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The School Tradition of the Old TestamentThe Bampton Lectures for 1994$
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E. W. Heaton

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198263623

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2004

DOI: 10.1093/0198263627.001.0001

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A Jerusalem School Inspected

A Jerusalem School Inspected

(p.1) I A Jerusalem School Inspected
The School Tradition of the Old Testament

E. W. Heaton

Oxford University Press

The first part of this chapter introduces the possibility that the writers of the Old Testament came from an Israeli school tradition – as opposed to being a group of ‘wise men’ with a ‘wisdom tradition’, or even from a ‘Wisdom Movement’. The idea is often doubted on the grounds that there is no unambiguous reference to a school in Israel until Ben Sira’s ‘house of instruction’, which flourished in Jerusalem in the early years of the second century bc, and is mentioned in Ecclesiastes. The working hypothesis of this book is that it ought not to be difficult to identify a core of Old Testament writings, which, by their subject matter, literary form and delight in language, reveal what their authors encountered at school, and can be reviewed in the expectation that features in them that are often overlooked will become apparent, and give an awareness of the impressive continuity of Israel’s school tradition. The school tradition will be found to have distinctive features: it is distinct from popular religion and the view of divine–human relations embodied in the cult; it is engaged in the teaching of a moral and reasonable faith; it provides a clue to the activity in Israel of a less parochial type of theologian; it also helps to explain the obscure transmission of Israel’s literature through the centuries, and illuminates the way in which received tradition was reshaped and reinterpreted by a succession of scholarly editors. The last part of the chapter starts the exploration of the school tradition with an examination of Ben Sira’s school in Jerusalem.

Keywords:   Ben Sira’s ‘house of instruction’, Bible, Ecclesiastes, Israeli school tradition, Jerusalem, Old Testament, schools, writers of the Old Testament

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