Wisdom

I have never read Wisdom of Solomon. In fact, until I got an Orthodox Study Bible sometime earlier this year, I had never even heard of it. I learned that there were several books I had never heard of. The “Apocrypha” as it is called by those outside of the Roman Catholic & Orthodox Church, is a collection of books that were translated into Greek when the Jews created the Septuagint in the late 3rd century BC. Greek was much more prevalent than Hebrew at this time and so the Old Testament was translated into Greek so more people could understand it. This is the version that Jesus would have known, the disciples would have referred to, and the Church fathers used. Many years after Christ, the Jews re-translated and re-compiled their scriptures into Hebrew. These are the manuscripts that most evangelical Christians can trace their Bibles to.

In the 1600s, Protestants began using only the Hebrew scriptures, cutting out books that they determined to be “apocryphal.” However, the Orthodox Church has retained the entire Septuagint, believing that if it was good enough for the Apostles to use, there is no reason to reject any of the books. Roman Catholics also include some of the Deuterocanonical books.

When I became Orthodox, I learned about these books for the first time and have a goal of reading through them all. Below is a chapter (plus 1 verse from the previous chapter) out of Wisdom of Solomon, a book that traces its origins to 30-50 years before Christ’s birth. I found it to be an excellent description of secular culture today; it is amazing how some things written thousands of years ago could have been written yesterday.

Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:24

[16] But ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death;
considering him a friend, they pined away,
and they made a covenant with him,
because they are fit to belong to his party.

[1] For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,

“Short and sorrowful is our life,
and there is no remedy when a man comes to his end,
and no one has been known to return from Hades.
[2] Because we were born by mere chance,
and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been;
because the breath in our nostrils is smoke,
and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts.
[3] When it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes,
and the spirit will dissolve like empty air.
[4] Our name will be forgotten in time
and no one will remember our works;
our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud,
and be scattered like mist
that is chased by the rays of the sun
and overcome by its heat.
[5] For our allotted time is the passing of a shadow,
and there is no return from our death,
because it is sealed up and no one turns back.

[6] “Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist,
and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.
[7] Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes,
and let no flower of spring pass by us.
[8] Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither.
[9] Let none of us fail to share in our revelry,
everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment,
because this is our portion, and this our lot.
[10] Let us oppress the righteous poor man;
let us not spare the widow
nor regard the gray hairs of the aged.
[11] But let our might be our law of right,
for what is weak proves itself to be useless.

[12] “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,
because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
he reproaches us for sins against the law,
and accuses us of sins against our training.
[13] He professes to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a child of the Lord.
[14] He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;
[15] the very sight of him is a burden to us,
because his manner of life is unlike that of others,
and his ways are strange.
[16] We are considered by him as something base,
and he avoids our ways as unclean;
he calls the last end of the righteous happy,
and boasts that God is his father.
[17] Let us see if his words are true,
and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;
[18] for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him,
and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
[19] Let us test him with insult and torture,
that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance.
[20] Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

[21] Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,
for their wickedness blinded them,
[22] and they did not know the secret purposes of God,
nor hope for the wages of holiness,
nor discern the prize for blameless souls;
[23] for God created man for incorruption,
and made him in the image of his own eternity,
[24] but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his party experience it.

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