A Year in Essays: Wisdom, Semester 1

Christian Wisdom and Transformation is the long title for the core module, which we all called Wisdom. The task over two terms was to explore Christian Wisdom, how it draws on the Old Testament and its potential for transforming Christians today. The first semester started by talking about what we might mean by ‘wisdom’ and where it’s found in the Old Testament, primarily the books that are called ‘wisdom books’: Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

My title was:

Is wisdom only contained in restricted sections of the Old Testament or is it possible to argue that there is a sense in which wisdom permeates the whole of it? How does this affect the transformative potential of Old Testament Wisdom?

Phew! Quite a mouthful! In the essay, I sought to show that limiting the influence of Wisdom to those three books alone is not the best way of reading the Old Testament. I looked at various sections of scripture: Pentateuch, Psalms, Prophets and narratives in Genesis and Esther; looking to see if Wisdom was a them or a shaping force in their writing. My conclusion is that Wisdom did indeed shape the Old Testament, perhaps through redaction from a wisdom school, perhaps though those schools as a force in ancient society.

I also had to spend some time looking at how this would influence Christians today. I suggested that finding wisdom throughout the Old Testament was a very powerful way of reading the Bible as many of the values associated with Wisdom resonate so much with postmoderns. I concluded the essay in this way:

In seeking the wisdom of Scripture, we have found practical advice on living, centred around God. It
appears throughout the Old Testament, in all the sections we have examined. It includes the worship of God
and study of Scripture, but recognises the limits in understanding and experience and is comfortable with
the issues of God’s apparent absence and the abundance of suffering. Wisdom seeks answers, but finds
paradoxes. Wisdom has much to speak into the culture of today when we recognise that simple, dismissive
answers characterise the fool, and the honest hard work of seeking through an enigma suits the wise woman
or man.

Wisdom Essay 1 – download a .pdf file of the full essay.

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This essay by Jon Rogers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.jonrogers.co.uk.