Is There A Place For Job’s Wisdom In Old Testament Theology? -- By: Gary V. Smith

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 13:1 (Spring 1992)
Article: Is There A Place For Job’s Wisdom In Old Testament Theology?
Author: Gary V. Smith

Is There A Place For Job’s Wisdom In Old Testament Theology?

Gary V. Smith*

The famous poem on wisdom in Job 28 asks a crucial question: “Where can wisdom be found, where is the place of understanding?” (28:12). Although this question was quite appropriate in Job’s situation of suffering and confusion, it should not be necessary to ask this question any longer. OT theologians know where wisdom can be found. Wisdom is from God and it is found in his revelation, particularly in biblical wisdom literature. But this response may be nothing more than a cliché, for few biblical theologians have given wisdom ideas equal status with salvation history in their theological understanding of the OT. Wisdom theology is often simply ignored or purposely excluded; thus, the place of wisdom in OT theology is still a live debate.

This problem would be easier to face if wisdom literature was not included in the canon of Scripture or if it was condemned as knowledge that contradicted divine insight. Since this is not the case, why does wisdom literature appear to be a stranger in many OT theologies? In order to address this problem, several key questions need to be raised: 1) Why do some theologians exclude wisdom literature from OT theology? 2) What solutions have been offered to give wisdom literature a firm position within OT theology? 3) What are the central themes in the wisdom theology of the book of Job? and, 4) What are some distinctive and common elements between wisdom theology and salvation history?

I. Why Do Some Scholars Exclude Wisdom From Ot Theology?

Although few would argue that wisdom literature is unbiblical, its true status is in question because so many biblical theologies fail to give it an authoritative place within their overall understanding of biblical revelation.1 In some cases there is

* Gary V. Smith is Professor of Old Testament at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

no rationale to explain this omission—wisdom is simply omitted. By making only a few references to the wisdom books, OT theologians shove to the side the concepts of wisdom literature and do not treat them as integral parts of the biblical worldview. This repeated omission of one section of the canon is symptomatic of a fundamental problem, a weakness in the modern understanding of the nature and breadth of Israel’s theology.2

C. Westermann faces the issue head on and reveals why wisdom is not a part of his theology. He excludes wi...

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