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Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom

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In the early Jesus movement, wisdom in the person of Jesus was believed to have returned to heaven, exalted to the right hand of God, and to reign from there. But Jesus as wisdom had left both his legacy and his influence behind. The sayings of Jesus recorded in the Gospels reflect not only the influence of the Israelite wisdom traditions, but also the tradition of the personification of wisdom.

In this provocative volume, Ben Witherington provides both an introduction to Israel’s wisdom traditions and insight into how Jesus and his sayings fit in that tradition. Beyond this, he demonstrates the ongoing significance and influence of these traditions on other New Testament writings. He concludes that Jesus may be viewed primarily as a prophetic sage emphasizing instruction, insight, and humor in a vein counter to the dominant culture.

In the Logos edition, this valuable volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Scripture citations link directly to English translations, and important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Key Features

  • Argues that Jesus would have been seen as a prophetic sage during the time of his ministry
  • Examines how the style in which Jesus taught reflected that of Ben Sira’s or Pseudo-Solomon’s
  • Explores how biblical wisdom developed and changed chronologically culminating in the ministry of Christ


  • Part One: From Solomon to Jesus
    • Beginning the Journey: Drinking from the Fount
    • Wisdom at a Turning Point: From Ben Sira to the Wisdom of Solomon
    • Hokmah Meets Sophia: Jesus the Cynic?
    • Wisdom in Person: Jesus the Sage
  • Part Two: From Jesus to the Church
    • Wisdom’s Legacy: From Q to James
    • Singing Wisdom’s Praise
    • Paul the Apostle: Sage or Sophist?
    • The Gospels of Wisdom: Matthew and John
    • Final Reflections on Wisdom’s Journey

Praise for the Print Edition

Ben Witherington has written what is not only an extremely learned and fundamental book but one that is of theological importance as well. He offers much essential information on the sapiential background of ancient Jewish wisdom and the Jesus tradition that was influential in the shaping of earliest Christology. He corrects misguided opinions and leads us into the heart of the teachings of Jesus. He thereby contributes to our knowledge of earliest Christian thought, its Jewish background as well as its creative and innovative identity.

Martin Hengel, emeritus professor of New Testament and early Judaism, University of Tübingen

Product Details

  • Title: Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom
  • Author: Ben Witherington III
  • Publisher: Augsburg Fortress
  • Publication Date: 2000
  • Pages: 448

About Ben Witherington III

Ben Witherington III is professor of New Testament interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. He is the author of numerous works, including The Jesus Quest and New Testament History: A Narrative Account.

Resource Experts

Top Highlights

“Proverbs reflects two fundamental assumptions—that the universe is basically harmonious and that it has a moral structure, in particular a structure of retribution. The good and just are rewarded or at least their deeds naturally lead to health and well being if not prosperity, the bad or evil are punished or their deeds result in disaster.” (Page 18)

“I submit that the vast majority of the Gospel sayings tradition can be explained on the hypothesis that Jesus presented himself as a Jewish prophetic sage, one who drew on all the riches of earlier Jewish sacred traditions, especially the prophetic, apocalyptic, and sapiential material though occasionally even the legal traditions.” (Page 158)

“I am suggesting that there is a distinction between sages, those who coined proverbs or offered various sorts of oral teaching that could be called wisdom, and scribes of the court and later of the school who put such material in writing and so preserved it for later audiences.” (Pages 6–7)

“What seems to be the case is that Jesus usually sapientialized whatever he said, often expressing prophetic or apocalyptic ideas in some sort of Wisdom form of speech. It is for this reason that calling Jesus a sage is heuristically the most all-encompassing and satisfying term.” (Page 201)

“The Book of Proverbs includes some notable paradoxes. On the one hand, one learns in the prologue that the purpose of this book is that human beings may know wisdom and receive instruction in wise dealings. On the other hand wisdom, in the persona of Woman Wisdom, is said to be seeking humankind. On the one hand, wisdom seems to involve the investigation of natural and human phenomena and deducing practical lessons from them, but on the other hand, wisdom is something that God must reveal if anyone is to know it. Wisdom is on the one hand a challenge to the listener, and in other contexts the required response of that same listener.” (Page 22)

  • Title: Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom
  • Author: Ben Witherington III
  • Publisher: Fortress Press
  • Print Publication Date: 1994
  • Logos Release Date: 2013
  • Era: era:Contemporary
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Subjects: Jesus Christ › History of doctrines--Early church, ca. 30-600; Bible. N.T. › Relation to the Old Testament; Wisdom literature › Criticism, interpretation, etc; Wisdom (Biblical personification)
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2022-02-12T04:06:31Z
Ben Witherington III

Ben Witherington III (PhD, University of Durham) is Jean R. Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. A prominent evangelical scholar, he is also on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland. Witherington has written over forty books, including The Jesus Quest and The Paul Quest, both of which were selected as top biblical studies works by Christianity Today. His other works include The Indelible Image, Women and the Genesis of ChristianityThe Gospel CodeA Week in the Life of Corinth and commentaries on the entire New Testament. He also writes for many church and scholarly publications and is a frequent contributor to Patheos and Beliefnet. Witherington is an elected member of the prestigious Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, a society dedicated to New Testament studies. He is a John Wesley Fellow for Life, a research fellow at Cambridge University and a member of numerous professional organizations, including the Society of Biblical Literature, Society for the Study of the New Testament and the Institute for Biblical Research. He previously taught at institutions like Ashland Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt University, Duke Divinity School and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. An ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and a popular lecturer, Witherington has presented seminars for churches, colleges and biblical meetings around the world. He has led numerous study tours through the lands of the Bible and is known for bringing the text to life through incisive historical and cultural analysis. Along with many interviews on radio and television networks across the country, Witherington has been seen in programs such as 60 Minutes, 20/20, Dateline and the Peter Jennings ABC special Jesus and Paul—The Word and the Witness


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Print list price: $26.00
Save $5.01 (19%)