selection from the Old Testament wisdom books, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes,
Songs of Solomon, and Lamentations. The apocryphal books of Jesus ben
Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon may also be read and studied in relation to
Trinity college of Biblical Studies-Free Online Bible College
Register for this free Online Bible class by clicking on this link
In this course we shall seek to:
Become familiar with the characteristics of wisdom literature in the biblical text, and the worldview reflected in this literature
Engage some of the critical issues in the study of wisdom literature, and assess them from an evangelical viewpoint
Become aware of the contours of biblical theology presented in the wisdom literature
Explore the application of biblical wisdom to one’s personal life and church context
Reflect upon the place of wisdom within the larger canon of scripture
1. Assigned syllabus readings.
2. Reading of selected commentaries covering each of the following biblical books:
Job; Ecclesiastes; Proverbs; Songs of Solomon, Lamentations, Jesus ben Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon.
c. Reflection Paper: Wisdom and YOUR Reading of Scripture Prepare a 4-page reflection on how, after this course, you understand wisdom literature relates to the message of the larger canon of scripture. This reflection could take many approaches, such as: does wisdom literature speak with a different “voice” in the canon? Does its voice contrast other canonical voices (how? how to reconcile?)? How might you read the canon differently in light of wisdom literature? What aspect of YOUR life has wisdom literature challenged that the rest of the canon has not (and in what way)? What does this portion of the canon call you to that you have not experienced in the rest of the canon? Etc.
III. TESTING AND GRADING
1. Reflection Paper 20%
2. Reading Material 20 %
3. Examination 20%
4. Research Paper 20%
5. Introduction Paper 20%
1. Grading Scale: A 91-100
Email for class lectures
The Enjambing Line in Lamentations-A Taxonomy
Kugel - Idea of Biblical Parallelism
Cohen - Imagery
Read books, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Songs of Solomon, and Lamentations.
The apocryphal books of Jesus ben Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon
KJV Bible w/ Apocryphal
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary on the Canonical books
Trinity College of Biblical Studies
Introduction Wisdom Literature
These are just a few of the many verities of parallelism found in Scripture. Parallelism involves the relationship of A to B where B carries the idea of A further by echoing, defining, narrowing, restating, contrasting, illustrating and a variety of other methods.
1. A distinctive aspect of poetry is meter, or the regular rhythm of lines of poetry. This is an aspect of poetry that is closely tied to the language that the poem was written in and is pretty much difficult to repeat in a translation. This is made even more difficult in Hebrew as what we have of the original text is only the consonants. The vowels are vital to the true understanding of the meter of Hebrew and because what we have in the Masoretic text is conjecture (good as it is) we are left guessing at the existence of and extent of Biblical Hebrew meter. This has to be left to a Hebrew language class.
2. The key to unlocking the meaning of the parallelism of Hebrew poetry is the recognition of the figures of speech. This is a substitution of one or more terms for another one or more terms.
1. Involving Comparison
1. Simile - resemblance, two things of unlike nature that have something in common. Uses the terms "like" and "as."
2. Metaphor: a representation, an implicit comparison between two things of unlike nature that have something in common. There is no use of like or as. Metaphors are usually couched in terms of "is" and "are."
2. The best work on figures of speech in the Bible (and elsewhere for that matter) is E. W. Bullinger Figures of Speech used in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968). Bullinger summarizes his classifications into Divisions
1. First Division. figures involving Omission
1. Affecting Words
2. Affecting the sense
2. Second Division. Figures involving Addition
1. Affecting Words
2. Affecting the sense, by way of
3. Third Division. Figures involving Change.
1. Affecting the meaning and usage of words
2. Affecting the order and arrangement of words
3. Affecting the application of words
3. Subject Matter
3. Another aspect of Hebrew poetry (and poetry in general) is its terseness. Poetry, by and large, contains only the "nucleus of the thought" - unnecessary words are removed so that what remains is what is important and what is expressed with an economy of words. This is effectively achieved with the use of figures of speech.
Hebrew Poetry then is "characterized by a high incidence of terse, balanced parallelism" which is effectively achieved through the use of figures of speech.
The difference between (Hebrew) poetry and prose is seen in Judges 4.19-21 and 5.24-27.
1. Wisdom Literature
2. The wisdom literature of the Hebrews differs from what is considered wisdom in the west. The western tradition looks to philosophical speculation in the vein of the Greeks and Romans. Though there exists proverbial and advice sayings, in the main the west looks to Plato and the Sophists. Hebrew wisdom literature rather is revelatory, not speculatory. Questions of God's existence and man's place in the created universe is are answered by God himself through the writings of Moses, the prophets and the writers of the hagiographa. Speculation is not necessary as the answered to the questions are provided. Ecclesiastes and Job are the closest to speculative philosophy in the Bible, and even there answers are provided, by Solomon and by God.
Job is a book of wisdom based on discourse, he suffers and talks to his friends about it. They reach erroneuos conclusions (Job et al; though Job recognizes the error of his friends' arguments) and Job is made to know that there are things that he may never know, he is to let God be God and trust him to make things right. YHVH never answered Job directly concerning his suffering, his point was that it was perfectly within his perview to do what he wants and man is not able (morally or otherwise) to question God.
Ecclesiastes is the world's greatest exposition on how one should approach life. It comes from Solomon, the one given the gift of wisdom and who used it to explore the bounds of human wisdom and experience in the quest for satisfaction and happiness. The end of it all is that the quest for fame, glory, money and power is vanity and acheives no more than sitting back and enjoying the fruits that God sends. Solomon comes to realize in this great exposition that the end of all is death and money, fame, and power gain you no more at death than that which is alloted a dog (3.19-21). His conclusion is that "nothing is better than that man should be happy in his acitivities" and that he should "Fear God and keep his commandments."
Solomon, in all of his wisdom, wealth, splendor and power is recommending a simple life lived honestly before God.
Elwood P. Dowd expressed Solomon's sentiments in Harvey when he said "My mother told me that to get along in life you have to be either ever so smart or ever so pleasant. For years I have been smart, I recommend pleasant."
A contemporary song also expressed Solomon's sentiments. It was entitled, Don't Worry, Be Happy!!
Song of Solomon
Song of Solomon
Said Rabbi Akiba: Heaven
forbid that any man in Israel ever disputed that the Song of Songs is holy. For
the whole world is not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was given to
Israel, for all the Writings are holy and the Song of Songs is the Holy of
--Mishnah Yadayim 3:5 (second century C.E.)
. . . the holy love that is the subject of the
entire Song cannot be expressed by words or language, but only in deed and
truth. Here love speaks everywhere! If anyone desires to grasp these writings,
let him love! For anyone who does not love, it is vain to listen to this song of
love--or to read it, for a cold heart cannot catch fire from its eloquence. The
language of love will be meaningless jangle, like sounding brass or tinkling
cymbal, to anyone who does not love.
--Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), Sermon 79.1
[The Song is] not allegorical but sacramental.
Human passion . . . gives us a hint of God's passion for us. We are most like
God's love for us when we are aroused in the presence of our beloved. And we
best experience a hint of God's love when our beloved pursues us.
--Andrew M. Greeley, Love Song (1989)
“Put me like a seal over your heart,
Like a seal on your arm.
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy is as severe as Sheol;
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
The [very] flame of the Lord.
7 "Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor will rivers overflow it;
If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love,
It would be utterly despised.”
What is found in the Song of Solomon is the expression is clear and intimate terms the love of a man and a woman for each other. It is an intimate mutual physical love that is described in beautiful terms. Figures of speech rule the text as is true, and no doubt has been copied by a myriad of writers of love poetry since Solomon penned these words. The subject of the metaphorical language is clearly the intense, intimate, physical relationship of the man and woman.
Note Gen 2.24 - There is no mention of procreation here, what is mentioned is intimacy. Also this is before the fall so that there is no reason to equate sex and sin.
Shall we ask if the church’s love for her God, Creator, and Lover is ever as intense, passionate, desirous, and as deep as that of a man and a woman in their deepest passions? What of the individual child of Abraham? How active and intense is that one’s relationship with the Lord God of the Universe?
Note also Proverbs 5.15-19.
1 Kings 1.3, 1 Kings 2.16-25 Song 6.13 - Spelling points to two different women. Shunammite שׁוּנַמּית in 1 Kings, Shulammiteשׁוּלַמּית in Song.
Links to Home Pages
Trinity College of Biblical Studies
Trinity College of Biblical Studies Library
Trinity College of Biblical Studies Chapel
Confession of Faith
Sign up for a Class
Holy Land Pilgrimages
Archaeological Field Trips
Footsteps of Paul