You updated your password.

Reset Password

Enter the email address you used to create your account. We will email you instructions on how to reset your password.

Forgot Your Email Address? Contact Us

Reset Your Password


Biblical Wisdom Literature

Delve into a rich and complex body of writings that have influenced theologians and philosophers for millennia in this course on the wisdom literature of the Bible.
Biblical Wisdom Literature is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 64.
  • y_2024, m_7, d_13, h_6
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.42
  • cp_1, bvpage1
  • co_hasreviews, tv_6, tr_58
  • loc_en_CA, sid_6260, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.1
  • CLOUD, getAggregateRating, 13.77ms
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lives up to title Just getting started but I am a nerd about theology! Father Joseph is wonderful!
Date published: 2022-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thorough course, sincere teacher I have always found the Wisdom Literature to be the most difficult part of the Bible to teach considering its subjectivity. The late Dr. Koterski has led me through it like my Bible school couldn't do and he was successful in making it personal and not a conduit to pass any man-made doctrine: not only did he not promote his Jesuit discipline, he even didn't assume you believed in the Bible's inspiration. Yet somehow I'm a better believer and a teacher now that I have taken this course.
Date published: 2022-05-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from excellent I am very disappointed that you wouldn't give me a hard copy of the lectures. I am old and I like books to touch and feel, not computer discs. I won't be doing any more business with you.
Date published: 2021-08-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Theological Difference I have enjoyed viewing the lectures, which are full of information and insights. I disagree with the Lecturer's view that it is God's foreknowledge of what men will do that enables Man's freewill to exist alongside God's sovereign will. Romans chapter 9 verses 11 to 13 and Malachi chapter 1 verses 2 and 3 show that Jacob and Esau not yet being born nor having done good or evil, that the purpose of God according to Election might stand, not of works but of him who calls, God said, "Jacob I have loved but Esau I have hated". What people will to do counts too. See Philippians chapter 2 verses 12 and 13 "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to work on behalf of His good pleasure". See also (James chapter 2 verse 22 "by works faith (of Abraham) was made perfect". The apparent contradiction between the two wills must remain a mystery for now. They are twin parallel pillars that meet above the clouds at THE THRONE OF GOD.
Date published: 2021-07-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Participation in history This is a beautifully structured series of lectures. Each wisdom book is introduced with some historical and literary background which also covers issues with translation from ancient Hebrew and Greek. Each book is concluded with some major points from dialogues that the book inspired among philosophers, theologians, writers and interpreters over the last two millennia. On top of that Father Koterski brings anecdotes from music, visual arts, movies as well as his personal experience. There are “interlude” lectures dedicated to wisdom psalms and their practical use for prayer and reflection. The jest of the course consists of detail discussion of selected passages quoted from the text itself (several translations of the Bible are used). The main complaint of some more critical reviewers was that the lectures have a feel of a sermon. I think that was precisely the point. That’s exactly how these texts have been used since they were written, and this course is a natural extension of that process. It makes you participate in history rather than look from above or worse, look down from your intellectual high horse. Others were disappointed by not enough emphasis on historical-critical approach. But this is misguided. Unlike with other parts of the Bible, the readers of the wisdom books will not benefit much from such an approach. Had those books turned out to be Renaissance forgery, their insight would remain the same. Some, with philosophical inclinations, would like to see more serious debate and confrontation with their own views. But this is not the character of this particular literature; it was not designed to present and defend a refined philosophical position. Rather, it inspires multiple positions (and many other courses from The Teaching Company) One valid complaint was about the repetitiveness of some points. People who take one lecture a day will appreciate that style, those who want to go thru the course quickly will not.
Date published: 2020-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent in every way Beautiful, scholarly approach to Biblical literature. Would that other Christianities would emulate both style and content
Date published: 2020-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course. Problematic thinking Joseph Koterski is a Jesuit priest. As such, he has a God-centric view of the universe. He is an excellent teacher but I think he makes some crucial thinking errors. These errors are most evident in his discussion of Job and the "problem" of suffering. For Koterski, the question is: How can a loving God allow suffering in the world? Koterski reviews four philosophical answers to this question, citing four authors: Leibniz, Hartshorne, C. S. Lewis, and Harold Kushner. I won't attempt to recapitulate their arguments here. What I will say is this: The problem of how an all good God can allow suffering is really a kind of straw man argument. The "problem" of suffering is not really a problem at all unless you believe in God. In other words, by assuming that there is a benevolent God, you create a problem where none actually exists. If you take God out of the equation, suffering becomes just another part of the human condition. In a Godless universe, suffering is just a part of life. Still in all, this was a great course. Koterski has a melodious speaking voice and, more importantly, he has a breathtaking command of western philosophy. At various points in the course, you can see him struggle to make philosophy fit his religious convictions but this did not interfere with my enjoyment of the course. I've been studying the Bible for the past 7 months and this is the eighth Teaching Company course I've viewed. Koterski focuses in on Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Daniel, selections from the Psalms, two books from the apocrypha--Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon--and finally the Gospels. I did not find his God-centric approach annoying. On the contrary, it was fascinating to see how a devout Catholic approaches this material. If there were one thing I could change about Koterski's presentation, it would be his habit of touching his fingertips together. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this course. Oh, I want to say one other thing: It's good to view this course on video because Koterski cites many Biblical passages and they are shown on screen. This is one course where video is really helpful.
Date published: 2020-06-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Unfortunate I have listened to most of this course (90% of it) and am profoundly disappointed. It is superficial, repetitious, very general, not at a University level. Father Koterski does a better job with his courses on Philosophy. His handling of the meaning of texts in the Scripture is superficial and at times even wrong. I kept hoping he would redeem himself. Forget the video version since the only graphics are printed versions of the primary texts he reads from Scripture. I do not recommend this to anyone. This is the worst course I have encountered in several hundred Teaching Company courses.
Date published: 2020-02-06
  • y_2024, m_7, d_13, h_6
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.42
  • cp_1, bvpage1
  • co_hasreviews, tv_6, tr_58
  • loc_en_CA, sid_6260, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.1
  • CLOUD, getReviews, 5.83ms


In the history of wisdom literature, no tradition matches the solace and profundity found in the teachings of the Bible. In Biblical Wisdom Literature, award-winning professor Father Joseph Koterski takes you deep inside the enlightening spiritual teachings that have inspired the world. In 36 thought-provoking lectures, explore books and works such as the book of Proverbs, the book of Job, and the Song of Songs in their historical and cultural contexts. Also, examine how the teachings in these and other timeless works can be applied to everyday problems.


Joseph Koterski, S.J.

As a Jesuit priest, I think there is something from this tradition that I can bring to bear, that will be of great interest to those who share my convictions, those who do not, and to those who are interested and searching.


St. Louis University
A member of the Society of Jesus, Father Joseph Koterski is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University, where he specializes in the history of medieval philosophy and natural law ethics. Before taking his position at Fordham University, Father Koterski taught at the Center for Thomistic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. He earned his doctorate in Philosophy from St. Louis University, after receiving an H.A.B. in Classics from Xavier University. As a priest ordained in 1992, Father Koterski brings an added dimension of insight to his study of theology and biblical texts. He earned his Master of Divinity and License of Sacred Theology from the Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Father Koterski is a veteran Great Courses instructor and a respected teacher and scholar. At Fordham, he has been recognized for his teaching skills and was awarded the Dean's Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching and the Graduate Teacher of the Year Award. He serves as the editor-in-chief of the International Philosophical Quarterly and is coeditor of the Fordham University Press Series in Moral Philosophy and Moral Theology.

By This Professor

Introduction to Biblical Wisdom Literature

01: Introduction to Biblical Wisdom Literature

Why do bad things happen to good people? Is there meaning in the suffering of life? As an introduction to your consideration of biblical wisdom literature, begin to ponder these crucial questions through the story of Job and preview your journey into this rich tradition.

32 min
The Place of Proverbs in the Bible

02: The Place of Proverbs in the Bible

In the book of Proverbs, encounter one of the oldest biblical wisdom books. After considering the various literary forms in this book, take a closer look at the text by examining the story of a youth's encounter with the Lady Wisdom and the Lady Folly.

30 min
Collections of Proverbs

03: Collections of Proverbs

Continue your consideration of the book of Proverbs by exploring the series of proverbs that follow the book's opening story. This lecture also provides insights into the book's historical context and its debt to Egyptian wisdom traditions.

31 min
The Poems of the Book of Proverbs

04: The Poems of the Book of Proverbs

Proverbs not only offers sage advice on how to live a good life; it also contains some of the most beautiful poetry in the Bible. Here, examine two of these lovely poetic texts: an acrostic poem about the ideal spouse and a poem about the personified figure of Wisdom.

30 min
The Relation of Proverbs to Covenant

05: The Relation of Proverbs to Covenant

A key theme in biblical history is the idea of covenant: the solemn agreement made between God and his chosen people. Examine this biblical motif and see how a proper interpretation of the book of Proverbs provides a moral exhortation to live according to God's wisdom.

30 min
Interlude-Some Wisdom Psalms

06: Interlude-Some Wisdom Psalms

In this first interlude, consider the place of wisdom psalms within the larger structure of the book of Psalms. The lecture also delineates the distinctive characteristics of Hebrew poetry and suggests ways to use these psalms as part of prayerful meditation.

29 min
Job and the Suffering of the Innocent

07: Job and the Suffering of the Innocent

Remarkably rich and complex, the book of Job offers a distinctly philosophical approach to the problem of suffering of innocent people. Begin your exploration of this wisdom story by examining its structure and considering its complex mix of drama and poetry.

30 min
Job-The First Cycle of Conversations

08: Job-The First Cycle of Conversations

In a close analysis of the first section of the book of Job, encounter the angelic council where God allows Satan to test Job and the response to these sufferings by Job's three friends. The scene raises a compelling question: Has Job done something to deserve his sufferings?

31 min
Job-Deepening the Conversation

09: Job-Deepening the Conversation

As you continue your exploration of the first cycle of speeches, gain deeper insight into the logical error made by Job's friends. Job's insistence of his own innocence leads to the conclusion that there must be other reasons for suffering besides divine retribution.

29 min
Job-Second and Third Conversation Cycles

10: Job-Second and Third Conversation Cycles

Does Job's resistance to his friends' arguments suggest moral blindness on his part or a rightful belief that his suffering is out of proportion to his actions? A close reading uncovers textual problems that suggest that the answer may be more complex than a simple dialogue can convey.

29 min
Job-The Wisdom Poem and the Conclusion

11: Job-The Wisdom Poem and the Conclusion

Here, encounter a sharp shift in style in the book of Job as the text moves from dramatic dialogue to wisdom poetry. Analyzing this poem and the laments that follow, consider how Job serves as a pattern for spiritual discernment in times of trouble.

31 min
Job-Elihu's Defense of God's Honor

12: Job-Elihu's Defense of God's Honor

The book of Job concludes with two dramatic episodes: the entrance of Elihu, a young man who upbraids Job for not admitting to God's justice, and the dramatic appearance of God in the form of a whirlwind.

31 min
Job-Reflections on the Book as a Whole

13: Job-Reflections on the Book as a Whole

In this final lecture on the book of Job, examine the dramatic conclusion of this wisdom tale and explore how the lessons it teaches about the justice of God's ways compare with views of such modern thinkers as Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and C. S. Lewis.

31 min
Interlude-Prayer in Times of Suffering

14: Interlude-Prayer in Times of Suffering

After reflecting on the book of Job, return to Psalms to reflect on the significance of praying for compassion and wisdom in the face of suffering. The lecture also includes some practical suggestions for how to pray using the psalms.

30 min
Qoheleth-The Inadequacy of Human Wisdom

15: Qoheleth-The Inadequacy of Human Wisdom

Often known by its Greek title as Ecclesiastes, the book of Qoheleth is one of the shortest books in the biblical wisdom tradition. In this lecture, see how this book, unlike the coherent narrative of Job, presents wide-ranging musings on a variety of topics.

33 min
Qoheleth-Skepticism about Easy Answers

16: Qoheleth-Skepticism about Easy Answers

Like Job, the author of Qoheleth faces a fundamental problem: Do a person's virtues and vices garner their due rewards in this life? A close examination of the text reveals that there are no easy answers to this question.

30 min
Qoheleth-Keeping Faith during Confusion

17: Qoheleth-Keeping Faith during Confusion

When confronted with life's uncertainties, how can one continue to forge ahead? This final lecture on the book of Qoheleth suggests the limits of man's ability to comprehend the ultimate meaning of life and offers practical advice on how to persevere in faith and hope.

33 min
Interlude-Wisdom Psalms for Uncertainty

18: Interlude-Wisdom Psalms for Uncertainty

After considering Qoheleth's weighty musings on the possibility of attaining wisdom, turn once again to the psalms. During this interlude, reflect on the topics of prayer and faith when reason seems to have lost its way or is blocked by uncertainty.

28 min
Sirach-A Traditional Approach to Wisdom

19: Sirach-A Traditional Approach to Wisdom

The longest of the Bible's wisdom books, Sirach (also called Ecclesiasticus) portrays suffering as a way to test character and teach moral lessons. Here, preview the book's structure and consider its place within the variety of traditions that have held these writings sacred.

30 min
Sirach on the Cultivation of Virtue

20: Sirach on the Cultivation of Virtue

While it shares with Job and Qoheleth a sense of the need for faith in the face of uncertainties, Sirach echoes Proverbs in recommending the cultivation of virtue. This lecture explores this book's teachings on topics such as fidelity to Torah, friendship, fear of God, sin, and vice.

30 min
Sirach's Wisdom Poetry

21: Sirach's Wisdom Poetry

The book of Sirach includes a wisdom poem that is distinctive for its explicit connection between wisdom and the observance of Torah. Examine the structure and content of this wisdom poem and compare it with other instances seen in Proverbs and Job and by the prophet Baruch.

33 min
Sirach on Divine Providence within History

22: Sirach on Divine Providence within History

The final portion of the book of Sirach includes two notable excerpts: a lovely hymn praising the glory of God in nature and a lengthy meditation on the history of salvation. As you analyze these passages, contemplate the importance of memory and gratitude in prayer.

29 min
The Song of Songs-Love as the Answer

23: The Song of Songs-Love as the Answer

The Song of Songs, also called the Canticle of Canticles, is a series of poems recording a great story of the separation and reuniting of lovers. This lecture provides a general overview of this resonant love story and discusses its historical context.

30 min
The Song of Songs-Levels of Meaning

24: The Song of Songs-Levels of Meaning

What is the meaning of the beautiful verses of the Song of Songs? Is it the account of an earthly love between man and woman? Or an allegory about the relationship between God and his people? Explore the meanings both Jewish and Christian readers have found in this famous literary work.

30 min
Interlude-Wisdom Psalms on Perseverance

25: Interlude-Wisdom Psalms on Perseverance

After exploring the wide range of emotions in the Song of Songs, return to the treasury of the Psalms to consider a number of texts that are especially relevant for moments when perseverance is needed to counter delay and discouragement.

32 min
Daniel-Wisdom through Dream Visions

26: Daniel-Wisdom through Dream Visions

Although it is often classed among the prophetic books of the Bible, the book of Daniel also offers a contemplation of wisdom through its representation of the meaning of dreams. Here, consider this book's historical context and analyze some of Daniel's early dream visions.

32 min
Daniel-God's Providential Plan for History

27: Daniel-God's Providential Plan for History

The latter portions of the book of Daniel concern eschatology, or theological reflections on the end times. Conclude your consideration of this book by examining its commentary on the various stages of the world's history as part of God's providential plan.

32 min
The Wisdom of Solomon on Divine Justice

28: The Wisdom of Solomon on Divine Justice

Although attributed to King Solomon, the Wisdom of Solomon is believed to have been written long after his death. In this lecture, learn about the unique circumstances of its authorship and examine how its opening section posits the choice between virtue and vice.

31 min
The Wisdom of Solomon on Death

29: The Wisdom of Solomon on Death

In this lecture, return to the problem of suffering and explore this book's teachings about the meaning of the death of innocents. Consider the book's treatment of God's covenant with mankind, as well as a theme that will gain equal importance, the idea of the immortality of the soul.

33 min
The Wisdom of Solomon on Prayer

30: The Wisdom of Solomon on Prayer

Examine the extended poem in which Solomon exhorts kings of the world to cultivate wisdom in order to rise to the challenges of their office and offers a lesson on how to pray for wisdom.

30 min
The Wisdom of Solomon on Divine Providence

31: The Wisdom of Solomon on Divine Providence

As in Sirach, the final section of the Wisdom of Solomon examines how God actively intervenes in history. Examine this theme and other distinctive elements of the book, such as its parallels with the philosophical tradition of natural law ethics and allusions to the soul's immortality.

32 min
Interlude-A Wisdom Psalm on Torah

32: Interlude-A Wisdom Psalm on Torah

Many psalms reflect a key concern of the Bible's wisdom literature: an exploration of God's covenant with his chosen people as expressed in Torah. Here, contemplate the importance of prayer for conforming oneself to the covenant that God initiated.

33 min
Jesus as Wisdom Teacher

33: Jesus as Wisdom Teacher

In Christian belief, Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God who took on human nature for the sake of mankind's salvation from sin and death. This lecture provides an overview of this doctrine and presents Jesus as a teacher who both continues and reinvigorates the wisdom tradition.

33 min
Jesus and the Wisdom Stories in the Gospels

34: Jesus and the Wisdom Stories in the Gospels

Jesus was renowned for presenting his wisdom teachings in the form of parables: dense, often paradoxical stories that convey hidden truths. Here, focus on representative examples, including the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son.

33 min
Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount

35: Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount

As the paradigmatic instance of Jesus as Wisdom Teacher, the Sermon on the Mount both echoes the earlier wisdom tradition and adds new inspiration. Explore this remarkable text, giving close attention to Jesus's famed Beatitudes as statements of traditional wisdom thought.

29 min
Overview of Biblical Wisdom Literature

36: Overview of Biblical Wisdom Literature

What does "wisdom" mean? As you review the tradition, focus on three ways to view the meaning of wisdom as it is revealed throughout these writings: wisdom as divinely inspired; wisdom as derived from the natural world; and wisdom as achieved through human nature.

31 min