On the Social Role of Biblical Interpretation: The Case of Proverbs 22:6

Alan Cooper

in With Reverence for the Word

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780195137279
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849482 | DOI:
On the Social Role of Biblical Interpretation: The Case of Proverbs 22:6

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The Hebrew text of Proverbs 22:6 has been interpreted in the following manner: “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray”. The twin pillars of Jewish pedagogy are habituation and discipline: the inculcation of right thinking and behavior, and the chastisement of those who stray from them. Those halakhic prescriptions constitute a “pedagogical duty” imposed on the parents of young children. This chapter uses the interpretation of Proverbs 22:6 as a lens through which to view traditional Jewish attitudes about children and early childhood education. It cites commentaries that give clear examples of the intimate relationship between Jewish reading and Jewish living, and vivid demonstrations of the social and cultural relevance of biblical interpretation. Two distinct attitudes have emerged, traceable to the 9th-century Midrash on Proverbs and the 10th-century translation and commentary of Saadia Gaon—and ultimately to Aristotle's Ethics. The gist of the verse is an obvious principle: there is nothing more fundamental to the perpetuation of Judaism than the education of children.

Keywords: Proverbs 22:6; biblical interpretation; children; parents; early childhood education; commentaries; Midrash; Saadia Gaon; Judaism; discipline

Chapter.  8148 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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