5

"Soul-winning" is a commonly used phrase in some christian circles to refer to "getting people saved" by "witnessing" and seems to derive from a slightly anachronistic interpretation of the KJV translation of Proverbs 11:30.

NASB Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,

And he who is wise takes souls.

Daniel 12:3 seems to carry much of the sense in which Proverbs 11:30 is usually taken:

New American Standard Bible Daniel 12:3 "Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

However, it appears to me (working only from "helps") that the sense is more like "and he that takes lives is wise".

In English, to "take lives" is to kill people.

Un-idiomatically it might have the sense of "brings people" or something mundane or I suppose as slaves.

But I have a hard time seeing it as "winning sinners".

Does the Hebrew have any sense that suggest a legitimate link with Daniel 12:3? Or proselytizing?

Also, the first half of the verse is usually translated as "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life". Should that read (or to be understood to mean that) "The fruit of the righteous is like that of a life-giving tree"?

4
  • I believe your impression is correct, and that is my reading of it. A tree of life that takes/brings lives to righteousness, saving them from death. – Johnny Sep 20 '17 at 4:08
  • @Johnny Since I have no Hebrew skills I'm dependent on those who do. The language seems to have many subtle variables. – Ruminator Sep 20 '17 at 18:52
  • 1
    Interesting question. Just as in English, the obvious meaning of the collocation of the words "takes lives" in Hebrew is "kills" (see Prov. 1:19, Ezek. 33:6, etc.). The commentaries mostly go back to William H. Irwin, The Metaphor in Prov 11,30 on the irony here. A more recent paper from an evangelical perspective which agrees with your sense that evangelicals have misused the verse can be found in Lee Fields, Proverbs 11:30: Soul-Winning or Wise Living?. – Susan Sep 21 '17 at 3:51
  • @Ruminator My comment was posted as such because I didn't have time to actually summarize the arguments from those papers. If you would like to use those resources to compose an answer of your own, you are welcome to do so. (And no -- "he that is wise receives its life" doesn't work with the Hebrew due to the lack of a pronoun "its".) – Susan Sep 26 '17 at 19:25
0

It appears to me from the scholarly literature that addresses the proverb that it cannot be answered with any confidence at this time. This is a comment that was posted that I adapted as an answer as it seemed that it would provide the most useful resources for the one seeking the answer to this question:

Interesting question. Just as in English, the obvious meaning of the collocation of the words "takes lives" in Hebrew is "kills" (see Prov. 1:19, Ezek. 33:6, etc.). The commentaries mostly go back to William H. Irwin, The Metaphor in Prov 11,30 on the irony here. A more recent paper from an evangelical perspective which agrees with your sense that evangelicals have misused the verse can be found in Lee Fields, Proverbs 11:30: Soul-Winning or Wise Living?. – Susan♦ Sep 21 at 3:51

-1

The term "soul-winning" does not, in its present usage, actually refer to the soul. Its real meaning, in modern terms, is a matter of coercing the sensibilities to adopt another way of life. Usually, music is involved in this process at some stage or another. Then life can be called "Life" and the subject can mingle with new friends and pursue new hobbies.

Proverbs 11:30, on the other hand, is, I would say, a contrast with the previous verse 29. Some trouble even their own households and the inheritance of those in the household, after the departure of the troubler, turns out to be a matter of wind. No substance actually exists.

And a fool, v29 again, is just a servant to the wise of heart. He has no part or inheritance at all, who is a fool. He just serves his hired time and then has nothing left.

This is all, of course, in the context of Israel. These are all religious people. They either have a competent, worthwhile religion or they profess a mere windy, valueless, temporal servitude.

Proverbs is, after all, a book of contrasts.

Thus the enduring, worthwhile fruit of them that are really righteous (by faith, for these are Abraham's children) - rather than them that merely have a pretence of being so - is a tree of life.

The tree is Life. It is a contrast - again - to the knowledge of good and evil.

Knowledge is not Life. It is that which is the revelation of God which is Life. Eden was where God, himself, appeared and spoke. There is Life. (The tree of knowledge of good and evil is never said to be, actually, in Eden.)

Laqach is translated almost 800 times in the AV as "take"; only once is it "win".

I would understand this as a matter of possession. Take into possession. Take into responsibility. Take into care. Care about. Nurture. Be responsible over.

Nigel

1
  • As I mentioned before in another comment, intuition doesn't count unless it is backed up by a solid hermeneutic. You need to reference primary sources, not just opine. How, linguistically does one get from "take lives" to "influence lives"? Can you show other examples of such a usage? – Ruminator Sep 26 '17 at 15:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.