Book Review – The Beginning and End of Wisdom (O’Donnell)

Old Testament books in the Bible have always stirred up something special in me. The richness and timelessness of the truths all throughout the Bible are quite apparent, but there’s something about the OT writings that stir my affections and cause me to dig deep into the implications and parallels. The Beginning and End of Wisdom: Preaching Christ from the First and Last Chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job by Douglas O’Donnell seeks to examine some of the least quoted, and least paralleled books of the OT — the wisdom literature.

Falling right into my “sweet spot” of interest, I was excited to get my hands on this book and read into it, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The concept of Christocentricity should be one fairly well known to us — at least intellectually — and this book serves to reveal the nature and character of Christ through the presentations of OT wisdom literature. “Christ is found in every verse of the Bible” is often a phrase easier spoken than practiced, and this book has helped me develop lasting perspectives which allow me to see these texts through a Christ-filtered lens, and will prove to remain beneficial as I grow in my walk with Christ and desire to glorify Him with my life.

To briefly (and potentially over-simplistically) summarize a few arguments made for the Christ-centeredness of this wisdom literature, I provide you with the following:

Proverbs: For our own good and the glory of God, the book of Proverbs invites and instructs God’s covenant people—especially young men—to embrace wisdom. For Christians, such wisdom comes through fearing God’s beloved, the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:21), and walking in his wisdom.

Ecclesiastes: Ecclesiastes is about finding the goodness of God while living within the vanity of this world. Such goodness or “wisdom” is found only through a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. This relationship involves trusting in Christ and heeding his commands, which brings rest, justice, and joy.

Job: The book of Job prefigures the purposeful sufferings of Christ. That is, the story of God’s servant Job prepares us for the story of Jesus, the suffering servant, who in his passion and death shows how innocent suffering can show forth the justice of God.

Again, there is a lot more detail which the book goes into, but this should give you a sort of framework to understand some goals of the text.

In an interview, O’Donnell also talked about a few key parallels between wisdom literature and the life, character, and nature of Jesus. Three he spoke about were Jesus as the sage par excellence (Proverbs 1:26) [practical, intellectual, mysterious in wisdom, etc]; Jesus as wisdom acted [in His perfect obedience to the Father and perfect life]; and Jesus as wisdom embodied [he is the very “wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24), “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3)].

Seeing these parallels has helped me reinforce some common ideas and overcome some unique tensions with the wisdom literature and O’Donnell has helped unpack these often difficult themes through faithful and prayerful wrestling with the Bible and the grand themes of God.

I absolutely recommend this book be read by anyone who struggles with the OT parallels (ie “How is this even relevant?” or “It’s just a list of ‘ought-to’s'”), or anyone who is intrigued with OT writings (or even wars with concepts found in the wisdom literature).

Further questions regarding the aforementioned interview with the writer, and the “simplified” breakdown of each book in examining it’s significance can be found in a blogpost found on The Gospel Coalition here: http://ow.ly/6ZckN

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes by Crossway Publishing. I was not required to post a positive review and the views expressed in this review are my own.

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One thought on “Book Review – The Beginning and End of Wisdom (O’Donnell)

  1. So, was there anything that you disliked about this literary study of the OT? What would you say was the most profound analysis wrought by O’Donnell and how, if applicable, has this changed your perspective of God and his Word?

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