Lectionary Reflection for Trinity Sunday

ProverbsThis excerpt comes from Proverbs (BTCB) by Daniel J. Treier, commenting on Proverbs 8:

“Wisdom Christology” has currently become popular, treating wisdom as a crucial category for understanding the identity of Jesus Christ.

For some this is a historical claim about the influence of Old Testament or intertestamental Jewish texts upon New Testament or early Christian understandings. For others, such historical influences are more Greco-Roman, whether in terms of Jesus’s self-presentation as  wandering sage or in regard to philosophical motifs. For still others, “Sophia” presents feminist possibilities for reinterpreting traditional theological categories or the male Jesus in woman-friendlier ways.

Some of these claims are not mutually exclusive, but other scholars caution against inflated Wisdom Christologies, sensing that various agendas spawn the myriad historical hypotheses. Though certain historical cautions are warranted, and in this case some feminist theological claims are overblown, we should not overreact. It will not do to minimize Pauline and other New Testament Wisdom vocabulary entirely, as if it were only and always minimal and polemical.

To take one example, polemical or not, the hymn in Col. 1 reflects a positive, even glorious pattern of appropriating the christological implications of Prov. 8. Interpreting Prov. 8 as having christological relevance helps to hold together creation and redemption rather than prioritizing either in lopsided fashion

Even if we assume with Athanasius and most traditional theologians that the incarnation occurred only due to God’s redemptive plan for counteracting the effects of our fall into sin, still the Redeemer is the Logos by whom the world came into being.

On the other hand, lest Wisdom devolve into mere common sense immanent to creation—a matter of opinion polling among sinful humans taking their own looks at a created order that is actually under a curse—in Christ God confronts us with true Wisdom that is personal and redemptive, entailing response to divine initiative.

 

©2011 by Daniel J. Treier. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Lectionary Reflection for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Proverbs & Ecclesiastes (BTCB) by Daniel J. Treier, commenting on Proverbs 31:10-31:

The poem in 31:10-31 is an acrostic, each verse beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Beyond reflecting the intricacy of beautiful design, this suggests a stylized discourse conveying a climactic point. The ode surely works at a literal level, and therefore—influenced as it is by Lemuel’s mother, no less—it has profound implications for assessing the portrayal of women in Proverbs.

Many a fundamentalist patriarch runs aground here—or should, anyway—when setting forth a simplistic vision of the postindustrial nuclear family, with no woman working outside the home as the exclusively biblical paradigm. To the contrary, the “Prov. 31 woman” is industrious in multiple senses, even as this household does not neglect care for children.

At the same time, the superlatives-with-acrostic character of the ode suggests another level of meaning beyond the literal. While it is important to see the possibility of embodying Lady Wisdom’s teachings in flesh and blood, her foil, Dame Folly, promoted not only literal license but also spiritual adultery. Likewise, it seems probable that in Prov. 31 we get a portrait of the ideal partner for the divine husband. The conclusion, regarding works that manifest the fear of the Lord, reinforces this.

Thus the person who learns the wisdom of Proverbs will be a boon to others—industrious, taking clever initiative, strong, caring for the needy, planning and preparing, enjoying a good reputation and results, teaching wisdom to others—as well as, ultimately, one who through these works expresses devotion to God. The spiritual interpretation calls God’s covenant people to render tangible service.

 

©2011 by Daniel J. Treier. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Lectionary Reflection for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Proverbs & Ecclesiastes (BTCB) by Daniel J. Treier, commenting on Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23:

“. . . A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, / and favor is better than silver or gold” (22:1); “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; / be wise enough to desist. / When your eyes light upon it, it is gone; / for suddenly it takes wings to itself, / flying like an eagle toward heaven” (22:4-5); “The rich is wise in self-esteem, / but an intelligent poor person sees through the pose” (28:11; also 28:6).

The rhetorical purpose of quoting so many passages is to establish the prominence of the Proverbs theme that riches do not offer ultimate profit. Scholars debate the exact contours of the book’s approach to wealth. Perhaps the debate stems not only from preoccupation with unanswerable questions about original authors, settings, and editors, but also from common inability to appreciate to sapiential nature of the material.

Proverbs offers myriad sayings with various perspectives, resulting not only in aggregate balance but also in contingent resources for pastoral use. In some settings the value of wealth as a necessary resource and an element of divine blessing should be acknowledged. In other settings emphasis must lie on potential dangers: wealth as a false refuge supplanting God, a means pretending to be an end or pointing merely to proximate ends, or a (mistaken) end that people seek inappropriately or excessively.

If contemporary people complain that Proverbs and the Christian tradition criticize earthly goods too strongly, that may reveal our pastoral imbalance more than the tradition’s weakness. If, alternatively, contemporary people complain that Proverbs and the Christian tradition are too conservative in valuing moderate wealth as a typical result of hard work, then possibly that reveals more about our political commitments or contingent circumstances and the relative emphases they elicit.

Nevertheless, Proverbs contains the resources not for flaccid balance, but instead to address whichever extremes a cultural moment affords. We should not be naïve about the dangerous temptation to interpret Proverbs through bourgeois lenses that justify comforts we hold dear.


©2011 by Daniel J. Treier. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

The Weekly Hit List: May 4, 2012

The Christian Century reviewed Living into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions by Arthur Boers. You must be a subscriber to read the entire review. Here is an excerpt:

“The more difficult task, however, and the one that Boers’s book mostly succeeds in provoking, is to look long and hard at ourselves, at the objects that command our attention and at the practices that make up our days. And then, after he holds up a mirror for us for a little while, Boers asks us the essential, if no longer new, questions: When do we rule our gadgets and when do they rule us? When does technology improve our lives and when does it bankrupt them? What habits might help us manage the omnipresent allures of a technological age? And what can we do if we find ourselves walking around with devices that are not, in the deepest sense of the word, working?”

Quick Hits:

The May 2012 issue of the Brazos Press newsletter, Border Crossings, has released and is available. To receive future issues in your inbox, click here to subscribe.

Peter Enns (author of The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins) was interviewed on Christian.co.uk for what he “thinks about Adam and why it matters one way or the other.”

Miroslav Volf’s A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good was reviewed by Tony Dickinson.

David G. Benner’s Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation was featured in the May list of resources in The Mennonite: “Benner shows that the  transformation of self is foundational to Christian spirituality.”

Christian Smith’s The  Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture was reviewed by Charlie Dean on his blog. “If you think deeply about faith, theology and particularly the Bible, you’ll really want to read this book – and better yet, discuss it with a few people.”

Nathaniel Claiborne reviewed Proverbs & Ecclesiastes (part of the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series) by Daniel J. Treier on his blog.