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Friday, August 29, 2008

From the beginning

I am working on something that has turned out to be trickier that I had thought. What is the approximate meaning of Proverbs 8:22-23 on Wisdom. This is not unrelated to my recent post on Gen. 1:1.
The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way,
before his works of old.
I was set up from everlasting,
from the beginning, or ever the earth was. KJV, JPS

The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works,
before his deeds of old;
I was appointed from eternity,
from the beginning, before the world began. NIV

The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works,
before his deeds of old;
I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be. TNIV

"The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth. ESV

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth. RSV, NRSV

יְהוָה--קָנָנִי רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ:

קֶדֶם מִפְעָלָיו מֵאָז

מֵעוֹלָם נִסַּכְתִּי מֵרֹאשׁ

מִקַּדְמֵי-אָרֶץ.


I have spent considerable time meditating on this text, on the way the English translations do or do not reflect the structure of the Hebrew. Fortunately I can offer the excellent translation of Azzan Yadin in Scripture as Logos page 163,
YHWH created me at the beginning of his course,
As the first of His works of old.
In the distant past was I fashioned,
At the beginning, at the origin of earth....
He comments on the passage from Proverbs 8:22-36,
Wisdom is a divine being that functions as an intermediary that comes to instruct humanity. ... Verses 25-31 [23-29] describe Wisdom's role as the primordial consort of Yahweh and witness to creation.
Yadin later takes up the Christos didaskalos tradition, Christ as teacher. What I particularly like about Yadin's translation is the way he makes the repetition of "beginning" clear in the English and he keeps the literal sense of derek - "way" or "course." However, there are intense theological differences in the different versions, especially if a Christological intepretation is in view. Any thoughts?

4 Comments:

At Fri Aug 29, 06:36:00 PM, Blogger Bob MacDonald said...

Many thoughts. I have not looked at this but I am immediately struck by the first word, reflecting the first word of Genesis. The RSH is repeated, as is QDM. I would almost be tempted to keep the got to agree with Eve's getting a child from the Lord.

יְהוָה begat me, the head of his way, before his works of that time. From everlasting I was anointed proceeding out of the head, before the earth was.

Lots of theology in prepositions! The head of the letters is not in the first word of the Bible. The middle (mem) of the letters plays a big role in this verse. When I come to mem in Sunday school, I think I will choose this verse.

 
At Fri Aug 29, 08:11:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Wow Bob, I love it. I especially noticed the dislocation of "beginning" in the RSV, NRSV, and ESV.

 
At Thu Sep 04, 04:53:00 PM, Blogger Barry P said...

I know some like to see Christ in this passage, however that is a stretch.

I view this as a simple anthropomorphism of Wisdom.

Garrett of Southern Baptist Seminary has one of the best explanations I have found so far.

"The meaning of קָנָנִי here is debated. It could mean “acquired”; but, as McKane (Proverbs, 352) points out, this meaning is not appropriate here. Other possible meanings are “create” and “procreate”; Ugaritic usage and the present context (vv. 24–25) support the latter. Even if “procreate” is the meaning, however, this does not establish that a real hypostasis of Wisdom is meant. The “birth” of Wisdom is metaphorical and part of a poetic personification. Cf. also R. Murphy, “Wisdom and Creation,” JBL 104 (1985): 3–11."

Garrett, D. A. (2001, c1993). Vol. 14: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of songs (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

 
At Sun Sep 07, 12:40:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks, Barry.

 

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