Constructing the Cosmos, the Woman, the Glory: Proverbs 31 Reconsidered

Is there a Christian reading of Proverbs, and of Proverbs 31 in particular, that is both determined by Christ and also materially relevant, even constitutive, for personal, familial, communal, and ecclesial wisdom? Is that reading coherent with Scripture as a whole in such a way as to be prompted by it?The Book of Proverbs has notoriously suffered at the hands of moralists who reduce its message to a range of maxims printable on your favorite mug or t-shirt or framed and placed on your sitting room wall. But it has also arguably suffered at the hands of those who, in reaction to that moralistic misuse of the Book, reduce its testimony to a Christ who fulfills Proverbs by, as it were, doing away with it. This not only blunts the force of the Proverbs, refusing its continuing witness to Christ and to our life in him; it also evidences confusion on what typology, figuration, promise/fulfillment, and biblical theology, etc. really mean. It ends up emptying the proper and important morals with the moralism. It mutes the ethical content of Christ’s work and world—to which we belong by faith—in the quest to be, we think, “Christological” readers rather than legalistic ones.Is there a better way? And how might that better way disclose rich features of that most abused of Proverbs passages—Proverbs 31—in a time when we need to hear again, or perhaps for the first time, how Proverbs, and all of Scripture, speaks about gender, domestic relations, ordered reality, and the like?

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