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The Sword and the Stylus: An Introduction to Wisdom in the Age of Empires
Leo G. Perdue

9780802862457 Retail Price: $38.00
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Format: Paperback, 502pp.
ISBN: 9780802862457
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pub. Date: June 17, 2008

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From The Publisher:

The all-too-frequent disregard of historical and social contexts by many wisdom scholars often leads to the distortion of this literature and transforms its teachings into abstract ideas lacking any incarnation in the social and historical world of human living. Leo Perdue here argues from a sociohistorical approach that the proper understanding of ancient wisdom literature requires one to move out of the realm of philosophical idealism into the flesh and blood of human history.

Arguing that wisdom was international in practice and outlook, Perdue traces the interaction between both ruling and subject nations and their sages who produced their respective cultures and their foundational worldviews. While not always easy to reconstruct, he acknowledges, the historical and social settings of texts provide necessary contexts for interpretation and engagement by later readers and hearers. Wisdom texts did not transcend their life settings to espouse values regardless of time and circumstance. Rather, they are located in a variety of historical events in an evolving nation, reflecting a vast array of different and changing moral systems, epistemologies, and religious understandings.



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About the Author

Leo G. Perdue is professor of Old Testament at Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas. His several previous works include Wisdom Literature: A Theological History, Blackwell’s Companion to the Old Testament, and Sages, Scribes, and Seers.

Table of Contents


  1. A Prolegomenon to Wisdom in the Empires
  2. Wisdom during the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah:
    The Book of Proverbs
  3. Wisdom during the Neo-Babylonian Empire:
    The Book of Job
  4. Wisdom during the Persian Empire:
    The Wisdom Psalms
  5. Wisdom during the Ptolemaic Empire:
    The Book of Qoheleth
  6. Apocryphal Wisdom Literature in the Seleucid Empire:
    The Book of Ben Sira
  7. Wisdom during the Roman Empire:
    The Wisdom of Solomon
  8. Continuing Streams:
    Apocalypticism and Wisdom
  9. Continuing Streams:
    Apocalyptic Wisdom in Qumran
  10. Continuing Streams:
    Rabbinic Wisdom
  11. Summary and Observations
  12. Afterword


    Index of Modern Authors

    Index of Biblical Texts

    Index of Nonbiblical Ancient Literature

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