Friday 19 June 2009

David K. Naugle on Solomon the Scholar

David K. Naugle, ‘Solomon the Scholar’ (DBU Scholars’ Luncheon, 7 April 2009).

In an address to Christian scholars, Naugle begins with the question, What would you ask the Lord to do for you if you could ask Him for anything at all?

He takes his cue from 1 Kings 4:29-34…

29. Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore. 30. Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31. For he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations. 32. He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. 33. He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall; he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish. 34. Men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.

He highlights what he sees as several pertinent features…

1. Solomon the scholar’s wisdom, discernment and breadth of mind/heart were God-given gifts (1 Kings 4:29)
Not just the accumulation of data, but the ‘capacity to understand all aspects of life in its mysterious, depth dimension from God’s point of view’ (4). Our intellectual capacities are gifts of God’s grace, and we must be faithful stewards of them, work hard to develop them, as well as recognise that God gifts others, believers or not.

2. Solomon the scholar’s superior intellect and wisdom (1 Kings 4:30-31)
The leading scholar of the day ‘was a religious man, a Jew, an Israelite, a man of God’ (5), whose wisdom was greater than the leading lights and centres of learning of his era.

3. Solomon the scholar’s encyclopedic knowledge and his work as a writer and composer (1 Kings 4:32-33)
Solomon committed his research, knowledge and wisdom to writing – in wise sayings and songs. In addition to dendrology and botany, the second part of verse 33 indicates he was a student of the four principal families of the animal kingdom. According to Naugle all this presupposes ‘the original and ongoing importance of the cultural mandate that God gave to the human race…, the continuation of the original Adamic vocation of naming and explaining the animal kingdom…, the communal nature and institutional character of Solomon’s scholarship, for it is highly unlikely he undertook this kind of vast research alone…’, and that the wisdom had shalom as its goal (as 4:25 indicates, with everyone living in safety, ‘every man under his vine and fig tree’) (8-9).

4. Solomon the scholar’s fame and appeal (1 Kings 4:31b, 34)
Internationally famous for his knowledge and wisdom.

5. Someone greater than Solomon the scholar has come (Matthew 12:42)
Even in his great wisdom, discernment and breadth of mind and heart, Solomon is ‘a type, a foreshadowing, an anticipation of Jesus Christ’ (10-11), and ‘He is the One we serve as Christian scholars through our contributions to the broader arena of knowledge’ (12).

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