Wisdom Literature in the Bible

HEBREW 3708: Wisdom Literature in the Bible

An examination of the various ideas, themes, attitudes, implications, and genres of biblical and post-biblical wisdom literature.  Prereq: English 1110 (110). Not open to students with credit for 378. GE lit and diversity global studies course.  Cross-listed in Jewish Studies. 

This course will explore a number of the biblical sapiential texts and compositions, mainly in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, Psalms, the New Testament, and the Apocrypha. The wisdom literary corpus can be divided into two separate yet overlapping categories. One category, exemplified in the Book of Proverbs, constitutes a comprehensive code of conduct, which aims at directing society on the path to success, happiness, and reasonable harmony with its environment. The other category, exemplified by the Books of Ecclesiastes and Job, grapples with the eternal problems that beset humanity, primarily the agonizing question, "Why do the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer?" The course will stress the indivisible unity of the secular, religious, and ethical aspects of biblical wisdom. It will also explore the universal aspects of wisdom and its search for a certain regularity within the diversity of the phenomena of the world. Proper comprehension of biblical wisdom depends upon an understanding of related texts in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The course will address the striking similarities, in thought and form, between biblical wisdom and the Wisdom of Amenemope, Instructions of Merikare, Ptahhotep, and others. Only by means of such comparison will the distinctive features of Israelite wisdom come to prominence. Insights in Rabbinic wisdom (Pirqei Avot) will also be provided. By the end of this course, students will have achieved a broad exposure to the ideas and genres of Old Testament wisdom literature and the values affirmed therein. Through reading the biblical texts and selected secondary literature and commentaries, students will be able to identify the major themes addressed by wisdom literature and the various attitudes, solutions, and consolations it affords.
Credit Hours

Sample Syllabus: