Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: June 2012

2 - Sipping from the Cup of Wisdom


Biblical sages never asked the question that is arguably the most divisive of all intellectual queries: “Does Being exist?” With one possible exception, the sayings of a non-Israelite named Agur in Proverbs 30:1–14, they joined their ancient Near Eastern counterparts in taking the existence of a supreme power as a given. Indeed, the intelligentsia in Egypt and Mesopotamia assumed that a host of lesser gods made up a pantheon, which modern scholars identify as a Divine Council. Biblical wise men appear to have found this understanding of reality acceptable, for the prologue to the book of Job describes such an assembly of gods. In this regard, the sages merely adopted the prevailing views of the day, like the unknown author of Genesis 6:1–4, who mentions lustful sons of God who descended to earth and cohabited with women.

The belief in heavenly beings who functioned as a royal court occurs in several biblical texts and often reinforces ethical ideals, as in Deuteronomy 32:8 and Psalm 82, which allude to patron gods of the nations and their abdication of responsibility to maintain justice on earth. Other references to the Divine Council involve a semi-Platonic notion of events in heaven that are subsequently enacted on earth (1 Kgs. 22:19), add drama to a prophetic vision involving a chilling vocation (Isa. 6:1–13), or convey a sense of grandeur to the description of Yahweh as creator and savior (Isa. 40–55).

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

Jesus and Philosophy
  • Online ISBN: 9780511809408
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *
Crenshaw, James L., Urgent Advice and Probing Questions: Collected Writings on Old Testament Wisdom (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1995), 371–82.
Toorn, Karel, “Sources in Heaven: Revelation as a Scholarly Construct in Second Temple Judaism,” in Kein Land fűr sich allein: Studien zum Kulturkontakt in Kanaan, Israel/Palästina und Ebirnâri fűr Manfred Weippert zum 65. Geburtstag, hrsg. Ulrich Hűbner und Ernst Axel Knauf (Freiburg: Universitätsverlag Freiburg und Gőttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2002), 265–77
Crenshaw, James L., Education in Ancient Israel: Across the Deadening Silence [New York: Doubleday, 1998]
Carr, David M., Writing on the Tablet of the Heart: Origins of Scripture and Literature [Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2005].)
Foster, Benjamin R., From Distant Days: Myths, Tales, and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia [Bethesda, MD: CDL Press, 1995], 2
Pritchard, James B., ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969]
Barr, James, Biblical Faith and Natural Theology: The Gifford Lectures for 1991 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993)
Crenshaw, James L., Defending God: Biblical Responses to the Problem of Evil [Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2005])
“Dying and Rising Gods,” in The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Eliade, Mircea [New York: Collier Macmillan Publishers, 1987]
Crenshaw, James L., “Deceitful Minds and Theological Dogma: Jeremiah 17:5–11,” 105–121 in Utopia and Dystopia in Prophetic Literature, ed. Zvi, Ehud Ben (Helsinki: The Finnish Exegetical Society and Gőttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006)
, Crenshaw, Prophets, Sages & Poets (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2006), pp. 73–82, 222–24
Crenshaw, James L., “The Sojourner Has Come to Play the Judge: Theodicy on Trial,” in God in the Fray: A Tribute to Walter Brueggemann, eds. Linafelt, Tod and Beal, Timothy K (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), 83–92
Theodicy in the World of the Bible, eds. Laato, Antti and Moor, Johannes C. [Leiden and Boston: Brill], 2003).
Collins, John J., Encounters with Biblical Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 126
“Is there a Doctrine of Retribution in the Old Testament?” in Theodicy in the World of the Old Testament, ed. Crenshaw, James L. (IRT 4; Philadelphia: Fortress Press; London: SPCK, 1983), 57–87
Balentine, Samuel E., The Hidden God: The Hiding of the Face of God in the Old Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983)
Miskotte, Kornelis H., When the Gods Are Silent (New York and Evanston: Harper & Row, 1967)
Rahner, Karl, Encounters with Silence (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1965)
Keel, Othmar, The Symbolism of the Biblical World: Ancient Near Eastern Iconography and the Book of Psalms (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1997).
Brown, William P., Seeing the Psalms: A Theology of Metaphor (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2002)
Kutsko, John F., Between Heaven and Earth: Divine Presence and Absence in the Book of Ezekiel (BJS 7; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2000)
Nissinen, Martti, “Spoken, Written, Quoted and Invented: Orality and Writtenness in Ancient Near Eastern Prophecy,” 235–72, in Writings and Speech in Israelite and Ancient Near Eastern Prophecy, ed. Zvi, Ehud Ben and Floyd, Michael H. (Symposium 10; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000)
Parpola, Simo, Assyrian Prophecies (SAA 9; Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 1997)
Miller, Patrick D., The Religion of Ancient Israel (London: SPCK; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000)
Smith, Mark S., The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel (New York: Harper & Row, 1990
Wright, J. Edward, The Early History of Heaven (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000)
Crenshaw, James L., “Job, Book of,” in volume 3 of The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. Freedman, David Noel (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 858–68
Balentine, Samuel E., Job (Macon, Ga.: Smyth and Helwys, 2006)
Newsom, Carol, “The Book of Job,” in The New Interpreter's Bible, vol. 4 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), 317–637
Barton, John, Oracles of God: Perceptions of Ancient Prophecy in Israel after the Exile (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).
Collins, John J., particularly The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to the Jewish Matrix of Christianity (New York: Crossroad, 1984)
“The Reinterpretation of Apocalyptic Traditions in The Wisdom of Solomon,” in Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature Yearbook 2005 (The Book of Wisdom in Modern Research: Studies on Tradition, Redaction, and Theology, eds. Passaro, Angelo and Bellia, Geirceppe [Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter] 2005), 143–55
Crenshaw, James L., Old Testament Wisdom: An Introduction (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1998)
Rad, Gerhard, Wisdom in Israel (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1972).
Crenshaw, James L., Prophetic Conflict: Its Effect Upon Israelite Religion (BZAW 124; Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1971)
Sinnott, Alice M., The Personification of Wisdom (SOTSM; Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005)
McKinlay, Judith E., Gendering Wisdom the Host: Biblical Invitations to Eat and Drink (JSOT SS216; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996)
Baumann, Gerlinde, Die Weisheitsgestalt in Proverbien 1–9 (FAT 16; Tűbingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1996)
Schroer, Silvia, Wisdom Has Built Her House: Studies on the Figure of Sophia in the Bible (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2000).
Rose, Martin, “De la Crise de la Sagesse à la Sagesse de la Crise,” RThPh 131 (1999), 115–34
Weil, Eric, “What Is a Breakthrough in History?Daedalus (Spring 1975), 21–36
Crenshaw, James L., “Love Is Stronger Than Death: Intimations of Life beyond the Grave,” in Resurrection: The Origin and Future of a Biblical Doctrine, ed. Charlesworth, James H. [New York and London: T&T Clark, 2006], 53–78
Ngwa, Kenneth Numfor, The Hermeneutic of the “Happy” Ending in Job 42:7–17 (BZAW 354; New York and Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2005)
Dor-Shav, Ethan, “Ecclesiastes, Fleeting and Timeless,” Azure 18 (2004), 67–87
Lohfink, Norbert, “Die Wiederkehr des immer Gleichen. Eine frűhe Synthese zwischen griechischen und jűdischen Weltgefuhl in Kohelet 1, 4–11,” in Studien zu Kohelet (SBA 26; Stuttgart: Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk GmbH, 1998), 95–124
“Fate, miqreh, and Reason: Some Reflections on Qohelet and Biblical Thought,” in Solving Riddles and Untying Knots: Biblical, Epigraphic and Semitic Studies in Honor of Jonas G. Greenfield, ed. Zevit, Ziony et al. (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 159–75.
Crenshaw, James L., “Qohelet's Quantitative Language,” in Prophets, Sages & Poets, 83–94, 224–30
Lohfink, Norbert, “Koh 1, 2: Alles ist Windhauch – universale oder anthropologische Aussage,” in Studien zu Kohelet, 125–42.
Harrington, Daniel J., Wisdom Texts from Qumran (London and New York: Routledge, 1996).
Collins, John J., Jewish Wisdom in the Hellenistic Age (OTL; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1997).
Crenshaw, James L., “The Problem of Theodicy in Sirach: On Human Bondage,” JBL 94 (1975), 49–65
McGlymn, Moyna, Divine Judgment and Divine Benevolence in the Book of Wisdom (WUNT, 139; Tűbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 25–53
Kolarcik, Michael, The Ambiguity of Death in Wisdom Chapters 1–6: A Study of Literary Structure and Interpretation (Rome: Editrice Pontificio Instituto Biblico, 1991).