What is Wisdom Literature? 1.The attempt to cope with reality. –How to deal with the adversity, inequities, and contradictions of life. 2. The quest for specific ways to ensure personal well-being. 3. The transmission of this knowledge to future generations.
What is Wisdom Literature? 4. Relational. –Husband-wife relationships. –Parent-child relationships. –Business relationships. –Societal relationships.
What is Wisdom Literature? 5. A literary corpus— –Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Ben Sirach, and Wisdom of Solomon, as well as a few psalms.
What is Wisdom Literature? Crenshaw: “mysterious ingredient” –Theme—The “sages” spoke of common problems. –Style— proverbial sayings, instructions, debates or discussion, and intellectual reflection. –It is the peculiar marriage of content (theme) and form (style) that sets apart wisdom literature.
What is Wisdom Literature? “Personification of wisdom”—“Lady wisdom”
What is Wisdom Literature? 6. A Search –Wisdom is portrayed as hidden. –Thus, at its core, wisdom literature is the record of the ongoing search for wisdom.
What is Wisdom Literature? 7. A Worldview. –God is supreme. –Creation has a basic order. –Life has a basic propriety. –This worldview is basically optimistic. –This worldview is also basically humanistic.
Wisdom and heilsgeschichte Time-Space Continuum History, prophets, “keep covenant” God is “immanent” Creation, “Way of Life,” impersonal God is “transcendent” Pent., History, Prophets Prov., Job, Ecclesiastes Ben Sirach Wisdom DSS NT
The goal of “Wisdom Literature” 1. The development of human character. –Character through rhetoric. –Proverbial statements have the natural ring of truth. “Can a man carry hot coals in his shirt and not be burned?” Of course not! And neither can a man consort with an adulteress (or vice versa) and not be destroyed!
The goal of “Wisdom Literature” William Brown: OT Wisdom Literature provides “characterizations of character.” –The “life of virtue” is described & celebrated. –This “life of virtue” represents an “ethic of being or character” rather than an “ethic of duty.” –Specific moral & ethical maxims or rules are simply the means to an end, not the end itself.
The goal of “Wisdom Literature” 2. Thus, the goal of Wisdom Literature is the production of people of integrity. –Who is the ultimate man of integrity? Job –The person of integrity can apply the truths of wisdom to daily life and make good decisions.
Themes of OT Wisdom I. Moderation & Restraint Excess is to be avoided. Beware the evils of: –Riches; –Strong drink; –The adulterous or loose woman; and –Power.
Themes of OT Wisdom II. Family Life Anything that tears down family solidarity is to be avoided. The important roles of father and mother are stressed in the Wisdom Literature.
Themes of OT Wisdom Literature III. Wisdom and Folly “Wisdom” and “Folly” are opposing characters. “Wisdom”=Integrity, “Folly”=Dishonesty “Wisdom”=Righteous, “Folly”=Unrighteous “Wisdom”=Good, “Folly”=Evil “Wisdom” is to be sought,“Folly” is to be avoided “Wisdom” brings life,“Folly” brings death
Themes of OT Wisdom IV. Fear of the Lord “Fear of the Lord” is variously defined: –Worship –Obedience –Reverence It is the proper attitude toward Yahweh. This attitude of submission to Yahweh.
Fear of the Lord JOB 28:28 He said to man, “The fear of the Lord-- that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” PR 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. PR 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. PR 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.
Fear of the Lord PR 15:16 Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil. PR 22:4 Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life. whole duty ECC 12:13 Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
History of OT Wisdom Prehistory of OT Wisdom Literature Egyptian antecedents, esp. Amenhopet. Mesopotamian wisdom texts may have influenced Job & Ecclesiastes. Many of the proverbs suggest a rural class society.
Ancient Near Eastern Wisdom Egyptian— –The instruction genre was popular in Egypt, with examples from the 25 th century BC through the 1 st century AD. –The god-given order of the world is called maat, which is translated “truth,” “justice,” or “order.”
History of OT Wisdom The wedding of wisdom & salvation history— Until the 2 nd century BC, wisdom literature is almost totally devoid of any historical reference. –The traditions of Israel—Abraham, covenant, Moses, exodus, conquest, Jerusalem, David—are virtually non- existent. Ben Sirach combines the historical traditions with wisdom traditions, bringing these two disparate biblical genres (salvation-history, or heilsgeschichte, and wisdom).
Mesopotamian— –Wisdom belonged to the gods. –Two forms may be compared with the OT: Instruction Proverbial statements
Ancient Near Eastern Wisdom Canaanite— –At Ugarit, a few wisdom texts have been discovered. –A few Babylonian texts were found, most notably “The Sayings of Ahiqar.” –“Graded numerical sayings” are only found in West Semitic wisdom literature, i.e. Ugaritic & Hebrew
History of OT Wisdom Solomon as “Sage par Excellence”— 1 Kings 4:29-34 –As Solomon consolidated his kingdom, he probably would have included a sapiential (=wisdom) tradition. “Proverbs of Solomon” may mean that Solomon was responsible for the collection & some writing of proverbs.
Solomon: “Sage par Excellence” 1 Kings 4:29-34 –God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than any other man, including Ethan the Ezrahite--wiser than Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.
History of OT Wisdom Sages as a class— Under Solomon (Hezekiah?) sages existed as a class. Wisdom literature, by nature, is developmental. –This accounts for contradictions in wisdom literature. PR 26:4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. PR 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. –This also explains the skepticism of Job & Ecclesiastes. –As time passed, attitudes changed & some questioned the sapiential foundations.