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Understanding Wisdom Literature: Conflict and Dissonance in the Hebrew Text
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Understanding Wisdom Literature: Conflict and Dissonance in the Hebrew Text


Eerdmans 2012

Runs on Windows, Mac and mobile.


Israelite wisdom literature, David Penchansky argues, records the disputes of ancient sages over basic human questions: What is the purpose of life? Is God just? Why do we suffer? Does God even exist? Penchansky sees conflicting answers to these questions in Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Ben Sira, and the Wisdom of Solomon—and does not try to harmonize them. Instead, he finds meaning in the very dissonance and contradiction within these texts.

Employing the latest scholarship yet remaining accessible to nonspecialists and students, Penchansky strikingly focuses on the “big picture” behind wisdom literature—making it easy for readers to follow and appreciate these challenging texts—without undermining each book’s distinctive features. In the process, Penchansky opens up this rich and fertile vein of Israelite thought and demonstrates the renewed relevance of ancient Hebrew wisdom for today.

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Want similar titles? Check out Eerdmans Old Testament Studies Collection for more!

Key Features

  • Discusses the conflicting answers to basic human questions found in Israelite wisdom literature
  • Focuses on the “big picture” behind wisdom literature
  • Demonstrates the renewed relevance of ancient Hebrew wisdom for today


  • Who Are the Sages?
  • What Unity in Proverbs?
  • The Meaning of the Book of Job
  • Wisdom, Madness, and Folly: The Three Qoheleths
  • Sounds of Silence: The Absence of Covenantal Theology in the Wisdom Literature
  • Sophia and Simon: The Two Poles of Ben Sira’s Affection
  • The Conservatism of Pseudo-Solomon

Product Details

About Steven L. Mckenzie

Steven L. Mckenzie is professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota. His other books include Twilight of the Gods: Polytheism in the Hebrew Bible and What Rough Beast? Images of God in the Hebrew Bible.