The Most Republican Book of the Bible?

The True Ecumenism Spadaro and Figueroa Missed
July 21, 2017
Liturgy Amidst the Challenges of Modern Culture
July 21, 2017

By Eric Metaxas, The Stream, July 21, 2017

Eric MetaxasIf the books of the Bible could vote, which would be most likely to cast a Republican ballot? According to one professor at Yale Divinity School, the book of Proverbs would be a card-carrying member of the GOP.

Joel S. Baden, a professor of Hebrew Bible, calls the Old Testament’s largest collection of wise sayings “the most Republican book of the entire Bible.” Writing at Politico, he rakes Florida senator Marco Rubio over the coals for tweeting verses from Proverbs.

Rubio’s tweets include verses like Proverbs 16:3: “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed,” and Proverbs 26:11: “As dogs return to their vomit, so fools repeat their folly.”

Of course, anyone who’s read Proverbs knows that it’s more than a collection of pithy sayings under 140 characters. It’s a treasure trove of inspired wisdom on trusting God over our own understanding, of raising godly children, and even finding a spouse, of avoiding the devastation of sins like anger and promiscuity.

It’s part of the biblical genre called wisdom literature, which contains maxims for shrewd and righteous living. This is why they’re called “proverbs,” not “promises.” The point of a proverb is to communicate a general truth about God’s world, and how it typically works. You would think a professor of Hebrew Scripture would understand this. But Baden treats the teaching of Proverbs as a kind of right-wing, alternative worldview, divorced from the rest of the Bible:

In Proverbs, explains Baden, “the righteous are rewarded, and the wicked are punished … everyone gets what is coming to them … [and those] who succeed in life must be more righteous than those who struggle.”

He contrasts this with passages about caring for the poor in Ecclesiastes, Amos and the gospels, implying (though never saying) that the Bible as a whole leans left.

Pointing to past presidents like Gerald Ford and candidates like Ben Carson, he concludes that Republicans have a long-term love affair with Proverbs, and that they ought to “read, and tweet, more widely.”

First of all, no one who has ever heard Senator Rubio talk about his Christian faith could suggest with a straight face that he doesn’t know the Bible beyond Proverbs. I’m thinking in particular of a meeting with pastors in Iowa during caucus season, where Rubio gave one of the most eloquent explanations of the Gospel I’ve ever heard from a politician.

I do wonder, though, why in his article Professor Baden ignored those New Testament passages that sound every bit as “right-wing” as Proverbs. I think of Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, in which servants who invested their master’s money wisely were commended, or 2 Thessalonians 3:10, in which Paul writes, “If anyone will not work, neither should he eat.”

This Old Testament scholar even insists that Jesus “repudiated” a portion of the Mosaic Law when He instructed His followers to “turn the other cheek.” Never mind that Moses was talking about civil justice while Christ was talking about personal revenge. Isn’t it worth noting that earlier in the very same chapter of Matthew, Jesus says that “until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law”?

Now, I’m not going to pretend either major party is a model of biblical faithfulness. I’m also not going to pretend they’re identical, nor am I suggesting that proof-texting is a responsible way of living out your faith in the political sphere.

But perhaps Professor Baden is doing precisely what he is suggesting the Republicans do: that is, “concentrating exclusively on the parts of [The Bible] that affirm one’s own perspective.”


Eric Metaxas is a Christian author residing in Manhattan. His best-selling biographies Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to end Slavery, have made him a sought-after speaker. He was the keynote speaker at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., an event attended by the President and First Lady and other U.S. and world leaders.

He is founder of Socrates in the City and co-host of BreakPoint, a daily radio commentary launched by Eric’s mentor Chuck Colson and heard on 1,400 radio outlets nationally.

In 2001, he was the 17th recipient of the Canterbury Medal awarded by the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom. Previous medalists include Mitt Romney, Chuck Colson and Elie Wiesel.

At the invitation of Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Fr. Jonathan Morris, Eric began broadcasting Faith and Culture Minute on The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM Radio in October 2012.

Originally published on BreakPoint.orgBreakPoint Commentaries. Republished with permission of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview.