Book Review: Derek Kidner. An Introduction to Wisdom Literature: The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job, & Ecclesiastes

Derek Kidner. An Introduction to Wisdom Literature: The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job, & Ecclesiastes. Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity Press. 1985.

In this book, Derek Kidner provides a popular level introduction to the Wisdom Literature written from an Evangelical perspective. This may be the best introduction written at a popular level that I have encountered (I must admit that I have not encountered many). Kidner writes well and his style is clear. He provides many pithy saying that I can imagine have and will be uttered by his audience behind the pulpit or during a Sunday school lesson. However, a draw back of the book is that it is somewhat dated in places. An update on some of the material would be welcomed, and is probably overdue.

The book starts off discussing basic concepts of wisdom as well as how wisdom came into existence, then moves to discussing the three biblical books mentioned in the title. Kidner’s organizational method is to first give an extended outline/abbreviated commentary of the Biblical book in one chapter and move to the major trends in academic research of the same book in the next chapter (these sections, due to the tidal wave of research done in wisdom over the last decade, are the ones that I previously referred to as needing updating). The last chapter in the book is dedicated to reading the books of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes as a literary whole while allowing each book its distinct point of view to be compared and contrasted against each other. After the last chapter the reader is treated to three appendices. The first appendix is dedicated to reflections of wisdom in an ANE context. The last two appendices are dedicated to deutero-canonical wisdom writings, Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon.

This book, like alluded to before, is written to inform people who are not familiar with the wisdom literature or the academic orientation of the study of such a corpus. The intended audience is obviously Evangelical and probably best suited for those taking an introduction to the Wisdom literature class in a bible college. It does have a few short comings; among them is its breadth of scope. The book could be larger and the introduction could be more encompassing. The book is twenty three years old and since the time of its initial publication the field of Wisdom Literature has received an unprecedented amount of coverage. There is nothing ground breaking about this work, but it surely has value. I do think that there are better introductions to the Wisdom Literature out there, but none written to the audience that Kidner has decided to address. Despite the books flaws, I believe An Introduction to Wisdom Literature: The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job, & Ecclesiastes has made a solid contribution, by way of introduction, to its intended audience.

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