CHAPTER 4: Looking Through the “Lens of Wisdom”: The Role of Wisdom and Genre in the Book of Qohelet 75
CHAPTER 4 Looking Through the “Lens of Wisdom”: The Role of Wisdom and Genre in the Book of Qohelet Wisdom takes on a complex role in Qohelet; in one sense, it entails the genre of the book, in another sense, it is the guiding perspective from which Qohelet is led throughout his quest, and finally, it functions as a motif that is explored within the book and in relationship to the other prominent motifs. Qohelet is generally considered a wisdom book, and as such, should be expected to manifest characteristics of Hebrew wisdom literature. However, it is obvious to most that Qohelet does not read in the same manner as the more conventional wisdom of Proverbs. 1 Qohelet, while containing many examples of proverbial wisdom, is structured in a more complex manner, containing non-proverbial wisdom and a complex line of argument that incorporates elements of tension, skepticism, and exploration into the nature of wisdom itself. One of the obvious paradoxes facing the interpreter of literature, and in this case, the literature of the Bible, is that an accurate understanding of genre is necessary for the interpretation of the literary text, and yet genre is wholly determined by an accurate understanding of that same text. Thus the genre comes to be understood by the text, and yet the text is truly only understood once the genre is determined. This leads of course to circularity in reasoning, yet it is an inevitable paradox in hermeneutics. 2 The reader, however, should not be...
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