Shelf Life Book Review: The Gospel of John

Elliot Ritzema

The Gospel of John: A Commentary
Eerdmans, 2012

gospelofjohnbruner.png

Each unit of Frederick Dale Bruner’s commentary on the Gospel of John consists of a new translation, an introduction, Bruner’s interpretation and historical interpretation. The book appeals to a range of readers; it interacts with the original language and other major modern commentators, yet it is also pastoral and devotional as Bruner offers ways to apply the text to the present day, including examples from his own experience.

This commentary consciously puts itself in the stream of the Church’s interpretation of John. The historical interpretation of John 15:1–17, for example, includes references to Augustine, Gregory the Great, Luther, Calvin, Westcott and Raymond Brown, among others.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 4 No. 6

Who Wrote the Book of Proverbs?

Michael S. Heiser

The first book of Proverbs announces, “These are the proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel” (compare Prov 10:1; 25:1). By its own testimony, though, the book of Proverbs had many authors: “These are the sayings of the wise [literally, wise ones]” (Prov 24:23). This same idea—that the proverbs in the book were written by a number of sages—is reiterated in Proverbs 1:6 and 22:17.

whowroteproverbs.png

But old traditions die hard, and the authorship of these proverbs is still debated. What role did Solomon actually play in writing this Wisdom literature?

Solomon Had a Pen Name?

In some passages of Proverbs, the sages who wrote the book are named. Proverbs 30 was written by Agur, son of Jakeh (30:1), but we know nothing else about him. Some believe “Agur” is a pen name for Solomon. However, there is little evidence to support this. The name may also be translated more commonly as “the assembler,” which may point to an anonymous collector of proverbs who also wrote chapter 30.

Proverbs 31:1 informs us that King Lemuel wrote the famous chapter about the virtuous woman. In this verse, we learn that Lemuel was taught proverbs by his mother. There is little else known about this elusive king. Jewish tradition views the writer as yet another pen name of Solomon, but there is no reliable proof for this connection.

In the Tradition of Solomon

Proverbs 25:1 provides another insight into authorship: “These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied.” The word translated “copied” can also mean “transcribed.” This suggests that some of the proverbs (perhaps chapters 25–29) were produced by scribes living in the days of Hezekiah (ca. 715–687 BC), after the lifetime of Solomon.

At least one anonymous sage did contribute to Proverbs. Portions of Proverbs 22–23 come from an Egyptian wisdom text composed before Solomon’s lifetime, The Instruction of Amenemope.

In addition, Proverbs 1:25 appears to be quoting Jeremiah 20:7 and certain portions of Zechariah 7. However, just because there may have been later additions to the book of Proverbs doesn’t mean the entire book is dated later than Solomon. There is also the possibility that Jeremiah and Zechariah were drawing on Proverbs.

In the Tradition of Egypt

Because Proverbs 22–23 draws on an ancient Egyptian wisdom text that pre-dates Solomon, it seems likely that he may be one of the authors (Prov 1:1; 10:1). In addition, the literary patterning in large sections of Proverbs (10:1–22:16) mirrors ancient Egyptian wisdom literature, in which Egyptian scribes gave collections of sayings a formal title and prologue.

So who wrote these proverbs? Solomon—but he had good (or wise) company.

Biblical references are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 4 No. 4

Silhouettes

Joey Dodson

The father could have simply told his son to pursue wisdom and reject folly. But instead—understanding his audience—he presents wisdom and folly as two women setting the table for an intimate dinner date (Prov 9). This rhetorical device of personification helps the writer communicate truth in a different way.

As you read through Proverbs, consider how personification reveals truth. Here is your guide:

1) What’s the Purpose?

silhouettes.png

Personification is the attribution of human traits to an impersonal concept, such as a virtue or vice. A writer may use personification to embellish a topic, explain a complex topic or persuade an audience. By giving life to wisdom and folly, the father in Proverbs presents two paths before his son, motivating him to choose life rather than calamity.

2) Pithy or Profound?

Often, we’re so familiar with personifications that we might not even notice them. In Proverbs 3:19, the author says, “With Wisdom, God founded the earth.” The figure of speech is so faint that we might even debate whether it is a personification—if not for the surrounding context (8:25–31). Other personifications, however, are so developed they seem to leap out at us. In Proverbs 9, Wisdom beckons those who pass by, while Folly pours forth seductive words in an attempt to lure them to her sensual soiree. Determining whether the author created a pithy reference comparable to an everyday idiom or a complex picture helps us interpret the passage correctly.

3) The Image Evoked

Personification is an extended metaphor. Metaphors speak “about one thing in terms which are seen to be suggestive of another.” 1 So when we come across personification, we should identify attributes of people. For instance, the maidens who are commissioned by Wisdom in Proverbs 9:3 may be the writer’s way of suggesting an even more provocative picture. These women who go out and invite young men to wine and dine with Wisdom elicit the image of sexual recruiters in the cult of Astarte, the Canaanite goddess of love. The comparison makes the differences all the more striking because Wisdom’s recruiters invite the young men to study rather than party. 2

4) Comparing Texts

By comparing examples of personification in Proverbs, other biblical books and ancient Near Eastern literature, we can gain new insights into the text.

Proverbs
In Proverbs 9:5, Wisdom kindly welcomes people: “Come and eat my meat, come and drink my wine.” But in Proverbs 1:22–28, hell hath no fury like Woman Wisdom scorned. She lashes out at those who rejected her, laughing aloud as they fall headlong into destruction. This comparison helps us see that Wisdom is gloriously complex—those who embrace her words will dine at her table, but those who reject her have fixed their own destruction.

New Testament
In the New Testament, Jesus draws upon the personification of Wisdom in Proverbs when He says, “Wisdom is justified by all her children” (Luke 7:35). By identifying Himself with Wisdom, does Jesus take on the attributes given to her in Proverbs? If so, rather than a virtue of God in Proverbs, Wisdom is the second person of the Godhead. Jesus is the Wisdom of God—with Him at creation. In listening to the words of Wisdom, we listen to the words of the Lord.

Ancient Literature
Biblical authors—particularly those who wrote Wisdom literature—often borrowed ideas and concepts from their neighbors. Comparing these works can tell us about the author’s intent. Maat, the Egyptian concept of wisdom, has striking similarities with Wisdom in Proverbs. However, Maat is personified as a goddess and never says a word in Egyptian literature. 3 In contrast to Maat and over against Folly, Wisdom has a lot to say (Prov 1–9). The writer of Proverbs wants his son to listen to Wisdom. It would be wise for us to do so as well.

There are scores of personifications in the Bible. Equipped with these steps, we are ready to interpret them in Proverbs and the rest of Scripture. We just need to pause rather than pass them by.

Pick up the resources you need for your study of Proverbs. Go to Logos.com/Proverbs

Biblical references are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 4 No. 4


1. Janet Martin Soskice, Metaphor and Religious Language (London: Clarendon Press, 1985), 15.

2. William McKane, Proverbs (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1970), 360. See also Ellen F. Davis, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000), 71.

3. Tremper Longman III, “Woman Wisdom and Woman Folly” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry and Writings, Eds. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns (Downers Grove: IVP, 2008), 914.

Raise the Signal

John D. Barry

Isaiah 13:1–14:23; Luke 5:1–39; Job 4:1–11

The Bible echoes with great battle cries: “Raise a signal on a bare hill, lift up your voice to them; wave the hand.… A sound of the roar of the kingdoms, of nations gathering! Yahweh of hosts is mustering an army for battle” (Isa 13:4).

In this proclamation, God declares war on Babylon for their brutal and evil deeds against His people. Yet He calls for “a signal” to be raised so that the Babylonians might repent from their great wickedness. They have an opportunity to surrender to Yahweh before it’s too late—and we must do the same.

We tend to see ourselves as less evil than the infamous sinners of the past, but in a way we all carry shades of Babylon in ourselves. Just as the Babylonians did, we set up and worship idols instead of loving Yahweh with our entire being. Similarly, we attack others instead of loving them the way God has loved us. If we search our hearts, we find that painting ourselves as more righteous than past sinners doesn’t work: We’re all in need of a Savior. We’ve all fallen short (Rom 3:21–26). In that sense, we all come from Babylon.

Although most of us are willing to identify our private idols—such as money, power or fame—few of us realize the depth of our betrayal. When Isaiah portrays the sinner that is Babylon, he is neither tolerant nor sympathetic (Isa 13:19). Instead, he issues a harsh warning that the day of Yahweh’s coming—the time of reckoning is near (Isa 13:6). It’s no different for us today. When the NT writers depict sin, they do not underestimate how much it inhibits God’s work in us and in the world (2 Pet 1:8–15). With the same urgency that Isaiah expressed, they note that now is the time to repent and do God’s will (2 Pet 3).

God has called us to join Him in the battle against evil by living Spirit-filled lives in accordance with His will—lives of loving others, despite how hard that might be sometimes (Eph 4:1–6; 6:11–20). We must answer God’s urgent call upon us. There is no time to waste.

How can you express love today as a sign of God’s war against evil?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.


John D. Barry is the CEO and founder of Jesus’ Economy, a nonprofit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. To empower the extreme poor, Jesus’ Economy also has an online fair trade shop. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the former editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. Learn more about John’s work with Jesus’ Economy at www.jesuseconomy.org.

Shelf Life Book Review: A Week in the Life of Corinth

Matthew M. Whitehead

A Week in the Life of Corinth
IVP Academic, 2012

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 10.58.36 PM.png

In his historical novella, Dr. Ben Witherington III helps us travel back to the time of the Bible by illuminating the society, culture and history of Corinth. Travel the seas and walk the streets with Nicanor, a fictitious freedman who handles the business affairs of his master, Erastus. Meet Priscilla and Aquila, the Apostle Paul, and a host of other characters intertwined in a creative plot. You will witness business dealings and political intrigue. Understand the Christian experience in different spheres of Roman society and gain insight into how the Graeco-Roman society of the first century AD viewed Christianity.

Witherington also includes photographs, maps, diagrams and articles that enhance the reading experience. Whether you’re well acquainted with Paul’s letters to the Corinthian church or are encountering them for the first time, this book will bring the biblical text to life.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 4 No. 6