DE-PAGANIZING EXISTENTIAL WISDOM IN CATHOLIC WISDOM LITERATURE

Abstract

Author(s): Jan Gresil KAHAMBING

The seven wisdom books of the Catholic Bible, namely, Job, Proverbs, Psalms, Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes), Song of Songs, Wisdom, and Sirach, expound on the life of wisdom using practical maxims that give meaning to existence. Within their hortatory pronouncements, there lies an existential connection. However, the maxims are not entirely compatible with each other and they can be scrutinized under the critique of wisdom as “pagan.” This paper navigates through the seven books within the Wisdom Literature of the Catholic canonical scripture to extract the paired themes of ‘suffering and death,’ and the issue of ‘freedom vs divine sovereignty’ to de-paganize the books. The paper thus explores the text as a philosophical venture in contrast to biblical exegesis, which provides an actual interpretation of the text. To do this, the paper first (1) extracts the important understanding of the themes within the texts (as result and discussion) and then (2) proceeds to argue using a de-paganizing hermeneutic discussion as recapitulation/conclusion. The recapitulation of such themes finds a seminal thread for an existential hermeneutic that focuses on the paradoxes of the ethical questions concerning the meaning of life.

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