Stage 4: Wider reading :

Unit 13: Wisdom Of The Near East

Wisdom Of The Near East

Just as the wisdom of the Ancient World of the Near East was expressive of the pseudo-scientific thinking of the times and had received a special Hebraic characteristic associated with Jewish worship, so its mode of expr

The poetic forms are characteristic.

The principal difference to the Western reader is that rhyme plays a very small part whereas contrast is all important.

A phenomenon which is often noted is that sayings are frequently linked in some fashion with one or both of the sayings adjacent to them.

The forms of these links may be thematic, dealing with the same subject;

verbal, adjacent sayings being linked by vocabulary;

or literal, whereby adjacent sayings share the same initial letter, or sequence of initial letters.

An example of the last mentioned would be the acrostic for the virtuous woman at the close of the Book of Proverbs.

Some 58% of sayings are clearly joined to an adjacent saying by thematic, verbal, or literal links, some forming quite lengthy chains of sayings.

Line, not rhyme thus forms the basis of expression in Hebrew poetry.

It employs parallelism in a balance of thought rather than word-arrangement as the basis of versification.

The thoughts may be arranged as a repetition of the same or a contrasting thought.

On the other hand there may be a progressive flow of thought in which the second or following lines add something to the first.

The principal device used in Proverbs is that of a single verse, which would be six or seven Hebrew words in all -usually three strong beats, answered by another three, (described as a distich).

Even this may have been twice the length of a typical folk-saying, for the written proverb takes the form of Hebrew poetry with its echoing second line enriching and enhancing the first.

e.g., the soul of the wicked desires evil;

his neighbour finds no mercy in his eyes.

As a folk saying, this would be reduced to something like: Out-of-the-wicked comes-forth wickedness.

Hebrew poetry has been described as lyrical, because it was usually accompanied by instrumental music, usually that of the lyre.

The Wisdom literature of the Ancient world is characteristic of the peoples of the area.

It is different to other systems of thought that existed in other parts of the world in Ancient times, e.g., those of the Far East.

It is a characteristic of such systems of philosophy that they vary in response to the needs of different regions.

The Jews have maintained a considerable blending of their ancient systems of wisdom thinking with that of succeeding generations.

During the times of our Lord the Saducees were representative of their class.

They were so practical as to think little of the after life and a great deal about the practical issues of their day.

They questioned, for example, the resurrection, but our Lord quickly showed them their error.

Jewish education is grounded in a reading of the ancient scriptures today, and always has been, but it has always been open to training in the skills needed for daily life.

In this the Wisdom literature of the Hebrews has formed a basis for thought that has stood today's Jewry in good stead.

The approach of thinkers in the Ancient World of the Near East was well suited to the needs of their day.

Thinkers of the ancient world gave close attention to bridging the gap between the practical and the esoteric, achieving a blend of philosophy, ethics and religion.

We now call this Wisdom, either traditional or literary.

It was not confined to the Jews but it was enriched among them by the fact that it centered on the one, true God.

We could well do with achieving a like synthesis in today's world.

Perhaps because of the greater body of knowledge now available, we live in an age of specialisation.

So great is that tendency that there is little room in religious thought for the factors that most influence the lives of us all.

The confluence of thought, for example, between the impact of technology upon daily life and the subject of theology, is small indeed.

Few theologians have been technologically trained.

When it be considered that the former does influence every moment of daily life, and the latter only claims to relate to it, the need for building bridges between disciplines is obvious.

Perhaps the training of the Jesuit does achieve this to a large degree.