Previous Next

Table of Contents

Wisdom The of Solomon

Wisdom, The, of Solomon, a book of the Apocrypha, may be divided into two parts, the first, chs. 1–9, containing the doctrine of wisdom in its moral and intellectual aspects; the second, the doctrine of wisdom as shown in history. chs. 10–19. The first part contains the praise of wisdom as the source of immortality, in contrast with the teaching of sensualists; and next the praise of wisdom as the guide of practical and intellectual life, the stay of princes, and the interpreter of the universe. The second part, again, follows the action of wisdom summarily, as preserving God’s servants, from Adam to Moses, and more particularly in the punishment of the Egyptians and Canaanites. Style and language.—The literary character of the book is most remarkable and interesting. In the richness and freedom of its vocabulary it most closely resembles the Fourth Book of Maccabees, but it is superior to that fine declamation in both power and variety of diction. The magnificent description of wisdom, ch. 7:22–8:1, must rank among the noblest passages of human eloquence, and it would be perhaps impossible to point out any piece of equal length in the remains of classical antiquity more pregnant with noble thought or more rich in expressive phraseology. Doctrinal character.—The theological teaching of the book offers, in many respects, the nearest approach to the language and doctrines of Greek philosophy that is found in any Jewish writing up to the time of Philo. There is much in the views which it gives of the world, of man and of the divine nature which springs rather from the combination or conflict of Hebrew and Greek thought than from the independent development of Hebrew thought alone. The conception is presented of the body as a mere weight and clog to the soul. ch. 9:15; contrast 2 Cor. 5:1-4. There is, on the other hand, no trace of the characteristic Christian doctrine of a resurrection of the body. The identification of the tempter, Gen. 3, directly or indirectly with the devil, as the bringer “of death into the world,” ch. 2:23, 24, is the most remarkable development of biblical doctrine which the book contains. Generally, too, it may be observed that, as in the cognate books, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, there are few traces of the recognition of the sinfulness even of the wise man in his wisdom, which forms, in the Psalms and the prophets, the basis of the Christian doctrine of the atonement: yet comp. 15:2. In connection with the Old Testament Scriptures, the book, as a whole, may be regarded as carrying on one step farther the great problem of life contained in Ecclesiastes and Job. Date.—From internal evidence it seems most reasonable to believe that the work was composed in Greek at Alexandria some time before the time of Philo—about 120–80 b.c. It seems impossible to study this book dispassionately and not feel that it forms one of the last links in the chain of providential connection between the Old and New Covenants. It would not be easy to find elsewhere any pre-Christian view of religion equally wide, sustained, and definite.