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Recent Developments in Wisdom Literature The Literary Character of Qoheleth


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Title: Recent Developments in Wisdom Literature The Literary Character of Qoheleth

Recent Developments in Wisdom LiteratureThe
Literary Character of Qoheleth
Literary Structures of Wisdom Texts
  • A much discussed issue that continues into the
    present is that of the literary structures of the
    different books of the wisdom corpus
  • Proverbs, Job, Qoheleth, Ben Sira, and the Wisdom
    of Solomon

Literary Structures of Wisdom Texts
  • Prior to the 1980s, most wisdom texts were viewed
    as compilations of a variety of sources that were
    redacted together over a period of centuries.
  • For example, the Book of Job was divided into
    several distinct, originally unrelated units
    the prose narrative, the speeches of Job and the
    Three Friends with the troublesome literary
    character of the third cycle of debate, the Hymn
    on the Search for Wisdom (chp. 28), the Oath of
    Innocence (29-32), the Elihu Speeches (2-37), and
    the Speeches from the Whirlwind and Jobs
    responses in 38 through the end of 42. Georg
    Fohrers commentary on Das Buch Hiob is a good
    example of older scholarship. Among his
    conclusions was his view that there originally
    was only one Yahweh Speech and one response from
    Job. Thus, he removed the speeches describing
    Behemoth and Leviathan, and he regarded them as
    later additions.

The Literary Structure of Job
  • Since the 1980s, however, there has been a
    decided shift away from this type of redaction
    criticism in the effort to read the Book of Job
    as a single unit (Norman Habel, The Book of Job),
    or at least, as Carol Newsom argues in her
    commentary in the New Interpreters Bible, a unit
    with only limited redaction that may have
    included the addition of the Elihu speeches.

Other Wisdom Texts
  • The same debate has developed in interpreting the
    other Books.
  • Ben Siras division into parts is noticed by the
    conclusions of each in which a creation hymn is
    inserted. This underlines the major theme of the
  • The Wisdom of Solomon is divided into two
    sections involving immortality and the exodus.

  • I. The praises of wisdom (11-111)
  • A. Immortality is the reward of wisdom
    (11-621The Book of Eschatology)
  • 1. Exhortation to justice (11-15)
  • 2. The wicked invite death (116-224)
  • 3. The hidden counsels of God (31-420)
  • 2'. The final judgment (51-23)
  • 1'. Exhortation to seek Wisdom (61-21)
  • B. The nature of wisdom and Solomon's quest for
    her (622-111The Book of Wisdom)
  • 1. Introduction (622-25)
  • 2. Solomon's speech (71-821)
  • 3. Solomon's prayer for Wisdom (91-18)
  • God's fidelity to his people in the exodus
    (112-1922The Book of History)
  • A. Transitional section Wisdom saves her own
  • B. Introductory narrative (112-4)
  • C. Theme Israel is benefited by the very
    things that punish Egypt (115)
  • D. Illustration of the theme in five
    antithetical diptychs (116-1922)
  • 1. Water from the rock contrasted to the plague
    of the Nile (116-14)
  • 2. Quail instead of the plague of little animals
  • (Digression critique of pagan religions,

The Genre of Qoheleth
  • 1. Sayings Collection (Walter Zimmerli)
  • 2. Autobiography or First Person Testament
    (Addison Wright, Leo Perdue).
  • Thus, is Qoheleth a compilation of sayings
    without any observable structure and thus
    contains often contradictory sayings? Or is it a
    tightly woven literary unit with a coherent

Qoheleth as a Sayings Collection
  • Sayings Collections in the Bible and the Ancient
    Near East
  • The Book of Proverbs consists of seven separate
    collections plus a concluding poem on the Wise
    Woman (cf. Provs. 1, 8, and 9).
  • Mealîm, ?????, collections, the plural of
    the Hebrew singular (saying, maal, ???), are
    an assemblage of various wisdom forms placed
    together on the basis of formal and/or thematic
    features. These proverbial collections were
    designed to stimulate the imagination of the
    hearer allowing entrance into a poetic world of
    aesthesis that was then to be learned and
    embodied in the behavior of the one seeking
    wisdom. This same world of beauty and balance
    describes the nature of the cosmic world of
    God's creation.

The Seven Collections of Proverbs
  • Each of the seven collections is introduced by a
    title or superscription
  • 11--milê elomo ???? ????
  • 101 milê elomo ???? ????
  • 2217--dibrê hakamîm ????? ????
  • 242 ---gam-elleh hakamîm ????? ???- ??
  • 251---gam-elleh mile elomo aer hetiqû
    anê hezqîyyâ melek-yehûdâ
  • ???? ???? ???- ??
  • ????? ????
  • ????? ???
  • 301dibrê agûr ???? ????
  • 311dibre lemûel ????? ????

Collections Attributed to Solomon
  • Of the seven collections, three are
    identified with Solomon (11 101 251). These
    three are called the Wisdom Sayings of Solomon
    (the milê elomo see 1 Kgs. 512 Solomons
    3000 wisdom sayings, Ezek. 1222f., Hab. 26,
    Prov. 116, Ps. 495, and 782). These three
    collections contribute to the tradition of
    Solomon as the wise king (see also 1 Kgs.
    59-14, 521, 104, 1023, Qoheleth, Sir.
    4712-17, and the Wisdom of Solomon, especially
    chaps. 7-9). Solomon is the one to whom the
    collections are dedicated. He became patron
    saint of the sages with the narratives in DH
    portraying the wise king, par excellence. Thus,
    the collections support the tradition of Solomon
    as the wise king who was seen as the embodiment
    of wisdom (at least in the sapiential view of
    this king and its tradition, see I Kgs. 3-10).

The Sayings of Ahiqar
  • 1. See H. L. Ginsberg, The Words of Ahiqar,
    ANET, 427-430
  • 2. See Ingo Kottspieper, TUAT, and Die Sprache
    der Ahiqarsprüche. BZAW 194 Berlin Walter de
    Gruyter, 1990
  • 3. See James M. Lindenberger, The Aramaic
    Proverbs of Ahiqar. Baltimore John Hopkins
    University Press, 1983
  • 4. Compare Akkadian Proverbs, Lambert, BWL

  • 1.  An Assyrian document dating somewhere in the
    7th to 6th century, B. C.
  • 2.  The work consists of two parts the story of
    Ahiqar and a collection of over a hundred
    sayings, riddles, fables, and instructions.
  • 3.  The story tells of Ahiqar, a wise scribe and
    counselor to the kings of Assyria. Advanced in
    years and without an heir, he decides to adopt
    his nephew Nadin and teach him all of his wisdom.
    The young man is educated and eventually takes
    his uncles place in the court of Esarhaddon.
    Nadin plots to discredit him and convinces the
    king that he is trying to overthrow the king.
    Angry, the king orders Ahiqar killed, but the
    offer sent to kill him is his old friend and
    rescues him from the death sentence. A slave is
    killed in the place of Ahiqar. While the end of
    the story is lost, it presumably tells of the
    restoration of Ahiqar and the punishment of
  • 4.  The collection of sayings deals with a wide
    range of topics family discipline, respect for
    the king, prudent speech, righteous behavior.
  • 5.  The Aramaic text is a single papyrus ms.
    poorly preserved. It was discovered in
  • 6.      The narrative is dated by the author to
    the reign of Esarhaddon (reigned 681-669 B. C.
    E.). The provenance was likely Mesopotamia and
    written by an Aramean Scribe, but likely a couple
    of centuries later.
  • 7.      Theologically, the divine power consists
    of ANE gods, not. El is most frequently
    mentioned, then Shamash, Wisdom, Shamayn. Saying
    13 seems to be a hymn to Wisdom and is similar to
    Prov. 822-31.

Q in the Synoptic Gospels
  • I.   Q (Quelle) is a hypothetical collection of
    the sayings of Jesus that predates the written
    Gospels of Matthew and Luke
  • A. The Two Source Hypothesis argues that Matthew
    and Luke independently used Mark and Q in the
    construction of their Gospels, adding M and L
  • themselves in constructing their texts.
  • B.   The text (see Handout).
  • C.   The nearly verbatim agreement of Matthew and
    Luke in reproducing such Q pericopae as Luke
    37-9 1119-20, 24-26, 31-32 and 1334-35 and
    strong similarities of many other passages as
    well as the significant order in the Q texts in L
    and M indicate that they probably used a written
    version, rather than an oral tradition, of Q.
  • D.   There may be a number of other texts that
    stylistically are similar to Q (Luke 624-26
    Matt. 541 Luke 634-35b 961-62 1127-28
    1213-14, 16-21 158-10 1720-21, 28-29) and
    perhaps were a part of a more expanded Luke.
  • E.    Thus Q is approximately 4,000 words.
  • F.    The genre of Q has been described as a
    prophetic book (M. Sato, R. Horsley) and a
    sayings of the sages (J. Robinson). It likely
    began as an ancient Near Eastern type of
    instruction and became through redaction
    something like a proto-biography. No passion
    story and no indication that Q understood Jesus
    death as redemptive. Its Christology is closer
    to the association of Jesus with heavenly Wisdom
    and with the Son of Man title.

Q Wisdom Sayings
  • Matt 1513-14
  • 13. Every plant which my heavenly Father did not
    plant will be uprooted
  • 14. Let them alone guides of the blind are
    themselves blind. And if a blind man leads a
    blind man, both will fall into a pit.
  • Luke 639-40
  • 39. Surely a blind man cannot lead a blind man?
    Will they not both fall into a pit?

Q Wisdom Sayings
  • Matt. 1037-39
  • 37. Whoever loves father and mother more than me
    is not worthy of me and whoever loves son or
    daughter more than me is not worthy of me
  • 38. And whoever does not take his cross and
    follow me is not worthy of me.
  • 39. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and he
    who loses his life for my sake will find it.
  • Luke 1426-27
  • 26. If any one comes to me and does not hate his
    own father and mother and wife and children and
    brothers and sisters, and indeed even his own
    life, he cannot be my disciple.
  • 27. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come
    after me cannot be my disciple.
  • 1733
  • Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but
    whoever loses his life will keep it.

Q Wisdom Sayings
  • Matt. 1024-25
  • 24. A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a
    servant above his master
  • 25. It is enough for the disciple to be like his
    teacher, and the servant like his master
  • Luke 640
  • A disciple is not above his teacher, but every
    one when he is full trained will be like his

Q Wisdom Sayings
  • Matt. 1116-17
  • 16. Now to what shall I compare this generation?
    It is like children seated in the agoras and
    addressing their playmates.
  • 17. We piped to you, and you did not dance
  • We sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.
  • Luke 731-35
  • 31. To what then shall I compare the people of
    this generation, and what are they life? 32.
    They are like children seated in the agora and
    addressing one another,
  • We piped to you, and you did not dance,
  • We sang a dirge, and you did not weep.

Q Wisdom Sayings
  • Matt. 5 44
  • Love your enemies and pray for those who
    persecute you.
  • Luke 27-28
  • 27. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate
  • 28. Bless those who curse you, pray for those
    who mistreat you

Q Wisdom Sayings
  • Matt. 712
  • So whatever you wish that people would do to you,
    do also to them
  • Luke 631
  • And as you wish that people would do to do, do so
    to them.

Q Wisdom Sayings
  • Matt. 53, 6, 4.
  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the
    reign of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for
    righteousness, for they shall be filled.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be
  • Luke 620-21
  • Blessed are you poor, for yours is the reign of
  • Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be
  • Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall

Nag Hammadi Library
  • The Nag Hammadi Library, a collection of thirteen
    ancient codices containing over fifty texts, was
    discovered in upper Egypt in 1945. This immensely
    important discovery includes a large number of
    primary Gnostic scriptures -- texts once thought
    to have been entirely destroyed during the early
    Christian struggle to define "orthodoxy" --
    scriptures such as the Gospel of Thomas, the
    Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Truth.
  • The discovery and translation of the Nag Hammadi
    library, completed in the 1970's, has provided
    impetus to a major re-evaluation of early
    Christian history and the nature of Gnosticism.

Gnosticism and the Nag Hammadi Library
  • Among these early followers of Christ, it appears
    that an elite group delineated themselves from
    the greater household of the Church by claiming
    not simply a belief in Christ and his message,
    but a "special witness" or revelatory experience
    of the divine. It was this experience, this
    gnosis, which--so these Gnostics claimed--set the
    true follower of Christ apart from his fellows.
    Stephan Hoeller explains that these Gnostic
    Christians held a "conviction that direct,
    personal and absolute knowledge of the authentic
    truths of existence is accessible to human
    beings, and, moreover, that the attainment of
    such knowledge must always constitute the supreme
    achievement of human life."

Gnosticism and the Nag Hammadi Library
  • These thirteen papyrus codices containing
    fifty-two sacred texts are the long lost "Gnostic
    Gospels", a last extant testament of what
    orthodox Christianity perceived to be its most
    dangerous and insidious challenge, the feared
    opponent that the Patristic heresiologists had
    reviled under many different names, but most
    commonly as Gnosticism. The discovery of these
    documents has radically revised our understanding
    of Gnosticism and the early Christian church in
    the first and second centuries.
  • Valentinus of Rome (mid first century) was a
    prominent Christian who may have stood for
    election as Bishop. Yet by the end of his life,
    he was branded a heretic.

Teachings of Gnosticism
  • Gnosticism asserts that "direct, personal and
    absolute knowledge of the authentic truths of
    existence is accessible to human beings," and
    that the attainment of such knowledge is the
    supreme achievement of human life. Gnosis,
    remember, is not a rational, propositional,
    logical understanding, but a knowing acquired by
  • Primary among all the revelatory perceptions a
    Gnostic might reach was the profound awakening
    that came with knowledge that something within
    him was uncreated. The Gnostics called this
    "uncreated self" the divine seed, the pearl, the
    spark of knowing consciousness, intelligence,
    light. And this seed of intellect was the
    self-same substance of God, it was man's
    authentic reality it was the glory of humankind
    and the divine alike.

Gnostic Teachings
  • The creator god, the one who claimed in evolving
    orthodox dogma to have made man, and to own him,
    the god who would have man contingent upon him,
    born ex nihilo by his will, was a lying demon and
    not God at all. Gnostics called him by many names
    -- many of them deprecatory -- names like
    "Saklas", the blind one "Samael", god of the
    blind or "the Demiurge", the lesser power.
  • Elaine Pagels "to know oneself, at the deepest
    level, is simultaneously to know God this is the
    secret of gnosis.... Self-knowledge is knowledge
    of God the self and the divine are identical."

Gnostic Teachings
  • One group of gnostic sources claims to have
    received a secret tradition from Jesus through
    James and through Mary Magdalene who the
    Gnostics revered as consort to Jesus. Members of
    this group prayed to both the divine Father and
  • From Thee, Father, and through Thee, Mother, the
    two immortal names, Parents of the divine being,
    and thou, dweller in heaven, humanity, of the
    mighty name...
  • In many of the Nag Hammadi texts God is imaged
    not just as a duality, or d, but as a unity of
    masculine and feminine elements.

Gnostic Teachings Mary Magdalene
  • Gospel of Philip relates
  • "...the companion of the Savior is Mary
    Magdalene. But Christ loved her more than all the
    disciples, and used to kiss her often on her
    mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended...
    They said to him, "Why do you love her more than
    all of us? the Savior answered and said to them,
    "Why do I not love you as I love her?"

Gnostic Teachings The Five Sacraments
  • Gospel of Phillip Teaches
  • five great sacraments or mysteries "a baptism
    and a chrism, and a eucharist, and a redemption,
    and a bridal chamber. Whether this ultimate
    sacrament of the bridal chamber was a ritual
    enacted by a man and women, an allegorical term
    for a mystical experience, or a union of both, we
    do not know. Only hints are given in Gnostic
    texts about what this sacrament might be
  • Christ came to rectify the separation...and join
    the two components and to give life unto those
    who had died by separation and join them
    together. Now a woman joins with her husband in
    the bridal chamber, and those who have joined
    in the bridal chamber will not reseparate

The Coptic Gospel of Thomas
  • Translated by THOMAS O. LAMBDIN
  • Introduction to the Gospel of Thomas
  • A collection of traditional sayings of Jesus.
    These sayings, or small groups of sayings (the
    numeration of the 114 sayings is not found in the
    manuscript, but is followed by most scholars
    today) are introduced in most instances by "Jesus
    said (to them)," sometimes by a question or a
    statement of the disciples. Only in one instance
    (13) is a saying expanded into a longer discourse
    between Jesus and the disciples. The sayings
    preserved in The Gospel of Thomas are of several
    types wisdom sayings (proverbs), parables,
    eschatological sayings (prophecies), and rules
    for the community. They appear in this document
    in arrangement that does not reveal any overall
    plan of composition. On occasion, small groups of
    sayings are kept together by similarity in form
    or by catchword association.

Coptic Gospel of ThomasIntroduction
  • The Coptic Gospel of Thomas was translated from
    the Greek. Fragments of this gospel in the
    original Greek version are extant in the
    Oxyrhynchus Papyri 1, 654 and 655, which had been
    discovered and published at the beginning of this
    century, but were identified as parts of The
    Gospel of Thomas only after the discovery of the
    Coptic Nag Hammadi library. The first of these
    Greek papyri conta-is sayings 26-30, 77, 31-33
    (in this order!), the other two the sayings 1-7
    and 36-40, respectively. At least one of these
    Greek fragments comes from a manuscript that was
    written before 200 C.E. thus the Greek version
    of this gospel was used in Egypt as early as the
    second century.

Coptic Gospel of Thomas
  • The authorship of this gospel is attributed to
    Didymos Judas Thomas, that is, Judas "the twin"
    (both the Aramaic thomas and the Greek didymos
    mean "twin"). In the Syrian church, (Judas)
    Thomas was known as the brother of Jesus who
    founded the churches of the East, particularly of
    Edessa (in a somewhat later tradition, he even
    travels to India). Other Christian writings of
    the eastern churches have been attributed to the
    same apostle to these belong the Acts of Thomas
    and most likely also The Book of Thomas, which
    was discovered as part of the Nag Hammadi library
    (11,7). The latter writing, as well as The Gospel
    of Thomas, were most likely written in Syria.

Coptic Gospel of Thomas
  • A large number of the sayings of The Gospel of
    Thomas have parallels in the gospels of the New
    Testament, in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew,
    Mark, and Luke), as well as the Gospel of John
    (parallels with the latter are especially
    striking cf., e.g., sayings 13, 19, 24, 38, 49,
    92). Some of the sayings are known to occur also
    in noncanonical gospels, especially in the Gospel
    According to the Hebrews (cf. saying 2) and the
    Gospel of the Egyptians (cf. saying 22), which
    are both attested for the second century by
    Clement of Alexandria (floruit 180-200). The
    Gospel of Thomas almost always appears to have
    preserved a more original form of the traditional
    saying (in a few instances, where this is not the
    case, the Coptic translation seems to have been
    influenced by the translator's knowledge of the
    New Testament gospels), or presents versions
    which are independently based on more original
    forms. More original and shorter forms are
    especially evident in the parables of Thomas (cf.
    sayings 8, 9, 57, 63, 64, 65, 96, cf. 109).

Coptic Gospel of Thomas
  • The Gospel of Thomas is more akin to one of the
    sources of the canonical gospels, namely the
    so-called Synoptic Sayings Source (often called
    "Q" from the German word Quelle, "source"), which
    was used by both Matthew and Luke. Indeed, many
    of the sayings found in our document were also
    parts of this source of the gospels of the New
    Testament. On the other hand, The Gospel of
    Thomas also contains quite different older
    sayings, paralleled in the Gospel of John, in
    Mark 421-25, and even in I Corinthians (cf.
    saying 17 with I Co 29). Moreover, the sayings
    about the future coming of the Son of Man, so
    characteristic for "Q" (cf. Lk 128, 10 1722,
    24, 26), are completely missing. The Gospel of
    Thomas is, therefore, a closely related but
    independent collection of sayings. In its most
    original form, it may well date from the first
    century (the middle of the first century is
    usually considered the best date for the
    composition of "Q").

Coptic Gospel of Thomas
  • In the further history and growth of The Gospel
    of Thomas, this wisdom interpretation of the
    sayings of Jesus is more clearly developed under
    the influence of gnostic theology, though it is
    not possible to ascribe the work to any
    particular gnostic school or sect. The theme of
    recognizing oneself is further elaborated in
    sayings (cf. 50, 51) which speak of the knowledge
    of one's divine origin which even Adam did not
    share, although "he came into being from a great
    power" (saying 85). Salvation is obtained in
    stripping off everything that is of this world
    (cf. sayings 21a, 37, 56). The disciples must
    "pass by" the present corruptible existence
    (saying 42). The existence of the ideal gnostic
    disciple is characterized by the term "solitary
    one," which describes the one who has left behind
    everything that binds human beings to the world
    (cf. sayings 16, 23, 30, and 76). Even women can
    obtain this goal, if they achieve the "maleness"
    of the solitary existence (saying 114).

Coptic Gospel of Thomas
  • THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS (This is a partial text
    1132,10-51, 28)
  • These are the secret sayings which the living
    Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote
  • (1) And he said, "Whoever finds the
    interpretation of these sayings will not
    experience death."
  • (2) Jesus said, "Let him who seeks continue
    seeking until he finds. When he finds, he will
    become troubled. When he becomes troubled, he
    will be astonished, and he will rule over the

(4) Jesus said, "The man old in days will not
hestitate to ask a small child seven days old
about the place of life, and he will live. For
many who are first will become last, and they
will become one and the same." (6) His disciples
questioned him and said to him, "Do you want us
to fast? How shall we pray? Shall we give alms?
What diet shall we observe? Jesus said, "Do not
tell lies, and do not do what you hate, for all
things are plain in the sight of heaven. For
nothing hidden will not become manifest, and
nothing covered will remain without being
uncovered." (8) And he said, "The man is like a
wise fisherman who cast his net into the sea and
drew it up from the sea full of small fish. Among
them the wise fisherman found a fine large fish.
He threw all the small fish back into the sea and
chose the large fish without difficulty. Whoever
has ears to hear, let him hear." (9) Jesus said,
"Now the sower went out, took a handful (of
seeds), and scattered them. Some fell on the
road the birds came and gathered them up. Others
fell on rock, did not take root in the soil, and
did not produce ears. And others fell on thorns
they choked the seed(s) and worms ate them. And
others fell on the good soil and it produced good
fruit it bore sixty per measure and a hundred
and twenty per measure." (20) The disciples said
to Jesus, "Tell us what the kingdom of heaven is
like." He said to them, "It is like a mustard
seed. It is the smallest of all seeds. But when
it falls on tilled soil, it produces a great
plant and becomes a shelter for birds of the
(22) Jesus saw infants being suckled. He said to
his disciples, "These infants being suckled are
like those who enter the kingdom." They said to
him, "Shall we then, as children, enter the
kingdom?" (26) Jesus said, "You see the mote in
your brother's eye, but you do not see the beam
in your own eye. When you cast the beam out of
your own eye, then you will see clearly to cast
the mote from your brother's eye." (31) Jesus
said, "No prophet is accepted in his own village
no physician heals those who know him." (32)
Jesus said,"A city being built on a high mountain
and fortified cannot fall, 'nor can it be
hidden." (35) Jesus said, "It is not possible
for anyone to enter the house of a strong man and
take it by force unless he binds his hands (39)
Jesus said, "The pharisees and the scribes have
taken the keys of knowledge (gnosis) and hidden
them. They themselves have not entered, nor have
they allowed to enter those who wish to. You,
however, be as wise as serpents and as innocent
as doves." (50) Jesus said, "If they say to you,
'Where did you come from', say to them, 'We came
from the light, the place where the light came
into being on its own accord and established
itself and became manifest through their
image'. If they say to you, 'Is it you?', say,
'We are its children, and we are the elect of the
living father.' If they ask you, "What is the
sign of your father in you?', say to them, 'It is
movement and repose.' "
(51) His disciples said to him,"When will the
repose of the dead come about, and when will the
new world come?" He said to them, "What you look
forward to has already come, but you do not
recognize it." (54) Jesus said, "Blessed are the
poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven." (55)
Jesus said, "Whoever does not hate his father and
his mother cannot become a disciple to me. And
whoever does not hate his brothers and sisters
and take up his cross in my way will not be
worthy of me." (63) Jesus said, There was a rich
man who had much money. He said, 'I shall put my
money to use so that I may sow, reap, plant, and
fill my storehouse with produce, with the result
that shall lack nothing.' Such were his
intentions, but that same night he died. Let him
who has ears hear." (77) Jesus said, "It is I
who am the light which is above them all. It is I
who am the all . From me did the all come forth,
and unto me did the all extend. Split a piece of
wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you
will find me there." (114) Simon Peter said to
them, "Let Mary leave us, for women are not
worthy of life." Jesus said,"I myself shall lead
her in order to make her male, so that she too
may become a living spirit resembling you males.
For every woman who will make herself male will
enter the kingdom of heaven."
Greek Sayings Lists (Logia)
  • Gnomologia (or logoi sophon, l??oi s?f??) were
    collections of sayings existing either as
    independent assemblages or insertions into other
    texts of various kinds. There were, more or less,
    loose connections or groupings of individual
    sayings based on subject matter and tense.
    Wilson does point to a more formal literary
    structure, suggesting the author exercised an
    ability to organize and arrange the material into
    a more coherent whole. This view has priority
    over the alternative one of loosely connected
    sayings. Thus there is a prologue (vv. 1-2), and
    epilogue (vv. 228-230), and thematic clusters.
    The collections appear to have had a variety of
    purposes and may be suitable for any number of
    contexts. Overall, however, they are an
    aggregation of basic human wisdom teachings about
    the order of things and human existence and
    present themselves as the compilation of the
    teaching of a father, friend, or the teacher of a
    son, friend, or student. These sayings purport
    to gather together the wisdom of the ancient
    sages. The ultimate aim for the sage is paideia,
    or a higher principle that underlies the origins
    of and provides the essence of virtue. This
    paideia is divine, and for this author consists
    of the ?e?u ß???e?µata (theou bouleumata
    counsels of God) and d??a??s???? µ?st???a
    (dikaiosunas mustaria mystery of

Sentences of Sextus
  • This collection of 451 sayings, comprised of a
    variety of specific forms, was probably compiled
    in Egypt. It was well-known among Christians,
    particularly after the fourth century as a result
    of the Latin translation of Rufinus. Although the
    author's identity as Sextus has not finally been
    demonstrated, it appears certain that the editor,
    whoever he was, was a Christian.
  • The Basic outlook of this collection is best
    summarized by the phrase "mild asceticism." The
    Greek and English versions appear on facing
  • It was published by Scholars Press in 1981.
  • Saying 1 A faithful man is an elect man.
  • Saying 124 Ask God for whatever you cannot get
    from man.
  • Saying 260 Strive to be a public benefactor to
  • Saying 451 Do not dare to speak about God to an
    undisciplined soul.
  • See Handout

The Genre of Qoheleth First Person Testaments
  • In this genre, a first person narrator tells the
    story of personal experience and relates it to
    one or more sapiential virtues. Upon this
    experience, the audience of students is
    instructed. This form is frequently found in the
    literature of the ancient Near East. There are
    three literary types found in Egypt that provide
    important form critical and thematic comparisons
    to Qoheleth The Songs of the Harper, Grave
    Inscriptions, and Royal Testaments of deceased
    kings There are several examples of first person
    narratives in Israelite and Jewish wisdom texts
    Ps. 73, Prov. 43-9, 2430-34, and Sir. 3316-18,

Rhetorical Structure
  • Frame 11-11 and 119-1214
  • Introduction Conclusion
  • ll Title 129-14 Epilogue
  • l2 Theme Breath of breaths, says Q. All
    if Breath 128 Theme Breath of Breath
    of breaths. All is Breath.
  • 13 Central Question "What remains to a
    person from all the labor at which he/she toils
    under the sun?"
  • l4-11 Two Stanza Poem 117-l27 Two
    Stanza Poem
  • Cosmology (14-7) Anthropology
    Carpe Diem (117-10) Anthropology (toil 1
    8-11) Cosmology and
    Death (l2l-8)
  • Internal Structure 112-116
  • I. 1 12-519. Cosmology, Anthropology, and the
    Moral Order Human Activity
  • Key refrain Breath (and a Striving
    after lifes breath).
  • 1 12-18. Two-fold Introduction to
    sections I and II
  • A. l12-226 Solomon's Accomplishments
  • Carpe Diem Conclusion (224-26)
  • B. 31-15 Time (human toil and divine
  • Carpe Diem Interlude (312-13)
  • C 316-22 Judgment and Human Nature
  • Carpe Diem Conclusion (3 22)
  • D 41-519 Royal Rule and the Cult
  • Carpe Diem Conclusion (517-19)

The Rhetorical Structure of Qoheleth and its
  • 1. The opening and closing poems demonstrate
    that humans and nothing they create endures.
    Only the cosmos endures.
  • 2. The key expression, hebel habelim means
    that life and all that is quickly passes.
  • 3. The expression, chasing the wind, means it
    is impossible for humans to retain the
    life-giving spirit. At death it returns to the
    God who gave it.
  • 4. Wisdom offers a moral path, but it does not
    provide an escape from the same death that
    overwhelms the wicked.
  • 5. The seven-fold repetition of enjoy life
    (sieze the day) is the answer to Qoheleths main
    question What is good in human living? Or,
    what gives meaning to life.
  • 6. God is hidden and cannot be known. He is
    simply to be feared.

What is the Origin of Qoheleths Pessimism?
  • Qoheleth lived in an age well known for its
    skepticism about obtaining truth and its
    criticism of the gods.
  • He also inherited the traditions of wisdom from
    earlier times in Israel and the Ancient Near
    East, which also contain, at times, teachings of
  • In the age of the Ptolemies in the latter part of
    the third century, B. C. E., the date of the book
    (?), the Egyptian empire is collapsing and Judea
    will become soon a part of the Seleucid Empire to
    the East. Thus the times are unstable and
    fearful to those enduring this transition in
    royal power.

Songs of the Harper
  • The Harper Songs, whether sapiential or not,
    comprise a genre that depicts a blind minstrel
    performing at a mortuary wake, in which the
    deceased and close relatives participate. The
    wall scene of tombs depicts a harper entertaining
    guests at a feast in honor of the deceased.
    Normally, the texts celebrate the deceaseds
    journey to the afterlife. They assure the living
    that the dead person has made proper mortuary
    preparations and ask them to celebrate with joy
    the transition to the new world.

The best known of these texts, introduced by
the words, A song which is in the tomb of (King)
Inyotef, a ruler of the eleventh dynasty, is
found in the Papyrus Harris 500 manuscript dating
from the nineteenth dynasty of Rameses II. The
text is also preserved in a damaged form in an
eighteenth dynasty tomb at Saqqara.
This genre depicts a blind minstrel
performing at a mortuary wake, in which the
deceased and close relatives participate. The
wall scene of tombs depicts a harper entertaining
guests at a feast in honor of the deceased.
Normally, the texts celebrate the deceaseds
journey to the afterlife. They assure the living
that the dead person has made proper mortuary
preparations and ask them to celebrate withjoy
the transition to the new world.
The Harpers Song
  • He is happy, this good prince!
  • Death is a kindly fate
  • A generation passes,
  • Another stays,
  • Since the time of the ancestors,
  • The gods who were before rest in their tombs.
  • (Yet) those who built tombs,
  • Their places are gone,
  • What has become of them?
  • I have heard the words of Imhotep and Hardedef
  • Whose sayings are recited whole.
  • What of their places?
  • Their walls have crumbled,
  • Their places are gone
  • As though they had never been!
  • None of them comes from there
  • To tell of their state
  • To tell of their needs,
  • To calm our hearts,
  • He is happy, this good prince!
  • Death is a kindly fate
  • A generation passes,
  • Another stays,
  • Since the time of the ancestors,
  • The gods who were before rest in their tombs.
  • (Yet) those who built tombs,
  • Their places are gone,
  • What has become of them?
  • I have heard the words of Imhotep and Hardedef
  • Whose sayings are recited whole.
  • What of their places?
  • Their walls have crumbled,
  • Their places are gone
  • As though they had never been!
  • None of them comes from there
  • To tell of their state
  • To tell of their needs,
  • To calm our hearts,

Grave Inscriptions (Egypt)
  • The Egyptian autobiographies consistently contain
    three literary features an autobiographical
    narrative, ethical sayings, and instructions and
    exhortations. The audience they envision is
    comprised either of visitors to the tomb or, in
    the case of the temple inscriptions, the priests
  • The autobiography consisted of the titles and
    accomplishments of the deceased, while the
    sayings offered were the same that guided the
    dead speaker through life. The deceased is
    portrayed as intelligent and wise. As a devotee
    of his god, he tells of his acts of piety and
    dutiful response to the deitys desires
  • Many are traditional in content and reflect the
    importance of pious and virtuous living. They
    encourage their visitors to emulate their

Grave Stela (Egypt)Taimhotep
  • The wife of them High Priest of Ptah at Memphis.
    She died at the age of 30 in 42 B. C. E. In her
    autobiographical tomb inscription, she says to
    her husband
  • O (my) brother, husband, friend, high
    priest do not weary of drink, food, deep
    drinking, and loving. Make a holiday! Follow
    your heart day and night! Do not set sorrow in
    your heart. What are the years which are not on
    earth? As for the West, it is a land in sleep,
    heavy darkness, the dwelling-place of those who
    are there. Sleep is in their (mummy) forms.
    They do not awake to see their brothers, they do
    not see their fathers or their mothers, their
    hearts lack their wives and their children. The
    water of life which is food for all, it is thirst
    for me. It comes (only) to the one who is on
    earth I am thirsty (though) water is beside me.

Royal Testaments
  • Qoheleth is shaped literarily as a royal
    testament of a dead king, the famous Solomon from
    the past, who speaks to his audience from the
  • Several instructions from Egypt are presented
    also as teachings of dead kings to their

Testament of Merikare
  • Originating during the First Intermediate period
    in the Herakleopolitan Dynasty, The Instruction
    for King Merikare, portrays a new king who was
    the last ruler of this dynasty (ends in 2125 B.
    C. E.). At the time, the tenth dynasty was in
    competition with what would be the eleventh
    dynasty located at Thebes. The biographical
    fiction presents Merikare as coming to the
    throne, when his deceased father (King Cheti?)
    instructs him on how to rule. Three papyri from
    the eighteenth dynasty are known, although the
    beginning of the instruction is damaged, and
    there are no ostraca that suggest schoolboy
    copies. Merikares father, possibly Cheti,
    speaking in the first person, teaches his son
    matters of royal responsibility for the
    actualization of cosmic order in nature and
    society and provides him with important counsel
    on how to govern wisely and successfully.

Testament of Amenemhet
  • Attributed to Cheti, the author of The Satire on
    the Trades and perhaps also the Hymn to the
    Nile, this Egyptian instruction is also placed
    in the mouth of a deceased ruler, Amenemhet, and
    is offered as a revelatory teaching to his son,
    Sen-Usert. The teaching was composed by a court
    scribe, Cheti, who came under the patronage of
    King Sen-Usert I (1971-1928, B. C. E.). Its
    purpose was to legitimate the rule of the new
    king, perhaps on the occasion of his accession to
    the throne perhaps during his coronation festival
    where, during his installation as king, he
    appeared as a god.
  • The founder of the 12th dynasty (1985-1956 B. C.
    E.). King Amenemhet tells his son of his great
    feats during his reign, and yet also reveals to
    his successor the intrigue that led to his
    assassination. The theme of loyalty is prominent
    in this teaching with the dead king warning his
    successor to trust no one. This suggests that
    the successor was to deal harshly with the
    assassins and others who might oppose his rule.
    The primary purpose of the instruction was
    political in that it was to provide legitimation
    for the rule of Sen-Usert.

Testament of the Dying David To the Wise Solomon
(1 Kgs. 21-12)
  • 2 When David's time to die drew near, he charged
    his son Solomon, saying 2"I am about to go the
    way of all the earth. Be strong, be
    courageous, 3and keep the charge of the LORD your
    God, walking in his ways and keeping his
    statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and
    his testimonies, as it is written in the law of
    Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do
    and wherever you turn. 4Then the LORD will
    establish his word that he spoke concerning me
    'If your heirs take heed to their way, to walk
    before me in faithfulness with all their heart
    and with all their soul, there shall not fail you
    a successor on the throne of Israel.'  5
    "Moreover you know also what Joab son of Zeruiah
    did to me, how he dealt with the two commanders
    of the armies of Israel, Abner son of Ner, and
    Amasa son of Jether, whom he murdered,
    retaliating in time of peace for blood that had
    been shed in war, and putting the blood of war on
    the belt around his waist, and on the sandals on
    his feet. 6Act therefore according to your
    wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to
    Sheol in peace. 7Deal loyally, however, with the
    sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be
    among those who eat at your table for with such
    loyalty they met me when I fled from your brother
    Absalom. 8There is also with you Shimei son of
    Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, who cursed me
    with a terrible curse on the day when I went to
    Mahanaim but when he came down to meet me at the
    Jordan, I swore to him by the LORD, 'I will not
    put you to death with the sword.' 9Therefore do
    not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man
    you will know what you ought to do to him, and
    you must bring his gray head down with blood to

  • These speeches from the dead emphasize the
    authority of the revered speaker who, while
    deceased, is held in great esteem in the
    tradition of the sages or of the members of the
    family addressed by the entombed person.
  • In addition, speeches from the dead are taken
    with great seriousness, seeing that they now have
    joined the divine world and that of the dead who
    either live eternally or await the resurrection.
  • The literary structure of the book assists us in
    understanding its overall theology.
  • The matter is not only a literary issue. As
    Brevard Childs has argued (The Biblical Theology
    of the Old and New Testament), the final
    canonical forms of books are to be read as a
    unit, since these represent the way the
    communities of believers (Jews and Christians)
    read these texts. Theologically, it is the
    canonical form that is authoritative and not an
    earlier redaction.
  • Hence, Qoheleths literary structure helps us to
    understand his major theme in view of death,
    one is to embrace and enjoy life.
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