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On the Wisdom of Solomon, Part 2, the Introduction of Wisdom
In the opening presentation of our commentary on the Wisdom of Solomon, we provided and refuted many of the popular academic opinions of the work and the frequently-repeated criticisms concerning the nature of its text, by which the provenance and veracity of the work have long been challenged. So although we have already provided commentary on the opening verse of the text, which we also hope to continue here, we realized that some of the newer material discussing the Wisdom of Solomon had further-developed criticisms which must also be addressed. So before continuing, we shall do that here.
In the introduction to its own presentation of the Wisdom of Solomon, the New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) claims under the subtitle “Character of the Greek” that “There is widespread recognition that the [Wisdom of Solomon] was composed in Greek… The book is an example of a protreptic work (προτρεπτικὸς λόγος), an exhortation to adopt a particular philosophy, and it deploys literary genres familiar from Hellenistic rhetorical texts including the diatribe… the ‘problem’ genre… and the comparison (σύγκρισις…) Correspondingly… the book is written in a good Greek style and shows none of the characteristics of translation Greek.”
Yet it is commonly exhibited that the Book of Proverbs is also “an example of a protreptic work… an exhortation to adopt a particular philosophy”, and further, that the literary diatribe is a common feature of the writings of the Hebrew prophets. Some examples of Classical Greek literature have been recognized as having the attributes of the genre more recently identified as the Problem Play, such as the 5th century work of Euripides titled Alcestis, as are other early works, as well as the Book of Job which is found in the Bible, which we can certainly esteem to date to as early as the 12th or 13th centuries BC, however it definitely predates the Classical Greek period. Lastly, the σύγκρισις, or synkrisis, is a literary form of comparison, and it has been identified as a feature of both the gospel of John and some of the epistles of Paul, especially in the epistle to the Hebrews. But forms of the so-called σύγκρισις are also found in the Hebrew Old Testament. So none of these features of grammar are exclusive to Hellenistic writings, and these charges against the Wisdom of Solomon are meaningless because these things do not prove it to be a product of the Hellenistic period.
In a book which concerns the gospel of John written by one Dennis Sylva, the author, discussing the σύγκρισις, states: “Plutarch made extensive use of this literary device in his parallel Lives. The use of it far antedates him, though, appearing already in Homer and in some Greek tragedies. Characteristically synkrisis often takes place in ancient Jewish [or Hebrew] writings in less direct narrative analogies that require the reader to discern from literary suggestions the connections, similarities, and differences and to draw inferences from them.” The author goes on to elaborate, and his statements are well-cited. We will not suffer the elaborations here, but our purpose is only to show that the σύγκρισις certainly does appear in the Old Testament, although it is not always found in forms as developed as those which are found in the Wisdom of Solomon or the Greek philosophers, and that is very much the same as what we had concluded in our discussion of the sorites as it is found in Wisdom and elsewhere in the Old Testament.
While for at least most of their criticisms of the Wisdom of Solomon the editors of NETS had cited a 1970 book by J. M. Reese, Hellenistic Influence on the Book of Wisdom and its Consequences as their source, neither is that work unchallenged by other mainstream academics. In a footnote on page 18 of the book The Exodus Story in the Wisdom of Solomon: A Study in Biblical Interpretation we find the following: “J. M. Reese argues that the genre of synkrisis ‘is not found in the Hebrew Bible but existed in Attic orators and hellenistic historians’… ” The author then cites two of Reese’s books where he evidently made such statements, The Book of Wisdom, Song of Songs and Hellenistic Influence. Then he responds by stating: “However, examples of synkrisis can be found in the Hebrew Bible: Isa. 56.13; Deut. 30.15-20; Psalm 1; Proverbs 10-15….” The footnote supplies citations for these examples, one from a book on paraenetic literature by J. G. Gammie, and then it concludes that “According to Gammie, synkrisis is a sub-genre of Paraenetic Literature rather than a separate form or genre….” Paraenetic, as defined by the Collins English Dictionary, is simply “of or relating to moral and ethical instruction or paraenesis”, something which is commonly found in Scripture. So it should be no wonder that it is a feature found in the writings attributed to Solomon, both Proverbs and Wisdom.
In this aspect of its criticism of Wisdom, NETS concludes that “Correspondingly, as Reese in his important study of the literary style and vocabulary of [Wisdom] has shown, ‘the book is written in a good Greek style and shows none of the characteristics of translation Greek.’” But now we hope to have demonstrated that what Reese has supposedly shown is not necessarily true. However since NETS has further criticisms of the Wisdom of Solomon, and most of them are also based on a blind acceptance of errant conclusions by J. M. Reese, then we must have further criticism of NETS.
These criticisms next include an admission by NETS on the use of the Hebraic form of parallelism in Wisdom. The frequency of parallelism in Wisdom cannot be lightly overlooked, and NETS only mentioned it in a short note, mostly because J. M. Reese seems to have been largely ignorant of the phenomenon. This is discussed in a paper titled The Poetry of the Wisdom of Solomon Reconsidered by Eric D. Reymond. In this paper, although Reymond seems to take for granted all of the claims that Greek elements of grammar identified in Wisdom are originally or exclusively Greek, he says in an abstract that: “… Wisdom's form is a good deal more complex than these synopses suggest. Parallelism is realized in a number of ways in the Hebrew scriptures and its manifestation in this apocryphal book is a unique combination of different patterns. The present study aims at a detailed description of Wisdom's structure through a close study of the parallelism and verse length of the book's first 15 verses, and through a comparison of these patterns with those in Hebrew poems.”
Of course, when we present our own commentary on Wisdom we shall focus on the meaning, and not the structure, since our purposes are spiritual edification and enlightenment and not mere literary inquiry. But the parallelisms of Wisdom are not unique to Wisdom, as many of them also appear in other parts of the Septuagint. Reymond provided a list of semantic parallels from Wisdom chapter 1, which are formed from word pairs of synonyms and antonyms and are quite prominent in the Hebrew language of certain other Scriptures, and he states: Of these 27 semantic parallels, 13 appear parallel elsewhere in the Septuagint. Of these 13 examples, four are set in parallel only once outside this Wisdom poem. The author demonstrates how this feature of Wisdom is similarly found in Job, Proverbs and Psalms. We would assert that all of these books were written in the same period, Job being only a couple of centuries earlier than the others. Much of Job was also written in a poetic format, rather than the plain prose of its translations.
After a brief reference to parallelisms in Wisdom, NETS proceeds to make claims of its Hellenistic origin based on its use of the hyperbaton, both “the separation of the article from its substantive and hyperbaton not linked to an article.” This argument is hard to address, refute or validate without a thorough examination of all of the Greek Septuagint texts, and without knowing which specific texts had different translators who were consistent in their own methods. In any event, the correct or incorrect use of hyperbaton in the Wisdom of Solomon is immaterial, as it can only really prove that a particular translator or scribe had a better or worse education in Greek than all or many of the other scribes of the Septuagint. It does not prove original authorship. The quality of the Greek grammar of Paul’s epistles also varied, evidently because he had a different amanuensis at different times.
But as late as the 2nd century AD, as it is evident in the work of the grammarian Apollonius Dyscolus, the Greek word order in grammar was still being disputed [cf. Ancient Grammar in Context by Ineke Sluiter]. In the Septuagint, hyperbaton seems to occur irregularly and often for different reasons, and it is debated concerning a section of Joshua chapter 10 as well as certain of the Psalms. Even the epistles of Paul are criticized for presumably incorrect instances of hyperbaton.
The NETS criticism of Wisdom then makes a statement that “the rhetorical character of the Greek is likewise evident in the frequent occurrence of different types of wordplay, such as assonance and alliteration.” But these features are also characteristic of the Psalms and other poetic Hebrew Scriptures, which are clearly described in the article on Hebrew Poetry found at Encyclopedia.com. Next, it states “The author also employs various figures of speech that are typical of Hellenistic Greek, of which the sorites of 6.17-20 is merely the best known example.” However we have also shown that the sorites is indeed found in the Old Testament Scriptures, and therefore that argument also fails.
Turning to a discussion of the vocabulary of Wisdom, the editors of NETS begin with a conclusion, that “The vocabulary of the [Wisdom of Solomon] is quite distinctive within the context of the Septuagint and reflects the Hellenistic milieu in which the book was composed”, once again citing J. M. Reese. Then taking for granted that Wisdom was not written until the Hellenistic period, they set out to prove that conclusion by making examples from its vocabulary. Where they do that in their introduction, and because we do not have a full list from them, we can only assume that they chose the best examples they could find in order to support their conclusion. When in the opening presentation of our commentary on Wisdom we addressed the false claims that the presumed author of Wisdom was quoting from Isaiah and Job, we were forced to make that same assumption.
In fact, in the Wikipedia article for the Book of Job, we read “The language of Job stands out for its conservative spelling and for its exceptionally large number of words and forms not found elsewhere in the Bible.” Then, in the introduction for the NETS translation of Job from the Septuagint: “The Old Greek Iob is a work of good literary quality. Absent are the usual "Hebraisms" that are the tell-tale signs of translation Greek in much of the Septuagint corpus.” Yet in spite of the abundant Hebraisms in the Wisdom of Solomon, and because of its good literary quality, they deny that Wisdom could have been translated from Hebrew. That is the exact opposite conclusion made from the same standards for two different books.
Then while they have noted the many words in Wisdom which are unique within the Septuagint, in their introduction to the Greek translations of the Song of Songs they state “The translator occasionally brings a clever mastery of Greek vocabulary or even a flash of brilliance to the task… Very frequently the Hebrew uses words that are unique or rare, and some of these are unfamiliar to our translator. He guesses their meanings from context, from etymology, and from their use in other books. Sometimes he apparently coins new words, such as καλλιόω and καρδιόω (in 4.9-10) and εκλοχίζω (in 5.10). Sometimes he makes a Greek word serve as it was never meant to serve. When all else fails, he transliterates.”
So what is seen described positively or negatively as a feature of the Greek of Job or the Song of Songs is never used to criticize the provenance of those books, but is inverted to become proofs of a Hellenistic origin of the Wisdom of Solomon. Clearly the editors of NETS apply their own standards quite hypocritically from book to book.
Now, to begin their arguments supporting the presumed Hellenistic vocabulary of the Wisdom of Solomon, the editors of NETS state: “On the one hand, the author uses a number of words familiar from the Septuagint but with their normal meaning in Greek. For example, the word ἀνάγκη occurs in 17.17 and 19.4 in the sense familiar from Greek of ‘necessity, fate,’ but when it is used in the Septuagint in books translated from Hebrew, it always has the meaning ‘distress, anguish’ (e.g., Ps 106.6).”
We would not include fate in a definition of ἀνάγκη. The Greek word ἀνάγκη appears in 42 verses in the Septuagint and 17 in the New Testament. According to Liddell & Scott, ἀνάγκη bears either meaning, “force, constraint, necessity” or “bodily pain, anguish, distress”, and in that second sense it was used at least as early as the 5th century BC, by the tragic poet Sophocles. So bearing either sense, this comment in NETS is clearly biased to consider the later sense to be outside of the “normal” meaning. In Tobit 3:6 and 4:9, the word is used in both senses. In 2 Maccabees 6:7 and 15:2 it is translated as constraint or compulsion, in its primary sense, as it is in 3 Maccabees 4:9 and 5:6 and also often in 4 Maccabees. Of the older Scriptures, it is often translated into English as distress, but there are several places where it may have been translated as necessity. In the Christogenea New Testament, it is almost always translated as need or necessity, or some synonym, such as requirement, difficulty or constraint, force, forcibly and even violence, all according to its primary sense, but as distress or anguish in just a couple of verses, in its secondary sense. Although it sometimes differs in its opinion, the King James Version also translated the word in both senses, depending on the context in which it appears. So this argument is based on opinions of secondary translators, and not necessarily on the intentions of the original translators.
Now NETS continues and says: “On the other hand, the author uses 335 words (out of a total vocabulary of 1734 different words) that do not occur in any other canonical book of the Septuagint, and Reese has shown that many of these are characteristic of Hellenistic religious, philosophical, ethical, and psychological vocabulary.” Here we could not check every other Septuagint book, as it is difficult to determine if such statistics have even been compiled for all of them. But the vocabulary of Isaiah taken from Rahlf’s edition of the Septuagint shows that there are 162 words in Isaiah that do not appear anywhere else in the Septuagint, and 143 of those only appear once in Isaiah. Nearly as many more words in Isaiah appear in only one or two other books. That may be expected, since some of the text of Isaiah is found in 2 Kings, and since there were three other contemporary prophets writing on the same subjects: Hosea, Amos and Micah. So we would expect Isaiah to have a lower frequency of unique words, because at least most of the subject matter is more common in other Scriptures.
There is a word for idol, ἄγαλμα, which appears only twice in Isaiah and once in 2 Maccabees, and the verb ἐπιλάμπω, to shine upon, which appears only in Isaiah and the Wisdom of Solomon, but even if there are two hundred similar circumstances, that does not prove that Isaiah was written in the Hellenistic period. Likewise, in Style and Context of Old Greek Job by Marieke Dhont we read that there are many words in the Book of Job which are rare or unique to the rest of the Septuagint, many words and phrases which are common in Classical Greek, and some words, such as δωροδέκτης (Job 15:34), which do not appear anywhere else in the Septugint or in Greek. The editors of NETS did not include this information in their introduction to Job. Therefore we esteem this argument regarding the Wisdom of Solomon to be without merit.
Then the editors of NETS add the remark that “the use of Hellenistic religious vocabulary in the [Wisdom of Solomon] is pervasive and includes such words as ἀπαύγασμα (‘reflection,’ 7.26) and πάρεδρος (‘sitting by,’ hence ‘throne-partner,’ 9.4, cf. 6.14), both used to describe wisdom, or ἀνώνυμα (‘nameless,’ 14.27) and ἄψυχος (‘lifeless,’ 13.17, 14.29) both used in the description of idols, or στεφανηφοροῦσα (‘wearing a crown,’ 4.2), used of the virtuous but childless believer.”
Here we are not going to discuss the passages from which the NETS editors drew their examples, but we will discuss the words themselves. If the words are not exclusive to Hellenistic religion, philosophy, ethics or psychology, then this argument also fails. So first, we will discuss each of this first group of words briefly, to see if they are truly “characteristic of Hellenistic religious vocabulary”:
First, ἀπαύγασμα is not a reflection, but “radiance, effulgence, of light beaming from a luminous body”, according to Liddell & Scott, and that is the sense in which Paul of Tarsus had also used the word. The root word is αυγή, which is “the light of the sun”. It is certainly not a word belonging to some “Hellenistic religious vocabulary” because outside of the Wisdom of Solomon, it is not found in any literature until the apostolic age. It appears only in Wisdom of Solomon 7:26 and in Hebrews 1:3, and after that only in Philo and certain other late religious writings. So the editors of NETS can imagine that the Hellenistic-era translator of the Song of Songs could coin several unique words and they are not labeled as “Hellenistic religious” words, but why is there a different standard for Wisdom, where this and at least one other word they mention appear in Wisdom for the very first time in literature?
Next, πάρεδρος (6:14, 9:4) was a common Greek word appearing in the writings of Euripides, Pindar, Herodotus and many other writers from the Classical period, long before the Hellenistic period. So neither is this word peculiar to any so-called “Hellenistic religious vocabulary”.
The word ἀνώνυμα , or in the masculine gender, ἀνώνυμος, may mean “without name… anonymous”, or in another sense “not to be named, unspeakable” or even in a third sense, “difficult to name”. It appears in Greek literature in Homer’s Odyssey, Herodotus, the poet Euripides and many other writers. So neither is this word peculiar to any so-called “Hellenistic religious vocabulary”.
Next, ἄψυχος, which is “lifeless, inanimate” or sometimes “spiritless, faint-hearted”, was also a common word in Classical antiquity, and it is found in the writings of the 6th century BC Lyric poet Simonides of Ceos, and then in the Tragic Poets Euripides and Aeschylus, and later in Plato. That fact disqualifies it as a “Hellenistic religious” word.
Finally, there is στεφανηφοροῦσα (a participle), or properly, στεφανηφορέω, which is simply “to wear a wreath”. The verb is from the adjective στεφανήφορος, “wearing a crown”, and both words were used throughout the Classical period, from the times of Pindar and Euripides, to describe either victors at the the games or rulers in diverse places. Once again, this word is not a part of any merely “Hellenistic religious vocabulary”. In similar contexts Paul of Tarsus also used the word στέφανος, or crown, in several places in his epistles. It is also the form of the proper name of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
Proceeding with the introduction to NETS, the editors next claim that Wisdom also uses a “Hellenistic philosophical vocabulary” of words “which are not used in a metaphorical sense in the Septuagint.” As examples, they offer four words which they place in this category, once again providing their own one-word definitions: ἀκώλυτος (“unhindered”), εὐεργετικός (“beneficient”), νύμφη (“bride”) and ἐραστής (“enamored”). But examining where these four words appear in the Wisdom of Solomon, and where they appear in other Greek writings, neither can it be claimed that any of these words are part of any presumed “Hellenistic philosophical vocabulary”. As we shall see, these are also false claims.
According to Liddell & Scott the Greek adjective ἀκώλυτος was used as an adverb, ἀκώλυτως, by Plato, a writer of the Classical period, and therefore it is not an exclusively Hellenistic term. The adverb, ἀκωλύτως, was later used by Luke in Acts 28:31, and also in Strabo’s Geography. It is a negated form of the verb κωλύω, which is to hinder or prevent, and which appears in Greek writing from the time of Herodotus. Simply because it appears first in Aristotle, in the surviving literature, does not mean that it is a product of some specialized “philosophical vocabulary”. Simply because a word first appears in any writer does not mean that the word did not exist earlier, as the simple fact is that comparatively very little earlier Greek writing has even survived to us. For example, both Strabo and Diodorus Siculus list many writers whom they used as sources but whose works are now lost.
The word εὐεργετικός, beneficent, appears along with ἀκώλυτως in Wisdom 7:23. This word was also used by Aristotle, but is later found in the historical writings of Polybius and Diodorus Siculus. But it is merely an adjective form of the noun εὐεργεσία, well-doing, a good deed or kindness, which is extant in Greek writings as early as Homer’s Odyssey and Hesiod’s Theogony. So it is also evident that this word is a Classical Greek word, and not a “Hellenistic philosophical” word.
The word νύμφη is a common Greek term referring to a bride or married woman, and is also very ancient. In Wisdom 8:2 Solomon professes that he sought to make wisdom his spouse, or wife, in the same passage where we see the term ἐραστής. The word νύμφη is used in a metaphorical sense in the Septuagint version of Joel 1:8 where Yahweh, speaking in a metaphorical sense to the nation of Israel which was often elsewhere considered to be His bride, says “8 Lament to me more than a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.” There Brenton translated νύμφη as virgin, but a man’s wife was esteemed to be his virgin in Biblical literature, so long as she remained uncorrupted. The word is used metaphorically once again in Joel 2:18, as the bride mentioned there are the collective children of Israel being asked to gather before their God. In that same manner it is used in Isaiah 49:18 and 61:10. So the editors of NETS have clearly mischaracterized the use of this word in Wisdom, as it is not unique within the Septuagint.
The Greek word ἐραστής, an noun related to the verb ἐραστεύω, more properly describes one who loves, admires or is fond of something, so it is a lover and not, as NETS defines it, “enamored”. According to the 9th edition of Liddell & Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, it appears in Greek literature from the time of Herodotus, and the verb form was used by Aeschylus. So the word is also a classical Greek word and not merely a “Hellenistic philosophical” word. In Wisdom it is used much the same way that it appears in Hosea, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, metaphorically of the lovers of ancient Israel: which were the idols they worshipped and the alien nations with whom they had made covenants. Solomon used it to describe himself, as a lover of wisdom. So the editors of NETS also wrongly stated that the metaphorical use of this word was peculiar to Wisdom.
Now, in the penultimate argument which we have from NETS as it is also near the end of their supposed proofs for a Hellenistic origin of Wisdom, the editors claim that: “Examples of Hellenistic ethical vocabulary are to be found in the terms used for virtues and vices in [Wisdom], such as ἀνεξικακία (‘longsuffering, forbearance,’ 2.19) or ἐπιορκία (‘perjury’ 14.25, one of a whole list of vices in 14.25-26), and examples of psychological vocabulary are to be found in the terms used to describe the fear that gripped the lawless Egyptians (17.3-19), such as ἴνδαλμα (‘apparitions,’ 17.3) or δείματα ("terrors," 17.8), or in such terms as ἀπότομος (‘stern, severe,’ 5.20; 6.5; 11.10; 12.9; 18.15).
The first word in this category, ἀνεξικακία is found only in the Wisdom of Solomon and after that in Plutarch and in much later grammatical or historical writing, according to Liddell & Scott. However I would think that to qualify as an example of “Hellenistic ethical vocabulary”, the word would have to appear in Hellenistic ethical writings, which it does not. Neither does NETS credit to the author of Wisdom with having coined this word, as they had done with the words which first appear in Greek in the Song of Songs.
The next word in their examples, ἐπιορκία, is a false oath and appears in the historical writings of Xenophon as well as in his contemporary, Plato. The corresponding adjective, ἐπίορκος, was common and appeared as early as Homer’s Iliad and various works by Hesiod. So this is not merely a word from “Hellenistic ethical vocabulary”, having appeared frequently long before the Hellenistic period began.
The word ἴνδαλμα, in the plural ἰνδάλματα or apparitions, appears in the Septuagint in Jeremiah 27:39, and Jeremiah certainly cannot be accused of having been a Hellenistic psychologist. While the noun form of the word is not found in any surviving ancient Greek writings, that does not mean that it did not exist. The verb form, ἰνδάλλομαι, to appear, seem or resemble, appears in both the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer and in many later writings. So the editors of NETS are not only wrong, but apparently too indolent to even check the veracity of their own sources.
The word δεῖμα, which in the plural is δείματα, is fear or an object of fear, terror. In both senses it appears in Homer’s Iliad and in the poems of Sophocles. It also appears in Aeschylus, Herodotus and many other early writers. Asserting that this word is merely part of some “Hellenistic psychological vocabulary” is also a failure.
These first four words appear only once each in the Wisdom of Solomon. The last example appears several times, which is the word ἀπότομος. It is a compound word defined in Liddell & Scott as “cut off, abrupt, precipitous” where it appears in Herodotus, but “metaph. from one who comes suddenly to the edge of a cliff” where it is found in Sophocles. In a secondary sense it is “metaph. severe, relentless” where it appears in Euripides, and that is the same sense in which it is employed in Wisdom, but like Jeremiah, Euripides was not a Hellenistic psychologist. There is a feminine form, ἀποτομάς, which is “abrupt, sheer”, etc.
Even if most of these words appear nowhere else in the Septuagint, and not even in the New Testament, that does not mean that they are peculiar to Hellenistic writings of any sort, religious, philosophical, ethical, or psychological, since nearly all of them are from the much more ancient Classical period, and were used commonly in prose histories as well as in the poets. Those few examples here that are not found prior to the Wisdom of Solomon do not meet that criteria either, because they were not used again until the apostolic age or later, so until further evidence is found then it is evident that they were first used in the Wisdom of Solomon, and may have been coined by its author or translator for his own intentions. But they certainly cannot be attributed to any presumed Hellenistic philosophy or psychology, or NETS or its sources should have to explain precisely how they were introduced by any particular Hellenistic philosopher or psychologist.
Here it should be manifest that most of the criticisms of the Wisdom of Solomon found in NETS or other discussions of this book are based on lies, or at least on highly dubious premises, and we cannot be compelled to accept any of them. But now the NETS editors conclude their criticisms with a charge that we have already addressed in response to other critics, where they state: “Finally it may be observed that the author quotes from the Septuagint in a number of places (cf. e.g., 2.12 and Esa 3.10; 11.22 and Esa 40.15; 16.22 and Ex 9.24).”
In the opening presentation of this commentary on Wisdom, we have already discredited the claim that the author of Wisdom simply quoted or copied from Isaiah 3:10 and 44:20, as well as from certain passages found in Job chapter 9. Now the NETS editors add to this list the claim that Wisdom 11:22 copies from Isaiah 40:15, and Wisdom 16:22 from Exodus 9:24, so now we shall address these claims by making the same type of comparison which we had made for those verses that we already addressed.
First, to compare Wisdom 11:22 with Isaiah 40:15:
Wisdom 11:22 For the whole world before thee is as a little grain of the balance, yea, as a drop of the morning dew that falleth down upon the earth.
Wisdom 11:22 ὅτι ὡς ῥοπὴ ἐκ πλαστίγγων ὅλος ὁ κόσμος ἐναντίον σου καὶ ὡς ῥανὶς δρόσου ὀρθρινὴ κατελθοῦσα ἐπὶ γῆν
Once again Brenton had followed the King James Version rather than the original Greek here in Wisdom, but did better where he translated the same word in Isaiah. The phrase “little grain” in this passage should have been “turning”, as he translated it in Isaiah. The word ῥοπή in this context is an “inclination downwards, the sinking of the scale”, because it is used along with a word which literally means scale.
Isaiah 40:15 since all the nations are counted as a drop from a bucket, and as the turning of a balance, and shall be counted as spittle?
Isaiah 40:15 εἰ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη ὡς σταγὼν ἀπὸ κάδου καὶ ὡς ῥοπὴ ζυγοῦ ἐλογίσθησαν καὶ ὡς σίελος λογισθήσονται
So even though these two passages express a similar concept, there is really only one significant word in common in the two passages, which is ῥοπή, so does that qualify as a quotation? Moreover, the noun accompanying ῥοπή in Wisdom is πλάστιγξ, which is an actual balance, while the noun accompanying ῥοπή in Isaiah is ζυγός, which is a crossbeam or crossbar and was often, being related to oxen, translated as yoke. Perhaps in Isaiah the phrase ὡς ῥοπὴ ζυγοῦ would be better translated “turning of a yoke” since that is more literal, and does not change the implied meaning. This is not a quotation, but it is an example of two different ways to describe the same concept, which is the state of all nations, or the whole world, in the face of the judgement of God.
The same phrase seen here in Isaiah, ῥοπὴ ζυγοῦ, appears in Proverbs chapter 16 where Solomon had written, as Brenton translated it, “11 The poise [ῥοπή] of the balance is righteousness with the Lord; and his works are righteous measures.” So did the the author of Proverbs quote from Isaiah, or Isaiah from Proverbs? The phrase found in Isaiah 40:15, πάντα τὰ ἔθνη or “all the nations”, is found quite often in Psalms in the same context, referring to the impending judgement of God upon all nations. But the phrase ὅλος ὁ κόσμος or “the whole world” found in Wisdom 11:22 is found only in the Wisdom of Solomon or in the Proverbs, which was written by Solomon, out of all the books of the Septuagint. This passage of Wisdom is certainly not a quote from Isaiah, and the charge is even fairly ridiculous. But it shows that the vocabulary is closer to Solomon than all of the other similar expressions found in the Septuagint.
Now to compare Wisdom 16:22 with Exodus 9:24:
Wisdom 16:22 But snow and ice endured the fire, and melted not, that they might know that fire burning in the hail, and sparkling in the rain, did destroy the fruits of the enemies.
Wisdom 16:22 χιὼν δὲ καὶ κρύσταλλος ὑπέμεινε πῦρ καὶ οὐκ ἐτήκετο ἵνα γνῶσιν ὅτι τοὺς τῶν ἐχθρῶν καρποὺς κατέφθειρε πῦρ φλεγόμενον ἐν τῇ χαλάζῃ καὶ ἐν τοῖς ὑετοῖς διαστράπτον
While most of the words here are not unique in the Septuagint, they are certainly not found in Exodus chapter 9:
Exodus 9:24 So there was hail and flaming fire mingled with hail; and the hail was very great, such as was not in Egypt, from the time there was a nation upon it.
Exodus 9:24 ἦν δὲ ἡ χάλαζα καὶ τὸ πῦρ φλογίζον ἐν τῇ χαλάζῃ ἡ δὲ χάλαζα πολλὴ σφόδρα σφόδρα ἥτις τοιαύτη οὐ γέγονεν ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ ἀφ᾽ οὗ γεγένηται ἐπ᾽ αὐτῆς ἔθνος
There are only two significant words or phrases found in common in these two passages. The word πῦρ is the common word for fire, and the phrase ἐν τῇ χαλάζῃ is literally in the hail but may be rendered with the hail. For that reason, Brenton rendered it in the context of Exodus 9:24 as “mingled with hail”. But if we accept the variant form of the nearly synonymous verbs φλέγω and φλογίζω in the “quote”, φλεγόμενον rather than φλογίζον, then the common text consists of five consecutive words, but with that one significant dfifference. The balance of the two passages are significantly different from one another.
In this passage of Wisdom, it was the author’s intent to recount what things Yahweh had done to the Egyptians at the time of the Exodus, which are described in that chapter of Exodus, and the only language in common with the Greek of Exodus are the very common words for fire, burning and hail. While ὑετός, or rain is found in this passage of Wisdom, and it is found several times in Exodus chapter 9, it is not found in this particular verse in Exodus from which the author of Wisdom is supposedly quoting. Likewise the verb γινώσκω, to know, is found in Exodus 9:29 but not here in this verse of Exodus. There are nine other significant words in Wisdom 16:22 which are not found at all in Exodus chapter 9.
This is not a quotation. And because of the many disparate words between the two versions, it does not even qualify as a paraphrase of a longer pericope from that chapter of Exodus. Rather, it is only a repetition of plain terms in one account which was intentionally based upon the older account, but which actually only resembles it in a very small degree. The second writer, the author or his translator, would naturally have license in such an instance, to quote from the original account at length, but the fact that there is only one common word and one very short phrase, or perhaps one short phrase of five words, is actually proof that he did not quote directly from this or any other verse of Exodus. It would be difficult to describe “fire burning in the hail” in language much different, but the different verb for burning shows that the author or translator of Wisdom was not following the Greek of Exodus.
If I had to describe what happened in Genesis chapter 3 in English, having only a copy of a Hebrew or Greek manuscript in hand, and if in the resulting text I used words such as “she ate from the tree”, and perhaps that but no other words were common to the Genesis text of the King James Version, the editors of NETS would evidently assume that I had nevertheless quoted from the King James Version, and that is ridiculous, but that is essentially what they are doing here regarding the Wisdom of Solomon.
So of all of the criticisms of the Wisdom of Solomon which I have seen thus far, I have been compelled to accept none. Most of them are actually lies, or ludicrous stetches of imagination. This is the product of Biblical scholarship in mainstream academia today, and in my opinion, it is absolutely worthless.
Now to return to the actual text of the Wisdom of Solomon, which we have already stated is the best way to determine the true provenance of the work, whether or not it was indeed inspired by Yahweh our God. As we also already said, the earliest Christian writers, those of the 1st and 2nd centuries of the Christian era, certainly did accept this book into their canon. We cannot imagine that they were deceived by a Hellenistic psychologist.
As we have also presented here from other sources, the Wisdom of Solomon in Greek is a work of poetry, and it is presented in that manner in the pages of Ralf’s edition of the Septuagint. Other Old Testament works were also written poetically, especially the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, and portions of early Scripture such as the Song of Moses or the Song of Deborah, as well as the Book of Job. In Ralf’s Septuagint, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the apocryphal Book of Odes and Wisdom of Sirach are also arranged poetically, even though they only appear as prose in our King James and most other English translations.
We have already explained that the first verse of Wisdom, where it says “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”, is making a general address to the children of Israel, those of them who are faithful to God and do love righteousness, as it is they who certainly are destined to be the judges of the earth. For that same purpose, Paul of Tarsus had told the Corinthians, in chapter 10 of his second epistle to them, that they should remain “in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.” To this day, Christians as a whole have still not fulfilled that obedience. Now in that same regard Solomon continues here in Wisdom, exhorting the judges of the earth and introducing them to Wisdom herself:
2 For he will be found of them that tempt him not; and sheweth himself unto such as do not distrust him.
The verb for tempt is πειράζω, and does not mean that man can succesfully coax God into sin, or even anger, as the word tempt is often used today. There is a diffence between being tempted and actually consummating an act for which one was tempted. The lesson of the prophets as well as the Revelation is that God acts on His Own volition at a time which He has appointed. As we read in the aforementioned sorites of Hosea chapter 2: “21 And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the LORD, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; 22 And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel. 23 And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.” The time in which that day comes to pass is already appointed by God, according to the prophecies in many other Scriptures.
Rather, the verb for tempt is πειράζω, which is primarily to “make proof or trial of”, or here to tempt, where it is used with the accusative case in regard to a person, to “try, tempt a person, put him to the test”, according to Liddell & Scott, and it implies action only on the part of the man who initiates the action, where it cannot be inferred that the person, or God who is the object of the verb here is actually moved by the action. Yahweh God cannot be compelled by the actions of men to render either judgment or mercy.
But by sinning, man is tempting God, as man accepts the chance that God may not act in judgment, or that he somehow shall not suffer the consequences of his sin. It is inevitable that men themselves are tempted by things which they see in the world, but it is in this sense, that man does not tempt God, that Christ had told His disciples to pray “And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil”, that they are not led into sin being drawn away by the things which are seen in the world. Having faith in God man keeps himself from sin, and as Christ had said in John chapter 14, “21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”
3 For froward thoughts separate from God: and his power, when it is tried, reproveth the unwise.
Where it says froward, the Greek word is σκολιός, which is curved or winding, and then metaphorically crooked, which is to mean perverse, unjust or unrighteous. This word is common in Proverbs but was only used a few times elsewhere, and by Luke, Paul and Peter in the New Testament. The word for thoughts is λογισμός, which is more precisely reckoning or reasoning. It appears over a hundred times in the Septuagint, often in the Psalms and prophets and in Solomon’s other writings, and twice in the epistles of Paul. The word for tried here is δοκιμάζω, which is a synonym of πειράζω, or tempt, and, according to Liddell & Scott, it literally means “to assay or test metals, to see if they be pure” but in a secondary sense and from the earliest Greek historians, “of persons, to put to the test, make trial of, scrutinise…”
The word for reprove is ἐλέγξω, which can mean to disgrace or put to shame, but was also used more formally in matters of law and government, “to cross-examine, question, for the purpose of disproving or reproving…” and therefore “to be convicted… to disprove, confute,… then generally to prove” In the New Testament, Paul of Tarsus used the term frequently in that same sense. The word appears frequently in Paul, and a few times in other New Testament writings. It also appears often throughout the Septuagint, but especially in the wisdom literature.
Perverse thoughts do indeed separate a man from God, but by themselves they are not necessarily sin, or at least, they are not punished until they are acted upon. In turn, when men do sin their punishment convicts them of their sin. It is that to which Solomon refers where he says “when it is tried”, and he is warning that sin shall indeed be punished by God, that a man will not escape the consequences. Thus we read in James chapter 1: “14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. ”
4 For into a malicious soul wisdom shall not enter; nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin.
In Proverbs chapter 1 we see an elaborate depiction of this same concept, in Solomon’s personification of Wisdom: “20 Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: 21 She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, 22 How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? 23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. 24 Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; 25 But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; 27 When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. 28 Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: 29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: 30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. ” Here we have the same message, but it is expressed in a different manner.
It must be noted, that in Proverbs Solomon is careful to define the wisdom of which he speaks before he creates his personification, where he wrote: “7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Here in the Wisdom of Solomon, and in Ecclesiastes as well, we cannot imagine that Solomon is referring to any wisdom but that wisdom which comes from God, as he defines wisdom in that same way within the context of this first chapter. The wisdom of man is merely knowledge that man collects and processes for himself, which is accumulated from a limited perspective and which is not always accurate. No matter how eloquently it may be expressed or what degree of erudition it may seem to reflect, it is folly apart from or in opposition to God. Therefore it is deceitful for man to think he may possess wisdom apart from God, so Solomon continues:
5 For the holy spirit of discipline will flee deceit, and remove from thoughts that are without understanding, and will not abide when unrighteousness cometh in.
Where the texts have “will not abide when” there is only a single verb which is once again a form of ἐλέγχω, a variant form of ἐλέγξω whcih is the verb which was translated as reprove in verse 3. We would have the last clause of this verse to read, quite literally, “and convicts [or reproves] the coming unrighteousness”, where we have added only the article.
There is a notable example of this which occurred not long before Solomon was born, and within the experience of David his father, where we read in 1 Samuel chapter 16 that for his own disobedience, “14… the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.” Of course, Saul’s own spirit would still have been within him. But being vexed by an evil spirit, evil in the eyes of men but not necessarily evil in the eyes of God, Saul was ultimately punished for his disobedience.
Now as Christ had repeatedly told His disciples, “If you love Me, keep My commandments”, we read:
6 For wisdom is a loving spirit; and will not acquit a blasphemer of his words [literally lips]: for God is witness of his reins, and a true beholder of his heart, and a hearer of his tongue.
The word for reins is νεφρός, which in plural, as it is here, literally refers to the kidneys. In the epistles of Paul, and once each in Acts and 1 John, a more general word is used in the same sense, which is σπλάγχνον and refers more generally to the inner parts of a man. In this sense, νεφρός is found in the Septuagint in 1 Maccabees, the wisdom literature – by which I also mean to include the Psalms – and in Jeremiah. So we see in Brenton’s Septuagint, in Jeremiah chapter 11: “O Lord, that judgest righteously, trying the reins and hearts…” and in the 7th Psalm: “for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.”
In our opening presentation in this series we described the index of citations and allegations of Old Testament Scriptures which are esteemed to be found in the New Testament. Here is our first entry for the Wisdom of Solomon, and it references Titus 3:4 and 1 Peter 2:25. In that passage of Titus, Paul writes of the kindness and love of God, but the context is quite different and I would not make the connection. 1 Peter 2:25 is not any more relevant, except that the love of God is reflected in His mercy.
Here, the warning of Solomon is more relevant to Scriptures portraying judgment, rather than mercy, as mercy only comes with repentance. So where wisdom will not acquit a blasphemer of his words, we see in 1 Timothy chapter 1, where Paul of Tarsus recounts the treachery which he suffered at the hand of some false disciples, whom had made shipwreck of the faith, as he had described it, “20 Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” As Yahweh used His enemies to punish His children in the Old Testament, and as Paul also expected Him to do, so it is also now.
Yahweh will, we shall return to our commentary on the Wisdom of Solomon in the near future.