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Gerstenberger on the Wisdom Psalms

December 9, 2008

I found Gerstenberger’s comments most inciteful:

I maintain that all these so-called wisdom psalms in reality were liturgical pieces from the very beginning. Their changed appearance and their different message are due solely to the changed conditions of worship during and after the Exile. Israel’s social and political structure had changed. We have to visualize communities of Jews scattered all over the world, no longer enjoying the protection of their native state. Instead, the leaders – mostly scribes and Levites – tried to gather members and proselytes around the written Word of God. These early Jewish communities fought against religious extermination, insisting on the one, exclusive, and invisible God, on his tora, on his Sabbath, and on his stipulations concerning food, marriage, and all the other matters of daily life. They hoped for the restitution of the Davidic empire and God’s revenge upon all oppressors. To maintain such a dynamic tradition the Jews studied the written heritage of their ancestors. teaching this revaled will of God became the very backbone of communal and individual existence. At this point wisdom influence entered Jewish life and, most of all, Jewish cult.

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