I need a little help with Proverbs 22:6.  You know we all grew up quoting it "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart." There is a very reputable minister here in xxxxxx, XX who says in the original Hebrew that the phrase "in the way he should go" is not in there.  He says it says, "Train up a child in his own way, and when he is old he will not depart."  His take on that phrase "in his own way, means "in his own sin."




Regarding Proverbs 22:6, the pastor is right concerning the Hebrew.  However, on the MEANING of the passage, he is dead wrong.  Here's why: the verb that begins the verse is an IMPERATIVE (a command).  If the pastor is correct that the phrase be-darcho ("in his way") means "in his own sin," we have a mega-problem on our hands.  Since the verb is a command, his reading of be-darcho would mean that the Bible COMMANDS that we raise our children to follow their own sinful inclinations.  Note: the Hebrew will NOT allow the first part of the verse to be read, "IF you train up..."  Rather, it CLEARLY reads, "Train up a child!!!"


So the question becomes, "If the Bible commands something concerning the raising of kids, then what is it?"  the only appropriate answer, taking the entire Bible into consideration is that the only way to properly raise a kid is "in the way of the Lord."  Therefore, we could say that it is possible to capitalize "His way" to refer to the Lord, but this may be stretching too far.  Probably the best reading of what is clearly idiomatic or shorthand language (which is typical of ancient wisdom literature in general and Proverbs in particular) is "Train up (!) a child in the right way/way that is best for him in the long run/in the path God has ordained for his life/in the direction he's supposed to go to live a righteous life..."  I realize this just puts us right back to where the King James left us, but this simply underscores the excellence with which its translators did their work--they were not only sensitive to the grammatical context, but to the overall cultural/religious orientation of ancient wisdom literature-producing Israelites and to the message of Scripture as a whole.  If this is unsatisfying, however, think of how your pastor friend will feel when he finds out that he missed the boat 180 degrees!


The rest of the passage is really where the problems lie.  Most have understood this as a promise that even though youths stray from the faith,  they will eventually come back.  Not only do we know that this is usually not true from our own experience; this is also not what the Bible says AT ALL.  The passage is saying that if you do your part and the kid does his/her part by absorbing the teaching and imitating the role-modeling during his/her formative years, it is not likely that in old age, s/he will make a radical departure from it.  That, by the way, with precious few exceptions, is exactly what hundreds of years of human experience has borne out.  God's word is good!


Wave Nunnally, Ph.D.