Train a child…

Douglas Stuart’s Old Testament Exegesis provides not only the many stages of exegesis, but practical examples in some of those stages as well. One such example I found interesting. In the section dealing with translations, Stuart uses Proverbs 22:6 as a good example of translating a text yourself in order to see what modern translators might have rendered in a way that has become well-known to the general Christian populace rather than what the text might actually read.

He states that the verse is usually translated this way: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (p. 41). Jews and Christians throughout history have certainly found this verse to be a veritable guarantee that if we train our children according to Scripture, they will be godly people throughout their lives. The truth, however, is that many Jewish and Christian families have raised their children according to Biblical truth only for one or more of those children either to never actually profess faith in Christ or make a “profession” and later abandon faith. For many, leaning heavily upon this rendering of Proverbs 22:6, perhaps begin to doubt the reliability of God’s word or try to find a way to reconcile this apparent discrepancy between promise and reality.

Stuart, as I mentioned, makes a very interesting suggestion. He suggests that several words/phrases as they rendered in the translation above could actually carry different meanings that would significantly alter that translation and provide another point of view that is viable.

Those phrases/words?

על־פי as “according to” instead of “should” and דרכו as “his way/own way” instead of “the way,” thus rendering the verse “Train a child according to his own way and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Stuart explains: “The real point of the verse, you conclude, is that a child who is allowed selfishly to do what the child wants when young will have the same selfish tendencies as an adult” (p. 41).

I have not spent much time in the Hebrew of Proverbs, so I won’t dispute this. It does, however, seem to be very plausible and sensible to translate the verse this way.

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

PS – As you probably know, the Hebrew is somewhat difficult to post, so sorry for the absence of a dagesh, vowel pointings, etc. (not that you Hebrew junkies need them anyway!).

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