Cover image for Toward an Interpretation of the Book of Proverbs: Selfishness and Secularity Reconsidered By Zoltán S. Schwáb

Toward an Interpretation of the Book of Proverbs

Selfishness and Secularity Reconsidered

Zoltán S. Schwáb

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Journal of Theological Interpretation Supplements

Toward an Interpretation of the Book of Proverbs

Selfishness and Secularity Reconsidered

Zoltán S. Schwáb

Major religious themes of the Bible, such as election and covenant, are not mentioned in the book of Proverbs. Furthermore, self-interest underlies its motivational system (“you shall behave well, because it will be good for you”). These “selfish” and “secular” features have posed serious ethical and theological challenges for some interpreters, while others have claimed that their presence is only in the eyes of the beholder.

 

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  • Table of Contents
Major religious themes of the Bible, such as election and covenant, are not mentioned in the book of Proverbs. Furthermore, self-interest underlies its motivational system (“you shall behave well, because it will be good for you”). These “selfish” and “secular” features have posed serious ethical and theological challenges for some interpreters, while others have claimed that their presence is only in the eyes of the beholder.

After a thorough investigation of the history of Proverbs’ interpretation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Zoltán Schwáb argues that its self-interested and secular nature should not be simply affirmed or dismissed. The question is not whether Proverbs is selfish and secular but in what ways it is selfish and secular and within what conceptual framework one is supposed to interpret these characteristics. In order to construct a proper framework, Schwáb uses such diverse sources as Thomas Aquinas’ theological ethics, modern secularization theories, ancient Near Eastern temple ideology, and the theological tradition of God’s incomprehensibility. The result is a reading that simultaneously reflects on the ancient context of the text and the concerns of its readers in a secular world.

Part 1. Theological Interpretation of Proverbs in the Last Two Hundred Years

1. Theological Interpretation of Proverbs between 1800 and 1930

2. Theological Interpretation of Proverbs between 1930 and Today

3. Finding a Way Forward

Part 2. Methodology: A Canonical Approach

4. A Canonical Approach

5. A Canonical Approach and Proverbs

Part 3. Does Proverbs Promote Sel shness?

6. A Call for a Thomistic Reading

7. Is Proverbs More Self-Interested than the Rest of the Bible?

8. Is Proverbs Solely about Material Success?

9. Is God the Highest End in Proverbs?

Part 4. ʻThe Secular’ in Proverbs

10. The Meaning of ‘Secular’

11. Secular (Universal) vs. National (Particular) I

12. Secular (Universal) vs. National (Particular) II

13. A ‘Post-Secular’ Interpretation of Proverbs: The Hidden God

14. Conclusions

Bibliography

Index of Subjects and Authors

Index of Scripture

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