1For, not thinking rightly, they said among themselves:*
“Brief and troubled is our lifetime;a
there is no remedy for our dying,
nor is anyone known to have come back from Hades.
2For by mere chance were we born,
and hereafter we shall be as though we had not been;
Because the breath in our nostrils is smoke,
and reason a spark from the beating of our hearts,
3And when this is quenched, our body will be ashes
and our spirit will be poured abroad like empty air.b
4Even our name will be forgotten in time,
and no one will recall our deeds.
So our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud,
and will be dispersed like a mist
Pursued by the sun’s rays
and overpowered by its heat.
5For our lifetime is the passing of a shadow;
and our dying cannot be deferred
because it is fixed with a seal; and no one returns.c
6Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are here,
and make use of creation with youthful zest.d
7Let us have our fill of costly wine and perfumes,
and let no springtime blossom pass us by;
8let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither.
9Let no meadow be free from our wantonness;
everywhere let us leave tokens of our merriment,
for this is our portion, and this our lot.e
10Let us oppress the righteous poor;
let us neither spare the widow
nor revere the aged for hair grown white with time.f
11But let our strength be our norm of righteousness;
for weakness proves itself useless.
12* Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is annoying to us;
he opposes our actions,
Reproaches us for transgressions of the law*
and charges us with violations of our training.g
13He professes to have knowledge of God
and styles himself a child of the LORD.h
14To us he is the censure of our thoughts;
merely to see him is a hardship for us,i
15Because his life is not like that of others,
and different are his ways.
16He judges us debased;
he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure.
He calls blest the destiny of the righteous
and boasts that God is his Father.j
17Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him in the end.k
18For if the righteous one is the son of God, God will help him
and deliver him from the hand of his foes.l
19With violence and torture let us put him to the test
that we may have proof of his gentleness
and try his patience.
20Let us condemn him to a shameful death;
for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”m
21These were their thoughts, but they erred;
for their wickedness blinded them,n
22* And they did not know the hidden counsels of God;
neither did they count on a recompense for holiness
nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.o
23For God formed us to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made us.p
24But by the envy* of the devil, death entered the world,
and they who are allied with him experience it.q
* [2:1–20] In this speech the wicked deny survival after death and indeed invite death by their evil deeds.
* [2:12–5:23] From 2:12 to 5:23 the author draws heavily on Is 52–62, setting forth his teaching in a series of characters or types taken from Isaiah and embellished with additional details from other texts. The description of the “righteous one” in 2:12–20 seems to undergird the New Testament passion narrative.
* [2:12] Law: the law of Moses; “training” has the same meaning.
* [2:22] This verse announces the subject of the next section.
* [2:24] Envy: perhaps because Adam was in the image of God or because Adam had control over all creation. Devil: the first biblical text to equate the serpent of Gn 3 with the devil.
d. [2:6] Is 22:13; 1 Cor 15:32.
f. [2:10] Ex 22:21–23; Lv 19:32.
h. [2:13] Mt 27:43; Jn 8:55; 10:36–39.
l. [2:18] Ps 22:9; Is 42:1; Mt 27:43; Jn 5:18.
o. [2:22] Ps 18:24–25; Prv 11:18; Mt 11:25.
p. [2:23] Gn 1:26–27; Is 54:16 LXX.