On matters of sex, what kind of “textual orientation” does the wisdom literature provide?

– William P. Brown


The wisdom literature is perhaps the most open-ended yet thoroughly didactic corpus of the Old Testament.  Even the books themselves are remarkably diverse: Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes.  They are the product of centuries of accumulated wisdom and insight, the result of sustained inquiries into the nature of reality, its anomalies as well as its regularities, for the purpose of figuring out how we are to lead our lives in “righteousness, justice, and equity” (Prov 1:3b). In their quest for wisdom, the sages were not reluctant to extend their investigations beyond the particularities of their faith. They, in fact, borrowed from the wisdom of surrounding cultures, adapting it and transforming it. Case in point: Proverbs 22:17-23:11 is actually an adaptation of the Egyptian “Instructions of Amen-em-ope” (ca. 1100 BCE). The biblical sages were convinced that all truth came from God, even truth at odds with itself.

The diversity of approaches espoused in the wisdom literature is the result of the sages’ struggle with the wisdom of the past (tradition) and the truth of present experience…

Although the wisdom books do not specifically address contemporary concerns about sexual identity and conduct, specifically homosexuality, they may provide a helpful “textual orientation” for gaining insight into such matters…

Read the whole essay.




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