The 'wisdom writers'

In her book, “Biblical Foundations of Spirituality”, Barbara Bowe writes about the wisdom writers of the Old Testament, saying that they are part of the “blessing” tradition discussed in an earlier chapter. The blessing tradition pursues wisdom. It is not as concerned about the historical acts of God, but in the “daily ordinariness of life” (110).

“In wisdom’s view,” Kathleen O’Connor wrote, “the struggles and conflicts of daily life are not to be escaped but embraced in full consciousness of their revelatory and healing potential” (110). In other words, we are to “play the hand we are dealt” (124).

The wisdom books include the books of Proverbs, Job, Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes), Song of Songs, Sirach, the Wisdom of Solomon, and Psalms. According to Bowe, there are several common features in the books of wisdom. The ones that stand out to me are the way the books explore “universal human concerns,” not just those prominent in Israel, and how humans should behave in the midst of life’s complexities (111). Bowe writes that wisdom avoids the “easy” or “rote” answers about life because life is too complex and God is bigger than “pat” answers (111).

In the chapter called “That Man Jesus,” Bowe discusses the life of Jesus and how each gospel portrays him in a unique way. In John’s story, Jesus is portrayed as “the human face of God” (148). In Luke, Jesus spoke about discipleship, the daily taking up of one’s cross “for the long haul” (142). Luke also writes about Jesus’ selfless giving, which carries on into the book of Acts as the disciples proclaim the message of Jesus through the Spirit’s power (145).

Matthew portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of the law and how he “intensifies the demands of the Torah” (139). Jesus’ call to discipleship in Matthew is all about doing what one hears. Bowe writes that Matthew concentrates on how Christ’s example is lived out in the church.

In Mark, Jesus is a strong, compassionate and holy man (133). He was crucified and “shattered” preconceived notions of the Messiah. Though Jesus is portrayed as powerful, he is crucified. Though he rises from the dead, Jesus leaves earth. His followers have to keep on living; Jesus did not conquer the earth (133 & 134).

Each of these portrayals of Jesus helps add to our understanding of who Christ is. The wisdom books and the chapter about Jesus seem to blend well together because wisdom concerns itself with living a godly life despite life’s complexities and the chapter on Jesus demonstrates how the “human face of God” lived under the mantle of wisdom. While the wisdom books help us explore how we will respond to life’s turmoil, Jesus shows us that he is the answer to life’s problems (146). Following Jesus’ example and depending on the power of his Spirit will help us live the way the books of wisdom tell us to live. It all ties together rather well.