Old Testament Wisdom Literature: A Theological Introduction by Craig G. Bartholomew and Ryan P. O’Dowd is a clear and accessible introduction to wisdom literature with a unique focus upon the theological contribution of the Old Testament books. The goal of the book is to open a conversation amongst readers towards an embrace and embodiment of the theology of the Old Testament wisdom literature today (p. 16). This is accomplished through rigorous engagement with the biblical text and interaction with both ancient and modern scholarship.
Bartholomew and O’Dowd divide the focus of the book into three sections. Chapters 1-3 are an establishment of the context for the book, including an introduction to wisdom literature as wisdom, a survey of the world of ancient (i.e. Egypt, Mesopotamia, Israel, etc.), and the genre of poetry. These three chapters do well to achieve what they set out to accomplish, and everything else is captured in the recommended readings at the end of each chapter. Chapters 4-9 comprise the heart of the book and walk the reader through Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job, offering a theological interpretation of each book, an overview of the reception of each book, and interaction with the biblical text throughout. Chapters 9-12 move the discussion towards a more fuller theology of the wisdom literature for today and examine the use of wisdom and wisdom literature in the New Testament.
There is much to be praised about this volume. First, and probably foremost, Bartholomew and O’Dowd do an excellent job establishing the books in the ancient Near Eastern context. This allows the scope of the book to move beyond a typical introduction as the theological and hermeneutical considerations are developed. Second, each chapter concludes with a curated “recommended reading” section. This makes the book perfect for interested readers looking to adventure out on topics. That said, there are also several resources I anticipated to find as recommended reads, and when I looked I came up with nothing. Of course, this is minor in the scope of what Bartholomew and O’Dowd have accomplished. Lastly, while the wisdom literature of the Old Testament typically moves beyond the books explicitly covered in the volume, the introduction to wisdom and the ensuing literature does well to orient the reader with the necessary tools to accomplish the task of interpretation.
Old Testament Wisdom Literature: A Theological Introduction by Craig G. Bartholomew and Ryan P. O’Dowd is a clear and accessible introduction to wisdom literature with a unique focus upon the theological contribution of the Old Testament books. It is well situated for a classroom and even better situated for the interested reader. Those looking for a solid introduction to the wisdom literature of the Old Testament that will pay dividends in the end, will do well to consult Bartholomew and O’Dowd.