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Title page for ETD etd-03302010-134554

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Davis, Ryan Conrad
URN etd-03302010-134554
Title Divine Inscrutability in Wisdom Literature in Ancient Israel and Mesopotamia
Degree Master of Arts
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Annalisa Azzoni Committee Chair
Jack M. Sasson Committee Member
  • Qohelet
  • Akkadian
  • Sumerian
  • ancient Near East
  • penitential prayer
  • comparative literature
  • cuneiform
  • Job
Date of Defense 2010-03-30
Availability unrestricted
This thesis investigates the notion of divine inscrutability as expressed in Wisdom Literature of Ancient Israel and Mesopotamia. Working with a definition that Wisdom Literature is a group of texts that advocates a way of living life, this thesis analyzes these texts divided into compositions that convey traditional thought and those that provide a nuanced approach to traditional thought. It is argued that critical wisdom compositions—particularly the categories of the "Righteous Sufferer" and the "Vanity Theme"—were not marginal viewpoints but prevalent and important manifestations of ancient thought.

While divine inscrutability occurs in a variety of ways and serves a variety of functions, this notion challenges the worth of human efforts to change one’s circumstances. The emphasis upon the unknown sin, the failure of omens, the inability to understand the behavior of gods, the inability to enter the divine realm, and the concealment of wisdom render the correlation between sin and suffering—itself an emphasis upon human action—to be unimportant. The change of focus finds two answers within compositions of the Hebrew Bible and Mesopotamia: total submission to divine mercy and the exhortation to enjoy the moment.

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