Wisdom Literature

By Samuel E. Balentine Published
Wisdom Literature
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Wisdom literature is foundational to our life and learning.

If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom formed in the life of faith, its end is nothing less than the shaping of a moral self and community attuned to the character of God. This pursuit of wisdom is an ongoing journey, never a simple arrival.

For the wisdom writings of the Old Testament, the pursuit of wisdom calls for the ongoing attainment of instruction, insight, shrewdness, knowledge, prudence, learning, and skill. And persons who attain wisdom think more deeply, are more discerning, and have a keener insight into the complexities and nuances of decision making. For a world-perspective that assumes the power and reality of divinity, being wise means living ethically - and to live ethically, one must be in a constant intellectual pursuit of meaning.

The book details the structure, themes, and contribution to both ancient and modern society of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. The chapters on Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon will discuss the consonance and dissonance with canonical wisdom, giving special attention to the development of their core ideas. The book will conclude with a chapter on Wisdoms abiding legacy.


One could hardly imagine a more perfect arrangement than having Samuel Balentine, a leading light in Old Testament studies, pen the present contribution on wisdom literature. He offers a clear and accessible introduction to each of the wisdom books, their themes, and their often thorny interpretive issues. Throughout, Balentine is interested in (divine) Wisdom and (human) wisdom and with the beginning(s) and end(s) of both. Wisdom, Balentine asserts, is about thinking about thinking; in this book, we are treated to an exceptional theologians thinking. This seriesCore Biblical Studiesis committed to bringing together respected scholars/teachers, and students.

Brent A. Strawn, Professor of Old Testament and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA

This book is beautifully written with stunning clarity and cogency, inviting readers to begin considering the place of biblical wisdom across cultures. The result is a work that is fresh and replete with new questions and interpretive possibilities. Many will use this work in college seminars, as well as in upper-level/seminary/graduate courses on biblical wisdom. But I can also imagine it in the hands of those outside the academy and the guild who are simply curious about what Balentine calls transcultural wisdom. Put differently, this book is daring and far-reaching enough to engage groups of readers interested in topics as diverse as the history of ideas, moral formation, comparative religions, and the integration of human knowledge.

Louis Stulman, Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Religious Studies and Philosophy Department at the University of Findlay, Findlay, OH

About the Author

Samuel E. Balentine

Samuel E. Balentine is Professor of Old Testament and Director of Graduate Studies at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. He is the author of several books, including a commentary on Leviticus in the Interpretation Bible Commentary series (John Knox Press), The Torahs Vision of Worship (Fortress Press), and Have You Considered My Servant Job? Understanding the Biblical Archetype of Patience (University of South Carolina Press).