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Agur & the Theology of Wisdom: A Philological Approach to Reading Proverbs 30 as a Coherent Text

KIRK, ALEXANDER,THOMAS (2022) Agur & the Theology of Wisdom: A Philological Approach to Reading Proverbs 30 as a Coherent Text. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 31 October 2025.


Proverbs 30 is a strange text. It is attributed to a sage named Agur Bin-Yaqeh, about whom we know nothing, and the text itself is filled with philological puzzles, obscure expressions, and confounding theological perspectives. Perhaps because of these curious features, the chapter has been read as everything from a devout confession to an atheistic debate. Few interpreters, however, have found literary or theological coherence in the chapter that goes deeper than its attribution or formal features. This dissertation presents a fresh interpretation of Proverbs 30 using techniques of philological analysis and close reading. By attending to tone and voice within the text, the author argues that MT Proverbs 30, “The Words of Agur,” is best read as a coherent collection, animated by the voice of Agur, which mocks pride and greed while it commends humility and contentment, thus deepening the presentation of wisdom in Proverbs by subverting its misappropriation and orienting it toward a proper relationship with God. This reading has broader implications for biblical studies, particularly wisdom literature. If the approach to Proverbs 30 developed here is convincing, it suggests that the division between “wisdom literature”—as a genre category with an accompanying worldview—and the priestly and prophetic traditions is not as clearly drawn as scholars have suggested over the last two centuries. Furthermore, the history of interpreting Proverbs 30 points to the wisdom literature genre category itself, in cahoots with form criticism, as largely responsible for the fragmented approach to Agur’s words in modern scholarship.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Hebrew Bible, Old Testament, Proverbs, Proverbs 30, wisdom, philology, coherence
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:31 Oct 2022 10:42

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