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The Tree of Life: An Exploration of Biblical Wisdom Literature Paperback – January 28, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This excellent commentary by a leading Roman Catholic biblical scholar provides clearly written and up-to-date research and interpretation of biblical books that reflect on daily human experience of a world created by God--a contrast from the holy history approach of most of the rest of Hebrew scripture. Murphy examines Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiasticus or Ben Sira, and Wisdom of Solomon in detail, examines other passages of scripture that are "wisdom's echoes," and reflects on themes and meanings. Essential for academic, seminary, and large public libraries.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Walter Brueggemann
"An amazingly discerning and helpful book."

Hebrew Studies
"Murphy is one of the acclaimed doyens of the study of biblical literature. . . . This is a rich escort, providing many worthwhile insights into the wisdom literature."

Catholic Library World
"Murphy combines sound scholarship with a rich pedagogical approach. . . . This book can be recommended in every way. It provides a sure path for the uninitiated and may even provide new insights for the expert."

Religious Studies Review
"Murphy's wide reading and balanced judgment enrich the additions to each of the nine chapters, conveniently linked to page numbers in the earlier book."

The Bible Today
"A fine text for a survey of the material."

Theological Book Review (U.K.)
"This admirably structured work should be an essential purchase for biblical libraries, and a valuable resource for any serious student working in the area. Strongly recommended."

Journal of Semitic Studies
"A standard introduction to the Israelite wisdom literature."

Review of Biblical Literature
"Highly recommended for both collegiate and graduate school students. Unquestionably, this work is one of the finest introductions to Israel's wisdom literature in print."
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Eerdmans; 3rd ed. edition (January 28, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802839657
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802839657
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Murphy is still considered one of the leading scholars in the study of Wisdom literature, and this brief introduction proves why. Murphy gives a satisfying and stimulating introduction to biblical Wisdom literature (including Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon) as well as treatments on Wisdom intertextuality, theology, and the metaphor of Woman Wisdom. However, the layout of the book - moving updates to separate appendices - makes it cumbersome to read, and Murphy's methodology leaves something to be desired. All in all, this is an invaluable resource for lay readers and those without an extensive background in Wisdom studies, but the more advanced scholar will probably be disappointed in this work.
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Roland Murphy's Tree of Life ( 3rd edition) is a wonderful study of the so-called "Wisdom Literature" in the Old Testament--including Proverbs, Job, Qoheleth, Ben Sira, and the Wisdom of Solomon. The book was originally published in 1990, but Murphy has added two fascinating supplements, one in 1996, the other in 2000. While his addition of supplements seems a bit unusual (why not integrate new material into the old?--a question he asks himself), he decided, wisely I think, to separate the new updated material from the original. The result is that one can see the shift in interpretive approaches over a 10 year period or so.
For the ordinary reader such as myself, what is most fascinating about this study is the light it puts on a rather profound question: how is wisdom literature related to the historical tradition by which Israel identified itself. One way to see this is to experience the difference between a salvation-liberation narrative and a literature of wisdom, or the search for it. I think Murphy does throw much light on this issue, though I suspect more will be written about it in the future.
One of the perspectives that struck me was that books like Qoheleth and Job actually became part of the Christian scriptures. They are frankly skeptical and questioning in tone. While some might say that faith in Christ resolves all the skeptical tensions raised in these books, I think to the contrary that these tensions always remain. However, Murphy does an admirable job of showing how skepticism in this ancient context always presupposed a faith in God. We are not used to the idea that these two things could "go together". This is why attention to Wisdom literature, among other reasons, continues to be relevant to Christian faith even today. Faith and questioning are not antithetical.
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Format: Paperback
Murphy's book is a very helpful introduction to an area of Biblical literature that has for some time been much-neglected among mainline Protestant seminary curricula and clergy. He gives careful analysis of the main issues in each of the books (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom of Solomon & Ecclesiasticus or Ben Sirach) and indications of the variations among scholars in relation to these issues. His bibliography is helpful without being overwhelming. It is also helpful that the book includes two updates of the original 1990 publication, the latest in 2002. A helpful antidote to some of the Barthian-era scholarly cliches which were dismissive of the Wisdom tradition and its impact on the New Testament and church life in general.
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Format: Paperback
Roland Murphy's The Tree of Life provides an excellent introduction to biblical scholarship on Wisdom Literature (primarily Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon). Murphy gives a thorough but accessible overview of the genre of biblical wisdom texts, the history of research on those texts, and the big theological themes they raise. That said, the book's format for the updated editions was short-sighted and created a cumbersome reading experience. The book is in its third edition. Rather than add material in a proper revision of the first edition, the updates were tacked on the end of the volume as "supplements." The supplements add a few pages of additional comment on each chapter and bring the bibliography up to date somewhat. So, the third edition actually has two separate supplements. The 1996 supplement adds to the 1990 original and the 2000 supplement adds to both. Getting Murphy's full treatment of a topic requires reading the chapter, flipping to the first supplement's addition to that chapter, and then flipping to the "Millennial" supplement's addition to the same chapter. Even adding the supplements to the end of each chapter instead of the very end of the book would have been a better organization. The book would get five stars from me if it were not organized in such a fashion. I hope any plans for a fourth edition would result in an actual new edition, incorporating the updates into the main text.
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Murphy does a good job of exploring both canonical and apocryphal literature of this genre. His agreement with several other commentators I have read was substantial though still uniquely his own. I highly recommend this book to students of the tanack.
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