Dear Dr. Blomberg,
In the Feb 26 issue of World Mag, you are quoted as saying the following:
Craig Blomberg, a Bible scholar Denver Seminary, tells of young people and new Christians asking "Why are the Proverbs written only to men?" because of all the language of "fathers," "sons," and that generic "he." Mr. Blomberg says, "It is still hard for them to get it out of their heads that the Bible isn't outdated or biased against women in ways that it never intended to be."
I honestly don't know what to make of this quote. For starters, the Book of Proverbs really was written to a male audience. The masculine viewpoint is pervasive. As Waltke points out in his definitive new commentary:
The book consistently evaluates women through a man's eyes and never a man through a woman's eyes. In his lectures the father addressed his son, never his daughter (1:8,10,15, passim), and in his extended discourses he warns him against an unfaithful wife (chs. 5 & 7) but never warns his daughter against an unfaithful husband. Woman wisdom addresses the men in the gate, not the women in the bazaar (8:4). The unfaithful wife and Woman Folly pitch the gullible male, but no equivalent male seduces the gullible girl. In his proverbs, Solomon continues to speak of the son (10:1; 19:27), not of the daughter; warns against the unfaithful woman (22:14); and commends marriage to a good wife (12:4; 18:22; 19:14) but not to a quarrelsome woman (19:13; 21:9,19; 25:24; 27:15). He never mentions a good or bad husband. The thirty sayings of the wise, Agur, and King Lemuel's mother also address the son (23:15; 30:1; 31:1) but not the daughter. The book closes with a portrait of an ideal wife without once mentioning an ideal husband for a woman.
Instead of mentioning his daughter, the father singles out his son because the male offspring is expected to assume the leadership in defining the family's identity and values (4:3-4; cf. Num 30). He also singles out the son to learn his catechism and not to stray because by nature the son is the more adventuresome of the sexes, tending to press beyond existing boundaries and to stray from the inherited tradition. By contrast, the daughter by nature tends to nurture the home and community at its very heart.
_The Book of Proverbs 1-15_ (Eerdmans 2004), 116-17.
1. Now, as Waltke goes on to mention, Proverbs also contains a lot of generic wisdom which is not gender-specific.
But that doesn't change the fact that, first of all, it was originally addressed to a male audience--to Jewish teenage boys. And, secondly, not only was it directed to them, but for them and about them.
Shouldn't we begin by telling young people and young coverts the truth? Do we begin with how they will react, or do we begin with the facts?
Surely one purpose of Bible scholarship is not merely to bring the Bible into our own century, but to bring us back to Bible times. What's the point of young folks going to seminary if they're preconceptions are never challenged?
Don't what a lot of young people need to get out of their heads the conceited, provincial, egotistical notion that the Bible was directly written to them, taking their cultural assumptions for granted and rubber-stamping popular prejudice? Does the problem lie with the bias of the Bible writer, or with the bias of the Bible reader?
It seems to me the very first thing a Christian convert needs to learn, to be a genuine convert, much less a life-long disciple, is to make some adjustment to the Bible, and not vice versa.
Maybe, just maybe, coming to Christ means leaving certain things behind, making choices, having to change one's mind on many things, change one's priorities, and make a corresponding behavioral change, having to submit to a higher wisdom and a higher authority than one's social circle.
Oh, and by the way, this isn't just a lesson for the young. It's no less a lesson for the old. The standard is the same whether you're 15, 50, or 90. The younger generation is taking its cue from the older generation. But don't Christian conversion and the walk of faith entail a moral, spiritual, and intellectual revolution?
2. Or would you say that the viewpoint of Proverbs is purely culture-bound? Well, as Samuel Johnson said, nature and passion never change.
A woman needs to know that Proverbs was written by, to, for the male members of the human race because a woman needs to know what makes a normal man tick, and she also needs to know the temptations to which human males are especially prone, viz., easy money, easy sex, violence, dare-devil stunts.
There is a natural tendency for each sex to take its own gender as the point of reference because that is what we know best. Hence, men--left to their own devices--are apt to reason with women as though they were men, while women--left to their own devices--are apt to reason with men as though they were women.
This ignorance of the other sex, combined with an unwillingness to adapt to sexual differences, is the source of friction between the sexes.
3. In addition, despite all of the coercive, heavy-handed, paternalistic efforts to impose a unisex ethic on the general culture by the state, the media, and academia, men still go into competitive, gadget-oriented, action-oriented or cerebral fields in disproportionate numbers while women still go into people-oriented fields in disproportionate numbers. You can you nothing to change human nature; you can only direct it or misdirect.
4. A propos (3), despite all of the feminist rhetoric and brainwashing about women's lib, godless women are not more emancipated than godly women.
To the contrary, if you look at the way ungodly girls and godless grown women behave today, they are more boy-crazy and man-centered than ever before. They do anything to please and impress the guy. If acting mock-macho--smoking, drinking, swaggering and swearing like a drill sergeant is the ticket to his heart, that's what they'll go for. But if dressing up like a streetwalker and undergoing plastic surgery is the ticket to his heart, then that's what they'll go for.
A lot of them are both mannish and sluttish at the same time. This is the MTV finishing school of manners. The co-ed military is a perfect, and perfectly dreadful, example of how the more things change the more they stay the same. Aircraft carriers become floating brothels--literally! I've ready about this.
Girls will literally starve themselves to look like a sexy fashion-model--although men prefer curves to straight lines. Contrariwise, have you ever known an anorexic man?
So the man is still the mover and shaker. They take their cue from the boyfriend. He's the spark plug who makes things happen. They are the followers. Sin is a travesty of godly submission. Sin is slavery.
In the meantime, the boys are the way boys have always been--and bad boys are the way bad boys have always been. Girls are boy-crazy in a way that boys are not girl-crazy. They have a girlfriend, but they also have a life outside the girlfriend--a job, a sport, the bar, &c. Girls go see boy bands, where they scream and faint. The reverse does not occur. In fact, I read a review of a Britney Spears concert, written by a woman, in which all of the concertgoers were young girls along with their mothers. The young girls were prancing around just like Britney, emulating her every lascivious dance-step.
For several years I used to take my mother to a beauty school. After she moved, I took her to another beauty school. In both cases, 99 out of 100 students were girls. Every girl had her own station. Every station was a shrine the boyfriend, plastered with his photos.
Now, I've been in enough locker rooms to notice that a lot of guys also have pictures of women on display. However, the females on view don't look much like the average schoolgirl--unless things have changed a whole lot since my high schools days. Rather, they present a decidedly more--how shall I say?--professional aspect.
Indeed, it's proverbial (pardon the pun) that certain girls are drawn, moth-like, to meteoric losers--to risky, frisky bad boys. I used to see this doing jail ministry. As I came and went from the jail, you'd see these ditzy, addlebrained girls outside flashing to their incarcerated boyfriends four floors above.
If boys are crooked, girls will contort to conform; if boys are on the straight-and-narrow, girls will walk a straight line.
That's why Proverbs takes the teenage boy as its target audience. The teenage boy is the linchpin. If he grows up into a God-fearing man, everything else falls into place, like marching in file. But if he grows up crooked, everything else goes a kilter.
Men need women to be women, and women need men to be men. We need each other, not for what we are, but for what we are not. There are some great men and women in the Bible, as well as some great men and women in church history. Let men learn to be better men, and women to be better women.