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Friday, July 13, 2007

Empty Nest

In teaching Proverbs today, Dr. Waltke explained that whenever a son was mentioned in the text, it spoke equally to a daughter. The TNIV keeps the translation of the singular "son", but translates the plural as "children". His reasoning is this. Throughout the book of Proverbs, 14 times, the teaching is referred to as the teaching of both the father and the mother. Therefore, the daughters must be equally taught whatever is in this book. Dr. Waltke believes that the book of Proverbs should be a primary teaching text for children, girls and boys alike.

This is the pattern of translation.

Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children:
for blessed are they that keep my ways. KJV

And now, O sons, listen to me:
blessed are those who keep my ways. ESV

Now then, my children, listen to me;
blessed are those who keep my ways. TNIV

Dr. Waltke also supports the translation "parents" and "ancestors" instead of "fathers" for this same reason. It is important to realize that Hebrew does not have a gender inclusive term as English does, and the use of the masculine in Hebrew does not imply the exclusion of the feminine. Certainly mothers are considered to be primary teachers of the law alongside the fathers. For this reason, Dr. Waltke supports the mother staying at home with the children. (I have no opinion on this - sometimes she can and sometimes she can't.)

Dr. Waltke also mentioned that the last chapter of Proverbs had been composed by a woman, the mother of Lemuel, and taught to her son. She would be one of the women authors of the Hebrew scriptures.

I have read many posts and articles by complementarians which promote bringing up children in a certain way that would ensure their appropriate gender behaviour. One post mentioned buying a cooking set for girls and encouraging the boys to play with "army men". It brings tears to my eyes to think of children being brought up this way.

I want to write a bit about my own son, my dear son, who I lost a year ago. Last July he packed a light backpack and waved good-bye and left for a month in Europe. He sent a short email a few weeks later that he was now a member of the French Foreign Legion. He as a new identity, a new language and country, and, is now, as far as I know - somewhere in Africa. I hope to see him again in a few years.

How did I bring this boy up? Just before he was born I took my grade 8 piano exam so I played through 9 months of pregnancy. He has always loved classical music. When my daughter was born I bought him a baby doll with pj's and blanket and little bed. He would be playing with his blocks and get up once in a while and say "Baby cwying", run over to the doll, hug it and put it back to bed. I set up a chair in front of the stove for him when he was 4 years old, so he could make scrambled eggs himself. I taught him how to sew along with his sister. He embroidered a flower.

I read to them both all the classics, We bought them both duplo and brio, so they could play together, girl and boy, they made villages and trains tracks and acted out Heidi in the mountains. They both camped and ran and swam and played soccer. He started to play rugby, graduated from high school and went to work in the oil fields. I know he wants to go to university but he chose for the next 5 years to live in another place.

Somewhere in Africa there is a soldier who loves babies, knows how to cook and sew and play violin, who loves all the stories ever read to him. Somewhere in Africa is a soldier who plans to be a medic like his great grandfather, who, having fought in WWI, volunteered in WWII - overage - as an assistant chaplain so he could be there beside the young soldiers to hold them when they died. He never came home, I pray his great grandson will. The caregivers of the military are little spoken of in the annals of war.


At Sat Jul 14, 04:25:00 AM, Blogger Bob MacDonald said...

Very real, very moving

At Sat Jul 14, 05:16:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, thanks for sharing about this. I feel your pain, but you should also be proud of your son who is finding his way as an adult.

But I am surprised at Waltke's position, even as a complementarian, in holding that in Proverbs "whenever a son was mentioned in the text, it spoke equally to a daughter." This can hardly apply in chapter 5 which is about a man keeping himself from adulterous women - or does Waltke hold that the adulterous woman can also be a man?

Anyway, TNIV has "my sons" not just in 5:7 and 7:24 in warnings against adultery, but also in 4:1 which is about wisdom in general, and "children" I think only in 8:32. So I am not sure you are accurately characterising TNIV here. NRSV seems to use "child" and "children" always, which is at least consistent.

At Sat Jul 14, 07:26:00 AM, Blogger Iris Godfrey said...

Thank you Suzanne, for sharing your heart. I will pray for him and for you.

I enjoy your posts. I do not comment often, because I am not a linguist. However, I love the discoveries I find here.

At Sat Jul 14, 08:21:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


It was a very quick overview of Proverbs because this was the whole OT in two weeks.

However, Waltke's position was that the promiscuous woman, in general, is an allegory for sexual sin, she was not a real woman. And woman wisdom is an allegory for godly wisdom. Therefore, it really is expected to be applied to both men and women.

However, as I say, he didn't go into details. But, I should mention that the TNIV does not necessarily represent Waltke's preference every time. There is a big difference between his Proverbs commentary and the TNIV translation.

I believe I represented what he said in class properly but naturally he didn't discuss every instance. I would have to get out his Proverbs 1 - 15 to check this. Thanks for pointing it out.

At Sat Jul 14, 09:02:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Well, maybe what you said about TNIV was Waltke's preference rather than the final form. Or maybe he was really only talking about 8:32, the verse you quoted. Strangely, KJV is more gender generic than TNIV here, with "children" in 4:1, 5:7, 7:24 and 8:32. In fact the rule you quoted "the translation of the singular "son", but translates the plural as "children"" applies to KJV but not to TNIV.

At Sat Jul 14, 07:39:00 PM, Blogger Psalmist said...

Bless you, Suzanne! I pray that you will soon have contact with your son and that he will be safe in the work he does.

So much loss...

I once read that Catherine of Aragon was advised, when she asked how to educate her only daughter (the future Mary I of England), to offer the child all the learning possible and to nurture especially those areas in which she showed a particular interest or aptitude. It sounds to me as though you offered your son a similarly wide variety of learning experiences, allowing him the freedom to explore them all and to excel according to his gifts. I think parents who do this give their children a sadly rare and precious gift.

Thank you very much for this post.

At Sun Jul 15, 02:28:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Psalmist, your example is a strange one. I trust you are not suggesting that Suzanne's way of educating her children is likely to result in them being bloody tyrants and persecutors of the church, as Catherine's child became!


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