Proverbs 22:6 – Thinking it through [Part 2]

Friend:
I do not wish to bore everyone with our never-ending discussion, so I will attempt to make this response as concise as I can. I also understand that I will not sway anyone with this email. We are all pretty firm in our beliefs. As in my first email, the purpose of this email is simply to clarify my position further (as I felt that some of my points were misunderstood; it is my own fault for not elaborating on my points enough) and nothing more. Just an interesting aside, Psalm 119 is actually an acrostic.

James:
I would argue that many are not “bored”; on the contrary, I believe many are refreshed by our discourse on Proverbs; after all, our current bible study references the book of Proverbs ad-nauseum. I cannot speak for everyone, but I am capable of being “swayed” with arguments of merit. For example, I now see that there are acrostics in the bible, especially in the book of Psalms. I see that Psalm 119 is an acrostic. However, it was not apparent because I was thinking in terms of the English alphabet and not the Hebrew. By the way, I am completely aware of your position even prior to your first email. The purpose of my response then, which is still the purpose now, is simply to suggest some sound refutations that proponents of your point of view ought to examine.

Friend:
Anyway, I did not intend, as James says, to “limit the semantic field” of a proverb. I was speaking generally about the definition of proverbs. There are definitely proverbs that can and should be read absolutely. My technique for interpreting Proverbs allows for these verses.

James:
Your technique only allows a proverb to be considered an absolute truth if it is based on the authority of another book of scripture that is not the book of Proverbs; otherwise, you relegate it to a non-absolute, “simple distillation of general wisdom” or something that is not “precise grammatical[ly].” Therefore you limit the semantic field of the word “proverb” by not recognizing other acceptable definitions (e.g. wise or profound saying, dark or puzzling saying, similitude, etc.) of the word “proverb.” In addition, you also distort the semantic field of the word “proverb” by incorrectly asserting that proverbs are not meant to be grammatically precise (I hope this was just a “proverbial” slip of the tongue). So, while you may not have intended to do so, I feel compelled to reiterate the fact that you did “limit the semantic field” of the word “proverb.” Certainly, it is not fair to base the intent or purpose of a proverb on one criterion alone (especially when several are in scope). For example, in the “King James Dictionary” the word proverb is defined as: A dark or puzzling saying. In the “Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.0.1)” the word proverb (in the biblical scope) is defined as: a profound saying, maxim, or oracular utterance requiring interpretation. In “Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary” the word proverb is defined as: a trite maxim; a similitude; a parable. Based on the above definitions alone, the “general intention of proverbs” (as you say) does not appear to be limited to “a simple distillation of general wisdom” and the general intention of a proverb is not to be “[im]precise grammatical[ly].” Furthermore, the collective definition for a proverb based on the above speaks nothing about its intention to be “easily understood and remembered.” So, the question I would ask you is, where are getting your definition of a proverb from?

Friend:
If an absolute reading of the proverb is supported elsewhere in Scripture, then you can be sure that proverb is intended absolutely.

James:
So according to your technique and logic if Proverbs 18:10 (The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe) was not “supported” elsewhere in scripture you (Friend) would be unsure about whether the message conveyed was absolute? To me, this is analogous to saying that the book of Proverbs is only “absolutely” authoritative in as much as its message is corroborated by another book of the bible deemed “absolutely” authoritative. It is my humble opinion that your technique relegates the book of Proverbs to a “how to be successful most of the time” book. I’m sorry, but I could not be so callous, without warrant, regarding the designation of theses inspired words no matter how many theologians attest to the soundness of your technique.

Friend:
I would not call my technique a “hasty generalization”, as I believe that there are many proverbs that are not intended to be taken literally or absolutely.

James:
My designation of your technique as a “hasty generalization” has nothing to do with whether proverbs are to be taken “literally” but has everything to do with your assertion that “a proverb is not an absolute truth” (unless “directly supported” elsewhere in scripture). I have previously demonstrated why this technique is flawed.

Now that you have introduced the word “literally” to our discourse, I would like to remind our readers that I have always suggested that proverbs may use figurative speech (which is a literary device); therefore, in such a scenario, a literal interpretation is not possible. I would also urge our readers not to confuse the words “literally” and “absolutely.” In other words, there exist proverbs that are not literal but are still absolute. In fact, from a cursory glance I would venture to say that a majority of biblical proverbs have this distinction. For example, it is obvious that Proverbs 18:10(The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe) is unquestionably true yet we see that “a strong tower” is a metaphor (a figurative literary device) for the “name of the LORD.” Finally, I submit to you that, to date, you have not provided even one example of a proverb that does not have an absolute meaning (or at least one that has not been soundly refuted – see my notes in the previous reply on the two examples you provided:Proverbs 10:30,Proverbs 3:9-10). This is not to say that one may not exist, only that you have not provided one.

Friend:
In fact, I believe that it is a well-founded generalization, based on the general intention of proverbs and the large amount of hyperbolic and non-literal proverbs. I just gave a couple of examples, but I believe that there are many more that are hyperbolic and non-literal, so it is difficult to be sure if many of the absolute statements are intended to be taken absolutely.

James:
As an interesting aside, a hyperbolic proverb is a non-literal proverb yet you list them separately as if they did not have a subset vs. superset relationship. Anyway, your implication that figurative speech makes it difficult to understand whether a passage is absolute or not is interesting for at least two reasons. Firstly, Proverbs 22:6 does not contain any figurative speech so according to your implication, it should be easier to understand why its message is in fact absolute. Secondly, the whole bible is rife with figurative (non-literal) language (2 Peter 2:22, Corinthians 13:4-5, Isaiah 8:14, Romans 11:17, Deuteronomy 4:24, Jeremiah 1:17, Galatians 4:21ff , Matt. 8:22, Luke 13:31-32, Ephesians 6:11-17, Mal. 1:2-3, Mark 16:15, 1 Kings 18:27, Acts 27:37, Gen. 12:8, etc.), yet, according to your logic you would not call the absoluteness of these passages into question because the biblical books where these passages reside are not in the poetic genre. This seems very inconsistent. Your implication (that figurative language makes it difficult to “determine” absolute truth) actually allows us to call into question the absoluteness of these passages as well. The fact of the matter is much of the Bible is written in figurative language. Therefore, to understand a passage properly, we must acquaint ourselves with every applicable literary device, in this case, the figures of speech. It is obvious that if we interpret literal language as if it were figurative or figurative as if it were literal, we will certainly miss the correct meaning.

Additionally, over and over again, I have demonstrated that “the general intention of proverbs” is actually not what you have suggested. Proverbs 1:1-6not only tells us the purpose of the book of Proverbs (To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; to give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion) but it actually defines what a proverb is (the words of the wise), its “intention”, if you will. It may also be worth noting thatProverbs 1:6 uses a Hebraic poetic structure known as synonymous parallelism where a line strengthens, develops, reinforces or repeats the line before it; in this case, the word “proverb” is reinforced as “the words of the wise.” This seems like the most authoritative definition for two reasons, (1) because the definition comes from the author of the book of Proverbs, and (2) because it’s inspired. Incidentally, another common denominator that would help resolve this particular point of contention would be a dictionary (especially a bible dictionary). However, I have already demonstrated in a previous paragraph that the dictionary definition coincides with the author’s definition.

Friend:
An absolute reading ofProverbs 22:6 is not supported elsewhere is Scripture, so, according to my interpretation technique, I don’t assume that it is absolute, but I also don’t assume that it is general either. I read it generally, because there are other passages and major doctrines that support a general reading, in my opinion.

James:
I disagree that an absolute reading ofProverbs 22:6 is not supported in scripture. In my previous response I gave details and supporting verses that attest to the absolute truth in this verse but you failed to provide a rebuttal. You say that you don’t assumeProverbs 22:6 to be general. How can you read something “generally” without making an assumption a forehand as to its generality? In my opinion, one cannot read text in a certain way until after they have made an assumption about the type of text they are reading. We read novels like novels because we know a forehand that it is in fact a novel, the same goes for news, or technical writings or any other genre of writing. When we come across a particular writing that has no designation we should read it without any particular slant until we can discern a slant. When it comes to the book of Proverbs, if neither the context nor the rules of the language give an indication as to whether the writing is absolutely true or not, we must assume that it is absolutely true, because God cannot lie.

Friend:
Just as you, I believe that one verse is all you need to build a doctrine (except in the case of many of the proverbs for the reasons given above). I agree that my question concerningEphesians 6:4 was a prepositional fallacy. It was not intended as iron-clad defense for my viewpoint. It was simply an interesting question to ponder and not intended as anything more. My main point was simply that you cannot useEphesians 6:4 to defend an absolute reading ofProverbs 22:6

James:
Well you posed the question and I surmised that you were using it as part of your defense (otherwise why would you ask it) so I felt compelled to provide an appropriate answer. As an interesting aside, according to your question aboveEphesians 6:4 supports half ofProverbs 22:6 as an absolute truth. I could pose a question similar to yours by asking: If half ofProverbs 22:6 is supported as absolute truth (even according to your standards) why would the entire verse not be absolute truth? However, I’d be guilty of committing the same logical fallacy you did.

Friend:
Proverbs 15:5 is not directed at the parents. It is directed at the child.Proverbs 15:5 and more relevantly 4:1-6 are included in Scripture as a warning to children to obey their parents teaching. My point is that ifProverbs 22:6 is to be read absolutely, then it would not be necessary to warn children to obey their parents teaching, as they do not have choice but to do so.

James:
Proverbs 15:5 is directed at both the parent and the child. It lets the child know that it is foolish to despise the father’s instruction; it lets the father know that if the child is consistently despising the father’s correction that the child is acting foolishly and that perhaps it’s time to pull out a bigger rod to drive the folly out of the child. It does not follow that ifProverbs 22:6 is to be read absolutely, then children would not need to be warned to obey their parents. In fact, part of training your child the way he should go is “warn[ing] children to obey their parents teaching.” I’m sorry but once again I do not get your point in this particular argument.

Friend:
Both parents and children have a responsibility. It is the parents’ responsibility to teach their children, and it is the child’s responsibility to follow their parents’ teaching. There is one other passage from Scripture that I would like to mention. InDeuteronomy 21:18-21, Moses gives a law concerning rebellious children. It says that if a child will not listen to his parents, then he will be stoned because he is evil. Obviously, the parent is not at fault for not teaching the child properly, otherwise the parents would be punished and not the child. Once again, ifProverbs 22:6 is to be read absolutely, then this would never happen, so why did God feel that it was necessary to include this in the Law?

James:
I do not fully understand how this argument relates toProverbs 22:6 but I can speak to the fact that just because the child alone is punished doesn’t mean that the parent is not as fault. In fact, unbelievably you have again committed the exact logical fallacy that you were just warned about in your previous email, “affirming the consequent.” Once again, in this logical fallacy the antecedent (the parent is at fault for not teaching the child properly) is presumed true by affirming the consequent (the parents would be punished).

Your argument follows:

(1) If the parent is at fault for not teaching the child properly, the parents would be punished.

(2) InDeuteronomy 21:18-21only the child is punished.

Therefore:

(3) The parent is not at fault for not teaching the child properly.

This argument is clearly fallacious; there is any number of reasons why God commanded the Israelites to punish only the child (e.g. He is a sovereign God and can command us to do whatever he wills, etc.). God commanding the law to punish only the child and not the parents does not show that the parents are not at fault or thatProverbs 22:6is not an absolute promise.

Friend:
I hope that has further clarified my position, so that it is understandable. I apologize if it haven’t elaborated enough (I skipped over a lot), but I really didn’t want to write a dissertation (and I am sure that there are probably theology doctorate candidates that have written dissertations on how to interpret Proverbs).

James:
I thought that you brought up a lot of interesting observations; I just think your defense is lacking.  I had hoped that you would rebut many of my refutations but you chose only a few of them to respond to. I try to be thorough and detailed when I respond to individuals that are worthy of such a response. Unless my refutations were so absurd that a response would be pointless, I would appreciate a response, obviously, when you have the time and it is convenient to do so.

Friend:
I’m sorry, I’m just not interested in to getting in to a long, protracted, detailed discussion. I simply wanted to summarize my viewpoint. I thought that you might do the same, and that would be the end of it. I guess I’m not much of a sparring partner. There is just no way to be 100% sure about either viewpoint. The Bible is not a formal, logical system where you can use deductive reasoning to come up with an irrefutable proof that necessitates a particular interpretation of all verses, thus the great diversity of denominations and interpretations of Scripture. It is communicated using the imprecision of natural human language to an audience of finite, flawed human beings. It is not surprising that a book like Proverbs, which is full of figurative language and poetic devices, would contain verses that have many possible interpretations. And, I am not arrogant enough to believe that I am 100% correct in all of my interpretations (Believe me, I am not trying to say that you are). For me, it is very simple. When I am presented with two perfectly valid interpretations of a verse (and I believe that both interpretations of Proverbs 22:6 are valid), I will choose the one that I believe is more consistent with the rest of the Bible. You might call my arguments “logical fallacies”, but they are still evidence that when viewed as a whole seems to point me to a specific interpretation. I might not be able to give you incontrovertible evidence that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that my interpretation is correct. But, from my reading of the numerous, related Bible passages, my belief in man’s individual responsibility before God, and my understanding of the intent of Proverbs, I am lead to the conclusion that a general reading of Proverbs 22:6 is probably correct. You might disagree and that’s fine, because I would not stake my life on my interpretation. Ultimately, our differing views on Proverbs 22:6 will not lead to differing behavior. We will both fervently strive to instill in our children a love and passion for God and His commandments. God will take care of the rest in a way that fits His perfect will. I can say no more. I know you might be disappointed. It has been a interesting conversation, but I’m just not up for any more.

Advertisements

Proverbs 22:6 – Thinking it through [Part 1]

Friend:
Sorry, I feel compelled to continue our conversation onProverbs 22:6 outside of the Bible study.

James:
No apology necessary, it is through this type of discourse that we sharpen one another and study to show our selves approved. I appreciate you writing to further clarify your position. I pray in the name of Jesus that God will shine his light unto our path in especially in this area. Amen.

Friend:
First, I want to start off with how I was “trained”. AtBryanCollege, My wife and I took a course entitled “Poetic Books”, which covered the wisdom literature in the Old Testament. We were taught that Hebrew poetry, of which Proverbs is an example, follows a number of poetic conventions. The use of many forms parallelism, acrostics, and hyperbole are common in this literary form. These devices were use to place emphasis and aid in memorization.  

James:
I agree that there is poetic writing in the Bible and especially in the book of Proverbs. This is abundantly evident by the various types of distiches (two lined structured poetry) used in the book of Proverbs. I have not personally seen any use of acrostics in the book of Proverbs or the bible for that matter but I agree that it is commonly found in some types of poetic literature. Incidentally, the literary devices you refer to (parallelism, acrostics, and hyperbole) are not exclusive to poetry alone. In fact, theses devices can exist in other type of narrative.

Friend:
Proverbs are intended a simple distillation of general wisdom in to a form that is easy to understand and remember. They are not intended to be precise grammatical or elaborate fully on any single subject. They often use deliberate exaggerations in order to make a specific point.

James:
Not all proverbs are intended as “a simple distillation of general wisdom in to a form that is easy to understand and remember”. Many proverbs are “intended to be precise grammatical[ly]” That proverbs often use “deliberate exaggerations in order to make a specific point” is not a point of contention. However, any unabridged dictionary would disagree with your unwarranted attempt to limit the semantic field (meaning) of the term “proverb.” A proverb does not have to be a “general” truth; a proverb can exist as a specific truth (more on this later). Literary devices (such as a literary element e.g. theme, setting, conflict, etc. or a literary technique e.g. allegory, symbolism, metaphor, etc)) are often used in proverbs but a proverb is not a literary device. A proverb is a designation given to a sentence (that may or may not contain a literary device) based on certain criteria (i.e., old, popular, practical, pithy, etc.). The criteria for designating an expression as a proverb are actually quite subjective. For example, someone reading this email many years from now could take my sentence “Literary devices are often used in proverbs but a proverb is not a literary device” and use it so aptly and profusely that it attains proverb status despite the fact I meant for the sentence to convey an absolutely (and not generally) true message. Whether an expression is or is not a proverb can be argued (at times without certainty), the same can not be said about a literary device. For example, according to Proverbs 1:20 (KJV) “Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets.” It is unarguable that “Wisdom” is being personified (when an abstract concept, such as a particular human behavior or a force of nature, is represented as a person).

In addition, it is important to remember that absolute truths can fit the proverb genre as suitably as general truths or maxims (i.e. an absolute truth can be old, popular and practical). In other words, there exist proverbs or wise sayings that illustrate unquestionable, absolute truth. For example, it is obvious that Proverbs 18:10(The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe) is unquestionably true. Another example, Proverbs 30:5-6 (Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar) is a poetic proverb called a Synthetic Tetrastich (four lined poetry containing truth or doctrine where the four lines have something in common, yet they are not antithetical or synonymous). Certainly,Proverbs 30:5-6 is an absolute truth and yet it is a proverb. Finally, the contents of the book of Proverbs are not exclusive to general (non-absolute) truths. The book of Proverbs also contains prophecy, instruction, poetry, and expostulations (this list is not exhaustive) that contain “precise grammatical” sentence structures.

Friend:
Proverbs 10:30 says, “The righteous will never be shaken, But the wicked will not dwell in the land.” It is obvious all righteous men falter at some point. It is a hyperbolic statement, not an absolute one.

James:
A couple of things, first of all, a hyperbolic statement can convey an absolute message, the two do not necessarily oppose one another despite your implication above. For example, if I said “I’ve heard that excuse a million times,” is quite obvious that I am exaggerating, still, the absolute truth I undoubtedly convey to the reader is that I have been exposed to that particular line of reasoning on many occasions. Secondly, Proverbs 10:30 (The righteous shall never be removed; But the wicked shall not dwell in the land) is an antithetical distich, two line poetry where the first line is the opposite of the second. As such is the case, the KVJ rendering appropriately contrasts “never be removed” with “not dwell.” Either way, there is no hyperbole apparent in verse thirty, in fact, there are at least two scripturally sound ways of looking at this verse. The first interpretation suggests that the righteous shall never be removed because he is built on the eternal foundation (cf. verse 25). The second interpretation reminds us that the truth here is eternal in its scope and God has planned another chapter where “We look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13 ).

Friend:
Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.” Although they are stated in a grammatically absolute fashion, they are intended to be hyperbolic and are making general statements. These are important points to understand when interpreting Proverbs.

James:
These statements are not really hyperbolic; the language used here does not intentionally exaggerate anything.  Rather, “barns …filled with plenty” and “vats…overflow[ing] with new wine” are simply idioms for prosperity.

Friend:
In light of this information, we were taught that when interpreting Proverbs, we should assume that a proverb is not an absolute truth, unless the principle is supported elsewhere in Scripture in a context that can be interpreted absolutely.

James:
This is not a wise technique. Your assumption is based on a logical fallacy of presumption called “hasty generalization.” This fallacy occurs when one draws a general rule (biblical proverbs are non absolute truth) from a single, perhaps atypical, case (which you have yet to irrefutably identify in scripture). You cannot make it a rule of thumb to assume that biblical proverbs are not absolute truth especially when it has been demonstrated otherwise. Keep in mind that the word for Proverb is taken from ‘mashal’ which is the Hebrew word ‘to rule’. A proverb is a doctrine which ‘rules’ and governs the life of a believer. The Hebrew משלים  ‘meshalim’, from משל  ‘mashal’, to rule or govern, denotes a collection of weighty, wise, and authoritative, sayings, that should govern a believer’s conduct whether civil or religious. It is God speaking truth to us through proverbs, which according to the Jews was the most sapient of writings (both canonical and apocryphal). Biblical proverbs certainly deserve more authority than any plain old proverb and thus they cannot really be compared when it comes to the feasibility of the message conveyed. Therefore (and contrary to your teaching) we should assume that a proverb is not absolute truth only when the language and context compels us to go in that direction. So far the only criteria that is consistently used by the proponents of the “Proverbs are not promises” movement is the feasibility of the proverb’s message, as if Oprah saying “The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom” is the same as God saying “The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom”. Truth from God is truth indeed and does not need to be redundant in order to further establish it truthfulness. Let the language God is using to communicate His truth guide your interpretation of it.

Friend:
Otherwise, we must interpret all Proverbs as absolute statements, since we have no other indicator as to which are meant as absolute statements and which are meant as general statements of wisdom. This alternative is a slippery slope that leads to very contrived interpretations of many of the proverbs.

James:
Interpretations are never contrived when you have on your “biblical eyeglasses.” God’s point of view is the only valid lens in which to view His truth.  For many of the proverbs in the book of Proverbs, more is meant than meets the eye. This is precisely why they are referred to as “dark sayings”, riddles for the natural man (1Co2:14) but meat for the spiritual. For example, in Proverbs 11:5 (The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness) it is easy for the lay reader to not understand that the “righteousness of perfect” refers to those who are perfect in Christ, complete in him, perfectly justified by his righteousness; and it is this righteousness that makes their way plain; it is the direct way, the highway, the pathway to eternal life and happiness. God himself expresses the purpose of Proverbs in the beginning of the first chapter, the design is to lead men “to know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding; to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; to give subtilty to the simple, and to the young man knowledge and discretion.

Friend:
Clearly, you cannot build an absolute doctrine off of a single proverb that has no direct support elsewhere in the Bible. You should read it for what it was intended to be by the author: a wise principle for successful living.

James:
I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “direct support”; my understanding is that a scripture passage is directly supported if the truth it conveys is evident in another passage. It is true that we should interpret scripture in light of other relevant passages in scripture, but at the same time God does not have to say it twice in order for me to believe it. Once is sufficient for me, even if it is from the book of Proverbs provided the interpretation of the truth conveyed is guided by the rules of language, context clues, and of course, other scripture. For instance, Paul inRomans 12:20 quotes directly fromProverbs 25:21. Proverbs 25:21 is not quoted directly anywhere else in scripture. Am I to believe that Paul cannot claim his message was absolute truth because he quoted from Proverbs and because there exists no “direct support” forProverbs 25:21 elsewhere in scripture?

Friend:
I believe that this is the only way to interpret Proverbs coherently in light of all of Scripture and the purpose and conventions of the Hebrew poetry used in Proverbs.

James:
I fear I do not share this belief with you. I cannot ignore literary devices or the lack thereof and simply relegate the entire book of Proverbs to non-absolute maxims simply because the chapter and verses happen to be found in the book of Proverbs. I have clearly demonstrated that there exist proverbs in the book of Proverbs that are definitely absolute. Your technique must answer for this.

Friend:
My Old Testament professor and I are not alone in this interpretation technique for Proverbs. In the book Reading the Bible For All Its Worth, Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart states, “Proverbs are not guarantees from God, but poetic guidelines for good behavior.” In the NET Bible, a new translation of the Bible from the current experts in Biblical languages, the translators made a translation note specifically forProverbs 22:6, which states, “The expected consequence of training is that it will last throughout life. The sages were confident of the character-forming quality of their training. However, proverbs are not universal truths. One can anticipate positive results from careful child-training-but there may be an occasional exception.” In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a theologian that would interpretProverbs 22:6 as an absolute statement.

James:
Oh really? Well how about Adam Clarke’s Commentary onProverbs 22:6, after reading his notes I think you’ll agree that he interpretsProverbs 22:6 as an absolute statement. For your convenience, I’ve included it below.

“Train up a child in the way he should go – The Hebrew of this clause is curious: חנך לנער על פי דרכו  chanoch lannaar al pi darco, ‘Initiate the child at the opening (the mouth) of his path.’ When he comes to the opening of the way of life, being able to walk alone, and to choose; stop at this entrance, and begin a series of instructions, how he is to conduct himself in every step he takes. Show him the duties, the dangers, and the blessings of the path; give him directions how to perform the duties, how to escape the dangers, and how to secure the blessings, which all lie before him. Fix these on his mind by daily inculcation, till their impression is become indelible; then lead him to practice by slow and almost imperceptible degrees, till each indelible impression becomes a strongly radicated habit. Beg incessantly the blessing of God on all this teaching and discipline; and then you have obeyed the injunction of the wisest of men. Nor is there any likelihood that such impressions shall ever be effaced, or that such habits shall ever be destroyed.

חנך  chanac, which we translate train up or initiate, signifies also dedicate; and is often used for the consecrating any thing, house, or person, to the service of God. Dedicate, therefore, in the first instance, your child to God; and nurse, teach, and discipline him as God’s child, whom he has intrusted to your care. These things observed, and illustrated by your own conduct, the child (you have God’s word for it) will never depart from the path of life.”

You should also check out Dr. Burton Coffman’s Commentary online. By the way, I’m sure this list is not exhaustive.

Friend:
There are no other verses in Scripture that directly support an absolute reading ofProverbs 22:6, so according to a consistent reading of Proverbs, verse 22:6 should not be interpreted absolutely.

James:
Oh really? Lets look at Genesis 18:19 (For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.) Now the text says that because God knew Abraham (“he not only prayed with his family, but he taught them, as a man of knowledge; he commanded them as a man in authority, and was prophet and king, as well as priest, in his own house”) and his resolve to command or “train” if you will, his children and his household after him (“to serve and worship the Lord: not his own children only, but his servants also, all in his family; lay his injunctions on them, use his authority with them, give them all needful instructions, and take such methods with them as would tend to propagate and preserve the true religion after his death”), God knew that they (his household) would keep (or not depart from) the way of the Lord (i.e. to do justice and judgment).

In Psalm 78:5-8 ([God] … appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded [the] fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments), the reason the “generation” would not “forget the works of God” but keep his commandments is because of the training (declared unto the children) and the fact that they would put their hope in God. The following verses are promises for those that put there hope in God (Psalm 91:14, Psalm 130:7, Psalm 146:5,Jeremiah 17:7-8). Certainly you can see that there is a direct correlation between the training and its results (not forgetting the works of God & keeping his commandments) that cannot be broken (John 10:35).

Friend:
Ephesians 6:4 restates the first half ofProverbs 22:6 as a command (train your child), but does not mention the second half (they will not depart). IfProverbs 22:6 is an absolute promise, why did Paul not mention it here?

James:
I’m afraid that you have committed a fallacy of prepositional logic (presumption) called “affirming the consequent.” In this logical fallacy the antecedent (Proverbs 22:6 is not an absolute promise) is presumed true by affirming the consequent (Paul only mentions the first half).

Your argument follows:

(1) IfProverbs 22:6is an absolute promise, then inEphesians 6:4, Paul would mention not only the first half but the second half as well.

(2) Paul inEphesians 6:4mentions the first half ofProverbs 22:6but not the second.

Therefore:

(3)Proverbs 22:6is not an absolute promise.

This argument is clearly fallacious; there is any number of reasons why Paul might not have mentioned the second half ofProverbs 22:6: e.g. it did not fit with the structure or purpose of his sentence (i.e. provoke not you children to wrath …), he thought it was obvious to his audience and thus unnecessary to state, the Holy Spirit advised him otherwise, etc. Paul not mentioning the second half ofProverbs 22:6does not show thatProverbs 22:6is not an absolute promise.

Friend:
If Proverbs 22:6 were interpreted absolutely, then it would contradict some of the other teachings of Proverbs. Proverbs 15:5 says, “A fool rejects his father’s discipline.” There are other Proverbs that teach that a child should not reject his father’s teachings and gives consequences of that rejection (Proverbs 4:1-6). If Proverbs 22:6 is interpreted absolutely, then a child cannot reject his father’s teaching if it is according to God’s way. Proverbs 15:5 would be an unnecessary teaching, as well as many other proverbs.

James:
Your logic is very confusing here and clarification is needed before I can respond intelligently. However, your assertion that an absolute interpretation ofProverbs 22:6 contradicts other teachings in Proverbs is without merit. There is no discord betweenProverbs 22:6 andProverbs 15:5. We are commanded to train up a child in the way he should go (God’s way). For parents that chose not to follow this command chances are good that they will end up with a “fool” for a child, a fool that will reject his father’s discipline and merit the consequences of that rejection. You have not demonstrated howProverbs 22:6 makesProverbs 15:5 unnecessary.

Friend:
The rest of Scripture clearly teaches that we are each responsible for our own actions before God. That is why there are so many proverbs that teach that a child should follow their father’s teaching. The Israelites suffered from both sides of the same coin: 1. they did not teach their children the way they should have, 2. when they were clearly taught, they rejected it. The Israelites were intended as a clear example of man’s sin nature, that they will still reject God even when taught the proper way by their parents, prophets, rabbis, and even God himself.

James:
God would be playing a cruel joke on mankind to give us children, then give us instruction such as Proverbs 22:6, and Deuteronomy 11:18-20 and then give no guarantee that guiding them to heaven was possible. In Ecclesiastes 12:13 (…Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man) we are told that our job is to fear God and keep his commandments. “There is finally nothing else left, that’s all there is. It isn’t this, that we may amass a fortune; it isn’t this, that we may attain unto fame; but it is this, that we walk in the precepts of God, that we fear God and keep His commandments. We are stewards of God’s gift, our children. That child is given into our trust because it isn’t ours; they are loaned to us. We are taking care of someone else’s children; remember that! We are taking care of God’s children and he has given us the formula for how to do it right.” – Rev. Henry Vander Kam (http://www.covenant-urc.org/sermons/hvpr22;6.html) Also, consider the following excerpt:

They are to be trained up in the way “they should go.” It cannot be the way they want to go. Each child defaults to foolishness and sin from our first parents. Without training against that default instinct, they will grow into committed and hardened sinners. No training is default training – you will have a fool for a child (29:15). The way they should go is the way of righteousness laid out plainly in Scripture (Deut 6:4-9; 29:29;Eph 6:4).

When they are “old,” they will follow the training. Here is a promise to be believed, but it also allows for possible difficulties during adolescence, or the teenage years, before they are “old.” Properly trained as a child, the teenage years do not have to be difficult. If trained consistently, they will revert to that training as an adult. Believe it! Count on it!

What is child training? It is a consistent example of righteous living that the child can first feel and then observe as they grow up. It is teaching the existence of God and the absolute authority of the Bible. It is enforcing God’s rules and parental authority strictly and severely. It is teaching by reproof and the rod. It is teaching by repetition throughout the day. It is using both positive and negative reinforcement for behavior. It is a very open relationship with children, allowing them to know you and learning them well.

What is not child training? Yelling is not child training. Sending them to a Christian school is only a part of child training. Browbeating or nagging them is not child training. Spurts of rules and punishment is not child training. “Time out” is not child training. Playing catch in the yard is not child training. Sesame Street is not child training. Putting the mother in charge is not child training. Rocking them tenderly is not child training. Giving them an allowance without hard labor is not child training.
– From http://www.letgodbetrue.com/proverbs/22_06.htm

Friend:
I just want to finish with an ironic note. Most likely Solomon was the author of Proverbs 22:6. If Proverbs 22:6 is an absolute precept, then he probably didn’t practice what he preached. Just take a look at his children. Under Rehoboam, Solomon’s son,Israel split. Rehoboam abandoned the Lord, which led to the conquering ofJerusalem and plundering of theTemple by the Egyptians. This is not intended as a defense of a non-absolute reading of Proverbs 22:6, just an interesting irony.

James:
Whether or notProverbs 22:6 is an absolute precept has nothing to do with whether he practiced what he preached. In other words, even itProverbs 22:6 were not absolute; Solomon still did not practice what he preached. The bible does not give us many details about how David trained his many children; he was a king who had many wives and many children. The bible speaks to his relationship with God, not his kids. I would venture to say that he had very little to do with his kids.

Besides polygamy being outside of the will of God, another negative side effect is the acquiring of more responsibility than was designed for us to handle as husbands and leaders of the family. Solomon couldn’t have had much time for his kids seeing how most of his time was spent acquiring riches and giving his evil wives the many things they asked for.

Friend:
Hope this helps clarify my position.

James:
And I hope I have clarified mine, or this leads to further fruitful discourse.