Wisdom literature

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Wisdom literature is a genre of literature common in the ancient Near East. This genre is characterized by sayings of wisdom intended to teach about divinity and about virtue. The key principle of wisdom literature is that while techniques of traditional story-telling are used, books also presume to offer insight and wisdom about nature and reality.

The genre of mirrors for princes writings, which has a long history in Islamic and Western Renaissance literature, represents a secular cognate of biblical wisdom literature. In Classical Antiquity, the advice poetry of Hesiod, particularly his Works and Days has been seen as a like-genre to Near Eastern wisdom literature.

Ancient Egyptian literature[edit]

In ancient Egyptian literature, wisdom literature belonged to the sebayt ("teaching") genre which flowered during the Middle Kingdom of Egypt and became canonical during the New Kingdom. Notable works of this genre include the Instructions of Kagemni, The Maxims of Ptahhotep, the Instructions of Amenemhat, and the Loyalist Teaching.

Biblical wisdom literature[edit]

The most famous examples of wisdom literature are found in the Bible.[1] The following Biblical books are classified as wisdom literature; the Book of Job, [2] Psalms,[3] the Book of Proverbs,[2] Ecclesiastes,[2] Song of Songs,[3] the Book of Wisdom,[2] and Sirach.[2] The last two are deuterocanonical books, placed in the Apocrypha by Anglican and Protestant Bible translations.[4]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Crenshaw, James L. "The Wisdom Literature", in Knight, Douglas A. and Tucker, Gene M. (eds), The Hebrew Bible and Its Modern Interpreters (1985).
  2. ^ a b c d e Comay, Joan; Brownrigg, Ronald (1993). Who's Who in the Bible: The Old Testament and the Apocrypha, The New Testament. New York: Wing Books. pp. Old Testament, 355. ISBN 0-517-32170-X. 
  3. ^ a b 'The Wisdom Books'. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, New American Bible. Washington DC: 2002. http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/wisdom.htm
  4. ^ Comay, Joan; Brownrigg, Ronald (1993). Who's Who in the Bible: The Old Testament and the Apocrypha, The New Testament. New York: Wing Books. pp. Old Testament, 355–356. ISBN 0-517-32170-X. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Estes, Daniel J. (2010). Handbook on the Wisdom Books and Psalms. ISBN 978-0801038884. 
  • Crenshaw, J. L. (2010). Old Testament wisdom: an introduction. ISBN 0-664-23459-3. 
  • Murphy, R. E. (2002). The tree of life: an exploration of biblical wisdom literature. ISBN 0-8028-3965-7.