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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Postgraduate Course: Ancient Wisdom: Biblical sages and their writings (PG) (DIVI11029)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course examines the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible. It taps into the wisdom of the ages to explore issues which perennially face humankind, such as the problem of suffering, the meaningfulness of life, and the limits of human understanding. The central texts for study will include the books of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes, within their ancient West Asian contexts.
Course description Academic Description:
This course examines the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible in its ancient West Asian context. It taps into the wisdom of the ages to explore issues which perennially face humankind. Scholarship in this area has flourished recently, as old assumptions are questioned and new issues brought into focus. Does the book of Proverbs suppose that good deeds always have good consequences? Does the book of Job offer a viable solution to the problem of innocent suffering? Does the book of Ecclesiastes find any meaning in life? And can modern perspectives shed any new light on these ancient texts and problems?

Syllable/Outline Content:
A typical course outline might run as follows: After an introduction to wisdom literature, the course examines the major biblical wisdom books, each contextualised amongst other ancient literature. First, it explores the book of Proverbs, with its apparent 'act-consequence' connection and divinely run world order. Using a feminist hermeneutic, it examines Proverbs' polarised depictions of 'Lady Wisdom' and 'Lady Folly'. Next, it probes into the problem of innocent suffering in the book of Job, along with related questions about the character of God and motives for human piety. It uses disability studies to examine Job's physical body, and ecological hermeneutics to explore depictions of the nonhuman world. Finally, it examines the book of Ecclesiastes, which ruminates on the meaninglessness of life, and yet the ongoing possibility of pleasure. Ecclesiastes emphasises human frailty and ignorance in the grand sweep of cosmic time, while critiquing the unjust accumulation of wealth.

Student Learning Experience Information:
Students have weekly 2-hour seminars with UG students and addition weekly 1-hour seminars for PGs only. The teaching staff provide some lecture content (either pre-recorded or in class), and most of the class time is devoted to interactive activities. Students may, for example, have a debate, lead a discussion, analyse a text, reflect on a piece of art, discuss with a partner. Students compile an assessed annotated bibliography to better understand the scholarly field. This will then serve as a helpful resource for the final essay, in which students will sythesise their learning, and put forward their own proposals.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students are welcome to take this course. They would benefit from having had some grounding in biblical studies, though this is not essential.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Analyse biblical wisdom texts within their historical contexts, drawing on the original language where possible.
  2. Understand, critique, and evaluate scholarly views on biblical wisdom literature.
  3. Communicate complex problems in a clear, effective, and persuasive format.
  4. Propose, critique, and evaluate sophisticated solutions to the perennial problems raised in wisdom literature.
Reading List
Wisdom in the Hebrew Bible:
Bergant, Dianne. Israel's Wisdom Literature: A Liberation-Critical Reading. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997.

Brenner, Athalya. A Feminist Companion to Wisdom Literature. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995.

Dell, Katharine J. 'Get Wisdom, Get Insight': An Introduction to Israel's Wisdom Literature. Darton Longman & Todd, 2000.

Kynes, Will. The Oxford Handbook of Wisdom and the Bible. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.

Perdue, Leo G. The Sword and the Stylus: An Introduction to Wisdom in the Age of Empires. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.

Rad, Gerhard von. Wisdom in Israel. London: SCM, 1972.

Sneed, Mark R. Was There a Wisdom Tradition? New Prospects in Israelite Wisdom Studies. Ancient Israel and Its Literature. Atlanta, Ga: SBL Press, 2015.

Boström, Lennart. The God of the Sages: The Portrayal of God in the Book of Proverbs. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1990.

Camp, Claudia V. Wisdom and the Feminine in the Book of Proverbs. Sheffield, UK: Almond, 1985.

Fox, Michael V. Proverbs 1-9: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 2000.

---. Proverbs 10-31: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.

Golka, Friedemann W. The Leopard's Spots: Biblical and African Wisdom in Proverbs. T&T Clark: London, 1993.

Stewart, Anne W. Poetic Ethics in Proverbs: Wisdom Literature and the Shaping of the Moral Self. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Yoder, Christine Roy. Proverbs. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

Balentine, Samuel E. Job. The Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary. Macon, Ga: Smyth & Helwys Pub., 2006.

Dell, Katharine J. The Book of Job as Sceptical Literature. BZAW 197. Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 1991.

Gutiérrez, Gustavo, On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent. Orbis Books: Maryknoll, 1987.

Newsom, Carol A. The Book of Job: A Contest of Moral Imaginations. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Perdue, Leo G., and W. Clark Gilpin. The Voice from the Whirlwind: Interpreting the Book of Job. Nashville: Abingdon, 1992.

van Wolde, Ellen J. Job's God. London: SCM, 2004.

Bartholomew, Craig G. Reading Ecclesiastes: Old Testament Exegesis and Hermeneutical Theory. Analecta Biblica 139. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1998.

Koosed, Jennifer L. (Per)Mutations of Qohelet: Reading the Body in the Book. LHBOTS 429. New York: T&T Clark, 2006.

Krüger, Thomas. Qoheleth: A Commentary. Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.

Mills, Mary E. Reading Ecclesiastes: A Literary and Cultural Exegesis. Heythrop Studies in Contemporary Philosophy, Religion, & Theology. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003.

Tamez, Elsa. When the Horizons Close: Rereading Ecclesiastes. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2000.

Weeks, Stuart. Ecclesiastes and Scepticism. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies'; 541. New York: T & T Clark International, 2012.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - The ability to read and use texts both critically and empathetically
- The appreciation of the complexity of different worldviews
- Independence of mind and initiative
- The capacity to give a clear and accurate account of a subject, marshal arguments, and engage in respectful debate and dialogue
KeywordsWisdom literature,wisdom traditions,ancient world,ancient literature
Course organiserDr Suzanna Millar
Tel: (0131 6)50 8904
Course secretaryMs Amy MacKinnon
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227
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