The all-too-frequent disregard of historical and social contexts by many wisdom scholars often leads to the distortion of this literature and transforms its teachings into abstract ideas lacking any incarnation in the social and historical world of human living. Leo Perdue here argues from a sociohistorical approach that the proper understanding of ancient wisdom literature requires one to move out of the realm of philosophical idealism into the flesh and blood of human history.
Arguing that wisdom was international in practice and outlook, Perdue traces the interaction between both ruling and subject nations and their sages who produced their respective cultures and their foundational worldviews. While not always easy to reconstruct, he acknowledges, the historical and social settings of texts provide necessary contexts for interpretation and engagement by later readers and hearers. Wisdom texts did not transcend their life settings to espouse values regardless of time and circumstance. Rather, they are located in a variety of historical events in an evolving nation, reflecting a vast array of different and changing moral systems, epistemologies, and religious understandings.
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
"Perdue has crafted a masterful introduction to wisdom literature, designed especially for use on the seminary and graduate level."
John J. Collins
— Yale Divinity School
"Wisdom literature is often perceived as timeless. Leo Perdue shatters that illusion by setting the major texts of biblical and ancient Jewish wisdom in their social and historical context. This is the first properly historical introduction to the wisdom tradition, from ancient Egypt to Qumran. A splendid textbook."
Katharine J. Dell
— University of Cambridge
"In this volume Leo Perdue opens our eyes to the sheer variety of sapiential material that has shaped successive cultures and worldviews. His chronological grounding of Israelite wisdom from within and outside the canon in the history and culture of the major empires that surrounded her shows us the true extent of the cross-fertilization of ideas and social institutions. . . An ambitious, judicious, and significant new introduction to the wisdom literature grounded in the reality of power struggles between nations and highlighting the power of the scribal pen in the midst of historical chance and circumstance."
Dianne Bergant, CSA
— Catholic Theological Union
"Leo Perdue has marshaled a treasure trove of relevant resources in this extraordinary study of the wisdom literature of ancient Israel. Locating each of the biblical books belonging to this tradition within one of the major empires of the ancient world, he shows how the teaching of that book reflects the historical-political currents of the period. This is one of the most comprehensive studies of the material that has appeared in some time."
Marvin A. Sweeney
— Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University
"Perdue's magisterial study demonstrates the social dimensions of the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible, ancient Judaism, and the ancient Near Eastern world. Interpreters may no longer view the wisdom literature as idle speculation isolated from the realities of the world at large."