Psalm 37: Conflict of Interpretation
IN TWO DECADES of energetic activity, wisdom studies have reached something of a plateau.1 As a result of the work of Norman Whybray, along with that of Gerhard von Rad, James L. Crenshaw, and Roland E. Murphy (to name the most prominent), we are now able to take as a consensus a great deal concerning Israelite wisdom literature, for example, its modes of disclosure, its assumptions about authority, its probable social contexts, its general theological intentionality, its tensions with more dominant modes of faith, and its paradoxical relation to broader wisdom traditions in the Near East.2 The dominant wisdom literature, which functions as a normative reference point for scholarly forays concerning wisdom in other places, is found in Proverbs and Job, respectively a literature of social stability and a literature of dissonant protest.3 Among other pieces of
1. See the recent, comprehensive review of the state of scholarship in The Sage
in Israel and the Ancient Near East, ed. John G. Gammie and Leo G. Perdue (Winona
Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1990).
2. R. Norman Whybray, The Intellectual Tradition in the Old Testament, BZAW 135
(Berlin: de Gruyter, 1974); idem, Wisdom in Proverbs: The Concept of Wisdom in Proverbs
1–9, SBT 45 (London: SCM Press, 1965), and his survey, "The Social World of the
Wisdom Writers," in The World of Ancient Israel: Sociological, Anthropological and Political
Perspectives, ed. Ronald E. Clements (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989), 227-
50; Gerhard von Rad, Wisdom in Israel (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1972); James L.
Crenshaw, Old Testament Wisdom: An Introduction (Atlanta: John Knox, 1981); and
Roland E. Murphy, Wisdom Literature: fob, Proverbs, Ruth, Canticles, Ecclesiastes and
Esther, FOTL 13 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981).
3. On the dialectic, see Leo G. Perdue, "Cosmology and the Social Order in the
Wisdom Tradition," in The Sage in Israel and the Ancient Near East, 457–78.