A Biblical Perspective on Spanking, Part 2

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A Biblical Perspective on Spanking, Part 2

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Father and son

Previously we examined Proverbs 13:24, a passage from which we understood three powerful principles: (1) proper discipline is associated with the use of the rod, (2) proper discipline is associated with love, and proper discipline is not described here in terms of abuse or causing harm, nor is it described as punishment.

While 13:24 is clear in regard to these principles, there are some important details that are not so easy to discern from that passage alone. Among them is the exact nature of the rod itself. Is the rod to be taken literally as referring to an implement for inflicting physical pain as a part of discipline, or is it instead a metaphor for general (non-physical) guidance and correction? Proverbs 22:15 is a helpful verse for helping us understand the meaning and application of the rod in Proverbs: “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” (NASB)

Before discussing the specifics of the verse there is some important hermeneutic (interpretive) groundwork that must be considered. On this and other challenging passages we often see two competing methods of interpretation employed. On the one hand, is the literal grammatical-historical method of interpretation. This approach is literal, in that it seeks to understand the natural or literal meaning. It is grammatical, in that it follows the rules of grammar of the language used. And it is historical, in that it recognizes the importance of historical context of the grammar and other aspects of the writing. The literal grammatical-historical approach seeks always to find the intended meaning by looking for the plain sense of a passage. This methodology recognizes there is figurative language used in the Bible, but waits for the text itself to announce when figures are being used.

On the other hand is allegorical interpretation or spiritualization. Allegorical interpretation often either seeks a deeper meaning or seeks to resolve perceived conflicts in the text by interpreting in a non-literal way. This approach is not as concerned with rules of grammar and context, but gives the interpreter instead more influence in determining the meaning.

In order to understand this (or any other) passage, it is important to first agree on a set of interpretive principles, otherwise we find ourselves speaking different languages (I say bad, but mean good; you say bad but mean bad—we won’t get very far without defining our terms). I find that most theological disagreements are rooted in interpretive method, and if we aren’t aware of our interpretive presuppositions and assumptions, then we are inviting irreconcilable differences.

So, in the spirit of transparency, I approach the text from a literal grammatical-historical method. I seek to understand the authors’ original meaning in the original languages and context, and then diligently apply what it says—as it says. And there is an important interpretive rule I adhere to: I may not assume a non-literal interpretation unless the literal is first ruled out by the immediate context of the text itself. Furthermore, I find, again, that most theological conflict is related directly to the application or non-application of this particular rule.

Proverbs 22:15 is a verse that, having various hermeneutic methods applied to it, has been made to say strikingly different things. Let’s begin to examine the verse itself:

Folly or foolishness (Heb., iuelet, feminine singular noun) is being bound (Heb., qasurah, verb passive participle) in the heart (Heb., beleb, preposition and noun) of a child (Heb., nayer, masculine singular noun), a rod (Heb., shebet, masculine singular noun) of discipline (Heb., musar, masculine singular noun) will cause it to be distant or far (Heb., yarechiyqenah, hiphil or causative verb, imperfect, third person singular feminine suffix) from him (Heb., mimenu, preposition with third person singular masculine suffix).

First, the reader will notice that there is an interesting admixture of feminine and masculine words. It should be noted that words often grammatically are either masculine or feminine, but that does not mean that they are limited to referencing only masculine or feminine. For example, the Hebrew word for folly is a feminine word, but that is no indication that foolishness itself is feminine. The Hebrew word for discipline is also a masculine word, but again—not implying only an application to males.

As the passage flows, we are told that the hearts of children brew foolishness. The Hebrew nayer (translated child in the NASB) is used of children of all ages in the Bible: Moses as an infant crying in the basket (Ex. 2:6), Samson as a growing boy (Judg. 13:24), and Abram’s “young men” who ate well (Gen 14:24). There are many, many other uses of this word (more than 250 in the OT), but these few I have mentioned illustrate the breadth of the term. It can reference a child anywhere from newborn to teenager.

The Greek Septuagint (LXX), an early 3rd—2nd century BC translation of the Hebrew Bible, translates the Hebrew nayer with the Greek neos. Though the Greek word has additional meanings, it usually references young men (teenagers). Interestingly, though, the Greek translation of nayer in Exodus 2:6 is paidion, and paiderion in Judges 13:24. The Greek translation implies that the term used in Proverbs 22:15 is one speaking of young men—teens, not infants or children. However, the passage was originally written in Hebrew, and nayer is not as limited as is the Greek paidion. In short, the Hebrew term is inclusive of a broad range of child from infancy to young adulthood.

Based on the employment of this term, it seems Solomon is telling us that foolishness knows no age limitations in the hearts of children. It is constantly—and naturally—being fomented in their hearts. Solomon identifies in other contexts the consequences of foolishness, and they are very unpleasant. He instructs here that this foolishness can be avoided.

The vehicle Solomon identifies is the rod of discipline. It is at this juncture we discover a hermeneutic challenge. The issue is just this simple: those who favor physical discipline view this reference as at least being partially literal—that the shebet is at least in part a literal shebet, whereas those who do not favor physical discipline suggest shebet is figurative—a metaphor for parental guidance in general or a metonym alluding to shepherding a young person.

But the only view with which we should be concerned is that of Solomon, as the author of the text. The term shebet is used eight times in Proverbs, though perhaps not all by Solomon. In addition to 22:15, the other uses are as follows:

10:13—On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found, But a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding.

13:24—He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.

22:8—He who sows iniquity will reap vanity, And the rod of his fury will perish.

23:13—Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die.

23:14—You shall strike him with the rod And rescue his soul from Sheol.

26:3—A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, And a rod for the back of fools.

29:15—The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.

Here is the question: What specifically in the contexts of these passages gives indication that the language is intended as non-literal?

How does one “strike” a person with a metaphorical rod? Why would a person be afraid of “striking” a person with a metaphorical rod for fear of killing him? (“Oh my goodness! I am afraid that if I give general parental structure and guidance—nonphysical, of course—that my child might just fall down dead. Oh My! I am not so sure I want to parent with a metaphorical rod…”) I don’t mean to be glib—of course this is a serious topic, and certainly no laughing matter. Especially in recent months attention has been drawn to child abuse cases in which parents who were claiming to discipline their children actually harmed them to the point of death. That is despicable child abuse. This is something that does not result in death. This is something that never harms a child. This is something that offers the child freedom from foolishness.

Especially in light of 23:13-14 (which I plan to examine in detail in a future installment), there is no textual basis to understand the meaning as non-literal. And if there is nothing in the text itself to suggest a non-literal meaning, then how would we justify a figurative interpretation? These are challenging issues, for sure.

Having introduced some of the hermeneutic underpinnings of this passage, I have only covered half of the verse. We still must consider the exact nature of the rod and its application, and we must observe the purpose for the rod—a purpose identified in the last phrase of 22:15. So, while it is tempting to outline some principles from the passage, we haven’t yet earned that right, because we haven’t yet finished assessing the passage. In the next installment, we will finish 22:15, consider some principles from this passage and introduce 23:13-14.

In the meantime, I ask every reader to diligently consider each passage and test his or her own hermeneutic assumptions. Those assumptions will have more to do with the conclusions we draw than we may realize. Are we open to what the Bible has to say, or are we so influenced by our own preferences that we will not listen? We all must ask these questions, and we all must be diligent in answering them.

[node:bio/christopher-cone body]

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Literal vs. other...

I'm for taking a text literally unless there is good reason to do otherwise. But I'd include a couple more things under "good reason" than just the immediate context. For one, the genre.
But it may be that I've been describing my view incorrectly. I've been saying for years that I believe the rod is a metaphor for real discipline (which involves pain) but that the metaphor does not exclude the literal referrant (if that's the right word).
It may be more accurate to say that the word itself is literal, but the application is quite broad.
But I'm not sure this works either.
I don't think the rod passages require that every parent use an actual stick--and most "pro-spanking" people I know don't believe that either. So does anyone really think the rod is "literal" and refers only to the use of a piece of wood on a backside? (Can't use a belt or a flexible piece of plastic?)

This would really not be consistent with the genre, in my opinion. Proverbs are extremely compact statements with very broad intent. And we classify them as poetry for a reason. I have to admit though, that at the moment I'm a little foggy on just where the meaning of the statement itself ends and the necessary implications (and then applications) begin.

But either way, I don't see how "it's a metaphor" really helps anybody's case against spanking. To me it argues for including it in the list of parental tools. (In other words, even if someone takes the view that there is no command to spank with a literal rod, the wisdom of the centuries on this point doesn't disappear... that wisdom being that there are times when some "swats" are necessary.)

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Quote: those who do not favor

Quote:
those who do not favor physical discipline suggest shebet is figurative

Quote:
there is no textual basis to understand the meaning as non-literal. And if there is nothing in the text itself to suggest a non-literal meaning, then how would we justify a figurative interpretation?

The non-spanking Christians I know do not necessarily believe that the shebet is figurative. There is room for literal interpretation while still not coming to the conclusion that spanking is what is being described in these verses.

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How?

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There is room for literal interpretation while still not coming to the conclusion that spanking is what is being described in these verses.

How does that work, exactly?
Seems like whatever is being described in the verses is being commended to us... so if the rod is literal, seems like use of it has to be literal.

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A literal interpretation

A literal interpretation involves hitting a young man on his back with a stick the size of your wrist.

The people I know who spank:

1. Stop using spankings at about the age the literal interpretation references
2. Do not hit the back, but instead hit the buttocks
3. Do not use a shebet-sized instrument, but instead use a hand or small implement like a wooden spoon

SPANKING, as understood by the western mind, is not what is literally described in the Proverbs.

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Mike Durning's sermon

Here's some of how Mike Durning http://www.mpbchurch.com/home/369/369/docs/Family%209.doc?sec_id=369 ]preached/researced this topic :

Quote:
In each of these verses [i.e., Prov 22:15, 23:13-14, 29:15 ], the Hebrew word that the King James Version translates as child is a word that should almost always be translated “youth”, with reference to young folks typically from ages 16-24, roughly. There are some exceptions, like when referring to “Jewish royalty” – people like Moses, Samson – the word can be applied to infants. But generally speaking, it applies to older teens and young adults. So, the majority of the verses that refer to the rod are with reference to ages far above small children. I’m not saying that’s always the case, but it’s a pattern that’s strong enough that it should give us pause.

In fact, the Jewish rabbis of ancient times frequently admonished people not to apply any verses about the rod to children before the age of 10.

By the way, that Hebrew word that means “young adult” crops up in a variety of Bible stories in the King James Version that you’ve heard told a little off. Remember the children who got attacked by bears when they mocked the prophet Elisha? Young adults. Elisha was being accosted by an angry mob of teens and young adults. Not teased by 9 year olds.

Here’s another thing you need to know. Some of the verses that involve “the rod” have been terribly misunderstood, I suspect.

Take Proverbs 23:13-14.
Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

I know of one preacher who preaches that if you are not beating your child until that child has bruises, you are not following the Bible. Never once does he put the word “child” in the Hebrew word context of a young adult. Never once does he explain that “the rod” includes the whole range of disciplinary options for the parent.

. . . .

What is Proverbs 23:13-14 talking about? Well, first, let’s hear it in another translation.

Prov. 23
13 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.
14 Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.

Note the change, almost certainly correct in this case, where the Hebrew word sheol is rendered “death” instead of “hell”. Read that way, he is saying if you punish your older teen or young adult with the rod, he won’t die – in fact, you’ll save his soul from death.

Here’s what I think is going on here.
In the Old Testament law, there was provision for an ultimately defiant young adult, wild, evil, drunken, violent, disrespectful. In extreme cases, the young adult might be executed.

So I’m reasonably certain that what’s in view here is quite literal: if you had a young adult who is so defiant and so wicked as to be in danger of that kind of penalty, you may have to take the matter very seriously, and provide serious punishment to correct that person before the town elders decided to execute him.

It’s important to remember it was a different culture. Many times the family patriarch was responsible for the sons well into what we would call adulthood.

Think of David’s son Amnon, who sexually assaulted his sister.
Think of David’s son Absalom, who stirred up a rebellion that cost thousands their lives.
Think of Jacob’s sons who murdered a whole village.
And not a sheriff in range for 1300 years.

Yes, the rod was appropriate in some extreme cases. And those guys still didn’t use it.

I say all that to say this: Do not let anyone tell you that the Bible says you should be beating your 9 year old.

There is a place for spanking, administered correctly, not in anger, with explanation, when necessary. Particularly, for defiance. Sure. But the Bible is not a Child Abuse manual, and Christ would not make you a child abuser.

That’s not to say that corporal punishment is not in your toolbox. It’s just to remind you that there are limits. Do not forget that God loves children, and promises judgment to those who do not care for them properly.

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Literal Interpretational Age

Number 1 was addressed by Doctor Cone...

Rachel L. wrote:

The people I know who spank:

1. Stop using spankings at about the age the literal interpretation references

Cristopher Cone wrote:

The Greek Septuagint (LXX), an early 3rd—2nd century BC translation of the Hebrew Bible, translates the Hebrew nayer with the Greek neos......However, the passage was originally written in Hebrew, and nayer is not as limited as is the Greek paidion. In short, the Hebrew term is inclusive of a broad range of child from infancy to young adulthood.

If there is no agreement on the age, then much of the discussion will be moot. Seems to me those who are strongly opinionated against physical pain parenting are also of the mindset that the literal interpretation of the passages refers only to what we would call teens and tweeners.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

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To be clear...

Just to clarify, I never claimed that all the verses about the rod are directed toward young adults. And I believe in corporal punishment (with care) for children.

I merely pointed out that the situation in the rod passages is far more complex than some have painted it, and that the most simplistic sermons based on them have done a disservice to the texts.

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What the rod is... not established

Rachel L. wrote:
A literal interpretation involves hitting a young man on his back with a stick the size of your wrist.

This is one view of what the rod references mean. That idea is a fairly new one, though.
There are several "rod" references in Proverbs that don't fit this view.
The widely respected Brown Driver and Briggs Lexicon

1. rod, staff, club, sceptre. 2. tribe;

The Gesenius lexicon

a staff stick, rod, so called from supporting: (to this answer, σκήπτων, σκῆπτρον, σκηπίων, scipio, scapus, Germ. Schaft); specially—(1) used for beating or striking, Isa. 10:15; 14:5; and chastening (virga), Prov. 10:13; 13:24; 22:8; hence שֵׁבֶט אֱלוֹהַּ the rod with which God corrects (used of calamities sent by God), Job 9:34; 21:9; 37:13; Isa. 10:5.—Isa. 11:4, שֵׁבֶט פִּיו “the rod of his mouth,”

Gesenius, W., & Tregelles, S. P. (2003). Gesenius' Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (801). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

William Holladay Concise Lexicon

1. stick, staff, rod: of shepherd Lv 27:32, teacher 2S 7:14; scepter Zc 10:11; as weapon 2S 23:21, tool Is 28:27; šēbeṭ ʾappî (of God) Is 10:5; šēbeṭ pîw (of Messiah) Is 11:4; — 2. tribe (143 ×), esp. of Isr. Gn 49:16.
Holladay, W. L., Köhler, L., & Köhler, L. (1971). A concise Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament. (358). Leiden: Brill.

The evidence for taking "rod" as a heavy cane of a certain diameter in every instance is far from clear.

Quote:
The people I know who spank:
1. Stop using spankings at about the age the literal interpretation references
2. Do not hit the back, but instead hit the buttocks
3. Do not use a shebet-sized instrument, but instead use a hand or small implement like a wooden spoon
SPANKING, as understood by the western mind, is not what is literally described in the Proverbs.

All of the above presuppose an inadequately supported conclusion about what the rod is in Proverbs.

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rod

It's pretty clear that the rod in various Scriptures can be either literal or figurative.

Literal usage:

Quote:
Exodus 21:20 "If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished.

Leviticus 27:32 For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD.

Figurative usage:

Quote:
[of Solomon ] 2 Samuel 7:14-15 "I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, 15 but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.

Job 9:34-35 Let Him remove His rod from me, And let not dread of Him terrify me. Then I would speak and not fear Him; But I am not like that in myself.

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

It just becomes much more sensical, the meaning of this Proverb, when it is read literally. That may be my, and others', humble opinion, but it started making much more sense, esp in the light of a passage like this:

Quote:
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 18 "If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. They shall say to the elders of his city, 'This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.' Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.

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wait a sec

it's occurred to me that we are just arguing something illogical.

Quote:
Previously we examined Proverbs 13:24, a passage from which we understood three powerful principles: (1) proper discipline is associated with the use of the rod, (2) proper discipline is associated with love, and proper discipline is not described here in terms of abuse or causing harm, nor is it described as punishment.
Then the author goes on to discuss if the "rod" is literal or figurative.
Quote:
Especially in light of 23:13-14 (which I plan to examine in detail in a future installment), there is no textual basis to understand the meaning as non-literal. And if there is nothing in the text itself to suggest a non-literal meaning, then how would we justify a figurative interpretation? These are challenging issues, for sure.

So the author is saying that the rod here is literal.

Yet he also is saying that the literal rod means spanking? . . . . I think this is an illogical argument.

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spectrum view of the rod

So, people who say that the "rod" means a spectrum of parental discipline . . . I don't see why this is required to mean that spanking must be in that spectrum. Is there a reason some are insisting that spanking itself is God-ordained? Can just the spectrum of discipline be God-ordained? If I choose not to spank, can I still be in that God-ordained area of discipline? Why not?

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Must.... the possibilities.

There are several possible ways to view spanking
1) As something good parenting requires
2) As something good parenting excludes
3) As something that may or may not be included in good parenting

So you have at least those three possibilities from a topical standpoint.
From a biblical standpoint, more possibilities emerge, overlapping somewhat (but not entirely) w/the previous three:
1) Scripture requires that spanking be a part of parenting
2) Scripture forbids that spanking be a part of parenting
3) Scripture neither forbids nor requires spanking (a.k.a. "allows" or "encourages"... for two more sub-options)

My point with these lists is to help avoid the tendency to lump views together. Not everyone who is "against prohibiting spanking" believes that "spanking is required." And not everyone who believes "spanking is required" believes "Scripture expressly requires spanking."

I lean toward the view that the language itself does not require spanking in every case, but that the practical realities of the nature of children make that application nearly impossible to avoid... and that this is why the witness of history favors the judicious use of pain to the rear end.

On the age question. Did a little digging to see how likely it is that Proverbs means for "rod" to only be used on young men. Even a cursory study of the term for "child" in Proverbs 22.15, shows that the word cannot be limited to "young men" on lexical grounds (so the case would have to be made some other way). Several passages use the same word clearly in reference to younger children (and I did not finish going through the OT, so there are probably more).

Isaiah 3:4 ("children" - the implication is that these are youths far younger than would be normal age for "princes")
Isaiah 7:16 ("child" in KJV - in ref. to one too young to know right from wrong)
Isaiah 8:4 (in the NKJV, translated "child" - the verse clearly has a very young child in view who cannot say "mamma")

It's true that there many occurrences of the term in a context that is clearly more like "young man." My point is that the term is flexible, so the conclusion that "child" is "young man" in Prov.22.15 (and similar passages) is not obvious and needs support.
The evidence suggests that use of this particular word (na'ar) means that no particular age is specified. It's intentionally general and left to the judgment of wise parents--who would have a good idea of when the use of that method is suitable.

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Literal vs. other... and logic

About spanking required vs. spanking permitted etc., please see:
http://sharperiron.org/comment/40395#comment-40395

As for literal vs. other... I agree that there seems to be a logical problem with saying the rod is literal and then taking a rod passage to be commanding an activity that is different, such as using your hand or a belt or some kind of plastic.
But here we run into problems with what "literal" means. That is, you can be literal and still have varying degrees of precision. If we mean "literal" as in the opposite of "symbolic," the rod could be literal yet not be intended to be all that precise.

  • A precision scale would have "a stick and only a stick" at one end of the scale of possibilities (very precise) and "use pain as a tool" at the other end (very imprecise).
  • The literalness scale would have "actual impact of instrument on body" at one end (entirely literal) and "no actual impact of instrument on body" at the other end (entirely symbolic).

Looking at this way, my view would be "entirely literal but not intended to be all that precise."

I'm not claiming here to be using "precision" and "literalness" in any authoritative way here. Just illustrating that hermeneutics is complicated stuff at times and no small battle has raged over what literal means (esp. in covenant vs. dispensationalist debates) and doesn't mean when interpreting texts.

It's probably best to look for likely authorial intent and likely readership understanding and focus on that. It's pretty obvious to me that several of these Proverbs are not about civil justice (caning young men) but rather about parenting and that these timeless words of wisdom admonish parents not to be afraid to use physical pain. The spirit of them is clearly a call to diligent and active correction and instruction. But the spirit doesn't neutralize the practical advice.
Parents have understood for millennia that kids need to experience some paintful consequences (chosen intentionally for instructional purposes) in order to learn good habits. Only recent decades have seriously questioned that.

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Aaron Blumer wrote: It's

Aaron Blumer wrote:
It's probably best to look for likely authorial intent and likely readership understanding and focus on that.
But assuming that spanking or something like it is what readers/Solomon was meaning/reading into it is a very far stretch. How do you know what they were thinking in that culture?

Aaron Blumer wrote:
It's pretty obvious to me that several of these Proverbs are not about civil justice (caning young men) but rather about parenting and that these timeless words of wisdom admonish parents not to be afraid to use physical pain. The spirit of them is clearly a call to diligent and active correction and instruction. But the spirit doesn't neutralize the practical advice.
that is fine. I think even if you read them literally, there are still applicable lessons for parenting today. But you are assuming age where, in the Bible, which explains that culture, and there are probably other sources which explain that culture that we have no access to right now, there is no example of using physical pain as discipline on a small child. There are places that talk about using physical pain with older guys or slaves, for example.
Aaron Blumer wrote:
Parents have understood for millennia that kids need to experience some paintful consequences (chosen intentionally for instructional purposes) in order to learn good habits. Only recent decades have seriously questioned that.
Kind of a sweeping assertion with several assumptions. I don't think this is accurately portrayed. . . . I may not intentionally inflict parent-caused pain on my child, but they do experience painful consequences of their actions. Also, there is a lot that is painful about just making one's flesh obey. This doesn't count as "painful"?

anyway . . . on to martin luther . . .

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My point was basically: If we

My point was basically:

If we say these particular "rod verses" should be viewed through a more literal lens, then we must be honest about what each word most commonly means and at minimum apply them in that manner BEFORE we extrapolate the instructions to less-commonly understood meanings.

Na'ar is sometimes used for younger children. But if we are using a literal interpretative lens, why would an honest Christian scholar take these passages to mean that young toddlers should be spanked, but that spankings should CEASE when the individual becomes a youth?

Too often, I'm accused of allowing culture to shape my non-spanking conviction by people who are prescribing to a CULTURAL view of "appropriate" spanking. I'm told that I'm not taking the Bible seriously by people who DO NOT beat their 14 year old son on the back with a rod for sneaking alcohol. If it is okay for a Christian to NOT beat a 14 year old on the back with a rod (the literal interpretation), then it is certainly okay to NOT swat a 2 year old on his bottom for touching something forbidden (the extrapolated interpretation).

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You may be on to something

Rachel L. wrote:
Na'ar is sometimes used for younger children. But if we are using a literal interpretative lens, why would an honest Christian scholar take these passages to mean that young toddlers should be spanked, but that spankings should CEASE when the individual becomes a youth?

Maybe some of today's Christian teens need this. Might help them get a better perspective on godly respect for authority. Frankly, that visit I had to the principal's office when I was in junior high is something I'll never forget. It was administered in a way that did not cause me to rebel - it helped correct an authority issue I had at that point.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

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clay clarkson

in looking at this passage (in Heartfelt Discipline) says it is a literal rod/teen/beat-on-back verse. He says the application for today is that sometimes with our teens we do need to take *extreme* action (for our culture). I always thought of my friend who sent her teen son to a Christian drug rehab place; she took definite and drastic action to "discipline" her teen.

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Aaron Blumer wrote: On the

Aaron Blumer wrote:
On the age question. Did a little digging to see how likely it is that Proverbs means for "rod" to only be used on young men. Even a cursory study of the term for "child" in Proverbs 22.15, shows that the word cannot be limited to "young men" on lexical grounds (so the case would have to be made some other way). Several passages use the same word clearly in reference to younger children (and I did not finish going through the OT, so there are probably more).

Isaiah 3:4 ("children" - the implication is that these are youths far younger than would be normal age for "princes")
Isaiah 7:16 ("child" in KJV - in ref. to one too young to know right from wrong)
Isaiah 8:4 (in the NKJV, translated "child" - the verse clearly has a very young child in view who cannot say "mamma")

It's true that there many occurrences of the term in a context that is clearly more like "young man." My point is that the term is flexible, so the conclusion that "child" is "young man" in Prov.22.15 (and similar passages) is not obvious and needs support.
The evidence suggests that use of this particular word (na'ar) means that no particular age is specified. It's intentionally general and left to the judgment of wise parents--who would have a good idea of when the use of that method is suitable.

Great. Now I'm going to have to go back and dig out all my research on this and post it. And no time to mess with it. OK. It's on my list.

There are some very well written and researched scholarly issues from many years ago that address this issue, by individuals who had no "ax to grind" on the spanking issue. Their conclusion is that the lexical range of the word is broad, but it tends to refer to young adults. When used of other ages, there are cultural reasons. Particulars to come in a later post.

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Anne Sokol wrote:Aaron

Anne Sokol wrote:
Aaron Blumer wrote:
It's probably best to look for likely authorial intent and likely readership understanding and focus on that.
But assuming that spanking or something like it is what readers/Solomon was meaning/reading into it is a very far stretch. How do you know what they were thinking in that culture?

There is not much we need to know. It's clear that these Proverbs instruct parents to use pain to train their children.

Anne wrote:
Aaron Blumer wrote:
It's pretty obvious to me that several of these Proverbs are not about civil justice (caning young men) but rather about parenting and that these timeless words of wisdom admonish parents not to be afraid to use physical pain. The spirit of them is clearly a call to diligent and active correction and instruction. But the spirit doesn't neutralize the practical advice.
that is fine. I think even if you read them literally, there are still applicable lessons for parenting today. But you are assuming age where, in the Bible, which explains that culture, and there are probably other sources which explain that culture that we have no access to right now, there is no example of using physical pain as discipline on a small child. There are places that talk about using physical pain with older guys or slaves, for example.

No, I'm not really "assuming."
I've made the case before. There are several arguments for viewing the use of real discipline (involveds painful conseuences) that I've mentioned. A quick recap.

  • Historical argument: people did not question the use of "corporal punishment" in the training of children until recent years.
  • Theological argument: kids are born sinners. They do not become sinners at a particular age. They are in need of wise correction in terms they understand from the moment they can understand.
  • Experiential argument: both in my own experience and observing others, I've found that non-physical pain is not less severe than physical pain, often the reverse. When you take a toy from a young child or make him sit on a couch, that hurts just as surely as a swat on the rear. In addition, experience (not just mine) has shown that small children understand an immediate painful response even though their ability to reason and grasp more complex communication is lacking.
  • Argument from Heb.12: the passage expressly states that discipline and chastisement are painful and this is fruitful (Heb.12.11). It uses the analogy of fatherhood to illustrate the point. The analogy makes no sense unless we're talking about use of pain in parenting.
  • Argument from silence: this would be very weak all by itself, but as you can see, it doesn't stand alone. The argument is this: neither Proverbs nor Hebrews nor any other passage about parenting implies that small children should somehow be trained painlessly.
  • Soteriological argument: sinners have to learn law before they really understand grace. How soon is too soon to start learning? (The question is not entirely rhetorical. I have seen some well meaning parents begin physical discipline a bit too soon--that is, they were responding to what they saw as rebellion when the child was far too young to really assess motives. I have no reason to believe babies cannot be rebellious but it's pretty hard to tell "I'm defying you" from "my tummy hurts" before a kid is able to verbalize at least a little. But what these parents did was not at all physically harmful.)

I'm sure I have a few more, but I think what's there is not insubstantial.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I may not intentionally inflict parent-caused pain on my child, but they do experience painful consequences of their actions. Also, there is a lot that is painful about just making one's flesh obey. This doesn't count as "painful"?

What happens by accident is not training a child in any meaningful sense. But I'm not sure why we're arguing this point. You described a scenario earlier (or in the other thread) where you made a child sit on a couch after he disobeyed. Clearly you believe in the intentional use of pain for teaching purposes. His presence on the couch after disobeying was not merely a "consequence;" it was an intentional consequence you inflicted on him. Good job, by the way!

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Clay Clarkson... etc.

Anne Sokol wrote:
in looking at this passage (in Heartfelt Discipline) says it is a literal rod/teen/beat-on-back verse. He says the application for today is that sometimes with our teens we do need to take *extreme* action (for our culture). I always thought of my friend who sent her teen son to a Christian drug rehab place; she took definite and drastic action to "discipline" her teen.

Who is Clay Clarkson and why should I believe him? If you can summarize his evidence and argument, I'll have something to work with.

Rachel L wrote:
Na'ar is sometimes used for younger children. But if we are using a literal interpretative lens, why would an honest Christian scholar take these passages to mean that young toddlers should be spanked, but that spankings should CEASE when the individual becomes a youth?

Too often, I'm accused of allowing culture to shape my non-spanking conviction by people who are prescribing to a CULTURAL view of "appropriate" spanking. I'm told that I'm not taking the Bible seriously by people who DO NOT beat their 14 year old son on the back with a rod for sneaking alcohol. If it is okay for a Christian to NOT beat a 14 year old on the back with a rod (the literal interpretation), then it is certainly okay to NOT swat a 2 year old on his bottom for touching something forbidden (the extrapolated interpretation).


There are some problems with your reasoning here.

First, the fact that a term is used in reference to kids both young and old in different contexts doesn't mean that it must mean one or the other in any particular context. We often use vague terms like that in English because we do not wish to specify the boundaries. "I'll be there in a while." Is that five minutes or an hour? It's clearly not three days, but it's a vague term. My view, so far, is that the age of the child is not important to the message of these passages. No age is intended to be excluded.

Second, in your statements you're sometimes answering views nobody is advocating--and sometimes lumping significantly different views together. I can only speak with certainty about my own view. I am not saying these passages require spanking as the first or only form of discipline, nor am I saying that spanking must not be used on older kids. My view is that these passages teach the diligent, intentional use of negative consequences (negative = pain) to train kids and encourages parents--by the choice of the "rod" as the example--not to be afraid to use physical pain when appropriate.
In my view, it's common sense that argues for the inescapability of some "corporal" discipline. (See "historical argument" and "argument from experience"). It's an application that one has to go out of one's way to avoid.

To use an analogy, there's no verse that says "Husbands shall not look at pornography." So, arguably, it's a bit sloppy to say "The Bible says porn is off limits to husbands." But most people aren't going to split hairs. The application of biblical principles is pretty clear.
It was also quite clear with respect to parenting until very recent times.

(I realize I haven't exactly proven that yet. So I'll plead guilty on that. I've offered the argument, but not yet the evidence. The evidence was common knowledge until well after 1940's when it began to be challenged systematically here in the U.S. But it is certainly not common knowledge anymore and somebody needs to make time to rebuild that foundation.... if I can just figure out how to stop time for two weeks, that would probably be long enough to do it myself. Smile But I can't blame folks for questioning that point if they haven't seen the evidence. I have seen it, but I wasn't gathering and noting sources at the time so... )

Third, you've declared that taking these Proverbs to support physical pain in discipline is "cultural" and "extrapolated" but you haven't backed that assertion with arguments. I don't think it's either cultural or extrapolated. I've offered a lot of arguments as to why I don't think so.

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Quote:First, the fact that a

Quote:
First, the fact that a term is used in reference to kids both young and old in different contexts doesn't mean that it must mean one or the other in any particular context. We often use vague terms like that in English because we do not wish to specify the boundaries. "I'll be there in a while." Is that five minutes or an hour? It's clearly not three days, but it's a vague term. My view, so far, is that the age of the child is not important to the message of these passages. No age is intended to be excluded.

Sure, some words are used generally. Be that as it may, there is evidence that na'ar is PRIMARILY used (and would have been understood) to mean the teen years. I know you don't believe me or believe that. Clay Clarkson (who Anne referenced in the other thread) set out to study these passages attempting to PROVE his existing belief that they commanded spanking and he came away with the belief that na'ar refers to teen/early 20's in these passages. I know you don't care about Clay Clarkson since he's not a Fundamentalist. So, i give you Mike Durning. ;-) Mike believes that spanking is a fine and reasonable discipline method, but he agrees that na'ar is not generally used to mean a small child. (Mike, please forgive me for invoking your name here and correct any misrepresentation of your thoughts.)

You do not think you are taking your preconceived notions about parenting/spanking that have been derived from your Fundamentalist Culture/common sense and finding support for them after the fact in the Bible. However, that is what I see. I assure you I know that "good" Fundamentalists understand spanking/pain infliction to be nearly a Fundamental of the Faith. I do not believe it to be so. Earlier in this thread you said

Quote:
This is one view of what the rod references mean. That idea is a fairly new one, though.

This idea (hitting a teen on the back with a large rod) may be a new one to you, but that does not make it a new idea. If an Old Testament believer would have read na'ar to mean a teen (a concept which there is scholarly support for), then this is not a new idea even though it is a new idea to most Fundamentalists. I realize that you would like me to list all of the scholarly work that has been done in this area, but that is beyond my time constraints and hopefully Mike will have the time to list his research.

We are each settled in our own minds what the scriptures say. My thoughts will not sway yours, and your thoughts will not sway mine. As I've said before, the primary reason I enter these discussions is for the silent readers who the Holy Spirit is leading away from using spanking . . . I want them to see that there are those of us who believe God, believe scripture, have well-behaved children, and who parent without spanking.

Quote:
Second, in your statements you're sometimes answering views nobody is advocating--and sometimes lumping significantly different views together. I can only speak with certainty about my own view. I am not saying these passages require spanking as the first or only form of discipline, nor am I saying that spanking must not be used on older kids. My view is that these passages teach the diligent, intentional use of negative consequences (negative = pain) to train kids and encourages parents--by the choice of the "rod" as the example--not to be afraid to use physical pain when appropriate.
In my view, it's common sense that argues for the inescapability of some "corporal" discipline. (See "historical argument" and "argument from experience"). It's an application that one has to go out of one's way to avoid.

My intention has not been to "lump views together," but naturally, when discussing concepts, we must speak in generalities at times. I know that you are not specifically advocating spanking for any age/behavior. James K is/does, and it is reasonable for me to speak (albeit obliquely since engaging him is not wise) to James' view, especially since I know that his view is not unusual within Fundamentalism. For you, common sense has argued most strongly for spanking/painful discipline, but that is not what Dr. Cone has said (and not what is preached in most churches) so that is not the angle that my discussion/argument has come from.

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Quote: Third, you've declared

Quote:
Third, you've declared that taking these Proverbs to support physical pain in discipline is "cultural" and "extrapolated" but you haven't backed that assertion with arguments. I don't think it's either cultural or extrapolated. I've offered a lot of arguments as to why I don't think so.

You disagreeing with my argument is not the same thing as me not backing up my argument.

If a literal interpretation is that these passages are speaking about TEENS, then skipping over that application (by not beating teens with a rod on the back) and only applying these verses by hitting toddlers on the bottom with wooden spoons is intellectually dishonest.

Now, I know that you don't think these passages are speaking about teens or don't believe that these should be applied literally. You disagree, so my argument seems illogical to you. There are people who base their arguments for spanking on a "literal" interpretation of these verses, so I do not feel it is unreasonable or illogical to expect them to be literal in their application.

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case in point

Aaron Blumer wrote:
What happens by accident is not training a child in any meaningful sense. But I'm not sure why we're arguing this point. You described a scenario earlier (or in the other thread) where you made a child sit on a couch after he disobeyed. Clearly you believe in the intentional use of pain for teaching purposes. His presence on the couch after disobeying was not merely a "consequence;" it was an intentional consequence you inflicted on him. Good job, by the way!
But here is one main difference I am talking about:

When I put K on the couch after he didn't listen to me, my action was not punitive, looking backward to cause him pain for disobeying me. My action was forward-looking, a hemming in disciplinary action to teach him a positve lesson about the importance of obeying. That is one major difference in all this.

Now, there are times when my kids experience unpleasant consequences for their disobeying, and I don't categorize these as "accidental." I can choose as a parent to what extent my child experiences those consequences, or if they need to be modified. There are consequences that are "imposed" (logical, pre-agreed-upon), but they are also mainly to help a child discipline/control himself.

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Instructional, not punitive

Anne Sokol wrote:
When I put K on the couch after he didn't listen to me, my action was not punitive, looking backward to cause him pain for disobeying me. My action was forward-looking, a hemming in disciplinary action to teach him a positve lesson about the importance of obeying. That is one major difference in all this.

Nobody here is recommending "punitive."
The backward vs. forward thing is really just semantics. If he had not done what he did, you would not have created the forward looking consequence. Even "consequence" is an inherently backward looking term. It requires an antecedent. But it has a forward looking purpose. We don't disagree about any of that.

Anne wrote:
Now, there are times when my kids experience unpleasant consequences for their disobeying, and I don't categorize these as "accidental."

Well, parenting involves doing something, right? We aren't doing anything if child does A and B happens without our causing it. We are just standing by. Now we could use what happened to do some teaching. Nobody's taking that off the table, and nobody is denying that sometimes that's enough.
Sometimes a natural consequence is not enough and, in any case, it isn't discipline. When we decide to let a natural result suffice, we're making a decision to not discipline in that case. Again, sometimes that's the right thing to do.... but not all the time. There is no way to construe the rod passages to mean "let stuff happen naturally and then talk about it."

Rachel wrote:
You disagreeing with my argument is not the same thing as me not backing up my argument.

That would be true, yes.. but what argument have I disagreed with? I guess "so and so says so" is sort of an argument, but not a valid one. Ipse nixit. As I think I mentioned before, if someone can summarize why so and so says the rod has to be a club the diameter of your wrist and na'ar has to bee a teen, then I have something to work with.
(As for Clarkson or whoever it was not being a fundamentalist... how would I even know that? I've never heard of him. But it makes no difference to me if he's a fundamentalist. I don't believe things because fundamentalists say them. I believe what's well supported. I'm just asking for evidence.)

Quote:
If a literal interpretation is that these passages are speaking about TEENS...

That has not been established.

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not that it will make a lot of difference to you, but

here is some of what Clarkson has written on this topic.

About na'ar:

Quote:
Finally, we come to the word in this verse that is translated “child,” the Hebrew word naar. This term is used in the Old Testament to refer to a wide range of ages, from an infant to an adult. However, Scripture most commonly uses naar to mean “young man” or “youth,” often determined by the immediate context, but usually indicating adolescent years up to marriageable age. Jewish rabbinical tradition considered a naar to be between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four. This definition is supported by several Old Testament examples: Joseph was a naar at age seventeen when he was sold into slavery by his brothers (see Genesis 37:27-28); Joshua was a naar probably in his late teens at Sinai and when he spied out the Promised Land (see Exodus 33:11); David, the young shepherd able to slay a lion but not yet able to wear Saul’s armor, was a naar when he killed Goliath (see 1 Samuel 17:42); Solomon was a naar in his late teens prior to taking the throne at around age twenty-one (see 1 Chronicles 22:5); Absalom was a naar when he killed his brother Amnon (see 2 Samuel 14:21); Josiah was a naar at age sixteen when he bane to seek God (see 2 Chronicles 34:3); and the naar mentioned in Psalms 119:9 is surely a young adult wrestling with sexual purity (“How can a young man keep his way pure?”).

...

Quote:
For most of my parenting years, I believed that God had decree the rod of physical discipline to be His only authorized method of discipline. Even though I didn’t use physical discipline often, I used it misguidedly because of my incomplete understanding of Scripture. Physical discipline of young children is not prohibited. God nowhere says, “Thou shalt not spank.” However , it’s clear that neither is it commanded or even suggested in Scripture.

...

Quote:
Before we examine the various “rod” passages, it’s important to put the book of Proverbs in context. Proverbs is not a book that recounts history or tells a story. Rather it’s a collection of wise sayings compiled by Solomon, David’s son, and other wise men of the time. Proverbs are poetic expressions of wisdom for living and for pleasing God.

One of the first sticky issues to confront, then, is the nature of the truth found in Proverbs. Are Proverbial commands meant to be obeyed in the same way we obey commands given directly by God or Jesus? Are proverbial promises, such as the implied promise of Proverbs 22:6, meant to be claimed? I have found it best to read the Proverbs in the spirit that they are often quoted and used in the New Testament—as God-inspired practical wisdom for living righteously and skillfully. Rather than commands, they are counsel; rather than promises, they are principles; rather than moral imperatives, they are divine guidance. . . .


...

Quote:
Another important observation about the context of the book concerns the intended audience. In the first nine chapters, Solomon addressed his son or sons with admonitions to follow the way of righteousness in the same way that the boy’s (or boys’) parents have stayed on God’s path. It’s clear that this young man, “my son,” is reaching the age at which he can be tempted by wayward friends, the bed of the harlot, and the pursuit of ill-gotten wealth. The son is a young man in that difficult transition between childhood and manhood. Though the wisdom of Proverbs is for all people, there is a special emphasis on training the young, turning them from folly, and setting their feet o the path of wisdom and righteousness. Solomon stated that the purpose of the book, in part, is “to give prudence to the naïve, to the youth (naar) knowledge and discretion” (Prov 1:4)

Finally, there is a kind hidden context that will affect how we read the rod passges. Proverbs is all about choices—chooseing between wisdom and foolishness, righteousness and wickedness, discipline and laziness. It is about beign able to discern between the things of God (wisdom) and the things of the world (folly) and making the right choice. The hidden assumption is underlying all of these choices is that the “chooser” is capable of wise discernment. This is not, as we considered in the previous chapter, a quality of young children, who have not yet reached the point at which they know enough ‘to refuse evil and choose good” (Isaiah 7:15). Proverbs addresses and describes those who have moved beyond childhood and into young adulthood, or full adulthood, those who are morally capable and culpable for their lives and choices.

Some general notes about the use of "rod (there's a lot here):

Quote:
3. Third, nowhere else in Scripture is the rod as an instrument of punishment or discipline ever associated with a young child. Scripture refers to the “little ones’ and young children as innocent and under the protection of adults, in part because they don’t yet know right from wrong (in the sense of being culpable for their knowledge). Throughout Scripture the rod is an instrument of judgment and punishment for those who have made moral choices in rebellion against God or His ways. It is always, without exception, associated with youth, adults, and nations.

4. Fourth, although it may be true that a young child’s heart seems full of foolishness, that is not the point of Proverbs 22:15, which has a “young man” in view. Foolishness in Proverbs is not the same as the natural immaturity of a young child, a condition that is not condemned in Scripture. Rather, “foolishness” refers to the folly and stupidity of an otherwise mature youth or adult who willfully rejects God’s wisdom and ways. . . . In contrast, young children are not considered fools when they do wrong; they are simply immature and childish because they are children.

There is a lot more, but that is some points he makes.

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Aaron Blumer wrote: Anne

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Anne Sokol wrote:
When I put K on the couch after he didn't listen to me, my action was not punitive, looking backward to cause him pain for disobeying me. My action was forward-looking, a hemming in disciplinary action to teach him a positve lesson about the importance of obeying. That is one major difference in all this.

Nobody here is recommending "punitive."
well, giving a slap on the leg or hand for doing that would be punitive. No one here is advocating for that option?

Aaron Blumer wrote:
The backward vs. forward thing is really just semantics. If he had not done what he did, you would not have created the forward looking consequence. Even "consequence" is an inherently backward looking term. It requires an antecedent. But it has a forward looking purpose. We don't disagree about any of that.
some of it is semantics, but some of it really isn't. Working that out in dialogue, well, maybe if we keep talking, it will become clear.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Sometimes a natural consequence is not enough and, in any case, it isn't discipline. When we decide to let a natural result suffice, we're making a decision to not discipline in that case.
I think it is definitely discipline. I'm not sure why you think it's not. Does

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na'ar (child/young man), and the bigger picture

I have undertaken to dig out my earlier research on na’ar (child/young man), the word we have been debating here. It comes into play in the following “Rod Passages”: Proverbs 22:15, Proverbs 23:13-14, and Proverbs 29:15.

In an attempt to relocate my earlier research, I have run across some new information (in the sense of previously unknown to me) which complicates things somewhat. As I have said before, much of the Rabbinic evidence still points toward “young man” being the predominant meaning. There is an ironic meaning, where it is used of men to call them “immature”. And the term is used of children, I said, principally in the “royal” sense, when referring to “noble” children. “Jewish royalty” was the term I used, I believe.

Dr. James MacDonald, of the University of Glascow, has researched this topic deeply, and has teased out still more detail. In addition to the “young noble” distinction, it also has in some passages military connotations, and is used for a young man in arms training.

I encourage you to look up his paper from the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, July, 1976. It is called “The Status and Role of the Na’ar in Israelite Society”. Unless you look carefully on line, you will probably have to pay to download it from JSTOR. It is fascinating, and it directly bears on the discussion as it surrounds the 3 above-mentioned passages.

I do not retract my earlier claims, but rather find that the new data from Dr. MacDonald actually increases the complexity of the discussion as it revolves around these 3 verses.

On balance, the strong-spanking advocacy has some things to answer.
1). Some of them have mis-represented these 3 passages on the “rod”.
2). I believe they have put too much hope in spanking, when you consider the tiny amount of emphasis given it across all of Scripture. Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6, the most significant passages about rearing our children in the ways of the Lord, do not mention the rod at all. This mis-emphasis has caused some shallow parents to believe that spanking is the great hope for their children. Absent proper instruction, nurture, and love, that hope is groundless. I fully recognize that the emphasis on spanking in some preaching has been a reaction to the anti-spanking emphasis in our society, but we must beware of over-reactions, as they can mis-inform.

However, the anti-spanking advocates have much to answer also. There are reasons why I have refuse to join the anti-spanking group here.

1). Other passages that do not involve the word na’ar still address the issue. Consider Proverbs 13:24, where the Rod instruction is given using a word that is not age-weighted in any way.
2). The clear symbolism of Hebrews 12, which relates our Lord’s “chastening” (to use the KJV word) with our earthly fathers’ chastening, is that pain is a legitimate teacher, at times. Not only does Paul (or whatever other person any of you think may have written Hebrews) not condemn such practice, but sets “correction” (see v. 9) as equal with “chastisement” (v. 10).
3). Based upon such things, it is the clear presumption of Scripture that corporal punishment would be a component of child-rearing.

In short, I think the Biblical evidence will land us somewhere in the middle between the extremes on this debate. Let us be cautious of being misled by either the spirit of the age or our own traditions.

BTW…

Rachel L. wrote:
I know you don't care about Clay Clarkson since he's not a Fundamentalist. So, i give you Mike Durning. ;-) Mike believes that spanking is a fine and reasonable discipline method, but he agrees that na'ar is not generally used to mean a small child. (Mike, please forgive me for invoking your name here and correct any misrepresentation of your thoughts.)

You have represented my thoughts well. But you should know that I'm hardly a Fundamentalist by the reckoning of many here. I usually don't use the term of myself. And I'm certainly no model.

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Rachel wrote:I know you

Rachel wrote:
I know you don't care about Clay Clarkson since he's not a Fundamentalist. So, i give you Mike Durning. Wink Mike believes that spanking is a fine and reasonable discipline method, but he agrees that na'ar is not generally used to mean a small child. (Mike, please forgive me for invoking your name here and correct any misrepresentation of your thoughts.)

Overlooked the rest of this statement earlier... probably because I was busy getting irritated about the first sentence. :)
But the rest of it is odd... because I also believe na'ar is not "generally" used to mean a small child. That's obvious from the lexical data... and a few minutes with a concordance. And I acknowledged that several posts ago as well.
However, it doesn't follow that if na'ar is "generally" used a certain way, it's meaning must be restricted to that use in Proverbs. If the term is not used that way in Isaiah, why must it be used that way in Proverbs in every case?

My view on spanking only differs from Mike's in that I would put the value of spanking slightly higher. That is, I think that entirely avoiding it is not usually possible and that there does not need to try to avoid it. It is as good or better than several of the alternatives depending on the child and the situation. But I think thousands of years of accumulated Judeo-Christian wisdom favors the idea that the child who can be properly raised without a spanking or two is extremely rare.

Since we seem to be attaching to weight to "an important person says so" reasoning, listen to Bruce Waltke on Prov. 14.23. (Apologies for typos. I'm taking this one from this clunky thing called a book and can't cut and paste.)

The Proverb is based on several assumptions. . . . Third, that folly is bound up on th eheart of the child (22:15; cf. Gen. 8:21). Fourth, "that it will take more than just words to dislodge it." [Kidner, Proverbs, p.51 ] The English proverb, "Spare the rod and and spoil the child," is biblical and has stood the test of history. [long footnote well worth reading. I'll try to get it into the thread later ] The biblical method of rearing is loving the child, which entails strict discipline and valuing him or her as a gift from God... the New Testament teaching does not abrogate or supersede it and should not be abandoned in the church as unfashionable (cf. Eph. 6:4; Heb 12:5-11) or explained away as culturally conditioned. ... The failure of the apostate Western world to continue the biblical practice has left its civilization in moral chaos, and parents now hate what they see: "his end will be that he will hate his son, for he will see him, in the end going forth to evil deeds." [Rashi, Proverbs, p.76 ]

When I have time, look for evidence here that corporal discipline starting at an early age was a very widespread understanding of the teaching of Proverbs in ancient Judaism. I suspect that those who are depicting a different tradition are appealing very selectively to the evidence.

Aaron Blumer's picture
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That footnote

Walke's footnote has a bunch of stuff in it I'd rather not take the time to key in. So here's a not very good scan.

Of course, that doesn't prove spanking is a good idea. What it shows is that the use of physical discipline is a very old idea and not something fundamentalists cooked up in the 19th century and read back into the Bible.