Sloppy Liberal Exegesis

I’ve just read this on page 23 of the SPCK published “An Acceptable Sacrifice; Sexuality and the Church“:

Many aspects of the sexual morality of the Old Testament are either unfamiliar or uncomfortable for modern readers … There is no prohibition of prostitution, and indeed Proverbs 6:26 seems to recommend it as an alternative to adultery (“a harlot may be hired for a loaf of bread, but an adulteress stalks a man’s very life).

Yes, words fail me as well. More shocking is that this piece is written by Andrew Mein who is the Old Testament Tutor at Westcott House, Cambridge. If Andrew had cared to quote the verse before then he would have seen that the context was entirely different. Here’s the verses from the ESV:

Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life.

See the point being made? You might think that a quick fling is cheap, but in actuality in ensnares you. I can’t read this section by Mein but in any other light as someone who wants to deliberately cast doubt on the reliability of Scripture. What say you?

5 Comments on “Sloppy Liberal Exegesis

  1. I’m not sure I see a big problem. Maybe I missed something, but at first reading the writer (of Proverbs) appears to be saying that a fling with a prostitute is cheap, where a fling with a married woman is costly.

    “You might think that a quick fling is cheap” should be “You might think that a quick fling with a married woman is cheap”.

    While Mein’s point appears overstated (“recommends”?), he seems to be essentially right that the writer is portraying a fling with an adultress as a far greater evil than a fling with a prostitute.

  2. I too have just obtained this book, and though I haven’t yet done more than glance through it I too was less than impressed. My “favourite” bit that I have noticed so far is in chapter 3, a quotation from 2 Corinthians used to emphasise the point that we should focus on Christ when reading the old testament. “But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them.”

    That’s right, he’s put together the first half of 2 Cor 3:15 with the last half of 4:4, needless to say completely missing the focus of what the passage from chapter 4 is all about (you could make a argument that 2 Cor 3:15 is discussing this issue). I don’t disagree with his overall point in this particular instance (something rare from what I’ve read in the book), but there are far better ways to show it than butchering scripture and bringing together two verses addressing two different subjects. It is simply a lousy way to read the Bible.

  3. Yah, it’s disingenuous to say that Proverbs “seems to recommend’ anything of the sort.

    Unless you’re taking him out of context, and what he’s trying to say is that people want the bible to be a rule book, and when it gives them hebrew alliteration and poetic repetition instead, it confuses the hell out of them. ;-)

    But I doubt it…

  4. Andrew Mein is one of my OT lecturers, and it needs to be said that he is a cracking teacher. One of the reasons he teaches OT stuff so well is that he is genuinely objective, he tells us what we can know about the text, what we can’t.

    I haven’t read this book that you mention, but I agree he is being a bit hyperbolic in his description of this passage. By matter of interest why do you think there is no laws against prostitution? Or is that covered by covetting and adultery?

  5. Yes, I agree with your previous commenters that Mein’s “seems to recommend” is overstating things.

    But like Dave, I have to question your own take on the verse. If we’re talking about avoiding sloppiness in exegesis, then for my money you’ll need to do more to justify your conflation of the “prostitute” with the “married woman” in Proverbs 6.26.

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