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The Sword and the Stylus: An Introduction to Wisdom in the Age of Empires

, 2008
ISBN: 9780802862457

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The all-too-frequent disregard of historical and social contexts by many wisdom scholars often leads to the distortion of this literature and transforms its teachings into abstract ideas lacking any incarnation in the social and historical world of human living. In The Sword and the Stylus, Leo Perdue argues from a sociohistorical approach that the proper understanding of ancient wisdom literature requires one to move out of the realm of philosophical idealism into the flesh and blood of human history.

Arguing that wisdom was international in practice and outlook, Perdue traces the interaction between both ruling and subject nations and their sages who produced their respective cultures and their foundational worldviews. While not always easy to reconstruct, he acknowledges, the historical and social settings of texts provide necessary contexts for interpretation and engagement by later readers and hearers. Wisdom texts did not transcend their life settings to espouse values regardless of time and circumstance. Rather, they are located in a variety of historical events in an evolving nation, reflecting a vast array of different and changing moral systems, epistemologies, and religious understandings.

In the Logos edition, The Sword and the Stylus 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. Powerful searches help you 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.

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Key Features

  • Discusses wisdom from a societal and historical standpoint
  • Presents commentary by one of the preeminent scholars on biblical wisdom literature

Praise for the Print Edition

Perdue has crafted a masterful introduction to wisdom literature, designed especially for use on the seminary and graduate level.

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

Wisdom literature is often perceived as timeless. Leo Perdue shatters that illusion by setting the major texts of biblical and ancient Jewish wisdom in their social and historical context. This is the first properly historical introduction to the wisdom tradition, from ancient Egypt to Qumran. A splendid textbook.

John J. Collins, Holmes Professor of Old Testament Criticism and Interpretation, Yale Divinity School

In this volume Leo Perdue opens our eyes to the sheer variety of sapiential material that has shaped successive cultures and worldviews. His chronological grounding of Israelite wisdom from within and outside the canon in the history and culture of the major empires that surrounded her shows us the true extent of the cross-fertilization of ideas and social institutions. . . . An ambitious, judicious, and significant new introduction to the wisdom literature grounded in the reality of power struggles between nations and highlighting the power of the scribal pen in the midst of historical chance and circumstance.

Katharine J. Dell, fellow and director of studies in theology and religious studies, St. Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge

Leo Perdue has marshaled a treasure trove of relevant resources in this extraordinary study of the wisdom literature of ancient Israel. Locating each of the biblical books belonging to this tradition within one of the major empires of the ancient world, he shows how the teaching of that book reflects the historical-political currents of the period. This is one of the most comprehensive studies of the material that has appeared in some time.

Dianne Bergant, Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP, Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies, Catholic Theological Union

Perdue’s magisterial study demonstrates the social dimensions of the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible, ancient Judaism, and the ancient Near Eastern world. Interpreters may no longer view the wisdom literature as idle speculation isolated from the realities of the world at large.

Marvin A. Sweeney, professor of Hebrew Bible, Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University

Product Details

  • Title: The Sword and the Stylus: An Introduction to Wisdom in the Age of Empires
  • Author: Leo G. Perdue
  • Publisher: Eerdmans
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Pages: 512

Leo G. Perdue is President and Professor of the Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University. He is the author of six books including most recently Proverbs (2000), the editor of ten collections, and has published more than 40 essays and journal articles.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition


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Digital list price: $26.99
Save $5.00 (18%)