Wisdom and Torah as Dynamic Modes of Scribal Discourse in Israel and Early Judaism: Beyond Biblical Genres and Traditions


This workshop examines the long-standing assumption that there was a confluence between Wisdom and Torah in the Second Temple Judaism; whether Wisdom is torahised or Torah is sapientialised (Von Rad, Hengel, Schnabel, Sheppard, Blenkinsopp, Collins, Sanders). Yet, this assumption is heavily rooted in misconceptions of the wisdom tradition and the connection of Wisdom-Torah. First of all, scholars studying wisdom literature in Israel and early Judaism have in recent times called in question the feasibility of defining wisdom genre and the fixed lineation of “wisdom tradition” and have been inclined to cease using those muddy terms without any distinction (Weeks, Sneed). Instead of the genre compartment traditionally used by traditional-historical methodology, they prefer speaking of wisdom texts as “a mode of discourse”/“a mode of literature”, rather than speaking of a sort of classifying “wisdom” as the generic genre, the particular ideology, the systematized thought-structure, or the interpretive framework for late writings. Furthermore, the presupposition of a genre/tradition of wisdom in ancient Judaism has led scholars to assume that “wisdom” was ultimately transformed to the Torah, namely the Pentateuch or the Deuteronomic Torah. However, although the term “torah” in the Second Temple period has been usually used as an authoritative tradition of collective writings, it is not exclusively referring to the specific text of the Pentateuch, but probably to the Mosaic discourse with all-encompassing traditions of biblical narrative, law, and even interpretation (e.g., 4Q252, the Temple Scroll, and Jubilees). Therefore, when talking about the correlation (if there is any) between Wisdom and Torah, this workshop prefers the idea of wisdom/torah as “a dynamic mode of scribal discourse”, where a literature participates in cultural “dialogues”, not constrained by separate “traditions” or “generic biblical genres”, to the concept of literary influence/dependency or the interdependency between idiosyncratic traditions (e.g., the edited volume, “Wisdom and Torah: The Reception of “Torah” in the Wisdom Literature of the Second Temple Period”). In other words, this group will explore how wisdom materials and the Mosaic discourse as collections of cultural texts (Kristeva, Genette, Culler) are interrelated linguistically, sociologically, and historically in the Second Temple period.


Wisdom and Torah, Intertextuality, Pentateuch, The Second Temple Period, Wisdom/Mosaic Discourse


JiSeong James Kwon
Universität Zürich

Benedikt Hensel
Universität Zürich

Tobias Häner
Universität Wien

Member Area

Warsaw 2019 Call for Papers

This workshop organises two sessions in Warsaw 2019. The first session invites papers that address Israelite and Jewish wisdom texts as “dynamic modes of cultural discourse” in the relationship with the Mosaic discourse including Pentateuchal narrative, law, and diverse interpretations. The second session welcomes papers that deal with certain intertexts between Wisdom-Proverbs/Job/Ecclesiastes/Ben Sira/Wisdom of Solomon/Baruch/Qumran sapiential texts [4Q525, 4Q185, 4Qinstruction, 4Q424, the Book of Mysteries], etc-and Mosaic discourses-laws (legal texts), narratives, and interpretations including Apocrypha and Qumran materials-in the Second Temple period.

The Annual Conference 2021
takes place 2-5 August
in Wuppertal. Read more.