Week 03: Conventional and Dissenting Wisdom

February 13-19: Wisdom

Wisdom! Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes. Wisdom psalms and other odds and ends. Institutional settings and functions of Wisdom literature in the ancient Near East. Here again is a beginning list of “Enduring Understanding and Essential Questions” relating to the Writings.

This is our second of three weeks in the Unit, "The Writings."



Read Bandstra’s Chapter 14, Proverbs and Job: The Wisdom of Israel, as well as his short section on Ecclesiastes. If you haven’t already, read too his Prologue to the Writings. Or, in Stanley or your Introduction of choice, read on the Wisdom Literature, Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes.

Recommended readings:

Consider any or all of these readings in terms of our topic for the week.


View or listen to the two-part lecture, “Wisdom”:

“Make” of the Week

Pick one of the following options for this week’s “make,” sharing it on your blog, remembering to tag your post with our tag, “ootle17.” (Garrett students: Remember that your work is assessed according to the course rubric. You may need to add analysis or other elements that will allow you to include each element of the rubric. Remember too that you must comment, thoughtfully and substantively, to at least three [3] other OOTLE-ers by Monday morning. You may comment on any post that is from this week, "Wisdom," or last week, "Psalms.")

Make Option 01:

Go to the Professional Left Podcast, and select Episode 270. Listen to their converstation about faith, blasphemy, and the Book of Job, beginning at time 22:15 and ending at time 32:00 (Note: Explicit Language.) Writing as a biblical scholar, fact-check their discussion regarding the Book of Job:

  • What do they get right? Demonstrate their accuracy, citing (where appropriate) the book of Job, your textbook, our lecture, and any other high-quality academic resources.
  • What, if anything, do they get wrong? Demonstrate these inaccuracies, citing (where appropriate) the book of Job, your textbook, our lecture, and any other high-quality academic resources.
  • How might you say the discussion is incomplete? What information can you offer about the book of Job--its details, the historical context of its writing (not its narrative setting!), its genre(s), and other relevant scholarly information about the book--that may inform the conversation that Blue Gal and Driftglass are having?

Don't make the mistake many critics make, criticizing them for "not having the discussion you wanted them to have"! Take their conversation on their terms, and bring a generous and positively-constructive voice.

Make Option 02:

Warning: This can be a hard one to do with the necessary sensitivity. You might have a friend check your draft before publishing.

In the lecture “Wisdom,” I suggest that the book of Ecclesiastes frequently “sets the bait” of conventional wisdom (Eccles 3:1–8; 7:1–13) in order to “spring the trap,” confronting the reader with a dissenting wisdom that subverts that conventional wisdom (Eccles 3:1–8 is surrounded by 2:1–26; 3:9–22; Eccles 7:1–14a is followed by 7:14b–29). Write an original composition that uses modern examples of conventional wisdom to "set the trap" for a dissenting perspective that subverts the conventional wisdom. Some examples of "conventional wisdom" that may prove useful:

Remember, your goal is to “fool” your reader (at least briefly) into assenting to such conventional wisdom, before surprising the reader by subverting the conventional wisdom with a dissenting perspective!

In one or more follow-up paragraphs, explain to your reader how the biblical examples serve as templates for you. Describe briefly, citing course materials, the ways that conventional and dissenting wisdom function (sometimes called “speculative wisdom”) in the books of Job and Ecclesiastes.

Make Option 03:

Using course materials, as well as any other quality academic resources, describe the ancient Near Eastern literature that helps us better understand biblical Wisdom. (For example, the oft-cited "Discourse between a Man and his Ba" Where and when do these works come from? What are their titles? What are they about, and what happens in them? How and why do they improve our understanding of the biblical material? Be specific, citing resources and relevant biblical texts. Some resources:

Activity of the Week: “Job v. God: the Twitter Game”

Job versus God! Who’s right? Who wins? What’s with those friends, anyway? Finally, it all gets decided, once and for all, on Twitter.

See my instructions for the game, “Job vee God.” When you are ready, announce your entry into the game by tweeting “I’m in!” (or similar) with the hashtag #JobvGod.

The game will begin Tuesday and Wednesday as players announce that they are in. Game play concludes Saturday night at midnight Central Time. On Sunday and Monday morning, players are free to “debrief” using the game hashtag, discussing what they learned, suggestions for future play, etc.