Knowing that the topic of spanking was on the horizon, the couple leading this class asked me to look over and respond to an article called "Spare the Rod" by Crystal Lutton, author of a book titled Biblical Parenting. This couple told me of a family member who found her argumentation against spanking very persuasive and wanted to get my take on it in preparation for their teaching material that sees spanking as a biblically legitimate aspect of corrective discipline. Pastor Lutton tries to make her case by showing why references in the book of Proverbs to the rod as a means of discipline are not intended as endorsements of spanking.
I spent a number of hours last week studying Mrs. Lutton's article and related material and thought I'd post the fruits of my labor here. My purpose in doing so is not so much to convince anyone of the merits of spanking as to hopefully model some sound methods of biblical interpretation and critical analysis of proposed biblical interpretations. One should never simply accept an argument because the person presenting it has the title of pastor and appears to have some familiarity with the original languages. As I read through the many references to Hebrew words and lists of lexical definitions in Mrs. Lutton's essay, I understood how easily someone with no background in biblical languages could be convinced that her case is solid. Fortunately, however, numerous resources, like concordances and dictionaries (some of which are available online), make it possible for anyone who knows how to use them to evaluate various claims.
So, here's an edited excerpt of the email I sent to the couple who asked for my feedback. Naturally, it will make better sense if you read Pastor Lutton's essay first.