Wisdom As Divine Discourse: An Exegetical-Theological Study of the Book of Proverbs
Chan, Aaron Heng Yeong
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While scholars typically conceive of wisdom in Proverbs as lacking in appeal to divine revelation, this dissertation argues that the book of Proverbs intends for readers to take wisdom’s instructions as a divine discourse in a way analogous to the Torah. My thesis is that divine concursus undergirds the cooperation of human and divine agency such that the wisdom of Proverbs is taken as divine discourse just as the Torah is divine discourse. This dissertation addresses two interrelated issues in the modern study of the book of Proverbs: (1) the dichotomy of divine and human agency and (2) whether one can take Proverbs as divine discourse given the book’s deficit in appeal to divine revelation. That the two problems are related can be stated like this: If God does not act, then he does not speak. Hence, it is no coincidence that wisdom’s anthropocentricism goes hand in hand with the assertion that wisdom is something other than divine revelation. This dissertation treats these two issues via an exegetical-theological exploration of how divine and human agency cooperate in the book of Proverbs. In contrast to the dichotomization of divine and human agency in Proverbs, I argue that the two agencies are fundamentally compatible based on a non-contrastive view of divine transcendence. This view entails arguing for the preeminence and pervasiveness of divine agency in Proverbs against the scholarly tendency to make human agency the starting point for reflecting on the thought-world of Old Testament wisdom. Hence, this dissertation contends that divine concurrentism better accounts for the juxtaposition of anthropocentrism and theocentrism in the book of Proverbs. This dissertation further argues that the lack of appeal to divine revelation in Proverbs does not pose a problem for taking Proverbs to be a divine discourse. Instead of thinking of Proverbs’ canonical and divine status from the vantage points of revelation or inspiration, I argue that the Deuteronomic Torah presents a biblical paradigm for taking a human discourse as a divine discourse. From Deuteronomy’s theology of communication, I contend that Proverbs intends wisdom to function as a divine discourse. Hence, whether at the level of Proverbs’ thought-world or at the level of its discourse, we can find a concurrence of divine and human agency that accomplishes that which pleases YHWH (Isa 55:11).