Fortress Press

Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom

Jesus the Sage

The Pilgrimage of Wisdom

Ben Witherington III (Author)


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The path of wisdom from Solomon to Jesus and from Jesus to the church

In the early Jesus movement, wisdom in the person of Jesus was believed to have returned to heaven, exalted to the right hand of God, and to reign from there. But Jesus as wisdom had left both his legacy and his influence behind. The sayings of Jesus recorded in the Gospels reflect not only the influence of the Israelite wisdom traditions, but also the tradition of the personification of wisdom.

In this provocative volume newly available in paperback, Ben Witherington provides both an introduction to Israel's wisdom traditions and insight into how Jesus and his sayings fit in that tradition. Beyond this, he demonstrates the on-going significance and influence of these traditions on other New Testament writings. He concludes that Jesus may be viewed primarily as a prophetic sage emphasizing instruction, insight, and humor in a vein counter to the dominant culture.
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780800632410
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 448
  • Publication Date May 12, 2000


"Ben Witherington has written what is not only an extremely learned and fundamental book but one that is of theological importance as well. He offers much essential information on the sapiential background of ancient Jewish wisdom and the Jesus tradition that was influential in the shaping of earliest Christology. He corrects misguided opinions and leads us into the heart of the teachings of Jesus. He thereby contributes to our knowledge of earliest Christian thought, its Jewish background as well as its creative and innovative identity."
—Martin Hengel

Table of Contents



1. Beginning the Journey: Drinking from the Fount
  • Background and Foreground
  • The Book of Meshalim: The Fountainhead
  • Ecclesiastes: A Public Malaise
2. Wisdom at a Turning Point: From Ben Sira to the Wisdom of Solomon
  • Wisdom Gains a Name: The Contributions of Ben Sira
  • Spirit of Wisdom/Wisdom as Spirit: The Wisdom of Solomon
  • Conclusions
    Table 1: The Profile and Pilgrimage of Wisdom
3. Hokmah Meets Sophia: Jesus the Cynic?
  • The Legacy of Alexander in the Holy Land
  • Non-Cynical Conclusions
4. Wisdom in Person: Jesus the Sage
  • The Narrative Meshalim and a Theory of Language
  • Figures of Speech: Jesus' Parables and Aphorisms
  • Jesus: The Wisdom of God

5. Wisdom's Legacy: From Q to James
  • Right on Q: Doubting Thomas
  • Table 2: The Sapiential Agenda of Q
  • James and Traditional Wisdom
6. Singing Wisdom's Praise
  • Tuning Up
  • The Servant Song: Philippians 2:6–11
  • Ode to the Cosmic Christ: Colossians 1:15–20
  • The Vindication Verse: 1 Timothy 3:16
  • The Radiance Reprise: Hebrews 1:2b–4
  • The Logos Hymn: John 1
  • Conclusions and Further Implications
7. Paul the Apostle: Sage or Sophist?
  • When Thought Worlds Converge: Eschatological Wisdom
  • Wisdom on the Cross and the Wise Master-Builder: 1 Corinthians 1–4
  • The Christian Shema and the Christ of the Exodus: 1 Corinthians 8:10 and 2 Corinthians 3–4
  • With Faithfulness and Justice for All: Romans 1–2; 9–11
  • Conclusions and Conjectures
8. The Gospel of Wisdom: Matthew and John
  • Matthew and John: Different Sons of the Same Mother
  • Matthew: A Word to the Wise
  • John: The First and Last Word
9. Final Reflections on Wisdom's Journey

Scripture Index