by Amy Plantinga Pauw
WJK Press, Louisville, Ky. 238 pages
This is the long awaited commentary on wisdom literature by the editor of the “Belief” series. The wait has been worth it. Amy Plantinga Pauw brings her considerable theological skills to bear on these often neglected or misunderstood books. The purpose of the series, originally co-edited by William Placher until his untimely death, is to bring a distinctive theological perspective to biblical commentary. Pauw is clear at the outset that she intends to engage the texts with a “broadly Augustinian” tradition. The reason is twofold: to counter certain sentimental notions about human capacities that echo Pelagius and to draw upon the rich Augustinian tradition that address matters of the human heart — matters that occupy Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
There are other important reasons for contemporary readers to engage these neglected texts: Wisdom literature expands our understanding of the biblical witness to include the unusual voices that are found in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. These particular books draw upon diverse intellectual voices within a broad cross-cultural religious conversation. They focus on creation rather than consummation. Finally, Pauw argues, the wisdom literature here appeals to the audience often called the “nones” — those who are religious unaffiliated or even estranged from religion but still grapple with problems of everyday life that are highlighted in these books. In short, this is the time to engage the wisdom literature and Amy Plantinga Pauw has provided a great guide to that end.