Heidegger's Bible Handbook: Old Testament in General: Outline of the Wisdom and Poetic Books



III. The Ψαλμοὶ/Psalms. Thus the Savior Synecdochically denominates the Poetic books from their most celebrated part. The Hebrews called them the כתובים, γραφεῖα, as Epiphanius[1] translates it, or Writings (with which, nevertheless, the same are wont to join certain non-Poetic Books, such as Ruth, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles, which our men with greater right place among the Prophetic Books). And they call them the כתובים/Writings by a Synecdoche of kind, because they were writtenברוח הקדש, through the Holy Spirit, that is, by the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but not through the Prophetic Spirit or Prophecy properly so called. Therefore, they are distinguished from the Prophets, because they were written by men, indeed in gift, but not in function or office, Prophets: and they are called כתובים/Writings, not because the rest were not also written, but because they were not received through a dream, vision, hearing of a voice, ecstasy or rapture of mind, like the oracles of the prophets, but were written immediately, with the Holy Spirit dictating. The Greeks characterize these Poetic Books, together with the rest, which the Hebrews characterize as כתובים, as Ἁγιογράφους/Hagiographa, that is, holy writings, or books written by holy authors, for the same reason on account of which they were also called כתובים. Unless perhaps the opinion of the Most Learned Junius is more approved in his Prolegomenis in Danielem, in which he persists in calling them the כתובים and Hagiographa διακριτικῶς/diacritically, because they were written down after that time, in which the Jewish people were carried off into captivity: that is, so that they might be distinguished from those books that were previously ἐνδιάθηκοι, committed to writing, that is, that were kept/preserved before the ark of the covenant, and confirmed by the Lord, not only by the internal testimony of the Spirit, but also by external signification and approbation, both of the signs and responses in the Church of God through the Ephod, Urim, and Thummim; and by the consent of the Church seeing, approving, and receiving the signs of God. For those books that were written after the captivity were without those singular and visible signs; yet they were considered no less holy for this reason, both because of the authority of God giving testimony to them, and because of their agreement with the rest of the canon of Scripture, which God was testifying to, the Prophets were revealing, the Church was acknowledging, and finally all were marveling at. Although this account of the ὀνομαθεσίας, giving of the name, agrees less with the Psalms and Poetic books; and in what manner it would also square with the Prophets after the captivity, it is not certainly proven. Now, the Poetic books are five,



1. Job, in which is described the history both of the afflictions or trials and patience of Job (Job 1-31), and the blessed turning point of those temptations and afflictions (Job 32-42), in the Book of Job in forty-two chapters.


2. The Psalms of David, containing praises of God and of Divine things; various examples of invocation, supplication, complaint, thanksgiving, and repentance: and finally prophecies concerning Christ and His Kingdom not a few. And the Jews in imitation of the law distributed the Psalms into five books, of which the first runs from Psalm 1 to 39, the second from Psalm 40 to 70, the third from Psalm 71 to 87, the fourth from Psalm 88 to 104, and the fifth from Psalm 105 to the end. Although that distribution displeased Jerome and others, regarding that which is taken from the matter to be more useful, of which in its place: in the Book of Psalms in one hundred and fifty Psalms.


3. Three books of Solomon:



a. Proverbs, in which Solomon, speaking first of Wisdom and of true acquaintance with the true God (Proverbs 1-9), subjoins gnomes, or common sentences, brief, acute, and certain, concerning matters of faith and manners, written in his own hand (Proverbs 10-24), to which are subjoined others gathered from the men of Hezekiah, King of Judah (Proverbs 25-29), and also under the name of Agur (Proverbs 30), and Lemuel (Proverbs 31), in the Book of Proverbs in thirty-one chapters.


b. Ecclesiastes, in which is demonstrated a thesis concerning the vanity of all things, and the highest good, the fear of God (Ecclesiastes 1), with various arguments and examples brought in (Ecclesiastes 1:2-12:7), and is concluded (Ecclesiastes 12:8-14), in the Book of Ecclesiastes in twelve chapters.


c. The Song of Songs, in which, after the desire of the coming of the Bridegroom testified by the Bride (Song of Solomon 1:1-4), are described the Dialogues between the Bridegroom and the Bride, concerning mutual love, graces and charms, and cases happy and adverse, until the time of the Bridegroom’s coming to the wedding (Song of Solomon 1:5-8:14), in the Book of the Song of Songs in eight chapters.

[1] The profound erudition of Epiphanius (c. 310-403) led to his installation as Bishop of Salamis. He was something of a heresy hunter, combating Apollinarianism, Origen, and even at one point Chrysostom.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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