Item description for Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom by III Ben Witherington...
Overview In the early Jesus movement, wisdom in the person of Jesus was believed to have returned to heaven, exalted to the right hand of God, and to reign from there. But Jesus as wisdom had left both his legacy and his influence behind. The sayings of Jesus recorded in the Gospels reflect not only the influence of the Israelite wisdom traditions, but also the tradition of the personification of wisdom. In this provocative volume newly available in paperback, Ben Witherington provides both an introduction to Israel's wisdom traditions and insight into how Jesus and his sayings fit in that tradition. Beyond this, he demonstrates the on-going significance and influence of these traditions on other New Testament writings. He concludes that Jesus may be viewed primarily as a prophetic sage emphasizing instruction, insight, and humor in a vein counter to the dominant culture.
Publishers Description The path of wisdom from Solomon to Jesus and from Jesus to the churchIn the early Jesus movement, wisdom in the person of Jesus was believed to have returned to heaven, exalted to the right hand of God, and to reign from there. But Jesus as wisdom had left both his legacy and his influence behind. The sayings of Jesus recorded in the Gospels reflect not only the influence of the Israelite wisdom traditions, but also the tradition of the personification of wisdom.In this provocative volume newly available in paperback, Ben Witherington provides both an introduction to Israel's wisdom traditions and insight into how Jesus and his sayings fit in that tradition. Beyond this, he demonstrates the on-going significance and influence of these traditions on other New Testament writings. He concludes that Jesus may be viewed primarily as a prophetic sage emphasizing instruction, insight, and humor in a vein counter to the dominant culture.
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More About III Ben Witherington
Bible scholar Ben Witherington is Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland. A graduate of UNC, Chapel Hill, he went on to receive the M.Div. degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from the University of Durham in England. He is now considered one of the top evangelical scholars in the world, and is an elected member of the prestigious SNTS, a society dedicated to New Testament studies.
Witherington has also taught at Ashland Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt University, Duke Divinity School and Gordon-Conwell. A popular lecturer, Witherington has presented seminars for churches, colleges and biblical meetings not only in the United States but also in England, Estonia, Russia, Europe, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Australia. He has also led tours to Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt.
Witherington has written over forty books, including The Jesus Quest and The Paul Quest, both of which were selected as top biblical studies works by Christianity Today. He also writes for many church and scholarly publications.
Along with many interviews on radio networks across the country, Witherington has been seen on the History Channel, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, The Discovery Channel, A&E, and the PAX Network.
Ben Witherington currently resides in the state of Kentucky. Ben Witherington was born in 1951 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Asbury Theological Seminary.
Ben Witherington has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom?
The Wisdom Tradition's Influence on N.T. Writings & Christology Mar 25, 2006
In this book the author traces the pilgrimage of Wisdom. His interest is in explicating the sapiential background of much of the N.T., and in particular expounding the Wisdom Christology based on it.
The sages of Israel presuppose the covenant relation based on Torah, but draw on conventional wisdom obtained from experience and lessons learned from nature (inanimate, animal and human) to help guide one into how to live wisely in the world. The teachings of the early Wisdom writings (e.g., Proverbs and Psalms) are based on certain fundamental beliefs, which include: 1) God is the Creator and Lord of the world, 2) the universe is basically harmonious, 3) the world has a moral structure, in particular a structure of retribution where one's actions have prescribed consequences: the righteous are rewarded and prosper, or at least their deeds naturally lead to health, long life, heirs, and prosperity, while the unrighteous are punished or their deeds result in disaster, and 4) God acts in the present world to distribute justice, since the Jews had not yet come to a belief in an afterlife.
In the later canonical sapiential writings (e.g., Ecclesiastes and Job), we encounter wisdom of a "counter-order." Traditional wisdom can no longer be relied upon, and is inefficient to chart the course of life or to help one understand life. The normal ebb and flow of life has now turned into a raging storm, an extreme situation of suffering and living under domination of a consuming illness or rule under a foreign power. The righteous suffer while the evil prosper, all the day long, and impending death hangs over one's head like a shroud, particularly in Ecclesiastes where it spells the end of life.
With the Wisdom writings of Ben Sira and Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom's pilgrimage takes a turning point. Notably, in Ben Sira: 1) Wisdom is said to come to dwell in Torah (Wisdom becoming concrete or even incarnate in Torah), and 2) With still no developed view of an afterlife, God's justice may be delayed but will come in it's own time, and, in any case, will be administered in how one dies either (peacefully or in misery). The notable feature of Wisdom of Solomon is that the affirmation of life after death finally breaks through: God's justice will finally determine one's life in the hereafter.
Witherington next shows how the N.T. takes a decisive and innovative step in identifying Jesus as a sage and, indeed, as Wisdom itself. This "Wisdom Christology" was among the earliest in the N.T., was widespread, and clearly reveals the divinity of Jesus. There are several arguments used to affirm the identification of Wisdom with (not in but as) Jesus and, therefore, the divinity of Jesus: 1) previous sapiential writings (e.g., Ben Sira) had identified Wisdom with the Torah (Wisdom was embodied in or became incarnate in Torah), 2) some of the prophets had presented themselves or were viewed as being a living embodiment or incarnation of God's message, 3) Jesus is personally identified as Wisdom (a personification and attribute of God) in the N.T., 4) the characteristics of Wisdom are attributed to Jesus, 5) being David's "Lord," Jesus must be seen in more transcendent categories, and 6) like Solomon, Jesus is the very embodiment of Wisdom, but Jesus is greater, which, again, indicates understanding Jesus in transcendent categories. Other claims for the divinity of Jesus are based on the name "Emmanuel" applied to Jesus, Jesus' body being the temple (presence) of God, etc.
In the second half of the book, Witherington demonstrates how extensive and fundamental the sapiential writings were in their influence on "Q," James, the N.T. Wisdom Songs, , Paul's writings, Matthew, John, and much of the entire N.T., which is further confirmation of the likelihood that Jesus viewed himself as a sage and as Wisdom.
I highly recommend the book. It is well developed and goes into a lot of detailed analysis and comparison with previous sapiential materials, especially Ben Sira and Wisdom of Solomon. In fact, one of the main points of the book is just how great an influence the writings of these two had on Jesus and the N.T. Altogether, an excellent book.
By way of critique and dialogue, I have two main concerns with his arguments for a "Wisdom Christology" that identified Jesus as Wisdom, making Jesus "God." 1) With his demonstration of so many precedents for Wisdom being embodied or incarnated in the Torah, temple or individuals, when subsequently predicated of Jesus how are we justified in claiming him, alone, to be "God"? His very precedents undermine his conclusion! I have the same problem with Larry Hurtado (when he claims other figures like angels and exalted patriarchs were accorded divine qualities and given praise, but says that because Jesus was similarly treated he must really be God) and Murray Harris (when he claims theos was used, even by the Jews, biblical writers and Jesus himself, to refer to other humans, angels, and exalted patriarchs, and then claims when used of Jesus he must be "God") 2) While Witherington acknowledges that personified Wisdom really belongs to God and cannot be identified as independent of God or hypnotized as a sort of "second God" (as Logos was for Philo), and that we need to understand the poetical use of such language, nonetheless, he then proceeds to hypostasize Wisdom (or Logos)--not just as independent but as an actual "Person"! Usually, this results in a practical denial or reduction of the human reality of Jesus, as when Witherington later refers to Jesus as "Wisdom in human guise."
This book says more about Wisdom than it does about Jesus Mar 28, 2001
This book by Ben Witherington III is a useful study of the Jewish semi-divine, semi-spiritual concept of Wisdom which, at its greatest, was conceived of as a hypostatization of God himself. But I'm not at all sure that it tells us anything at all about Jesus. The best Witherington could claim, it seems to me, is that this book relates the Jewish concept of Wisdom TO Jesus. And as a study with that aim it does the job fairly well. It covers vast ground, from Proverbs and Ecclesiastes from the Hebrew Bible, through the extracanonical Jewish texts of Ben Sira and that known as the Wisdom of Solomon, and on to New Testment Wisdom in the shape of Q, James and the Gospels of Matthew and John (not forgetting Paul of course!). Yet only chapter 4 is really anything to do with Jesus himself. Now maybe I am being harsh, maybe that's not what this book is meant to be about and maybe I'm looking for (a Jesus of) history when Witherington wants to be more theological, relating Wisdom in its various historical guises and then addressing the "Sage Jesus" he sees to that. But this book is not about Jesus as an historical person. It is a theology of Wisdom. As such, it is a useful book to have if one is interested by such things. It is not overly useful if one wants a study of Jesus as an historical person.
EXCELLENT LOOK AT CONTINUITY OF SAGE IN OLD & NEW TESTAMENTS Mar 5, 1999
Ben Witherington III has contributed a marvelous work to the study of one of the key, yet obscure leadership roles in Scripture. While we often think of kings, priests, and prophets in the Old Testament, this book gives the reader some very convincing proof of the sage's crucial role in leading and influencing society. With great skill (and tremendous footnotes!) the author weaves the sage's role from Old Testament, through the inter-testamental period, and climaxes with the picture of Jesus as Sage. But he doesn't stop there and adds several New Testament persons to the list of those we can consider "sage." For anyone looking to deeply study the role of sage and the nature of divine wisdom would spend their money wisely in getting this book.