Paffenroth's book examines several of major aspects and developments of the Biblical concept of Wisdom. He focuses on Wisdom as it evolves through the works of Shakespeare, Goethe, Melville, and Dostoevsky. The getting of Wisdom - the ultimate expression of the joining of head and heart in search of God - is a key theme not only in the biblical Wisdom literature but one of the major themes in Western literature. Lear, Ahab, Ishmael, Ivan Karamzov all are in search of that meaningful combination of head and heart that brings a greater knowledge of the world and of God to them. Wisdom is therefore the basis of a relationship with God. Paffenroth examines Wisdom under four broad categories: the destructiveness of folly; the feminine side of Wisdom; the folly of Christ as Wisdom; and the problem of suffering, especially as it highlights the inadequacy of reason. He uses Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus, the Wisdom of Solomon, and Dostoevsky to examine the destructiveness of folly. He shows the feminine side of Wisdom from Proverbs, the Wisdom of Solomon, Augustine, and Goethe. Using the New Testament and King Lear, he explores the folly and Wisdom of Christ.
Finally, he looks at the inadequacy of reason in Job, Ecclesiastes, Pascal, and Melville. In their different ways, these explorations reiterate lessons from the Proverbs on down: the human mind and heart can never fully understand one another, but they can learn to live together meaningfully, sometimes even beautifully, and together they can come closer to God.
Kim Paffenroth is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York.