Riad Aziz Kassis:“ The Book Of Proverbs & Arabic Proverbial Works” -- By: P. J. Williams

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 51:1 (NA 2000)
Article: Riad Aziz Kassis:“ The Book Of Proverbs & Arabic Proverbial Works”
Author: P. J. Williams

Riad Aziz Kassis:“
The Book Of Proverbs & Arabic Proverbial Works”1

Reviewed by P.J. Williams

It is rather surprising, given the quantity of secondary literature spawned by the comparison of biblical proverbs with those of other cultures, that so little has been written about the relationship between biblical proverbs and Arabic ones. Kassis’s pioneering survey of extensive corpora of Arabic sayings that elucidate biblical material is therefore invaluable.

The first of the book’s six chapters introduces the enterprise: comparison of biblical wisdom with that of Arabs has biblical precedent in 1 Kings 5:10, where Solomon’s wisdom is described as greater than that of all the children of the East (כָּל־בְּנֵי־קֶדֶם). In line with this Kassis stresses the importance of Arabic comparative material, particularly from its pre-Islamic and early-Islamic phases.

Chapter two surveys the Solomonic wisdom tradition, and by standard arguments finds the attribution of biblical books, psalms and collections of proverbs to Solomon to be without historical basis. In considering the picture of Solomon in 1 Kings 3-11 Kassis thinks that differences between the MT and the LXX may indicate that this section was finalised later than the rest of the Deuteronomistic History, and that it

…cannot be regarded as reflecting a historical record. It reflects an obviously exaggerated account of the magnificence of Solomon and the types of his wisdom. Therefore, there is a highly probable reason for dating this tradition as post-exilic. (p. 47)

That said, ‘we do not rule out the possibility that Solomon as a king has uttered a few proverbs and wisdom sayings’ (p. 47). This generally negative evaluation of the historicity of the picture of

Solomon as editor of proverbial literature provides the backdrop for a key comparison in Kassis’s argument: that of Solomon and Luqmân.

Luqmân is a pre-Islamic figure who existed some time between King David and Muhammad. In Arabic literature he is characterised in various ways including as a prophet, a strong man and a wise man. This same Luqmân is probably the figure after whom the thirty-first Surah of the Quran is named. Once given divine approval in the Quran, it seems that Luqmân had more and more wise sayings attributed to him. Kassis’s argument is that Luqmân and Solomon have resemblances such as that they are both designated in literature later than themselves as having divine appr...

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