Christian culture 基督教文化学刊

Universality and Particularity: The Two-Pole Structure and Pedagogic Space of Hebrew Wisdom

Author: LIM Teck Peng, Trinity Theological College, Singapore



This article is written out of the author’s interest in the interface between educational and biblical studies. It is part of his ongoing effort to develop a canonical perspective on education. Informed by contemporary studies in wisdom literature, the paper argues for a common pattern of thought between the Book of Proverbs and the Wisdom of Ben Sira (Sirach in Greek and Ecclesiasticus in Latin), despite their universalistic and nationalistic outlook demonstrated most notably in Proverbs 8 and Sirach 24 respectively. Against a common view that Proverbs reflects the international outlook of sages in the First Temple period and Sirach “the nationalization of Wisdom” in the Second Temple period, this paper aims to demonstrate a subtle co-existence of universal and particular horizons in both books and an ever-present tension therein. 

Disclosing the dual horizons of sapiential practice that includes observing, reflecting and teaching is significant for three reasons. First, the universal perspective of Hebrew sages is an Axial-age breakthrough no less significant than the contribution made by the prophets. Second, such a universal horizon in the wisdom literature, which is different from that associated with organized missionary movements, provides the impetus to recover the sapiential dimension of biblical ideas of education eclipsed by the instrumental notion of education as a proselytizing strategy. Finally, the reclamation of the dual horizons in sapiential practice is pivotal in the development of a wisdom approach to religious education that will enable the community of faith to engage the world in a prudent and authentic manner.




Hebrew Wisdom, Axial Age Breakthroughs, Horizon, Nationalization of Wisdom, sapiential practice


Full Text (International Version):

LIM Teck PengSCN JSCC.pdf


Full Text (Simplified Chinese Version): 

LIM Teck PengSCN JSCC.pdf