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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

An Obituary for “Wisdom Literature”: The Birth, Death, and Intertextual Reintegration of a Biblical Corpus
Kynes, Will

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019 pp. xviii + 324. $80.00

Description: An Obituary for "Wisdom Literature" considers the definitional issues long plaguing Wisdom scholarship. Will Kynes argues that Wisdom Literature is not a category used in early Jewish and Christian interpretation. It first emerged in modern scholarship, shaped by its birthplace in nineteenth-century Germany. Kynes casts new light on the traits long associated with the category, such as universalism, humanism, rationalism, empiricism, and secularism, which so closely reflect the ideals of that time. Since it was originally assembled to reflect modern ideals, it is not surprising that biblical scholars have faced serious difficulties defining the corpus on another basis or integrating it into the theology of the Old Testament. The problem, however, is not only why the texts were perceived in this one way, but that they are perceived in only one way at all. The book builds on recent theories from literary studies and cognitive science to create a new alternative approach to genre that integrates hermeneutical insight from various genre proposals. This theory is then applied to Job, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs, mapping out the complex textual network contributing to their meaning. With the death of the Wisdom Literature category, both the so-called Wisdom texts and the concept of wisdom find new life.

Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Wisdom Literature, Literature, Methods, Literary Approaches, Reception History

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Review by David G. Firth
Published 1/16/2020
Citation: David G. Firth, review of Will Kynes, An Obituary for “Wisdom Literature”: The Birth, Death, and Intertextual Reintegration of a Biblical Corpus, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2020).


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