The Wisdom of the Aramaic Book of Ahiqar

Unravelling a Discourse of Uncertainty and Distress


Author: Seth Bledsoe
This book offers fresh readings of the Aramaic book of Ahiqar, an oft underappreciated ancient wisdom text. In undertaking a comprehensive literary analysis, incorporating both the drama and the sayings together, Bledsoe shows that Ahiqar’s didactic impulse is founded on a sense of uncertainty about life, offering advice for those in times of distress, much like the titular character himself. While Ahiqar shares many features with instructional literature like Proverbs, the ambiguous cosmic and social order imagined in the text resonate more strongly with the likes of Qoheleth or Job. Bledsoe also takes seriously the Elephantine context, suggesting that the social and political ethic evinced by the work would have resonated strongly with the Judean community in Achaemenid Egypt.

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Seth A. Bledsoe, Ph.D. (2015), Florida State University, is Assistant Professor in Textual, Historical, and Systematic Studies at Radboud University. He has published several articles on Ahiqar and ancient wisdom literature in peer-reviewed journals (including JBL) and collected volumes.

 1 Identifying the Gaps in Ahiqar Scholarship
 2 Responding to the Gaps in Ahiqar Scholarship
 3 Outline of This Study

1 Locating Ahiqar
 Materiality, Language and Intertextuality
 1.1 Ahiqar In Situ: Material Aspects
 1.2 Ahiqar In Lingua: Linguistic and Scribal Aspects
 1.3 Ahiqar In Litteris: Legacy, Literary Milieu, and Intertextuality
 1.4 Conclusion: The Elephantine Instruction of Ahiqar

2 Unraveling Ahiqar
 Narratology and Discourse in the Story of Ahiqar
 2.1 Plot Tensions & Resolutions: Unraveling the Structural Threads of the Story
 2.2 Actants, Voices, and the Narrator/Audience Complexity: A Narratological Reading of Ahiqar
 2.3 Summary of Literary Analysis of Narrative
 2.4 Finishing the Story: The Missing End and the Later Witnesses

3 Delineating Ahiqar
 Structure and Style in the Sayings of Ahiqar
 3.1 Sayings-Types, Structures, and Stylistic Devices
 3.2 Coherence, Context, and Compositional Units: A Theory of Reading and Meaning
 3.3 Summary of Sayings

4 Cultivating an Ethic of Caution
 Practical Instruction and the Dangers of Speech
 4.1 The Synchrony of Proper Speech
 4.2 Cultivating a Cautious Attitude
 4.3 The Pragmatic Value of Contentment and Humility
 4.4 Conclusion

5 Wisdom from Below
 Financial Instruction and Social Status
 5.1 Loans and Other Financial Matters
 5.2 Poverty and Wealth
 5.3 Labor and Servitude
 5.4 Wisdom from Below: Synthesis, Story, and Rhetorical Effect

6 Constructing and Contesting Social Domains
 The Familial Discourse of Loyalty and Reciprocity
 6.1 The Double-Sided Domains of Family and Friendship
 6.2 The Estranged Brother and the Familial Foreigner
 6.3 Authority & Hierarchy: A Competition for Favor
 6.4 Conclusion: Constructing and Contesting “Ahiqar” at Elephantine

7 Many Are the Stars
 Humanity, the Gods and Speculative Wisdom
 7.1 Humanity
 7.2 The Gods
 7.3 At the Intersection of Humanity and the Gods: The King in Ahiqar
 7.4 Conclusion

Biblical scholars, especially those interested in wisdom and ancient fiction, Aramaic literature, and early Second Temple Judaism, as well as historians interested in Late Period/Achaemenid-era Egypt