September 9, 2012
Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
Today and the next two Sundays, our Old Testament reading will be from the Book of Proverbs. This is a collection of wisdom sayings and poems compiled in the years after the return from the Babylonian exile. Many of the collected sayings were already ancient, and some are traceable to the wisdom literature of ancient Egypt. No doubt the Israelites admired Egyptian culture, but by the time the collection was made, the saying of Egyptian origin had become integral to the culture of Judeah. Proverbs has been described as a “a distillate of centuries of Israelite instruction in the home, court and school.”
It is odd that our bishops assigned as one reading three paragraphs each with its own independent point. Verses 1-7 are about the Christian duty not to show partiality to the privileged. In verses 8-13, the author takes a stand (with which I disagree) that failure in one point of the law amounts to failure in all, but then modifies this harsh position by saying that mercy trumps legal judgment. In verses 14-17, he holds, in disagreement with Paul, that faith alone will not bring salvation; it must be supported by good works.