2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Wisdom and Wisdom Tradition in Judaism:

A Perspective of History of Religious Ideas

Yen-zen Tsai

Institute of History, National Cheng-chi University

The article is a critical introduction to the origins, developments, formation, and characteristics of the wisdom tradition in Judaism. “Wisdom” as a world view that guides people’s practical life was rather popular in the world of ancient Near East. The Hebrews shared this concept, and, based upon it, they developed a unique wisdom tradition thanks to their unusual historical experiences and religious beliefs. The article thus begins the discussion of this subject from its inceptive stage, traces its various manifestations in the Second Temple Period, and ends with the rise of Rabbinic Judaism. Important themes emphasized in this process of wisdom formation include the Jews’ historical encounters, nationalist sentiment, identification with the holy land, interpretation of the Torah, faith in Yahweh, and last but by no means the least, the prominent role of the wise or the sages.

This article makes an extensive use of Jewish wisdom literature. For comparative purposes, it also draws on literary works of parallel nature produced by different cultural traditions and in different historical stages. Its major aim is to illustrate the mutual interactions between the Jewish wisdom tradition and the context in which it was shaped, as well as to highlight the importance of “wisdom” in the history of religious ideas.


Key Words: History of Religions, Near East, Judaism, Wisdom