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The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies Provides a comprehensive survey of Biblical scholarship in a variety of disciplines.

Wisdom's Later Influence

Some of the latest material to be published from the amazing archaeological find at Qumran was material that linked up with the wisdom literature. This is sporadic, but there are interesting parallels. First of all, there are manuscripts of fragments of biblical wisdom books, and second, there are documents either inherited by or composed by the Qumran community. The most extensive work is Sapiential Work A (see discussion in Harrington 1996), a wisdom instruction resembling Prov. 1–9 containing advice on issues such as reward and punishment, honouring parents, living in harmony with one's family, and even on paying bank loans! Interestingly, legal texts are used as a basis for instruction (e.g. Num. 30: 6–15 is used in the context of a husband's power to annul the votive offerings of his wife in 4Q416.2.4). Two emphases here depart from mainstream wisdom. One is seeing God as the source of all goodness, and the second is a preoccupation with a ‘mystery that is to come’, mentioned thirty times, which is unidentified and gives an eschatological air to the work, which also mentions the divine plan from creation to final judgement.

The view of Jesus as a wise man, and hence interest in how wisdom as a genre might have influenced his thought, is a long-debated issue. Jesus can be seen to have used wisdom genres in his sayings (Perdue 1986; Witherington 1994), but the content of Jesus' sayings, which largely focus on ethical matters, is somewhat different from proverbial preoccupations with hard work, communication, loose women, and such like. There is also a strong eschatological aspect to his words that, as we have seen, is an aspect of later wisdom rather than earlier. There is also the related question of wisdom influence on the writings of Paul and on the New Testament as a whole, and the most famous example is thought to be the Epistle to the Hebrews. Reflection on the New Testament brings us full circle back to those famous wise men of Matt. 2 with whom we began our consideration of the wisdom genre.

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