Katharine J. Dell

in The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780199237777
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology


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This article addresses the following questions: What is this tradition of ‘wisdom’ to which the wise men ultimately belong? How far back do its roots go, and what literature specifically contains its insights? The genre of wisdom that begins with the book of Proverbs developed in a number of different directions as the canon expanded and then closed, and as the tradition continued into the Apocrypha, the Qumran documents, and the New Testament. Whilst wisdom books appear to be in a category of their own within the canon of the Old Testament, wisdom influence on other material can easily be found, even if the exchange of influence does not appear to have been two-way, at least in the earliest material. Later, however, that changed, and the boundaries between the wisdom genre and other genres became indistinct. The theological context of wisdom became increasingly important, with a significant development in Proverbs 1–9 into the realm of cosmological Wisdom, which became very significant in apocryphal material and with important theological challenges to the wisdom world-view posed by the authors of Job and Ecclesiastes, who questioned God's justice in the world in the light of human suffering and death.

Keywords: Proverbs; Bible; wisdom books; Job; Ecclesiastes; wise men

Article.  5010 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Judaism and Jewish Studies ; Religious Studies ; Christianity

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