Proverbs are pithy sayings. Short, thought-provoking, often using vivid imagery proverbs work by making you think. But they are often used as a source of quick simple answers. The book of Proverbs is a collkection of loads of such sayings with a long preface and short epilogue that encourage young men to meditate on this advice. The goal of Proverbs is lives lived well. A proverb can be applied like a Band Aid to appropriate situations, BUT their greatest value is when you meditate them. So Proverbs 10-30 is the one part of the Bible that is better read verse-by-verse. This most secular of BibleRead More →

This podcast may benefit from a set of notes, either as an alternative to the audio/screencast or as a reminder (since has a high information content). It is also longer and less fun than most, so if you like miss it out unless later in the series you need to come back to it for the framework… The system suggested here is not intended to be completely scholarly and precise, far less exhaustive, rather it is meant to be simple and convenient, necessitating some approximations and simplifications. Two main genres It can be helpful to distinguish poems and songs. Not so much because songs implyRead More →

The flat out contradictions in Scripture make Bible readers jumpy.Conservatives seek to defend the “integrity” of Scripture by denying that there is any (even the slightest) disagreement, those on the other side delight in the “proof” that the Bible is merely a collection of venerable ancient texts of no relevance today. Both responses are dead wrong! Contradictions in Scripture are real guides to how we should read. In Proverbs they reminded us how proverbs work, and how we have to select when to apply which proverb. In other places they are often reminders of the humanity of Scripture, that we have the thoughts of particularRead More →

The poem in Prov 31:10ff. has been read in various ways, by men and by women, as an oppressive and as a liberating text. I will suggest two clues to making sense of the poem. The first is to read it in the context of the book of Proverbs (and not as an isolated poem), and the second is to read it precisely as a gendered text. This podcast was provoked by reading a short piece on this text by Ann Wansborough produced back in 1992 for the Uniting Church in Australia’s “Commission on Women and Men”. (Thank you Judy 🙂 BTW since Proverbs is aRead More →

While it is quite clear that Proverbs is a gendered text, the way it speaks of women is interesting. For a text coming from an ancient patriarchal society human women who serve as aspirational models are a surprise. No doubt any real Feminist would instantly switch into “pedestal” mode, but I think it’s worth pausing and noticing what’s going on, and maybe as I’ll suggest in a follow-up podcast finding inspiration for contemporary spiritualities…  Read More →

There certainly should certainly be humour in Proverbs, after all the books says: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. (Proverbs 17:22) And sure enough when I went humour-hunting Google quickly fitted me up with Hershey H. Friedman, he used to be Bernard H. Stern Professor of Humor so you know he’s a serious humour scholar, and he wrote on “Humor in the Bible” with lots of examples from Proverbs. The article is in the journal Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, (Vol. 13:3, Sept. 2000, 258-285) so again we know this is pukka academic stuff. The troubleRead More →

Most of Proverbs contains collections of proverbs (pithy sayings about life) but the book has a nine chapter prologue and a half chapter epilogue. The epilogue is a poem describing an ideal(ised) wife. The prologue seeks to motivate the student (a young male – notice all the “my son” language) to follow his mother’s advice and live a faithful, respectable, respectful, honest life. The last chapters sex up this motivational speech by picturing Wisdom as a woman, who should become the young man’s fiancee and eventually bride. The podcast though focuses on these chapters, with a short digression explaining what the Apocrypha is. .Read More →

This week’s 5 is a somewhat artificial collection, putting together two different things. Yet both Psalms and Proverbs work differently from the narrative/history and prophecy that comprise the bulk of the Old Testament, and both are used a lot by Christians along with Genesis and Isaiah (while most of the Old Testament lies unread the Two-Thirds Bible). In this podcast we’ll look at how different genres (see the posts here, especially: Genre matters: 1- Why genre matters) work. This will help understanding and applying the week’s readings. In doing this we’ll learn for example why so often proverbs contradict each other! Incidentally in the BibleRead More →