- Christogenea Internet Radio
On the Wisdom of Solomon, Part 1: Addressing the Critics
Here we are going to examine an apocryphal book of Scripture which I have often cited in my commentaries on various books of the New Testament, and especially in the recently-completed commentary On the Gospel of John. This book I have always accepted as being canonical in spite of the fact that evidence of its great antiquity is very scant, and no original Hebrew version of the work is known to have existed. But rather than judging the book according to the words and deeds of the world, I have chosen to judge it based on its contents.
This book is the Wisdom of Solomon, which I will often identify simply as Wisdom here. It was accepted as canon in the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, but it was rejected and relegated to apocryphal status by Protestants, who certainly seem to have followed the Jews in this regard. The Wisdom of Solomon was included alongside the other books of Wisdom of the Old Testament in the 4th century Codices Sinaiticus (א) and Vaticanus (B) and in the 5th century Codex Alexandrinus (A), but it is not found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
At least one source, an online denominational ministry, has published an article on the Scrolls which claims that fragments of the Wisdom of Solomon were found among the scrolls, citing A Survey of Old Testament Introduction by one Gleason Archer, which was first published in 1974. But I have not yet been able to verify this claim, since it is not supported by the first edition of Archer’s work. In the author’s Appendix 4 there is an Inventory of Biblical Manuscripts from the Dead Sea Caves, as he titled it, which has no reference to Wisdom. But the book was revised and updated in 1996, and I have not yet been able to access that edition, as this information is new to me. [I have already ordered a copy of the book.]
I can say that in the cave at Qumran designated as Cave 7, it is reported by Archer and others that many fragments of Christian New Testament Scriptures have been discovered, written in Greek. But these are hardly discussed in any publication of the scrolls which I have seen to date, and are not included in any copy of the translations of the scrolls which I possess. While the deciphering of Dead Sea Scrolls is an ongoing project, since 1967 it has been entirely in the hands of Jews, and they can hardly be trusted. Jews generally consider the Wisdom of Solomon to be a spurious Christian work and they have always rejected it.
Of course, the sect which produced most of the Qumran scrolls was not Christian, at least at the time when the sectarian manuscripts found among the scrolls were written. As I had explained elsewhere, in my May, 2012 presentation titled What are the Dead Sea Scrolls?, the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls reflect a Judaea which was under the yoke of the Romans, make no mention of the rebellion against Rome and the resulting destruction of Jerusalem, and therefore they had to be written between 63 BC and 65 AD, which is fully consistent with my further assertion that they belonged to that fourth sect of Judaea which was mentioned by Flavius Josephus, which was founded by Judas the Galilaian.
However any absence of Wisdom among the Scrolls, if indeed it was absent, is not an indictment against its authenticity. Only one very small fragment containing a few words from the opening verses of 2 Chronicles chapter 29, have been identified among the scrolls out of sixty-five chapters of 1 and 2 Chronicles. Only small portions from four chapters from Ecclesiastes and five chapters from Proverbs were preserved in the Scrolls, portions from ten chapters of Job, and other books of Scripture did not fare much better. Of course, no portion of Esther was ever found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the so-called Purim feast was not found in the calendars of the sect which maintained the scrolls, yet critics do not challenge the canonical status of that novel, and we have proven elsewhere that Esther is indeed a novel.
In the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece there is an appendix titled Loci Citati Vel Allegati, which is a list of locations of citations or allusions to Old Testament and other Scriptures or literature which are found in the New Testament. Under the section for the Wisdom of Solomon, there are 109 entries, nearly 50 of them from the letters of Paul but nearly every other New Testament book is also well-represented in the list. While we do not always find these citations or allusions to be relevant, we hope to examine each of them as we proceed through this commentary. If we find Wisdom to have been a source of inspiration for the apostles of Christ, that is the best judge of its authenticity.
The prevailing conclusion among modern academics is that the Wisdom of Solomon was the work of an Alexandrian Jew of the first century of the Christian age. Proponents of this conclusion frequently echo the notion, as one Jewish writer named Bernstein expresses it, that “To David, the poet par excellence, was ascribed the authorship of later songs, just as his son Solomon, the wise man par excellence, became the author of later wisdom works.” So it is commonly believed that the Wisdom of Solomon was only attributed to Solomon because whoever else had originally written it wanted to give his work more authority than if it had been published under his own name. If that is true, then Wisdom should be classified as a Pseudepigraphal, and not as an Apocryphal work. In that same manner, certain Psalms attributed to David are classified, which are not esteemed by scholars to have been written by David. Some of these presumably spurious Psalms were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. We do not accept that the opinions reflected by this statement made by the Jew Bernstein are true in relation to the Wisdom of Solomon.
The authorship of Wisdom by Solomon is denied by academics for many reasons, and scholars from all denominations, Jewish and Christian, usually only parrot the reasons which were posited by earlier critics, and often do not even cite the original sources. We cannot possibly address all of the criticisms, which by itself would make for a long series of presentations and which is not feasible or even necessary. Here we will cite the Introduction to the Wisdom of Solomon from Oxford Bibliographies which was written by Daniel J. Harrington and last revised in 2010 as being fairly representative of many of those reasons. We will only address a few primary aspects of the criticisms, as they go on for many pages, and we shall also add some comments addressing them. So our source begins:
The Wisdom of Solomon (known as the Book of Wisdom in the Latin Bible tradition) is a book about wisdom – its benefits, nature, and role in ancient Israel’s history. It is more an exhortation to pursue wisdom than a collection of wise teachings (as in Proverbs, Sirach, and Ecclesiastes).
With all of this we can agree, but not with what follows:
Its implied author is King Solomon, and its implied audience is the rulers of the earth.
In light of the substance in Wisdom, we can interpret “the rulers of the earth”, or “judges of the earth”, which is a more accurate translation, to be the children of Israel themselves – once the promises of God are fulfilled in them. Now to continue with our source:
However, its real author seems to have been a Greek-speaking Jew with some knowledge of Greek rhetoric and philosophy, and its real audience seems to have been young Jews in danger of slipping away from their Jewish heritage into pagan materialism. The use of the Greek language, the influence of Greek philosophy and rhetoric, its Jewish audience, and the links with Philo suggest an origin in Alexandria in Egypt.
Note that on one hand, this source claims that Wisdom was written to save young Jews from “pagan materialism”, but on the other, it later claims that it is “a witness to the synthesis of Hebrew and Greek worldviews” as the author “adopts some concepts from Stoicism and Platonism”. So it is essentially accusing the author of Wisdom of being guilty of the same thing which it claims that he is trying to redress. So it is manifest that this critic is in conflict with himself, and we certainly will not accept his projection of his own hypocrisy onto his subject.
Where it mentions “links to Philo” the accusation borders on slander, even if Philo may be the only early Judaean whose writing has survived who had ever cited the Wisdom of Solomon, which he is said to have done on more than one occasion. Evidently this accusation began with Jerome, the 5th century translator of the Latin Vulgate, who is said to have believed that Philo wrote the book of Wisdom attributed to Solomon. The Old Latin version of the book is found in the Vulgate but is only titled Liber Sapientiae, or Book of Wisdom. Some commentators believe Jerome himself had changed the title from what is found in the Septuagint, Σοφία Σαλωμωνος, and I would tend to agree. There are philosophic perspectives in Philo which clearly originate in Greek philosophy and are later echoed in Neoplatonism and Gnosticism. It is evident that Philo did not borrow from Wisdom as a basis for his ideas, which sought to syncretize the Old Testament with Greek philosophy. For example, where Philo interprets the term logos after the same manner of the Greek philosophers, the Wisdom of Solomon interprets it after the manner of the Old Testament, as also did the apostle John, to refer to the Word of Yahweh God in the Scriptures. In this manner and in others, the Wisdom of Solomon is actually contrary to the wisdom of Philo. Again continuing with our source:
It is generally dated to the mid-1st century BCE (around 50 BCE), although scholars place it anywhere from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE. The purpose of the Wisdom of Solomon is to demonstrate the superiority of the Jewish religion and its great wisdom. The author knows Greek rhetoric and Greek philosophy, as well as the Bible in its Greek form. He adopts some concepts from Stoicism and Platonism, and opposes the Epicureans and Egyptian paganism.
If the purpose of the Wisdom of Solomon is really to “demonstrate the superiority of the Jewish religion and its great wisdom”, the Jews themselves were never convinced of that since they have always rejected this book, with the apparently single exception of Philo. But apart from Philo, many critics of Wisdom have argued that it has much in common with Plato and other varieties of Greek philosophy popular in the Hellenistic period. [See, for example, a paper titled The Wisdom of Solomon and Plato, written by Stella Lange and published in the Journal of Biblical Literature, in December, 1936.]
However all such opinions are premised on the myth that the ancient Israelites lived in a bubble, that their religion and culture were markedly different from all of the surrounding nations and that there was relatively little cultural exchange between them and their neighbors. This, in turn, is founded on another false premise, which is the claim that modern Jews are ancient Israelites and ancient Israelites must have been similar to modern Jewry and Judaism. Rather, we have already shown that the ancient Israelites had many cultural similarities with the ancient Greeks. They certainly had no affinity with modern Jews, except for Jewish claims that the Old Testament is their book.
Doing this in a June, 2010 presentation here which was titled Greek Culture is Hebrew, we had cited at length the tragic poets Aeschylus and Euripides in order to prove our assertions. But we later discovered a rather voluminous work published in 1878, Scripture Parallels In Ancient Classics, or Bible Echoes, by one Craufurd Tait Ramage, LL.D., which treats the subject in even greater detail. As we can verify in ancient history that the Dorian and Danaan Greeks did indeed have their roots in ancient Israel, and the Ionians also had exchanges in trade and culture with the ancient Israelites, it is much more plausible that since the Greeks did not even begin writing until late in the 7th century BC, that they received much of their early philosophical and wisdom knowledge from the Hebrews. When the Greeks did begin writing, they used an alphabet derived from that of the Hebrews. The concept of Wisdom, Σοφία, was personified as a woman by Solomon in his Book of Proverbs nearly four hundred years before Homer conceived the Iliad, or Hesiod his Theogony, and they represent the earliest extant Greek writing. So returning once again to our source:
There are three major parts in the book: righteousness and immortality (chapters 1–5), the nature of wisdom (chapters 6–9), and wisdom’s role in the early history of Israel (chapters 10–19). All three parts seem to have been composed by the same author (though perhaps at different times) or at least in the same circle. The transitions between the various parts serve to meld them into a literary unity of some sort, so that it is difficult to decide exactly where one part ends and the next one begins.
There are frequently different parts to significant works of literature. Other critics attempt to divide these and attribute them to different authors, but there is no true basis for that. Here the critic says that they seem to be composed by the same author, “or at least in the same circle”. This echoes a suggestion which is said to be found in the Muratorian Canon that Wisdom was “written by the friends of Solomon in his honour”, however there is no historical proof of that and the precise date and provenance of the Muratorian Canon is itself highly debatable.
Now concluding with our source:
The Wisdom of Solomon is canonical in the Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions. While not canonical in the Jewish and Protestant traditions, it is generally respected as a witness to the synthesis of Hebrew and Greek worldviews, the development of Jewish beliefs in life after death, the encyclopedic nature of wisdom, and personified Wisdom as God’s agent in creation.
Of course, we do not care what Jews think of life after death since they do not have any, and at the time of Christ the Judaeans themselves were clearly divided on the subject, while at the same time many of them, because they were certainly not of Israel, had also denied the Resurrection of Christ. However the Old Testament is not Jewish, neither was Jesus, and neither is the Wisdom of Solomon.
The authenticity of the first epistle of Clement, the late first century bishop of Rome, which was a letter written to the Corinthians, is not challenged and it is generally believed to have been composed as early as 70 AD, although some argue for a later date, even as late as 140 AD. A consensus dates it to around 96 AD, and while it does not contain Clement’s name, it has traditionally always been attributed to him. In the 27th chapter of the epistle we read: “By the word of His might He established all things, and by His word He can overthrow them. Who shall say unto Him, What have you done? Or, Who shall resist the power of His strength?” These last two clauses are rightly esteemed by scholars to have been a quotation from Wisdom 12:12, in a passage where the author of 1 Clement made several other quotations from Scripture. While the epistle does not mention Wisdom specifically, the near-exact copy of two entire clauses certainly shows that Wisdom is the most likely source of the quote. In chapter 3 of his epistle there is another apparent quote from Wisdom chapter 2, a short phrase of four words.
Of the other early so-called Church Fathers, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and Cyprian all accepted the attribution of Wisdom to Solomon, and the work was also named by that title in the Didache, or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, while Origen was skeptical about the attribution. The Didache, along with Clement of Rome, are considered the earliest Christian writings outside of the New Testament. Melito, a bishop of Sardis in the middle of the 2nd century, had a canon which was preserved in the writings of Eusebius, and it included the Wisdom of Solomon, where it was positioned between the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes – where we believe it certainly belongs. We will not make citations from those writers who accepted Wisdom as having belonged to Solomon, but here we will cite the passages where Origen mentions the work, which reflect his skepticism.
Now, before we move on to Origen, we will first cite another contemporary source supporting what we have said here, which is An Introduction to Wisdom and Poetry of the Old Testament by Donald K. Berry, published in 1995. I have not read the entire book and cannot speak for it, except to say that Berry’s comments on the early Christian view of the Wisdom of Solomon are indeed accurate, even if we also disagree with some of his conclusions. The edition of this book at Google Books has no page numbers, but this was found in Chapter 3 of Part 1 of the book under the subtitle Wisdom in Patristic Literature:
The Doctrina Apostolorum, the Didache, Barnabas, and 1 Clement quote and allude to the Wisdom of Solomon more than any other wisdom book. The Greek concept of wisdom contained in the Wisdom of Solomon may contribute to its popularity. The equation of Torah and wisdom in the Wisdom of Solomon exercised appeal as well. The fathers understood moral discipline as the epitome of Hebrew wisdom. This preference for the Wisdom of Solomon dissipated after the first century. Select passages from 1 Clement reveal interests in wisdom related to canonical wisdom. The prayer begun in 1 Clement 59:1-60:4 connects God's wisdom in creation to the moral wisdom of believers. God's own beneficence in creating a good world acts as incentive for Christians to live with kindness. In previous chapters the book of 1 Clement offered quotations from Job and Proverbs to encourage moral conduct.
Where Berry said “This preference for the Wisdom of Solomon dissipated after the first century”, it becomes apparent that modern academics believe the earliest Christians to have been fools, that they would suddenly accept a work written and foisted upon them by an Alexandrian Jew of the first century with all the authority of Scripture. In reality, the Christian scholars and bishops of the first century were not fools, and at the same time valued the Wisdom of Solomon as a canonical work. Modern academics are the fools, fools for the Jews who despise the Wisdom of Solomon.
But we must disagree with Berry’s statement that the Wisdom of Solomon represents a “Greek concept of wisdom”, as the Greek philosophers were humanists and Wisdom speaks only of the Wisdom of God found in His Word in the Holy Scriptures. Seemingly to us, Berry contradicts himself where he next mentions the “equation of Torah and wisdom in the Wisdom of Solomon”. But that is not why we made the citation, where we only endeavored to find further support for what we have already said about early Christian opinions of the book. So now we shall discuss the skepticism of Origen, who lived and wrote in Alexandria in the 3rd century, around the same time as Tertullian and Cyprian.
Origen, in Book 1, Chapter 2 of his Origen de Principiis, citing Wisdom, 7:25, wrote “Now, we find in the treatise called the Wisdom of Solomon the following description of the wisdom of God: ‘For she is the breath of the power of God, and the purest efflux of the glory of the Almighty.’” Origen cited Wisdom again later in that same chapter, and also in Book 2, Chapter 3 of the same work, where he wrote “Having discussed these points regarding the nature of the world to the best of our ability, it does not seem out of place to inquire what is the meaning of the term world, which in holy Scripture is shown frequently to have different significations. For what we call in Latin mundus, is termed in Greek κόσμος, and κόσμος signifies not only a world, but also an ornament. Finally, in Isaiah [speaking of the Greek copies of Isaiah], where the language of reproof is directed to the chief daughters of Sion, and where he says, ‘Instead of an ornament of a golden head, thou wilt have baldness on account of thy works,’ he employs the same term to denote ornament as to denote the world, viz., κόσμος. For the plan of the world is said to be contained in the clothing of the high priest, as we find in the Wisdom of Solomon, where he says, ‘For in the long garment was the whole world.’” This shows that even Origen struggled with defining the Biblical concept of world, and we cited that same passage of Wisdom when we explained that concept as we addressed John 3:16. Origen seems to have accepted the passage in Wisdom even if he did not realize its implications.
Later, in Book 4 of de Principiis, Origen admitted that the canonical status of Wisdom was questioned by others where he wrote "And if this word ‘matter’ should happen to occur in any other passage, it will never be found, in my opinion, to have the signification of which we are now in quest, unless perhaps in the book which is called the Wisdom of Solomon, a work which is certainly not esteemed authoritative by all. In that book, however, we find written as follows: ‘For thy almighty hand, that made the world out of shapeless matter, wanted not means to send among them a multitude of bears and fierce lions.’” He was citing Wisdom 11:17, and even though he is hesitant, all of his citations together showed that he at least accepted the work as being authoritative. This statement by Origen also proves something else which we have often contended at Christogenea, that the early so-called Church Fathers sought ways to define words which would fit their doctrines, “the signification of which we are now in quest”, rather than understanding them by what they meant when they were originally spoken, in the historical context of Scripture.
But aside from Origen’s skepticism, the critics of the Wisdom of Solomon find other reasons to reject its claimed authorship, and one of those is the supposed knowledge of Greek philosophy, rhetoric and language of its writer, or perhaps, its translator, although while they deny it had a translator they do admit the occurrence of Hebraisms in the text. Making these assessments, they find reasons to reject the notion that the work may have been translated from Hebrew into Greek by someone who was actually learned in those things. They also do not even acknowledge that philosophical knowledge, devices of rhetoric and eloquence of prose existed among the Hebrews long before Greeks even began writing. There seems to be among certain academics a steadfast refusal to see that Greek philosophy and rhetoric did not originate exclusively with Greeks, but was actually preceded by that of the Hebrews even if it is not always fully developed in the Old Testament.
Philologists, grammarians and other students of ancient literature love to identify, or learn to identify, certain grammatical or rhetorical phenomena, or constructs, many of which are far beyond the rudimentary elements of grammar, and then argue over whether or not particular passages in ancient literature have the qualities necessary to be considered as examples of a particular construct. Among these are the sorites (pronounced sort of like soar-eye-tees) and the pseudosorites. The word sorites comes to us through Latin from the Greek word σωρός, or heap. The pseudosorites is much more obscure, and in my opinion, often ambiguous, while the sorites is much more recognizable. One professor in Biblical studies, Richard Patterson, wrote a paper attempting to more clearly identify and define the construct titled An Overlooked Scriptural Paradox: The Pseudosorites. I was not entirely impressed with the endeavor.
One source, wiktionary.org, defines sorites as “A series of propositions whereby each conclusion is taken as the subject of the next.” That is perhaps an oversimplification, and Merriam-Webster defines it more technically, as “an argument consisting of propositions so arranged that the predicate of any one forms the subject of the next and the conclusion unites the subject of the first proposition with the predicate of the last”. A predicate is “part of a sentence or clause containing a verb and stating something about the subject” [i.e. the ball is red].
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges states in a footnote where it presents chapter 6 of the Wisdom of Solomon that “The nearest approach to Sorites in the Bible seems to be Hos. ii. 21-23 ; Rom. iv. 3-5, x. 13-15 ; 2 Pet. i. 5-7” Joel chapter 1, verses 3 and 4, are also referenced as examples of the sorites [i.e. Directions in Biblical Hebrew Poetry by Elaine R. Folli]. Here we see a reference to Hosea, where one example of a sorites is found. Additionally, Patterson had stated in his article in reference to the pseudosorites that in “the unique case of Hosea… this rhetorical device is especially pronounced.”
The Greek philosopher Aristotle made frequent use of the sorites, and while the construct may be used frequently in the writings of Aristotle, it is apparent that he certainly did not invent the device. Not only is there a similar construct found, as identified by Biblical scholars, in Hosea chapter 2, but also in Homer’s Iliad, Book 2, just after line 100 where a description of the secession of Agamemnon to his position of lordship over Argos and the isles of the sea is described using a sorites.
There is a significant form of the sorites in Wisdom chapter 6 where we read: “17 For the very true beginning of her is the desire of discipline; and the care of discipline is love; 18 And love is the keeping of her laws; and the giving heed unto her laws is the assurance of incorruption; 19 And incorruption maketh us near unto God: 20 Therefore the desire of wisdom bringeth to a kingdom.”
But because the sorites is associated with Aristotle and Greek philosophy, and since it became more developed in that literature than those examples which are found in the Scriptures that are universally accepted as being canonical, then where it appears in the Wisdom of Solomon it is claimed that the device was taken from Greek philosophical writings. So that is one premise upon which it is argued that the Wisdom of Solomon must have had a late authorship. But we would contend that neither Hosea nor Homer had invented the sorites.
Since there are clear examples of the sorites in canonical Scripture predating even Homer, regardless of how crude one thinks they may appear compared to the more complex, sophisticated rhetoric of the philosophers, and since the sorites predates Aristotle even in Greek writings, the argument against the ancient authorship of the Wisdom of Solomon on that basis is also vain.
Aside from what is generally perceived as Greek grammar and rhetoric, further arguments against early authorship of the Wisdom of Solomon are premised on its similarities with other Hebrew Scriptures that were translated into Greek, but they will also be exposed as nonsense. Dating the Wisdom of Solomon, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, which was published in 1909, had stated the following in its Introduction:
As will be seen below, the Solomonic date for the Book of Wisdom is impossible. Some writers have placed it as early as the end of the 3rd cent. B.C., others as late as the middle of the 1st cent. A.D.
Wisdom could not have been written before the beginning of the 2nd cent. B.C. This is proved by its relation to the Greek version of the prophets and hagiographa [a name for other “holy writings”, such as the Psalms and Job]. Undoubted use is made of the Greek version of Isaiah (ii. 12, cp. Is. iii. 10; xv. 10, cp. Is. xliv. 20), the author quoting from the Greek where it differs from the Hebrew; and of Job (xii. 12, cp. Job ix. 12, 19): accordingly Wisdom was written after these books were translated.
Now we shall make comparisons of the Wisdom of Solomon with Isaiah and Job, by which the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges argued that it must have been written some time later than the Septuagint versions of these other books were translated. When we do this, we shall see that their arguments are specious: they have no merit whatsoever. So here we shall reproduce these passages, and include Brenton’s English translation although we do not always agree with his translations.
So for the first example cited by the Cambridge Bible claims that Wisdom 2:12 quotes from Isaiah chapter 3:
Wisdom 2:12 Therefore let us lie in wait for the righteous; because he is not for our turn, and he is clean contrary to our doings: he upbraideth us with our offending the law, and objecteth to our infamy the transgressings of our education.
Wisdom 2:12 ἐνεδρεύσωμεν τὸν δίκαιον ὅτι δύσχρηστος ἡμῖν ἐστιν καὶ ἐναντιοῦται τοῖς ἔργοις ἡμῶν καὶ ὀνειδίζει ἡμῖν ἁμαρτήματα νόμου καὶ ἐπιφημίζει ἡμῖν ἁμαρτήματα παιδείας ἡμῶν
Where Brenton has “because he is not for our turn” he followed the King James Apocrypha. In my opinion, as I have read much of the Greek but have not quite studied it fully, Brenton had done this frequently in his translations of the apocryphal books of the Septuagint, where he followed the King James Version rather than translating the Greek. Here Brenton would have done better to write “for he is burdensome to us”, as he translated the same phrase much better in Isaiah 3:10:
Isaiah 3:10 Woe to their soul, for they have devised an evil counsel against themselves, saying against themselves, Let us bind the just, for he is burdensome to us: therefore shall they eat the fruits of their works.
Isaiah 3:10 εἰπόντες δήσωμεν τὸν δίκαιον ὅτι δύσχρηστος ἡμῖν ἐστιν τοίνυν τὰ γενήματα τῶν ἔργων αὐτῶν φάγονται
So the editors of the Cambridge Bible claimed that this six word phrase, τὸν δίκαιον ὅτι δύσχρηστος ἡμῖν ἐστιν which is found in the Wisdom of Solomon is a quote from Isaiah, and they use that as a proof of their claim that Wisdom was not written until after the Septuagint was translated. So the author of Wisdom needed to say “for he is burdensome to us” in Greek, and to do so he found it necessary to consult a translation of Isaiah in order to construct an ordinary Greek phrase? And at the same time they claim he was knowledgeable in Greek language and philosophy! Should we believe anything so ridiculous? And this passes for university level scholarship in 1909? We should not wonder why the world is crumbling under our feet in 2020, as this argument is repeated blindly by many academics today!
This was their first of a small handful of examples, and if they had anything better they would have placed that first. If the author of Wisdom had to consult the Greek copies of Isaiah to construct a simple phrase, there would very likely have been hundreds of passages in Wisdom borrowed from Isaiah or other Greek books of Scripture, and not an entire body of original writing.
The other evidence which they offer is even more precarious. But if a phrase of just six words qualifies as a quote, as they assert, when it really states nothing of doctrinal or prophetic significance, then all the literature of classical antiquity can be called into question in that same manner. If I can find one short and insignificant phrase from Genesis constructed similarly to a phrase found in the writings of Plato or Homer, then I can claim that Plato or Homer invented Moses and wrote the Torah.
Now to move on to the next example cited by the Cambridge Bible, where it is claimed that Wisdom 15:10 quotes from Isaiah chapter 44:
Wisdom 15:10 His heart is ashes, his hope is more vile than earth, and his life of less value than clay:
Wisdom 15:10 σποδὸς ἡ καρδία αὐτοῦ καὶ γῆς εὐτελεστέρα ἡ ἐλπὶς αὐτοῦ πηλοῦ τε ἀτιμότερος ὁ βίος αὐτοῦ
Isaiah 44:20 Know thou that their heart is ashes, and they err, and no one is able to deliver his soul: see, ye will not say, There is a lie in my right hand.
Isaiah 44:20 γνῶτε ὅτι σποδὸς ἡ καρδία αὐτῶν καὶ πλανῶνται καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται ἐξελέσθαι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἴδετε οὐκ ἐρεῖτε ὅτι ψεῦδος ἐν τῇ δεξιᾷ μου
Here there is a mere three word similarity in the phrase σποδὸς ἡ καρδία, which is literally “ashes [is] the heart”. Forms of the Greek verb εἰμί, which means to be, are often implied but the word must be added in English. The phrase in Isaiah differs from the Masoretic Hebrew as well as the common translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which seem to properly say “he tends ashes”, however that alone does not prove that the three words in Wisdom 15:10 are a quote of the divergent Septuagint reading of Isaiah 44:20. If at least most of Isaiah 44:20 were found in Wisdom, the argument may have merit, but merely because Solomon had used a similar phrase does not make it a quote. The context in which the phrase is used in Wisdom differs significantly from the context in which it appears in Isaiah, and it cannot possibly be perceived to be a quote. Perhaps the translators of Isaiah liked the phrase as it appears in Wisdom, so they copied it from Solomon! Of course that is also absurd, but it is just as logical as their argument is that Solomon quoted Isaiah.
Now for their final example, where they claim that Wisdom 12:12 quotes from two different passages of Job chapter 9:
Wisdom 12:12 For who shall say, What hast thou done? or who shall withstand thy judgment? or who shall accuse thee for the nations that perish, whom thou made? or who shall come to stand against thee, to be revenged for the unrighteous men?
Wisdom 12:12 τίς γὰρ ἐρεῖ τί ἐποίησας ἢ τίς ἀντιστήσεται τῷ κρίματί σου τίς δὲ ἐγκαλέσει σοι κατὰ ἐθνῶν ἀπολωλότων ἃ σὺ ἐποίησας ἢ τίς εἰς κατάστασίν σοι ἐλεύσεται ἔκδικος κατὰ ἀδίκων ἀνθρώπων
Job 9:12 If he would take away, who shall turn him back? or who shall say to him, What hast thou done?
Job 9:12 ἐὰν ἀπαλλάξῃ τίς ἀποστρέψει ἢ τίς ἐρεῖ αὐτῷ τί ἐποίησας
Job 9:19 For indeed he is strong in power: who then shall resist his judgment?
Job 9:19 ὅτι μὲν γὰρ ἰσχύι κρατεῖ τίς οὖν κρίματι αὐτοῦ ἀντιστήσεται
Here two phrases from Wisdom 12:12 which use common Greek words are similar to phrases in two different verses of Job chapter 9. But since the subject material is different, and since Job is from a slightly earlier period than Solomon, neither does this prove that the Greek text of Wisdom was written after Job was translated into Greek, and these phrases are not necessarily quotes from Job. The portion of this passage from Wisdom which is similar to a portion of Job 9:12 has four words in common but contains two other words which are not common.
In fact, in the Septuagint version of 2 Samuel 16:10 we see in English at the end of the verse the sentence “Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?” The Greek reads τίς ἐρεῖ ὡς τί ἐποίησας οὕτως and differs from the phrase in Job 19:12 in the same degree than the phrase in Wisdom 12:12. So does that prove that Job had copied from Samuel, or Samuel from Job? There are many other similar phrases in Scripture, and to accuse the author of Wisdom of copying from Job in this instance is, once again, plainly ridiculous.
Even worse, the phrase in Wisdom 12:12 which is similar to a portion of Job 9:19 consists of only two words, but in Job the two words are not even together in sequence, being separated by three others. The phrase in question, τίς ἀντιστήσεται or “who shall withstand” appears twice in Wisdom and on six other occasions in the Septuagint, including the passage in Job. So it is patently ridiculous to even attempt to consider this to be a quote.
Where we would assert that Clement of Rome had quoted from the Wisdom of Solomon, there are eleven Greek words in question, and the differences in Clement’s version are relatively minor compared to the differences in these passages between Wisdom and Job. Furthermore, the text of 1 Clement 3:4 shares the phrase “death entered the world” with Wisdom 2:24, and in the same exact context, speaking in relation to envy and lust. But if Wisdom was written by a first century Alexandrian Jew, as some of these critics claim, perhaps the Jew copied from Clement! Either proposition is as absurd as the other.
Yet if there were better examples from the Scriptures, that can prove that the author of Wisdom was merely making quotations from Scriptures which had already been translated into Greek, I am certain that these Cambridge University scholars could have found them. This charge is often repeated, but this is the best substantiation, and it is no substantiation at all. Therefore the entire charge is exposed as being false, and every academic who has repeated it is guilty for it. And what could have been the motive for making it? If we had to guess, we may conclude that it was all done “for fear of the Jews.”
There are many more, but in our opinion, less significant arguments against an ancient provenance for the Wisdom of Solomon, but here I hope to have presented, discussed, and in some degree even dismantled the more notable criticisms of the work. As we proceed with our commentary on the actual text of the book, if there is anything else of significance which we have failed to address here, we will take the opportunity to address it as the points are raised. For my part, as I already explained, an examination of the work itself is the best means by which to judge its authenticity.
Before I begin, I must add a disclaimer, as earlier here I had mentioned the list of citations and allusions found in the Nestle-Aland edition of the New Testament. The list basically serves as a cross-reference of New Testament passages where they seem to quote or cite books of the Old Testament and other works. But it is hardly a complete reference. For chapter 1 of Wisdom it begins at verse 6. Yet as soon as I read the first verse of Wisdom in preparation for this presentation, I immediately thought of at least three references which relate to the second phrase of the verse. In all of my other commentaries, I have usually ignored all of the cross-references found in Bibles or reference books, but only mentioned this one here because it is an academic example of how the New Testament writers may have esteemed the Wisdom of Solomon. I am certain that once we review this work, it will become manifest that it is much more deeply connected to our Christian Scriptures than even the editors of the Nestle-Aland text could have imagined.
So now we shall commence with the opening verse of the Wisdom of Solomon, and in light of everything we have said here, we shall continue to consider Solomon to be the author of this work:
Wisdom 1:1 Love righteousness, ye that be judges of the earth: think of the Lord with a good (heart,) and in simplicity of heart seek him.
Love righteousness: There are many appeals for the children of Israel to love or to follow after righteousness in Scripture, but none are worded so succinctly. The Greek is but two words: ἀγαπήσατε δικαιοσύνην. In Isaiah 61:8 we read “For I am the Lord who love righteousness”, where forms of the same two words also appear, but once again, I find it doubtful that Wisdom was quoting Isaiah, as its detractors had claimed. Later in this chapter, Solomon explains that righteousness is that which comes from God, and later in his book he connects that concept to Wisdom, where speaking of Wisdom in chapter 8 he says “7 And if a man love righteousness her labours are virtues: for she teacheth temperance and prudence, justice and fortitude: which are such things, as men can have nothing more profitable in their life.”
Ye that be judges of the earth: Solomon is expressing a concept which was later expressed in the Psalms, in a Psalm of Asaph. Apparently, from all of the other Psalms attributed to him, Asaph was a prophet of the captivity, writing some time after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. To him the 82nd Psalm is attributed, where we read, from the Septuagint: “1 A Psalm for [or by] Asaph. God stands in the assembly of gods; and in the midst of them will judge gods. 2 How long will ye judge unrighteously, and accept the persons of sinners? Pause. 3 Judge the orphan and poor: do justice to the low and needy. 4 Rescue the needy, and deliver the poor out of the hand of the sinner. 5 They know not, nor understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth shall be shaken. 6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you children of the Most High.”
This is a Messianic prophecy which was fulfilled in Christ, as He demonstrated to His people and disciples that they should not accept the sinners, those who had refused to repent and had denied Him. Today Christians should continue to reject sinners, and especially Jews and all others who continue to deny Him.
These words are poorly understood by denominational Christians. For the children of Israel, who are the assembly of Yahweh, there is only one God and that is Yahweh. However if they are His children, He calls them gods, as Yahshua Christ had said, as it is recorded in John chapter 10: “34… Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? 35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken…” Saying that, Christ was citing the 82nd Psalm. Of course, the Psalms themselves also inform us as to whom it was that the word of God came, and that also helps to establish the veracity of our assertions. Thus we read in the 147th Psalm: “19 He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. 20 He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.”
As we had cited earlier, Daniel Harrington had spoken of this address which opens the Wisdom of Solomon and said “its implied audience is the rulers of the earth.” This reflects a complete lack of true Biblical understanding on the part of denominational writers, since in the context of Scripture such uses refer to the children of Israel, as we have just seen in the 82nd Psalm. But Harrington is correct to imply that for the ancient Hebrews, the functions of god, judge and ruler all converge and therefore where the 82nd Psalm has a word which can mean either gods or judges, it is expected that they be judges of the earth in the verse which follows after their having been called gods.
In all of these passages, the word translated as gods in plural is θεός, a common Greek word for god. But in Hebrew it is אלהים, or elohim. While the plural form is frequently used as a plural of majesty to refer to God Himself, it is also used in other contexts to refer to gods, or to judges, as it is even sometimes translated in the King James Version, as the term bears either meaning. In Exodus chapter 19 it was told the children of Israel that they would be a kingdom of priests, so they were destined to judge the earth. In Exodus chapters 21 and 22 the Hebrew word elohim is used in contexts where it refers to men who sit as judges, and in the King James Version it is translated in that manner.
Now under the New Testament the children of Israel have not been relieved of their obligation to serve as judges of the earth. In 1 Corinthians chapter 6 we read in the words of Paul of Tarsus: “1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? 2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels [ostensibly, fallen angels]? how much more things that pertain to this life? ” Paul, informing his readers that this was their ultimate destiny, was appalled because they had failed in their obligation to judge rightly among one another, rather than submitting to the ungodly worldly courts.
We read a similar admonition to what Solomon has made here in the closing verses of the 2nd Psalm, which is essentially also made to the children of Israel, not only to those of David’s own time, but since this is a Messianic prophesy, also to those who would ultimately accept Christ their Messiah, at the same time warning them that they must accept Him as their Messiah: “10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
Think of the Lord with a good (heart,) and in simplicity of heart seek him: Brenton put the word heart in parentheses because he added it to the text, just as the King James Version had done. We would translate the Greek to say “think of the Lord with goodness and seek Him with simplicity [which is singleness or sincerity] of heart.”
Yahweh willing, we will resume our commentary on the Wisdom of Solomon at this very point in the near future.