Paul, Romans and Wisdom of Solomon


#1

Fridays reading is Wisdom 13:1-9. While quotation does not equal to canon at the same time this passage clearly was the inspiration for Romans 1. This is not merely a passing allusion to a poetic quote, as Paul does with some non scriptural poets, but rather a substantial usage of the Wisdom of Solomon in his opening of his letter to the Church in Rome.

Romans 1:18-31
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.

Next

Wisdom 13:1-10,14:22-31

For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know him who exists, nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works; but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world. If through delight in the beauty of these things men assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them. And if men were amazed at their power and working, let them perceive from them how much more powerful is he who formed them. For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator. Yet these men are little to be blamed, for perhaps they go astray while seeking God and desiring to find him. For as they live among his works they keep searching, and they trust in what they see, because the things that are seen are beautiful. Yet again, not even they are to be excused; for if they had the power to know so much that they could investigate the world, how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of these things? But miserable, with their hopes set on dead things, are the men who give the name “gods” to the works of men’s hands, gold and silver fashioned with skill, and likenesses of animals, or a useless stone, the work of an ancient hand.

Afterward it was not enough for them to err about the knowledge of God, but they live in great strife due to ignorance, and they call such great evils peace. For whether they kill children in their initiations, or celebrate secret mysteries, or hold frenzied revels with strange customs, they no longer keep either their lives or their marriages pure, but they either treacherously kill one another, or grieve one another by adultery, and all is a raging riot of blood and murder, theft and deceit, corruption, faithlessness, tumult, perjury, confusion over what is good, forgetfulness of favors, pollution of souls, sex perversion, disorder in marriage, adultery, and debauchery. For the worship of idols not to be named is the beginning and cause and end of every evil. For their worshipers either rave in exultation, or prophesy lies, or live unrighteously, or readily commit perjury; for because they trust in lifeless idols they swear wicked oaths and expect to suffer no harm. But just penalties will overtake them on two counts: because they thought wickedly of God in devoting themselves to idols, and because in deceit they swore unrighteously through contempt for holiness. For it is not the power of the things by which men swear, but the just penalty for those who sin, that always pursues the transgression of the unrighteous.

It is striking to me how completely identical this is. The portion between these passages in the chapter simply makes the same point in more detail. Its the same continuous thought and Paul summarizes it in the opening of his epistle to the Romans.

Wisdom of Solomon was around in the time of the apostles, known by the apostles, and used as source material for the New Testament.


#2

Thank you for posting this bitznbitez.

Very insightful.


#3

Not to mention the prophecy of Christ’s rejection and passion in Wisdom 2:12-20:

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[a] 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.”

Compare, for instance, Wisdom 2:18 with Matthew 27:43:

43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

There is little doubt why the Pharisees rejected this book. It is a shame that 1,500 years later, someone trusted their judgment.


#4

According to Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J. in his book Inside the Bible, the book of Wisdom is believed to have been written about 50 BC. The fact that the author is unknown is irrelevant. That is the case with much of the bible. What is relevant is that the Church tested those writings and embraced them. Based on their content, it is easy to see why.


#5

Of course, the most obvious allusion to Wisdom in St. Paul’s writings is:

“Or hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour?” (Romans 9:21)

This is a direct allusion to:

“The potter also tempering soft earth, with labour fashioneth every vessel for our service, and of the same clay he maketh both vessels that are for clean uses, and likewise such as serve to the contrary: but what is the use of these vessels, the potter is the judge.” (Wisdom 15:7)

Now considering how much mileage Protestants get out of Romans 9:18-21, you’d think that they’d enthusiastically embrace Wisdom as part of the canon - except that Wisdom also contains this:

“For thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things which thou hast made: for thou didst not appoint, or make any thing hating it.
And how could any thing endure, if thou wouldst not? or be preserved, if not called by thee?
But thou sparest all: because they are thine, O Lord, who lovest souls.” (Wisdom 11: 25-27)

Even if Solomon didn’t directly write it, it certainly is a book of the most profound wisdom.


#6

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