures and the purpose of this collection

to the existence of self-conscious rhetorical reflection and, perhaps, rhetorical

education in ancient Israel.

            Such rhetorical analysis of the ten lectures requires two preliminary steps.

First, it will be helpful to situate this dissertation within the history of scholarship on

Proverbs 1-9. Biblical criticism is a methodological jungle in which theoretical vines

are intricately interwoven and often intergrown. Any attempt to untangle a singly pure

methodological vine is impossible and detrimental to both the strength of the web and

the individual method. Therefore, in the remainder of this chapter, I will define the

relationship of my rhetorical analysis of the ten lectures to the existing interpretive

web of Proverbs 1-9. Second, the ambiguity of the term "rhetorical criticism"

demands clarification. While pursuit of one method alone is impossible, the lack of

methodological clarity and delimitation threatens confusion and dilution of focus.

Thus, in the second chapter I will define my rhetorical method and distinguish my

practice from other similarly titled methods. These first two chapters will be followed

by a sustained rhetorical analysis of the ten lectures. A summary and synthesis of the

contributions of this study, as well as proposals for further investigation, will comprise

the final chapter.


                                                                                                                                    4

                                              The Interpretive Web:

                                           Research on Proverbs 1-9

            Scholars writing in the twentieth century have attempted to understand four

features of Proverbs 1-9: its forms, the source(s) of its traditions, its striking references

to women, and literary concerns (e.g., unity and style). It is beyond the limits of this

study to present an exhaustive summary of this secondary literature.6  This survey is

limited to studies that provide significant stimuli or contributions to the rhetorical

analysis of the ten lectures. My goal is to situate this study within the existing

interpretive web of Proverbs 1-9. To this end, the four traditional categories of study

plus the recent emergence of rhetorical interest in Proverbs 1-9 provide the framework

for this discussion.7

 

                                                 Form-Critical Studies

            Several scholars have utilized form-critical methodology to interpret Proverbs

1-9 within its ancient Near Eastern (especially Egyptian) setting.8  The most significant

_______________________

 

   6 For a more comprehensive history of research, see Bernhard Lang, Die Weisheitliche

Lehrrede. Eine Untersuchung von Spruche 1-7, SBS, vol. 54 (Stuttgart: KBW, 1972), 11.26;

C. Westermann, Forschungsgeschichte zur Weisheitsliteratur 1950-1990, AzTh, vol. 71

(Stuttgart: Calwer Verlag, 1991); and Roger N. Whybray, The Book of Proverbs: A Survey of

Modern Study (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995).

 

   7 Admittedly, some studies may be placed in multiple categories, e.g., I will discuss Christi

Maier's monograph (Die 'Fremde Frau' in Proverbien 1-9: Eine Exegetische and

Sozialgeschichtliche Studie, OBO, vol. 144 [Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1995])

under both Tradition History and The Women of Proverbs 1-9. The use of these five

categories is simply a heuristic device for presenting diverse material.

 

   8 Christa Kayatz, Studien zu Proverbien 1-9: Eine form- und motivgeschichtliche

Untersuchung unter Einbeziehung agyptischen Vergleichsmaterials, WMANT, vol. 22

(Netherlands: Neukirchen-Vluyn, 1966); Franz-Josef Steiert, Die Weisheit Israels: ein

Fremdkorper im Alten Testament? Eine Untersuchung zum Buch der Spruch auf dem

Hintergrund der agyptischen Weisheitslehren (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1990).

 


                                                                                                                                    5

of these studies for rhetorical criticism are the works of Roger N. Whybray and

William McKane. Although Whybray's initial work preceded McKane's commentary

on Proverbs by several years, it is advantageous to begin with McKane's research

because his work established the foundation on which Whybray constructs his

arguments.

            McKane's chief contribution to the study of Proverbs 1-9 is his clear distinction

between the instruction genre and the sentence literature.9  Prior to McKane's

commentary, many scholars argued that the longer instructions had evolved from the

sentence literature and, therefore, Proverbs 1-9 belonged to the latest stage of the

development of the book of Proverbs.10 According to McKane, the discovery of

comparative wisdom texts has overturned this form-critical consensus. These ancient

Near Eastern wisdom texts demonstrate that the longer units of Proverbs 1-9 are not

the result of formal evolution from the sentence literature, but an adaptation of an

international genre of instruction.

            McKane established his thesis by extensive study of both Egyptian and

Babylonian-Assyrian instructions.11  He documented the existence of an international

genre "with definable formal characteristics which can be described in syntactical "

_______________________

 

     9 William McKane, Proverbs, OTL (London: SCM Press, 1970).

 

     10 For example, J. Schmidt, Studien zur Stilistik der alttestamentlichen Spruchliteratur,

ATAbh 13/1, Munster: Aschendorfsche Verlag, 1936; Walther Zimmerli, "Concerning the

Structure of Old Testament Wisdom," trans. Brian W. Kovacs, in Studies in Ancient Israelite

Wisdom, ed. J. L. Crenshaw (New York: KTAV, 1976), 175-207.

 

     11 Ibid., 51-182.


                                                                                                                                    6

terms.”12  For example, the instruction form utilizes the imperative to exhort and gives

reasons why its commands should be obeyed, typically contained in subordinate

clauses (e.g., motive clauses with "for/because" as well as final and consecutive

clauses). McKane then demonstrated a formal correspondence between this

international instruction genre and texts in Proverbs. He concluded

            that the formal structure of 1-9, 22.17-24.22 and 31.1-9 is that of an

            international Instruction genre, and that it is not the consequence of a process

            of form-critical evolution involving the agglomeration of wisdom sentences.

            The Instruction is a separate genre from the wisdom sentence and the form-

            critical argument for the lateness of these sections of the book of Proverbs,

            involving as it does the assumption that their basic formal unit is the wisdom

            sentence, falls to the ground.13

            McKane's form-critical conclusion that the lectures represent a distinct genre,

rather than accumulated growth rings around a core sentence, provides a fundamental

starting point for this dissertation. He has established that the lectures (instructions)

are discrete compositions with characteristic features, and thus opened the way for

studies of the lectures as a discrete group or genre. My rhetorical analysis will build

on his conclusions in an attempt to understand further these texts as rhetorical

compositions.

            In 1965, five years before McKane's commentary was published, Whybray

offered a monographic study of Proverbs 1-9 titled Wisdom in Proverbs: The Concept

_______________________

 

   12 Ibid., 6.

 

  13 Ibid., 7. McKane further proposes (8-10) that the Instruction form was appropriated by

Israel during the reign of Solomon to serve the educational needs of government officials.

The Instruction form established itself in Israel during this period and was adapted over time

for a more broadly based educational function. See a critique of this proposal by Scott L.

Harris, Proverbs 1-9: A Study of Inner-Biblical Interpretation, SBLDS, vol. 150 (Atlanta:

Scholars Press, 1995), 26-35.

 


                                                                                                                                    7

of Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9.14 This monograph provided a literary-historical

investigation into the evidence for the development of the idea of wisdom in ancient

Israel. Although Whybray's primary focus was the nature and purpose of the

personification of wisdom in 1:20-33, 8:1-35, and 9:1-6, his investigation included

brief consideration of the ten lectures.

            Since his initial study, Whybray has offered numerous essays and monographs

that have strengthened and/or modified his original views.15 These studies offer four

fundamental insights or points of departure for my rhetorical analysis of the lectures.

First, study of formal features reveals the presence of ten "discourses" or lectures in

Proverbs 1-9.16 While the use of form-critical methodology in the interpretation of

Proverbs 1-9 and initial impetus for identifying lectures in these chapters came from

others,17 Whybray was the first to apply the form-critical method consistently and

identify ten instructions/lectures. The key feature that led him to this conclusion was

the characteristic introductory formula. According to Whybray, each of the lectures:

_______________________

 

     14 Roger N. Whybray, Wisdom in Proverbs: The Concept of Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9, SBT,

vol. 45 (Chatham, Great Britain: SCM Press, 1965).

 

     15 Roger N. Whybray, "Some Literary Problems in Proverbs 1-9," VT 16 (1966): 482-96;

Wealth and Poverty in the Book of Proverbs, JSOTSup, vol. 99 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990);

The Composition of the Book of Proverbs (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1994); "City Life in

Proverbs 1-9," in "Jedes Ding Has Seine Zeit" Studien zur Israelitischen and Altorientalischen

Weisheit, ed. Arija A. Diesel, Reinhard G. Lehmann, Eckart Otto and Andreas Wagner (Berlin:

Walter de Gruyter, 1996), 243-50.

 

     16 Whybray, Wisdom in Proverbs, 33-37.

 

     17 Whybray acknowledges his dependence on F. Delitzsch (Das Salomische Spruchbuch

[Leipzig: Dorffling and Franke, 1873]) who distinguished 15 "Spruchrede" and G. Wildeboer

(Die Spruche, K.HC [Leipzig, 1897]) who identified 7 "Abschnitte."


                                                                                                                                    8

1) appeals to "my son," 2) commands the son to listen, 3) asserts the personal

authority of the teacher, 4) asserts or implies the value of the teacher's words,

5) makes no reference to any authority other than that of the teacher, and 6) denotes

human wisdom when referring to “wisdom.”18  Since its publication, Whybray's form-

critical identification of ten lectures has stood without serious challenge. This

dissertation accepts and builds on this consensus.

            Second, according to Whybray, the lectures of Proverbs 1-9 were developed

and first used in educational settings. He, like McKane, identified the educational Sitz

im Leben of the lectures by demonstrating a relationship between the lectures

(instructions) of Proverbs 1-9 and Egyptian wisdom instructions, which he thought

were clearly associated with education. Initially, Whybray suggested that Israel's sages

borrowed and adapted foreign wisdom traditions.19 More recently, he has asserted a

parallel development between Israel and other ancient Near Eastern wisdom traditions,

rather than one of direct influence.20 Nonetheless, this link or parallel development

enabled Whybray to place the ten lectures in their "proper" Sitz im Leben, namely

_______________________

 

  18 Whybray, Wisdom in Proverbs, 34-35.

 

   19 Ibid., 35-37.

 

   20 Whybray, The Composition of the Book of Proverbs, 12-13, note 4.

 


                                                                                                                                    9

youth education,21 despite almost complete silence in the rest of the Old Testament

regarding such education.22

            Third, Whybray supplements his form-critical conclusions with redaction-

critical arguments claiming that the wisdom poems (1:20-33, 3:13-20, 8:1-36), the

prologue (1:1-7), the epilogue (9:1-12), and the didactic collection of 6:1-19 are

secondary additions to the lectures.23 According to Whybray, the original core of

Proverbs 1-9 was the ten lectures.24 This conclusion about the compositional history

of Proverbs 1-9 led him to consider further the Sitz im Leben of the collection of

_______________________

 

    21 Whybray, Wisdom in Proverbs, 16.

 

    22 The lack of decisive evidence about education in ancient Israel in the Old Testament has

resulted in an on-going debate regarding the specifics of the educational setting of Proverbs 1-

9 identified by Whybray. For example, whereas the use of the instruction form suggests a Sitz

im Leben among a group aware of international traditions, namely the royal scribal school, the

content of the instructions in Proverbs 1-9 does not reflect royal or scribal concerns.

Presently, this debate revolves around three potential contexts for education: 1) the tribe ,or

family, 2) the royal-court, or 3) a "private" school (see Whybray's summary in The Book of

Proverbs, 18-25). This dissertation tentatively adopts the third hypothesis, namely, the Sitz im

Leben of lectures was some type of educational setting outside the immediate family and

royal-court.

            G.I. Davies ("Were there schools in ancient Israel?" in Wisdom in ancient Israel.

Essays in honour of J.A. Emerton, ed. John Day, Robert P. Gordon, and H.G.M. Williamson

[Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995], 199-211) has persuasively presented the

evidence for the existence of schools in ancient Israel. 1) Although explicit evidence from

the Old Testament itself is minimal (e.g., II Kgs 6:1, Prov 4:7, 5:13, 13:14, 15:7, 17:16, 23:23,

Isa 8:5-6,14,16), it does establish the existence of schools in ancient Israel. 2) Persuasive

indirect arguments may be made from the analogy of other ancient Near Eastern scribal

schools and the scholastic character of certain biblical books, chiefly the wisdom books.

Davies also offers valuable reviews of the contributions of A. Lemaire (Les Ecoles et la

formation de la Bible dans 1'ancien Israel, OBO 39 [Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht,

1981]) and D.W. Jamieson-Drake (Scribes and Schools in Monarchic Judah: A Socio-

Archaeological Approach, JSOTSup 109 [1991]).

 

   23 Whybray, Wisdom in Proverbs, 72-74; and The Composition of the Book of Proverbs,

29-56. See also Fox, "Ideas of Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9," 613-619.

 

     24 Other scholars, e.g., Michael Fox ("Ideas of Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9," 613-619), have

confirmed this aspect of Whybray's redaction history.


                                                                                                                                    10

lectures. Initially, he claimed that the ten discourses originally formed an independent

“handbook of instruction designed for use in school.”25 More recently, while affirming

the educational nature of the lectures, he has argued against their collective existence

in the form of a teacher's manual or a student's handbook because of the redundancy

of the discourses and the lack of any clear redactional plan.26 I will return to this

point at the conclusion of this dissertation.

            Fourth, in another redactional hypothesis based on form critical analysis,

Whybray maintains that the original form of the discourses was short (5-12 couplets).

For example, he edits the ninth lecture from 33 cola (6:20-35, MT) to 13 original cola

(6:20-22, 24-25, 32), and possibly only 8 (6:20-21, 24-25).27 He reduces the rhetorical

variety of the lectures to a common original form. According to Whybray, this

original form was expanded by two levels of additions: 1) additions that enhanced the

authority of the teacher by identifying his teaching with a more than human "wisdom,"

and 2) theological additions that identified "wisdom" as an attribute of Yahweh.

_______________________

 

   25 Whybray, Wisdom in Proverbs, 51.

 

   26 Whybray, The Composition of the Book of Proverbs, 27-28, 34, 57. His denial hinges on

his hypothesis regarding the literary history of the ten lectures. The sporadic and uneven

nature of the additions to the lectures, as identified by Whybray, lead him to conclude that the

additions were made to the individual lectures before their redaction into Proverbs 1-9 (The

Composition of the Book of Proverbs, 59). If his reconstruction of the literary history fails, so

does his denial of a pre-existent collection of lectures.

 

   27 Whybray, Wisdom in Proverbs, 48-49.


                                                                                                                                    11

Whybray's complex proposals about the literary history of the lectures has

suffered critique from a variety of perspectives.28 My rhetorical analysis will also

dispute his claims. I will demonstrate that this hypothetical literary history ignores

rhetorical features that attest to the integrity of the lectures as presented in Proverbs 1-

9 (MT). In this vein, my analysis follows Muilenburg's ' critique of the excesses of

form criticism: "there has been a proclivity among scholars in recent years to lay such

stress upon the typical and representative that the individual, personal, and unique

features of the particular pericope are all but lost to view."29

            My rhetorical analysis, then, will challenge some of Whybray's form-

critical/redactional conclusions. Nonetheless, the form-critical conclusions of Whybray

and McKane are the foundation of the rhetorical analysis presented in this study.

Although my rhetorical practice differs from that of Muilenburg (see chp. 2), his

assessment of the relationship between form criticism and rhetorical criticism

accurately describes my work: "In a word, then, we affirm the necessity of form

_______________________

 

   28 On the matter of Yahwistic reinterpretation (espoused by Whybray and McKane), see

Gerhard von Rad, Wisdom in Israel (Nashville: Abingdon, 1972), 60.68; Roland E. Murphy,

"Wisdom and Yahwism," in No Famine in the Land: Studies in Honor of John L. McKenzie,

ed. J. Flanagan ,and A. Robinson (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1975), 117-26; Roland E.

Murphy, "Wisdom Theses and Hypothesis," in Israelite Wisdom: Theological and Literary

Essays in Honor of Samuel J. Terrien, ed. John G. Gammie, Walter A. Brueggemann, W. Lee

Humphreys and James M. Ward (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1978), 40-41; M.L. Barre,

"The 'Fear of God' and the World View of Wisdom," BTB 11 (1981): 41-43; Frederick

Wilson, "Sacred and Profane? The Yahwistic Redaction of Proverbs Reconsidered," in The

Listening Heart, ed. K.A. Hoglund (Sheffield: JSOT, 1987), 319-20.

 

   29 James Muilenburg, "Form Criticism and Beyond," JBL 88 (1969): 53.


                                                                                                                                    12

criticism, but we also lay claim to the legitimacy of what we have called rhetorical

criticism.”30

 

                                          Traditio-Historical Studies

            Apart from, but closely related to, form-critical studies, several scholars have

pursued what they call the "tradition history" of Proverbs 1-9. Put simply, does

Proverbs 1-9 originate from, depend on, or allude to Israelite religious traditions or

foreign traditions?31 The form of the question suggests the two common tradition-

historical proposals. On the one hand, numerous scholars have attributed not only the

form but the basic content of Proverbs 1-9 to foreign, especially Egyptian, tradition.

Israelite influence is acknowledged, but regarded as secondary.32 On the other hand,

some scholars place Proverbs 1-9 more directly within Israelite traditions.33 For

example, from what source did the author of the lectures take his terminology (e.g.,

"hear," "do not forget")? Whybray asserts that this terminology was derived from

foreign wisdom instructions: "while there may be biblical reminiscences in a few

cases, the parallels with Amen-em-opet are in general much closer than the biblical

_______________________

 

   30 Ibid., 18.

 

   31 For many scholars working with Proverbs 1-9 (e.g., Harris and Maier, see below)

"traditio-historical" study includes the identification of citations or allusions from other texts

and "inter-textual" play. Thus, my survey broadens the definition of "traditio-historical

criticism" to accommodate these scholars.

 

   32 The earlier position of Whybray in Wisdom in Proverbs, 33-37.

 

   33 A. Robert, "Les Attaches Litteraires Bibliques de Prov. I-IX," RB 43 (1934): 42-68,

172-204, 374-84; 44 (1935): 344-65, 502-25; Steiert, Die Weisheit Israels, 211-308; the later

position of Whybray in The Composition of the Book of Proverbs, 159-62; Scott L. Harris,

Proverbs 1-9; Maier, Die fremde Frau' in Proverbien 1-9.

 

 


                                                                                                                                    13

parallels.”34 Against this, Robert argues that this terminology was taken from biblical

sources, especially Deuteronomy.35 The resolution of this complex traditio-historical

debate falls outside the boundaries of this survey. If accepted, however, the theses of

some recent traditio-historical investigations do make limited contributions to our

understanding of the rhetoric of the lectures.

            The first lecture (1:8-19) is a good example of the potential significance of

traditio-historical or inter-textual links for rhetorical criticism. Scott Harris argues that

this lecture plays upon portions of the Joseph novella of Genesis.36 He establishes this

connection by: 1) utilizing the argument of Sternberg and Bakhtin that direct discourse

may represent another discourse by means of selected words and phrases, and

2) noting the shared lexical features of Proverbs 1:8-19 and Genesis 37.37 According

to Harris, these shared lexical features include nine words or phrases:

            1.         xvb: "do not go" (Prov 1:10) // "and he (Joseph) went" (Gen 37:14)

            2.         jlh: "come with us" (Prov 1:11) // "come now" (Gen 37:20)

            3.         Md:"blood" (Prov 1:11, 16, 18) // "blood" (Gen 37:22, 26, 31)

            4.         dry: "as those going down (to the pit)" (Prov 1:12) // "I will go down

                        (to Sheol)" (Gen 37:35)

            5.         fr: "for evil" (Prov 1:16) // "evil (beast)" (Gen 37:20)

            6.         Md jpw: "to shed blood" (Prov 1:16) // "shed no blood" (Gen 37:22)

            7.         tvHrx: "paths" and "ways" (Prov 1:19) // "caravans" (Gen 37:25)

_______________________

 

   34 Whybray, Wisdom in Proverbs, 37.

 

   35 Robert, "Les Attaches Litteraires Bibliques de Prov. I-IX," 43:43-44.

 

   36 Harris, Proverbs 1-9, 33-65.

 

   37 Ibid., 52-61.


                                                                                                                                    14

            8.         fcb+ Md: "ill-gotten gain" and "blood" (Prov 1:19) // "ill-gotten gain"

                        and "blood" (Gen 37:26)

            9.         wpn: "life" (Prov 1:19) // "life" (Gets 37:21)38

The theory of Bakhtin and Sternberg, coupled with the shared expressions of Proverbs

1:8-19 and Genesis 37, lead Harris to identify Proverbs 1:8-19 as an "inner-biblical

interpretation" of Genesis 37. He concludes that,

            The backward glance at events from the Joseph story serves the dual purpose

            of fixing the parent's discourse in the realm of scriptural tradition (i.e., Torah)

            while at the same time providing an authoritative platform for the future

            oriented nature of his/her discourse (i.e., Proverbs).39

In rhetorical terms, the traditio-historical or inter-textual links to Genesis establish the

ethos (i.e., credibility or authority) of the father/rhetor.

            The acceptance or rejection of Harris' conclusion of the "inner-biblical

interpretation" of Genesis 37 in Proverbs 1:8-19 depends on one's acceptance of

Bakhtin's hypothesis about the referential and representational characteristics of

double-voiced discourse and Sternberg's claim that direct speech presupposes an

original utterance that serves as a point of orientation for understanding the speech.40

Here, I accept the possibility that Genesis 37 may serve as an object of orientation for

the direct speech of Proverbs 1:8-19, and thus may be of rhetorical significance to the

ethos of the speaker. However, I question the conclusiveness of shared lexical features

which only include common words that occur throughout the Hebrew Bible.

_______________________

 

   38 Ibid., 52-54.

 

   39 Ibid., 60.

 

   40 See Harris' discussion of Bakhtin and Sternberg (ibid., 46-52).

 


                                                                                                                                    15

            Similarly, Christi Maier observes numerous anthological references

(anthologischen Bezugnahmen) in Proverbs 1-9 to other biblical books, especially

deuteronomistic texts. For example, according to Maier, the Grundtext of the second

lecture (2:1-4, 9-20) takes up the deuteronomistic concern for "forgetting the covenant"

(2:17) found in Jeremiah 3:21, 13:25, 50:5, and Deuteronomy 4:23, 31, while the later

additions to this Grundtext (2:5-8, 21-22) reflect the deuteronomistic land theology

(2:21-22). The speech of the adulteress in 7:14 (the tenth lecture), is formulated on

the basis of late priestly traditions. And, according to Maier, the ninth lecture (6:20-

35) is a midrashic interpretation of the decalogue and Deuteronomy 6:6-9.41

            For Maier, these anthological references prove that Proverbs 1-9 is a scribal

work that could only have been cultivated by people in well educated upper class

circles who were familiar with the written religious traditions of Israel. This

conclusion leads to a second, namely, that Proverbs 1-9 was composed after the

written fixation of the decalogue and deuteronomistic texts. Consequently, Maier

asserts a late post-exilic date for the composition of Proverbs 1-9.

            Although she does not consider the rhetorical function of "anthological

references," Maier's observations, if accepted, are rhetorically significant. First, like

Harris, the literary links to the deuteronomistic literature help establish the ethos of the

rhetor. The father's rhetorical authority is not merely positional (relative to the son) or

based on his status (an acknowledged sage), but rooted in the religious traditions of

the community. Second, Maier discloses a major source of the rhetorical topoi found

_______________________

 

   41 Maier, Die ‘fremde Frau' in Proverbien 1-9, 92-102, 145-166, 185-194, 262.


                                                                                                                                    16

in the lectures, namely the written religious traditions of Israel (esp. Deuteronomy and

Jeremiah).

            Again, the ambiguities and complexities of the tradition history of Proverb 1-9

require separate study. My rhetorical analysis, however, will incorporate the traditio-

historical, anthological, or inter-textual links proposed by Harris, Maier, Robert, et al.,

insofar as these links impact the rhetoric of the lectures, e.g., the development of the

speaker's ethos and the utilization of accepted traditions to establish the speaker's

proposition.

 

                                Studies of the Women in Proverbs 1-9

            Three women or groups of women are present in Proverbs 1-9: woman wisdom

(in the lectures and interludes), the strange/foreign woman (in the lectures only), and

woman folly (in the final interlude only). These women have been the focus of

extensive scholarly attention, especially in recent years.42

            Numerous studies have focused on woman wisdom in Proverbs 1-9.43 Four of

the five interludes present a highly developed personification of wisdom. In the first

interlude (1:20-33), wisdom appears as a female prophet. The second interlude (3:13-

_______________________

 

   42 Because woman folly is not present in the lectures, studies of this figure are omitted in

this survey.

 

   43 G. Bostrom, Proverbiastudien: Die Weisheit and das Fremde Weib in Spr 1-9 (Lund:

C.W.K. Gleerup, 1935); Claudia Camp, Wisdom and the Feminine in the Book of Proverbs,

Bible and Literature Series, vol. 11 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1985); Bernhard Lang, Wisdom

and the Book of Proverbs: An Israelite Goddess Redefined (New York: Pilgrim Press., 1986);

Camilla Burns, "The Heroine with a Thousand Faces: Woman Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9,"

Ph.D. diss. (Berkeley: Graduate Theological Union, 1990); Maier, Die fremde Frau' in

Proverbien 1-9; Gerlinde Baumann, Die Weisheitsgestalt in Proverbien 1-9, FAT 16

(Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1996).

 


                                                                                                                                    17

20) contains a hymn that praises woman wisdom for her value to humans (3:13-18).

The most developed personification occurs in the fourth interlude (8:1-36). Here,

woman wisdom asserts her familial relationship to God and her existence prior to

creation. In the last interlude. (9:1-18), woman wisdom makes a final appeal to the

simple (9:4-6) and offers advice to the teacher (9:7-12).

            In comparison to the personification of wisdom in the interludes, Fox observes

that the personification of wisdom in the lectures “is found in incidental or inchoate

form.”44 Seven lectures refer to hmAk;HA or MkAHA however, only two of these are

clear instances of personification: 1) in 4:5-9, wisdom is a depicted as a woman the

son should prize, embrace, and never forsake; and 2) in 7:4, the son is advised to

make wisdom his bride.45 Consequently, studies of the personification of wisdom

focus on the interludes rather than the lectures and, thus, are of minimal benefit to my

rhetorical analysis of the lectures.

            One investigation of woman wisdom that is helpful for the study of the lectures

is the work of Gerlinde Baumann, Die Weisheitsgestalt in Proverbien 1-9. In addition

to her primary analysis of the personification of wisdom in the I-speeches of the

interludes, Baumann also investigates the other occurrences of hmAk;HA and MkAHA in

Proverbs 1-9. She endeavors to understand the meaning of wisdom in these texts and

_______________________

 

   44 Fox, "Ideas of Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9," 618.

 

   45 Elsewhere in the lectures, hmAk;HA is associated with other abstract terms (2:1-6, 10) or

simply denotes the content of the fathers teaching (4:11, 5:1). MkAHA is used to refer to "the

wise" who will inherit honor (3:35), and to warn the son of the danger of being "wise" in his

own eyes (3:7). See Whybray's analysis (The Book of Proverbs, 71) and the summary by

Baumann (Die Weisheitsgestalt in Proverbien 1-9, 249-51).


                                                                                                                                    18

its relationship to wisdom in the I-speeches: “Is a personification of hmAk;HA also

presented here, or is the word to be understood in another way?”46 Further, what is

the relationship of wisdom to Yahweh outside the I-speeches: "Was it [the relationship

to Yahweh] carried out boldly or concretely as in the I-speeches, or is it perhaps

stressed differently?”47

            Baumann's research leads her to classify the occurrences of "wisdom" outside

the I-speeches in three categories: 1) clear personification (lectures: 4:6,8ff., 7:4;

interludes: 3:16ff., 9:11), 2) uncertain personification (lectures: 2:1f, 4-10, 4:5, 7;

interludes: 3:13-15), and 3) non-personification (lectures 4:10-13, 5:If; interludes: 1:2-

7, 9:10).48 This schema, and especially the study upon which it is built, provides

valuable insights into the rhetorical function and meaning of wisdom in the lectures.

            The strange/foreign woman (hrAzA hwA.xi and hyArik;nA) appears in four

lectures (2:16-19, 5:1-23, 6:20-35, 7:1-27).49 While the identity of this alien woman

has been the subject of numerous studies, her identity has been most recently and fully

explored by Christi Maier.50 While I have already noted Maier's concern for traditio-

_______________________

 

   46 Ibid., 224. My translation of: "Liegt auch hier eine personifizierende Verwendung von

hmAk;HA vor, oder is das Wort in anderer Weise zu verstehen?"

 

   47 Ibid. My translation of: "Wird es starker ausgefuhrt oder konkretisiert als in den Ich-

Reden, oder ist es vielleicht anders akzentuiert?"

 

   48 Ibid., 249.

 

   49 The alien woman also appears to be the basis from which woman folly has been

developed in the final interlude (9:13-18).

 

   50 See the history of research presented by Maier, Die’ fremde Frau' in Proverbien 1-9, 7-

19.


                                                                                                                                    19

historical issues (see above), the identity of the alien woman is also of crucial

significance to Maier's broader investigation of the social-historical matrix of Proverbs

1-9.

            Through careful exegesis of the four lectures in which the alien woman

appears, Maier maintains that this woman is a literary figure who represents the

various life situations of real women and their positions in the late post-exilic society

of the Persian period.51 Specifically, she identifies three literary-rhetorical roles played

by the alien woman. First, the alien woman is a type of the adulteress. Thus, the

rhetorical concern of Proverbs 1-9 is not mixed marriage or cultic infidelity but the

adulteress as an "outsider" within the community.52 Second, the alien woman is a

contrasting figure to woman wisdom. In this respect, the alien woman is described in

both immanent terms reflective of the real life situations of women, and in

transcendent or symbolic terms. This use of metaphor combines symbolic and real

life.53 Third, the alien woman is a parallel figure to the wicked men (cf. 1:10b-14 and

7:14-20). She, like the men, is a social outsider who threatens communal norms and

well-being.54 According to Maier, the forcefulness and the repetition of the warnings

against the alien woman demonstrate the relevance of the (real) problem(s) caused by

her. Whereas historical concerns are secondary to my study, Maier's insights provide

_______________________

 

   51 Ibid., 253, 264-68.

 

   52 Ibid., 254-55.

 

   53 Ibid., 256-58.

 

   54 Ibid., 258-59.


                                                                                                                                    20

significant data for understanding the rhetorical situations and problems confronted in

the lectures.

            Thus, to recapitulate, while recent scholars have made significant contributions

to our understanding of the historical, social, and theological dimensions of the women

in Proverbs 1-9, most of these studies, due to the nature of the text and the specific

foci of the scholars, are of tertiary concern to rhetorical analysis of the lectures. There

are, however, two notable exceptions. First, because Baumann includes the lectures in

her investigation of the personification of wisdom in Proverbs 1-9, she touches on an

important issue for this study, namely, the meaning and significance of wisdom in the

lectures. Second, because the alien woman is a feature of the lectures, Maier's

investigation of this woman's literary-rhetorical roles is of great interest to this study.

Consequently, my analysis will glean important insights from both Baumann and

Maier as I consider the rhetorical function of wisdom and the alien woman in the

lectures.

 

                                          Literary Critical Studies

            Many scholars consider literary analysis and rhetorical criticism to be

synonymous. Indeed, some rhetorical methods are indistinguishable from literary

criticism and, by any definition, literary and rhetorical analysis are closely allied.

Both offer synchronic analysis of the present text (MT), and both practice "close"

reading. The primary difference between my practice of rhetorical analysis and

literary study is my concentrated focus on suasion and the use of conceptual

terminology from classical Western rhetorical theory as a heuristic device for

 

 


                                                                                                                                    21

understanding the text (see chp. 2). However, because these differences are mitigated

by similar interests, various literary analyses of Proverbs 1-9 are of special interest and

benefit to this study.

            Bernhard Lang was the first to contribute a monograph that focused exclusively

on the ten lectures: Die Weisheitliche Lehrrede. Eine Untersuchung von Spruche 1-7.55

In this study, Lang utilized literary-critical methodology in order to establish the date

(pre-exilic) and social setting (family education) of the lectures: He also explored

three exegetische Grundfragen in the lectures: 1) the relationship of action and

consequence (7:1-7, 1:15-19); 2) their teaching about piety (3:21-26, 2:1-11, 3:32-35)

and religion (3:5-12); and 3) their teaching about the foreign woman (2:16-19, 5:1-14,

6:20-35, 7:1-27).

            In this survey, the results of Lang's exegesis are of secondary interest to the

method he espouses. The conclusions of McKane, Whybray, et al., regarding the

influence of Egyptian wisdom on Proverbs 1-9 (see above), are of fundamental

importance to Lang. However, Lang contends, beyond these scholars, that not only is

the individual instruction form in Proverbs 1-9 similar to the Egyptian instruction

form, but the collection of Proverbs 1-9 as a whole is similar to Egyptian instruction

texts or collections.56 Proverbs 1-9, like its Egyptian counterparts, is a loose,

_______________________

 

   55 Lang has published numerous other works on Proverbs 1-9 and related topics: Frau

Weisheit (Dusseldorf: Patmos, 1975); "Schule un Unterricht im Alten Israel," BETL 51 (1979):

186-201; "Klugheit als Ethos and Weisheit als Beruf: Zur Lebenslehre im Alten Testament," in

Weisheit. Archaologie der Literarischen Kommunikation III, ed. Aleida Assman (Munich,

1991), 177-92; Wisdom and the Book of Proverbs; "Figure Ancienne, Figure Nouvelle de la

Sagesse en Pr 1 A 9," LD 160 (1995): 61-97.

 

   56 Lang, Die Weisheitliche Lehrrede, 100.


                                                                                                                                    22

unorganized collection of school literature that lacks any plan, unity, or content

development. Based on this observation, Lang vindicates his isolation of the ten

lectures for study outside the literary context of Proverbs 1-9.57 In other words,

because of the kompilatorische Charakter of the collection, any attempt to study the

lectures as integral parts of a unified composition is futile.

            Lang's extreme conclusion about the literary fragmentation of Proverbs 1-9 has

been challenged by other critics (e.g., Burns and Overland; see below). Rhetorical

analysis of the lectures may also modify Lang's claim by contributing to our

understanding of the redactional strategy of the editor[s]. Nonetheless, an approach

similar to Lang's is adopted in this study. Here, because of their common features

(form) and their foundational role in the development of Proverbs 1-9,58 the lectures

are isolated from the interludes for independent exegesis. This segregation is more of

a heuristic device than a commentary on the literary unity of Proverbs 1-9. This move

is designed to provide clearer insight into the common and unique rhetorical features

of the lectures, insights which may contribute to our understanding of the unity of

Proverbs 1-9.

_______________________

 

   57 Ibid., 28-29, 100.

 

   58 See Fox, “Ideas of Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9, 613-633.

 


                                                                                                                                    23

            Against Lang, Camilla Burns' chief concern is the literary unity of Proverbs 1-

9. In order to demonstrate this unity, Burns utilizes stylistic analysis59 and the Hero

Journey as described by Joseph Campbell.60 She argues that,

            personified wisdom or the Wisdom Woman is a mythic symbol of the heroine

            who makes the archetypal journey and also issues an invitation to others to

            follow the journey of wisdom. The elements of the journey which fit into the

            pattern of the monomyth give a new means of expressing the unity of Prov 1-

            9.61

According to Burns, two fundamental facts support her reading: 1) woman wisdom is a

mythic figure, and 2) the journey (way) is a dominant theme in Proverbs 1-9.62

            Paul Overland, like Burns, also pursues a literary interest in the unity or

"cohesiveness" of Proverbs 1-9, although he does so by employing the methods of

_______________________

 

   59 Burns' "stylistic analysis" ("The Heroine with a Thousand Faces," 36-44) is an amalgam

of James Muilenburg's rhetorical method and the poetics of Robert Alter.

 

   60 Burns, "The Heroine with a Thousand Faces," 4-6.

 

   61 Ibid., 6.

 

   62 Ibid., 7. See also, Norman C. Habel, "The Symbolism of Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9," Int

26 (1972): 131-57.

            Burns provides a unique literary perspective on Proverbs 1-9.  Her analysis, however,

is of limited benefit for rhetorical study of the ten lectures. Burns' interpretive concern is for

woman wisdom and her literary role in unifying Proverbs 1-9. As stated above, the

personification of wisdom is primarily a feature of the interludes, not the lectures. Burns also

favors a thematic division of the material based on the schematics of Joseph Campbell's Hero

Journey rather than division based on formal or rhetorical criteria. For example, she outlines

1:8-2:22 (94-114) in the following way:

            Separation:

                        The Call to Adventure (1:8-19, 20-33; 2:1-4)

                        Supernatural Aid (2:5-11)

                        The Crossing of the First Threshold (2:12-22)

This division unites the first lecture (1:8-19), the first interlude (1:20-33), and the proposition

of the second lecture (2:1-4), while dividing the second lecture (2:1-22). Thus, her literary

analysis pursues different interests and proceeds in a different direction than this dissertation.


                                                                                                                                    24

New Criticism and Structuralism.63 Overland is primarily concerned to identify literary

devices responsible for the framing and coherence of the text, and to demonstrate how

selected "units inter-connect to form a unified text.”64 He achieves this goal by

establishing a catalog of macro- and micro-structural devices that occur in Proverbs 1-

9,65 and offering meticulous analysis of five texts (1:1-7, 1:8-19, 1:20-33, 2:1-22, 3:13-

26).

_______________________

 

   63 Paul B. Overland, "Literary Structure in Proverbs 1-9," Ph.D. diss. (Brandeis University,

1988), 45.

 

   64 Ibid., 44-45.

 

   65 Overland (Ibid., 71-97) identifies numerous macro-structural framing and coherence

devices. Macro-structural framing devices include: opening devices (the vocative ynb, dual-

theme verses, repetition, and dense clustering of key terms), closing devices (use of Nk,

character summaries, dense repetition of key terms, chiasm, and climatic text-terminal usage of

lk), and opening & closing devices (inclusio & palistrophe, and transitional devices). Macro-

structural coherence devices include dynamic ("a series of words or ideas which form a logical

progression," 85) and metaphoric devices ("words which are related but which do not indicate

any progression," 85).

            He also identifies several micro-structural framing and coherence devices (98-140).

Micro-structural framing devices include: opening devices (introductory dual-theme verses and

line-initial lexical markers [e.g., ytm-df, hnh, Mg, zx, yk tHt, and non-consecutive r-v]),

closing devices (climatic use of lk, dual-theme verse conclusion, hendiadys that produces a

climax, rhetorical questions, line-initial Nk lf, and various combinations of formal features

and content that create a sense of conclusion), and opening & closing devices (palistrophes,

inclusios [based on related terms, line-extremities, synonymous word pairs, assonance, and

repeated terms], and transitions [repetition of key terms, dual-theme verse transitions,

antecedent referents, repetition of content, development of content, and use of allusion]).

Micro-structural coherence devices include: dynamic coherence devices (imperative + motive,

series of terms that denote various progressions [e.g., passivity to activity, intensification,

general to specific, tangible to intangible], the law of increasing members, accusation +

reform, form based transpositions, directional motion, dynamic reversals, chronological

organization, description + implication), and metaphoric coherence devices (antithetical word

pairs, grammatical unity of person, affirmative/negative patterning, repetition of terms or

related terms, grammatical unity of tense, patterning of imperatives, jussives and rhetorical

questions, and assonance).
                                                                                                                                    25

Overland's work offers two contributions to the rhetorical analysis of the

lectures. First, many of the structural devices that Overland identifies in Proverbs 1-9

also function as rhetorical devices.66 Indeed, Overland acknowledges this connection.

            Inquiry concerning rhetoric can be instructive since it may be able to explain

            why certain structures were employed. Did elaborate structures serve simply to

            adorn the composition, or did they contain an inherent power to nuance

            transmission of the message in a predictable manner? In order to discern

            whether a structure may have impelled a pupil toward a persuasive goal,

            various aspects about the structure may be considered. Does it escalate or

            diminish the sense of tension in the text? Does it advance the argument

            significantly? Is it instrumental for introducing a key thought into the

            discourse? While this last concept (introduction of a major thought) appears

            purely stylistic, it may contain rhetorical ramifications when the persuasive

            effectiveness of a composition depends on the addition of a new thought.67

Despite this acute insight, Overland's rhetorical observations are minimal and only

offered in support of his avowed purpose, namely, explaining the function of some

structural features in Proverbs 1-9. Nonetheless, his connection of structure and

rhetoric is noteworthy. This study will draw from Overland's observations, but reverse

the dominant concern from structure to rhetoric and expand this focus to all ten

lectures.

            Overland's second contribution to the rhetorical analysis of the lectures is his

selection of two lectures (1:8-19 and 2:1-22) and part of a third (3:21-26) for in-depth

structural analysis. These analyses will be consulted in the rhetorical exegeses of

these texts. Here, his selections warrant two observations. First, from a rhetorical

_______________________

 

   66 For example, the dense clustering of key terms in the closing verse of a textual unit,

character summaries, and the climatic text-terminal use of lk are rhetorical devices for

persuasive conclusion.

 

   67 Overland, "Literary Structure in Proverbs 1-9," 145-46.


                                                                                                                                    26

point of view, Overland's selection of texts is objectionable. Although his criteria for

selection includes “the need for variety,”68 he fails to discern the rhetorical variety in

the lectures. Consequently his selection of texts includes two rhetorically similar

lectures and no representative from other rhetorical types (see chp. 3). Second,

Overland's delimitation of 3:13-26 as a textual unit is problematic. Although he uses

form-critical arguments to disassociate 1:7 from 1:8-19, he rejects the same form-

critical arguments to unite 3:13-26.69  Here, he combines a hymn to wisdom (3:13-18),

a theological appendix to the hymn (3:19-20), and the proposition of the fourth lecture

(3:21-26, while excising the body of this lecture [3:27-35]), into “an entire text.”70

This irregular use of form criticism denotes a weakness in Overland's method, namely,

the danger of inconsistently applying "certain criteria for recognizing unity and

division.”71  More specifically, microscopic attention to structural detail may fail to see

the independence of larger literary or rhetorical units. Despite these objections, the

detail of Overland's structural analysis of the text and the breadth of his catalog of

structural (rhetorical) devices makes his study an valuable aid for any serious literary

or rhetorical study of Proverbs 1-9.

_______________________

 

   68 Ibid., 142.

 

   69 Overland (ibid., 105) identifies 1:7 as the final verse of the unit 1:2-6 for three reasons:

1) the line-initial ynb fmw in 1:8 denotes a new unit, 2) the shift from the indicative mood in

verse 7 to the imperative in verse 8, and 3) verses 8-9 fit together as an imperative followed

by a yk explanatory clause. All of these observations are also true of the disjunction between

3:13-20 and 3:21-35.

 

  70 Ibid., 86, 10-13.

 

   71 Although Overland (Ibid., 12) makes this statement in reference to the form-critical work

of Whybray, it is equally true of his own method.


                                                                                                                                    27

Another literary study that includes consideration of the rhetoric of Proverbs 1-

9 is the recent monograph by Daniel J. Estes. Hear, My Son: Teaching & Learning in

Proverbs 1-9.72  As indicated by the title, this work "endeavors to synthesize the

unorganized data from a portion of the book of Proverbs into a more systematic

statement of the pedagogical theory that underlies its teachings."73 Estes organizes this

data into seven categories: the world view of Proverbs 1-9, values for education, goals,

curriculum, the process of instruction, the role of the teacher, and the role of the

learner.

            While each of Estes' categories supplies helpful information for rhetorical

analysis of the lectures, his discussion of the process of instruction is especially

noteworthy. Estes acknowledges that "the process of instruction" is "the rhetoric of

pedagogy.”74 Thus, his analysis of the process of instruction is, in fact, an

investigation of the diverse rhetorical forms in Proverbs 1-9. In this analysis, he

identifies nine distinct rhetorical strategies.75 Five of these strategies, however, he

limits to the interludes: address, description, condition with command, incentive, and

invitation. Only four of Estes' categories feature the lectures: command with reasons,

command with reasons and illustrations, command with consequences, and command

with rhetorical questions. His rhetorical analysis of the lectures lacks detailed

_______________________

 

   72 D. Estes, Hear My Son: Teaching and Learning in Proverbs 1-9, New Studies in Biblical

Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997).

 

   73 Ibid., 13.

 

   74 Ibid., 104.

 

   75 Ibid., 101-24.


                                                                                                                                    28

attention to the nuances of the rhetoric; nonetheless, it provides a prelude for the type

of analysis carried out in this dissertation.

            In addition to his direct concern for the logos of the rhetoric, Estes considers

what he calls the “role of the teacher.”76 In rhetorical terms, analysis of the teacher's

role, as well as discussion of the “curriculum for education,”77 includes the

development of the rhetor's ethos (credibility or right to be heard). For example, Estes

claims that three sources are utilized by the sage of Proverbs 1-9: 1) personal

observation, 2) tradition from Israel and other ancient Near Eastern cultures, and 3)

revelation from God. As I mentioned in regard to traditio-historical study (see above),

the second and third sources are significant factors in the development of the sage's

ethos or authority. Indeed, Estes comments that the sage “does not speak by personal

authority alone, but he is also the voice of the received tradition that transcends

him.”78 Thus, the sage “is qualified to speak because of his expert status as a

knowledgeable and reliable transmitter of tradition.”79 Similarly, the claim of

information via revelation asserts a strong warrant to authority and the right to be

heard.

            The similar interests and practices of literary and rhetorical analysis make the

literary studies of Lang, Burns, Overland, and Estes natural conversation partners in

_______________________

 

   76 Ibid., 125-34.

 

   77 Ibid., 87-99.

 

   78 Ibid., 92.

 

   79 Ibid., 126.

 

 


                                                                                                                                    29

the ensuing rhetorical exegesis. Thus, each of these scholars, now introduced, will

return to the stage at a later point. Moreover, the works of Overland and Estes serve

as excellent introductions to the rhetorical issues pursued in this dissertation, namely,

the ethos, pathos, and logos of the ten lectures. These overtures lead us to the final

category of this survey, namely, studies with primary interest in the rhetoric of

Proverbs 1-9.

                                                       Rhetorical Analyses

            Interpretations of Proverbs 1-9 with dominant rhetorical interests, which include

the lectures, are uncommon and limited in scope.80 In addition to the literary studies

of Overland and Estes, numerous articles and essays have made passing reference to

the rhetoric of these chapters.81 However, four essays comprise the totality of focused

rhetorical study of Proverbs 1-9 in the twentieth century.82

_______________________

 

   80 A few studies, not considered here, utilize the "rhetorical criticism" of James Muilenburg

(see chp. 2) and focus exclusively on the interludes: Phyllis Trible, 'Wisdom Builds a Poem:

The Architecture of Proverbs 1:20-33," JBL 94 (1975): 509-18; Matirice Gilbert, "Le Discours

de la Sagesse en Proverbes 8. Structure et Coherence," BETL 51 (1979): 202-218; and Duck

Woo Nam, "A Rhetorical-Critical Study of the Speeches of Wisdom, in Proverbs 1-9," M.Th.

thesis (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1994).

 

   81 E.g., Michael V. Fox, "The Pedagogy of Proverbs 2," JBL 113 (1994): 233-43; and

"Ideas of Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9," 613-633.

 

   82 Rhetorical study of Proverbs, outside chapters 1-9, has fared somewhat better. See Philip

Johannes Nel, The Structure and Ethos of the Wisdom Admonitions in Proverbs, BZAW, vol.

158 (New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1982); Jutta Krispenz, Spruchkompositionen im Buch

Proverbia, Europaische Hochschulschriften, vol. 349 (Frankfurt: P. Lang, 1989); Dave

Lawrence Bland, "A Rhetorical Perspective on the Sentence Sayings of the Book of Proverbs,"

Ph.D. diss. (University of Washington, 1994); Roland Meynet, "'Pour Comprendre Proverbe et

Enigme' Analyse Rhetorique de Proverbs 1:1-7; 10:1-5; 26:1-12," in Ouvrir les Ecritures, ed.

Pietro Bovati (Paris: Cerf, 1995), 97-118.


                                                                                                                                    30

            The first and most significant of these essays is by J.N. Aletti, “Seduction et

Parole en Proverbes I-IX.”83  In this seminal essay, Aletti proposed that what seduces

the young man in Proverbs 1-9 above anything else are the speeches of the strange

woman. For example, in chapter 7, the young man is not seduced by the perfume,

rare fabric, or the absence of the woman's husband. Rather, he is made aware of these

things by the woman's speech and he follows her because of the persuasiveness of her

speech.84 Thus, the objective of Aletti's essay is to understand how the seductive

speeches in Proverbs 1-9 work.

            In order to discern the mechanism of the seductive rhetoric, Aletti compares the

first speech of wisdom (1:22-33) to the speeches of the strange woman (7:14-20) and

the wicked men (1:11-14). He draws two conclusions from this comparison. First, the

speeches of the strange woman and wicked men seduce by utilizing and confusing the

vocabulary of the father and woman wisdom. The seduction operates by inverting the

rhetoric of the opposition. Aletti writes,

            Does not the greatest seduction consist of inviting to do evil with the same

            words (almost) that appeal to good? The malicious speak to the inexperienced:

            "we will fill (xlm) our houses with booty" (1:13), and the sage affirms in the

            same way: "I endow wealth on those who love me and I fill (xlm) their

            treasures" (8:21). "Rejoice in the wife of your youth . . . may you (Mydd) be

            intoxicated (hvr) by her at all times," says the teacher (5:19), and as an echo,

            the adulteress repeats: "Come let us take our fill of love (Mydd: a clear allusion

            to 5:19) until morning" (7:18). The clearest example, because of stylistic

_______________________

 

   83 J.N. Aletti, "Seduction et Parole en Proverbes I-IX," VT 27 (1977): 129-44.

   84 Ibid., 129-130.


                                                                                                                                    31

            marks, is found in Proverbs 9 where dame Wisdom and dame Folly both say:

            "You who are inexperienced turn in here!" (9:4,15).85

Aletti observes numerous instances of such brouillage axiologique in the speeches of

the wicked men, the strange woman, and woman folly. These opponents invite the

young man to participate in illicit behavior with the same words used by the sage to

appeal to good character. Thus, their speeches seduce by numbing and confusing the

young man's capacity to discern.

            Second, the speeches of the strange woman and the wicked men seduce by

contradicting the sage's assertion of consequences. Seduction is not achieved by

justifying the illicit action or extolling the object of pleasure, but by a counter-

evaluation of the consequences.86 For example, the adulteress persuades the young

man that the consequences of adultery affirmed by the sage (5:25-35) can and will be

avoided: her husband is far away and will not return until the full moon (7:19-20).

Similarly, the wicked men attempt to persuade the young man that happiness and

prosperity may be found without following the way of the sages (1:13-14). Thus, the

mechanism of seduction consists of divorcing socially accepted consequences from

_______________________

 

   85 Ibid., 133 (my translation).

            la [sic] plus grande seduction ne consiste-t-elle pas a inviter au mal avec (preque) les

            memes paroles que celui qui appelle au bien? Les mechants disent a l'inexperimente

            (1:13): "nous emplirons (ml') nos maisons de butin", et la sagesse affirme de la

            meme facon (viii 21): "je procure des ressources a ceux qui m'aiment et je remplis

            (ml') leurs coffres". "Jouis de la femme de to jeunesse . . . que ses seins (ddym)

            t'enivrent (rwh) tout le temps" dit le maitre (v 19), et, comme en echo, la femme

            adultere repete: "viens! enivrons-nous (rwh) de voupte (ddymn; allusion evidente a

            v 19) jusqu'au matin" (vii 18). L'exemple le plus net, parce que stylistiquement

            marque, se trouve en Prov. ix ou dame Sagesse et dame Insensee disent l’une et

            1'autre: "que celui qui est inexperimente se detourne par ici! (versets 4 et 15).

 

86 Ibid., 134.


                                                                                                                                    32

their socially condemned behaviors. Aletti observed that this means of seduction

threatens to destroy the values on which the community relies for existence.87

            Aletti's insights were taken up by two essays published in 1989. In the first,

Gale Yee built on Aletti's thesis that what seduces the young man are the speeches of

the strange woman.88 While Aletti focused on the mechanics or rhetoric of individual

speeches, Yee explored the arrangement of the speeches in Proverbs 1-9. She

proposed that these speeches were arranged in chiastic patterns in order to highlight

the virtues of woman wisdom and to expose the risks of the foreign woman.89

            Yee's study combined literary concern for the unity of Proverbs 1-9 with keen

sensitivity to matters of rhetoric. In addition to uncovering more examples of Aletti's

brouillage axiologique, she detected, even more than Aletti, the incredible importance

that speech (rhetoric) plays in these chapters. For example, Yee pointed out that part

of the heuristic method of the writer of Proverbs 1-9 included the citation of speeches

by various persons. Within the instructional framework of the father's speeches, the

writer cites speeches by sinners, woman wisdom, the father's father, the son, the

strange woman and woman folly.90 Further, the father's warnings against the strange

woman consistently emphasize the irresistible seductiveness of her speech. It is the

_______________________

 

   87 Ibid., 140-142.

   88 Gale A. Yee, "'I Have Perfumed My Bed with Myrrh': The Foreign Woman in Proverbs

1-9," JSOT 43 (1989): 53-68.

   89 Ibid., 53.

   90 Ibid., 55.

 


                                                                                                                                    33

concern of the father.91 In other words, these chapters document a war of words and

this rhetorical battle for the allegiance of the son provides the essence of Proverbs 1-9.

In another essay published in 1989, Carol Newsom reiterated the preoccupation

of Proverbs 1-9 with speech about speech, or, to use her terminology, discourse about

discourse.92 To be sure, Newsom does not adhere to a rhetorical method in her study.

Rather, she combines insights from the linguistic theory of Emile Benveniste, feminist

criticism, and discourse analysis to investigate the symbolic structure of Proverbs 1-9.

            The significance of Newsom's study for rhetoric is that her discourse analysis

discloses the rhetorical subtlety of the lectures, a subtlety largely overlooked by Aletti

and Yee. For example, Newsom summarizes the theme of the first lecture as: "how to

resist interpellation by a rival discourse.”93 She notes that the speech of the sinners is

completely controlled by the father and shaped in such a way that their invitation to

the son can scarcely be taken at face value. In other words, the son is not being

warned about adopting a career as a murderous bandit. The rhetoric operates more

subtly. The invitation of the brigands is a metaphor for illicit economic activity,

confirmed by verse 19: "such are the ways of all who cut a big profit.”94 Newsom

further asserts that the real problem addressed in this lecture is a challenge to the

_______________________

 

   91 Ibid., 61, 65-66.

 

   92 Carol A. Newsom, "Woman and the Discourse of Patriarchal Wisdom: A Study of

Proverbs 1-9," in Gender and Difference in Ancient Israel, ed. Peggy, L. Day (Minneapolis:

Fortress, 1989), 142-60.

  

   93 Ibid., 144.

 

   94 Ibid., 145.


                                                                                                                                    34

vertical structure of authority (espoused by the father) by a horizontal structure based

on common enterprise and immediate access to wealth (espoused by the sinners).

Lurking beneath the surface is a generational chasm.

            Four years after Aletti's initial foray into the rhetoric of Proverbs 1-9, James

Crenshaw issued an appeal for further study of the rhetorical techniques found in

Israel's wisdom literature.95 At the time, Crenshaw was responding to George

Kennedy's assertion that rhetorical consciousness was entirely foreign to the nature of

biblical literature. Specifically, Kennedy proposed that the biblical claim to speak

with divine authority excluded the need for rhetoric or the practice of persuasion.96 In

order to challenge Kennedy's claim, Crenshaw offered a brief rhetorical analysis of

texts from Israel's wisdom literature, including Proverbs 1-9.

            In his analysis of Proverbs 1-9, Crenshaw challenged what he perceived to be

another misconception among biblical scholars (e.g., Zimmerli), namely, the absolute

authority of the instruction form and the advisory character of the sentence proverb.

He demonstrated that

            a peculiar irony persists: precisely where authority is most lacking, i.e., in

            instructions, critics assume its pervading presence, and in sentences, which

            compel assent without the slightest reinforcement, interpreters emphasize their

            advisory character.97

_______________________

 

   95 James Crenshaw, "Wisdom and Authority: Sapiential Rhetoric and Its Warrants,"

Congress Volume, VTSup 32 (1981): 10-29.

 

   96 George A. Kennedy, Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular Tradition from

Ancient to Modern Times (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980), 120.

Kennedy has modified his position since 1980 (see chp. 2).

 

   97 Crenshaw, "Wisdom and Authority," 16.

 


                                                                                                                                    35

Crenshaw established his position by pointing out the use of sentence proverbs to

establish the authority (or validity) of four “instructions.”98 In these instructions, the

proverbs are the heart of the sage's rhetorical argument. Thus, in a single stroke,

Crenshaw demonstrated the careful rhetorical construction of the instructions (against

Kennedy) and challenged the scholarly consensus that the sentence proverbs were

inherently less authoritative than the instructions.99

            To summarize, the studies of Aletti, Yee, and Newsom are of fundamental

significance to this dissertation. These scholars have demonstrated both the

importance of rhetoric within Proverbs 1-9 and the potential of utilizing rhetorical

analysis in the interpretation of these chapters. They have also shown that the lectures

of Proverbs 1-9 are not crass speeches that simply repeat the same appeals ad

infinitum. Rather, the lectures of Proverbs 1-9 exhibit marks of careful, self-conscious,

and subtle rhetorical thought.

            Crenshaw's essay, beyond the specifics of his rhetorical exegesis, also has

special significance to this study. First, Crenshaw directly relates his work to the

rhetorical studies of George Kennedy. Although he argues against Kennedy,

_______________________

 

   98 Crenshaw's four "instructions" include two lectures (1:6[sic]-19, 6:20-35) and two

interludes (6:6-11, 9:1-18).

 

   99 In addition to his comments regarding Proverbs 1-9, Crenshaw ("Wisdom and Authority,"

17-28) utilized the concepts and terminology of classical Western rhetorical theory to explore

Job and I Esdras 3:1-5:3. Regarding Job, he concentrated on the rhetorical development of

ethos (the speaker's claim to authority), pathos (the ways a speaker sways belief or moves an

audience to action), and logos (the logic of the speech itself). In his study of I Esdras,

Crenshaw focused on basic rhetorical devices (choice of material, arrangement, vocabulary,

and style), and the combination of these devices to produce a persuasive speech.


                                                                                                                                    36

Kennedy's theoretical work in classical Western rhetoric greatly informs Crenshaw's

practice of rhetorical analysis. Similarly, this study builds on studies by Kennedy (see

chp. 2). Second, Crenshaw concludes his essay with the following claim:

            Similar forays into other wisdom texts, which I hope to make in the near

            future, should reveal extensive mastery of rhetorical technique even where the

            hand of authority weighs heavily upon the material. In a word, Israel's teachers

            spoke with authority, but they also developed and refined persuasion to an

            art.100

This dissertation may be viewed as a response to Crenshaw's challenge: to reveal the

mastery of rhetorical technique in the lectures of Proverbs 1-9 and, thus, demonstrate

how Israel's sages developed and refined persuasion to a fine art.

 

                                                         Summary

            This survey has attempted to situate my rhetorical analysis of the ten lectures

within recent scholarly work on Proverbs 1-9 and to introduce key studies that will

reappear throughout this dissertation. While acknowledging the merits and

contributions of each of the methods and foci discussed, my rhetorical analysis is most

closely allied to form and literary critical methods. Traditio-historical studies and

studies of the women in Proverbs 1-9 are also partners, but most frequently, silent

partners to rhetorical analysis.

            As in other biblical studies, one may also perceive in this survey an evolution

from concentrated diachronic, to synchronic analysis, to an emerging concern for the

_______________________

 

   100 Ibid., 29. To date, Crenshaw has not yet published additional rhetorical studies of

Israel's wisdom literature. See, however, his forthcoming monograph: Education in Ancient

Israel: Across the Deadening Silence (Doubleday, Forthcoming).

 


                                                                                                                                    37

rhetorical features of Proverbs 1-9. It is the goal of this dissertation to continue this

line of development by filling a major lacuna observed in this survey, namely, a

systematic rhetorical analysis of the ten lectures.


  

 

                                                       Chapter Two

  

                                           RHETORICAL CRITICISM

                                    AND BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION

 

            Rhetorical criticism, as a methodological description, is rife with problematic

ambiguity. The definition, theory, and practice of rhetoric has been debated from its

inception in ancient Greece to modern times. Its history is one of constant change,

adaptation, and redefinition. Consequently, rhetorical analysis in biblical exegesis is

not a unified or single method. Rather, late twentieth century biblical interpretation is

the beneficiary of several diverse practices of rhetorical criticism, each with legitimate

roots in the history of rhetoric.

            In this chapter I will define the rhetorical method to be used in this

dissertation. To begin, because my method builds on ancient rhetorical foundations, it

will be helpful to preface the definition of my rhetorical method with a brief survey of

the emergence of rhetoric in the ancient West. Next, I will review the use of

rhetorical criticism in biblical studies. This review will include an historical survey of

the use of rhetoric and an examination of four contemporary rhetorical methods in

biblical interpretation. Each of these methods raises important theoretical questions,

e.g., the definition of rhetorical criticism. Thus, in addition to a description of each

method, I will address the theoretical questions they raise and so begin to articulate the

 

                                                              38

 

 


                                                                                                                                    39

underpinnings of my own method. Finally, I will present a programmatic statement of

the rhetorical method to be used in my analysis of the ten lectures of Proverbs 1-9.1

 

                                            A Brief Survey of the

                           Emergence of Rhetoric in the Ancient West

            Although this dissertation is a rhetorical analysis of an ancient non-Western

text (Prov 1-9), consideration of rhetoric in the ancient West is a necessary starting

point. On the one hand, presently, there is no comprehensive analysis of ancient

Israelite rhetorical theory or practice.2  On the other hand, no other ancient society

conceptualized their rhetorical practices to the degree of the rhetors of ancient Greece

and Rome.3 Thus, while limited by different cultural conditions (see below), ancient

Western rhetorical theory contributes essential conceptual terminology for identifying

and discussing the rhetorical features of non-Western texts and, hence, the ten lectures

in Proverbs 1-9.

            The origins of ancient Western rhetorical theory may be traced to the Homeric

traditions of the 10th – 11th centuries BCE. However, most scholars attribute the rise of

_______________________

 

   1 The method I espouse here would also be useful for the study of the speeches by woman

Wisdom (1:20-33, 8:1-36, 9:1-12). Although rhetorical analysis need not be limited to texts

that present themselves as speeches (e.g., 3:13-20 and 6:1-19), the method developed in this

dissertation especially focuses on rhetorical criticism as it applies to the analysis of speeches.

 

   2 Some partial analyses are beginning to appear. See Ronald C. Katz, The Structure of

Ancient Arguments: Rhetoric and Its Near Eastern Origin (New York: Shapolsky/Steinmatzky,

1977); Isaac Rabinowitz, "Pre-Modern Jewish Study of Rhetoric: An Introductory

Bibliography," Rhetorica 3 (1985): 137-144; and Margaret D. Zulick, "The Active Force of

Hearing: The Ancient Hebrew Language of Persuasion," Rhetorica 10 (1992): 367-380.

 

   3 See George A. Kennedy, Comparative Rhetoric: An Historical and Cross-Cultural

Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 5.


                                                                                                                                    40

rhetoric, as a discrete discourse, to writers in the 5th - 6th centuries BCE. It is not

possible here, because of the compass of this history, to present even an outline of the

emergence of rhetorical theory in the ancient West.4 Rather, drawing from the

histories of this era written by Thomas Conley5 and George Kennedy,6  I will introduce

the reader to the questions addressed by ancient rhetorical theory and the diverse

answers that the rhetors of the ancient West gave to these questions. Here, in addition

to its contribution of conceptual terminology, ancient Western rhetoric will make a

second donation to this dissertation, namely that, as Conley points out, both the

questions addressed by rhetoric and the diverse answers are the same today as twenty-

five centuries ago.7

            Rhetorical theory addresses the nature and function of persuasive discourse. Is

there an absolute Truth or authority to which a rhetor can appeal? If so, what are the

source(s) of this Truth? If not, what is the basis of human action? What is the role of

the rhetor? Is the rhetor to persuade the audience to accept Truth, his/her opinion, or

to present all possible sides of an issue and work with the audience to achieve a

consensus? If the task of the rhetor is to persuade, what are the most effective

_______________________

 

   4 The bibliography on ancient Western rhetoric is immense. See Richard Leo Enos, "The

Classical Period," in The Present State of Scholarship in Historical and Contemporary

Rhetoric, ed. Winifred Bryan Homer (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1983), 10-39.

 

   5 Thomas M. Conley, Rhetoric in The European Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago

Press, 1990).

 

   6 George A. Kennedy, The Art of Persuasion in Greece (Princeton: Princeton University

Press, 1963); and Classical Rhetoric, 3-85.

 

   7 Conley, Rhetoric, 24.

 


                                                                                                                                    41

methods of persuasion? These are some of the questions addressed by rhetorical

theorists in the ancient West and rhetoricians in contemporary biblical studies.

            In the ancient West, there were, according to Conley, four distinct models of

rhetoric, each with "its own fundamental commitments and each with its own view of

the nature and ends of rhetoric."8 The first two models, Protagorean and Gorgianic,

may be characterized as "Sophistic" because of their stance against the absolute nature

of truth. The third, Platonic, challenged the Sophistic view of truth and its

corresponding theory of rhetoric. And the fourth model, Aristotelian, questioned

elements of both Sophistic and Platonic rhetoric.

            Protagoras (c. 490-400 BCE) may be loosely described as an ancient

postmodern.9 According to Protagoras, absolute Truth was inaccessible to humans and

perhaps even nonexistent. All matters of "truth" are contestable. Thus, disputes must

be resolved by "antilogic," the rhetorical method of examining both sides of the

question or issue, without appeal to absolute standards of Truths traditional standards

of behavior, or universal principles. In this system, "man is the measure and measurer

of all things.”10 Consequently, the role of the rhetor and rhetoric in society is of

paramount importance. The rhetor must present both sides of an argument clearly and

_______________________

 

   8 Conley, Rhetoric, 23.

 

   9 Kennedy's description of the Sophistry associated with Protagoras and Gorgias in ancient

Greece (Comparative Rhetoric, 225) aptly describes many postmoderns: "[Sophistry] was

characterized by celebration of power and speech, philosophical relativism or skepticism,

questioning traditional beliefs of the society; fascination with an apparent ability to

demonstrate a paradox or prove two sides of an issue; and an interest in the nature of language

and linguistic experimentation."

 

   10 Kennedy, The Art of Persuasion in Greece, 13.


                                                                                                                                    42

persuasively for the audience to reach an intelligent decision (doxa) on a course of

action. For Protagoras, it is this human opinion (doxa), not absolute Truth, that is the

only basis for action.

            Gorgias (c. 480-375 BCE), like Protagoras, rejected the authority of tradition

and the idea of absolute Truth. He also asserted that the only basis of action is

opinion (doxa). His philosophical relativism is exhibited in his famous thesis that

"nothing exists, if it did it could not be apprehended, and if it could be apprehended,

that apprehension could not be communicated.”11  However, Gorgias understood the

role of the rhetor differently than Protagoras. While Protagoras viewed rhetoric as a

presentation of both sides of an issue by an active rhetor to an active audience, who

must decide the issue, Gorgias viewed rhetoric as the skillful presentation of an active

rhetor who casts a spell over a passive audience in order to persuade it to adopt the

position (doxa) of the rhetor.

            Contemporaries of Protagoras and Gorgias heavily criticized their teaching of

Sophistic rhetorics. Like contemporary critics of postmodernism, many Greeks viewed

the rejection of absolute Truth and the authority of tradition as a direct threat to the

fabric of society. For example, Aristophanes accused Protagoras of teaching his

students "how to make the worse case appear the better,”12 and Plato accused Gorgias

_______________________

 

    11 Summarized by Kennedy (The Art of Persuasion in Greece, 14) from Gorgias' On the

Nonexistent, or On Nature.

 

   12 Summarized by Conley (Rhetoric, 6) from Aristophanes The Clouds, 112f. (Unless

otherwise noted, all references to Classical Texts utilize the reference system of the Loeb

Classical Library.)

 

 


                                                                                                                                    43

of "putting a knife in the hands of a madman in the crowd."13 Conley sums up the

problem:

            the reliance of both on doxa alone deprives them of any objective criterion by

            which to distinguish between what is true or false or between what is right or

            wrong. Protagorean debate, in other words, could easily, degenerate to a

            dialogue between two equally ignorant and misguided parties, and Gorgianic

            persuasion could easily become a cynical exercise in manipulation by one who

            had mastered the techniques of charming one's listeners.14

It must be mentioned, in defense of Sophistic rhetoric, that Isocrates, another Sophist,

emphasized the importance of the rhetor being a good person who is actively involved

in promoting the welfare of the community. Nonetheless, for many, the Sophistic

rejection of Truth and traditional authority marked them at best as suspicious, and at

worst as heretics who threatened to destroy society.

            Plato (427-347 BCE) had no tolerance for the Sophistic concept of opinion

(doxa). According to Plato, absolute Truth (the eternal and immutable essence of

things) did exist and rhetoric, as defined by the Sophists, was not only misguided, but

dangerous. Following Socrates, Plato argued that Truth was absolute, knowable, and

should guide human activity. This philosophy led Plato to scathing attacks on the

Sophists in Gorgias and Phaedrus.15

            Platonic rhetoric may be described as either anti-rhetoric rhetoric, philosophical

rhetoric, or True rhetoric. Plato rejected the Protagorean rhetoric of debate, presenting

_______________________

 

   13 Summarized by Conley (Rhetoric, 6) from Gorgias 469 C 8ff.

 

   14 Conley, Rhetoric, 7.

 

   15 Plato, Gorgias, trans. W.R.M. Lamb, LCL, ed. E.H. Warmington (Cambridge: Harvard

University Press, 1925); and Phaedrus, trans. Harold North Fowler, LCL, ed. G.P. Goold

(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1914).


                                                                                                                                    44

both sides of an issue to determine which is better, and the Gorgianic rhetoric of

casting a spell over an audience in order to lead it to the opinion of the rhetor.

Platonic rhetoric begins and ends with Truth. The rhetor's task is to know what is

True and to lead the ignorant listener to the Truth by means of dialectical reasoning.

Thus, the effective rhetor must understand Truth, understand methods or forms of

argumentation (primarily dialectics), and understand the nature of the audience.16

            Aristotle (384-322 BCE), one of Plato's students, challenged his teacher on his

limited definition of Truth as the eternal and immutable essence of things. In

Aristotle's view, truth must also include knowledge obtained from practical and

productive spheres of life, not just esoteric universal ideas. As a consequence of this

expansion of truth, Aristotle realized that the nature of truth is not always stable. For

example, "We cannot expect of ethics the same rigor we would expect from

geometry."17  In practical and productive spheres of life, truth is what usually happens

rather than an absolute. To be sure, Aristotle was not a Sophist; he believed in truth.

But against Plato, he believed truth included more than the eternal and immutable

essence of things.

            Aristotle's rejection of Plato's understanding of truth led to a challenge of

Plato's disregard for rhetoric. For Aristotle, dialectic and rhetoric differ, but are not

_______________________

 

   16 Conley, Rhetoric, 12.

 

   17 As cited by Conley (Rhetoric, 14), from Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics 1.3.1-4. See

also 2.2.3.

 

 

 


                                                                                                                                    45

opposed to one another:  “Rhetoric is the counterpart of dialectic.”18 Dialectic is

primarily a philosophical discourse that derives its arguments from universal opinion.

Rhetoric is a political discourse that derives its arguments from particular opinions.

Both are legitimate "arts," but differ in form and subject. Kennedy summarizes

Aristotle's stance:

            Aristotle was practical enough to recognize the usefulness of rhetoric as a tool.

            Those speaking the truth and doing so justly, have, he thought (Rhetoric

            1355a21ff.), an obligation to be persuasive. They need rhetoric since the

            subjects under discussion are not known scientifically and thus are not capable

            of absolute demonstration.19

            Aristotle's understanding of truth and rhetoric as a tool for the advancement of

truth led him to produce one of the earliest handbooks on rhetorical theory, The "Art"

of Rhetoric. In this work, he defines the art of rhetoric as "the faculty of discovering

the possible means of persuasion in reference to any subject wlatever.”20 Thus, the

rhetor must understand the difference between Truth and probabilities, and how to

develop a convincing argument based on probability. I will return to Aristotle's

concept of persuasion when I develop my own rhetorical method.

            It may be helpful to consider one final issue regarding ancient Western

rhetoric, namely, why four rhetorics instead of one? As I have pointed out,

Protagorean, Gorgianic, Platonic, and Aristotelian rhetoric distinguish themselves on

the basis of their responses to two related questions. First, what is the nature of truth?

_______________________

 

   18 Aristotle, The "Art" of Rhetoric, trans. John Henry Freese, LCL (Cambridge, MA:

Harvard University Press, 1926), 1.1.

 

   19 Kennedy, The Art of Persuasion in Greece, 18.

 

   20 Aristotle, The "Art" of Rhetoric, 15.


                                                                                                                                    46

Is truth absolute (Plato), inaccessible if existent (Protagoras & Gorgias) or inclusive of

both absolutes and what usually happens (Aristotle)? Second, what is the nature of

rhetoric? Is rhetoric a cooperative exercise between a rhetor and an audience

(Gorgias), or the active persuasion of a rhetor over an audience (Protagoras, Plato,

Aristotle)? But why did these rhetors respond to the same questions in different ways?

According to Conley, each of these rhetorical models may be understood as different

responses to shifting political conditions in Athens.

            For the sophists, Athenian reform presented an occasion for systematic thinking

            about rhetoric. Thus, Protagorean rhetoric supplies a rationale for the

            resolution of problems by means of public discussion in the absence of political

            or ethical absolutes. 'Gorgianic' rhetoric likewise rejects claims to absolute

            knowledge of what is true and good, but offers a set of instructions that would

            make it possible for an orator to prevail in the current system, rather than a

            rationale for the system itself. Plato's response, as we have seen, is negative,

            denying the legitimacy both of rhetoric as it was taught and practiced and of

            the democratic system that made it possible.21

In summary, ancient rhetorical theory was both fostered by cultural conditions and a

response to these conditions. Rhetorical theory has never existed in a vacuum.

 

                                    Rhetorical Criticism in Biblical Studies

                                   1. Early History to the Demise of Rhetoric

                                        in Twentieth Century Biblical Studies

            Rhetorical criticism was a significant method in biblical (especially NT)

interpretation from the earliest exegetes through the 17th and 18th centuries.22  For

_______________________

 

   21 Conley, Rhetoric, 13.

 

   22 See the histories of rhetoric in biblical interpretation by Kennedy (Classical Rhetoric,

132-241), Wilhelm Wuellner ("Where is Rhetorical Criticism Taking Us?" CBQ 49 [1987]:

450-451), Burton Mack (Rhetoric and the New Testament [Minneapolis: Augsburg/Fortress,

1989], 10), and Phyllis Trible (Rhetorical Criticism, GBS [Minneapolis: Fortress Press,

 


                                                                                                                                    47

example, Augustine (354-430 CE), a student of rhetoric, interpreted biblical texts by

means of rhetorical analysis.23 In the Middle Ages, Christian (e.g., Cassiodorus of

Italy [c. 487-580 CE],24 the Venerable Bede of Britain [673-735 CE])25 and Jewish

scholars (e.g., Saadya Gaon [882-942 CE], Moses ibn Ezra [c. 1055-1140 CE])26 drew

_______________________

 

14-17).

 

   23 In his treatise On Christian Teaching ([De Doctrina Christiana] trans. R.P.H. Green

[Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997], 4.19-60), Augustine raises the question of how a

person can best conduct a "careful investigation" and thus gain a "real understanding" of the

scriptures. He responds with exemplary exegeses of Romans 5:3-5, II Corinthians 11:16-30,

and Amos 6:1-6 in which he identifies the "rules of eloquence" followed in these texts (i.e.,

rhetorical devices such as climax, invective, and elaboration). He concludes: "As certain

eloquent and discerning authorities were able to see and say, the things that are learnt in the

so called art of public speaking would not have been observed, noted; and systematized into a

discipline if they had not first been found in the minds of orators; so why be surprised if they

are also found in the words of men sent by God, the creator of all minds. We should

therefore acknowledge that our canonical authors and teachers are eloquent, and not just wise,

with a kind of eloquence appropriate to the kind of persons they were" (4.60).

 

24 P.G. Walsh (Cassiodorus: Explanation of the Psalms, trans. P.G. Walsh, ACW, vol. 51

[New York: Paulist Press, 1990], 1:16) summarizes Cassiodorus' use of rhetoric in his

exposition of the Psalms: "Following the traditional division of speeches documented in detail

by Quintilian, he distinguishes between the demonstrative type (the speech of praise or blame

appropriate for formal occasions), the deliberative type (which was delivered in political

assemblies and offered persuasion or dissuasion on particular courses of action), and the

judicial variety (uttered in pleading in a court of law). Examples of all three are offered in the

course of the commentary; naturally enough, he equates the greatest number of psalms with

the demonstrative category, since they are predominantly expressions of praise to the Creator.

Then, in outlining the structure of individual psalms he frequently employs the terminology of

the rhetoricians, who prescribe appropriate patterns for the different types of speech; for

example, the judicial speech is divided into exordium, narratio, partitio, confirmatio,

reprehensio, conclusio."

 

     25 Bede, following Cassiodorus, was especially sensitive to figures tropes and the poetic

structure of biblical books (see De schematis et tropes). He applied his method in studies of

the tabernacle (De tabernaculo [On the Tabernacle]) and temple (De templo [On the Temple]).

Bede also claimed that Greek rhetorical devices originated from the Hebrew. (See Trible,

Rhetorical Criticism, 15; and Dom Jean Leclerq, "The Exposition and Exegesis of Scripture

from Gregory the Great to St Bernard," in The Cambridge History of the Bible, ed. G.W.H.

Lampe, vol. 2 [Cambridge: University Press, 1969], 186)

 

   26 See Trible, Rhetorical Criticism, 16.


                                                                                                                                    48

attention to the importance of recognizing rhetorical devices in the interpretation of

biblical texts. This rhetorical consciousness continued in the Renaissance, most

notably with the Jewish scholar Judah Messer Leon (c. 1420-1498 CE), who wrote a

treatise entitled Sepher Nopheth Suphim (The Book of the Honeycomb's Flow) that

utilized classical terms and the system of ancient Western rhetoric for the

interpretation of scripture.27 In addition to Leon, other Renaissance scholars (e.g.,

Erasmus [c. 1466-1536 CE])28 also asserted the importance of rhetoric for the proper

understanding of scripture.

            The modern era of biblical studies continued to see exegetes who stressed the

importance of rhetoric (e.g., Baruch Spinoza [1632-1677 CE];29 see also Blass,

Debrunner, and Funk's Greek Grammar of the New Testament, and Liddell and Scott's

_______________________

 

   27 Trible (ibid., 17) describes this work: "Versed in Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintillian, he not

only cataloged biblical literary devices by classical terms but appropriated the entire system of

ancient rhetoric for the scriptures. Yet he maintained, as had the Christian exegetes

Cassiodorus and Bede, that the Bible, not the classics, constituted the source of rhetoric. '[I]t is

the Torah which was the giver.' Scripture became then the primary textbook for the art of

discourse and persuasion."

   28 Erasmus advised (On the Method of Study, trans. Brain McGregor, Collected Works of

Erasmus, vol. 23, ed. Craig R. Thompson [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978], 670)

that it would be advantageous for the interpreter to "have at your fingertips the chief points of

rhetoric, namely propositions, the grounds of proof, figures of speech, amplifications, and the

rules governing transitions. For these are conducive not only to criticism but also to

imitation." In his own practice, he used rhetorical terms to describe textual features. For

example, in his Paraphrase on the Acts of the Apostles (trans., Robert D. Sider, Collected

Works of Erasmus, vol. 50, ed. Robert D. Sider [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995]),

Erasmus employs rhetorical terminology (e.g., exordium [18], proofs [96]) to illuminate the

text. See also, Trible, Rhetorical Criticism, 18; Fr Louis Bouyer, "Erasmus in Relation to the

Medieval Biblical Tradition," in The Cambridge History of the Bible, ed. G.W.H. Lampe, vol.

2 (Cambridge: University Press, 1969), 501.

 

   29 Trible, Rhetorical Criticism, 19.

 


                                                                                                                                    49

Greek-English Lexicon).30  However, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, rhetorical

study of the Bible experienced a sharp decline. To be sure, "rhetorical studies"

continued to be published, but these studies increasingly defined rhetoric as literary

stylistics, not as the art of persuasion.31  By the middle of the 20th century, rhetorical

study of the Bible was comatose.

            The authors of The Postmodern Bible, The Bible and Culture Collective (hence,

the Collective), attribute the demise of rhetoric in modern biblical studies to three

factors. First, the modern idea of the unicity of Truth in Western philosophy rendered

rhetoric impotent. Here, the Collective calls special attention to the educational reform

of Peter Ramus (1515-1572 CE), "whose effect was the institutionalization of a

separation of the study of thought or content from the study of form or feeling.”32

Ultimately, this separation of content from form led to the use of poetry for expressing

feeling and the use of scientific discourse for the demonstration of truth. Rhetoric was

discarded by both and "viewed suspiciously as mere ornamentation."33

            The Collective's point may be augmented by what I have already observed

from the history of ancient Western rhetoric. The modern assettion of absolute Truth

is akin to Plato's claims about Truth: Truth is absolute, knowable, and must be the

_______________________

 

   30 Mack (Rhetoric and the New Testament, 10-11) points out the prevalent use of terms

from classical rhetoric in both of these volumes, e.g., anacoluthon, antithesis, ellipsis,

paronomasia, periphrasis.

 

   31 Kennedy, Classical Rhetoric, 5.

 

   32 "The Bible and Culture Collective, The Postmodern Bible (New Haven: Yale University

Press, 1995), 156.

 

   33 Ibid., 157.


                                                                                                                                    50

basis of human action. In such philosophy, ancient or modern, rhetoric tends to lose

its importance.34 Thus, both Plato and moderns viewed rhetoric with suspicion, if not

rejecting it outright, because it seemed to threaten Truth.

            A second reason the Collective cites for the demise of rhetoric is the

redefinition of rhetoric as mere poetics, stylistics, hermeneutics, or literary study.

They are not clear, however, about why this redefinition led to the rejection of

rhetoric. Kennedy has pointed out that this shift from "primary" rhetoric to

"secondary" rhetoric is a persistent feature in the history of rhetoric. Such

letteraturizzazion occurred in the Hellenistic era, the Roman Empire, medieval France,

and in the 16th and 18th centuries throughout Europe. Kennedy suggests that the cause

for this shift in these societies was the tendency to teach rhetoric by rote (rather than

as an intellectually demanding discipline), and the lack of opportunities for engaging

in "primary" rhetoric.35 While these factors may be adequate explanations for the

letteraturizzazion of rhetoric in previous eras, they do not explain the demise of

rhetoric in the 20th century.

            In my opinion, the redefinition of rhetoric in the 20th century contributed to its

neglect because of the modern idea and pursuit of Truth. In a modern age devoted to

scientific discovery and interpretation, anything defined as or associated with poetics

_______________________

 

   34 Kennedy (The Art of Persuasion in Greece, 14), regarding this debate in ancient rhetoric,

writes "If, on the other hand, one were to argue that absolute truth both exists and is

knowable, then certain principles, deducible from this truth, ought to guide activity. In this

case rhetoric not only loses much of its importance, but becomes a potential danger because of

its ability to present some other and erroneous course of action in an attractive way."

 

   35 Kennedy, Classical Rhetoric, 4-5.

 


                                                                                                                                    51

hardly could be relevant. Truth was a matter of demonstrable scientific fact, not

poetics. Thus, rhetoric, defined as stylistics, was dismissed as unimportant to the

exegetical task of recovering Truth.

            Third, the Collective credits the downfall of rhetoric to ''the emerging

awareness of alternative theories and practices of rhetoric.36 They attribute this

awareness to the study of indigenous European rhetorics in the late Middle ages (c.

1500) and the Western recognition of alternative practices of rhetoric in Jewish and

Muslim cultures. According to the Collective, these experiences exposed the classical

tradition as "enshrining an undifferentiated, universalized notion of rhetoric that

ignored cultural difference,”37 and thus led to the demise of rhetoric.

            This third argument presents a better case for the New Rhetoric advocated by

the Collective than an explanation for the demise of rhetoric in modernity. There is

no evidence that the study of indigenous European rhetorics in the late Middle ages

had a significant impact on rhetorical study 200-400 years later.  Further, the

acknowledgment of diverse Jewish and Muslim rhetorical traditions is a development

of the late twentieth century, not a factor in the demise of rhetoric in the late

nineteenth century.38

_______________________

 

36 The Bible and Culture Collective, Postmodern Bible, 157.

 

37 Ibid., 156-58.

 

38 The writers that the Collective (Ibid., 173) credits for demonstrating these rhetorical

traditions are writers from the twentieth century, e.g., Isaac Rabinowitz, Philip Alexander,

Erich Auerbach, Ronald Katz, and Wilhelm Wuellner.


                                                                                                                                    52

            Despite this objection, the Collective's basic thesis is accurate: The dawn of

modernity hearkened the downfall of rhetoric. Whereas the rhetorical analysis of

scripture flourished from the time of the earliest Christian and Jewish exegetes, the

cultural (philosophical) shifts associated with the modern age challenged the necessity

and even legitimacy of rhetoric. The ancient debate between the Sophists and Plato

recurred, with Platonic rhetoric emerging as the victor. Consequently, rhetoric was

redefined and displaced by the scientific recovery and presentation of Truth. To be

sure, rhetoric, as the art of persuasion, was not entirely removed from the scholarly

consciousness,39 but it did lay dormant, awaiting more favorable cultural conditions.

 

                                       2. The Reemergence of Rhetoric

                              in Late Twentieth Century Biblical Studies

            Just as rhetoric faded with the rise of modernism, so it began to blossom again

with the emergence of postmodernism. The deterioration of modernity, evident as

early as the late 19th century, accelerated with the cultural shifts and crises of the

1960's and 70's. During this time, the presuppositions that led to the demise of

rhetoric found themselves under siege. Postmodern philosophers, like their ancient

Sophistic counterparts, challenged the idea of an absolute universal Truth. Some

acknowledged that Truth may exist, but asserted that it was not recoverable by

humans. Others rejected any idea of absolute Truth, i.e., truth is nothing more than a

claim in the hands of those exercising power within a culture. In this context, a

_______________________

 

   39 See Thomas H. Olbricht, "The Flowering of Rhetorical Criticism in America," in The

Rhetorical Analysis of Scripture, ed. Stanley E. Porter and Thomas H. Olbricht (Sheffield:

Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 79-91.

 

 


                                                                                                                                    53

recognition of the cultural specificity and instability of truth reemerged, and with it, a

renewed respect for the role of rhetoric.

            Within this general cultural turbulence, Burton Mack has identified three key

moments in the revival of rhetoric for biblical studies.40 According to Mack, the initial

stimulus came from the 1955 SBL presidential address of Amos Wilder:  “Scholars,

Theologians, and Ancient Rhetoric.”41 This address drew attention to the interpretation

of imaginative-symbolic language, especially in New Testament eschatological texts.

Wilder described this discourse as "an extraordinary rhetoric of faith" and encouraged

the use literary methods sensitive to anthropology and psychology for interpretation,

rather than methods espoused by the ritual-myth school and the biblical theology

school.42 His efforts led to a greater emphasis of the literary study of the Gospels,

including a seminar at the annual SBL meeting on the parables and a greater dialogue

between scholars who work from differing methodological vantage points. In recent

years, Wilder's work has had a decisive influence on Vernon Robbins' development of

"Socio-Rhetorical Criticism" (see below).43

            The second stimuli for the revival of rhetoric in biblical studies came from the

1968 SBL presidential address of James Muilenburg: "Form Criticism and Beyond."44

_______________________

   40 Mack, Rhetoric, 12-17.

 

   41 Amos Wilder, "Scholars, Theologians, and Ancient Rhetoric," JBL 75 (1956): 1-11.

 

   42 Ibid., 2,9.

 

   43 Vernon K. Robbins, The Tapestry of Early Christian Discourse: Rhetoric, Society and

Ideology (New York: Routledge, 1996), 2-3.

 

    44 "Form Criticism," 1-18.


                                                                                                                                    54

In this speech, Muilenburg acknowledged the benefits of form critical study, but also

delineated its inadequacies (e.g., the dismissal of the unique features of a text because

of inordinate stress upon typical and representative features). Thus, he appealed for a

step beyond form criticism, a step he called "rhetorical criticism," i.e., a careful

literary study of the compositional features of the text. I will return to Muilenburg's

appeal and his rhetorical method in greater detail below.

            Although the addresses of Wilder and Muilenburg were important for the re-

emergence of rhetoric in biblical studies, Mack claims that the third and most

important stimulus came from the 1969 English translation of Perelman and Tyteca's

1958 French work, Traite de 1' Argumentation (English Title: The New Rhetoric).45  

In general, The New Rhetoric was a revivification of Aristotelian rhetoric. More

specifically, according to Mack, The New Rhetoric made three direct contributions to

the renewal of rhetoric.46  1) Perelman and Tyteca defined rhetoric as argumentation.

By this definition, they challenged the prevailing understanding of rhetoric as stylistic

ornamentation and reasserted the ancient definition of rhetoric as the art of persuasion.

2) They emphasized the importance of the rhetorical situation for understanding the

persuasive force of argumentation. This recognition provided an opportunity to bridge

the gap between literary and social-historical criticism, an opportunity seized by many

New Testament exegetes. 3) Perelman and Tyteca linked the persuasive power of

_______________________

 

   45 Chaim Perelman and L. Olbrechts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on

Argumentation, trans. J. Wilkinson and P. Weaver (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame

Press, 1969).

 

   46 Mack, Rhetoric, 14-17.

 


                                                                                                                                    55

speech not only to its logic or argumentation, but to the manner in which it addresses

the social and cultural history of its audience and speaker. Thus, they disassociated

rhetoric from its poetic and stylistic limitations and argued for rhetoric as a social

theory of language. Mack summarizes,

            On this model, rhetorical performance belongs to human discourse just as

            surely as stance and style belong to any presentation of ourselves at moments

            of personal encounter. Rhetoric is to a society and its discourse what grammar

            is to a culture and its language. Rhetoric refers to the rules cf the language

            games agreed upon as acceptable within a given society. The rules of rhetoric

            can be identified and studied, just as the rules of a grammar . . . Rhetorical

            theory defines the stakes as nothing less than the negotiation of our lives

            together.47

            Perelman and Tyteca's The New Rhetoric has played a significant role in the

revival of rhetorical analysis in biblical studies, especially among scholars associated

with the "New Rhetoric" (see below).48 Additionally, in 1982 Perelman published an

abbreviated and updated version of The New Rhetoric under the title The Realm of

Rhetoric that has reached a even broader audience.49

 

                    3. Rhetorical Methods in Twentieth Century Biblical Studies

            Like its counter-part in ancient Greece, contemporary rhetorical theory is not

univocal. Rather, there are four distinct practices of rhetorical criticism in

contemporary biblical scholarship: Muilenburg's "Rhetorical Criticism," George

_______________________

 

   47 Ibid., 16.

 

   48 According to Mack (Ibid., 16), the impact of this publication may be gauged by the

frequent references to this book by scholars in the 1970's and 80's.

 

   49 Chaim Perelman, The Realm of Rhetoric, Introduction by Carrol C. Arnold, trans.

Williams Kluback (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1982).


                                                                                                                                    56

Kennedy's "Classical Rhetoric," the "New Rhetoric" of The Postmodern Bible, and

Vernon Robbins' "Socio-Rhetorical Criticism."  Although each method may be

appropriately described as rhetorical, there are significant philosophical and procedural

differences that distinguish these methods. Here, I will offer a brief description of

these four types of contemporary biblical rhetorics and, in the process, begin to define

my own rhetorical method vis-a-vis these rhetorics.

 

                            a. The "Rhetorical Criticism" of James Muilenburg:

                                               The Definition of Rhetoric

 

            At the time of his 1968 SBL presidential address, Muilenburg perceived a basic

problem facing biblical interpreters: Form criticism had reached its limits and had

begun to reach beyond its capacities. The merits of form-critical methodology,

according to Muilenburg, were obvious. His concern, however, was for the excessive

and exclusive use of the method.

            To state our criticism in another way, form criticism by its very nature is

            bound to generalize because it is concerned with what is common to all the

            representatives of a genre, and therefore applies an external measure to the

            individual pericopes. It does not focus sufficient attention upon what is unique

            and unrepeatable, upon the particularity of the formulation.50

It is against this backdrop that Muilenburg set forth his appeal for "rhetorical

criticism" as a necessary step beyond form analysis.

            Muilenburg's definition of rhetorical criticism corresponded to the prevailing

definition of his time, namely, that "rhetorical criticism" was literary analysis. Thus,

_______________________

 

   50 Muilenburg, "Form Criticism," 5.

 


                                                                                                                                    57

his solicitation for rhetoric was an appeal for "persistent and painstaking attention to

the modes of Hebrew literary composition,”51

            What I am interested in, above all, is in understanding the nature of Hebrew

            literary composition, in exhibiting the structural patterns that are employed for

            the fashioning of a literary unit, whether in poetry or in prose, and in

            discerning the many and various devices by which the predications are

            formulated and ordered into a unified whole. Such an enterprise I should

            describe as rhetoric and the methodology as rhetorical ctiticism.52

In harmony with his goals, Muilenburg's rhetorical analysis proceeded in two steps:

1) isolation of the rhetorical unit, and 2) discernment of that unit's compositional

features by careful literary analysis.

            Muilenburg's appeal for a careful literary analysis that focuses on a text's

compositional elements has thrived in the years since his address. His method of

rhetorical-literary analysis has been clarified, broadened, and applied to numerous

biblical texts. Consequently, there is an enormous and constantly growing

bibliography of studies that follow Muilenburg's basic method of rhetorical criticism.53

_______________________

 

   51 Ibid., 18.

 

   52 Ibid., 8.

 

   53 See Duane F. Watson and Alan J. Hauser, Rhetorical Criticism of the Bible: A

Comprehensive Bibliography with Notes on History and Method (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994).

Exemplary collected essays include Rhetorical Criticism: Essays in Donor of

James Muilenburg, ed. J.J. Jackson and M. Kessler (Pittsburgh: Pickwick Press, 1974);

and Art and Meaning: Rhetoric in Biblical Literature, ed. D.J. Clines, D.M. Gunn and

A.J. Hauser (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1982). See also, Dale Patrick and Allen Scult,

Rhetoric and Biblical Interpretation (Sheffield: Almond Press, 1990).

            Certainly, scholars who claim heritage to Muilenburg's rhetoric are not

methodologically univocal. For example, Phyllis Trible, who associates herself with

Muilenburg, adopts his catch phrase - "Proper articulation of form yields proper

articulation of meaning" - in her work on Rhetoric (Rhetorical Criticism, 91).

Consequently, her practice involves careful literary study of the form and composition of

the text. However, she differs from her teacher in one significant way: While Muilenburg

was thoroughly modern in his attempt to uncover the intention of the author ("Form

Criticism," 7), Trible has been


                                                                                                                                    58

            Muilenburg's appeal raises the fundamental question of the definition of

rhetoric. Certainly, designating his method as "rhetorical criticism" is legtimate.

Throughout its history, rhetoric has included concern for compositional artistry and, at

times, rhetoric has been defined as literary analysis or poetics (see above, p. 50).

Further, others who claim to be rhetorical critics have asserted similar definitions. For

example, Martin Kessler proposes that "rhetorical criticism may serve as a suitable

rubric for the kind of biblical criticism which deals with the literary analysis of the

Massoretic text."54

            Nonetheless, despite its legitimacy, Muilenburg's definition of rhetoric has

come under increasing fire in recent years. Wilhelm Wuellner has called Muilenburg's

method "rhetoric restrained," or more curtly "the Babylonian captivity of rhetoric

reduced to stylistics.”55  Michael Fox summaries the complaint:

            Rhetorical criticism of the Bible has focused almost exclusively on revealing

            the formal structures of a text: schemata formed by repetitions of roots, words,

            phrases and themes. Some of these studies attempt to connect the formal data

            with the text's meaning, though many often seem to assume that once the

            details of the construction of the text are laid out, its rhetoric has been

            discovered. But even the discovery of meaning does not constitute rhetorical

_______________________

           

influenced by postmodernity (Rhetorical Criticism, 95-99). Her analysis works between the

extremes of modernism (establishing The Meaning) and postmodernism (acknowledging

unlimited meanings). Thus, while Trible and others have adopted their teacher's method, these

rhetorical studies are not univocal.

 

   54 Martin Kessler, "A Methodological Setting for Rhetorical Criticism," in Art and

Meaning: Rhetoric in Biblical Literature, ed. David J.A. Clines, David M. Gunn and Alan J.

Hauser (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1982), 10.

 

   55 Wilhelm Wuellner, "Where is Rhetorical Criticism Taking Us?" 450-454,457.

 


                                                                                                                                    59

            criticism as that term has been understood by the great (majority of rhetorical

            theorists from Aristotle on . . .56

From another perspective, Muilenburg's method corresponds to Kennedy's definition of

"secondary" rhetoric: Against "primary rhetoric" (the art of persuasion), "secondary

rhetoric" is the slippage of rhetoric from persuasion to literary concerns, e.g., figures

of speech and tropes.57

            To be fair, Muilenburg's aim was not Kennedy's "primary" rhetoric nor

Wuellner's "rhetorical criticism." Muilenburg was not interested in the use of classical

models for rhetorical analysis, i.e., rhetoric as the art of persuasion. Rather, in his

address, he dates the origins of his method to Jerome "and before," omitting any

reference to classical authors,58 and decries earlier critics who were "too much

dominated by Greek prototypes.”59 Some of his students have drawn from ancient

models,60 but their working definitions remain synonymous or tear synonymous with

literary analysis.

            In contrast, my definition of rhetoric, while acknowledging the validity of

Muilenburg's terminology, is drawn from the tradition associated with Aristotle:

Rhetoric is persuasive discourse and rhetorical criticism is the systematic analysis of

_______________________

 

   56 Michael Fox, "The Rhetoric of Ezekiel's Vision of the Valley of' the Bones," HUCA 51

(1980): 2.

 

   57 Kennedy, Classical Rhetoric, 4-5.

 

   58 Muilenburg, "Form Criticism," 8.

 

   59 Ibid., 12.

 

   60 Trible, Rhetorical Criticism, 5-9,14; Kessler, "Methodological Setting," 1-3.


                                                                                                                                    60

the suasive dimensions of rhetoric. Thus, since I regard rhetoric as the art of

persuasion, I will not limit my analysis to compositional and stylistic features. The

focus of my analysis is the suasion of the ten lectures (Prov 1-9), especially as it is

developed by the artistic proofs of logos, ethos, and pathos (see below). This

approach works harmoniously with Muilenburg's rhetoric insofar as his method attends

to selected elements (e.g., composition and style) within the broader concerns of

rhetoric as suasion.

 

                                b. The "New Rhetoric" of the Postmodern Bible:

                                             Rhetoric as Cultural Criticism

            The Bible and Culture Collective, in The Postmodern Bible, recognize their

"New Rhetoric" as largely a rediscovery of ancient Western rhetoric. What makes

their rhetoric "new" is the explicit postmodern setting of their practice.61 Their goal is

to recover and build on the foundations of ancient rhetorical theory in the present

postmodern situation. Ultimately, the Collective suggests that rhetorical criticism

should evolve and function as cultural criticism.

            According to the Collective, the New Rhetoric retrieves and builds upon five

crucial components of ancient rhetoric: 1) the idea of rhetoric as verbal expression,

2) the view that truth is something to be discovered, 3) the concern with the creation

of meaning and the relationship of this creation to the domain of hermeneutics, 4) the

role of rhetoric in social discourse and societal formation, and 5) the validity and

_______________________

 

   61 The Bible and Culture Collective, The Postmodern Bible, 149-86.

 


                                                                                                                                    61

importance of appeal to the emotions.62 Against this background, the Collective calls

for a "self-reflexive" rhetorical criticism.

            Self-reflexive rhetorics makes three demands of the interpreter. First, it

demands a recognition of the role of readers in creating meaning and thus requires

readers to be aware of their own rhetorical situations and interests.63 By extension,

this recognition accepts the concept of indeterminacy, i.e., the reader's role in creating

meaning leads to the decentering of any meaning. Undergirding this philosophy of

indeterminacy is the claim that knowledge (and thereby truth) is socially constructed,

not absolute.64 Second, self-reflexive rhetoric requires the critic to acknowledge the

implications of theory. "A new rhetorical theory needs to emphasize the inescapable

social, political, religious, and ideological constraints that are operative before, during,

and after reading."65 Thus, postmodern rhetorical critics operate with an acute sense of

their own social setting and the practical or political consequences of their work.

Third, the critic must subject the text to critique in order to expose its use in the

service of power, e.g., sexism or racism. Thus, the self-reflexive New Rhetoric should

become a cultural criticism that exposes the perpetuation of "cultural norms in the

name of some allegedly objective and neutral hermeneutical or rhetorical science."66

_______________________

 

   62 Ibid., 159-61.

 

   63 Ibid., 163-64.

 

   64 Ibid., 10.

 

   65 Ibid., 166.

 

   66 Ibid., 167.


                                                                                                                        62

            There are two problems with this appeal for a New Rhetoric. First, it is

important to point out that the Collective's recovery of ancient rhetoric is selective.

For example, the "crucial components" upon which the New Rhetoric builds are

representative of Sophistic rhetoric, not Platonic or Aristotelian rhetoric. Thus, the

New Rhetoric might be more accurately designated "The New Sophistic Rhetoric."

            Second, not unlike the critique of the ancient Sophists, the Collective's appeal

for a New Rhetoric suffers from their failure to articulate criteria for discerning

"wrong" readings or "misreadings." They pose the crucial question: When the

possibility of multiple readings is accepted, on what basis can one exclude certain

readings? They also suggest that such "ways and means" exist. However, they fail to

supply, even provisionally, any criteria for adjudication.67

            Despite these objections, the Collective's claim that rhetoric is the tool of

ideology would hardly be contested by any rhetorical critic, past or present. Rhetoric

is the means by which a speaker/writer attempts to persuade an audience in favor of

her/his own view of reality (ideology), against other competing ideologies. In this

regard, the Collective's appeal for a self-reflexive rhetorical analysis that engages

cultural criticism is understandable. Nonetheless, this is a step beyond the rhetorical

method that I will employ in my analysis of the ten lectures. I am not concerned here

to offer a critique of the ideology espoused by the writer(s) of the lectures. Rather,

my goal is to offer a reading of the text from a rhetorical perspective that identifies the

_______________________

 

   67 Ibid., 176.


                                                                                                                                    63

truth claims made by the text (e.g., the father's teaching is the path to genuine life, the

"alien woman" will destroy the son) and identifies how these claims are argued.

           

                    c. The "Socio-Rhetorical Criticism" of Vernon Robbins:

                                Rhetoric and Methodological Pluralism)

            The "Socio-Rhetorical Criticism" advanced by Vernon Dobbins is not a method

per se, but an "interpretive analytics" that seeks to integrate various interpretive

strategies, including the various rhetorical perspectives.68 Robbins' primary concern is

the existence of isolationist methodology in biblical studies. Consequently, he

advocates an analytics that incorporates both "Socio" (social / historical) and

"Rhetorical" (literary) methods. More specifically, his Socio-Rhetorical analytics

pursues three objectives: 1) to correlate diverse methodologies, 2) to offer a guide for

systematic reading and rereading of texts, and 3) to provide a resource for rewriting

the ancient history of the church.69

            In practice, Robbins identifies five "textures" in any given text. 1) Inner-

Texture. Inner-Texture refers to the words, grammar, figures of speech and other

literary qualities of a text. This texture invites various literary and rhetorical methods

of reading. 2) Intertexture. Intertexture refers to the relationship of the text to

realities outside itself, e.g., scribal intertexture (i.e., its relationship to other texts),

historical intertexture, cultural intertexture, and social intertexture. Critics with various

_______________________

 

   68 Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts: A Guide to Socio-Rhetorical

Interpretation (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996), 1-2; and The Tapestry, 1-

4.

 

   69 Robbins, The Tapestry, 1-17, 240-43.


                                                                                                                                    64

interests in intertexuality as well as social and cultural anthropology work in this

dimension of the text. 3) Social and Cultural Texture. Social and Cultural texture,

different from social and cultural Intertexture, refers to the stance advocated in or by

the text towards culture (e.g., withdrawal or participation) 4) Ideological Texture.

Ideological texture includes both the ideology operating in and behind the text as well

as the ideology of the interpreter. Thus, this facet of the text(s) is a source for various

self-conscious ideological readings. 5) Sacred Texture. Sacred Texture refers to the

religious, ethical, and communal aspects of the text. Here, various theological

approaches may work to appropriate the text for the modern reader.

            The primary criticism that has been raised against Socio-Rhetorical criticism is

that, while Robbin's books offer a guide for systematic reading and provide another

resource for rewriting the history of the early church, they have not addressed what

Robbins claims is the chief goal of his analytics, namely the correlation of diverse

methods.70 His identification of five textures within a unified text suggests that the

diverse methods applied to these different textures may somehow be fruitfully related

to one another. However, in his own practice, he isolates these textures and methods

without suggesting how they can be brought together into an interpretive whole.

            Socio-Rhetorical criticism is not the method or analytic espoused by this

dissertation. Nonetheless, Robbins has raised the key issue of how my critical practice

relates to other rhetorical and non-rhetorical methods. This issue has already been

_______________________

 

   70 R. Alan Culpepper raised this criticism during a meeting of the Rhetoric and the New

Testament Section devoted to Robbins' books at the 1997 AAR/SBL annual meeting in San

Francisco, CA.


                                                                                                                                    65

introduced in chapter one. Methods of biblical criticism are inextricably interwoven

and intergrown. Thus, my rhetorical analysis does not attempt to operate in isolation

from other methods. However, unlike Robbins, it is not my objective to correlate the

diverse methodological perspectives that have been brought to bear on the ten lectures,

or to use the data retrieved from my analysis to write a history of the wisdom tradition

in ancient Israel. Like the cultural criticism of the New Rhetoric, these are steps

beyond the objectives of this dissertation. My objective is to present a new

perspective on the lectures, namely that of rhetorical criticism. In order to accomplish

this goal, it is necessary here to focus as narrowly as possible on the rhetoric of the

lectures. Thus, this dissertation will contribute primary data for others who would use

Robbin's Socio-Rhetorical analytics to synthesize the findings of various interpretive

strategies applied to Proverbs 1-9.

 

                        d. The "Classical Rhetoric" of George Kennedy:

                      Western Rhetorical Theory and Non-Western Texts

            George Kennedy, a specialist in ancient rhetoric, has become a leader in the

attempt to recover ancient Western rhetoric for the purposes of biblical, especially

New Testament, interpretation. Although this objective is similar to that of The

Postmodern Bible, Kennedy differs from the Collective on the fundamental issues of

truth and the relationship of rhetoric to truth. He writes,

            Twentieth-century thought as seen in some of its most original philosophers,

            writers, and artists, as well as at the frontiers of theoretial science, points

            towards a conclusion that mankind cannot know reality, at least not directly or

            not under contemporary conditions. At most, it is argued, we can know

            structures, words, and formulae perhaps representative of aspects of reality.

            Even if an individual were to perceive reality experientially or intuitively, there


                                                                                                                                    66

            is some pessimism whether this understanding can be communicated through

            the media available to us to any general segment of the population. I do not

            share this view in its more extreme forms . . . 71

Thus, against the New Rhetoric of The Postmodern Bible, Kennedy's more

conservative (modern) method may be described as Classical or Aristotelian Rhetoric.

            In New Testament Interpretation Through Rhetorical Criticism, Kennedy works

out the details of utilizing Classical Rhetorical theory for the interpretation of the New

Testament. In this book, Kennedy associates his rhetorics with Muilenburg. The chief

difference between the two, according to Kennedy, is that whereas Muilenburg and his

students applied their rhetorical method to Old Testament texts, his goal is to present

an outline of rhetorics for the study of the New Testament.72 Despite this claim,

Kennedy's method greatly differs from Muilenburg's in its heavy reliance upon ancient

Western rhetorical theory. The important theoretical concepts underlying Kennedy's

rhetorics are drawn from Aristotle and other ancients.73 As a result, his rhetorical

interpretation is more concerned with rhetoric as suasion than rhetoric as an

elucidation of compositional features.

            Kennedy advocates a rhetorical practice that incorporates the knowledge of

ancient rhetorical theory in four circular steps of exegesis. First, it is necessary to

_______________________

 

   71 Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation Through Rhetorical Criticism (Chapel Hill:

University of North Carolina Press, 1984), 157. As might be expected, the Collective of the

Postmodern Bible is highly critical of Kennedy's position. According to the Collective (The

Postmodern Bible, 163), Kennedy is a striking example of a critic who overlooks the role of

the reader in the creation of meaning.

 

   72 Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation, 3-4.

 

   73 Ibid., 12.


                                                                                                                                    67

determine the boundaries of the rhetorical unit and its setting within larger rhetorical

units, including the rhetoric of the entire book. Kennedy claims that this delimitation

corresponds to the isolation of a pericope by form critics. However, apart from typical

form critical methods, Kennedy suggests seeking signs of opening and closure such as

proem and epilogue, analytical categories drawn from rhetorical theory.

            Second, the interpreter should attempt to define the rhetorical situation of the

unit. Again, Kennedy claims that this step "roughly corresponds to the Sitz im Leben

of form criticism.”74 This correspondence is indeed "rough." The rhetorical situation

Kennedy seeks to define is much more specific than the Sitz im Leben pursued by the

form critic. Following Bitzer, Kennedy defines the rhetorical situation as a complex of

persons, events, objects, and relations that presents some situation in which an

individual (or group) is called upon to make some response. Further, "the response

made is conditioned by the situation and in turn has some possibility of affecting the

situation or what follows from it.”75 Within this rhetorical situation, the speaker usually

faces one major rhetorical problem, i.e., one major obstacle that must be overcome in

order to persuade the audience.76

_______________________

 

   74 Ibid., 34.

 

   75 Ibid., 35.

 

   76 For example, Kennedy (ibid., 36) explains that the audience may already be "prejudiced

against him and not disposed to listen to anything he may say; or the audience may not

perceive him as having the authority to advance the claims he wishes to make; or what he

wishes to say is very complicated and thus hard to follow, or so totally different from what the

audience expects that they will not immediately entertain the possibility of its truth." In the

ten lectures, the rhetor will confront rhetorical problems such as the rhetoric of the sinners and

alien woman, the lackadaisical attitude of the son toward his teaching, and the apparent

success of those who reject his teaching.


                                                                                                                                    68

            Both the rhetorical situation and the rhetorical problem addressed by a text may

be uncovered by insights drawn from classical theory. For example, the problem is

often especially visible at the beginning of a discourse, in the proem, proposition

and/or the beginning of the proof. Consequently, it is of paramount importance that

the critic properly identify these rhetorical elements and discern how they work

together to address one or more problems. Further, recognizing the species of rhetoric

(e.g., judicial, epideictic, and deliberative)77 may indicate the type of situation or

problem addressed by the speaker. For example, identifying Paul's letter to the

Galatians as deliberative rhetoric enables Kennedy to recognize that this letter looks to

the immediate future, not to the judgment of the past. The question is not whether

Paul had been right, but what the Galatians were going to believe and do in the

immediate future.78

            Third, the critic should attempt to discern the arrangement of the text, i.e., its

subdivisions, the persuasive effect of these units, and how they work together. This

discernment may be accomplished by a close reading of the text that analyzes the

argument of the text, including its assumptions, topics, formal features, and stylistic

_______________________

 

   77 Deliberative rhetoric attempts to persuade an audience to adopt an attitude or make a

decision regarding actions in the future. Judicial rhetoric seeks to persuade the audience to

make a judgment regarding a past event. Epideictic persuades an audience to hold or confirm

some view in the present, e.g., speeches of blame or praise.

 

   78 Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation, 36-37, 144-52. Kennedy advances this

argument against Hans Dieter Betz's identification of Galatians as judicial rhetoric. My point

is not the correctness of Kennedy's position, but the significance of his identification of

rhetorical species in his reading of Galatians.

 


                                                                                                                                    69

devices. Such a close reading is not to be confused with stylistics. Rather, this

analysis seeks to define the function of these devices within the argument as a whole.

            Fourth, the process of rhetorical analysis should conclude with review and

synthesis. Does the text successfully meet the rhetorical situation and problem? Is the

analysis of details consistent with the argument of the unit as a whole? These

questions can help critics evaluate their own interpretations. Further, at this stage the

critic may perform a "creative act" of looking beyond the target text to the human

condition and to religious or philosophical truth.79

            My own rhetorical method is quite similar to Kennedy's approach (see below).

Like Kennedy, I rely heavily upon ancient Western rhetorical theory for analytical

tools. However, Kennedy's Classical Rhetoric raises a fundamental issue for this

dissertation. How appropriate is it to use ancient Western theory in the interpretation

of a non-Western text, namely Proverbs 1-9?

            In addition to his consideration of this problem as it relates to the study of the

New Testament,80 Kennedy has addressed the relevance of classical rhetoric for the

study of non-Western texts, including the Old Testament, in his most recent book,

Comparative Rhetoric: An Historical and Cross-Cultural Introduction. Here, he

advances several arguments in defense of comparative rhetoric.

_______________________

 

   79 Ibid., 38.

 

   80 Kennedy argues (ibid., 8-12) that the process of Hellenization, including rhetorical

education, was widespread by the time of New Testament. Although the writers of the New

Testament may not have had formal rhetorical training, it would have been extremely difficult

for them to escape an awareness of rhetoric as it was practiced in the, culture around them.

Thus, Kennedy justifies the study of the New Testament by means of Classical Rhetoric on

historical - cultural grounds.


                                                                                                                                    70

            First, Kennedy asserts that rhetoric is a universal phenomenon. People in every

culture and society seek to persuade others to act or refrain from acting, or to accept,

maintain, or discard some belief. The essence of this rhetoric, according to Kennedy,

is mental or emotional energy that arises from the basic instinct of self-preservation.81

It is a natural phenomenon which exists in all life-forms that can give signals.82

            Rhetoric, in the most general sense, may thus be identified with the energy

            inherent in an utterance (or an artistic representation): the mental or emotional

            energy that impels the speaker to expression, the energy level coded in the

            message, and the energy received by the recipient who then uses mental energy

            in decoding and perhaps acting on the message.83

This is a bedrock definition that not only provides a foundation for the study of more

complex manifestations of rhetoric among humans,84 but expands the compass of

rhetorical study to the "rhetoric" of social animals such as elk, monkeys, bees, and

birds.85 The implication is that all communication carries some rhetorical energy; "it

may be slight, some phrase of conventional etiquette, but there is no zero-degree

rhetoric."86 Thus, for this dissertation, the question is not whether rhetoric exists in the

_______________________

 

   81 Kennedy, Comparative Rhetoric, 216. Consequently, Kennedy claims that "the basic

function of rhetorical communication is defensive and conservative."

 

   82 Ibid., 3-4.

 

   83 Ibid., 4-5.

 

   84 Kennedy (Ibid., 215) explains, "Rhetorical energy in its simplest form is conveyed by

volume, pitch, or repetition; more complex forms of rhetorical energy include logical reasons,

pathetic narratives, metaphor and other tropes, or lively figures of speech such as apostrophe,

rhetorical question, or simile."

 

   85 Ibid., 11-37.

 

   86 Ibid., 215.

 


                                                                                                                                    71

ten lectures of Proverbs 1-9, but the nature, development, and expression of this

rhetoric and how the interpreter may best engage this dimension of the text.87

            Second, Kennedy observes that comparative or cross-cultural study has often

proved fruitful in other disciplines. Such approaches often “reseal features of some

object of study that may not be immediately evident in its own context.”88 Here, then,

the conceptual terminology of Western rhetoric offers a valuable heuristic tool for

identifying and discussing specific rhetorical/textual features of the ten lectures that

might otherwise be overlooked. For example, I will argue in chapters 3-5 that despite

their similarities, the ten lectures may be classified rhetorically into three distinct

groups on the basis of their slightly differing propositions and their corresponding

rhetorical strategies, insights revealed by the utilization of Western theory.

            Third, within human history, metarhetoric, or a theory of rhetoric, has evolved

in conjunction with other aspects of some cultures. It seems clear that the prophets

and sages of ancient Israel were concerned with matters of persuasion. Yet, according

to Kennedy, these intellectual leaders did not conceptualize their rhetoric or develop a

metarhetoric.89 The conceptualization of something analogous do Western rhetoric did

develop in a few non-Western literate cultures, e.g., India, China, and Egypt.

However, these systems are not as fully developed as the rhetoric derived from the

_______________________

 

   87 Although Kennedy's bed rock definition of rhetoric ("mental or emotional energy") is

applicable to the ten lectures, these lectures are among the more complex manifestations of

such rhetorical energy. Thus, my analysis will not focus on the "energy" of the father's

rhetoric per se, but the artful and complex way in which the father persuades the son.

 

   88 Kennedy, Comparative Rhetoric, 1.

 

   89 Classical Rhetoric, 120-21.


                                                                                                                                    72

ancient West and their terminology is unfamiliar to most Western readers.90 Thus, if

one is to analyze the ten lectures of Proverbs 1-9 from a rhetorical perspective, the

most complete and readily available system for a scholar trained in the West is that

from the ancient West.

            There are two potential dangers in the use of Western rhetorical theory for the

interpretation of Proverbs 1-9. On the one hand, a primary danger lies in imposing

Western assumptions about rhetoric on a non-Western culture. Like Kennedy, I am

well aware of this pitfall.91  It is not my intention to impose Western assumptions

upon ancient Israel. Because of the universal nature of rhetoric, many of Israel's

practices may be similar or identical to that of the West.92 Yet, careful use of Western

theory may also reveal distinctive rhetorical practices in ancient Israel.93 My aim is

_______________________

 

   90 Comparative Rhetoric, 3,5.

 

  91 Ibid., 5-6.

 

   92 Kennedy points out several similarities in ancient Western and non-Western rhetoric.

1) Deliberative rhetoric is a universal practice (ibid., 220). 2) The most common form of

persuasion is inductive argumentation by use of examples (225). 3) There is a universal

recognition and use of rhetorical topoi, both universal (e.g., from greater to lesser, part of the

whole), and specific (225). 4) Sophistry is a universal rhetorical phenomenon (225). This is

not to say that Sophistry has emerged in every ancient society, but that the factors that lead to

the emergence of Sophistry are identical across all cultures (e.g., high levels of literacy,

sophistication, competing philosophical schools).

 

    93 According to Kennedy, there are some clear differences between Western and non-

Western rhetoric. 1) Non-western rhetoric lacks full development of judicial rhetoric because

of its lack of Western judicial processes (ibid., 220). 2) Most non-Western rhetoric views

composition as an organic whole, against the Western teaching of composition as a series of

discrete steps (219-220). 3) "In the Western tradition generally, rhetoric was identified as a

distinct academic discipline that could be taught, studied and practiced separately from

political and moral philosophy" (218). In ancient non-Western cultures there were also

technical writings that discussed the techniques of persuasion, "but always as a part of political

or ethical thought" (219).


                                                                                                                                    73

not to force Western ideas upon the ten lectures, but to utilize Western theory in a

responsible fashion to achieve a greater understanding of Israel’s rhetorical practices.

            On the other hand, because of its own cultural specificity, Western rhetorical

theory may not be sensitive to certain aspects of non-Western rhetoric. For example,

Kennedy observes a significant difference between the goals of Western and non-

Western deliberative rhetoric. In the democracies of Greece and Rome, deliberative

rhetoric typically sought only a majority agreement. Because of this aim, rhetors

could ignore the extreme fringes of the audience, attack the opposition, and be

unconcerned for the reconciliation of those holding opposing opinions. All that

mattered was the acquisition of a majority. In non-Western and non-democratic

cultures, deliberative rhetoric most often seeks consensus. Consequently, non-Western

deliberative rhetoric tends to be gentle and conciliatory toward Opposing opinions.94

Another example of a Western theoretical lacuna due to cultural specifity concerns the

concept of ethos, i.e., the rhetor's credibility or right to speak (See below). Western

rhetorical theory of ethos focuses primarily on how ethos may be developed within a

speech and neglects a significant source of rhetorical ethos in non-Western cultures,

namely, the position or standing of the speaker in the community.95

            Regrettably, the potential failure of not seeing the rhetorical distinctiveness of

Israel because of glasses tinted by Western theory cannot be avoided. This is a

constant problem in the application of any Western method to the interpretation of the

_______________________

 

   94 Ibid., 219-22.

 

   95 E.g., see my analysis of the ethos of Prov 4:20-27.


                                                                                                                                    74

Old Testament. However, this danger can be mitigated by an awareness of the

problem and giving careful attention not only to what is similar, but to what is

different from or unexplained by Western theory.96 In my opinion, the potential

benefits of utilizing Western rhetoric for the interpretation of the ten lectures in

Proverbs 1-9 outweigh these dangers and inadequacies.

 

                                                 4. Summary

            This section has begun to define my practice of rhetorical analysis vis-a-vis

contemporary biblical rhetorics and the issues they raise. Against Muilenburg, I define

rhetoric as persuasive discourse and rhetorical analysis as focused attention on the

suasive dimensions of the text. With the New Rhetoric proposed by The Postmodern

Bible, my method is also largely a rediscovery of ancient Western rhetoric, although

more Aristotelian than Sophistic. I also concur with the Collective that rhetoric is the

tool of ideology. But, counter to their practice, cultural criticism is not the objective

of my dissertation. With Vernon Robbins, my analysis does not exclude insights from

other methodological perspectives. However, again, it is not my concern to coordinate

the diverse methods that have been brought to the interpretation of the lectures. And

finally, like Kennedy, my rhetorical analysis utilizes ancient Western rhetoric as a tool

for understanding the suasive dimensions of the ten lectures. It is to the specific

procedures of my analysis that I now turn.

 

_______________________

 

   96 For example, Kennedy (Comparative Rhetoric, 216-17) has drawn attention to the

foundational role of formal language (e.g., poetry, archaism) in rhetoric. The ancient West

conceptualized this device as an element of style. However, because of its importance in the

non-West, Kennedy suggests (228) that a general or universal theory of style must begin with

the concept of formal language.


                                                                                                                                    75

                                      A Rhetorical Method for

                                    Analysis of the Ten Lectures

            This study will utilize tools developed by and from ancient Western rhetoric for

understanding the 10 lectures of Proverbs 1-9 as attempt by an author/speaker (the

"father") to persuade an audience (the "son[s]"). Having dealt With the issue of

definition and the validity of utilizing Western rhetorical theory; for the interpretation

of non-Western texts, I will now articulate the specific procedure of rhetorical analysis

that I will follow in the next three chapters. This analysis will progress in four

overlapping steps: Text and Translation, The Limits of the Rhetorical Unit, Analysis of

the Artistic Proofs, and Summary.

 

                                         1. Text and Translation

            The rhetorical analysis of each of the ten lectures will begin with my own

translation of the text, including notes that attend to the fundamental issues of textual

and grammatical criticism. Although my primary interest is neither text critical nor

grammatical, it is necessary to establish the text and clarify any grammatical

ambiguities in order to lay a foundation for subsequent analysis. The uncertain value


                                                                                                                                    76

of other textual witnesses to Proverbs 1-9 causes me to give preference to the MT.97

Nonetheless, I will consider variants on an individual basis.

 

                                 2. The Limits of the Rhetorical Unit

            This second exercise roughly corresponds to the first step in Kennedy's

rhetorical method. Here, I will draw on both form critical and rhetorical insights to

determine the boundaries of the rhetorical unit to be studied. However, against

Kennedy, it is not my immediate interest to situate these discrete rhetorical units

within the rhetoric of larger units, i.e., Proverbs 1-9 or the book of Proverbs. This

delimitation follows a long standing hypothesis regarding the compositional history of

Proverbs 1-9, namely, that the original core of these chapters was the collection of ten

lectures to which the interludes were later added (see pp. 1, 9, 292-294). Thus, my

primary objective is the analysis of the individual speeches as individual speeches and

_______________________

 

   97 The manuscripts from Qumran offer almost no assistance for the study of the ten

lectures. Two fragments of Proverbs have been recovered from cave 4 (4Q102 and 4Q103),

but not yet published. More, these fragments attest to only one verse from the lectures

(4Q102; 2:1).

            The LXX is of greater, albeit, limited assistance. According to J. Cook (The

Septuagint of Proverbs: Jewish and/or Hellenistic Proverbs? VTSup 69 [Leiden: Brill: 1997],

1), in addition to smaller differences (e.g., the variation of subject/object, plural instead of

singular) the LXX Proverbs differs from the MT in many respects, e.g., minuses, pluses,

chapters placed in a different order, and verses within chapters in a different order. The

nature or origin of these differences is uncertain. Cook (2) summarizes the problem, "If they

[the differences] are ascribed to the translator, then this version of the book of Proverbs will

be less useful for the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. However, the contrary will apply

if the deviations could be retroverted to different Hebrew Vorlagen." After careful study of

Proverbs 1, 2, 6, 8, and 9, Cook concludes that the greatest number of differences are due to

the creativeness of the translator. Thus, "the Septuagint version of Proverbs should be treated

with the utmost caution when utilized for text-critical purposes" (334). See also E. Tov,

"Recensional Differences between the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint of Proverbs," in Of

Scribes and Scrolls, Studies on the Hebrew Bible, Intertestamental Judaism, and Christian

Origins Presented to J. Strugnell, College Theology Society Resources in Religion 5, eds.

H.W. Attridge, et al. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1990), 43-56.


                                                                                                                                    77

the comparison of the rhetoric of these speeches. Within this task, the larger context

of Proverbs 1-9 its not unimportant, but secondary to the task at hand.98 Once the

individual analyses are completed, I will propose a redactional hypothesis for the

relationship of these lectures.

 

                                           3. Analysis of the Artistic Proofs

            Aristotle defined rhetoric as “the faculty of discovering the possible means of

persuasion in reference to any subject whatever.”99 For Aristotle, such discovery

primarily involved invention: planning a discourse and the arguments to be used in it

Such invention may be based on external proofs (inartistic), which the speaker utilizes,

but does not invent (e.g., the evidence of witnesses, documents, laws), or artistic

proofs, which are constructed by the "art" of the rhetor. Aristotle claimed that there

are three and only three kinds of artistic proof:

            The first depends upon the moral character of the speaker, the second upon

            putting the hearer into a certain frame of mind, the third, upon the speech itself,

            in so far as it proves or seems to prove.100

According to Kennedy, these three types of proof, typically designated as ethos,

pathos, and logos, are universal features of rhetoric.101 Further, these categories

encompass the basic dimensions of a literary work: the author, the audience, and the

_______________________

 

   98 The interpretation of the lectures within the context of Proverbs 1-9 is necessary only if

the focus of the interpretation is Proverbs 1-9 as a whole. My dissertation is concerned with

the stage of literary development prior to the addition of the interlude3.

 

   99 Aristotle, The "Art" of Rhetoric, 15.

 

   100 Ibid., 17.

 

   101 Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation, 15.


                                                                                                                                    78

text.102 Although I will not ignore external proofs, the use of external proofs is rare in

the lectures. Consequently, my analysis concentrates on the artistic proofs in the

following order.

 

                                                          a. Logos

            Logos refers to the logical or rational development of the argument in the

discourse. According to Aristotle, logical arguments may exist in two forms: inductive

or deductive. Inductive reasoning utilizes a series of examples to draw a general

conclusion. Deductive reasoning utilizes enthymemes. Rhetorical enthymemes most

often take the form of a statement generally accepted to be true or probable by the

audience and a conclusion based on the statement.103 Again, in Classical theory, both

_______________________

 

   102 Yehoshua Gitay, "Rhetorical Criticism," in To Each Its Own Meaning: An Introduction

to Biblical Criticisms and Their Application, ed. Steven L. McKenzie and Stephen R. Haynes

(Louisville: Westminster Press, 1993), 136.

 

  103 The difference between an enthymeme and an epicheireme is debated. For example,

Kennedy has distinguished these terms in different and contradictory ways. Most recently he

has claimed (New Testament Interpretation, 16-17) that the epicheireme employs a full

statement of major premise, minor premise, and conclusion, while the enthymeme assumes or

suppresses one of these parts, i.e., the part already accepted by the audience. This is a

reversal of his earlier claim (The Art of Persuasion in Greece, 97-98): "Later writers,

misunderstanding Aristotle, sometimes regarded such suppression as the factor in

distinguishing an enthymeme from a syllogism and adopted the term epicheireme to refer to a

rhetorical syllogism in full form. In the last hundred years there has been a general return to

the Aristotelian definition. If the premises are scientific, demonstrable, known to be

absolutely true, the argument is a syllogism. If they are only true for the most part, or usually

true, the argument is an enthymeme." For the purposes of this dissertation, I adopt Kennedy's

most recent definition of enthymeme (suppression of one of the premises) and epicheireme

(full statement of major premise, minor premise, and conclusion).

 


                                                                                                                                    79

inductive and deductive arguments are drawn from topics or places a rhetor may look

for material to develop his/her argument.104

            My analysis of the logos of the lectures will also include the element of

arrangement. Typically, in the theory of classical rhetoric, arrangement (i.e., the

composition of a unified structure) follows logos as the second of the five canons of

speech composition and delivery.105 Yet Kennedy observes that, in practice, classical

rhetoricians usually included arrangement in their discussion of invention.106  So, here,

I will consider this element in its role as a contributor to the development of the logos

or logical argument of the lecture.

            Each analysis, then, will begin with an identification of the arrangement of the

lecture utilizing concepts from Western rhetorical theory, e.g., Proem, proposition,

proof and epilogue. These categories, I will demonstrate, aptly, describe the parts of

the lectures. For example, each lecture begins with the proem “my son” or "sons"

(e.g., 1:8, 3:1, 4:1) and asserts a proposition (e.g., 1:8-9, 3:1-2,4:1-2) that is

elaborated and defended in a section of proof (e.g., 1:10-18, 3:3-10, 4:3-9). Most

lectures also include an identifiable epilogue (e.g., 1:19, 2:20-22, 3:11-12). The proper

identification of these elements is important for understanding the unique rhetoric of

each lecture. For example, the failure to recognize the epilogue of the first lecture

(1:19) has led many scholars to miss the hyperbolic nature of the rhetoric. In the

_______________________

 

   104 See Kennedy, The Art of Persuasion in Greece, 100-02; and New Testament

Interpretation, 20-21.

 

   105 The other canons are style, memory, and delivery.

 

   106 Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation, 23.

 


                                                                                                                                    80

same way, the failure to identify and recognize the controlling function of the

proposition in each lecture has led to a lack of appreciation for the differing aim(s),

proofs, and coherence of each lecture: Thus, in this section, I will identify the

constituent parts of the rhetoric and seek to understand their role in the logical or

rational development of the rhetor's argument.

 

 

                                                      b. Ethos

            The second artistic proof is ethos. Kennedy describes the concept of ethos in

Classical theory as

            the credibility that the author or speaker is able to establish in his work. The

            audience is induced to trust what he says because they trust him, as a good

            man or an expert on the subject. In Aristotelian theory ethos is something

            entirely internal to a speech, but in practice the authority which the speaker

            brings to the occasion is an important factor . . . 107

Frequently, in the ten lectures of Proverbs 1-9, there is special concern for developing

the authority or the moral character of the speaker (the father), against the ethos of the

opposition, e.g., the wicked men (1:8-19, 2:12-15) and the seductive woman (2:16-19).

Here, I will identify the devices that develop the ethos of the speaker and their

function in the rhetoric. In other lectures, there is an apparent lack of concern or need

to develop the speaker's ethos (e.g., 3:1-12, 21-35). Again, I will identify the devices

that are present, but I will also explore the reason(s) for the relative lack of concern

for the speaker's ethos.

_______________________

 

   107 Ibid., 15.

 


                                                                                                                                    81

                                                     c. Pathos

            The third artistic proof is pathos. Pathos regards the emotions of the audience

and how rhetors may stimulate or manipulate their emotions, e.g., anger, fear, or love,

to achieve their rhetorical goals. Typically, pathetic appeals are concentrated in the

epilogue or final stages of a speech. However, rhetorical analysis must not restrict

pathos to the final appeal, but be sensitive to pathetic proofs that are developed or

employed throughout the speech. Here, several helpful questions will guide my

analysis: What persuasive devices engage the emotions or sentiments of the audience?

Does the text primarily threaten (the pathos of fear), promise (the pathos of pleasure),

or both? Is there extensive use of pathetic appeals or does the rhetor rely on the logic

of the argument (logos) or his own authority (ethos) to accomplish his goals?

 

                                         d. Summary & Conclusions

            The completion of the preceding analysis should provide the necessary data for

understanding various aspects of the rhetoric of each lecture. Thus, my analysis of

each lecture will conclude with a synthesis of my findings, including the rhetorical

situation of the lecture, the rhetorical problem addressed by the speaker, and the

strategy (i.e., the convergence of logos, ethos, and pathos) employed by the speaker to

confront and remedy the problem.

            Undergirding my conclusions, as well as my analyses, is the a priori

assumption that the speaker/writer was of at least minimal rhetorical competency. In

other words, I assume that each speaker/writer spoke in a self-conscious attempt to

persuade an audience, designed each speech for suasion, and expected that each lecture

 


                                                                                                                                    82

had at least a reasonable chance at success. It is my judgment that this initial

assumption is confirmed by the rhetorical analysis of the lectures. Thus, throughout

this dissertation, I will support this thesis with evidence of careful rhetorical

composition and artistry in the ten lectures of Proverbs 1-9.

 

                                   Summary: Rhetorical Criticism

            This chapter has established the theoretical foundations and the practical

procedures for my rhetorical analysis of the ten lectures of Proverbs 1-9. My

methodology does not exist in a vacuum. Consequently, I have sought to define my

practice of rhetorical interpretation vis-a-vis both ancient and contemporary rhetorics.

Rhetorical criticism has had a long history in the interpretation of biblical texts.

However, as my survey has demonstrated, this history has not been static. Primarily

due to the influence of modernism, rhetoric suffered a sharp decline in the late 19th

and early 20th centuries. Conversely, the surge of postmodernism in more recent

years has reawakened interest in rhetoric.

            Like its ancient counter-part, contemporary rhetorics includes a plurality of

both harmonious and competing theories. Each of these contemporary practices raises

or emphasizes important critical issues in the discussion of rhetoric. Thus, in assessing

these methods, I have been able to address the underpinnings of my own method.

Against Muilenburg's rhetoric, I define rhetorical criticism as the systematic analysis of

the suasive features of a discourse. With The Postmodern Bible's New Rhetoric, I

agree that rhetoric is the tool of ideology. However, their practice of rhetorical

criticism as cultural criticism is not the goal of this dissertation. My rhetorical theory


                                                                                                                                    83

also fits within the interpretive analytics proposed by Vernon Robbins, primarily as an

analysis of one dimension of the Inner Texture of Proverbs 1-9. Yet, against Robbins,

my aim does not include the correlation of diverse methodology or rewriting the

history of the wisdom tradition in ancient Israel.

            The contemporary rhetorician to which I an most indebted is George Kennedy.

Although our practices differ slightly, I, like Kennedy, rely heavily on the conceptual

theory and terminology of ancient Western rhetoric. Thus, my rhetorical analysis will

concentrate on the artistic proofs of the ten lectures as a means of understanding the

rhetorical situation, the rhetorical problem, and the rhetor's strategy for resolving this

problem. With this definition in hand and having already situated this dissertation

within the interpretive web of Proverbs 1-9, I now turn my analysis of the ten lectures.

 

 

 

 

                                                  Chapter Three

 

                              RHETORICAL ANALYSIS OF GROUP I:

                                  THE CALLS TO APPRENTICESHIP

 

            The ten lectures of Proverbs 1-9 appear to assert similar propositions. They

address a "son" or "sons," urge the son(s) to listen, not forget, or guard the father's

teaching, and affirm the value of this teaching.1  However, a curious diversity exists

within this similarity that scholars have yet to explain adequately.2  Nineteen different

Hebrew verbs occur in the initial appeals of the lectures (e.g., listen, pay attention,

guard).3  While many of these terms are synonymous, or near synonymous, others

suggest varied emphases in the father's rhetorical objectives. The father also affirms

the value of his teaching in different ways. At times, he claims that his teaching is the

key to a successful life (e.g., 3:1-2, 3:21-22). At other times, he affirms his teaching

by promising that it will rescue the son from the seductive rhetoric of the alien woman

_______________________

 

   1 Whybray, Wisdom in Proverbs, 34.

 

   2 Whybray (Proverbs, NCB [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1994], 23-24) writes: "It

is remarkable - and no satisfactory explanation has been found for this - that although in

every case the language used is similar, it is never quite identical: a remarkable number of

synonyms is used, and often the same words occur in slightly different combinations." (italics

mine)

 

   3 fmw (1:8, 4:1,10), wFn (1:8, 6:20), Hql (2:1), Npc (2:1, 7:1), bwq (2:2, 4:1,20, 5:1), hFn

(2:2, 4:20, 5:1), xrq (2:3, 7:4), Ntn (2:3), wqb (2:4), wpH (2:4), Hkw (3:1, 4:5), rcn (3:1, 21,

5:2, 6:20), zUl (3:21, 4:21), bzf (4:2), rwq (6:21, 7:3), dnf (6:21), btk (7:3), rmx (7:4), rmw

(4:21, 5:2, 7:1, 2)

 

                                                           84


                                                                                                                                    85

(e.g., 6:20-24, 7:1-5). Further, there is remarkable variety in the rhetorical strategies

each lecture employs to argue for its proposition (see below).

            This dissertation will address the diversity within the ten lectures and thus

breach the present scholarly impasse by the use of rhetorical criticism. It is my thesis

that the ten lectures of Proverbs 1-9 may be classified into three groups or subsets on

the basis of their rhetoric, namely their differing propositions and rhetorical strategies.

Against the conclusion of form critics, I maintain that the various combinations of

verbs in the propositions do not make the same appeal.4  Rather, analysis of these

verbs reveals three distinct groups: 1) verbs which urge the son to listen to the father

and receive his wisdom (fmw, wFn, Hql, hFn), or to actively pursue the

acquisition of the father's wisdom (Npc, xrq, Ntn, wqb, wpH), 2) verbs which

emphasize not forgetting (Hkw), abandoning (bzf), or losing (zUl) the father's

instruction, and 3) verbs which advise the son to guard (rcn) or keep watch over

(rmw) the father's teaching.

            The three groups of verbs correspond to three different types of lectures (see

table 1). One group of lectures (1:8-19, 2:1-22, 4:1-9, 4:10-19) utilizes the first group

of verbs to urge the son to listen to the father's instruction and actively pursue

wisdom. Significantly, these lectures do little more than appeal for apprenticeship.

The actual teaching of the father is not explicated. Another group of lectures (3:1-12,

3:22-35, 4:20-27) employs the second group of verbs that emphasize not forgetting

_______________________

 

   4 For example, Whybray (Proverbs, 23) claims: "The varieties of wording seem endless;

yet the basic meaning is always the same."

 


                                                                                                                                    86

Table 1.--Concurrence of Verbs in the Propositions of the Ten Lectures

 

the father's teaching (with incidental use of the third and first groups).5 These lectures

do explicate the teaching of the father through a series of concise imperatives on a

variety of subjects. Finally, a third subset of lectures (5:1-23, 6:20-35, 7:1-27) takes

up the group of verbs that stress the importance of guarding and watching over the

father's instruction. This appeal corresponds to the longest lectures (with the exception

of 2:1-22), which provide sustained teaching on a single topic, namely, the danger of

the strange/foreign woman. Thus, in each lecture, the nuance of the opening appeal

_______________________

 

   5 There is some overlap in these categories. For example, verbs which denote an appeal to

listen occur in all three types of lectures (e.g., 4:20-21, 5:1-2; see Table 1). Nonetheless, each

lecture places emphasis on one of these three categories.


                                                                                                                                    87

corresponds to the content of the lecture.6  Form critics have overlooked this

correlation.

            In this and the next two chapters, I will test the validity of this rhetorical

classification of the lectures into three subsets. In this chapter, I will examine the

rhetoric of the first group or type of lecture, namely the four lectures that urge the son

to listen to the father and actively pursue wisdom, but that do not explicate the actual

teaching of the father. Chapters four and five will offer analysis of the second and

third groups, respectively.

 

                                           Proverbs 1:8-19

                                     1. Text and Translation

 

1:8       Listen, my son, to the instruction of your father

            and do not disregard the teaching of your mother;

1:9       because they are a garland of favor for your head,

            and necklaces for your neck.

1:10     My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.

1:11     If they say, "Come with us,

            let us lie in ambush7 for blood;

            let us lurk for an innocent person without cause;8

 

   6 Paul Overland ("Literary Structure in Proverbs 1-9," 169-170), in his analysis of 1:8-19,

makes a similar claim regarding the summons of verse 8-9: "This link [related term repetition

involving wealth] between an instructional block (B) and a summons block (A) is important

because it shows the potential for initiating a theme even within the brief, often formulaic

confines of a summons . . . The summons is capable of containing a carefully designed germ

of the topic to be developed in ensuing instruction."

 

   7 The imperfect verbs of verses 1lc-13 are juxtaposed asyndetically to the imperative of

verse 11a (UnTAxi hkAl;, "come with us"). Thus, these verbs are best read as a chain of

cohortatives that signify the purpose of the imperative (see Bruce K. Waltke and M. O'Connor,

An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax [Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1990], 577).

 

   8 Some scholars offer a series of emendations for this verse. For example, W.O.E.

Oesterley (The Book of Proverbs, Westminster Commentaries [London: Methuen, 1929], 8)


                                                                                                                                    88

1:12     let us swallow them up like Sheol [swallows]9 the living,

            [Let us swallow them] whole like those going down to the pit;

1:13     let us find every precious valuable;

            let us fill our houses with plunder.

1:14     Cast10 your lot with us;

            let there be one bag for all of us."

1:15     My son, do not walk in the road with them,

            restrain your foot from their paths.

1:1611   “Their feet run to evil,

            and they hurry to shed blood.”12

_______________________

 

proposes MtAl; ("for the perfect [man]") instead of MdAl; ("for blood," v. 1 lb, cf v. 16), and

Mr,He ("net") instead of Mn.AHi ("without cause," v. 11c). These revisions exemplify the attempt

to read the speech of the wicked men as a real speech, rather than a hyperbolic rhetorical

device created by the rhetor.

 

   9 Brackets [ ] indicate words elided by the speaker/writer but provided in my translation.

 

   10 Following the LXX and the context (the previous imperative [v. 1 lb] and cohortatives

[vv. 11c-13]), the MT 2nd masculine singular (lyPiTa) is best read as an imperative "cast" or

"you should cast" (so the NIV, NRSV, and NJV). Consequently, the second verb of this verse

(hy,h;yi) is read as a jussive ("let there be").

 

   11 This verse is nearly identical to Isa 59:7 (MT). It differs in only two respects: 1) the

plene spelling of UzUryA (UcruyA in Isaiah), and 2) the omission of yqinA) ("innocent"). This

close verbal similarity suggests that one of these texts is quoting from the other, or both are

citing a common source.

            Because this verse is lacking in Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus and minuscule

mss. of Proverbs, many scholars view it as a gloss from Isaiah (e.g., Whybray, Wisdom in

Proverbs, 39 note 3; Oesterley, Proverbs, 9). Five arguments may be advanced against this

position. 1) Other reliable manuscripts, e.g., Alexandrinus and MT, do include this verse.

2) If the lectures of Proverbs 1-9 are dated in the late Post-exilic era (Baumann, et al.) and

attributed to a social group familiar with Israel's written traditions (Harris, et al.), it is

plausible that a citation from Isaiah could be an integral part of the speech. 3) Both verses 16

and 17 are citations offered by the writer/speaker in support of the proposition in verse 15.

4) Verse 16 has close verbal links to verse 15: "your foot" (v. 15) // "their feet" (v. 16), "road

. . . paths" (v. 15) // the activities of running and hurrying (v. 16) -- all images of travel or

movement. 5) The conclusion of verse 18, "so they lie in ambush for their own blood,"

depends on verse 16 "they hurry to shed blood" (as well as verse 11). Without verse 16, it is

difficult to follow the argumentation of verses 15-18. On the basis of this evidence, my

analysis recognizes verse 16 as a citation drawn by the rhetor either from Isaiah or a source

also used by Isaiah, not a later editorial gloss.

 

   12 Both citations (verses 16-17) are introduced in Hebrew by the particle yKi. I have

translated this particle by using quotation marks to denote citation.


                                                                                                                                    89

1:17     "Vainly the net is spread out13

            in the plain sight of any bird."

1:18     But they lie in ambush for their own blood;

            they lurk for their own lives.

1:19     Thus are the ways14 of all who gain an unjust gain;

            it will take away the life of its owner.

 

                           2. The Limits of the Rhetorical Unit

            Formal and thematic features create clear borders in this rhetorical unit. The

beginning of the unit is demarcated by 1) the conclusion of the prologue with the

motto of 1:7 ("The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise

instruction"), 2) the shift from sentence literature, in verse 7, to the instruction form, in

 

    13 There is some difficulty in reading hrAzom;. In the MT, this word is pointed as a D

passive participle of hrz ("to spread"). Driver ("Problems in the Hebrew Text of Proverbs,"

Bib 32 [1951]: 173) proposes repointinghrzm as a G passive participle (hrAzum;) from the

root rzm ("to close, tighten"), or as a Hophal participle (hrAzAmu ) from rvz ("to draw tight").

Both emendations suggest the translation "vainly the net is closed." D.W. Thomas ("Textual

and Philological Notes on Some Passages in the Book of Proverbs," VTSup 3 [1955]: 281-82),

on the basis of the Arabic root dr' ("winnow, throw, scatter"), claims that hrAzom; refers to

the practice of sprinkling grain on a net as bait. Thus, even though the birds see the net, their

compulsive desire for the grain causes them to ignore the obvious danger, light on the net, and

be captured (see also McKane, Proverbs, OTL [London: SCM Press, 1970], 271). Both

Driver's repointing, which lacks textual support, and Thomas' use of Arabic are unnecessary.

My translation maintains the MT and the standard Hebrew meaning of hrzm. On the

rhetorical function of this citation in the lecture, see my analysis below.

 

   14 Following the MT tOHr;xA, plural of  hrx (stretch [of path], ground, behavior, way).

Toy (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Proverbs, ICC [New York:

Charles Scribner's Sons, 1899], 20) suggests the reading tyriHExa (end, outcome), based on

the context, especially verse 18 in the LXX. Many scholars accept this emendation (e.g.,.

Whybray, Wisdom in Proverbs, 39; R.B.Y. Scott, Proverbs/Ecclesiastes, AB, vol. 18 [New

York: Doubleday, 1965], 34). However, against this emendation: 1) verse 19 of the LXX

follows the MT, 2) hrx picks up on the warning of verse 15 about the "road" (j`r,d,) and the

"path" (bytin;) of the sinners, and 3) the emendation fails to recognize the function of Hrx, as

key word throughout the lectures (2:8, 13, 15, 19, 20, 3:6, 4:14, 18, 5:6).


                                                                                                                                    90

verses 8ff.,15 3) the address "hear, my son" (yniB; fmaw;; 1:8), and 4) the utilization of

this address to introduce a sustained warning about the "sinners" (1:10-19). The end

of the unit is distinguished by 1) the summary conclusion of verse 19 (introduced by

NKe), and 2) the beginning of the speech by personified wisdom in verse 20.16

            One problematic aspect of the lecture's integrity is the occurrence of the

vocative ynb ("my son") in the body of the lecture (v. 10, j~UTpay;-Mxi ynib;, and

v. 15, j`leTe-lxa ynib;). In Proverbs 1-9, typically, the vocative ynb is a proem or initial

address and thereby a primary indicator of the beginning of a new rhetorical unit.17

Thus, it is possible to confuse "my son" in verses 10 and 15 as demarcating the

beginning of new or distinct rhetorical units.18

            Although the vocative ynb often marks a new rhetorical unit in Proverbs 1-9, it

also occurs within the body of four lectures, where it does not denote the beginning of

a new speech.19 The primary distinction between these two usages is that in the

proems, the vocative ynb is used in connection with appeals to listen, pay attention, not

forget, etc., but in the bodies of these lectures, the vocative ynb is used in combination

with more specific appeals (e.g., "My son, if sinners entice you" [1:10], "My son, do

_______________________

 

   15 Stuart Weeks, Early Israelite Wisdom (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), 9.

 

   16 For an extensive defense of the literary unity of 1:8-19 see Overland, "Literary Structure

in Proverbs," 164-187.

 

   17 1:8, 2:1, 3:1, 3:21, 4:1, 4:10, 4:20, 5:1(and 7), 6:20, 7:1

 

   18 For example, Newsom ("Woman and the Discourse of Patriarchal Wisdom," 144)

includes verses 8-9 with the prologue of the book of Proverbs and delimits the first speech as

verses 10-19.

 

   19 Lecture #1: 1:10, 15; lecture #3: 3:11; lecture #8: 5:20; lecture #10: 7:24.


                                                                                                                                    91

not walk in the way with them" [1:15], "Why should you, my son, be intoxicated by a

strange woman?" [5:20]).20 In this lecture, the supplementary ynb vocatives introduce

the speech of the sinners (v. 10) and make a direct appeal to the son to reject their

rhetoric (v. 15, see below).21

 

                                  3. Analysis of the Artistic Proofs

            This lecture implores the son to accept parental teaching. However, the rhetor

does not explicate this teaching. Rather, the entire lecture is devoted to persuading the

son to reject an alternative rhetoric, namely the rhetoric of ferocious "sinners" who

offer immediate gratification of the son's desire for adventure, wealth, and

companionship. To combat the appeal of this rhetoric and convince the son to listen

instead to parental instruction, the father employs a subtle rhetorical strategy that is

often misread by his contemporary interpreters.

                                                       a. Logos

            Deliberative speech, as conceptualized by Aristotle, seeks to persuade an

audience to adopt an attitude or make a decision regarding the future and has

_______________________

 

   20 This distinction is only semantic. There is no difference between the syntactical usage of

ynb in the proems and in the body of the lectures. On 4 occasions, the construction imperative

+ ynb introduces a new rhetorical unit (e.g., ynib; fmaw;) [1:8]; see also, 4:1, 4:10, 6:20).

However, in the other 6 lectures, the construction ynb + imperative or conditional clause

introduces a new rhetorical unit (2:1, 3:1, 3:21, 4:20, 5:1, 7:1). In the bodies of the lectures

the syntax is both ynb + imperative (1:10,15, 3:11, 7:24) and imperfect + ynb (5:20).

            In addition to the semantic difference between ynb in the proems and in the body of

the lectures, the context in which ynb appears also helps define its function. For example, in

1:10 and 15, ynb does not introduce a new topic as it does in 1:8. Thus, while 1:8 marks the

beginning of a new lecture, 1:10 and 15 denote new sections within the lecture.

 

   21 See also Whybray, Proverbs, 39.

 


                                                                                                                                    92

"expediency" as its primary aim, i.e., what is best in the given situation.22 This

definition aptly describes the rhetoric of 1:8- .9. In this lecture, the rhetor attempts to

persuade his audience that the expedient course of action is to accept parental

instruction and reject the rhetoric of the "sinners." Further, the structure or outline of

this lecture is similar to the common Western form of deliberative speech

            Proem - 1:8a

            Proposition -1: 8a-9

            Proof - 1:10-18

            Epilogue - 1:1923

            The proem and proposition are intermingled in verse 8. A proem in

deliberative rhetoric establishes the relationship of the speaker to the audience and thus

gains initial favor with the audience. In this speech, the proem consists of the single

Hebrew word, ynb - "my son." While this word certainly asserts a speaker/audience

relationship, there is considerable disagreement about the nature of this liaison.

_______________________

 

   22 Aristotle, The "Art" of Rhetoric, I.ii.5. "The end of the deliberative speaker is the

expedient or harmful; for he who exhorts recommends a course of action as better, and he

who dissuades advises against it as worse; all other considerations, such as justice and

injustice, honor and disgrace, are included as accessory in reference to this."

 

   23 The use of categories from deliberative rhetoric to outline the lectures is not new (e.g.,

Fox, "The Pedagogy of Proverbs 2," 235), although my application of these categories to all

ten lectures is unique. The primary significance of my identification of this lecture as

deliberative rhetoric and my outline based on this identification is that I identify vv. 8-9 as the

proposition that the rhetor defends in the proof of vv. 10-18. Other scholars (e.g., Toy,

Proverbs, 13-14; McKane, Proverbs, 268) typically regard vv. 8-9 as merely an introduction

(i.e., a proem), rather than the lecture's proposal.

 


                                                                                                                                    93

On the one hand, numerous scholars assert that ynb denotes a kinship relation,

i.e., a real father speaking to his biological son.24 This hypothesis depends entirely on

three texts within the lectures that mention the son's mother.

            Listen, my son, to the instruction of your father

            and do not disregard the teaching of your mother. (1:8)

            Guard, my son, the commandment of your father

            and do not neglect the teaching of your mother. (6:20)

According to the proponents of this position, the admonitions of 1:8 and 6:20 are

roundabout ways of referring to the speaker's own instruction. In other words, it is the

son's physical father who addresses him and urges him to accept "the instruction of

your father."

            Additional support for a familial relationship is arguably found in the

instructional setting envisioned by the speaker in 4:3-4.

            For I was a son of my father,

            delicate and alone before my mother,

            and he taught me and said to me, (4:3-4a)

In the following verses (vv. 4b-9), the speaker recounts what his father taught him. It

is difficult to deny that the "grandfather's" speech was originally delivered in a familial

setting; the "grandfather" spoke when the "son" was "delicate and alone before my

mother." However, that the rhetorical setting of the lecture of 4:1-9 is identical to the

_______________________

 

   24 Raymond C. Van Leeuwen, "The Book of Proverbs," NIB, ed. L. Keck, et al., vol. 5

Wisdom Literature (Nashville: Abingdon, 1997), 31,37; Roger N. Whybray, The Intellectual

Tradition in the Old Testament, BZAW, vol. 135 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1974), 42-43; Weeks,

Early Israelite Wisdom, 15; Michael V. Fox, "The Social Location of the Book of Proverbs,"

in Texts, Temples, and Traditions, ed. Michael Fox, et al. (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1996),

230-32.

 


                                                                                                                                    94

rhetorical setting of the grandfather's speech is a dubious assumption.25 The rhetorical

situations are not the same. For example, while the "grandfather's" speech addressed

an individual son, in 4:1 the rhetor addresses "sons" (MynibA Ufm;wi; I will discuss this

shift and its significance in my analysis of 4:1-9; see below, pp. 132f.

            It is also questionable whether 1:8 and 6:20 adequately support the hypothesis

of a familial rhetorical situation. Read closely, these texts appear to be appeals to

accept traditional sources of authority, exemplified by the roles of the father and

mother. In other words, it is possible that 1:8 is not circumlocutionary language, but a

direct indicator that someone other than the son's physical "father" or "mother" is

speaking and urging the "son" to accept his parent's teaching.26 This possible reading

becomes probable in light of further evidence.

            First, ancient Near Eastern literature attests to the custom of utilizing the term

"son" as a "form of address to a subordinate or by a subordinate when referring to

himself.”27 This use of "son" is found in the Wisdom literature of Ugarit,28

_______________________

 

   25 Athalya Brenner ("Proverbs 1-9: An F Voice?" in On Gendering Text: Female and Male

Voices in the Hebrew Bible, ed. Athalya Brenner and Fokkelien Van Dijk-Hemmes [New

York: E.J. Brill, 1993], 118) raises a similar concern: "But who is the narrator-in-the-text, the

privileged I persona? Should we take a logical leap and decide that like father, like son, like

initial speaker? Does the identity of the fictive target audience, the textual 'sons',

automatically imply the same gender for the 'teacher' who addresses them."

 

   26 Kathleen A. Farmer, Who Knows What is Good? Proverbs & Ecclesiastes, ITC (Grand

Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1991), 26-27.

 

   27 CAD 10, s.v., "maru," 308.

 

   28 For example, "my son, your time is at hand" (Duane E. Smith, "Wisdom Genres in RS

22.439," in Ras Shamra Parallels: The Texts from Ugarit and the Hebrew Bible, Duane E.

Smith and Stan Rummel, eds.[Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1975], RS 22.439 I:9

[p. 222]; see also, I 17,19 and 11:6).

 


                                                                                                                                    95

Mesopotamia29 and Egypt.30 Second, and more importantly, biblical texts attest to the

use of "son" as a designation for a student or pupil (e.g., I Sam 3:6, 16, Qoh 12:12)

and "father" as a designation for a teacher (e.g., II Kgs 2:3-5, 12).31  Third, in the

eighth lecture (5:1-23), also addressed to "my son" (ynb, 5:1), the speaker warns the

"son" that, if he rejects his advice and falls prey to the rhetoric of the foreign woman,

he will lament,

            How I hated discipline,

            and my heart disdained reproof.

            I did not obey the voice of my teachers,

            and I did not incline my ear to my instructors. (5:13-14)

_______________________

 

   29 For example, "[My s]on, ch[at]ter not overmuch so that thou speak out [every w]ord

[that] comes to thy mind" ("The Words of Ahiqar," vii 96; see also ix 123-41 and x 1.42-158

[ANET 428-229]); "My son, if it be the wish of the prince that you are his" ("Counsels of

Wisdom," 81 [ANET 595]); "The son of a school-master like carnelian-stone . . . (?); he is a

scribe!" (Edmund I. Gordon, Sumerian Proverbs: Glimpses of Everyday Life in Ancient

Mesopotamia [Philadelphia: The University Museum, 1959], 2.45). Gordon (205) observes

that "son of a school-master" should perhaps be translated as "a member of the school-master's

profession." Other familial language was also used in Sumerian education, e.g., the teacher's

assistant was called the "big brother" (ses-gal; Gordon, 20).

 

   30 Most Egyptian Instructions take the form of an address of a father to his son (e.g., "Ptah-

Hotep," 25-50 [ANET 412], "Amen-em-opet," ii 10-15 [ANET 421], "Ani" [ANET 420],

"Hor-Dedef' [ANET 419], "Amen-em-het" [ANET 418], and "Meri-ka-re" [ANET 414-415]).

The interpretation of these texts is debated. Fox ("The Social Location of the Book of

Proverbs," 230-231) claims that these texts depict men speaking to their actual sons. McKane

(Proverbs, 51-52, 65, 92) argues that in most cases the parental form of address is a literary

convention and that the Instructions are more general in character and thus, most Instructions

were educational manuals for apprentice officials or scribes. See also Philip Nel, "The

Concept of 'Father' in the Wisdom Literature of the Ancient Near East," JNSL 5 (1977): 60-61.

 

   31 Elsewhere, "father"/"son" language denotes other types of hierarchical relationships:

I Sam 10:12, 24:12 (MT; 24:11, Eng.), 24:17 (MT; 24:16, Eng.), 25:8, 26:17, II Sam 18:22,

II Kgs 2:12.

 


                                                                                                                                    96

It is significant that here, the "son" identifies those who addressed him as "my son"

(5:1) as "my teachers" (yrAOm) and "my instructors" (ydam.;lami), not "my father" or

"my mother."

            The weaknesses in the arguments in favor of a familial relationship combined

with the evidence supporting some type of teacher-pupil relationship leads me to the

conclusion that the rhetorical situation of 1:8-19 is the address of a teacher/sage to his

student(s). This assertion is not a denial of the existence of family education in

ancient Israel nor an assertion of a formal school setting for the lectures. Rather, by

adopting the language of the family (ynb) and admonishing the son to accept parental

authority, the speaker envisions his role as an extension or continuation of familial

education. As Philip Nel writes,

            The authoritative character of his [the sage's] teaching is rooted in the

            authoritative family-education - par excellence, education in tradition. Thus the

            professional instructions of the wisdom-teacher are only a continuation of

            tradition, and not a substitution. The teacher acts in loco parentis.32

Thus, with the single word ynb, the proem accomplishes the task of establishing the

speaker's relationship to the audience and his right to speak and be heard: He is their

instructor and they are his pupils.33

            The proposition consists of two verses (1:8-9). In the first, the speaker states

his objective in both positive and negative terms. The son/student should listen to the

instruction of his father and should not neglect the teaching of his mother (1:8). The

_______________________

 

   32 Nel, "The Concept of "Father," 59.

 

   33 In order to avoid confusion, despite the speaker's use of "my son," I will denote the

speaker/writer of 1:8-19 as the rhetor or speaker rather than father.

 


                                                                                                                                    97

best thing for the pupil to do is to accept the authority and counsel of his parents.34 In

support of this proposal, the speaker supplies an initial argument: Listening to

traditional authority will bring the son social standing ("a garland of favor for your

head and necklaces for your neck," 1:9).35

            This promised benefit is not unrelated to the subsequent rhetoric. Rather, this

reward preempts the promises that will be made in the speech of the sinners, namely

adventure, wealth, and companionship (see below). Recognizing the allure of these

promises, the speaker claims that parental values and teaching will provide the social

status sought by the son.36 The proposition, then, asserts that the son can best achieve

his goals by accepting the rhetoric of the sage, not the rhetoric of the sinners. Or, as

Newsom states it, "The first speech that is addressed to the son is precisely about how

to resist interpellation by a rival discourse.”37

_______________________

 

   34 Overland ("Literary Structure in Proverbs 1-9," 184) argues on the basis of literary links

to 1:3-5 that we should not read the imperative fmw (hear) as a commonplace component of

the summons: "if one were reading or hearing Proverbs for the first time, beginning with ch.

1, fmw would not yet have developed a commonplace summons value. If we confine

ourselves to these two texts [1:3-5 and 1:8-19], fmw in v. 5 describes the primary activity of a

wise man. Then in v. 8 fmw exhorts the pupil to behave as the wise man who was previously

described. To begin the second text with fmw seems coincidental, but may actually reflect a

strategic repetition which has significance when viewed against the backdrop of the preceding

text."

 

   35 Whybray, Proverbs, 38; Scott, Proverbs, 38.

 

   36 The promise of illicit adventure is addressed by the father, but not in the initial statement

of the proposition. Later, he will argue that such adventure will end in misadventure, the

entrapment of the sinners' in traps of their own making (vv. 16-18).

 

   37 Newsom, "Woman and the Discourse of Patriarchal Wisdom," 144.

 


                                                                                                                                    98

            The proof (1:10-18) consists of two inter-related parts. First, the rhetor cites

the speech of the "sinners" (1:10-14). This speech begins with the imperative "Come

with us" (UnTAxi hkAl;; 1:11), followed by five cohortatives that signify the purpose

of "coming with us." The first three cohortatives identify the purpose of coming as an

illicit adventure. The sinners propose that the son join them in setting ambushes to

destroy the innocent, i.e., to kill for the fun of it (MnA.Hi; 1:11). Then, drawing on

images from Canaanite mythology, they propose swallowing people whole like Sheol

swallows the living (1:12).38

            Many scholars read these verses as if they were an external proof or a reliable

citation from the sinners.39  If so, it is hard to imagine why the speaker is concerned

about such rhetoric. Although possible, what son in the sage's audience would be

persuaded to join a gang of thugs in order to go about killing the innocent for no

reason or benefit? Further, the sinner's speech, as cited by the rhetor, is crass and

appears to be of little suasive strength. I do not deny that such gangs existed in

ancient Israel. But I do doubt that such outrageous rhetoric would have been a cause

for the serious concern exhibited by this rhetor. The conclusion of this lecture (1:19)

will reveal a different purpose for the sinner's speech (see below).

            This speech is not an external proof, i.e., it is not a real speech from the

sinners. Rather, as Newsom has pointed out, this alleged speech is completely

_______________________

 

   38 McKane, Proverbs, 269; Whybray, Proverbs, 40.

 

   39 Toy, Proverbs, 14-16; Oesterley, Proverbs, 8-9; Whybray, Proverbs, 39-40; Van

Leeuwen, "The Book of Proverbs," 37-38; Estes, Hear My Son, 116.

 


                                                                                                                                    99

controlled by the rhetor. The speaker has created this hyperbolic speech, so

exaggerated that even the most simple minded son can "deconstruct" (i.e., see through)

it and return safely to the counsel of his parents.40 To be sure, hyperbole is most

effective when it is based on some element(s) of truth. Here, in these three

cohortatives, this element of truth appears to be some offer of an adventuresome life

unrestricted by the stagnant rules of tradition.

            The fourth and fifth cohortatives exaggerate a second element in the rhetoric of

the opposition, namely the acquisition of wealth ("let us find every precious valuable;

let us fill our houses with plunder," 1:13). The traditional ethics for accumulating

wealth are articulated throughout the book of Proverbs. Wealth is a blessing bestowed

by the Lord (10:22) on those who work diligently (12:27, 13:4, 12:11). The rhetoric

of the sinners offers a quicker and easier way to wealth: Find an item of value and

take it. Yet again, the rhetor exaggerates their appeal: "let us fill our houses with

plunder" (1:13b).

            The speech of the "sinners" concludes with another imperative/cohortative

construction (1:14). The sinners urge the son to cast his lot with them and become a

share-holder in the common purse. Once again, the speaker picks up on what was

most likely a real element in the rhetoric of the opposition, namely membership in an

egalitarian community. Van Leeuwen explains, "In contrast to the segmented society

of Proverbs, with its degrees of honor, the company of sinners presents itself as a

_______________________

 

   40 Newsom, "Woman and the Discourse of Patriarchal Wisdom," 144-45. See also,

Crenshaw, "Wisdom and Authority," 14. The use of fictive speeches in rhetoric is not

unusual. See, for example, the use of fictive speeches in the diatribes of Malachi (David L.

Petersen, Zechariah 9-14 and Malachi, OTL [Louisville: Westminster Press, 1995], 31-32).

 


                                                                                                                                    100

successful community with egalitarian and utopian claims: share and share alike."41

This appeal does not appear to be hyperbolic. It is, however, sardonic. In view of the

"self-confessed" ruthless behavior of the gang, wantonly killing and robbing for profit,

only a fool would be foolish enough to entrust his goods and his person to such thugs

(cf. Prov 14:16). By placing this invitation at the end of the hyperbolic speech, the

rhetor subtly ridicules anyone who would listen to or join such a group.

            What is the rhetorical function of the speech of the sinners? How does this

speech relate to the proposition to accept parental authority?42 On the one hand, the

rhetor has created such a hyperbolic invitation that the invitation itself has lost its

persuasive appeal. No one would be so foolish as to join such a ruthless gang of

thugs. Or, at least this conclusion is the rhetorical goal of the fictitious speech. On

the other hand, in the process of debunking the sinners, it is likely that the rhetor's

creation engages three real promises made by the opposition that intersect with the

desires of the son, namely the son's desire for adventure, for wealth, and for

companionship. The presence of these ideas in the proof suggests that the rhetorical

problem is the son's longing to fulfill these desires, and the potential of fulfilling them

_______________________

 

   41 Van Leeuwen, "The Book of Proverbs," 33.

 

   42 Newsom ("Woman and the Discourse of Patriarchal Wisdom," 145) also acknowledges

the exaggeration and asks "what else is going on here? Who and what is the son really being

warned against? It seems scarcely credible that the advice should be taken at face value as

career counseling. It is much more likely that this depiction of brigands is a metaphor for

something else."

 


                                                                                                                                    101

in ways contrary to the traditional mores advocated by his parents and teacher.43 Thus,

the rhetor's strategy to dissuade the son from joining the sinners consists of revealing

the "true" nature of their appeals through hyperbole, i.e., their invitation to adventure

is really an invitation "to lie in wait for blood" (1:11).

            The second part of the proof, like the first, begins with the vocative        "my

son" (1:15). Then, two imperatives reiterate the proposition of the lecture in negative

terms, "do not walk in the road with them," and "restrain your foot from their paths"

(1:15). Although the preceding speech of the wicked has already contributed strong

proof not to join the sinners, the proposition is now supported by additional evidence,

namely two citations and a conclusion drawn from the citations.44

            The first citation is nearly identical to Isaiah 59:7: "Their feet run to evil, and

they hurry to shed blood" (1:16). It is impossible to know the relationship of this

verse to Isaiah (see below on Ethos). Nonetheless, its function in the lecture is

straightforward. This citation describes the road and the path from which the son

should restrain his foot (1:15) as a path in which the feet of the sinners run to do evil

and shed blood.

            The second citation comes from an unknown source: "Vainly the net is spread

out in the plain sight of any bird" (1:17). The interpretation of this citation depends

 _______________________

 

  43 Aletti comments ("Seduction et Parole en Proverbes I-IX," 137), "On comprend pourquoi

le livre des Proverbes commence par ce discours; ce qu'il propose est tout simplement la

tentatioin dont le maitre veut de'tourner 1'eleve: croire qu'on peut trouver bonheur et

prosperite autrement que par 1'apprentissage de la sagesse."

 

   44 On the rhetor's use of sentence proverbs to reinforce the argument, see Crenshaw,

"Wisdom and Authority," 13-16.

 


                                                                                                                                    102

on two key issues: the meaning of the word hrzm, and whether the birds are a cipher

for the sinners or the son.45 The context of the speech (especially v. 18) suggests that

"the birds" refer to both the sinners and the son, if the son decides to join them. Birds

have the sense to see and avoid a net spread out46 in plain sight. Thus, spreading a net

in plain sight is futile.

            These citations function as external proofs to support the speaker's imperative

to reject the sinner's invitation. The first describes the lifestyle of the sinners: They

walk in a road in which they run to do evil and hurry to shed blood. The second

citation provides a point of comparison for the folly of the sinners. The conclusion

brings both ideas together, "So they lie in ambush for their own blood; they lurk for

their own lives" (v. 18).  According to the rhetor, anyone should be able to see where

the lifestyle of the rebels is leading: they are running to bloodshed (v. 16). Their

lifestyle is a net laid out in plain sight (v. 17). Yet, they are more foolish than a bird

because the "plain sight" of catastrophe does not deter them. They run ahead to

bloodshed, even though they can plainly see that the blood shed ultimately will be

their own (v. 18).

            The hyperbolic nature of the second half of the proof (e.g , the sinners run to

do evil and hurry to shed blood, they have less sense than a senseless bird) again

raises the question of the real concern of the rhetor. I have already suggested that we

_______________________

 

   45 Farmer, Who Knows, 28; Oesterley, Proverbs, 9; Newsom, "Woman and the Discourse of

Patriarchal Wisdom," 144-45.

 

   46 Following the MT hrAzom; ("spread out"). See footnote #13.


                                                                                                                                    103

should not read the speech of the sinners literally. Here, in the second half of the

proof, it also seems probable that the rhetor's warning against the sinners is

metaphorical. This suspicion is confirmed by the epilogue of the lecture: "Thus (NKe)

are the ways of all those who gain an unjust gain, it [unjust gain] will take the life of

its owner" (1:19). Now the logos of the lecture becomes clear. The speaker is not

worried about the son rejecting his parent's teaching and joining a murderous band of

thieves. Rather, he is concerned about the son's rejection of his parent's teaching due

to his desire for wealth. The rhetor has lured the son into agreeing with him that the

speech (1:11-14) and the lifestyle (1:15-18) of the sinners are foolish. Joining such a

gang to find adventure, obtain wealth, and companionship is "obviously" suicidal. But

in a deft move, after gaining the son's agreement, the father cinches the rhetorical

knot: The way of the murderous bandits is the way of all those who reject communal

norms and pursue unjust gain! This is an effective rhetorical strategy for persuading

the son that what he may consider to be a minor violation of traditional values is in

fact a lethal rejection of parental guidance. The logical argument thus doubles back to

reaffirm the proposition. The son should accept the teaching of his parents because

only they present the path to genuine social honor and life (1:8-9).47

_______________________

 

   47 Newsom ("Woman and the Discourse of Patriarchal Wisdom," 145) offers a similar

assessment of the rhetorical problem: "The rival discourse against which the father argues can

be made visible in its general outlines: it is one with a horizontal rather than vertical structure

of authority, based not on patriarchal family affiliation but on common enterprise, and one that

offers young men immediate access to wealth rather than the deferred wealth of inheritance.

What lurks under the surface is the generational chasm, the division of power between older

and younger men in patriarchal society. The genuine appeal to younger men of the set of

values just described is cleverly defused by associating them with what is clearly outside the

law.

 


                                                                                                                                    104

                                                   b. Ethos

            The rhetor exhibits considerable concern for his ethos in this lecture: Why

should the son listen to him? Here, this issue is especially important because of the

presence of an alternative ethos, i.e., why not eject father/rhetor and trust the rhetoric

of the sinners? Consequently, the speaker attempts to establish his credibility by

means of four different rhetorical devices.

            The first two devices are common to all the lectures. First, the speaker

addresses his audience as "my son" (ynb). As argued above, ynb asserts the speaker's

position of authority (a teacher) over the audience (his pupils). This relationship is

external to the speech, i.e., it is not created by the speech but based on a pre-existent

relationship. Nonetheless, it is a fundamental source of the speaker's ethos, especially

here where it is repeated three times (1:8, 10, 15). The son should listen to the rhetor

because of his own inferior social position vis-a-vis the rhetor.48

            Second, the rhetor's address is stylistically rich. The lecture contains simile

(1:12), metaphor (the path/way, 1:15; the bird, 1:17), and terse parallelism

(1:8, 14, 15, 16). The density of these stylistic devices elevates the rhetor's language

from vulgar prose to a more formal address, namely, poetry.49 The rhetorical effect of

this move is multifaceted. On the one hand, scholars widely acknowledge that poetic

language is more memorable than prose. In other words, the rhetor may have cast the

_______________________

 

   48 This observation holds regardless of the specific identities assigned to the father and the

son, i.e., whether "my son" denotes a familial or educational relationship. In either case, the

ethos of the speaker is based on a socially fixed hierarchical position of authority over the son.

 

   49 On the definition and identification of Hebrew poetry, see David L. Petersen and Kent

Harold Richards, Interpreting Hebrew Poetry, GBS (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992).

 


                                                                                                                                    105

lecture into poetic form to facilitate the son's later recall of his appeal.  On the other

hand, the metaphor and similes of the lecture challenge the son to reflection and

contemplate the rhetor's words on a deeper level than that elicited by direct prose

statements.

            In addition to these rhetorical effects, the poetic style of this and other lectures

may also be significant for establishing the rhetor's ethos. Kennedy has pointed out

that poetic style is typical of "formal language."50 Further, according to Kennedy,

such formal language expresses and exercises social power and control. He writes,

            The human inclination to develop formal languages is one of many indications

            of the basically conservative function of rhetoric in human history. Formal

            languages are often archaic or revivals of what is regarded as the pure form of

            the language used in the past. They thus contribute to the preservation of other

            past values. The requirement to use them for serious discourse helps ensure

            preservation of the status quo on the behalf of those in power and limits the

            ability of marginal groups, untutored in elitist language, from effecting

            change.51

While the existence or degree of archaism in the lecture is difficult to determine,52 the

poetic style of the lecture is clear (see above). Kennedy's observation suggests that

the poetic style of the lecture may serve to enhance the rhetor's ethos. Poetry is a

type of formal address. Although poetic language is not the exclusive property of the

wealthy and those with high social standing, the ability to compose and speak poetry

_______________________

 

   50 Kennedy, Comparative Rhetoric, 217.

 

   51 Ibid., 228.

 

   52 In order to determine the degree of archaism in this lecture, one would have to date the

text — a notorious problem in the study of Proverbs 1-9.

 


                                                                                                                                    106

does typically bespeak a high level of education, training, and social status.53 Thus,

the rhetor of Proverbs 1:8-19 may be employing poetry to assert his power, credibility,

and social standing, i.e., his ethos.

            Third, the rhetor increases his ethos by destroying the ethos of the opposition.

He names them "sinners" (1:10) and calls their speech an attempt to "seduce" or

"entice" (htp, 1:10) the son. Further, he describes their activities with hyperbolic and

brutal terminology: lying in ambush "for blood" (1:11a), lurking for the innocent

"without cause" (1:11c), swallowing people alive like Sheol (1:12), running to do evil

(1:16a), and hurrying to shed blood (1:16b). The truthfulness of these claims is

questionable. Nonetheless, like a savvy politician, the rhetor establishes himself as the

rhetor of preference by destroying the credibility of his opponent. While the sinners

only want the son to join their journey to self-destruction, the rhetor cares about the

son's enduring welfare. This destruction of the opponent's ethos is an effective

rhetorical ploy for building the rhetor's ethos in this lecture.

            It is difficult to gauge the impact of the fourth rhetorical device used to

develop the speaker's ethos, namely his citations. One reason for this difficulty is that

it cannot be ascertained whether the rhetor draws his first citation (1:16) from the book

of Isaiah, or whether both texts utilize a common tradition. If this citation depends on

Isaiah, and if the audience recognized this dependency, the ethos of the speaker would

have been increased by demonstrating his fluency in the community's religious

_______________________

 

   53 Kennedy (Comparative Rhetoric, 217) asserts that "use of formal language has to be

learned and is not available to everyone; it thus exercises social power of a conservative sort."

 


                                                                                                                                    107

tradition. Regardless of their source, the presence of citations in the speech suggests

that the audience would have recognized the rhetor's appeal to tradition. Further, since

neither citation is explained or defended, it is likely that the audience acknowledged

the validity of both statements. Thus, by using citations, the rhetor has elicited

external proof to support his rational argument and increased his credibility by

demonstrating familiarity with the audience's traditions.54

 

                                                    c. Pathos

            The primary pathetic tool utilized by the speaker in this lecture is fear. The

rhetor vividly portrays the fate of a person who accepts the rhetoric of the sinners and

joins them. Their adventure in wanton violence, robbery, and companionship will end

in the violent seizure of their blood and their lives (1:18). Anyone who regards his

life should be afraid of the seduction of these sinners, and gratefully take refuge in the

secure paths offered by his parents.

            Other than this element of fear, the rhetor makes little use of emotions to

persuade the son. The rhetor does appeal to the son's interests, namely his desire for

_______________________

 

   54 The traditio-historical thesis of Harris (Proverbs 1-9: A Study of Inner-Biblical

Interpretation, 52-61) leads to a similar conclusion. Harris argues that Prov 1:8-19

"represents" the discourse of Gen 37 (see above, pp. 13-14). He writes, "the hermeneutic

move of planting the traditio-historical identity within Genesis, on the one hand, and in the

book of Proverbs, on the other hand, facilitates a hearing of the traditions which fluctuated

within the history of Israel's memory. Such a strategy is played out to the attentive reader or

hearer who recognizes the rephrased words of the older sections of Proverbs in the mouth of

the implied speakers from Genesis 37, i.e. from Torah" (58). Harris further recognizes the

importance of this hermeneutical move for the ethos or authority of the speaker: "the authority

of the parent's words, as framed by the narrator, in Prov 1:8-19 is not derived solely form their

own experience, but is now fixed within the "biblical" traditions which they imply" (59).

 


                                                                                                                                    108

social honor (1:9). However, this desire lies at the heart of the rhetorical problem,

namely the expedient means for acquiring social status and wealth. Thus, the rhetor

does not use this passion to further his argument but attempts to guide the son's

pursuit of social status.

 

                                        4. Summary & Conclusions

            The rhetorical situation of 1:8-19 is an educational setting in which a teacher

addresses his pupil(s). This teacher closely associates himself with the traditional

locus of instruction, namely the parents, and sees his role as an extension of their

parental teaching. Within this setting, the rhetor faces one major problem. The son is

faced with the opportunity to reject the authority of both the rhetor and his parents and

their guidance for the proper acquisition of wealth and social standing.55  In its place,

the son sees the possibility of circumventing cultural norms, perhaps in what he

regards as small or innocent ways. In this reading, the rhetorical problem is not

necessarily a one time event, but an ongoing temptation.

            The rhetor responds to this rhetorical problem with a vigorous exercise in

persuasion. For his proposition, the rhetor appeals to the son to accept rather than

disregard his parents' authority. He defends this proposition by a subtle rhetorical ploy

in which he gains the consent of the son against a group that is obviously set against

_______________________

 

   55 "Traditional authority" refers to the cultural norms supported by those who possess

power over the son, namely the rhetor/teacher and his parents. Thus, any advice that

challenges these norms constitutes "non-traditional authority" and thereby must be rejected.

 


                                                                                                                                    109

cultural norms (1:10-18), and then asserts that this group is representative of all those

who reject traditional authority for unjust gain (1:19).

            The rhetor develops his strategy first, by placing a hyperbolic speech in the

mouths of the sinners (1:10-14). This speech portrays the sinners, i.e., the non-

traditionalists, and their invitation as ludicrous, thus destroying both their ethos and

logos while building the ethos of the father and furthering his rational argument. The

rhetor/father also employs citations in order to draw a decisive conclusion about the

fate of the sinners: they will be caught in their own trap (1:15-18). Finally, after

gaining the support of the audience against the despicable sinners, the rhetor springs

his rhetorical trap. The invitation, life-style, and fate of the sinners is only a metaphor

for all those who seek to make a profit by unjust means (1:19). Those who abandon

cultural norms in favor of aberrant or unorthodox behavior, regardless of the

magnitude of such behavior, are like the sinners. The problem is not the seductive

invitation of murderous bandits, but the son's failure to recognize the severe

consequences of rejecting parental authority in what he might consider to be trivial

matters.

 

                                                  Proverbs 2:1-22

                                              1.Text and Translation

2:1       My son, if you receive my words

            and treasure up my commandments with you -

2:2       making your ears pay attention to wisdom,

            inclining your heart to understanding;

2:3       indeed, if you cry out for insight,

            [if] you shout for understanding;

 


                                                                                                                                    110

2:4       if you seek it like silver

            and search for it like treasure;

 

2:5       then you will understand the fear of Yahweh,

            and you will find the knowledge of God;

2:6       for Yahweh gives wisdom

            from his mouth [comes] knowledge and understanding;

2:7       he treasures up sound judgment56 for the upright;

            [he is] a shield for those who walk with integrity,

2:8       guarding the ways of justice

            and watching over the path of his faithful ones;57

 

2:9       then you will understand righteousness, justice,

            and uprightness - every good track;

2:10     for wisdom will enter into your heart

            and knowledge will be pleasant58 to your life;

2:11     prudence will watch over you

            understanding will guard you;

 

2:12     to rescue you from the path of evil

            from the man who speaks perversion:

2:13     those who abandon the right way

            to walk in the paths of darkness;

2:14     those who enjoy doing evil -

            they rejoice in perversions of evil;

2:15     those whose ways are perverted

            and deceit is in their tracks;

 

2:16     to rescue you from the alien woman

            from the stranger, who makes her words smooth;

2:17     who abandons the companion of her youth,

            and forgets the covenant of her God;

_______________________

 

   56 hyA.wiUT, see below on Pathos (p. 126); cf. 3:21.

 

   57 Reading the plural vydAysiHE with the Qere, LXX, and Syriac against the singular

OdAysiHE (Ketib) because of the previous plural references to the "upright" (MyriwAy;; 1:7a),

"those who walk" (ykl;heo; 1:7b), and the "ways of justice" (FPAw;mi tOHr;xA; 1:8a). Given

this context of plural forms, it is most likely that the Ketib is a corruption of the Qere.

 

   58 This is an abnormal use of a masculine predicate (MfAn;yi) with a feminine subject

(tfadav;). See GKC 145u.


                                                                                                                        111

2:18     indeed, her house is a pit [leading down]59 to death

            and her tracks [lead] to the ghosts [of the dead],

2:19     none of those who go into her will return,

            they will not catch up to the ways of the living;

2:20     therefore, you should walk in the path of goodness

            and you should observe the ways of righteousness;

2:21     for the upright will inhabit the land

            and the blameless will remain in it,

2:22     but the wicked will be cut off from the land,

            and the faithless will be torn away60 from it.

 

                              2. The Limits of the Rhetorical Unit

            Scholars generally agree upon the limits of this rhetorical unit.61 The first

speech of personified wisdom addresses the simple ones (MyitAP;) and scoffers (Myzile;

_______________________

 

   59 The MT is grammatically and philogically problematic due to the feminine verb hHAwA

and the masculine h.tAyBe. As it stands, the MT requires the translation, "she sinks down to

death her home" (so Toy, Proverbs, 48; and Derek Kidner, The Proverbs, TynOTC, vol. 15

[Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1964], 62). However, as Toy points out, the parallelism

suggests that "house" is the subject, not the object, of the verb. Further, the meaning of the

verb Hvw is uncertain (e.g., incline [AV], sink [and by a questionable extension, lead down;

Toy, Proverbs, 48]).

            Scholars have proposed various solutions to this problem (see the excellent survey by

J.A. Emerton, "A Note on Proverbs 2:18," JTS 30 [1979]: 153-58). My translation follows

Emerton's emendation of the MT vowel points from hHAwA to hHAwu. ("pit"), resulting in the

reading, "her house is a pit (leading) to death." This emendation avoids changing the

consonantal text and is supported by the context and other similar verses in Proverbs (e.g.,

22:14, 23:27).

 

   60 The MT UHs;.yi (a G Imperfect of Hsn [to tear away, pull away]) is problematic in this

context. W. Holladay (A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament [Grand

Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1971], 239) and Waltke/O'Connor (Biblical Hebrew Syntax,

23.6.d) adopt the reading UHs;yu (a G Passive [Waltke/O'Connor] or Hophal [Holladay]) from

a Cairo Geniza text. GKC (144g) resolves this grammatical problem by observing that the

third person plural is sometimes used to express an indefinite subject where the context does

not admit a human agent. In such cases the plural comes to be equivalent to a passive. This

later solution is preferable and adopted here because it avoids textual emendation.

 

   61 For example, Toy, Proverbs, 31-32; Oesterley, Proverbs, 13-14; Farmer, Who Knows, 31;

Van Leeuwen, "The Book of Proverbs," 42-43. See especially, Overland, "Literary Structure

in Proverbs 1-9," 255-285.


                                                                                                                                    112

1:20-27), offers a reflection about their fate to an unidentified audience (1:28-33), and

concludes with a summary appeal (1:32-33). In contrast to this speech, 2:1-22

addresses a different audience ("my son," 2:1) on a different topic (the teaching of the

rhetor). Thus, scholars appropriately designate 2:1 as the beginning of a new unit.

There is also conclusive evidence for this lecture extending through and ending in

2:22.  1) 2:1-22 is a single complex sentence in Hebrew. 2) 2:1-19 develops a

cohesive argument. 3) 2:20-22 presents a summary conclusion. 4) 3:1 begins a new

lecture (see chp. 4).62

 

                                        3. Analysis of the Artistic Proofs

            Michael Fox introduces his study of the pedagogy in Proverbs 2 by identifying

the problems faced by the interpreter, especially the form critic.63 According to Fox,

Proverbs 2 is peculiar in two ways: 1) the exordium or call to attention takes up half

of the lecture (vv. 1-11), and 2) the lecture lacks imperatives or specific advice. 2:1-

22, because of these peculiarities, does not adhere to the typical instruction form.64

_______________________

 

   62 Further, there is no supporting textual evidence for rearranging the text or expelling parts

of the text as unoriginal (e.g., Whybray [Wisdom in Proverbs, 40-41] claims that the original

nucleus of this lecture consists of verses 1, 9, and 16-19; Toy [Proverbs, 38-39] inserts verse

20 between verse 9 and 10).

 

   63 Fox, "The Pedagogy of Proverbs 2," 234.

 

   64 For example, McKane (Proverbs, 278-79) hesitates to describe this text as an instruction

and prefers to view it as an example of a "process of formal development based on the

Instruction. The tendency of this development is to diminish the element of authoritative

instruction communicated briefly and precisely by imperatives, and so to substitute the more

diffuse, rambling style of preaching for the more exact didactic procedures of the wisdom

teacher."

            Similarly, Whybray (Proverbs, 50) has little regard for this chapter as a whole: "As an

example of teaching method this cumbersome discourse lacks both precision and compactness;

it gives the impression that successive layers have been added to an originally much shorter

 


                                                                                                                                    113

Nonetheless, the lecture itself is not a problematic composition. Rather, it is powerful

rhetoric in the service of its own proposition. As Fox writes,

            These peculiarities [the lengthy exordium and lack of imperatives] have led

            some commentators to dismiss the chapter as it stands as rambling and

            unstructured. These peculiarities would indeed be flaws if this lecture were

            attempting to do the same thing as the other units of Collection I [Proverbs 1-

            9]. But that is not the case. Proverbs 2 has a different purpose, namely, to

            encourage the pupil in the search of wisdom.65

Indeed, the purpose of this lecture is different from six other lectures: 3:1-12, 3:21-35,

4:20-27, 5:1-23, 6:20-35, and 7:1-27. However, it is quite similar to the propositions

of 1:8-19, 4:1-9 (as Fox also observes),66 and 4:10-19, i.e., the lectures of my group I.

 

                                                          a. Logos

            Proverbs 2:1-22 is deliberative rhetoric that attempts to persuade the audience

("my son") to accept and attend diligently to the instruction of the teacher. However,

like the first lecture (1:8-19), this teaching is not explicated. Rather, the entire speech

is devoted to persuading the son to listen to the rhetor, who will rescue him from two

opposing groups, namely the evil men (2:12-15) and the alien woman (2:16-19). The

lecture may be outlined as follows:67

_______________________

and crisper Instruction of which 5:1-6 might be taken as a model."

 

   65 Fox, "The Pedagogy of Proverbs 2," 234.

 

   66 Ibid., 234 n. 5.

 

   67 Patrick Skehan ("The Seven Columns of Wisdom's House in Proverbs 1-9," CBQ 9

[1947]: 190-98; "A Single Editor for the Whole Book of Proverbs," CBQ 10 [1948]: 115-17;

"Wisdom's House," CBQ 29 [1967]: 468-486) has proposed an elaborate explanation for the

literary unity of 2:1-22, its function within Proverbs 1-9, and the structure of the book of

Proverbs. According to Skehan, the structure of the poem is governed alphabetically. The

poem has 22 lines (corresponding to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet). Further,

 


                                                                                                                                    114

            Proem: 2:la

            Proposition: 2:lb-11

            Proof: 2:12-19

            Epilogue: 2:20-22

            The proem consists of the single vocative "my son" (yniB;, 2:la). As in the

first lecture, this term establishes the relationship of the rhetor/teacher to his

audience/pupil and thus provides an immediate reason for the audience to listen to this

speaker (see my discussion of   ynb above, pp. 92-96). The proposition consists of an

elaborate conditional sentence (2:1-11). In the protasis (2:1-4), the rhetor uses eight

different verbs of increasing intensity to describe the desired response of the pupil:

 

these lines form two sets of three stanzas, each set containing stanzas of 4 + 4 + 3 verses.

The first three stanzas each begin with the letter aleph (2:1,5, 9) and the second three stanzas

each begin with the letter lamed (2:12,16,20). The letter lamed is significant because it is the

twelfth letter of the Hebrew alphabet and thus represents the second half of the alphabet.

            According to Skehan, this external structure corresponds to the thought progression of

the poem and the following chapters. The contents of the six stanzas of chp. 2 correspond to

the six literary units of 22 lines each in chps. 2-7. Each of these units composes one of the

seven columns of wisdom's house (9:1). The first stanza provides an introduction (2:1-4) and

corresponds to 2:1-22, and the sixth stanza offers a conclusion (2:20-22) and corresponds to

6:20-7:6. The middle four stanzas of chp. 2 introduce the four topics found in chapters 3-7:

the positive benefits of study that will accrue to the pupil through friendship with Yahweh

(2:5-8, corresponding to 3:1-12, 25-34) and through the possession of wisdom (2:9-11,

corresponding to 3:13-24, 4:1-9), and the dangers of evil men (2:12-15, corresponding to 4:10-

27 and 5:21-23) and evil women (2:16-19, corresponding to 5:1-20 and 6:22). The seventh

and final column is 7:2-27. In Skehan's opinion, these seven columns correspond to the front

porch of Solomon's temple and are followed by 15 columns of 25 lines each which correspond

to the nave of the temple (10:1-22:16) and 15 more columns which correspond to cella (22:17-

31:31).

            Aspects of Skehan's hypothesis have been revised and adopted by many scholars. For

example, some scholars (Scott, Proverbs, 42-43; Roland E. Murphy, The Tree of Life: An

Exploration of Biblical Wisdom Literature, 2nd edition [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans,

1996], 16-17; Van Leeuwen, "The Book of Proverbs," 42-43) adopt milder versions of

Skehan's literary analysis of chapter 2, and some (Scott, Proverbs, 42-43; Murphy, The Tree of

Life, 17) accept chapter 2 as being somehow programmatic for Proverbs 1-9. However,

scholars have rejected Skehan's elaborate schema of seven columns of 22 lines in chps. 1-9

and the column structure of the book as a whole because of its dependency on deletions and

rearrangements unsupported by textual or contextual evidence.

 


                                                                                                                                    115

receive (Hql, v. 1), treasure (Npz, v. 1), pay attention (bwq, v. 2), incline (hFn) your

ears (v. 2), cry out (xrq, v. 3), short (j`l,Oq Ntn, v. 3), seek (wqb) like silver (v. 4),

and search (WpH) like treasure (v. 4). Similarly, he uses five different nouns to denote

the object of this vigorous pursuit: my words (yrmx),  my commandments ( ytvcm),

wisdom (hmkH), understanding (hnvbt, 2x), and insight (hnyb). Fox suggests that these

terms combine to mark off a progression in the learner's task: "he must absorb the

father's words (v. 1), and take the initiative to call wisdom (v. 3), and boldly go forth

to seek her (v. 4).”68  Consequently, although the imperative form is lacking, this

protasis asserts a clear proposition for the lecture: The son must accept and

energetically pursue the instruction of the rhetor.69

            The apodosis supplies two initial benefits supporting the proposition in two

formally parallel units or stanzas (2:5-8/19-11). Both are introduced by NybiTA zxa

_______________________

 

   68 Fox, "The Pedagogy of Proverbs 2," 237. See also, Overland, "Literary Structure in

Proverbs 1-9," 270-272, 282.

 

   69 McKane (Proverbs, 282) adds, "It is not originality nor argumentativeness nor critical

independence in the face of instruction that is demanded of the pupil. He must indeed be

attentive and keen (v. 2), like one who cries out for insight and shouts for discernment, but the

authority of the teacher must not be called in question."

            Newsom ("Woman and the Discourse of Patriarchal Wisdom," 147) also picks up on

this facet of the proposal: "Verses 1-11 make the astute observation that allegiance precedes

understanding, not the other way around. We should not be surprised that these wisdom

discourses do not closely define the pragmatic content of wisdom and contrast it with the

competing discourses, seeking to convince the hearer of its superiority. Rather it repeatedly

asks first for allegiance ("accept my words," "treasure up my strictures," "incline your ear,"

"extend your heart," vv. 1-2). Nor is the allegiance passive. It must involve active

participation ("call out," "seek," vv. 3-4). Only then does understanding follow ("then you

will understand the fear of Yahweh," v. 5; "then you will understand righteousness and justice

and equity, every good path," v. 9), for at that point habituation to the assumptions, values,

and cultural practices of the group will make them seem one's own ("for wisdom will come

into your heart and your soul will delight in knowledge," v. 10). As Althusser pungently

paraphrases Pascal, 'Kneel down, move your lips in prayer, and you will believe.'

 


                                                                                                                                    116

("then you will understand"), both assert reasons for this new-found understanding by

means of clauses introduced by yKi, and both promise protection for those who accept

the teacher's wisdom. In the first apodosis (2:5-3), the rhetor promises the son that, as

a result of accepting and acting upon the proposition, he will understand the "fear of

Yahweh" and find the "knowledge of God" (2:5). These phrases suggest the two

dimensions of a proper human/divine relationship: 1) awe and reverence, and

2) intimacy.70 The value of such a relationship is elaborated in the next three verses

(2:6-8, introduced by yKi, "for"). Yahweh is the source of wisdom, knowledge and

understanding (v. 6). He grants sound judgment to the upright and protects them

(v. 7) by maintaining justice and keeping close watch over their lives (v. 8).

Consequently, the first benefit of accepting and pursing the rhetor's teaching is the

promise that this teaching is valuable for bringing the pupil nearer to Yahweh and the

gifts that Yahweh bestows.

            The second initial reason for accepting the proposition depends on the first. As

a result of his relationship with Yahweh, produced by accepting and pursuing the

rhetor's teaching, the son will be able to discern every good track: righteousness,

justice, and uprightness (2:9). The next two verses explain how the son will acquire

this discernment (2:10-11, introduced by yKi, "for"). Wisdom will enter the pupil's

heart, knowledge will become pleasant to his life, prudence will watch over him, and

_______________________

 

   70 See Kidner, Proverbs, 61; Toy, Proverbs, 35.

 


                                                                                                                                    117

understanding will protect him (2:10-11). These quasi-personifications71 are closely

related to the previously stated benefits of a proper relationship with Yahweh (2:5-8).

Wisdom will enter the pupil's heart (2:10) because it is Yahweh who gives wisdom

(2:6). Knowledge will become pleasant (2:10) because it comes from Yahweh (2:6).

Prudence will watch over (rmw) him (2:11) just as Yahweh watches over (rmw) the

path of his faithful ones (2:8). Finally, the understanding given by God (2:6) will

protect (rcn) the son (2:11), just as God protects (rcn) the ways of justice (2:8).

            This extended apodosis presents compelling reasons for accepting the

proposition of the protasis. If the son will accept and strenuously pursue the rhetor's

teaching, then he will enjoy a close relationship with Yahweh in which he will become

the beneficiary of Yahweh's gifts (e.g., wisdom, understanding). These gifts will

further bless the son by entering his heart, watching over and protecting him, and thus

enabling him to discern the good path.

            The proof, like the apodosis (2:5-11), is composed of two parallel stanzas that

explicate two specific benefits of accepting the rhetor's proposition (2:12-15/16-19).

Each stanza begins with the word j~l;yci.hal; ("to rescue you"),72 identifies a potential

_______________________

 

   71 Scholars (and translators) are divided on whether verses 10-11 (and 3-4) personify

wisdom (e.g., "her" - Toy [Proverbs, 32], Oesterley [Proverbs, 14], and Baumann, [Die

Weisheitsgestalt in Proverbien 1-9, 227-231]; "it" - Scott [Proverbs, 41]). It does appear that

these verses stimulated the personifications of wisdom added in the interludes (so Fox, "Ideas

of Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9," 618). However, in this lecture, the personification is ambiguous

at best. For example, in addition to promising protection by prudence and understanding, the

rhetor promises that wisdom will enter the son's heart (v. l0a). It is difficult to imagine how

personified wisdom would enter a person's heart.

 

    72 The syntactical referent of these infinitives is not entirely clear, i.e., what subject or

action do the infinitives ("to rescue you") explicate: the ability to understand every good track

(v. 9, so McKane [Proverbs, 284]), wisdom entering the son's heart (v. 10 so Farmer [Who

 


                                                                                                                                    118

danger, and provides an elaborate, perhaps even hyperbolic, description of the threat.

These stanzas do not warn the son to avoid these dangers, but promise him that

accepting the rhetoric of the father will deliver him from these dangers.73 Thus, these

stanzas function as proofs of the proposition, not additional propositions.

            The first stanza promises that accepting and pursuing the rhetoric of the father

will rescue the son from the path of evil, which is defined by the following parallel

line as the person who speaks perversion (2:12). The character of this perverse

speaker is elaborated by three descriptive phrases: 1) this person abandons what is

right in order to do what is wrong (2:13); 2) this person enjoys doing what is evil

(2:14); and 3) the lifestyle of this person is perverted and deceitful (2:15).

            The second stanza promises that the rhetor's teaching will rescue the son from

the seduction of the alien woman (2:16). The identity of the alien woman

(hrAzA hw.Axi) or stranger (hyA.rik;nA) in Proverbs 1-9 is a notorious interpretive

crux.74 In this lecture, two key phrases provide crucial evidence for her identity:

 

Knows, 32]), or prudence and understanding protecting the son (v. 11, so Fox ["The Pedagogy

of Proverbs 2," 240])? In my view, each of these proposals fails to recognize the larger

rhetorical function of these infinitival phrases. Because of their location after the proposition

(vv. 1-11), these infmitival phrases function not only as explications of the further benefits of

both halves of the apodosis (vv. 5-8 and 9-11), but ultimately as proofs of the proposition. If

the son accepts the rhetor's instruction (vv. 1-4, the proposition), he will establish or deepen a

relationship with Yahweh (apodosis #1, vv. 5-8) and gain the ability to discern what is good

(apodosis #2, vv. 9-11). Both of these benefits will operate together to "rescue" the son from

the evil men and strange woman. Thus, ultimately, the infinitival phrases refer to and serve as

proof for the proposition of accepting the rhetor's words and commandments (vv. 1-4).

 

   73 Fox, "The Pedagogy of Proverbs 2," 240.

 

   74 See my discussion on pp. 18-19.


                                                                                                                                    119

1) she "abandons the companion of her youth" (v. 17a), and 2) she "forgets the

covenant of her God" (v. 17b).

            Almost all scholars concur that "the companion of her youth" is the alien

woman's husband.75 Elsewhere in the Hebrew scriptures, the term "companion" (JUl.xa)

is translated as "tribal chief" or "clan" (e.g., Gen 36:15-43), "cattle" (plural in Ps

144:14), or "close friend" (Ps 55:14, Mic 7:5, Prov 16:28, 17:9). However, the closest

parallels to the phrase "companion of her youth" suggest the idea of "mate." For

example, Malachi 2:14-16 reads:

            You ask, "Why does he not?" Because the Lord was a witness between you

            and the wife of your youth (j~yr,Ufn; tw,xe), to whom you have been faithless,

            though she is your companion (j~T;r;b,HE) and your wife by covenant. Did

            not one God make her? Both flesh and spirit are his. And what does the one

            God desire? Godly offspring. So look to yourselves, and do not let anyone be

            faithless to the wife of his youth (j~yr,Ufn; tw,xeb;). (2:14-15, NRSV)76

Consequently, the meaning of the phrase "companion of her youth" that is most

suitable to the context of Proverbs 2 is "husband."

            How does the alien woman's abandonment of her husband relate to the second

line of verse 17: "and forgets the covenant of her God"? There are several

possibilities. The rhetor may be referring to God as a witness to the woman's

marriage covenant (cf. Mal 2:14), God's covenantal command against adultery (cf.

Exod 20:14),77 or the general sacredness of marriage.78 These are all equally valid

_______________________

 

   75 So Toy, Proverbs, 46; Scott, Proverbs, 43; Whybray, Proverbs, 55-56; Kidner, Proverbs,

62; and Van Leeuwen, "The Book of Proverbs," 44. Cf. McKane, Proverbs, 286.

 

   76 Cf. Petersen's identification (Zechariah and Malachi, 202-203) of the husband in Malachi

2 as Yahweh. See also, Jeremiah 3:4, 19-20.

 

   77 Oesterley, Proverbs, 17.

 


                                                                                                                                    120

possibilities. However, what is most significant for identifying this woman is the

appellation "her God." This phrase denotes that the alien woman is part of the rhetor's

religious community because the rhetor considers it a bad thing for her to forget the

covenant of her God! Exogamy is not the issue. If it were, forgetting the covenant of

her God, presumably, would be a good thing.

            The rhetor promises that his teaching will save the son from this alien woman,

a member of the Israelite community who has left her husband ("the companion of her

youth") and in the process has rejected religious norms ("the covenant of her God").

This rather straightforward identification is followed by metaphorical language that

describes this woman and those who follow her. She, and especially her seductive

rhetoric ("smooth words," v. 16), poses a lethal threat to the son. Her house is a point

of no return (2:19); it entraps and pulls her guests into the grave (2:18). No one who

is seduced by this woman will return to life among the living (2:19b). What, then, is

this danger? The imagery suggests that the concern of the rhetor is an illicit sexual

relationship with this woman. For example, Newsom submits that "house" is a

common symbolic representation of woman or womb.79  If so, the phrase "her house is

a pit [leading down] to death" (v. 18, emphasis mine) graphically refers to the act of

sexual intercourse grabbing and pulling the man into the realm of the dead. The

phrase "none of those who go into her will return" (v. 19, emphasis mine; cf. Gen

38:16-18, Jud 15:1) also suggests the idea of intercourse. Again, all who penetrate

_______________________

 

   78 Toy, Proverbs, 47.

 

   79 Newsom, "Woman and the Discourse of Patriarchal Wisdom," 149.

 


                                                                                                                                    121

this woman will be captured and die. Such death, however, appears to be social, not

physical. Those who enter this woman "will not catch up to the ways of the living"

(v. 19). This statement is a truism if the threat is physical death. Thus, the rhetor

warns the pupil who thinks he can taste this woman's pleasures, but escape the social

death or ostracism that she has incurred by the designation "alien woman."

            The proof, then, identifies two threats to the well being of the pupil, namely,

the evil men who abandon the right way to walk on perverted and dark paths and who

speak perversion, and the alien woman who abandons her husband and walks on paths

that descend to death and who speaks flattery.80 Again, these stanzas do not warn the

son to avoid these pitfalls. Rather, the rhetor promises that adherence to his

instruction will rescue the son from these dangers.

            The lecture concludes with a concise81 enthymematic summary appeal

introduced by Nfamal;, ("therefore" or "in order that," 2:20).82 The conclusion of the

enthymeme is stated first: the listener ("you") should devote his life to goodness and

righteousness (2:20). The major premise of this conclusion is elided: It is good to

live in the land. The minor premise is supplied (introduced by yKi, "for" or "because,"

_______________________

 

   80 Overland ("Literary Structure in Proverbs 1-9," 275-276) suggests that the two ways are

a merism for all danger.

 

   81 Overland (Ibid., 284-285) comments, "the brevity of the summary accounts for its

primary rhetorical asset. While the pupil may not recall intricacies of the preceding discourse,

he certainly will grasp the summary. Its brevity assures comprehension and retention. With

the compressed summary the sage puts the question to the pupil one last time, leaving him to

decide whether he will opt to pursue wisdom."

 

   82 Again, like the infinitival clauses of 2:12-15 and 16-19, the syntactical connection of

Nfamal; "hangs in the air" (Whybray, Proverbs, 57). In its concluding position, the reference

seems to be to the entire lecture and especially the proposition of 2:1-4.

 


                                                                                                                                    122

2:21): The upright and blameless will dwell in the land, but the wicked and faithless

will be expelled from it (2:21-22). This premise is not defended, but apparently based

on some tradition accepted by the pupil (see below, on Ethos).

            How does this conclusion relate to the proposition of 2:1-4 to accept and

energetically pursue the father's teaching? On the one hand, verse 20 may be a

synopsis of the father's teaching that the son should accept and pursue, namely, to do

good and live righteously. On the other hand, the conclusion may offer a restatement

of the proposition utilizing the key terms used to describe the evil men and alien

woman, namely "paths" and "ways." In this reading, the path of goodness and the

ways of righteousness are those paths and ways in which the teaching of the rhetor

will lead the student.

 

                                                         b. Ethos

            The ethos of the rhetor is of at least moderate concern in this lecture. To wit,

the rhetor utilizes four different devices to establish his credibility. The first device,

namely the vocative "my son" (2:1), asserts the rhetor's position of authority over the

son/pupil. The second device, namely the use of formal (poetic) language, further

establishes this hierarchical social standing by demonstrating the rhetor's proficiency in

elitist language and associating his teaching with past values (see above).

            In addition to these devices the rhetor builds his ethos by closely associating

his words with God's words. For example, he appeals to the son to receive "my

words" and treasure "my commandments" (2:1), which he immediately identifies as

wisdom, understanding, and insight (2:2-3). Then, in the first apodosis (2:5-8), the


                                                                                                                                    123

rhetor associates these concepts with Yahweh. Whereas in the protasis, the rhetor had

urged the son to pay attention to his wisdom (2:2), now, in the apodosis, he asserts

that such wisdom comes from Yahweh (2:6). In the protasis, the rhetor implored the

son to incline his heart to the understanding that he teaches (2:2). Now he claims that

Yahweh is the source of understanding (2:6). By these associations, the rhetor

identifies his teaching, wisdom, understanding, and insight as not only originating from

God, but as synonymous with God's wisdom, understanding and insight. Thus, the

lecture appropriates the audience's respect for Yahweh (i.e., Yahweh's ethos) for the

ethos of the father.83

            The presence of a fourth device in this lecture for building the rhetor's ethos is

widely debated. Put simply, does this lecture utilize texts and/or traditions from

Israel's religious heritage in an effort to bolster the rhetor's ethos? Typically, this

question falls within the realm of traditio-historical study. On one side of this debate,

some scholars assert that Proverbs 2 has been significantly influenced by

deuteronomistic texts. For example, Maier claims that the pedagogy of Proverbs 2, as

well as the other lectures, carries on "the historical paranesis of Deuteronomy.''84

Further, Proverbs 2 makes "anthological references" (anthologischen Bezugnahem) to

deuteronomistic texts. To take one specific example, according to Maier, two unusual

expressions in Proverbs 2:17 refer to earlier texts: 1) Jeremiah 3:4 and 13:21 stand

_______________________

 

   83 See also, McKane, Proverbs, 281.

 

   84 Maier, Die 'Fremde Frau' in Proverbien 1-9, 262.

 


                                                                                                                                    124

behind hyrfn Jvlx, and 2) hyhlx-tyrb takes up the deuteronomistic concern for

forgetting the covenant (Deut 4:23, 31).85

            In a similar thesis, Robert identifies numerous similarities between the style

and vocabulary of Proverbs 1-9 and deuteronomistic literature. For example, 1) he

claims that the expression "habiter la terre" (Cr,xA-UnK;Wyi, 2:21) is uniquely

deuteronomistic and that obedience to Yahweh as a condition of remaining in the land

is a feature of Deuteronomy (4:10, 5:16,33, 6:18, 11:9, 15:4, 5, 16:20, 17:20, 22:7,

25:7, 25:15, 32:47).86 2) Robert observes that the terms "righteousness, justice, and

uprightness" (MyriwAymeU FPAw;miU qd,c,, 2:9; especially righteousness and justice)

are frequently found in the prophets (Isa 9:7, 32:16, 33:5, 59:9, Jer 4:2, 9:24, 22:3, 15,

23:5, 33:15, etc.).87 On the basis of these and other "connections" (attaches), he

concludes that the author of Proverbs 1-9 used the books of Deuteronomy, Jeremiah

and Isaiah.88

            On the other side of this debate, scholars such as McKane not only question

the literary dependence of Proverbs 1-9 on Deuteronomy, but propose a reversed

(Proverbs 1-9 influenced Deuteronomy) or reciprocal relationship.89 As I mentioned in

chapter 2, the adjudication of this traditio-historical debate is well beyond the limits of

_______________________

 

   85 Maier (ibid., 98-99) describes these as "punktuelle Bezugnahmen auf fruhere Texte."

 

   86 Robert, "Les Attaches Litteraires Bibliques de Prov. I-IX," 62-63

 

   87 Ibid., 61

 

   88 Ibid., 44: 345

 

   89 McKane, Proverbs, 279-280.


                                                                                                                                    125

this dissertation. Here, in view of the present uncertainty, two tentative observations

are in order: 1) The statements about living in the land (2:21-22) are introduced into

the rhetoric as part of common knowledge or belief. The rhetor does not defend these

statements, but assumes that the audience already accepts these truths. Thus, the

rhetor appears to rely on some well-known tradition (or text) about the land in 2:21-

22.90  2) This apparent use of traditions (or texts) has implications for the ethos of the

speaker. To the degree that the rhetor employs traditions that are known and accepted

by the audience, and this is the case at least in 2:21-22, he bolsters both his argument

and his ethos. His claims are not his own, but those of the community's heritage.

 

                                                         c. Pathos

            Scholars, because of their lack of interest in rhetoric, have given scant attention

to the use of pathetic appeals in this lecture.91 Here, the speaker does not hesitate to

stimulate the audience's emotions in order to persuade them to accept his proposition.

To this end, he uses two basic pathetic devices, namely the promise of blessing and

the threat of disaster.

            In his promises of blessing, the rhetor appeals to four desires or passions in his

audience. First, he recognizes and stimulates their desire to "understand" Yahweh and

discover "the knowledge of God" (2:5). This understanding or knowledge does not

simply refer to intellectual or theological astuteness, but a relationship with God.

_______________________

 

   90 Van Leeuwen, "The Book of Proverbs," 45. See Deut 8:1,19-20, 30:11-20, Ps 69:3:5-36,

Zech 13:8, Ps 37.

 

   91 This lack of attention to the role of pathos in persuasion is not only true of exegeses of

this lecture, but of all the lectures.


                                                                                                                                    126

Thus, the rhetor solicits interest in his teaching by asserting its value for fulfilling the

audience's desire for a proper relationship to Yahweh.

            Second, the rhetor draws on the son's desire to think clearly and successfully in

practical operations (2:7a). The Hebrew term translated "sound judgment" (hyA.wiUT)

generally refers to the results of efficient wisdom, namely good results or abiding

success.92 Here, this ability is attributed to Yahweh's blessing. Thus, the son's passion

for efficient accomplishment becomes a suasive device: The rhetor's instruction will

lead the pupil to Yahweh (2:5), the source of clear and powerful thinking (2:7).

            Third, the speaker claims that his teaching will fulfill the son's need for

security. This pathetic appeal is stressed twice in the lecture. The rhetor describes

Yahweh as a shield who guards justice and the paths of his faithful ones (2:7b-8).

And similarly, the speaker asserts that the prudence and understanding gained from

listening to him will watch over and guard the son (2:11). This stress on security as a

benefit of the teacher's instruction suggests that security was a major concern of the

pupil and thus became a primary source for the pathetic appeal of the rhetor.93

_______________________

 

   92  hyA.wiUT occurs 11 times in the Old Testament: four times in Proverbs (2:7, 3:21, 8:14,

18:1), five times in Job (5:12, 6:13, 11:6, 12:16, 26:3), once in Isa (28:29), and once in Micah

(6:9). In these texts hyA.wiUT is closely associated (usually in parallel constructions) with three

basic ideas: 1) counsel, wisdom, and discretion (e.g., "he is wonderful in counsel, and

excellent in hyA.wiUT," Isa 28:29; see also, Prov 3:21, Job 11:6, 26:3), 2) a type of action or

lifestyle (e.g., "The one who lives alone is self-indulgent, showing contempt for all who have

hyA.wiUT," Prov 18:1 [NRSV]; see also, Job 5:12), and 3) strength (e.g., "with him are strength

and HyA.wiUT," Job 12:16; see also, Prov 8:14). Thus the divine gift of hyA.wiUT consists of

God's counsel for wise and strong or successful activity. See BDB 444:, KB 1024-25; John F.

Genung, "Meaning and Usage of the Term hywvt," JBL 30 (1911): 114-122; and Michael

Fox,"Words for Wisdom," ZAH 6 (1993): 161-65.

 

   93 The cause of this insecurity is uncertain. It may be due to the son's position in the

process of maturation or social instability due to external threats.

 


                                                                                                                                    127

            The fourth passion to which the rhetor appeals is the son's desire for an ability

to discern what is morally good or expedient. He claims that accepting and pursuing

his teaching will provide the student with an ability to discern every good track,

namely what is righteous, just, and upright (2:9). This claim may suggest that the

moral values of the son were under fire from rival groups (e.g., the evil men and the

alien woman), and that this attack was causing the son some discomfort.94 If so, the

rhetor taps this distress to strengthen the suasive claim of his proposition: Listen to me

and you will be able to discern confidently what is morally good.

            In addition to these promises that invoke the desires of his audience, the rhetor

also makes use of threats that tap their fears. However, as Fox points out, the object

of fear is not the father, the parent's wrath, or corporal punishment.95 Rather, the

rhetor draws upon the pupil's fear of evil men and seeks to instill a greater fear of the

alien woman.

            First, he appeals to his son's fear of the evil path and the person who speaks

perversely. The rhetor does not articulate the consequences of such a lifestyle, rather

he assumes the son's fear of such people and the son's recognition of a need to be

rescued from them (2:12-15). Thus, the speaker strengthens his proposal by drawing

on this fear; the teacher's instruction provides a way of escape from evil men.

_______________________

 

   94 Although suggestive, the evidence is not conclusive on this point. It is possible that this

concern is more reflective of the rhetor's passion and the moral threat he perceives in the

rhetoric of the evil men and alien woman.

 

   95 Fox, "The Pedagogy of Proverbs 2," 243.

 


                                                                                                                                    128

            Second, the rhetor seeks to instill in the son a fear of the alien woman (2:16-

19). Unlike his reference to the evil men, here the speaker not only describes the alien

woman, but warns the son about the lethal consequences of falling prey to her (2:18-

19). The son may already have been afraid of this woman, but the rhetor attempts to

intensify this fear by denouncing her "house" as the entrance to death, the path to

irreversible social death.96 Again, this pathetic device supports the rhetor's proposition

to listen to his instruction because only it will rescue the pupil from this deadly fate

(2:16).

            Finally, the summary conclusion of the lecture draws upon the son's desire to

continue living in the land (2:21-22). This pathetic appeal begins in a positive manner

("the upright will inhabit the land and the blameless will remain in it," 2:21), but

quickly turns negative ("but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the faithless

will be torn away from it," 2:22). Whether the rhetor is referring to historical events

from the life of the community (i.e., the exile), present social instability, or both, is

difficult to determine from this promise/threat.97 Nonetheless, he does appear to be

addressing a vital concern of the son, namely a secure propertied life in the land.

Further, because of the traditional association of Yahweh with the land, this

promise/threat also invokes the fear of losing divine favor.98 Again, the rhetor draws

_______________________

 

   96 See also, Whybray, Proverbs, 56.

 

   97 If this pathetic appeal is based on the deuteronomistic tradition (see above on Ethos), it

is significant that here the promise/threat is not directed to the nation as a whole, but to the

individual.

 

   98 Toy, Proverbs, 52.


                                                                                                                                    129

on this passion to support his proposition: His instruction is insurance against losing

possession of the land and losing divine favor.

            An honor and shame social system may lie beneath and empower both the

promises and threats made by the rhetor in this lecture, as well as those in other

lectures. According to cultural anthropologists such as Peristiany, Mediterranean

societies were ordered on the basis of honor and shame. In this social system, "honor"

and "shame" defined the status of a household and, thus, provided a touchstone for

motivating acceptable behavior among members of the community.99 This foundation

for Proverbs, however, has been recently challenged by Domeris. After assessing the

presence of "honor" and "shame" terminology in Proverbs, Domeris concludes that the

absence of the typical Mediterranean honor and shame categories is "striking."100

Instead, "the astute reader soon realises [sic] that the dominant value is wisdom and

_______________________

 

    99 Matthews and Benjamin provide helpful definitions of honor and shame and their

significance for an honor and shame social system.

            Honor entitled a household to life. Honorable households ate moderately, did not get

            drunk, worked hard, made good friends, sought advice before acting, held their

            temper, paid their taxes, and imposed fair legal judgements. They were careful in

            dealing with one another during menstruation, sexual intercourse, childbirth, and death

            . . . Honorable households could care for their own members and were prepared to

            help their neighbors. They were households in good standing, licensed to make a

            living in the village and entitled to its support . . . Shame sentenced a household to

            death by placing its land and children in jeopardy. Shamed households ate too much,

            drank too much, were lazy, quarrelsome, selfish, and thought nothing about lying to

            the village assembly. They were thoughtless in their sexual relationships, and

            disrespectful of the new born and the dead . . . Shamed households did not fulfill

            their responsibilities to their own members or their neighbors. Shamed households

            were on probation. They were out-of-place and not functioning properly. ("Social

            Sciences and Biblical Studies," Semeia 68 (1996): 11-12)

These definitions, in many respects, mirror the concerns of the ten lectures, e.g., responsible

sexual relationships (5:1-23, 6:20-35, 7:1-27) and proper conduct toward neighbors (3:27.-31).

 

   100 W. R. Domeris, "Shame and honour in Proverbs: Wise women and foolish men," OTE 8

(1995) 96.

 


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the contrasting object is folly. As such, wisdom and folly define all other values,

including shame and honour.”101 Domeris also points out another difference between

the honor and shame Mediterranean social system and Proverbs 1-9, namely, the

economic, sexual, and leadership roles of women. According to Domeris, the women

in Proverbs 1-9 exhibit a freedom in these roles which the women in a Mediterranean

value system would have found intimidating.102 Consequently, although some type of

honor and shame value system may empower the rhetoric of this and other lectures,

this conclusion is presently under debate by specialists in cultural anthropology and,

thus, held in abeyance in this dissertation.103

 

                                             4. Summary & Conclusions

            This lecture, like 1:8-19, arises from an educational relationship of a teacher

and his pupil(s). Within this setting, again like 1:8-19, the rhetorical problem faced by

the teacher is the acquisition of his pupil's full attention. Thus, the proposition or aim

of this lecture is to persuade the pupil to accept and vigorously pursue his instructor's

teaching (cf. 1:8-9). Here, it is possible that at issue is the pupil's desire to give up on

the rhetor's wisdom because of the lack of immediate benefits. The pupil must be

patient, as the medieval Jewish commentator Sa'adia Gaon summarizes, "for its

_______________________

 

   101 Ibid., 97.

 

   102 lbid., 99.

 

   103 I will denote possible references to honor and shame in the remaining lectures with the

hope that this data will be of some help to those the studying honor and shame in Proverbs 1-

9.


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[wisdom] beginnings are wearisome, but if you work through them, you will later

arrive at lasting satisfaction and joy and happiness.”104

            The rhetor fully utilizes all three means of artistic proof in the service of his

proposition. Logically, the rhetor casts the proposition in the form of a conditional

sentence in which he asserts that if the son will accept his instruction he will enjoy a

close relationship with Yahweh and become the beneficiary of Yahweh's blessings

(2:1-11). Therefore, in the proof, the speaker contends that his teaching will rescue

the pupil from evil men (2:12-15) and the alien woman (2:16-19). The rhetor supports

this logical argument with language that appeals to the student's emotions, both

aspirations and fears. He asserts that his teaching will fulfill the pupil's desire for a

relationship with Yahweh, success, security, and discernment. He also claims that his

instruction will deliver his student from his fears (i.e., the evil men and loss of the

land) or what he should fear (i.e., the alien woman). Finally, the lecture develops and

uses the ethos of the rhetor to bolster both the logical and emotional devices. Much of

the rhetor's ethos is external to the speech, i.e., his preexistent relationship to the pupil.

Nonetheless, the rhetor enhances his credibility and authority in this lecture by means

of formal language, the close association of his teaching with Yahweh, and use of the

community's religious traditions.

            Although the method of argumentation in the proof of 2:1-22 differs from that

of 1:8-19, these speeches share a common rhetorical feature that sets them apart from

most of the other lectures. Their primary objective is the acquisition of the student's

_______________________

 

     104 As cited and translated by Fox, "The Pedagogy of Proverbs 2," 242.

 


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complete and devoted attention. Unlike other lectures (e.g., 4:20-27), the speaker does

not call for the son's attention as a prelude to specific teaching, nor do these two

lectures advance any specific instruction. Instead, in 1:8-19 and 2:1-22, the call for

apprenticeship comprises the entire lecture. The contrast of this rhetorical form to the

other lectures will become clearer in chapters 4 and 5. However, before turning to

other subsets, the rhetoric of two other lectures (4:1-9, 4:10-19) requires their inclusion

in this class of calls to apprenticeship.105

 

                                                      Proverbs 4:1-9

                                                1. Text and Translation

4:1       Listen, Oh sons, to a father's discipline

            and pay attention to the knowledge of insight.

4:2       Since I give good instruction to you,

            do not abandon my teaching.

4:3       For I was a son of my father,

            delicate and alone before my mother,

4:4       and he taught me and said to me,

            "Let your heart grasp my speech;

            Keep my commandments and live.

4:5       Acquire wisdom, acquire insight

            do not forget and do not turn aside from the words of my mouth.

4:6       Do not abandon her and she will guard you

            love her and she will protect you.

4:7       Wisdom is supreme: Acquire wisdom,106

_______________________

           

   105 The term "apprenticeship" is from Aletti ("Seduction et Parole en Proverbes I-IX," 137-

138, 144). He describes the problem confronting the sage of Proverbs 1-9, and the book of

Proverbs as a whole, as the temptation that "one may find happiness and prosperity other than

by becoming an apprentice of the sage" (137). Thus, it seems appropriate to designate this

first subset of lectures as "Calls to Apprenticeship."

 

   106 The MT hmkH tywxr and its relationship to the following imperative (hmAk;HA hneq;,

"get wisdom") is ambiguous The problem is that, if left unemended, the MT requires the

reader to fill a syntactical gap. Scholars have proposed four basic translations: 1) "Wisdom is

supreme; therefore get wisdom" (NIV, supplying "therefore") or "Wisdom comes first,

 


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            and among all your property, acquire insight.

4:8       Cherish her and she will exalt you

            she will honor you because you embrace her.

4:9       She will put on your head a wreath of honor

            a beautiful crown she will bestow on you."

 

                                       2. The Limits of the Rhetorical Unit

            The initial verse of this text (4:1) distinguishes itself as the beginning of a new

rhetorical unit in three ways. 1) It utilizes the customary introductory formula,

namely, ynb + "hear" (fmw) and "pay attention" (bwq).107  2) It addresses a plurality of

listeners rather than the singular audience of 3:21-35. 3) It introduces a different

theme and rhetorical strategy from that of 3:21-35. In addition, the conclusion of the

previous lecture in 3:33-35 also denotes the beginning of a new rhetorical unit in 4:1

(see chp. 4).

            This lecture lacks a concluding summary appeal (e.g., 1:19, 2:20-22). Instead,

its ending is primarily denoted by the beginning of a new lecture in 4:10 (4:10-19).

That 4:10 is a beginning, not a resumption of 4:1-9, is demonstrated by: 1) the

_______________________

 

(therefore) get Wisdom" (McKane, Proverbs, 216; cf. AV, also supplying "therefore"), 2) "The

beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom" (NRSV, cf. NJV, supplying "is this"), 3) "The

beginning of wisdom? The acquisition of wisdom" (JB, supplying the interrogative and

changing the imperative to a nominal clause), and 4) emending the MT to read j~lyH tywxrB

("at the first of your wealth acquire wisdom," Scott, Proverbs, 49).

            The third and fourth proposals lack any textual support for their revisions and may

thus be dismissed. The first two proposals are equally plausible. The syntactical connection

defined by these proposals is essentially the same: because wisdom is supreme, the pupil

should acquire wisdom, or because the beginning of wisdom is to acquire wisdom, the pupil

should decide to get wisdom (so Kidner, Proverbs, 67). I prefer the first translation ('"Wisdom

is supreme") because it is more forceful and avoids the tautology of the second translation

("The beginning of wisdom").

 

   107 In the lectures, these terms (fmw and bwq) always introduce a new speech (1:8, 2:2,

4:1, 4:10, 4:20, 5:1). They are never part of resumptive clauses.

 


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presence of the customary introductory term "hear" (fmw), 2) the address to a singular

audience, rather than the plural audience of 4:1-2, and 3) the introduction of a new

theme and yet another rhetorical strategy (see below).

 

                                          3. Analysis of the Artistic Proofs

            Although the limits of the rhetorical unit are clear, two features of 4:1-9 raise

the question of whether this text is a complete rhetorical unit or an extended proem

now devoid of the speech that it once introduced.108 First, while the rhetor appeals at

length for the reception and retention of his words, this text lacks any explication of

his instruction. Second, this lecture ends abruptly in 4:9.

            It is possible that 4:1-9 is a speech fragment or extended proem.109 However,

three factors recommend the analysis of this text as a complete rhetorical unit. First,

this text is not unique in its lack of explicit instruction. Three other lectures make

similar appeals to listen to the teaching of the rhetor without explicating his teaching,

namely the calls to apprenticeship (i.e., my group I: 1:8-19, 2:1-22, 4:10-19). Of these

lectures, I have already demonstrated the rhetorical completeness of 1:8-19 and 2:1-22

(on 4:10-19 see below). Thus, the lack of explicit teaching is not in itself sufficient

grounds for reading 4:1-9 as a rhetorical fragment. Second, even if 4:1-9 were a

speech fragment, the editor has included it in this collection as a complete rhetorical

_______________________

 

   108 Others have identified this matter of literary history, but offered no resolution (e.g.,

Whybray, Wisdom in Proverbs, 45). It is possible to raise the same question about 1:8-19 and

2:1-22 since they also lack any explicit instruction. However, unlike the abrupt ending of 4:1-

9, these two lectures conclude with clear summary appeals (1:19, 2:20-22).

 

   109 Fox, "The Pedagogy of Proverbs 2," 234 n. 5.

 


                                                                                                                                    135

unit (see the delimitation above). Third, rhetorical analysis will reveal a coherent and

complete argument in 4:1-9.

            Thus, the problem posed by the lack of teaching and the abrupt ending of this

lecture is more the result of inflexible form criticism than the lecture itself.110

Rhetorical analysis will show that 4:1-9 is another deliberative speech seeking the

devoted attention of its audience. The rhetorical strategy developed by the rhetor to

achieve this objective in 4:1-9 is different from other lectures seeking this same goal.

Nonetheless, like 1:8-19 and 2:1-22, the principle aim of this lecture is to persuade the

son to accept the call to apprenticeship.

 

                                                       a. Logos

            The rhetorical force of this lecture does not lie in its rational argument. Rather,

the deliberative arrangement of the lecture provides a cohesive framework for

developing strong pathetic (pathos) and ethical (ethos) arguments.

            Proem: 4:la

            Proposition: 4:1-2

            Proof: 4:3-9

            The proem consists of the vocative "sons" (MynibA) and the rhetor's reference to

himself as "a father" (bxA, 4:1). This proem differs from the previous lectures in two

ways: 1) the typical suffixes are absent in 4:1, i.e., "my" (sons, 4:la) and "your"

(father, 4:la), and 2) 4:1 uses the plural "sons" rather than the singular. Rhetorically,

_______________________

 

   110 E.g., Whybray (Proverbs, 75), although he calls 4:1-9 an instruction, describes the text

as an "introduction" and suggests that "it may be a fragment of a longer piece, lacking the

whole original body of the Instruction."

 


                                                                                                                                    136

these are important variants.111 The close rhetorical relationship presupposed by both

previous lectures is two steps removed in this lecture. The speaker does not address

the audience as an individual or claim an immediate relationship to them. Rather, the

rhetorical relationship is more distant, a key factor that influences the ensuing rhetoric.

            The initial statement of the proposition uses the same imperatives and objects

found in the propositions of 1:8-19 and 2:1-22.

            Hear (fmw, 1:8), Oh sons, a father's discipline (rWaUm, 1:8)

            and pay attention (bwq, 2:2) to the knowledge of insight (hnAyBi, 2:3). (4:1)

Consequently, the proposition of this lecture is essentially the same as the propositions

of these previous lectures: The student should carefully listen to and receive the

rhetor's instruction. Next, the rhetor supplies an initial reason for accepting this

proposition, namely "since I give good (bOF) instruction to you" (v. 4:2a, emphasis

mine). He does not immediately defend this statement, i.e., explain why his

instruction is good. Rather, this claim will be the subject of the proof. Finally, the

rhetor restates the proposition: "do not abandon my teaching" (v. 2b).

            The remainder of the text (4:4-9) consists of a single proof offered in support

of the rhetor's appeal for the student's attention, namely, the citation of the speech of

the father's father (hence "the grandfather").112 The rhetor introduces the grandfather's

speech by describing the rhetorical situation in which the speech was delivered.

_______________________

 

   111 Others claim that the plurals and the lack of personal pronouns are insignificant (e.g.,

Toy, Proverbs, 84; Whybray, Proverbs, 76).

 

   112 I am unaware of any other instruction in the Old Testament or in the Wisdom Literature

of the ancient Near East in which the father/rhetor cites the speech of his father/teacher.


                                                                                                                                    137

            I was a son of my father,

            delicate and alone before my mother

            and he taught me and said to me, (4:3-4a)

Read superficially, the first line is a truism. However, this statement achieves a

powerful rhetorical effect by establishing rapport between the rhetor and his audience.

Once, the rhetor claims, he was like his audience of "sons," i.e., he was a "son" who

received the instruction of his father/teacher (see below on Ethos). The second line

further defines the rhetor's situation: He was a beloved child of his mother. As

pointed out by almost every exegete of this passage, this line strongly suggests a

familial setting for the speech of the grandfather.113  Then, the third line (4:4a) directly

introduces the grandfather's speech.

            The beginning of the grandfather's speech is clearly demarcated by the rhetor's

introduction (4:4). However, at what point do the words of the grandfather cease?

Close reading, with special attention to pronouns, resolves this question. The rhetor

_______________________

 

   113 Three caveats must be raised against this near unanimous interpretation. 1) Although

the mother is mentioned in 4:3, it is the teaching of the father's father that is cited in 4:4b-9.

The rhetor simply claims that when he was instructed by the grandfather, he was a beloved

child of his mother. Thus, although strongly suggestive of a familial setting, this line does not

rule out the possibility of an educational setting outside the home. 2) It must not be assumed

that the setting of the grandfather's speech coincides with the setting of the rhetor's speech

(e.g., Farmer, Who Knows, 39; Van Leeuwen, "The Book of Proverbs," 58-59). This

assumption stems from a failure to take seriously the differences between this lecture and

previous lectures (e.g., singular to plural address, personal pronouns to no personal pronouns).

3) The Book of Kemit (Letters from Ancient Egypt, SBLWAW 1, trans. Edward F. Wente, ed.

Edmund S. Meltzer [Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990], 16) contains a similar statement: "I am

one beloved of his father, praised of his mother, and beloved of his brothers and sisters. I

never perturbed my father, nor did I show disregard to my mother. I repeat what my

instructor said so as to master temperament." It is of some interest that the writer mentions

his instructor apart from his father and mother. The similarity of this text to Proverbs 4:3

raises the possibility that "he taught me" (4:4) may refer to the "father's discipline" that the

rhetor introduced in the proposition (4:1), not the biological father/mother of 4:3. Admittedly,

these caveats do not overturn the consensus position of a familial setting for Proverbs 4:3-4,

but they do temper any absolute claims regarding the setting of the grandfather's speech.

 


                                                                                                                                    138

consistently addresses his audience with plural pronouns (4:1-2), but the grandfather

addresses a singular audience with singular pronouns (4:4). Singular pronouns, and

thus the grandfather's speech, continue through the end of the lecture (4:9).114

Nonetheless, there is a sense in which the speech of the grandfather merges into and

becomes the speech of the rhetor. In fact, this rhetorical effect appears to be a key

reason for the inclusion of the citation, namely, to identify or equate the words of the

rhetor with the speech of the grandfather. Thus, what the grandfather told the rhetor,

the rhetor is now telling the sons.

            The grandfather's speech lacks a proem. Instead, his speech begins with a

proposition similar in content and form to that of the rhetor: "Let your heart grasp my

words; Keep my commandments" (v. 4bc). To this propositional statement, the

grandfather adds an initial reason to accept his words, namely, "and live" (v. 4e). He

then restates the proposition in both positive and negative terms: "Acquire wisdom,

acquire insight; do not forget and do not turn aside from the words of my mouth"

(v. 5). Thus, the aim of the grandfather's rhetoric is the acceptance and retention of his

teaching ("my words," "my commandments," "the words of my mouth"), the same

proposition offered by the rhetor in 4:1-2 (and 1:8-9, 2:1-11).

            In order to convince the son to accept this proposition, the grandfather

personifies his teaching as a woman and enumerates the benefits of becoming her

_______________________

 

   114 For example, the grandfather begins his speech, "Let your heart (j~B,li, singular noun

and suffix) grasp my words, Keep my commandments (rmow;, singular imperative) and live

(hyeH;v,, singular imperative)" (4:4). This use of singular pronouns continues through verse 9:

"She will put on your head (j~w;xrol;, singular noun and pronoun) a wreath of honor, a

beautiful crown she will bestow on you (j~n,G;maT;, singular noun and pronoun)."


                                                                                                                                    139

disciple or protege. The grandfather lays the groundwork for this strategy in his

proposition where he subtly equates "my words" and "my commandments" (4:4) with

"wisdom" and "insight" (4:5).115  Then, in the proof, the grandfather describes

"wisdom" and "insight" as a woman whom the son should love, not abandon, acquire,