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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

25 March 2006

Biblical Wisdom Literature

Q: What are the books of wisdom in the Old and New Testaments?

The Wisdom of GodA: Using technical terms, much of the Bible’s “wisdom literature” is practical and day-to-day in orientation. Normally, it refrains from great theological depth; instead, it deals with moral issues and living a good life. Depending upon who does the classifying, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are usually considered by scholars as the major wisdom books of the Old Testament. Often, Job, the Psalms, or the Song of Songs are also included. If you include the Apocrypha among the Scriptures, other books could be added to the list.

There isn’t much in the New Testament that qualifies for the same category. However, if any one book fits the “wisdom” classification, it’s James. It closely parallels Hebrew wisdom literature, especially in its “nuts-and-bolts” practicality.

Of course, if we broaden definitions, we could say that all Scripture qualifies as wisdom literature, since these “sacred writings” make us “wise for salvation. (2 Timothy 3:15)” Of course, this wisdom is “folly to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18)” but eternal life to all who believe through “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (v. 24)”

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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