ABSTRACT

Approaches to understanding the personification of Wisdom are nearly as numerous as are commentators. Recent years have witnessed a rapid increase in interest in the personification of Wisdom. In 1979, J.A. Emerton noted, “a controversial problem of Proverbs 1–9 is that of the origin and meaning of the personified figure of Wisdom”. 1 While scholars have addressed several aspects of personified Wisdom, her origin and function remain mysterious. R.E. Murphy, who over the past four decades has written frequently about the personification of Wisdom, notes, “From a literary-theological point of view, personified Wisdom is simply unequalled in the entire Old Testament.” 2 Camp, and more recently Whybray, reviewed, in considerable detail, research concerning the personification of Wisdom, so I shall confine my comments in this chapter to works that specifically address issues pertaining to Proverbs 1–9. 3 Classifying previous work on this subject inevitably leads to some generalizations and loss of distinct voices. Yet some outline of the landscape is an essential instrument for charting a route through the rich and diverse material available. With this qualification, I shall survey a small sample of critical approaches to the personification of Wisdom in Proverbs 1–9. Some of the works examined in this section, while not so well know, are included for what I consider unique insights. Rather than attempting to produce an exhaustive review of literature pertaining to the personification of Wisdom, the aim of this study is to strive for a representative sample that outlines a wide and varied range of interpretations of the Wisdom figure, rather than in-depth appraisals of each scholar’s work. I acknowledge that such a brief overview cannot do justice to how individual scholars nuance their interpretations, and the categorising of these brief outlines into general groupings is of its nature arbitrary. I shall be referring to pertinent studies throughout the book in the relevant chapters.