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A Theological Interpretation of the Book of Proverbs

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Disciplines
  • Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • Religious Science

Abstract

The dissertation seeks to offer a theological interpretation of Proverbs which simultaneously does justice to the results of historical and philological research; to the Christian theological tradition; and to the context of contemporary secular society. The opening chapter will investigate the history of Proverbs’ theological interpretation in the last two hundred years. For 19th century interpretation a major theological and ethical challenge was that Proverbs bases its motivational system on the reader’s self-interest. The same phenomenon has not been considered problematic in more recent scholarship because, it has been claimed, if Proverbs is understood in the context of ‘creation theology’ then this explains its apparent selfishness and also helps to clarify its relationship to other biblical texts. However, it will be argued that ‘creation theology’ in itself does not solve all theological problems in Proverbs’ interpretation. It will be also argued that Proverbs offers a plurality of themes among which creation is only one, and from which the interpreter can choose according to his or her interests and aims. The second chapter will describe the methodology of the dissertation. Most theological interpretations in the last two hundred years have reconstructed Proverbs’ theology in view to its historical setting. However, little attention has been paid to the hermeneutical questions concerning Proverbs’ recontextualisation and to the wider theological tradition of the religious communities that consider it as their Scripture. A canonical approach can incorporate these concerns, too. The third chapter will discuss the problem of self-interest. This will be investigated in the framework of Thomas Aquinas’s eudaemonistic theological ethics. The fourth chapter will discuss Proverb’s secular appearance. Besides sociological descriptions of the ‘secular,’ several strands of the wider Christian theological tradition will be utilized to handle this phenomenon theologically.

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