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19 - Mesopotamian Wisdom

from Part III - Wisdom Literature beyond the Hebrew Bible

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2022

Katherine J. Dell
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
Suzanna R. Millar
Affiliation:
University of Edinburgh
Arthur Jan Keefer
Affiliation:
Eton College
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Summary

Paul-Alain Beaulieu examines Mesopotamian Wisdom. While acknowledging that there is no native category of ‘Wisdom Literature’ in Mesopotamia, Beaulieu nonetheless finds it a helpful classification. Within this category are texts of several genres: we find disputations, which begin with a mythological introduction, progress to a verbal contest between non-human combatants, and conclude with the victor pronounced by a god. There are proverbs, found in collections and quoted in letters, as well as fables, often about animals. Instructions and admonitions transmit antediluvian wisdom to postdiluvian generations. Some texts reflect on the problem of theodicy, ruminating on the human-divine relationship and individual divine retribution, while others lament the futility of life and advocate a carpe diem attitude. School debates centralise learning and the scribal arts. These texts are linked by intertextual references and shared features, such as their frequent ascription to individual wise figures, assumption of the absolute and inscrutable power of the gods, and reflection on the human predicament.

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Chapter
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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References

Further Reading

Alster, Bendt. Proverbs of Ancient Sumer. 2 vols. Bethesda: 1997.Google Scholar
Alster, Bendt. Wisdom of Ancient Sumer. Bethesda: 2005.Google Scholar
Annus, Amar, and Lenzi, Alan. Ludlul bēl nēmeqi: The Standard Babylonian Poem of the Righteous Sufferer. SAACT VII. Helsinki: 2010.Google Scholar
Cohen, Yoram. Wisdom from the Late Bronze Age. SBLWAW 29. Atlanta: 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jiménez, Enrique. The Babylonian Disputation Poems: With Editions of the Series of the Poplar, Palm and Vine, the Series of the Spider, and the Story of the Poor, Forlorn Wren. CHANE 87. Leiden; Boston: 2017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lambert, Wilfred George. Babylonian Wisdom Literature. Oxford: 1960.Google Scholar
Oshima, Takayoshi. The Babylonian Theodicy. SAACT IX. Helsinki: 2013.Google Scholar
Van Dijk, Johannes Jacobus Adrianus. La sagesse suméro-akkadienne. Recherches sur les genres littéraires des textes sapientiaux. Leiden: 1953.Google Scholar

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