Instruction of Amenemope and Proverbs 22:17-24:22?

Question
Did Solomon copy the Instruction of Amenemope in Proverbs 22:17-24:22? If copied, doesn't this mean the Scripture is not inspired of God?
Answer

Proverbs 22:17-24:22 speaks of the thirty sayings of the wise. There are some features of its content and style that appear to follow the "Instruction of Amenemope" (ca. 1300-1075 BCE); an ancient Egyptian piece of literature dated prior to the Book of Proverbs (960-686 B.C.). However, this does not in any way effect the inspiration of Scripture.

First, God is the author of all truth, both of Special Revelation and General Revelation. No matter who says or writes the truth first, it does not effect its truthfulness, inspiration, authority, or reliability. Truth = Truth (1+1=2), no matter who says it first.

Second, let's look at Proverbs 22:17-21. I agree with Rev. Matthew W. Kingsbury (The Presbyterian Curmudgeon, June 2012), who says it forms a chiastic pattern; a literary device in which a sequence of thought is presented and then repeated in reverse order:

  • A. exhortation + motive (Prov 22:17-18)

    • B. motive + exhortation (Prov 22:19)
  • A'. exhortation + motive (Prov 22:20-21)

As can be seen, Proverbs 22:17-22 central focus is upon Yahweh (Prov 22:19). So, if Solomon is borrowing from the "Instruction of Amenemop," he does so by putting the truth of the wisdom derived from it in its proper context; glorifying God its true author (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet 1:20-21).

Third, since God innately implants a General Revelation of himself in every man (Rom 2:14-15; cf. Isa 44:9-20; Acts 14:8-19) and he also continues to reveal himself in his creation, nature, and by his works (Psa 19:1-2; Acts 14:17), we should expect some overlap of ideas between the Bible and other writings. "Proverbs is striking similar in structure and content to comparable wisdom literature from Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Levant that dates from before the time of Solomon" (see the "Overview of the Book of Proverbs" below).

Note: The Bible often speaks of other works (Num 21:14; Josh 10:13; 1 Chron 9:1; 27:24; 29:29; 2 Chron 12:15; 13:22; 20:34; 26:22; 27:7; 32:32; 33:18; 35:4, 27; 36:8; Esther 2:23; 6:1; Mal 3:16, etc.). It also uses other works - "Jude is also noteworthy for its use of non-Biblical and Apocryphal materials." See "Apocrypha Accounts?" below. "Other examples include Peter's use of similar apocalyptic literature (2 Peter) and Paul's use of the Jewish tradition (i.e. see his elaboration of Exod. 7:11 in 2 Tim. 3:8) as well as his quotations of pagan poets (Acts 17:28; 1 Cor 15:33; Tit 1:12)." See "Overview of the Book of Jude" below.

Related Topics:

What are Biblical Chiasms?
Overview of the Book of Proverbs
Apocrypha Accounts?
Overview of the Book of Jude
The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture
The Authority of Scripture

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).