Biblical Studies Wisdom—Greek and Latin
by
Elisa Uusimäki
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0323

Introduction

All cultures across time and place have held their own notions of wisdom and related concepts such as knowledge or understanding. Biblical scholars have often emphasized and explored the ways in which the ancient Israelite/Jewish wisdom tradition is rooted in and indebted to the Near Eastern (especially Egyptian and Mesopotamian) tradition. Yet it is also part of the eastern Mediterranean world. In this milieu, too, wisdom was discussed and debated in a plethora of contexts, and the Greek and Roman texts on the topic are equally relevant to our understanding of the cross-cultural connections and horizons of Israelite/Jewish wisdom. In these writings, just as in biblical literature, the term wisdom has several connotations, ranging from the cosmic to the ethical. The Greek term translated as “wisdom” (σοφία) can mean cleverness, prudence, knowledge, practical skillfulness, or poetical ability. Similarly, the equivalent Latin term (sapientia) can denote wisdom, reason, discernment, understanding, or judgment. Importantly, the ancient Greek and Latin texts on wisdom do not constitute a coherent category of “wisdom literature” but rather address wisdom in multiple literary contexts ranging from poetry to popular tales and from sayings to philosophical treatises.

Loci of Wisdom in Greco-Roman Literature

Where can wisdom be found? Just as wisdom texts known from the ancient Near East, the Greek and Latin sources on wisdom do not constitute a single literary genre or an otherwise coherent literary category. Instead, wisdom is addressed in a range of contexts, including in sayings, poetry, popular tales, and philosophical texts. Yet the terms wisdom literature and gnomic instruction (from the Greek gnōmē, “saying” or “thought”) are sometimes used to designate Greco-Roman texts focusing on practical or moral instruction. Such teaching is found in different types of Greek literature, primarily in poems, aphorisms from historical sages, and sayings collections. In Latin writings, gnomic sayings occur especially in comedies and Cato’s collection of advice. The term wisdom literature is not well established, however, nor are there any book-length introductions to Greek and Roman wisdom texts. Instead, the relevant research literature consists of case studies, though the encyclopedia entries Lazaridis 2008 and Martin 2010 offer helpful overviews of gnomic wisdom.

Sayings

The ancient Greek and Latin texts on wisdom include short sayings, maxims, and proverbs, which are often uttered by famous sages; see Russo 1997, Lazaridis 2008, and Martin 2010. Morgan 2007 highlights how these sayings, among others, help one understand popular moral thinking in the ancient world. Such sayings were compiled into numerous collections of sayings already in Antiquity; see Gutas 1975, Astin 1978, and Wilson 2022.

  • Astin, Alan E. Cato the Censor. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978.

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    Investigates the life and works of Cato the Elder (b. 234–d. 149 BCE), the Roman politician and historian to whom a Latin collection of maxims from the third century CE (Dicta Catonis) is attributed.

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  • Gutas, Dimitri. Greek Wisdom Literature in Arabic Translation: A Study of the Graeco-Arabic Gnomologia. Americal Oriental Series 60. New Haven, CT: American Oriental Society, 1975.

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    Provides helpful overviews of both Greek and Arabic collections of sayings and anecdotes (gnomologia), as well as related manuscript evidence. Offers an English translation of and a commentary on an Arabic text with sayings attributed to Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

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  • Lazaridis, Nikolaos. “Greek Wisdom Literature.” In The Literary Encyclopedia. Edited by Vaios Liapis. Literary Dictionary Company, 2008.

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    Explains the following key forms of Greek wisdom literature: proverbs (paroimiai), maxims or sayings (gnomai), and longer anecdotes (apophthegmata, chreiai). Introduces the extant evidence for Greek didactic literature and wisdom collections. Highlights the predominantly oral nature of the wisdom material and its relevance to our notion of ancient Greek ethics.

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  • Martin, Richard P. “Gnomic Literature and Wisdom.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Edited by Michael Gagarin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Introduces the concept of “gnomic wisdom” and promotes a notion of wisdom as “ethical precepts and practical advice.” Provides a concise overview of the types of texts in which gnomic wisdom appears in the ancient Greek and Latin literature.

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  • Morgan, Teresa. Popular Morality in the Early Roman Empire. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511597398Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Investigates moral thinking in Roman society in the light of, for instance, proverbs and gnomic quotations. Seeks to understand “popular” attitudes toward ethical issues and the importance of moral thinking in the maintenance and success of the empire.

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  • Russo, Joseph. “Prose Genres for the Performance of Traditional Wisdom in Ancient Greece: Proverb, Maxim, Apothegm.” In Poet, Public, and Performance in Ancient Greece. Edited by Lowell Edmunds and Robert W. Wallace, 49–64. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

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    Investigates Greek proverbs, maxims, and apothegms aspects of literary creation in Antiquity. Defines them as forms of “wisdom speech.” Argues that they express communal beliefs and norms.

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  • Wilson, Walter. Ancient Wisdom: An Introduction to Sayings Collections. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2022.

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    Introduces twenty-seven ancient collections of sayings. Regarding Greek and Latin literature, discusses the teachings of the seven sages, the pre-Socratic philosopher Democritus, the Greek rhetorician Isocrates, the Greek dramatist Menander, the Roman politician Cato the Elder, the Latin writer Publilius, the Pythagorean collections, the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, the unknown Sextus, the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry, and the Gospel of Thomas. The Jewish texts covered in the book include ’Abot, Ahiqar, Ben Sira, Pseudo-Phocylides, and Proverbs.

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Didactic Poetry

Another key context of Greco-Roman wisdom literature is didactic poetry. Overall, the poetry of Hesiod and Theognis has received a great deal of attention in research, given the texts’ pedagogical flavor and frequent use of literary forms such as sayings and riddles; see, e.g., Walcot 1962, West 1978, Ercolani 2017, and De Martin 2020. In addition, Homeric epic (Legaspi 2018), Latin epic (Volk 2002, Gale 2005), and other representatives of ancient poetry (Kurke 1990) have received some attention in scholarship. Horne 2018 examines how individual wisdom sayings may be embedded in larger poetical structures.

  • De Martin, Sara. “Theognis the Author, Traditional Wisdom, and Some Side Effects of Authority.” In Defining Authorship, Debating Authenticity: Problems of Authority from Classical Antiquity to the Renaissance. Edited by Roberta Berardi, Martina Filosa, and Davide Massimo, 111–138. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2020.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110684629-008Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Analyzes the ancient reception of the poetry attributed to Theognis (sixth century BCE). Argues that the poet had become a renowned figure and an established ethical authority in the fourth century BCE, when his lines circulated autonomously.

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  • Ercolani, Andrea. “Fragments of Wisdom, Wisdom in Fragments.” In Poetry in Fragments: Studies on the Hesiodic Corpus and its Afterlife. Edited by Christos Tsagalis, 29–46. Trends in Classics 50. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017.

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    Investigates Hesiodic fragmentary poems as “storehouses of knowledge” and expressions of wisdom. Demonstrates that certain recurrent forms such as gnomai, kennings, proverbs, and riddles are characteristic of these poems.

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  • Gale, Monica. “Didactic Epic.” In A Companion to Latin Literature. Edited by Stephen J. Harrison, 101–115. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2005.

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    Discusses the didactic dimension of ancient epic and the literary form of didactic poetry. Focuses on Latin didactic poetry and its development, but also investigates its Greek antecedents. Highlights intertextual links between and recurrent themes in the Latin didactic poems.

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  • Horne, Andrew J. “Hypothêkai: On Wisdom Sayings and Wisdom Poems.” Classical Antiquity 37 (2018): 31–62.

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    Investigates the use of didactic sayings as building blocks for larger poetical structures in the poetry of Homer and Hesiod. Argues that the primary genre (hypothêkê) is transformed into a secondary genre (the larger-scale wisdom poem) in this process.

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  • Kurke, Leslie. “Pindar’s Sixth Pythian and the Tradition of Advice Poetry.” Transactions of the American Philological Association 120 (1990): 85–107.

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    Analyzes the didactic dimension of a poem by the Greek poet Pindar (b. 518–d. 438/437 BCE). In so doing, discusses hypothekai, instructional wisdom sayings, and their pedagogical function in the social life of the ancient world.

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  • Legaspi, Michael C. “Homer and the Wisdom of the Hero.” In Wisdom in Classical and Biblical Tradition. By Michael C. Legaspi, 17–45. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

    DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190885120.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines the meaning of wisdom in the context of Homer’s poetry. Highlights the gods’ association with knowledge and superior power in this body of literature. Argues that for humans, (heroic) wisdom entails a capacity to understand one’s “allotted share” and to maintain a life of balance.

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  • Rutherford, R. B. “The Philosophy of the Odyssey.” Journal of Hellenic Studies 106 (1986): 145–162.

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    Analyzes the figure of Odysseus in the Odyssey. Argues that the protagonist develops as a human being over the course of the poem, eventually becoming “a hero with a special moral authority.” Yet the new, more “philosophical” Odysseus never fully replaces the “older, wilier” character.

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  • Volk, Katharina. The Poetics of Latin Didactic: Lucretius, Vergil, Ovid, Manilius. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199245505.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Investigates didactic poetry from Antiquity. Introduces the genre and its appearance in Greco-Roman literature. Interprets a set of Latin poems written by the four famous Roman poets.

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  • Walcot, Peter. “Hesiod and the Didactic Literature of the Near East.” Revue des Études Grecques 75 (1962): 13–36.

    DOI: 10.3406/reg.1962.3683Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines Hesiod’s poems in the light of pedagogical literature from the ancient Near East and Egypt. Argues that the scholarly discussion on “a pan-oriental tradition of wisdom literature” has ignored that the Greeks, too, belonged to the same movement. Demonstrates that certain themes in Hesiod can be traced back to Sumerian, Babylonian, and Egyptian texts.

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  • West, M. L. Hesiod: Works and Days. Oxford: Clarendon, 1978.

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    Provides a thorough introduction to and a commentary on Hesiod’s Works and Days. Contains a lengthy chapter on wisdom texts, which discusses the extant evidence for such literature in various cultures since Antiquity, thus placing Hesiod’s poetry gnomic poetry in a wider cross-cultural context.

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Moral Tales

Storytelling, too, can serve as a means of education. As regards the Greco-Roman world, works such as Kurkie 2010 have connected moral and pedagogical tales with Aesop in particular, while Dijk 1997 highlights other evidence for ancient fables as well. Morgan 2007 argues that moral stories are not elitist in nature and may thus communicate more “popular” notions of ethics in Antiquity.

  • Dijk, Gert-Jan. Ainoi, Logoi, Mythoi: Fables in Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic Greek Literature, with a Study of the Theory and Terminology of the Genre. Mnemosyne Supplements 166. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1997.

    DOI: 10.1163/9789004330306Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Investigates the extant evidence for fables (short moral stories that often deploy animals as characters in the narrative) in different types of Greek literature from the archaic to the Hellenistic period. Specifically focuses on fables that are found outside and predate the extant fable collections.

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  • Kurkie, Leslie. Aesopic Conversations: Popular Tradition, Cultural Dialogue, and the Invention of Greek Prose. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1515/9781400836567Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores the figure of Aesop, the Greek storyteller associated and credited with a collection of fables, to understand popular culture in Antiquity. Argues that Aesop took part in Greek wisdom discourse, especially promoting practical and situational wisdom, and shaped early Greek prose writing.

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  • Morgan, Teresa. Popular Morality in the Early Roman Empire. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511597398Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Draws attention to fables and exemplary stories as sources for understanding (popular) moral thinking in the ancient world. Highlights the elusive nature of the genre “fable.” Discusses the educational use of characters of the past and the collection of related stories starting from the classical period.

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Philosophical Texts

Different types of philosophical texts (see, e.g., Hose 2015) constitute a crucial type of Greco-Roman wisdom literature (for an overview, see Nightingale 2000), given that philosophy literally denotes “love of wisdom.” Philosophical teachings are communicated through several literary forms. Denning-Bolle 1987 and Stamatopoulous 2014 investigate dialogue, whereas Thom 1995 examines a popular poem and Hadot 1992 personal notes. The Greek Corpus Hermeticum (for the text, see Copenhaver 1992) is further relevant, as it covers philosophical subjects and is also influenced by Jewish wisdom, as Dodd 1935 demonstrates.

  • Copenhaver, Brian P. Hermetica: The Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius in a New English Translation, with Notes and Introduction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781107050075Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Introduces the Hermetic collections, a body of literature under the name of Hermes Trismegistus, an ancient Egyptian sage, and the late antique world from which these writings hail. Provides an English translation of and notes to the Corpus Hermeticum, with eighteen tractates.

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  • Denning-Bolle, Sara J. “Wisdom and Dialogue in the Ancient Near East.” Numen 34 (1987): 214–234.

    DOI: 10.1163/156852787X00038Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Highlights and compares wisdom’s dialogical and communicative dimension in Mesopotamian and Greek literature. Regarding the latter, investigates the dialogue form in Plato’s works in particular. Argues for understanding dialogue as a vehicle that enables one to communicate and instruct.

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  • Dodd, C. H. The Bible and the Greeks. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1935.

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    The second part of the book discusses links between the Hermetic tradition, a collection of philosophically colored Greek literature from Egypt, and Hellenistic Jewish wisdom. Argues that the Hermetic writers were interested in Judaism and Jewish thought, as transmitted by the Greek Septuagint, had an impact on the Hermetica, for instance, as regards cosmogony and the origin and fall of the human being.

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  • Hadot, Pierre. La citadelle intérieure: Introduction aux Pensées de Marc Aurèle. Paris: Fayard, 1992.

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    Analyzes the Meditations, a still celebrated wisdom text that the Stoic philosopher and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (b. 121–d. 180 CE) wrote to himself. Highlights Epictetus’s influence on the author. Published in English as The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (translated by Michael Chase; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998).

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  • Hose, Martin. “Philosophical Writing: Treatise, Dialogue, Diatribe, Epistle.” In A Companion to Greek Literature. Edited by Martin Hose and David Schenker, 235–255. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015.

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    Examines the diverse literary forms of philosophical writing in ancient Greek texts as well as their development (especially that of a treatise and a dialogue) over the course of time.

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  • Nightingale, Andrea Wilson. “Sages, Sophists, and Philosophers: Greek Wisdom Literature.” In Literature in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A New Perspective. Edited by Oliver Taplin, 156–191. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Stresses that ancient Greek intellectuals performed their wisdom in multiple contexts. Highlights the variety of “wisdom professionals” and philosophical schools from the archaic to the Hellenistic period.

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  • Stamatopoulou, Zoe. “Hesiodic Poetry and Wisdom in Plutarch’s Symposium of the Seven Sages.” American Journal of Philology 135 (2014): 533–558.

    DOI: 10.1353/ajp.2014.0038Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Analyzes Hesiod’s treatment in Plutarch’s dialogue Symposium of the Seven Sages. Argues that Plutarch both recognizes and marginalizes Hesiod.

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  • Thom, Johan C. The Pythagorean Golden Verses: With Introduction and Commentary. Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 123. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1995.

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    Provides an introduction to, an English translation of, and a commentary on a popular poem from the Hellenistic era, which outlines the key content of Pythagorean philosophy and theology.

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Education in the Greco-Roman World

It is common to associate wisdom with learning and formative processes, which makes education highly relevant to our understanding of the ancient pursuit of wisdom. Recent studies such as Too 2001 highlight the plurality of education in Antiquity. Yet it can be said that in the Greco-Roman world, education generally began with elementary studies covering multiple subjects, while wisdom was explicitly linked with the higher level of learning, philosophy (“love of wisdom”), which some pursued thereafter. Ancient philosophy also covers a range of intellectual cultures, as shown by Clark 2013.

Basic Education

The classic study Jaeger 1962 characterizes ancient education as formative. Morgan 1998 and Too 2001 highlight its nature as a plural process that changed over time. Though a child’s education depended on status and gender, the process generally began with learning to read and write as well as with basic arithmetic, as shown by Cribiore 2001 and Kennedy 2003, while more advanced students were trained in literary (e.g., grammar and rhetoric) and scientific (e.g., geometry) subjects (see, e.g., the studies included in Too 2001).

  • Cribiore, Raffaella. Gymnastics of the Mind: Greek Education in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

    DOI: 10.1515/9781400844418Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Traces concrete educational practices through an analysis of papyri, ostraca, and tablets from Hellenistic-Roman Egypt. Discusses methods of learning and teaching, the nature of schools, and the curriculum.

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  • Jaeger, Werner. Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture. 2d ed. Translated by Gilbert Highet. 3 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 1962.

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    This classic book, first published in 1939, explores the intellectual history of Antiquity. Argues that the educational and cultural formation of a person (also known as paideia) was integral to Greek culture.

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  • Kennedy, George A. Progymnasmata: Greek Textbooks of Prose Composition and Rhetoric. Writings from the Greco-Roman World 10. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003.

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    Examines basic training and literary forms in Antiquity. Provides English translations of four Greek handbooks of progymnasmata, exercises used to teach prose composition and basic rhetoric, which were written in the Roman period; these include treatises attributed to Theon, Hermogenes, Aphthonius, and Nicolaus. Also contains John of Sardis’s commentary on the progymnasmata.

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  • Morgan, Teresa. Literate Education in the Hellenistic and Roman Worlds. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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    Investigates literary and papyrological sources to understand education in Greek and Roman societies. Traces a development from the diverse educational practices that characterize classical Greece into a more structured and unified system of education in Hellenistic and Roman times.

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  • Too, Yun Lee, ed. Education in Greek and Roman Antiquity. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2001.

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    Contains fifteen articles that highlight and explore the plurality of education in the ancient Mediterranean environment, starting from the archaic period and reaching to Late Antiquity. Argues that education was a societal phenomenon and served a particular purpose as a process of socialization.

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Philosophy and Philosophical Schools

While there were pre-Socratic philosophers (see, e.g., Barnes 1982), the use of the term philosophy became more common in the classical period. The following tradition of Greek and Roman philosophy encompasses a wealth of schools and ways of thinking; they are studied, for instance, in Gill and Pellegrin 2006, Clark 2013, and Sellars 2018. Annas 1993 and Nussbaum 1994 emphasize ethics as an integral aspect of ancient philosophy.

  • Annas, Julia. The Morality of Happiness. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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    Investigates the key ethical traditions from Greco-Roman Antiquity: Aristotle, the Epicureans, the Stoics, and the Skeptics. Argues that they employ “happiness” and “virtue” as decisive concepts.

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  • Barnes, Jonathan. The Presocratic Philosophers. Arguments of the Philosophers. London: Routledge, 1982.

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    Explores 6th- and 5th-century BCE Greek thinkers who are regarded as the founders of Western philosophy. Examines topics such as nature, science, soul, moral law, and human knowledge.

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  • Clark, Stephen R. L. Ancient Mediterranean Philosophy: An Introduction. Bloomsbury History of Philosophy. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.

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    Provides an accessible overview of the key thinkers and ideas of Greek philosophy. Situates Greek philosophical traditions in a wider cross-cultural context by exploring surrounding intellectual cultures.

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  • Gill, Mary Louise, and Pierre Pellegrin, eds. A Companion to Ancient Philosophy. Blackwell Companions to Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006.

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    Offers a comprehensive investigation into Greek and Roman philosophy from archaic Greece to Late Antiquity. In addition to exploring key thinkers and intellectual movements, addresses the relationship between philosophy and religion, medicine, and mathematics.

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  • Nussbaum, Martha C. The Therapy of Desires: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.

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    Highlights the importance of the previously neglected Hellenistic philosophical schools, including the Epicureans, the Skeptics, and the Stoics. Argues that in these schools, philosophy was more than a merely intellectual discipline; it was understood as a resource for managing everyday life.

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  • Sellars, John. Hellenistic Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

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    Investigates the wide scope of Hellenistic philosophy (c. 330–30 BCE), including Platonists, Aristotelians, Cynics, Epicureans, and Stoics. Covers key areas of philosophy: knowledge, nature, the self, the good, free will, finitude, and community. Briefly discusses ancient philosophy in the East.

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Lived Wisdom in the Greco-Roman World

In the ancient world, wisdom was not an abstract category, but was tied to ideal ways of living, as several scholars have emphasized, beginning with the groundbreaking work Hadot 1987. Related texts outline various wise figures, especially philosophers, sages, and sophists, and philosophy (the pursuit of wisdom) entailed a whole way of life to which the lover of wisdom dedicated him- or herself. The practice of philosophy was, asHadot 1995 and Annas 2008 highlight, an aspirational and transformative process.

Wise Figures

Nightingale 2000 investigates three figures of Greco-Roman writings that are outstanding regarding wisdom: a sophist (σοφιστής), a philosopher (φιλόσοφος), and a sage (σοφός); all three terms pertain to “wisdom” (σοφία) in terms of etymology. The early texts often talk about “sages” when they refer to various wise people with symbolic capital and special talents; see, e.g., Martin 1998, Busine 2002, and Nightingale 2000. Starting from the classical period, a “philosopher” comes to represent a person who loves wisdom and seeks to become an ideal sage; Gammie and Perdue 1990, Annas 2008, and Brouwer 2014 investigate the latter. Meanwhile, the term sophist begins to denote itinerant instructors and paid professionals teaching rhetorical and argumentative skills, as shown in Nightingale 2000 and Wyss, et al. 2017.

  • Annas, Julia. “The Sage in Ancient Philosophy.” In Anthropine sophia: Studi di filologia e storiografia filosofica in memoria di Gabriele Giannantoni. Edited by Francesca Alesse, 11–27. Naples: Bibliopolis, 2008.

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    Examines the notion of a sage as an ideal figure who provides a model and template for those seeking and pursuing wisdom. Highlights the aspirational nature of the process of becoming a wise and virtuous person, as it is imagined in the ancient philosophical traditions.

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  • Brouwer, René. The Stoic Sage: The Early Stoics on Wisdom, Sagehood and Socrates. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139162487Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Highlights the significance of wisdom in the Stoic thought. Examines the Stoic notion of a wise person in the light of both Greek and Latin sources. Highlights the difficulty of becoming a sage in Stoicism.

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  • Busine, Aude. Le Sept Sages de la Grèce antique. Paris: de Boccard, 2002.

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    Examines the “seven sages” who were philosophers, leaders, and lawgivers from the seventh and sixth centuries BCE, associated with memorable sayings and practical inventions in later texts.

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  • Gammie, John G., and Leo G. Perdue, eds. The Sage in Israel and the Ancient Near East. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990.

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    Includes thirty-six articles on the figure of a wise person. Though many of them focus on the Near East, the essays also address the sage in Hellenistic courts, Hellenistic philosophical literature, and other Hellenistic and Roman genres (philosophical epistles, political discourse, history, comedy, and romances).

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  • Martin, Richard P. “The Seven Sages as Performers of Wisdom.” In Cultural Poetics in Archaic Greece: Cult, Performance, Politics. Edited by Carol Dougherty and Leslie Kurke, 108–128. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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    Examines the “seven sages,” a group of pre-Socratic wise men who manifest forms of “cunning intelligence.” Argues that the early Greek notion of wisdom stressed practical skill, eloquence, and ritual involvement.

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  • Nightingale, Andrea Wilson. “Sages, Sophists, and Philosophers: Greek Wisdom Literature.” In Literature in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A New Perspective. Edited by Oliver Taplin, 156–191. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Drawing on philosophical literature in particular, discusses the key professionals linked with wisdom in the ancient Greek tradition. Maps out shifts in the meanings of these terms over the course of time.

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  • Wyss, Beatrice, Rainer Hirsch-Luipold, and Solmeng-Jonas Hirschi, eds. Sophisten in Hellenismus und Kaiserzeit: Orte, Methoden und Personen der Bildungsvermittlung. Studies and Texts in Antiquity and Christianity 101. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2017.

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    Provides a series of articles on the figure of a sophist in the ancient writings from the Hellenistic and early imperial periods. Examines the different social contexts in which sophists worked. Discusses their teaching methods and the social background of these instructors.

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Philosophy as a Way of Life

In recent decades, several scholars have argued that the ancient Mediterranean connotations of philosophy were richer than they are in the modern context, where philosophy typically denotes a theoretical, academic, and intellectual discipline. Hadot 1987, Hadot 1995, Sellars 2003, and Cooper 2012 argue that ancient philosophy involved a whole way of life. Sellars 2003 shows that this conception is rooted in Socrates’ concern for taking care of one’s soul, but the Stoics were the first ones to fully develop the idea of philosophy as an art of living, which meant that lifestyle became a crucial aspect of philosophy. Sorabji 2002 further highlights the philosophical importance of controlling one’s emotions.

  • Cooper, John M. Pursuits of Wisdom: Six Ways of Life in Ancient Philosophy from Socrates to Plotinus. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691138602.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Approaches Greek and Roman philosophy as a way of life and highlights the variety of philosophical ways of living in Antiquity. Argues that philosophy in general (not only ethics) had a lived dimension.

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  • Hadot, Pierre. Exercices spirituels et philosophie antique. Paris: Études Augustiniennes, 1987.

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    A pioneering collection of essays by a French philosopher who was the first modern scholar to emphasize the lifestyle aspect of ancient philosophy. The essays discuss, for instance, ancient spiritual exercises, sages, the cultivation of the self, and philosophical ways of life. Published in English as Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault (edited by Arnold I. Davidson; translated by Michael Chase; Oxford: Blackwell, 1995).

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  • Hadot, Pierre. Qu’est-ce que la philosophie antique? Paris: Gallimard, 1995.

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    A groundbreaking monograph that revises the modern notion of Greek and Roman philosophy. Demonstrates how ancient philosophy sought to provide its practitioner with a way of life that could lead into personal transformation. Published in English as What Is Ancient Philosophy? (translated by Michael Chase; Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002).

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  • Sellars, John. The Art of Living: The Stoics on the Nature and Function of Philosophy. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2003.

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    Investigates the lived dimension of ancient philosophy, with a focus on the Stoic tradition. Considers the Socratic background of Stoic thinking, investigates the extant evidence for ancient philosophical exercises, and analyzes late Stoic texts written by Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.

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  • Sorabji, Richard. Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation. The Gifford Lectures. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199256600.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores Greek and Latin philosophy from Plato to Late Antiquity, with a focus on emotions. Highlights ancient notions of emotions and the evidence for related therapies used to control emotional reactions.

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Early Jewish/Christian Wisdom in the Greco-Roman Context

Both early Judaism and early Christianity (which began as an early Jewish movement) were shaped by their wider cultural contexts, and the same applies to Jewish and Christian texts on wisdom and related topics, as Collins 1997 and Uusimäki 2021 (among others) demonstrate. These compositions hail from a world characterized by cultural and intellectual exchange between Greco-Roman and Jewish/Christian traditions (cf. Legaspi 2018). Many developments in early Judaism are intelligible over against its wider Mediterranean context, and the emerging Christianity and its intellectuals were indebted to both Jewish and Greco-Roman wisdom traditions.

Key Jewish/Christian Wisdom Texts

There is an enormous amount of research on early Jewish wisdom texts. Küchler 1979 and Collins 1997 provide rather thorough overviews of the relevant to literature. While it is not easy to define what exactly constitutes a “wisdom text,” the key Jewish wisdom texts written in Greek include the Wisdom of Solomon, also known as the Book of Wisdom (see, e.g., Reese 1970, Winston 1979, and Larcher 1983) and Pseudo-Phocylides (see, e.g., van der Horst 1978 and Wilson 2005). In addition, the Book of Ben Sira, also known as Sirach, was originally written in Hebrew but is fully preserved only in Greek (see, e.g., Skehan 1987). As for early Christian literature, the Epistle to James is often associated with the Jewish wisdom tradition (see, e.g., Allison 2013 and Wold 2019). The Gospel of John is another New Testament text with emphatic wisdom resonances, as shown by Witherington 1995. The studies published in Wilken 1975 further highlight the relevance of other early Christian texts regarding the theme of wisdom.

  • Allison, Dale C. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle of James. International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2013.

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    A relatively recent commentary on the Epistle of James that introduces the reader to the provenance, Sitz im Leben, genre, sources, literary features, ideas, and reception of this New Testament letter. Contains an extensive commentary that discusses the content of the brief epistle in detail, including topics such as wisdom, virtues, and speech.

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  • Collins, John J. Jewish Wisdom in the Hellenistic Age. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997.

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    Discusses the many loci of wisdom in the early Jewish tradition. Regarding Hebrew wisdom, investigates the Book of Ben Sira and the Dead Sea Scrolls in particular. Regarding Greek Jewish wisdom, examines the diaspora context of such writings, Pseudo-Phocylides, and the Wisdom of Solomon, the latter with a focus on the themes of immortality and cosmic order.

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  • Küchler, Max. Frühjüdische Weisheitstraditionen: Zum Fortgang weisheitlichen Denkens im Bereich des frühjüdischen Jahweglaubens. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 26. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1979.

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    Draws attention to different types of wisdom discourses in early Jewish literature such as “Torah wisdom” or apocalyptic wisdom. Investigates how early Jewish authors writing in Greek make use of earlier Israelite traditions in their discussions on wisdom and situates early Jewish wisdom texts in wider cross-cultural horizons. Addresses the question of wisdom in the context of early Christianity.

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  • Larcher, C. Le Livre de la Sagesse ou La Sagesse de Salomon. 3 vols. Études bibliques 1. Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1983.

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    An extensive French commentary that discusses the extant versions of the Wisdom of Solomon in different languages and the long history of writing commentaries on the ancient book, as well as its date, author, and literary character. Provides a helpful bibliography covering a range of relevant studies written in numerous languages.

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  • Reese, James M. Hellenistic Influence on the Book of Wisdom and Its Consequences. Analecta Biblica 41. Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1970.

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    Discusses the Greco-Roman context of and the Greek influence on the Wisdom of Solomon in light of the book’s vocabulary and themes, such as human-divine relationship, immortality, and anthropology. Analyzes the literary genres used in the book, its intended audience, and the book’s unity as a literary composition.

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  • Skehan, Patrick W., trans. The Wisdom of Ben Sira: A New Translation with Notes. Introduction and Commentary by Alexander A. Di Lella. Anchor Bible 39. New York: Doubleday, 1987.

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    Outlines the content, context, canonical status, genres, and versions of the Book of Ben Sira, as well as its relation other bodies of (both Jewish and non-Jewish) literature. In addition to a thorough commentary, provides an English translation of and linguistic and text-critical notes on the text.

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  • van der Horst, Pieter Willem. The Sentences of Pseudo-Phocylides: With Introduction and Commentary. Studia in Veteris Testamenti Pseudepigrapha 4. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1978.

    DOI: 10.1163/9789004675490Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Outlines the history of research, provenance, genre, and content of the Jewish wisdom composition consisting of a collection of didactic wisdom sayings. Provides the Greek text and an English translation of the source. Situates Pseudo-Phocylides in a wider cultural context by discussing parallels and links between the text and non-Jewish ancient Greek and Latin literature.

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  • Wilken, Robert L. Aspects of Wisdom in Judaism and Early Christianity. University of Notre Dame Center for the Study of Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity 1. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975.

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    This edited volume contains seven articles on aspects of wisdom in early Jewish and early Christian literature. Two of them focus on Jewish writings, Philo and Midrash. Five articles investigate wisdom in early Christian literature, including the gospels, Christological hymns, Paul’s letters, and philosophically oriented writings from outside the New Testament.

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  • Wilson, Walter T. The Sentences of Pseudo-Phocylides. Commentaries on Early Jewish Literature. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110892765Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Provides the Greek text and an English translation of the Jewish wisdom poem, as well as a thorough commentary on it. Discusses Pseudo-Phocylides’ content, sources, structure, and manuscript evidence. Demonstrates numerous points of contact between the text and other texts known from the Bible, early Jewish corpora, and the Greco-Roman world.

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  • Winston, David. The Wisdom of Solomon: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 43. New York: Doubleday, 1979.

    DOI: 10.5040/9780300261837Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Provides an English translation of and thorough notes to the Wisdom of Solomon. Treats various aspects of the text, including its structure, authorship, genre, and date. Discusses the text’s religious ideas: preexistence and immortality of the soul; eschatology; Torah and Sophia; logos and Sophia; the pursuit, nature, and efficacy of wisdom; universalism and particularism; and freedom and determinism.

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  • Witherington, Ben. John’s Wisdom: A Commentary on the Fourth Gospel. Cambridge, UK: Lutterworth Press, 1995.

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    Reads the Gospel of John included in the New Testament in conversation with early Jewish wisdom traditions and early Christian wisdom material consisting of Christological hymns. Offers a section-by-section commentary on the gospel, frequently highlighting its wisdom idiom and wider literary resonances.

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  • Wold, Benjamin. “James in the Context of Jewish Wisdom Literature.” In Reading the Epistle of James: A Resource for Students. Edited by Eric F. Mason and Darian R. Lockett, 73–86. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2019.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctvrxk2n5.9Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Reads the Letter to James included in the New Testament in light of ancient Jewish wisdom literature, including both texts known from various canons and other writings such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Focuses on the themes of revelation, cosmology, and eschatology. Highlights the contribution of 1/4QInstruction from Qumran to our understanding of the Letter of James.

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Comparative Studies

The points of contact between Greco-Roman and Jewish/Christian wisdom have prompted scholars to undertake comparative analyses and, more broadly, to consider the value of reading “classical” and “biblical” texts in dialogue with each other; on the latter, see especially Legaspi 2018 and Legaspi 2021. The existing comparative studies cover both some inquiries that are more comprehensive in nature (Momigliano 1975, Winston 2001) and numerous case studies focused on particular texts or themes (Mason 1996, Wright 2016, Uusimäki 2018, Najman and Reinhardt 2019, Uusimäki 2020).

  • Legaspi, Michael C. Wisdom in Classical and Biblical Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

    DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190885120.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Defines wisdom as a program for human flourishing with metaphysical, cosmic, political/social, and ethical/personal dimensions. Explores multiple notions of wisdom in Greek literature, including those found in Homeric poetry, the idea of Socratic wisdom, and wisdom in Plato’s and Aristotle’s writings. Reflects on how to bring “classical” and “biblical” traditions into a meaningful dialogue with each other.

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  • Legaspi, Michael C. “Wisdom in Dialogue with Greek Civilization.” In The Oxford Handbook of Wisdom and the Bible. Edited by Will Kynes, 155–171. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.

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    Addresses the relation between “Athens” and “Jerusalem,” as well as the relation between “Hebrew thought” and “Greek thought.” Compares the biblical books of Job, Proverbs, and Qoheleth to selected traditions of the ancient Greek civilization. Specifically investigates parallels between Qoheleth and Greek skepticism, Proverbs and moral philosophy, and Job and Greek drama.

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  • Mason, Steve. “Philosophiai: Graeco-Roman, Judean and Christian.” In Voluntary Associations in the Graeco-Roman World. Edited by John S. Kloppenborg and Stephen G. Wilson, 31–58. London: Routledge, 1996.

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    Discusses ancient philosophical schools and their interest in practical ethics. Investigates how both non-Jewish and Jewish authors conceptualized Judaism as a philosophy or Jews as philosophers. Proposes that the emerging Christianity looked like a philosophy already in its first generation.

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  • Momigliano, Arnaldo. Alien Wisdom: The Limits of Hellenization. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1975.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511583773Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Investigates intellectual exchange between ancient cultures from the fourth to the first century BCE. Studies how Greeks perceived other neighboring civilizations, including but not limited to Jews.

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  • Najman, Hindy, and Tobias Reinhardt. “Exemplarity and Its Discontents: Hellenistic Jewish Wisdom Texts and Greco-Roman Didactic Poetry.” Journal for the Study of Judaism 50 (2019): 460–496.

    DOI: 10.1163/15700631-15051303Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Brings early Jewish wisdom texts into a conversation with didactic poetry of the Hellenistic era. Instead of tracing influence or dependence, proposes a comparative model that helps one observe “remarkable alignments,” “similar developments,” and “synergies.”

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  • Uusimäki, Elisa. “The Rise of the Sage in Greek and Jewish Antiquity.” Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period 49 (2018): 1–29.

    DOI: 10.1163/15700631-12491185Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Traces the emergence of the exemplary sage in Greek and Jewish Antiquity. Argues that the idea of the sage as an idealized figure and object of emulation is first made explicit in texts from classical Greece, but it becomes full-blown in the Jewish discourse on wisdom and the good life in the later Hellenistic period.

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  • Uusimäki, Elisa. “Itinerant Sages: The Evidence of Sirach in Its Ancient Mediterranean Context.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 44 (2020): 315–336.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309089219862814Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines those passages of the book of Sirach that associate travel with learning and reads them in the light of both biblical and ancient Greek literature. Argues that the closest parallels appear in (non-Jewish) Greek writings that refer to journeys undertaken by wise figures on the move.

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  • Winston, David. The Ancestral Philosophy: Hellenistic Philosophy in Second Temple Judaism. Edited by Gregory E. Sterling. Brown Judaic Studies 331/Studia Philonica Monographs 4. Providence, RI: Brown University Press, 2001.

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    Analyzes a myriad of intersections between early Jewish wisdom/philosophy and Greek thought. Focuses on the Book of Ben Sira, Wisdom of Solomon, and Philo of Alexandria. Considers issues such as theodicy, freedom and determinism, creation and cosmology, mysticism, and sagehood.

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  • Wright, Benjamin G. “Ben Sira and Hellenistic Literature in Greek.” In Tracing Sapiential Traditions in Ancient Judaism. Edited by Hindy Najman, Jean-Sébastien Rey, and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, 71–88. Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 174. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2016.

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    A relatively recent take on a debated topic, the parallels between the Book of Ben Sira and Greek literature. Argues that the former indicates the use of a limited amount of Greek texts. Also examines the evidence for the use of Greek literature in other early Jewish texts written in Hebrew or Aramaic.

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Education

Ancient Jewish and Christian education, like ancient education in general, took many different forms. In several cases, moreover, Jews and Christians took part in the Greco-Roman education of their times, though also producing their own forms thereof; see Mendelson 1982, Taylor 2003, Tolonen and Uusimäki 2017, Koskenniemi 2019, and Cover 2020. Bickerman 1988 (cited under Notions of Wisdom) and Uusimäki 2021 show how the Zeitgeist of the Hellenistic era further left its mark on Jewish education in Semitic settings. In recent years, scholars have especially emphasized the formative aspect of education in Jewish and Christian traditions, which reminds one of the Greek notion of paideia; see the essays included in Hogan, et al. 2017 and Zurawski and Boccaccini 2017.

  • Cover, Michael. “Jewish Wisdom in the Contest of Hellenistic Philosophy and Culture: Pseudo-Phocylides and Philo of Alexandria.” In The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Wisdom Literature. Edited by Samuel L. Adams and Matthew J. Goff, 229–247. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2020.

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    Highlights the competitive aspect of Greek wisdom discourse and its manifestation in Jewish contexts. Argues that both Pseudo-Phocylides and Philo of Alexandria seek to harmonize Greek and Jewish wisdom. While Pseudo-Phocylides probably addresses those in the first stage of education, Philo seeks to educate students who are more advanced. As such, the texts indicate the variety of early Jewish wisdom and the changing needs of Jewish communities in the Roman world.

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  • Hogan, Karina Martin, Matthew J. Goff, and Emma Wasserman, eds. Pedagogy in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity. Early Judaism and Its Literature 41. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2017.

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    Contains a series of articles on pedagogy and character formation in early Jewish and early Christian writings. Several studies address points of contact between Jewish and Greco-Roman intellectual cultures. Some of them explore links between early Christian material and Greek literature or ideas.

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  • Koskenniemi, Erkki. Greek Writers and Philosophers in Philo and Josephus: A Study of Their Secular Education and Educational Ideals. Studies in Philo of Alexandria 9. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2019.

    DOI: 10.1163/9789004391925Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Analyzes the use of Greek writers by two highly educated Jews who wrote in the first century CE, with a focus on explicit mentions and quotations. Argues that both Philo and Josephus had access to Greek resources, but Philo made more extensive use of different types of Greek literature.

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  • Mendelson, Alan. Secular Education in Philo of Alexandria. Monographs of the Hebrew Union College 7. Cincinnati, OH: Hebrew Union College Press, 1982.

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    Investigates Philo of Alexandria’s view of basic education. Argues that the Jewish intellectual considered encyclical studies to consist of grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy, and to prepare one for philosophy, the pursuit of wisdom and virtue.

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  • Taylor, Joan E. Jewish Women Philosophers of First-Century Alexandria: Philo’s “Therapeutae” Reconsidered. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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    Addresses the ancient notion of Judaism as a philosophy and explores a specific group of Jewish philosophers known as the Therapeutae, with a focus on gender. Demonstrates the central role of women in the life of this group of intellectuals from Roman Alexandria.

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  • Tolonen, Anna-Liisa, and Elisa Uusimäki. “Managing the Ancestral Way of Life in the Roman Diaspora: The Mélange of Philosophical and Scriptural Practice in 4 Maccabees.” Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period 48 (2017): 1–29.

    DOI: 10.1163/15700631-12341133Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Shows how the author of 4 Maccabees employs biblical figures to educate his audience and to discuss the philosophical nature of Judaism. Argues that the author provides the audience with an opportunity for spiritual exercise by means of identification with the biblical figures of the past.

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  • Uusimäki, Elisa. Lived Wisdom in Jewish Antiquity: Studies in Exercise and Exemplarity. Education, Literary Culture, and Religious Practice in the Ancient World. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2021.

    DOI: 10.5040/9780567697974Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Draws attention to the lived and practiced dimensions of early Jewish wisdom. Highlights several pedagogical issues: the conception of the sage as a model figure to be emulated, the repetitive activities and practices of the wisdom teacher, and Jewish groups dedicated to learning.

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  • Zurawski, Jason M., and Gabrielle Boccaccini, eds. Second Temple Jewish “Paideia” in Context. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 228. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017.

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    Analyzes early Jewish writings related to wisdom with a focus on their formative functions and notions of paideia. Highlights the diversity of views of education in Jewish Antiquity.

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Notions of Wisdom

The ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Latin terms denoting wisdom allow for multiple translations, which enables their use in a wide variety of contexts, and the early Jewish and early Christian texts written or preserved in Greek, too, make use of wisdom in several contexts and with different connotations. In general, however, Jewish wisdom discourse in the Hellenistic and Roman periods was shaped by the Hellenistic culture of which it was a part, as shown by Bickerman 1988, Najman 2017, and Uusimäki 2021. Early Christian authors likewise wrote in specific cultural contexts and, in doing so, produced new interpretations of wisdom, as shown by the studies Fiorenza 1994, Witherington 1994, and Brookins 2014. In recent research, the importance of wisdom in the Christian traditions of Late Antiquity has received a considerable amount of attention; see, e.g., Tervahauta, et al. 2017; Bay 2020; Burns 2020; and Harvey, et al. 2020.

  • Bay, Carson. “The Wisdom Tradition in Early Christianity through Late Antiquity.” In The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Wisdom Literature. Edited by Samuel L. Adams and Matthew J. Goff, 389–411. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2020.

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    Traces the relevance of wisdom in the late-antique Christian tradition. Investigates the reception history of biblical wisdom books. Demonstrates the influence of the Jewish wisdom tradition and how it was transformed to serve new purposes. Addresses the emergence of the Christians’ own wisdom tradition.

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  • Bickerman, Elias J. The Jews in the Greek Age. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988.

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    Argues that the intensification of intellectual culture in the Hellenistic period shaped Jewish wisdom discourse. By the time of Ben Sira, wisdom had come to mean culture and sagacity, and a Jewish sage, similarly to a Greek philosopher, was understood as an intellectual.

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  • Brookins, Timothy A. Corinthian Wisdom, Stoic Philosophy, and the Ancient Economy. Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 159. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781107110168Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines the Corinthians’ wisdom addressed by Paul in his letter included in the New Testament. Argues that Stoic philosophy provides a key for understanding the conflict in the community.

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  • Burns, Dylan M. “Jewish Sapiential Traditions in the Nag Hammadi Library.” In The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Wisdom Literature. Edited by Samuel L. Adams and Matthew J. Goff, 412–428. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2020.

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    Examines the role and meaning of wisdom in the Nag Hammadi writings. Discusses the two Christian wisdom texts of the corpus, the Sentences of Sextus and the Teachings of Silvanus. Considers the Gospel of Thomas as a collection of sayings. Explores notions of revealed wisdom and personified wisdom (Sophia) in the Nag Hammadi writings.

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  • Fiorenza, Elisabeth Schüssler. Jesus: Miriam’s Child, Sophia’s Prophet. Critical Issues in Feminist Christology. New York: Continuum, 1994.

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    Approaches the early Jesus movement and its wisdom discourse from a feminist perspective. Argues for understanding Jesus as a prophet of the divine Sophia.

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  • Harvey, Susan Ashbrook, Thomas Arentzen, Henrik Rydell Johnsén, and Andreas Westergren, eds. Wisdom on the Move: Late Antique Traditions in Multicultural Conversation; Essays in Honor of Samuel Rubenson. Vigiliae Christianae Supplements 161. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2020.

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    Investigates the wisdom traditions of Late Antiquity, with a focus on the Apophthegmata Patrum and other monastic literature. Demonstrates how pieces of wisdom literature such as sayings moved around in the multicultural world of Late Antiquity.

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  • Najman, Hindy. “Jewish Wisdom in the Hellenistic Period: Towards the Study of a Semantic Constellation.” In Is There a Text in This Cave? Studies in the Textuality of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Honour of George J. Brooke. Edited by Ariel Feldman, Maria Cioată, and Charlotte Hempel, 459–472. Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 119. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2017.

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    Highlights a transcendent notion of wisdom in early Jewish literature, including both Semitic and Greek Jewish material. Compares 4QInstruction from Qumran and Philo of Alexandria’s thought with each other. Argues that the evidence points to a shared worldview.

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  • Tervahauta, Ulla, Ivan Miroshnikov, Outi Lehtipuu, and Ismo Dunderberg, eds. Women and Knowledge in Early Christianity. Vigiliae Christianae Supplements 144. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2017.

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    Traces ways in which women are linked with wisdom and knowledge in early Christian and other late ancient writings. Addresses the gendered personification of wisdom (Sophia) and spiritual knowledge (Gnosis), as well as debates on women and their capacity to access knowledge.

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  • Uusimäki, Elisa. Lived Wisdom in Jewish Antiquity: Studies in Exercise and Exemplarity. Education, Literary Culture, and Religious Practice in the Ancient World. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2021.

    DOI: 10.5040/9780567697974Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that wisdom is more than a category of literature in early Judaism and demonstrates its lifestyle aspect. Explores the lived and practiced dimensions of early Jewish wisdom through three case studies focused on the figure of the sage, the lifestyle of the wisdom teacher, and the pursuit of wisdom as a collective enterprise.

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  • Witherington, Ben. Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1994.

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    Explores the role of wisdom in early Jewish and New Testament writings. Argues that Jesus was a Jewish sage whose teaching suggests a combination of wisdom, prophetic, and apocalyptic ideas.

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