n HTS : Theological Studies - Metaphorical and literal readings of aphorisms in the Book of Proverbs

Volume 62, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0259-9422
  • E-ISSN: 2072-8050



Starting with a recently proposed thesis that the key to recognizing the coherence of Proverbs' discourse of wealth and poverty should be seen in an appreciation of the text's figurative interpretive possibilities, it is here argued that criticism of an "overly literal" interpretation of the Book of Proverbs is not well served by an "overly figurative" reading. A detailed analysis of the book's proemium is offered to substantiate the argument that even as hermeneutical key to the anthology as a whole, it does not warrant a tendency to the figurative reading of aphorisms. It is further contended by means of illustrations from aphorisms within the poems and independent sayings that difficulties arise when such a reading is attempted on any appreciable scale. As a corollary, illustrations of the many instances where literal readings are necessary, so that such an overriding hermeneutical perspective cannot be convincing. Interpreting a metaphor is one thing, reading metaphorically is another, notably a creative act independent of whether its "correctness" can be demonstrated by arguments from the redactional frame or the possible relationship of the collected aphorisms to folk sayings.

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