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Hebrew Studies 41 (2000) 261 Reviews "The first human never finished comprehending wisdom, nor will the last succeed in fathoming her." Stephen P. Garfinkel Jewish Theological Seminary New York, NY 10027 stgarfinkel@jtsa.edu OLD TESTAMENT WISDOM: AN INTRODUCTION. By James L. Crenshaw. pp. xv + 255. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. 1998, Paper. The introduction to the first edition of James Crenshaw's Old Testament Wisdom notes that "no satisfactory introduction" to Israelite wisdom existed at the time the volume was first prepared. Crenshaw's work ably ftlled that void and has served as a reliable entry to the topic since its publication in 1981. The preface to the new "revised and enlarged" edition, under review here, admits to the need "to update the notes and bibliography , add some special sections, and make minor revisions throughout the [first edition]" (p. xi) in the face of the expanding body of scholarship on biblical wisdom. As the reader begins the new edition, they will be well advised to consult the notes often, for there they will fmd much of the updated material that accompanies changes made to the text of the first edition . Still, while the material presented in the revision will be recognizable to those familiar with the previous edition, the thoroughness and aptness of the updated information make this revision, again, a more than "satisfactory " work. The book begins with a restructured and expanded introduction that resets the stage of scholarship on biblical wisdom literature. Noting the sixteen-year span since his first edition, Crenshaw brings the reader fully up-to-date on advances in the field. He mentions not only the standbys, such as Roland Murphy's Tree of Life, but brings less central, yet important, works such as Dianne Bergant's Israel's Wisdom Literature: A LiberationCritical Reading and Athalya Brenner's A Feminist Companion to the Wisdom Literature to the reader's attention. It is this sort of attention to detail that adds to the value of the book. Chapter I, "The World of Wisdom" and chapter two, "The Sapiential Tradition" introduce the reader to the basic concepts of biblical wisdom Hebrew Studies 41 (2000) 262 Reviews and its study. Chapter one includes discussions of the "scribal class," the "goals" of the sage, the fonns of biblical wisdom, and wisdom's influence within the Hebrew Bible. Chapter 2 attempts to detennine the roots of the sapiential tradition in the Old Testament-how it followed from a glorification of Solomon as "sage par excellence" to the all encompassing search for wisdom which involved "Israel's wise men and women" as well as the wisdom traditions of Israel's neighbors. Chapters 3 through 6 introduce the reader to the three wisdom books of the Hebrew Bible as well as Sirach. Chapter 3, "The Pursuit of Knowledge: Proverbs," provides a meaningful introduction to the book including a brief discussion of the fonns of the literature and their presentation in the book, the "pedagogical intent" of the work, and the themes and theology of Proverbs. Chapter 4, "The Search for Divine Presence: Job," provides an example of Crenshaw's willingness to improve on his previously sound first edition. This chapter re-introduces Job with improved clarity concerning the difficult issues the book entails. Chapters 5 and 6 introduce Ecclesiastes and Sirach respectively. Both chapters address issues of literary fonn and function. Chapter 5 examines five "major convictions" of Qoheleth: "(1) death cancels everything; (2) wisdom cannot achieve its goal; (3) God is unknowable; (4) the world is crooked; and (5) pleasure commends itself' (p. 117). This discussion is supplemented by discussions of literary fonn, unity, and authorship. In chapter 6, Crenshaw investigates the influence of Yahwism on wisdom literature as found in Sirach. The allusion to sacred history by Ben Sira, an allusion generally eschewed in the Israelite wisdom tradition, is seen as a result of "the powerful influence of Yahwism" (p. 143) exerting itself on the sage. This inclusion of sacred history led to the infusion of biblical piety into Ben Sira's work. Chapter 7, "The Widening Hunt: Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom Psalms, and Beyond" introduces Wisdom of Solomon (its structure. theological outlook, depiction of wisdom personified, and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 261-264
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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