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 Spring 2018 (revised 1/24/18)

Schedule for Spring 2018 (revised 2/1/18)

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

Memory work: Proverbs 2:1-8

B. wisdom from israel, Mesopotamia, egypt

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

Preview to Session 3

Worksheet for Session 3

Memory work: Job 34:1-4

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

Preview to Session 4

Worksheet for Session 4

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

Preview to Session 5

Worksheet for Session 5

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

Preview to Session 6

Worksheet for Session 6

Memory work: Proverbs 6:20-23

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

Memory work: Job 1:20-22

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

Preview to Session 10

Worksheet for Session 10

Memory work: Job 19:25-27

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

Preview to Session 11

Worksheet for Session 11

Individual Assignments for our in-class dialogue

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

Preview to Session 12

Worksheet for Session 12

Memory work: Job 42:1-6

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

Longman on Biblical Poetry

Worksheet for Session 14

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

Preview to Session 15

Worksheet for Session 15

Memory work: Proverbs 5:18-23

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

Preview to Session 17

Worksheet for Session 17

18. Ecclesiastes: Solomon and the End of Human Wisdom

Preview to Session 18

Worksheet for Session 18

Memory work: Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Study guide for exam 3

D. Other Voicings of Wisdom

19. Wisdom Psalms: The Text and its Study

Preview to Session 19

Worksheet for Session 19

Memory work: Psalm 127:1-5

20. Wisdom Psalms: On Trees and Chaff

Preview to Session 20

Worksheet for Session 20

21. Daniel and Memories of Joseph

Preview to Session 21

Worksheet for Session 21

22. Deuterocanon: Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus)

Preview to Session 22

Text for Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus)

Worksheet for Session 22

23. Deuterocanon: The Wisdom of Solomon

Preview to Session 23

Text for the Wisdom of Solomon

Worksheet for Session 23

Memory work: 1 Corinthians 1:27-29

24. The Wisdom of God: Wisdom in the New Testament

Preview to Session 24

Worksheet for Session 24

Study guide for exam 4