When the Bible Gets it Wrong (Article #2)

Of the many books that have been written and put under the test, none has undergone as much scrutiny as the Bible. For us, who believe strongly in the Bible, this shouldn’t at all concern us. If we believe it to be the truth then this should be a joy for us.

What should, however, raise an alarm is how infrequently we ourselves put the Bible to the test. We won’t find problems in it but, rather, in the way we like to explain things for ourselves.

There is a statement that Solomon makes which seems to cause trouble for some parents. The verse I’m talking about is

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

– Proverbs 22:6 NASB

Has there ever been a child trained up in the right way who has then departed from it? The examples are in the plentiful, right?

What, though, was the explanation or, rather, the assumption made for such cases? We conclude that children who lead a debauched and immoral lifestyle can only be the result of bad parenting. Solomon’s words, as we see them, only seem to reinforce that; but, is that really what is being said? Is Solomon saying that bad children always mean bad parents?

One explanation that some people give is that the Proverbs are not to be taken as strict rules. In other words, there are always extreme cases which a proverb does not cover and that may very well be the case. However, I’d like to posit a different view. 

A reading of the Arabic translation, or even the original Hebrew, seems to hint at something else.

Now, for those who only speak English, this may be a little complicated but I’ll try my best to simplify it.

In many languages of the world, including Hebrew and Arabic but excluding English, nouns are given a gender. Similar to how often the personification of a storm takes on a male character or lust takes on the form of a female in English literature, other languages have strict rules as to what gender each noun is; whether masculine or feminine.

When it comes to this verse, the Hebrew and Arabic write this verse in the following way,

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from him.

There are two male subjects in the verse. For those who speak Hebrew or Arabic, we know that the road is a masculine noun. So, when it says he and him, it can be speaking about the child or the road.

In other words, the verse could very well be saying, if you train up a child in the right way then when he is old, even if the child has walked away from the road, which often does happen, the road will be a constant reminder and will not leave him alone.

This isn’t to say that bad parenting does not exist, simply to take care not to use this verse as proof that rebellious children are always the product of bad parenting.

So, parents, raise your children right. Pray for them, care for them and discipline them as the Bible teaches. If they veer from the path you’ve tried to set them on, don’t waste time in seeing where you went wrong; focus more on praying that the road you set them on never ever departs from them.

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