Wisdom

Whereas the Pentateuch and Former Prophets (Deuteronomistic History) were clearly regarded as 'scriptural' by the middle of the Persian period, the wisdom literature seems to have retained a less official status right down into the Hellenistic age. Evidence that it is beginning to be seen as part of sacred literature can be found in the attempt of editors to make the rather sceptical and critical wisdom books, Job and Ecclesiastes, yield an orthodox message. In the case of Job this may be found in features of the narrative framework (Job 1; 2; 42:7-17), the introduction of the pious utterances of Elihu (32-7), and, above all, the repentance of Job (42:1-6)—if we assume, as do many but not all scholars, that these passages are interpolations into an originally far less orthodox work. Where Ecclesiastes is concerned, it is well established that a work strongly critical of established religion and of accepted wisdom teaching has been 'improved' by the addition of such passages as 2:26 and 12:13-14, which in effect reverse the book's original teaching and bring it into line with what wisdom teachers had always said anyway (Whybray 1980). Thus Job and Ecclesiastes edge their way towards becoming 'Scripture'. Whether Proverbs received, or needed, such reworking is a moot point. Some scholars think that all the sayings in it which mention God are part of a post-exilic retouching (McKane 1970). But the majority view is probably that they were always an integral part of the work, and that its canonization did not necessitate any radical rewriting.

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