Friday, August 25, 2006

Eating Exegesis

To what extent should we be bound by the restraints of 'original authorial intent' (i.e. what we think the original writer meant by/understood his words to mean) when we read the bible?

Proverbs 9:5 is an interesting case study for this sort of question. Lady Wisdom is speaking and invites the simple to her banquet where they will find life. The point is obvious, listening to and following wisdom's teachings means receiving life. However, Lady Wisdom chooses a very particular combination of foods to describe her enticing life-giving banquet;

"Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed"

Using purely grammatical-historical exegesis we'd perhaps want to limit ourselves to saying that these would've been common fare at your average banquet, or perhaps maybe indicative of basic foodstuff, or something along those lines. We certainly would be very cautious about leaping from Proverbs 9:5 to the Lord's supper!

However, can the choice of specifically bread and wine be a coincidence? Can it have nothing to do with the following sentences we find elsewhere in scripture, on the lips of a man who describes himself as one greater than Solomon the author of Proverbs (Matthew 12:42)? For example -

Joh 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."

Joh 6:53 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."

Luk 22:19-20 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood."

This is made even more interesting

a. When we consider the importance of Jesus' words in giving life in John 6 (verse 63) - just as it is wisdom's words/teachings which are spoken of metaphorically as bread and wine

b. When we think of how 1 Corinthians 1:18ff. says that Christ's sacrificial death is the wisdom of God (which death is identified with the supper of bread and wine in Luke 22 and the metaphor of eating and gaining life in John 6, both of which echo Proverbs 9)

How likely is it that the writer of Proverbs was thinking of all these things (especially the death of the Messiah and penal substitutionary atonement) when he wrote his poem in Proverbs 9?

How likely is it that God wasn't?

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