THE BOOK OF WISDOM
The Book of Wisdom was written about fifty years before the coming of Christ. Its author, whose name is not known to us, was probably a member of the Jewish community at Alexandria, in Egypt. He wrote in Greek, in a style patterned on that of Hebrew verse. At times he speaks in the person of Solomon, placing his teachings on the lips of the wise king of Hebrew tradition in order to emphasize their value. His profound knowledge of the earlier Old Testament writings is reflected in almost every line of the book, and marks him, like Ben Sira, as an outstanding representative of religious devotion and learning among the sages of postexilic Judaism.
The primary purpose of the author was the edification of his co-religionists in a time when they had experienced suffering and oppression, in part at least at the hands of apostate fellow Jews. To convey his message he made use of the most popular religious themes of his time, namely the splendor and worth of divine wisdom (6:22–11:1), the glorious events of the exodus (11:2–16; 12:23–27; 15:18–19:22), God’s mercy (11:17–12:22), the folly of idolatry (13:1–15:17), and the manner in which God’s justice operates in rewarding or punishing the individual (1:1–6:21). The first ten chapters in particular provide background for the teaching of Jesus and for some New Testament theology about Jesus. Many passages from this section of the book, notably 3:1–8, are used by the church in the liturgy.
The principal divisions of the Book of Wisdom are:
- The Reward of Righteousness (1:1–6:21).
- Praise of Wisdom by Solomon (6:22–11:1).
- Special Providence of God During the Exodus (11:2–16; 12:23–27; 15:18–19:22) with digressions on God’s mercy (11:17–12:22) and on the folly and shame of idolatry (13:1–15:17).