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The Book of Wisdom, or the Wisdom of Solomon, is a Jewish work written in Greek and most likely composed in
Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, الإسكندرية ; arz, اسكندرية ; Coptic language, Coptic: Rakodī; el, Αλεξάνδρεια ''Alexandria'') is the List of cities and towns in Egypt, third-largest city in Egypt after Cairo and Giza, ...

Alexandria
,
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...

Egypt
. Generally dated to the mid first century BC, the central theme of the work is "Wisdom" itself, appearing under two principal aspects. In its relation to man, Wisdom is the perfection of knowledge of the righteous as a gift from God showing itself in action. In direct relation to God, Wisdom is with God from all eternity. It is one of the seven Sapiential or wisdom books comprising the
Septuagint The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint (, ; from the la, septuaginta, lit=seventy; often abbreviated ''70''; in Roman numerals Roman numerals are a that originated in and remained the usual way of writing numbers throughout Europe wel ...
, the others being
Psalms The Book of Psalms ( or ; he, תְּהִלִּים, , lit. "praises"), commonly referred to simply as Psalms, the Psalter or "the Psalms", is the first book of the ("Writings"), the third section of the Tanakh The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh ...

Psalms
,
Proverbs A proverb (from la, proverbium) is a simple and insightful, traditional saying A saying is any concisely written or spoken expression (linguistics), expression that is especially memorable because of its meaning or style. Sayings are categorize ...
,
Ecclesiastes Ecclesiastes (; Hebrew language, Hebrew: , , grc, Ἐκκλησιαστής, ) written , is one of the Ketuvim ("Writings") of the Hebrew Bible and one of the wisdom literature, "Wisdom" books of the Christianity, Christian Old Testament. Th ...

Ecclesiastes
,
Song of Songs The Song of Songs ( he, שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים ; grc-gre, ᾎσμα ᾀσμάτων, Âisma āismátōn, ; la, Canticum canticōrum, ), also Song of Solomon, Canticle of Canticles, or Canticles, is one of the ' (scrolls) found in th ...
(Song of Solomon),
Job Employment is the relationship between two parties Image:'Hip, Hip, Hurrah! Artist Festival at Skagen', by Peder Severin Krøyer (1888) Demisted with DXO PhotoLab Clearview; cropped away black border edge.jpg, 300px, ''Hip, Hip, Hurrah!'' ...
, and
Sirach The Book of Sirach, also called the Wisdom of Sirach or simply Sirach (), and also known as the Book of Ecclesiasticus (; abbreviated Ecclus.) or Ben Sira, is a Jewish work originally in Hebrew of ethical teachings, from approximately 200 to 17 ...
. It is included in the canon of
Deuterocanonical books The deuterocanonical books (from the Greek language, Greek meaning "belonging to the second canon") are books and passages considered by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and the Assyrian Church of ...
by the
Roman Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...

Roman Catholic Church
and the ''anagignoskomena'' (Gr. ἀναγιγνωσκόμενα, meaning "those which are to be read") of the
Eastern Orthodox Church The Eastern Orthodox Church, also called the Orthodox Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 220 million baptised members. It operates as a communion Communion may refer to: Religion * The Eucharist (also cal ...
. Most Protestants consider it part of the
Apocrypha Apocrypha (Gr. ἀπόκρυφος, ‘the hidden hings) The biblical Books received by the early Church as part of the Greek version of the Old Testament, but not included in the Hebrew Bible, being excluded by the non-Hellenistic Jews fro ...
.


Structure, genre and content

The structure can be divided into three sections: # Book of
Eschatology Eschatology is a part of theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine Divinity or the divine are things that are either related to, devoted to, or proceeding from a deity.
#* exhortation to justice #* speech of the impious, contrasts of the wicked and the just #* exhortation to wisdom # Book of Wisdom #* Solomon's speech concerning wisdom, wealth, power and prayer # Book of History #* introduction, followed by diptychs of plagues #* digression on God's power and mercy #* digression on false worship and further plagues #* recapitulation and concluding
doxology A doxology (Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Myce ...
. The book is addressed to the rulers of the earth, urging them to love righteousness and seek wisdom; the wicked think that all is chance and that they should enjoy each day, but they are deluded. In the second section Solomon (not explicitly named, but strongly implied) tells of his search for wisdom. The Wisdom of Solomon can be linked to several forms of ancient literature, both Jewish and non-Jewish, but it clearly belongs with biblical Wisdom books such as
the Book of Job
the Book of Job
, one of only five such books among ancient Jewish literature. In terms of classical genre it has been identified as an
encomium Encomium is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Rom ...
and with the Greek genre of the "exhortatory discourse", by which a teacher attempts to persuade others to a certain course of action.


Canonicity

Melito of Sardis Melito of Sardis ( el, Μελίτων Σάρδεων ''Melítōn Sárdeōn''; died c. 180) was the bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a p ...
in the 2nd century AD,
Augustine
Augustine
(c. 397 AD) and
Innocent I Pope Innocent I ( la, Innocentius I) was the bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within th ...
(405 AD) considered Wisdom of Solomon as part of the Old Testament.
Athanasius
Athanasius
writes that the Book of Wisdom along with three other deuterocanonical books, while not being part of the Canon, "were appointed by the Fathers to be read".
Epiphanius of Salamis Epiphanius of Salamis ( grc-gre, Ἐπιφάνιος; c. 310–320 – 403) was the bishop of Salamis, Cyprus Salamis ( grc, Σαλαμίς, el, Σαλαμίνα, tr, Salamis) is an ancient Greek city-state A city-state is an independe ...
(c. 385 AD) mentions that the Wisdom of Solomon was of disputed canonicity. According to the monk
Rufinus of Aquileia Tyrannius Rufinus, also called Rufinus of Aquileia (''Rufinus Aquileiensis'') or Rufinus of Concordia (344/345–411), was a monk A monk (, from el, μοναχός, ''monachos'', "single, solitary" via Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical ...
(c. 400 AD) the Book of Wisdom was not called a canonical but ecclesiastical book. The Book of Wisdom was listed as canonical by the
Council of Rome The Council of Rome was a meeting of Catholic Church officials and theologians which took place in 382 under the authority of Pope Damasus I Damasus I (; c. 305 – 11 December 384) was the bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, o ...
(382 AD), the
Synod of Hippo A synod () is a council of a Ecclesia (church), church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word ''wikt:synod, synod'' comes from the meaning "assembly" or "meeting" and is analogous with the L ...
(393), the
Council of Carthage (397)The Councils of Carthage were church synod A synod () is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word '' synod'' comes from the meaning "assembly" or "meeting" and is analogous w ...
and the
Council of Carthage (419)The Councils of Carthage were church synod A synod () is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word '' synod'' comes from the meaning "assembly" or "meeting" and is analogous w ...
, the
Council of Florence The Council of Florence is the seventeenth ecumenical council An ecumenical council (or oecumenical council; also general council) is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matt ...
(in 1442) and the
Council of Trent The Council of Trent ( la, Concilium Tridentinum), held between 1545 and 1563 in Trent (or Trento, in northern Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of ...

Council of Trent
(in 1546).


Composition

The Wisdom of Solomon was written in Greek, in
Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, الإسكندرية ; arz, اسكندرية ; Coptic language, Coptic: Rakodī; el, Αλεξάνδρεια ''Alexandria'') is the List of cities and towns in Egypt, third-largest city in Egypt after Cairo and Giza, ...

Alexandria
(Egypt), in the late 1st century BC or early 1st century AD. The author's prime literary source was the
Septuagint The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint (, ; from the la, septuaginta, lit=seventy; often abbreviated ''70''; in Roman numerals Roman numerals are a that originated in and remained the usual way of writing numbers throughout Europe wel ...
, in particular the
Wisdom literature Wisdom literature is a genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category of ...
and the
Book of Isaiah The Book of Isaiah ( he, ספר ישעיהו, ) is the first of the Latter Prophets Nevi'im (; he, נְבִיאִים ''Nəḇî'îm'', "Prophets" literally "spokespersons") is the second major division of the Hebrew Bible (the '' Tanakh' ...
, and he was familiar with late Jewish works as the
Book of Enoch The Book of Enoch (also 1 Enoch; gez, መጽሐፈ ሄኖክ, ) is an Second Temple Judaism, ancient Hebrew Apocalyptic literature, apocalyptic religious text, ascribed by tradition to Enoch (Biblical figure), Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noa ...
and with Greek philosophical literature. It is uncertain whether the book has a single author or comes from a school of writers, but recent scholarship has favoured regarding it as a unified work. In either case its blend of Greek and Jewish features suggests a learned Hellenistic background, and despite the address to the "rulers of the world" the actual audience was probably members of the author's own community who were tempted to give up their Jewishness in the face of the temptations of Greek culture and the hostile conditions facing Jews in the Greek world.


Themes

The book opens with the opposed pairs righteousness/unrighteousness and death/immortality: those who do not follow righteousness will fall into "senseless reasoning" and will not be open to wisdom; wisdom is not an inherent human quality nor one that can be taught, but comes from outside, and only to those who are prepared through righteousness. The suffering of the righteous will be rewarded with immortality, while the wicked will end miserably. The unrighteous are doomed because they do not know God's purpose, but the righteous will judge the unrighteous in God's presence. Lady Wisdom dominates the next section, in which Solomon speaks. She existed from the
Creation Creation may refer to: Religion * Creation ''ex nihilo'', the concept that matter was created by God out of nothing * Creation myth A creation myth (or cosmogonic myth) is a symbolic narrative of how the world began and how people first came t ...
, and God is her source and guide. She is to be loved and desired, and kings seek her: Solomon himself preferred Wisdom to wealth, health, and all other things. She in turn has always come to the aid of the righteous, from Adam to the Exodus. The final section takes up the theme of the rescue of the righteous, taking the Exodus as its focus: "You (God) have not neglected to help (your people the Jews) at all times and in all places." (Wisdom of Solomon, 19:22).


Influence

19th century American author
Herman Melville Herman Melville (Name change, born Melvill; August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891) was an American novelist, short story writer, and poet of the American Renaissance (literature), American Renaissance period. Among his best-known works are ...

Herman Melville
marked his copy of the Wisdom of Solomon heavily. Without knowledge of biblical criticism he managed to note the interplay of Hellenistic Platonism and Jewish philosophy, writing, "this admirable book seems partly Mosaic & partly Platonic in its tone. Who wrote it I know not. Some one to whom both Plato and Moses stood for godfather." The interplay of multiple philosophies is exemplified in many of Melville's works, specifically ''
Moby-Dick ''Moby-Dick; or, The Whale'' is an 1851 novel by American writer Herman Melville Herman Melville (Name change, born Melvill; August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891) was an American novelist, short story writer, and poet of the American ...
'' and ''
Clarel ''Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land'' (1876 Events January–March * January 1 January 1 or 1 January is the first day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar The Gregorian calendar is the used in most of ...
'', wherein religious and philosophical interplay represent the struggle for certainty in the 19th century.


References


Bibliography

* * * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Wisdom
1st-century BC books{{Navseasoncats Books A book is a medium for recording information in the form of writing or images, typically composed of many page (paper), pages (made of papyrus, parchment, vellum, or paper) bookbinding, bound together and protected by a bo ...
Deuterocanonical books Jewish texts Solomon Texts in Koine Greek Wisdom literature Jewish apocrypha