Re-Thinking Wisdom Literature in the Bible (Will Kynes)

Since the 19th century, the term “wisdom literature” has been associated specifically with the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. When we look for wisdom in the Bible, then, we will often turn to these books. However, to divorce these works from the larger biblical corpus may have blinded us to their fuller narrative context and prevented us from seeing wisdom in other stories, poetry, and laws of Scripture.

Will Kynes, Associate Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies at Samford University, wants to broaden and challenge our understanding of wisdom and wisdom literature in the Hebrew Bible. In this episode, he talks with Dr. Dru Johnson about the Hebrew context for wisdom in the Bible, including 1 Kings, Deuteronomy, Genesis 1–3, and even contemporary Egyptian texts. Instead of limiting ourselves to the modern definitions of wisdom, perhaps we can begin to read Scripture on its own terms and enrich our understanding of its persistent and complex wisdom tradition.

Show notes:

  • 0:28 The problem with the way we think of wisdom in the Bible
  • 2:39 Different views of wisdom
  • 6:38 Focusing on the concept of wisdom instead of “wisdom literature”
  • 9:00 Understanding “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”
  • 10:41 Reading 1 Kings 1–11 and Proverbs
  • 17:15 Culturally-based versus universalized pictures of wisdom
  • 23:26 The narrative framework of Scripture
  • 25:19 A new word for “wisdom”?
  • 28:13 Understanding Scripture on its own terms

For more of Will Kynes’s work on wisdom in the Bible, check out An Obituary for “Wisdom Literature”: The Birth, Death, and Intertextual Reintegration of a Biblical Corpus.

Will Kynes’s Samford University page with bio and more writings.

Show notes by Micah Long.

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