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How to Read the BibleHistory, Prophecy, Literature—Why Modern Readers Need to Know the Difference, and What It Means for Faith Today$
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Steven L. McKenzie

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195161496

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195161496.001.0001

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Life's Real Questions

Life's Real Questions

Wisdom Literature In the Bible

(p.91) Chapter Three Life's Real Questions
How to Read the Bible

Steven L. McKenzie

Oxford University Press

Wisdom literature does not claim to be revelation from God—at least not in the same way as the other biblical genres we are exploring—nor does it describe God's revelation in history. Hence, Israel's historical traditions, such as the promises to the patriarchs, the exodus from Egypt, the law of Moses, the conquest of Canaan, the period of the judges, the monarchy, and so on, are not even mentioned in wisdom literature as they are in other genres of the Bible. And unlike the prophetic books, apocalyptic literature, and the New Testament letters, wisdom writings do not purport to convey direct revelation from God. They focus instead on the search through reason for meaning and happiness in this life. This chapter explores the three wisdom books in the Bible: Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes, otherwise known by its Hebrew name, Qoheleth. It analyzes the structure, setting, and intent unique to each of these books, showing how each book exemplifies the genre of biblical wisdom literature by presenting divergent viewpoints on a topic or set of topics of significance to human beings.

Keywords:   wisdom literature, meaning, happiness, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Qoheleth, Bible

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