Face of seated scribe. Fifth Dynasty. Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

Johnson University

BIBL 3105

Wisdom Literature



While the expression "wisdom literature" does not appear as a canonical category of the English Bible, texts within that library share many "wisdom" features. This course considers biblical expressions of wisdom, focusing on the books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. Attention is given to defining wisdom and wisdom literature, noting how the idea is used by biblical authors, and contemplating how it is like/unlike the wisdom literature of Israel's neighbors. Prerequisites: BIBL 2130 Exegetical Methods for English Bible and BIBL 2201 Orientation to the New Testament.


key documents

Syllabus for Fall 2017, Section 1 (7:35 class)

Syllabus for Fall 2017, Section 2 (10:00 class)

Schedule for Fall 2017, Section 1 (7:35 class)

Schedule for Fall 2017, Section 2 (10:00 class)

Bible Facts to Know (Mastery of this list of names, places, events, and dates is expected of all graduates of Johnson University. Only a portion of this list will be assessed by BIBL 3105.)

Select Bibliography

Outline of Sessions 

The following outline presents the general shape of the semester's study. Consult the schedule above (under "Key Documents") to align this shape with your classroom experience. While the outline below is fixed, the schedule may be adjusted as the semester unrolls. 

Two links appear under each session. The first ("Preview") offers thumbnail sketches, goals, assignments and resources that correspond with classroom presentations. The second ("Worksheet") represents a page to be printed, completed, and brought to the classroom on the day it is due. Again, consult the schedule for due dates. 

A. Introductory Matters

1. Course, Texts, Perspectives

Preview to Session 1

Worksheet for Session 1

2. Words of Wisdom

Preview to Session 2

Worksheet for Session 2

B. wisdom from israel, Mesopotamia, egypt

3. "Do not do this fool thing!": Wisdom in David's Story (Part 1)

Preview to Session 3

Worksheet for Session 3

4.  "It was like asking God himself": Wisdom in David's Story (Part 2)

Preview to Session 4

Worksheet for Session 4

5. Wisdom, Lust, and other Dangerous Things: Wisdom in Solomon's Story (Part 1)

Preview to Session 5

Worksheet for Session 5

6. King of the World: Wisdom in Solomon's Story (Part 2)

Preview to Session 6

Worksheet for Session 6

7. Wise-guys, Cut-ups, Wailers, and Sailors: Wisdom from Mesopotamia

Preview to Session 7

John Walton on Comparative Studies (pages 18-28)

Thumbnail Timeline of Mesopotamian Literature

The Babylonian Theodicy translation by W. G. Lambert

Dialogue of Pessimism, translation by W. G. Lambert

Worksheet for Session 7

8. Sages and Sorcerers: Wisdom from Egypt

Preview to Session 8

Thumbnail Timeline of Egyptian Literature

The Wisdom of Amenemope

Worksheet for Session 8

Study guide for exam 1

C. Classic Literature of Wisdom

9. Job: The Text and its Study

Preview to Session 9

Worksheet for Session 9

10. Job: The Prologue (1:1-2:13)

Preview to Session 10

Worksheet for Session 10

11. Job: The Speeches of Three Friends (3:1-31:40)

Preview to Session 11

Worksheet for Session 11

12. Job: The Interruption of Elihu (32:1-37:24)

Preview to Session 12

Worksheet for Session 12

13. Job: The Big Finish (38:1-42:17)

Preview to Session 13

Worksheet for Session 13

Study guide for exam 2

14. Proverbs: The Text and its Study

Preview to Session 14

Worksheet for Session 14

15. Proverbs: Lady Wisdom and her Challengers (1:1-9:18)

Preview to Session 15

Worksheet for Session 15

16. Proverbs: Dots, Lines, and Fancy Poems (10:10-31:31)

Preview to Session 16

Worksheet for Session 16

17. Ecclesiastes: The Text and its Study

Session 17 Lecture

Preview to Session 17

Worksheet for Session 17

18. Ecclesiastes: Solomon and the End of Wisdom (1:1-4:16)

Session 18 Lecture

Preview to Session 18

Worksheet for Session 18

19. Ecclesiastes: Making Something of Nothing (5:1-12:14)

Session 19 Lecture

Preview to Session 19

Worksheet for Session 19

Study guide for exam 3

D. Other Voicings of Wisdom

20. Wisdom Psalms

Preview to Session 20

Worksheet for Session 20

21. Prophetic Wisdom

Preview to Session 21

Worksheet for Session 21

22. Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus)

Preview to Session 22

Worksheet for Session 22

23. The Wisdom of Solomon

Preview to Session 23

Worksheet for Session 23

E. Conclusion

24. Wisdom Today

Preview to Session 24

Worksheet for Session 24

Study guide for exam 4