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  • Early Israelite Wisdom by Stuart WeeksReview by: Michael V. FoxJournal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 116, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1996), pp. 138-139Published by: American Oriental SocietyStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/606390 .Accessed: 12/06/2014 16:45

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  • Journal of the American Oriental Society 116.1 (1996) Journal of the American Oriental Society 116.1 (1996)

    Bibliographies (with a higher proportion of German and Dutch items than one would expect in a translation) are found at the end of each section, black and white photographs are

    grouped in three locations, and six pages of maps and an index are found at the end of the book.

    Intended as a textbook for seminary and university courses on the Old Testament, the volume will find a place in all but the most liberal or the most conservative of schools.

    Bibliographies (with a higher proportion of German and Dutch items than one would expect in a translation) are found at the end of each section, black and white photographs are

    grouped in three locations, and six pages of maps and an index are found at the end of the book.

    Intended as a textbook for seminary and university courses on the Old Testament, the volume will find a place in all but the most liberal or the most conservative of schools.

    R. THEODORE LUTZ R. THEODORE LUTZ UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO

    Early Israelite Wisdom. By STUART WEEKS. Oxford Theologi- cal Monograph. Oxford: CLARENDON PRESS, 1994. Pp. 212.

    $39.95.

    Although the title Early Israelite Wisdom suggests an intro- duction or survey of this topic, the book is actually a critique of various theories about wisdom literature with only a few con- structive insights. Weeks's purpose is to challenge what he dubs "assured results" of wisdom scholarship. In fact, the views he

    challenges-largely products of the nineteen-fifties and sixties and rather musty by now-are far from being entrenched and

    universally accepted. Most have already been effectively criti- cized. These theories are, however, of a stature that justifies even now a sensible and judicious assessment such as Weeks offers.

    Weeks first cautions against a simplistic importation of data from foreign wisdom in order to understand Israelite wisdom

    (chapter one), though it is not clear who he believes is still do-

    ing this. At the same time, Weeks avoids a simplistic rejection of foreign influences. Israelite wisdom, in Weeks's fine formu-

    lation, "almost certainly lies within an undirected network of

    specific influences across a large area and a long period" (p. 8). He emphasizes the importance of reckoning with native Israel- ite originality and reshaping of borrowed themes. Few would

    disagree. Weeks's most original contribution comes in "Context in the

    Sayings Collections" (chapter two). Weeks employs "nearest-

    neighbour analysis" to ascertain the scope of sub-collections and to discover the redactor's principles of arrangement. He searches for instances of "thematic linking," "verbal linking," and "literal thinking" (e.g., adjacent lines starting with the same

    letter), then charts the linkages (without defining the concept). He compares the frequencies of linkages in each chapter, al-

    though the medieval chapter division has no significance for the book's redactional phases. Among his various findings he notes that over 58% of the 375 sayings in Prov. 10:1-22:16 are joined to an adjacent saying by verbal, literal, or thematic links, with a greater concentration of these in chapters 10-14. But is 58%

    Early Israelite Wisdom. By STUART WEEKS. Oxford Theologi- cal Monograph. Oxford: CLARENDON PRESS, 1994. Pp. 212.

    $39.95.

    Although the title Early Israelite Wisdom suggests an intro- duction or survey of this topic, the book is actually a critique of various theories about wisdom literature with only a few con- structive insights. Weeks's purpose is to challenge what he dubs "assured results" of wisdom scholarship. In fact, the views he

    challenges-largely products of the nineteen-fifties and sixties and rather musty by now-are far from being entrenched and

    universally accepted. Most have already been effectively criti- cized. These theories are, however, of a stature that justifies even now a sensible and judicious assessment such as Weeks offers.

    Weeks first cautions against a simplistic importation of data from foreign wisdom in order to understand Israelite wisdom

    (chapter one), though it is not clear who he believes is still do-

    ing this. At the same time, Weeks avoids a simplistic rejection of foreign influences. Israelite wisdom, in Weeks's fine formu-

    lation, "almost certainly lies within an undirected network of

    specific influences across a large area and a long period" (p. 8). He emphasizes the importance of reckoning with native Israel- ite originality and reshaping of borrowed themes. Few would

    disagree. Weeks's most original contribution comes in "Context in the

    Sayings Collections" (chapter two). Weeks employs "nearest-

    neighbour analysis" to ascertain the scope of sub-collections and to discover the redactor's principles of arrangement. He searches for instances of "thematic linking," "verbal linking," and "literal thinking" (e.g., adjacent lines starting with the same

    letter), then charts the linkages (without defining the concept). He compares the frequencies of linkages in each chapter, al-

    though the medieval chapter division has no significance for the book's redactional phases. Among his various findings he notes that over 58% of the 375 sayings in Prov. 10:1-22:16 are joined to an adjacent saying by verbal, literal, or thematic links, with a greater concentration of these in chapters 10-14. But is 58%

    a lot or a little or normal? There is a vast number of possible "linkages," and since Proverbs treats a limited number of themes

    using a stylized, hence restricted, vocabulary, even a random distribution of the proverbs would produce a fair number of link-

    ages. To be sure, some chapters (especially 10 and 11), show a

    higher frequency of linkages, but some variation in average frequencies is inevitable. Though Weeks amasses statistics, he does not weigh probabilities. He further assumes that the dif- ferent types of linkages are redactional "methods." But are the

    linkages methods of redaction, or are they by-products thereof- subconscious associations such as must inevitably arise when an individual collects sayings on certain topics? "Collecting," after

    all, may mean no more than a scribe recalling sayings he has heard or read somewhere and writing them down as they pop into mind. They will not do so at complete random. The issue of

    significant patterns in the "literal" linkages should be definitively answerable by statistical analysis, of which neither the author nor this reviewer has much command. At any rate, Weeks, with his characteristic caution, concludes that the redactor was not

    very interested in using arrangement to bring out the meaning of individual proverbs, and this is largely true.

    Weeks doubts that there is material in Proverbs which defi-

    nitely points to a setting in the royal court (chapter three). He believes that sayings about the king may reflect the imitation of a known convention (p. 50). It is, however, unclear how imitat-

    ing a convention is different from employing it. In any case, these proverbs show too much interest in practical dealings with

    kings and nobility to have originated in detachment from the court. But it is also true that a courtly perspective in some say- ings says nothing about the origin of other sayings.

    Weeks then demonstrates the circularity in the theory (pro- posed variously by R. B. Y. Scott, William McKane, and R. N.

    Whybray) that Israelite wisdom underwent a development or redaction from secular, pragmatic wisdom to religious, Yah- wistic wisdom (chapter four). Weeks aptly adduces the example of Egyptian wisdom, which displayed a mix of religious and

    practical concerns long before Israelite wisdom came on the scene.

    Weeks demonstrates that the term hakam does not refer to one

    type of administrator, and that it is not exclusively connected to the literary genre we label wisdom (chapter five). Here Weeks is traversing ground well covered by R. N. Whybray (The In- tellectual Tradition in the Old Testament [Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1975]), without giving Whybray adequate credit. (References to

    Whybray are limited to three specific points.) Weeks also observes deep flaws in the theory (associated with

    Gerhard von Rad) that the Joseph story is founded on wisdom ideas an

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