Israel's Wisdom Literature: A Liberation-Critical Reading

Israel's Wisdom Literature: A Liberation-Critical Reading

Israel's Wisdom Literature: A Liberation-Critical Reading

Israel's Wisdom Literature: A Liberation-Critical Reading

Synopsis

Dianne Bergant offers a fresh approach to all the wisdom books of the Hebrew Bible and the Greek Apocrypha. She concentrates on the final canonical form of each book and takes the "integrity of creation" as the basic interpretive perspective. This means, among other things, that the idea of the unity of humankind - indeed, the unity of all living things - lies at the heart of the approach.

Excerpt

This series arose out of feminist concerns, including the conviction that the biblical texts were produced by men in a patriarchal culture and that the ways in which the texts depict women and men are consequently conditioned by the assumptions associated with patriarchy. But such concerns lead essentially to other concerns. If the culture depicted in the texts is patriarchal, then it is also hierarchical; its way of organizing society is not only to place men over women but also to place free men over slaves, rich over poor, Hebrew over foreigner, as if persons could be appropriately relegated to one or another rung of a ladder depending on their sex, status, or prestige in society.

According to ladderlike or triangular models of social organization, even the lowest-runged humans rank higher than nonhumans, with those living nonhumans commonly identified as animals ranking higher than those living nonhumans commonly identified as plants. According to this scheme, all living beings rank higher than the matter commonly identified as nonliving which inhabits the universe. Although the applications of patriarchyhierarchy find different expressions at different times in history and in different ethnic cultures, and although the ancient Israelites as hunting and agricultural societies were likely more conscious of their dependence on the nonhuman and therefore less likely to exploit with abandon than contemporary industrialized peoples, nevertheless, the principle of the legitimating of domination is inherent in the patriarchal-hierarchical worldview.

Such a patriarchal-hierarchical paradigm legitimates the domination of others considered of lesser value and depicts as normal an envy of those considered greater, while defining the desire to “climb the ladder” as “healthy ambition,” a quality to be cultivated. This attitude stands in stark contrast to forms of social organization that assume the interdependence of . . .

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