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Thread: The Bible is wisdom literature

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    The Bible is wisdom literature

    I'm now listening to the excellent podcast on ancient literature

    https://literatureandhistory.com/

    He's got ten episodes on the Old Testament. This podcast is about ancient texts as literature. He doesn't talk much about theology

    He made an excellent point on what the Old Testament is. It's wisdom literature.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisdom...written%20form.

    Wisdom literature isn't a manual to life. It's more a bunch of pithy talking points to stimulate group discussions. They're intended to make you stop and think, and reflect upon your life and actions in order to help you become a better, more virtuous, person. To do this they combine stories, with poems and commandments. It's self contradictory. Also factually inaccurate, even within the text. One moment a people is ethnically cleansed to the last man for their sins, and a couple of pages later that ethnic group is alive and well and allied with the Israelites. It's just talking points. The Bible was part of a hugely popular ancient type of literature. The same stories are repeated again and again in all Middle-Eastern religious and secular texts.

    He didn't say this but the implication is clear. It's ok for to disagree on what the Bible says. There's no one correct way to be a Jew (or Christian). The point is to talk about what is moral with your church and reach and agreement on works best for your group/tribe.

    The idea that if you didn't do it the correct way you're an infidel is something that evolved over time (between the time the Old and the New Testament) was written. Most likely due to the necessities of streamlining laws for administrative reasons.

    Orthodoxy, to the ancients and to those who wrote the Old Testament, would have been a ludicrous idea.

    The ancients who wrote it were more focused on power dynamics. How to avoid a king (your or another's) bashing your head in and raping your woman. Back then life was a bit too harsh and unforgiving for theological nitpicking.
    Last edited by DrZoidberg; 06-08-2021 at 10:29 AM.

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    My favorite story is Job.

    A rightious proaperous guy upon whom shot rains down wtjhout warning. His friends tuen on him and he loses verything.
    He breaks and curses his position, but is restored when he forgives his tormentors.

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    In the time when the bible, and other ancient texts, came into existence it was difficult to produce, let alone own a book. So I think that'd largely fit in with this hypothesis. Anything written down / reproduced was likely imagined to have some type of survival value to those reading it.

    The situation today where we can walk into a store and see thousands of books is taken for granted, but actually quite unusual. It's really incredible what you can learn now if you're paying attention.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    In the time when the bible, and other ancient texts, came into existence it was difficult to produce, let alone own a book. So I think that'd largely fit in with this hypothesis. Anything written down / reproduced was likely imagined to have some type of survival value to those reading it.

    The situation today where we can walk into a store and see thousands of books is taken for granted, but actually quite unusual. It's really incredible what you can learn now if you're paying attention.
    I agree. The word is decadence.

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    In the time when the bible, and other ancient texts, came into existence it was difficult to produce, let alone own a book. So I think that'd largely fit in with this hypothesis. Anything written down / reproduced was likely imagined to have some type of survival value to those reading it.

    The situation today where we can walk into a store and see thousands of books is taken for granted, but actually quite unusual. It's really incredible what you can learn now if you're paying attention.
    Books written for private consumption was a Renneissance thing. Before that all books were intended to be read aloud to a group. Since ancient litterature "knows" this they can assume stuff about their readers that would be true then that isn't true today

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    In the time when the bible, and other ancient texts, came into existence it was difficult to produce, let alone own a book. So I think that'd largely fit in with this hypothesis. Anything written down / reproduced was likely imagined to have some type of survival value to those reading it.

    The situation today where we can walk into a store and see thousands of books is taken for granted, but actually quite unusual. It's really incredible what you can learn now if you're paying attention.
    Books written for private consumption was a Renneissance thing. Before that all books were intended to be read aloud to a group. Since ancient litterature "knows" this they can assume stuff about their readers that would be true then that isn't true today
    You also get a kind of myth aspect to it that's passed along. Consider being born into 8th century AD, and someone tells you that this book contains the word of God written down a few centuries ago. Well holy shit I better pay attention as well as pass it along.

    There might be some predatory intent involved in it's writing, but intent that was probably mostly instinctive and sub-conscious. Likely, most deeply believed in what they were writing / hearing.

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    In the time when the bible, and other ancient texts, came into existence it was difficult to produce, let alone own a book. So I think that'd largely fit in with this hypothesis. Anything written down / reproduced was likely imagined to have some type of survival value to those reading it.

    The situation today where we can walk into a store and see thousands of books is taken for granted, but actually quite unusual. It's really incredible what you can learn now if you're paying attention.
    Books written for private consumption was a Renneissance thing. Before that all books were intended to be read aloud to a group. Since ancient litterature "knows" this they can assume stuff about their readers that would be true then that isn't true today
    You also get a kind of myth aspect to it that's passed along. Consider being born into 8th century AD, and someone tells you that this book contains the word of God written down a few centuries ago. Well holy shit I better pay attention as well as pass it along.

    There might be some predatory intent involved in it's writing, but intent that was probably mostly instinctive and sub-conscious. Likely, most deeply believed in what they were writing / hearing.
    You're thinking like a modern person and projecting it into the past. There's no surprise that Christian fundamentalism first appeared after the invention of the printing press.

    Before the invention of the printing press the contents of books would very wildly. Plus that most of what you'd hear would be Chinese whispers, since almost nobody could read or write, let alone have access to a book to read from. Saying to an ancient that a book contains the "word of God" isn't going to lead to them to it literally. They're going to assume there's a lot of wiggle room and room for interpretation.

    When the Vikings converted to Christianity they didn't abandoned the old gods. They worshipped both. They thought it was unproblematic to ignore the first commandment. It wouldn't enter into their minds that a book would be any more factually reliable than anything their local fisherman would gossip about as they bought fish. That's how the ancients thought.

    I highly doubt they believed that what they were writing was true. Wisdom literature is about making a point, not to tell correct facts. They would have no problem with changing facts in order to tell a better stories. We have surviving reviews of ancient Roman religious plays. Even from religious officials. You can read from the reviews that they couldn't give less of a shit if the facts are right. It was all about telling a moral story. They'd switch around any details if it would serve the moral story better. The Christian Bible is written in the same tradition.

    They'd use literary archetypes heavily. To make it easier to follow. So they'd take some current event, shoehorn it into an ancient, and well known story, where it was obvious which character had what roles.

    Jesus in the new testament is just such an archetype. The fact that he checks all the checkboxes for ancient dieties who had a junior position in the pantheon and later grew to prominence is by design.

    No, way is anything accurate about the life of Jesus apart from, possibly, his name. But even that's in question.

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    You're thinking like a modern person and projecting it into the past. There's no surprise that Christian fundamentalism first appeared after the invention of the printing press.
    Dr Z hit it exactly.

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    This applies much more so to certain biblical texts than to others. Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Proverbs fall very squarely into the wisdom literature genre.
    "Banish me from Eden when you will, but first let me eat of the tree of knowledge."

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post

    You also get a kind of myth aspect to it that's passed along. Consider being born into 8th century AD, and someone tells you that this book contains the word of God written down a few centuries ago. Well holy shit I better pay attention as well as pass it along.

    There might be some predatory intent involved in it's writing, but intent that was probably mostly instinctive and sub-conscious. Likely, most deeply believed in what they were writing / hearing.
    You're thinking like a modern person and projecting it into the past. There's no surprise that Christian fundamentalism first appeared after the invention of the printing press.

    Before the invention of the printing press the contents of books would very wildly. Plus that most of what you'd hear would be Chinese whispers, since almost nobody could read or write, let alone have access to a book to read from. Saying to an ancient that a book contains the "word of God" isn't going to lead to them to it literally. They're going to assume there's a lot of wiggle room and room for interpretation.

    When the Vikings converted to Christianity they didn't abandoned the old gods. They worshipped both. They thought it was unproblematic to ignore the first commandment. It wouldn't enter into their minds that a book would be any more factually reliable than anything their local fisherman would gossip about as they bought fish. That's how the ancients thought.

    I highly doubt they believed that what they were writing was true. Wisdom literature is about making a point, not to tell correct facts. They would have no problem with changing facts in order to tell a better stories. We have surviving reviews of ancient Roman religious plays. Even from religious officials. You can read from the reviews that they couldn't give less of a shit if the facts are right. It was all about telling a moral story. They'd switch around any details if it would serve the moral story better. The Christian Bible is written in the same tradition.

    They'd use literary archetypes heavily. To make it easier to follow. So they'd take some current event, shoehorn it into an ancient, and well known story, where it was obvious which character had what roles.

    Jesus in the new testament is just such an archetype. The fact that he checks all the checkboxes for ancient dieties who had a junior position in the pantheon and later grew to prominence is by design.

    No, way is anything accurate about the life of Jesus apart from, possibly, his name. But even that's in question.
    You likely have hit on some important points, but depending on your meaning I'd question your point about religious fundamentalism. Maybe fundamentalism took on a different form after the Renaissance, but people were definitely engrossed by religion before that point. No argument from me that people would assume there is wiggle room, but the bible was still considered a holy text.

    The central tenet of Christianity is still monotheism. Yes likely engaged with differently in the early centuries, but I would still assume highly revered, which was my primary point.

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