This year, I've been reading the books of the Bible that I've never read in whole before. That included the minor prophets earlier this year.

Just this month I've read Proverbs in its entirety for the first time. Here is the passage that stood out for me (from the Oxford study edition of the Revised English Bible):
Two things I ask of you --
do not withhold them in my lifetime;
put fraud and lying far from me; give me neither poverty nor wealth,
but provide me with the food I need,
for if I have too much I shall deny you and say, "Who is the Lord?"
and if I am reduced to poverty I shall steal
and besmirch the name of my God.

-- Proverbs 30:7-9

Could this be an echo?

Give us this day our daily bread.
-- Matthew, Chapter 6:11

1 comment:

Nancy A said...

I had a literalist-type Christian friend (who died) who used to tell me that Jesus said nothing original. Everything he said had been said somewhere in the Old/Hebrew Testament. For this reason, the life and teachings of Christ were less important that the miracle of his death and resurrection.

Of course, I had to disagree. Sure, Jesus would have known the old scriptures. But his unique contribution was that he said not to make your religion a religion of rules. You need only one rule: measure everything against the law of compassion.

That was new. Love is higher than law. Difficulties are caused by the early church's editing of the gospel stories; but it appears that everything he taught was meant as examples or effects of this one law.

Proverbs is an interesting book because it's like a bunch of papers of collected quotes stapled together in no particular order. It puts me in mind of Pascal's Pensees.

Were these rules to live by prescribed by the ancients? Probably. Life was hard, so collected wisdom was valuable. But my friend took the proverbs as rules for living today, with just as much authority as (or perhaps more than) Jesus' teachings.

So, in some ways, yes, it's an echo in the sense that it repeats a core idea. But for Jesus, it was an example of how the life of love worked; in proverbs, it was a rule.