Wisdom Literature: Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, and Esther

Wisdom Literature: Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, and Esther

Wisdom Literature: Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, and Esther

Wisdom Literature: Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, and Esther

Excerpt

It will be clear to the careful reader that only three (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes) of the six books treated here are technically [wisdom literature.] The others are included to assure a convenient distribution of the biblical material in these volumes. The choice is a happy one, however. The Song of Songs is unmistakably a collection of love poems. But recent scholarship (J.-P. Audet, E. Würthwein, B. Childs) has been open to ascribing the preservation and transmission of these poems to the sages of Israel. As a whole, the Song emphasizes values which are primary in wisdom thought (cf. Proverbs 1-9). Esther is hardly to be classified as a wisdom story, as will be seen from the treatment below. The very fact that the case could be argued well and seriously by S. Talmon, however, is a sign that it is conveniently placed in this volume. Finally, the genre of Ruth is not among the forms associated with Israelite wisdom. But the idyllic nature of the story puts it within the purview of the sages' goals.

The writer has attempted to glean the best from the relevant form-critical studies of the past. The general reader of the Bible will be the judge of how sharply this tool cuts into the material and lays it out for exposition. The scholar will be the judge among the differing points of view, and may sense the need of more [rhetorical criticism,] which is a growing concern in biblical studies. Also, much remains to be done in the area of proverbial sayings, as the recent dissertations of Carole Fontaine and Brian Kovacs remind us. The writer wishes to express his gratitude to his colleagues in the form-critical project, from whom he learned much about form criticism. He is also grateful for a sabbatical from Duke University during which most of this work was accomplished.

ROLAND E. MURPHY, O. CARM. Duke University . . .

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