The Tree of Life: An Exploration of Biblical Wisdom Literature

The Tree of Life: An Exploration of Biblical Wisdom Literature

The Tree of Life: An Exploration of Biblical Wisdom Literature

The Tree of Life: An Exploration of Biblical Wisdom Literature

Synopsis

Since 1990 Roland Murphy's Tree of Life has been a standard introduction to the wisdom literature of the Bible. Now The Tree of Life is available in a third edition, complete with a new preface by the author and a special supplement that surveys the latest developments in wisdom research.

This superb study thoroughly explores the wisdom writings of the Bible, interpreting this literature in a way that illumines the development of Israel's search for wisdom throughout its tumultuous history. Murphy looks at each wisdom book individually -- Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiasticus, and Wisdom of Solomon -- and adds to them a discussion of wisdom from other parts of the Old Testament. His careful investigations expose the various guises that wisdom adopts -- the "fear of the Lord," moral formation, the universality of human experience, the mysteries of creation, and others.

Excerpt

Why a third edition? Very simply, the basic study remains valuable and it is going out of print. the same situation prompted a second edition in 1996, and so a Supplement was called for. the addition aimed not so much at “correcting” the book, but adding insights from new publications that had appeared in the meantime. Now the situation is repeating itself. the ongoing studies of wisdom literature continue at a rapid pace, and an additional Supplement is desirable. a reviewer of the second revised edition made an astute observation. Although he preferred not to be flipping back and forth from the basic text, he was of the opinion that the separation, rather than integration, of the two sets of material (basic text and Supplement) “enables the reader to discern stages of development over time, and it reflects what appear to be the tensions Murphy experiences between older and newer interpretative methods’’ (so Stephen P. Garfinkel of the New York Jewish Theological Seminary in a review in Hebrew Studies 41 [2000] 259-61). the review in Theologische Literaturzeitung 123/10 (1998) by the veteran biblical scholar, Otto Kaiser, was appreciative: “Whoever is looking for a reliable introduction into biblical wisdom literature on a high level, this book can be emphatically recommended. One may add explicitly that even the specialist can receive much stimulation from it.’’

In short, the value of the original “exploration” persists, and hence an “aggiornamento” or further updating is in order. the Supplements have a secondary purpose; they will be especially useful for teachers and advanced students because they take note of more technical publications, whereas the basic text of 1990 remains on the level of college theology and interested laity. the new second “millennial” Supplement demonstrates the remarkable increase in studies given over to research in biblical wisdom; Proverbs and Qoheleth are outstanding examples. While there will be frequent reference to previous pages and particular discussions, the contribution of the new commentaries and monographs will be featured. Thus a kind of survey of . . .

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