Sunday, 7 November 2010

Peter J. Leithart on the Dramatic Structure of Proverbs

Peter J. Leithart, ‘The Dramatic Structure of Proverbs’, Biblical Horizons 43 (1992).

Here’s a brief article and an interesting suggestion from Peter Leithart, which he himself describes as ‘rather whimsical’.

He points out the significance of taking account of the beginning and end of biblical books when gathering clues about their structure.

Applied to Proverbs, we note that the first nine chapters are ‘full of references to two women who compete for the prince’s attention and affection... Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly’, with the father encouraging him to pursue the former and warning him about the dangers of falling for the latter.

So, says Leithart:

‘The dramatic premise of the book of Proverbs is this: A Prince must determine whether Lady Wisdom or Dame Folly will be his princess. The dramatic question, then, is: Whom will he choose?’

The answer, of course, is given in the final chapter, celebrating the excellent wife.

‘In the drama of Proverbs, the excellent wife is Lady Wisdom from the earlier chapters. Her husband, the Prince, now sits in the gates of the city. The prince has successfully resisted the seductions of the adulteress, Folly. He has chosen well. Together, the Prince and his bride form the royal household.’

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