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The Fear of the Lord Is Wisdom: A Theological Introduction to Wisdom in Israel

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Wisdom plays an important role in the Old Testament, particularly in Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. This major work from renowned scholar Tremper Longman examines wisdom in the Old Testament and explores its theological influence on the intertestamental books, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and especially the New Testament.

Longman notes that wisdom is a practical category (the skill of living), an ethical category (a wise person is a virtuous person), and most foundationally a theological category (the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom). The author discusses Israelite wisdom in the context of the broader ancient Near East, treats the connection between wisdom in the New Testament and in the Old Testament, and deals with a number of contested issues, such as the relationship of wisdom to prophecy, history, and law.

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Key Features

  • Analyzes the wisdom in the Old Testament
  • Explores the theological influence of wisdom literature on the New Testament
  • Examines Israel’s wisdom in its ancient Near Eastern context


  • Prologue

Part 1: The Heart of Wisdom: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job

  • Proverbs: The Fear of the Lord Is the Beginning of Wisdom
  • Ecclesiastes: Fear God, Obey the Commandments, and Live in Light of the Coming Judgment
  • The Book of Job: “Behold the Fear of the Lord Is Wisdom” (Job 28:28)

Part 2: Wisdom Elsewhere in the Old Testament

  • Wisdom Elsewhere in the Old Testament
  • Other Sources of Wisdom: Deuteronomy, Psalms, Song of Songs, and Prophecy
  • Joseph and Daniel: Paragons of Wisdom
  • Adam and Solomon: From the Heights of Wisdom to the Depths of Folly

Part 3: Israel's Wisdom: Cosmopolitan or Unique?

  • Sources of Wisdom: Experience, Observation, Tradition, Correction, and Ultimately Revelation
  • Wisdom, Creation, and (Dis)order
  • Israelite Wisdom in Its Ancient Near Eastern Setting
  • Wisdom, Covenant, and Law

Part 4: Further Refining Our Understanding of Wisdom

  • The Consequences of Wise and Foolish Behavior: The Issue of Retribution Theology
  • The Social Setting of Wisdom
  • Wisdom and Gender

Part 5: The Afterlife of Israel’s Wisdom

  • Intertestamental Wisdom from the Apocrypha to the Dead Sea Scrolls
  • New Testament Wisdom
  • Appendix 1: Wisdom in the Twenty-First Century
  • Appendix 2: Is Wisdom Literature a Genre?

Praise for the Print Edition

Israel’s wisdom literature has long been misunderstood as secular and experiential, a foreign import and therefore a human response to the challenges of life rather than a divine word. By building on newer work demonstrating wisdom’s religious roots and revelatory character, Longman masterfully explores the theological particularity of Israel’s wisdom tradition. The result is an excellent introduction for students and the general Christian reader, as well as a fitting culmination of Longman’s career-long engagement with this literature. His book is unusually comprehensive in scope, extending its coverage to the Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the New Testament. It concludes with thoughtful reflections on the potential for Israel’s wisdom to contribute significantly to church and society in the twenty-first century.

—Stephen B. Chapman, Duke University

With masterful elegance Longman navigates through the topic of wisdom in the Old Testament, making a compelling and exegetically rich argument that wisdom is not independent of the redemptive-historical narrative of the Old Testament but intrinsic to it. Insightful and refreshing, this brilliant exposition of wisdom is a must read for anyone seeking a more coherent theology of wisdom and its place in the canon.

—Carol M. Kaminski, professor of Old Testament, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Longman doesn’t get swept away by fashions, but neither does he dismiss ideas merely because they are new. He looks at them with interest but keeps a cool head. So he is the kind of person that the wise men and women of Israel would appreciate, and he appreciates them. His book is a balanced and informative introduction both to a ‘distinctive but not discordant note’ within the Old Testament and to its theological message.

—John Goldingay, David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

Longman provides a combination of innovative scholarship and clear, accessible prose. He covers the tradition’s bases but also addresses a postmodern reading context. The Fear of the Lord Is Wisdom will be an excellent guide for undergraduates, seminarians, and scholars alike.

—Stephen B. Reid, professor of Christian Scriptures, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University

Longman once again makes the riches of the Old Testament accessible to readers today. After unpacking the core texts related to the wisdom tradition in the Old Testament, he highlights key features that prepare us to read these texts theologically with greater sensitivity to their historical and canonical contexts.

—Mark J. Boda, McMaster Divinity College

Longman offers a synchronic theological treatment of wisdom that is both comprehensive and accessible. His extensive experience with the topic yields a seasoned pedagogical and theological contribution to the foundational biblical concept of wisdom. I recommend this book warmly and will be using it as a resource in my own teaching.

—Peter Enns, Abram S. Clemens Professor of Biblical Studies, Eastern University

Longman challenges persistent assumptions about wisdom in Israel and provides an introduction to wisdom theology that casts aside the constraints of a strict conception of the wisdom literature genre. He explores wisdom as a concept across the Hebrew Bible; through ancient Near Eastern, Second Temple, and New Testament texts; and into the twenty-first century. His treatment transcends the oppositions of common depictions of biblical wisdom, instead arguing that wisdom is both practical and theological, universal and particular to Israel, tied to creation theology and to redemptive history and covenant. This clear and accessible discussion of the fundamental theological questions these texts raise will also prompt readers to consider biblical wisdom as both ancient and relevant.

—Will Kynes, assistant professor of theology, Whitworth University

  • Title: The Fear of the Lord Is Wisdom: A Theological Introduction to Wisdom in Israel
  • Author: Tremper Longman III
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Print Publication Date: 2017
  • Logos Release Date: 2017
  • Pages: 336
  • Era: era:contemporary
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Subjects: Wisdom literature › Criticism, interpretation, etc; Bible. O.T. Job › Commentaries
  • ISBNs: 9781493410330, 9780801027116
  • Resource Type: Bible Commentary
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2020-09-03T18:54:26Z
Tremper Longman III

Tremper Longman III is the Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College. He has written over 25 books, including commentaries on Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Daniel, and Nahum. His books have been translated into 17 different languages. In addition, as a Hebrew scholar, he is one of the main translators of the popular New Living Translation, and has served as a consultant on other popular Bible translations, including The Message, the New Century Version, the Holman Standard Bible, and the Common Bible. He has also edited and contributed to a number of study Bibles and Bible dictionaries, most recently The Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary.

He earned his BA from Ohio Wesleyan University, his MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary, and both his MPhil and PhD from Yale University. Dr. Longman and his wife, Alice, have three sons and two granddaughters.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition

Enjoy April's Monthly Sale


Regular price: $32.99
Save $9.90 (30%)