Wisdom - Luca Mazzinghi - ebook

Wisdom ebook

Luca Mazzinghi

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Opis

For the first time, the present commentary brings together all relevant aspects necessary to understand and appreciate this late portion of Old Testament Scripture: textual criticism; detailed philological and literary analysis; the text's two-fold historical context in its Hellenistic environment, on the one hand, and in the biblical tradition on the other; and ultimately the very innovative theology of the book of Wisdom. Aspects of the book's reception history as well as hermeneutical questions round off the commentary on the text.

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International Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament (IECOT)

Edited by:

Walter Dietrich, David M. Carr,Adele Berlin, Erhard Blum, Irmtraud Fischer, Shimon Gesundheit, Walter Groß, Gary Knoppers, Bernard M. Levinson, Ed Noort, Helmut Utzschneider and Beate Ego (Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical books)

Cover:Top: Panel from a four-part relief on the “Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III” (859–824 BCE) depicting the Israelite king Jehu (845–817 BCE; 2 Kings 9f) paying obeisance to the Assyrian “King of Kings.” The vassal has thrown himself to the ground in front of his overlord. Royal servants are standing behind the Assyrian king whereas Assyrian officers are standing behind Jehu. The remaining picture panels portray thirteen Israelite tribute bearers carrying heavy and precious gifts.Photo © Z.Radovan/BibleLandPictures.comBottom left: One of ten reliefs on the bronze doors that constitute the eastern portal (the so-called “Gates of Paradise”) of the Baptistery of St. John of Florence, created 1424–1452 by Lorenzo Ghiberti (c. 1378–1455). Detail from the picture “Adam and Eve”; in the center is the creation of Eve: “And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.” (Gen 2:22)Photograph by George ReaderBottom right: Detail of the Menorah in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem, created by Benno Elkan (1877–1960): Ezra reads the Law of Moses to the assembled nation (Neh 8). The bronze Menorah was created in London in 1956 and in the same year was given by the British as a gift to the State of Israel. A total of 29 reliefs portray scenes from the Hebrew bible and the history of the Jewish people.

Luca Mazzinghi

Wisdom

W. Kohlhammer

Translation: Michael Tait

Redaction: Jonathan M. Robker

1. Edition 2019

All rights reserved

© W. Kohlhammer GmbH, Stuttgart

Production: W. Kohlhammer GmbH, Stuttgart

Print:

ISBN 978-3-17-022425-4

E-Book-Formats:

pdf: ISBN 978-3-17-033649-0

epub: ISBN 978-3-17-033650-6

mobi: ISBN 978-3-17-033651-3

W. Kohlhammer bears no responsibility fort he accuracy, legality or content of any external website that is linked or cited, or for that of subsequent links.

For the first time, the present commentary brings together all relevant aspects necessary to understand and appreciate this late portion of Old Testament Scripture: textual criticism; detailed philological and literary analysis; the text=s two-fold historical context in its Hellenistic environment, on the one hand, and in the biblical tradition on the other; and ultimately the very innovative theology of the book of Wisdom. Aspects of the book=s reception history as well as hermeneutical questions round off the commentary on the text.

Dr. Luca Mazzinghi is professor of Old Testament at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome.

Content

Editors’ Foreword

Preface

General Introduction

A Unique Book

Text and Versions

The Unity of the Book

Literary Structure

Language and Style

Language

Style

The Literary Genre: Between the Epideictic Genre and Midrashic Style

Wisdom: A Protreptic

Wisdom: An

The tyle

Author, Date, and Place of Composition

Author

Date

Place

The Book of Wisdom and the Scriptures

The Book of Wisdom and the Ancient Jewish Tradition

The Book of Wisdom and Hellenism

The Book of Wisdom and the Christian Tradition

The Links with the New Testament

The Problem of Canonicity and the Use of the Book in Christian ­Antiquity

Introduction to the First Part (Wis 1–6)

Literary Structure

Literary Genre: Wis 1-6 and the Encomium

Wis 1:1-15: Love Justice!

Literary Structure of Wis 1:1-15

Wis 1:1-5: Justice, Wisdom, and Spirit

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 1:6-10: Wisdom is a Philanthropic Spirit

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 1:11-12: Do Not Seek Death!

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 1:13-15: God Did Not Create Death!

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Summary of Wis 1:1-15

Wis 1:16–2:24: The Godless Summon Death through Their Words and Deeds

Literary Structure of Wis 1:16–2:24

Wis 1:16-2:5: The Party of Death: A Life without Meaning

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 2:6-9: Let Us Enjoy Life!

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 2:10-16: Let Us Oppress the Just Man!

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 2:17-20: Let Us See If the Just One Is the Child of God …!

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 2:21-24: The Mysteries of God

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Summary of Wis 1:16 – 2:24: The Identity of the Ungodly and That of the Just

Wis 3-4: The Just and the Godless between Life and Death: Four Contrasts

Literary Structure of Wis 3-4

The First Diptych: The Destiny of the Just and the Ungodly (Wis 3:1-12)

Wis 3:1-9: The Just Are in the Hand of God and Will Govern Nations

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 3:10-12: The Ungodly and Their Descendants

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

The Second Diptych: The Barren Woman, the Eunuch and the Infertility of the Ungodly (Wis 3:13-19)

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Wis 3:13-15: Praise for the Childless and the Eunuch

Wis 3:16-19: The Children of the Godless

Diachronic Analysis

The Third Diptych: Virtue and Children (Wis 4:1-6)

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

The Fourth Diptych: The Premature Death of the Just and the Sad Death of the Ungodly (Wis 4:7-20)

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Wis 4:7-16: The Premature Death of the Just

Wis 4:17-20: The Sad Death of the Godless

Diachronic Analysis

Summary of Wis 3-4

Wis 5: Concluding Contrast of the Just and the Godless before the Background of the Cosmos

The Literary Structure of Wis 5

Wis 5:1-3: Introduction to the Second Discourse of the Ungodly

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 5:4-13: The Discourse of the Ungodly

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 5:14-23: The Vain Hope of the Ungodly and the Blessed Destiny of the Just; the Cosmos, in Alliance with God

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Summary of Wis 5

Wis 6:1-21: A New Appeal to the Readers

The Literary Structure of Wis 6

Wis 6:1-11: Listen, O kings!

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 6:12-21: Wisdom Searches for the One Searching for Her

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 6:22-25: I Will Explain the Nature of Wisdom to You

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Summary

Introduction to the Second Part (Wis 7-9)

Wis 7-8: The Elogium of Wisdom

The Literary Structure of Wis 7-8

Wis 7:1-6: Weakness of “Solomon”

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 7:7-12: Love Wisdom

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 7:13-22a: the gifts of wisdom

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 7:22b–8:1: The Nature of Wisdom

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

The Theological Sense of Wis 7:22b-23 in Light of Its Sources

Wis 8:2-9: Wisdom as Spouse, Friend, Counsellor

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Wis 8:2-4: Wisdom, Friend and Counsellor

Wis 8:5-8: Wisdom Is Superior to Every Good

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 8:10-16: On the Gifts of Wisdom Again

Synchronic Analysis

Wis 8:10-12: The Gifts Offered by Wisdom

Wis 8:13: The Gift of Immortality

Wis 8:14-16: Wisdom, the Art of Good Governance

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 8:17-21: A Prayer to Obtain Wisdom

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Summary of Wis 7-8

Wis 9: The Prayer to Obtain Wisdom

Literary Structure of Wis 9

Wis 9:1-6: The First Strophe – Wisdom, Creation, and Human Weakness

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 9:7-12: The Second Strophe – Wisdom and God

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Isis and Wisdom

Wis 9:13-18: The Third Strophe – Wisdom, the Will of God, and Salvation

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Summary of Wis 9

Introduction to the Third Part (Wis 10–19)

Wis 10: Wisdom’s Work in History from Adam to Moses

The Structure and Literary Genre of Wis 10

Wis 10:1-4: Adam, Cain and Abel, Noah

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 10:5-9: Abraham, Lot and His wife

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 10:10-12: Jacob

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 10:13-14: Joseph

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 10:15-21: Moses

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Summary of Wis 10

Wis 11:1-14: The First Antithesis

Literary Structure of Wis 11:1-14

Wis 11:1-5: The Introduction to the Seven Antitheses

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 11:6-14: The First Antithesis. The Water Changed into Blood; the Water from the Rock

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 11:15–12:27: The Divine “Philanthropy”

Literary Structure of Wis 11:15–12:27

Wis 11:15–12:2: Divine Moderation towards Egypt

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 12:3-21: Divine Moderation towards the Canaanites and Its Lessons

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 12:22-27: God’s Mercy and Zoolatry

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Summary of Wis 11:15–12:27

Wis 13–15: The Criticism of Idolatry

Literary Structure of Wis 13-15

Wis 13:1-9: The Religion of the Philosophers

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 13:10–15:13: Criticism of Idolatry

Wis 13:10-19: The Birth of an Idol

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 14:1-10: The Ship of Providence

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 14:11-31: Origins and Consequences of Idolatry

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Wis 14:11-14: The Insubstantial Nature of the Idols

Wis 14:15-21: Premature Grief, Worship of Rulers, Birth of Idols

Wis 14:22-31: The Birth of Immorality

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 15:1-6: Faithfulness of God; Fidelity of the People

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 15:7-13: The Folly of Idolatry

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 15:14-19: Criticism of Egyptian Zoolatry

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Summary of Wis 13-15

Wis 16: Three Antitheses: God Punishes and Favours; God’s Word Is Nourishment

The Literary Structure of Wis 16

Wis 16:1-4: The Second Diptych – The Plague of the Beasts and the Quails

The Literary Structure of Wis 16:1-4

Text

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 16:5-14: The Third Diptych – The Serpent in the Desert

The Literary Structure of Wis 16:5-14

Text

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Summary of Wis 16:5-14

Wis 16:15-29: Fourth Antithesis – The Hail and the Manna

The Literary Structure of Wis 16:15-29

Part One of the Diptych: Wis 16:15, 16-19, and 20-23

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Part Two of the Diptych: Wis 16:24-29

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Summary of Wis 16:15-29

Wis 17:1–18:4: The Fifth Diptych – The Darkness and the Light

The Literary Structure of Wis 17:1–18:4

Wis 17:1-6: A Night of Fear

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 17:7-11: The Magicians and Conscience

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 17:12-15: An Infernal Fear

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 17:16-21: Prisoners of Fear

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 18:1-4: Wisdom and Law, Light for the World

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Summary of Wis 17:1–18:4

Wis 18:5-25: The Sixth Diptych – The Night of the Passover

The Literary structure of Wis 18:5-25

Wis 18:5-9: Passover Night

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 18:10-13: The Egyptians’ Dirge

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 18:14-19: The Punishing Logos

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 18:20-25: The Trial of the Israelites and the Intercession of Aaron

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Summary of Wis 18:5-25

Wis 19: The Seventh Diptych and the Creation Renewed

The Literary Structure of Wis 19

Wis 19:1-5: The Seventh Diptych; the Crossing of the Sea

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 19:6-12: The Crossing of the Sea and the Creation at the Service of God’s Children

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 19:13-17: Egyptians and Sodomites – The Civil Rights of the Jews of ­Alexandria

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Wis 19:18-21 and 22: The Creation Renewed. The Book’s Conclusion

Notes on the Text and Translation

Synchronic Analysis

Diachronic Analysis

Summary of Wis 19. The Theology of Chapter 19 and the Conclusion of the Book of Wisdom

Bibliography

1. Commentaries

2. Secondary Literatur on the Book of Wisdom

3. Other Literature

Indexes

Index of Hebrew Words

Index of Key Words

Index of Biblical Citations

Index of Other Ancient Literature

Plan of volumes

Editors’ Foreword

The International Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament (IECOT) offers a multi-perspectival interpretation of the books of the Old Testament to a broad, international audience of scholars, laypeople and pastors. Biblical commentaries too often reflect the fragmented character of contemporary biblical scholarship, where different geographical or methodological sub-groups of scholars pursue specific methodologies and/or theories with little engagement of alternative approaches. This series, published in English and German editions, brings together editors and authors from North America, Europe, and Israel with multiple exegetical perspectives.

From the outset the goal has been to publish a series that was “international, ecumenical and contemporary.” The international character is reflected in the composition of an editorial board with members from six countries and commentators representing a yet broader diversity of scholarly contexts.

The ecumenical dimension is reflected in at least two ways. First, both the editorial board and the list of authors includes scholars with a variety of religious perspectives, both Christian and Jewish. Second, the commentary series not only includes volumes on books in the Jewish Tanach/Protestant Old Testament, but also other books recognized as canonical parts of the Old Testament by diverse Christian confessions (thus including the Deuterocanonical Old Testament books).

When it comes to “contemporary,” one central distinguishing feature of this series is its attempt to bring together two broad families of perspectives in analysis of biblical books, perspectives often described as “synchronic” and “diachronic” and all too often understood as incompatible with each other. Historically, diachronic studies arose in Europe, while some of the better known early synchronic studies originated in North America and Israel. Nevertheless, historical studies have continued to be pursued around the world, and focused synchronic work has been done in an ever greater variety of settings. Building on these developments, we aim in this series to bring synchronic and diachronic methods into closer alignment, allowing these approaches to work in a complementary and mutually-informative rather than antagonistic manner.

Since these terms are used in varying ways within biblical studies, it makes sense to specify how they are understood in this series. Within IECOT we understand “synchronic” to embrace a variety of types of study of a biblical text in one given stage of its development, particularly its final stage(s) of development in existing manuscripts. “Synchronic” studies embrace non-historical narratological, reader-response and other approaches along with historically-informed exegesis of a particular stage of a biblical text. In contrast, we understand “diachronic” to embrace the full variety of modes of study of a biblical text over time.

This diachronic analysis may include use of manuscript evidence (where available) to identify documented pre-stages of a biblical text, judicious use of clues within the biblical text to reconstruct its formation over time, and also an examination of the ways in which a biblical text may be in dialogue with earlier biblical (and non-biblical) motifs, traditions, themes, etc. In other words, diachronic study focuses on what might be termed a “depth dimension” of a given text – how a text (and its parts) has journeyed over time up to its present form, making the text part of a broader history of traditions, motifs and/or prior compositions. Synchronic analysis focuses on a particular moment (or moments) of that journey, with a particular focus on the final, canonized form (or forms) of the text. Together they represent, in our view, complementary ways of building a textual interpretation.

Of course, each biblical book is different, and each author or team of authors has different ideas of how to incorporate these perspectives into the commentary. The authors will present their ideas in the introduction to each volume. In addition, each author or team of authors will highlight specific contemporary methodological and hermeneutical perspectives – e.g. gender-critical, liberation-theological, reception-historical, social-historical – appropriate to their own strengths and to the biblical book being interpreted. The result, we hope and expect, will be a series of volumes that display a range of ways that various methodologies and discourses can be integrated into the interpretation of the diverse books of the Old Testament.

Fall 2012The Editors

Preface

The book of Wisdom is the object of renewed interest. Although deeply rooted in the Scriptures of Israel, it forms an interesting bridge between the Jewish and Hellenistic worlds.

This commentary presupposes two previous works which both constitute solid points of reference for the exegesis of Wisdom: the three volumes of C. Larcher (La Sagesse de Salomon ou le livre de la Sagesse, 1983-1985) and the three of G. Scarpat (Libro della Sapienza, 1989-1999). Begun in 1969 with his pioneering Etudes sur le livre de la Sagesse, Larcher’s work constitutes the best existing work on Wisdom carried out in light of the criteria of traditional historical-critical exegesis. For its part, Scarpat’s work offers a monumental philological analysis of our book which it would be hard to surpass. However, the studies of the last twenty years have contributed to the highlighting of some fundamental aspects which complete and develop these works. First of all, there has been a discovery of a careful literary structure through which the author of the book intends to communicate a precise theological message (M. Gilbert, P. Bizzeti). Then, a broader and more complete view of the style and literary genre of the book has developed. These too are seen to serve the message which the author is intending to offer to his readership. Secondly, there has been a broader and deeper assessment of the relationship which the book displays with the biblical and Jewish world, on the one hand, and with the Hellenistic world, on the other. There has also been a more accurate view of the historical context in Alexandria towards the end of the first century BCE. Finally, there has been closer attention to the particular theological standpoint of our sage. Although taken into consideration in the studies of Larcher, this has not been highlighted sufficiently by the other commentators, however illustrious (Scarpat, but also D. Winston). That is especially the case of the third part (Wis 10-19) which has been rediscovered only since the 1990s. All of this leaves room for a new commentary on Wisdom, certainly one that is more concise than the majority of its predecessors, but also one that seeks to unite exegetical analysis properly so called with the three factors indicated above: structure and literary genre; relationship with the biblical (and Jewish) world and with Hellenism; and the theological perspective of the author.

General Introduction1

A Unique Book

Written directly in Greek, the book of Wisdom displays novel characteristics which render it a unique book in comparison with other texts of its time. Composed towards the end of the first cent. BCE by an Alexandrian Jew well-versed in the Bible and faithful to the tradition of Israel, the book of Wisdom forms an important point of contact between the biblical world and the vast world of Hellenism.

The book also shows itself to be rich in novelties with regard to its content. The strong eschatological perspective, opened up by the announcement of the future fate of the just and the ungodly (Wis 1-6), is bound together with a vision of the past of Israel to which the final part of the book refers (Wis 10-19). There, eschatology is linked to history by means of the role of the cosmos. At the heart of the book stands the praise of wisdom (Wis 7-9), mediator between God and humanity.

The Book’s TitleThe book is known in the Greek manuscripts as ΣΟΦΙΑ ΣΑΛΟΜΩΝΟΣ (S*), or else ΣΟΦΙΑ ΣΑΛΟΜΩΝ (Bc), or even ΣΑΛΟΜΩΝΤΟΣ (A).2 In the codices of the Vetus Latina, the inscription Liber Sapientiae Salomonis appears or sometimes Sapientia Salomonis, or, more simply, Liber Sapientiae. The book is entered in the Latin Vulgate and, thereafter, in the modern translations more simply as “book of Wisdom”. On account of the fact that in the central part of the book (Wis 7-9) the author seems to identify himself with King Solomon – although this identification is never explicit – it is not improbable that it was he himself who called his own text “Wisdom of Solomon”. This would accord with a practice that was not rare in antiquity and frequent in the Jewish tradition which tended to place under the aegis of Solomon a good part of the sapiential corpus: Proverbs, Qoheleth and the Song of Songs. However, already from the patristic period, it was clear that the attribution to Solomon was only pseudepigraphic. That is recognised by Origen, Augustine, and Jerome among others.3

Text and Versions4

Greek Text The Greek text of the book of Wisdom has been transmitted to us in a good state in the three most important uncial codices which, according to Ziegler, represent the best text possible: Vaticanus (B), Sinaiticus (S) and Alexandrinus (A). The other uncials (V and C in particular) and the various minuscules are of less importance. Some fragments of the book of Wisdom also exist in papyrus. The patristic quotations and the florilegia take on a certain interest for textual criticism.5 The edition of J. Ziegler has ironed out most of the problems of the text which is thus one of the most accessible books of the Old Testament.6

Vetus Latina and Vulgate The most important of the ancient versions is the Vetus Latina which originated in North Africa, probably towards the end of the second century CE, and was inserted into the Vulgate towards the fifth century.7 Jerome did not translate the book of Wisdom himself because he did not recognise it as canonical.8 The Latin translation is earlier than the oldest Greek manuscript available to us (B) by at least two centuries and turns out to be very useful for the reconstruction of passages that are particularly difficult. It seems probable that the Vetus Latina was translated from a Greek text different from that of the great uncials, more similar to that of S* (cf., for example, the reading preserved in 2:9a: nullum pratum which is probably the original reading).9 The other ancient versions – the Peshitta, the various Coptic versions, the Armenian, Arabic and Ethiopian versions – are all later than the great uncials and offer little interest for textual criticism.

Original LanguageWe must regard as completely eclipsed the opinion of those who speculated that the book of Wisdom was originally written in Hebrew (or Aramaic) and subsequently translated into Greek.10 The book does not lack Hebraisms, such as the constant use of parallelismus membrorum,11 but such an argument does not appear sufficient for considering the Greek of Wisdom as the translation of a Semitic original. In this connection, J. Reider writes that “[the book of Wisdom] is written in the purest form of Alexandrinian Greek, free from the Hebraisms and anomalies of the Septuagint and full of passages which combine the richest vocabulary with genuine rhetorical eloquence. Compared with the Septuaginta, Wisdom appears to be an original and independent work”12.

The Unity of the Book13

Already towards the middle of the nineteenth cent., C.L.W. Grimm held that the question of the literary unity of the book had been definitively resolved. For the great German commentator, the book of Wisdom was undoubtedly the work of a single author, even if there were some opposing voices which made themselves heard as late as the beginning of the twentieth century.14 Some contemporary authors do indeed presuppose the unity of the work but think of a composition of the book in successive stages. In particular, Wis 11-19 would have been composed later, even if by the same author as the rest of the book.15 The stylistic unity of the book, as well as the use of the same literary genre (see below), are excellent arguments for postulating not only unity of authorship but also of composition. In the light of the studies of Wright, Bizzeti and Gilbert, however, the main argument in favour of the unity of the book of Wisdom is the discovery of a careful literary structure (see below) which renders it very difficult to think of a composition which is not unitary. In addition, some authors have wanted to find precise numerical correspondences within the book itself, even if, in the case of Wright, the calculations do not seem entirely convincing.16

Two further reasons in favour of the unity of author and composition are the discovery of the so-called flashbacksand the presence of themes and motifs common to the book as a whole. Flashbacks Within the third part of the book (Wis 11-19), J.M. Reese points out the presence of verbal references and themes typical of the first two sections of Wisdom. Reese describes these texts as flashbacks, that is, as “a short repetition of a significant words or groups of words or distinctive ideas in two different parts of Wis”.17 Reese notes the presence of a good 45 flashbacks, a list which could, however, be extended.18 We observe that it is not just a question of simple literary references. Very often, in the third part of the book, our sage takes up again a thematic element of the first or second part, broadening its significance (cf., e.g., Wis 17:20-21 as a flashback to Wis 7:29-30; see the comment on 17:20-21).19 All this confirms a profound compositional unity which characterises the whole of the book of Wisdom.

Themes Common to the Whole of the Book Finally, a careful analysis of the book of Wisdom reveals the presence of common themes which are repeated in a coherent way throughout the book. This supports the idea of a strong internal unity.20

One of these themes is undoubtedly that of justice which, for some authors, constitutes the real pillar of the whole work. In this key, the book of Wisdom actually could be read as a treatise of political theology.21 The wisdom that is praised in the central part of the text (7-9) becomes the means made available to rulers for learning about justice (Wis 1 and 6). The judgement of God is ready to strike the unjust, particularly idolaters (Wis 13-15) but offers salvation to the just. The compass of the theme of justice within the book of Wisdom is not to be undervalued, although the addressees of the book are not actually pagan rulers (cf. below) and although it is wisdom that emerges instead at the centre of the book.

A second theme which runs throughout the book is that of the cosmos. This plays a fundamental role throughout the book. God created everything for life (1:13-14). Wisdom, craftsman of the world, is the point of contact between God and people, precisely because of its presence in the cosmos (cf. 7:1, 6, 21, 24, 27). The cosmos itself will intervene as an instrument at God’s side to reward the just and punish the ungodly (5:17-20), as has already happened in the past (16:17, 24). Finally, the book of Wisdom closes with the view of a renewed creation (19:18-21).

Literary Structure22

The book of Wisdom displays a very careful literary structure. Through the use of hook-words, inclusions, concentric constructions that are often polished, and other stylistic devices, our sage offers his public a pleasing work in which the literary structure is at the service of a precise theological design. Here, for the most part, we are following the proposals of P. Bizzeti and M. Gilbert.23 We shall offer, first of all, a general outline of the book. A detailed treatment of the literary structure will be given in the commentary to the individual sections of the text.

The book of Wisdom can be subdivided into three large sections. First, up to chapter 6 (see the introduction to Wis 6 for the problem represented by 6:22-25), we have what we could describe as the “book of eschatology”.

The second part of the book, Wis 7-9, we can consider as the “book of wisdom” properly so called. After the praise of wisdom (7-8), the heart of the whole book is the prayer of “Solomon” to obtain the gift of wisdom (ch. 9).24

The third part, Wis 10-19, we could call the “book of history”. Here, our sage reflects on the presence of wisdom in the history of his people (Wis 10) and, in particular, on the events of the Exodus in seven antithetical sketches in which the Israelites are contrasted with the Egyptians. What emerges is the action of God who makes use of his creation to punish the latter and save the former. Two extended digressions appear in this part: Wis 11:15-12:27, on divine philanthropy, and Wis 13-15, on idolatry.

A Theological ProjectThe general subdivision of the book follows an order that is neither logical nor chronological but rather theological. In fact, the book is introduced by the triumphal proclamation of the salvation which awaits the just (Wis 3-4; but also 1:13-15; 2:21-24). Right from the beginning, the reader is invited to be open to a future full of hope. This future is bound up with the reception of the gift of wisdom (Wis 7-9). This, in turn, is guaranteed by the certainty of the divine interventions in Israel’s history (Wis 10-19). Past, present, and future come together in a brilliant synthesis. Hope in the future provides the motor for the life of the just, but, at the same time, it is history which is the basis of this hope. The link between past and future is wisdom, given by God and present in the cosmos. In fact, salvation moves out from creation.

Language and Style

Language

The vocabulary of Wisdom is indicative of the special nature of the Greek employed by our author. In all, 1734 words appear in the book. Of these, a good 1303 appear once only. Of these, 335 words, approximately 20%, are hapax legomena of the LXX (315, according to Larcher).25 However, we must add a further 126 which appear in the LXX only in late texts such as Sir and 3-4 Macc. There also exist some twenty hapax totius graecitatis which lead us to consider our author as a real creator of language.26

Many of the terms employed by Wisdom hail from a vocabulary of a learned character: philosophical, poetic, sometimes even medical and scientific. Our author is a lover of compound words which are very numerous in the book.27 There are a good 59 adjectives which are rare, poetic or composed with an α–privative.28

If some stylistic aspects could make us think of a Hebrew original (cf. the use of the causal ὅτι, especially in Wis 1:1-2:529), others instead, such as the use of the infinitive30 or of personal pronouns,31 differ notably from the style of the LXX and show themselves to be genuinely Greek.

Style

History of Research As far back as antiquity, commentators were aware of the special nature of the style on this book, so different from the majority of the other books of the LXX, and so profoundly Greek. Jerome wrote: “ipse stylus graecam eloquentiam redolet [the style itself is redolent of Greek eloquence]”.32 His judgement has been taken up again by the moderns: Brook Foss Westcott claimed that Wisdom is typical “of the style of composition which would be produced by the sophistic schools of rhetoric”.33 Henry Barclay Swete states that “no other book in the Greek Bible is so manifestly Alexandrian in tone and style”.34 Already, Carl L.W. Grimm provided a first list of typically Greek stylistic usages in Wisdom.35

Until now, James M. Reese has been the one who has devoted particular attention to the question of style.36 His conclusion in this respect is clear: “this survey of the vocabulary and style of Wis shows that the sacred writer was trained in Greek rhetoric and was subject to a wide variety of Hellenistic influences”.37 The commentaries of Larcher and Scarpat confirm Reese’s conclusions; but research on the style of the book of Wisdom remains a field that is still open. Only recently (2011) was the first study entirely devoted to Wisdom’s style published, that of Alexis Léonas, who discovers a conscious attempt to imitate the style and idiom of the Septuagint, rejecting it when it does not conform to Greek literary use.38

The style of the book is clearly affected by the typical devices of classical rhetoric. Word order is one of the basic characteristics of Greek style. Without doubt, the most significant element in this connection is the use of well-crafted periodic sentences, such as, for example, in 12:3-7:27; 13:11-5; 15:7; and 17:16-19. Prominent in this area is the repeated stylistic use of hyperbaton, which is rather rare in the LXX but present a good 240 times in Wisdom, especially in Wis 10-19. At times, as in Wis 14:18, this is in the form of a double hyperbaton.39 The use of hyperbaton is not dictated by stylistic reasons alone but also by those of content, for example, when it is a question of highlighting a specific term: cf. 17:2a (νύκτα); 17:21b (σκότους).

Our author intends to address his audience by the additional means of the beauty of literary form which he employs. The careful style and the closeness to Greek rhetoric and poetry render the book of Wisdom attractive precisely to those Jews of Alexandria who feel themselves drawn to the Greek world. In this way, the tradition of Israel is re-presented to such readers in more congenial language.

Rhetorical Figures The author of the book demonstrates a good knowledge of the classical figures of ancient rhetoric. The frequency of such devices is considerably greater compared with the books of the LXX translated from the Hebrew.40

– Metaphor: let us take note of a single example, the metaphor of darkness employed throughout the fifth diptych (17:1-18:4) which takes on simultaneously a cosmological, psychological, moral and eschatological value.

– Litotes (the replacement of a term with the negation of its antonym in order to strengthen what is meant: Wis 1:2a (τοῖς μή πειράζουσιν); 1:11b; 3:11bc; 11:7b; 12:9a, 10, 13b; 17:4a; 18:2a.; 19:22b (οὐχ ὑπερεῖδες).

– Anaphora (the repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of multiple successive sentences or clauses): Wis 10 (repetition of αὕτη); 11:18a-d; 17:18c-19d.

– Paronomasia (the repetition of the same lexical root in different syntactical functions): Wis 5:3b, 10c; 6:10a; 12:25-26; 13:19b; 14:5a.

– There are also many cases of plays on words: 11:14-15; 17:12-13a, 21; 18:4).

– Isocolia (ἰσοκωλία identical clauses or similar sounding clauses): Wis 18:1b.

– Antithesis (juxtaposition of contrary elements): Wis 3:5a; 4:16; 7:6; 9:16; 18:7b.

– Accumulatio (the accumulation of multiple terms of the same category): cf. the compilation of the 22 attributes of wisdom listed in Wis 7:22-23.

– Asyndeton (words or phrases in successive order without the use of conjunctions that are regarded as equal and not comparative grammatically and in terms of content): asyndetic construction is used frequently to indicate a new point of view: cf. 4:10, 20; 10:12.

– Homoioteleuton (the repetition of the same or similar final syllables of words in uninterrupted succession, here in successive stichs): Wis 1:1, 4; 2:3-4; 4:10.

– Wisdom uses the figure of sorites (σωρείτης: chain syllogism) in 6:17-20.41

A final aspect of the style typical of the book of Wisdom is the use of clauses which recall classical metre. Examples of iambics or hexameters had already been discovered by Gregg (1906) and, with more care, by Thackeray (1909), the only one till now who has studied the poetic aspect of Wisdom, albeit in outline. A good example is Wis 17:1-18:4, where, in addition to a literary style that is typically Asianic, it is possible to recognise, on occasions, the use of the classical metre even if this is not systematic.42

The Literary Genre: Between the Epideictic Genre and Midrashic Style43

Wisdom: A Protreptic

Among the arguments in favour of the unity of the book of Wisdom, discussion of the literary genre has gained important weight. This debate is not without importance when it comes to the interpretation of the text. To identify the literary genre of a book means to see things from the point of view of the author and to have a better understanding of the purpose behind his work.

Taking up a proposal of Friedrich Focke,44 James M. Reese has suggested associating the book of Wisdom with the literary genre of the logos protreptikos, well known to Aristotle, and, subsequently, to the Fathers. The logos protreptikos combines the deliberative and epideictic genres. It appears as an exhortation to follow a particular line of conduct by proving the validity and the advantage of following the orator’s suggestion.45 However, Reese hypothesises the existence of lesser literary genres within the various parts of Wisdom.46

The greatest problem is the fact that we do not have complete examples of a logos protreptikos for this period nor do we have a complete treatise about it. Winston concludes, therefore, in a more nuanced way that “it is thus extremely difficult to determine whether Wis is an epideictic composition with an admixture of protreptic, or essentially a protreptic with a considerable element of epideictic”.47

Wisdom: An Encomium

Starting with the studies of Paul Beauchamp (1963) and, above all, thanks to the work of Paolo Bizzeti and Maurice Gilbert, research has turned in the direction of the epideictic genre in an increasingly convincing way.48

According to the canons of classical rhetoric, it possible to distinguish the “forensic” (genus dikanikon), “deliberative” (genus symbouleutikon, lat: genus deliberativum) and “demonstrative” (genus epideicticum; lat: genus demonstrativum, or laudativum) genres (cf. Aristotle, Rhet. 1358b). The forensic genre deals with the past and is used in law courts to establish the innocence or guilt of the accused. The deliberative genre, on the other hand, targets the future, what we ought or ought not do. From Aristotle’s Rhetoric up to the treatises on rhetoric of Cicero and Quintilian, the “epideictic” or “demonstrative” genre is described, as a discourse which is situated instead in the present and has the aim of praising a specific virtue or criticising some vice; cf. the Paradoxa Stoicorum of Cicero, the Quod omnis probus liber est and De nobilitate of Philo, and the De clementia of Seneca. The epideictic genre has a pedagogic and scholastic character, and so is addressed to the young. It seeks to persuade them by the force of demonstration and, above all, by the encomium of the virtue which it is intended to celebrate. The fictitious “Solomon” who speaks in Wis 7-8 insists heavily on his youth as we see, for example, in 8:10, but also in the reference to the dream of Gibeon (1 Kgs 3) implicit in Wis 9. The emphasis on the metaphor of royalty, which points to a clear Stoic background, presupposes a youthful audience (cf. below).

A comparison between the classical encomium and the book of Wisdom tells us still more about the author’s project. The encomium generally opens with an exordium in which the listeners are exhorted to follow a specific virtue, and – at the same time – the opponents are refuted. Pitted against them are examples of those who have lived out the same virtue. This is the procedure in the first part of Wisdom (Wis 1-6) which opens with an appeal addressed to the listeners that they embrace justice and wisdom (Wis 1 and 6). It follows with a refutation of the points made by the opponents (Wis 2 and 5), and with a series of antithetical examples which serve to illustrate the main thesis, that is, the fate of the just and of the ungodly in Wis 3-4, a text which confirms the soundness of following wisdom and justice.

The classical encomium then continues with the elogium proper in which the virtue which is the subject of the treatise is celebrated. There has to be a highlighting of the origin (τὸ γένος), nature (ἡ φύσις), and actions (ἡ πράξις) of the virtue, in our case, wisdom. This is what happens in the central part of the book of Wisdom: from 6:22-25 our author will deal with the origin and nature of Wisdom (Wis 7-8); its actions will be portrayed in Wis 10. With regard to the text of Wis 7-8, Alexis Leproux has proposed that these two chapters should be read in the light of the rhetorical elogium dedicated to a particular person, something that was widespread at the start of the imperial period, especially for works of the Second Sophistic.49

The final part of the classical encomium comprises the σύγκρισις (comparatio). Through a series of examples drawn from the past, the orator wishes to convince his public of the advantage of his thesis. Not infrequently, there is recourse to digressions on themes related to the main one. This is the case with the third part of Wisdom (Wis 10-19) which deals with the just/ungodly contrast (Israel and Egypt). This is read against the background of the events of the Exodus and animated by two large digressions, on the philanthropy of God (11:15-12:27) and, above all, on idolatry (13-15). Finally, the encomium closes with an epilogue in which the author recapitulates his arguments and draws his conclusions from them. This is what happens at the end of the book, in Wis 19:10-22.

The Midrashic Style

The subject of the encomium within Wisdom is not so much a moral quality or a human virtue, as in the classical encomium, but is rather the wisdom that comes from God. Moreover, at the centre of the book, there appears a text which does not find any echoes in the classical encomia: the prayer to obtain Wisdom (Wis 9) in which Solomon addresses the Lord directly. Furthermore, within the comparison of chapters 11-19, beside the two antagonists, Israel and Egypt, there intervenes a third element of comparison, the cosmos. It too is absent from the classical encomium. In Wis 9, the subject addressed by the author is no longer his audience but God directly, who is also addressed several times in the second person in the course of chapters 11-19. Joseph Heinemann has already indicated the differences between Wis 11-19 and the classical Greek σύγκρισις in which the analogy is internal to the comparison and not external as happens instead in Wis 11-19. This is achieved precisely by means of the tertium quid of the cosmos.50

Let us observe again that the constant background of the book of Wisdom is Scripture (see below), which our author continually rereads and re-presents for his audience even if through the lens of the Hellenistic culture of his time. In this way, the typically Greek literary genre of the encomium is embellished with a process which is more characteristic of Jewish literature: what we know by the name of midrash.

It is impossible to give an exact definition for midrash. We could describe it as an attitude, a way of thinking, which betrays itself in a way of writing in a style proper to Judaism, one which characterises the approach it has to Scripture.51Midrash is the “search” for the meaning of Scripture which starts out from the conviction that it is contemporary with its readers and that it retains a perennial relevance. It is this relevance that the authors of midrash are striving to search for, bringing the biblical text into the situation in which they and their listeners are living. The perception of the unity of Scripture and its perennial relevance for whomever is listening to it constitute, therefore, the peculiar features of every midrashic commentary which thus has a character at once popular and homiletic.

In these circumstances, it is possible to speak of the midrashiccharacter of the book of Wisdom, particularly in the book’s third part (Wis 10-19), which takes up again the events of the Exodus. However, already in the first part (Wis 1-6), there is some attestation of the presence of this midrashic style.52 In fact, the aim of our author is to demonstrate the unity of Scripture together with its relevance for the readers of his time, thus creating what Roger Le Déaut has felicitously described as a “sonorisation of history”.53 What makes the book of Wisdom a work that is absolutely original is precisely this close connection between the midrashic style and the use of a Greek literary genre, that is, the encomium. The brilliance of the Alexandrian sage consists in having known how to express in a Hellenistic literary form a content that is profoundly Jewish. The author of the book thus succeeded in setting before his listeners a text which, though remaining faithful to the biblical tradition, succeeded in expressing it in a language that was much more accessible to them.54 We can, therefore, conclude that in the book of Wisdom we find a kind of Greek midrash on Israel’s Scriptures.55

Author, Date, and Place of Composition

Author

The author of the book conceals himself under the Solomonic mask. That transpires from chapters 7-8 and, in particular, from the prayer of Wis 9, even if Solomon is never explicitly mentioned. Some Fathers of the Church still thought of the historical figure of Solomon. The Muratorian fragment (lines 69-71) thinks rather of the friends of Solomon: ab amicis Salomonis in honorem eius scripta [written by the friends of Solomon in his honour].56 Although not seeming to accept it, Jerome records the opinion that Philo was the author of Wisdom. This is the origin of a legend about a hypothetical Christian Philo.57 The position of Wisdom in the canon makes one think also, and perhaps more naturally, of Ben Sira, or his grandson who translated his book, a theory already advanced by Augustine in Doctr. chr. 2.8.13 though subsequently retracted (Retract. 2.30[4].2).58 Later thoughts turned also to the priest Onias, the philosopher Aristobulus, and to Apollos, the Alexandrian mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Acts 18). All of these are purely hypothetical attempts at identification.59

In reality, a precise identification of the author is impossible. We must content ourselves with thinking of an anonymous Greek-speaking Jew from Alexandria with a deep knowledge of Scripture, well anchored in the tradition of his ancestors but, at the same time, linked to the Hellenistic cultural environment which characterised the city of Alexandria.

Date

Time of Caligula? For a long time, the period of the composition of the book of Wisdom has remained a further enigma for scholars.60 In the past, the date proposed has oscillated from the beginning of the second cent. BCE to the time of Caligula (37-41 CE).61 The linguistic arguments do not appear conclusive for dating Wisdom to the time of Caligula.62 The possible connections with Philo play a role in this late dating of Wisdom. If it is admitted that the author of Wisdom knew Philo, the book obviously must be situated in a time close to him. The period of Caligula’s rule constitutes a plausible background on account of the anti-Jewish persecutions to which the text of Wis 2 seems to intend to allude. Wis 14:15-17, a text relating to the divinisation of the sovereign, could also be a precise allusion to Caligula.63 Passages such as Wis 5:16-23 would presuppose a really desperate historical situation which could have occurred only in the time of Caligula.64 However, we observe that the contacts between Wisdom and Philo could be explained by recourse to the hypothesis of a common cultural environment. In fact, the book of Wisdom does not seem to have been familiar with the works of Philo. As for the allusions to possible anti-Jewish persecutions, we should observe that Wis 2 seems to presuppose a typical situation relating to the just man persecuted by the ungodly rather than a real persecution in progress. Alternatively, perhaps our sage intends to refer to previous anti-Jewish persecutions, either in Egypt itself or in Judaea (cf. below).

Augustan age Within the book we can find clues which lead us to confirm a date during the time of Octavian Augustus, that is, between 30 BCE and 14 CE, probably towards the last phase of his principate. Until now, study of the vocabulary has prevented us from placing the composition of the book before the Augustan period. The classic argument is the presence, in Wis 6:3, of the term κράτησις, “dominion”, a technical term to indicate the taking possession of Egypt by the Romans in 30 BCE after the battle of Actium. However, as Maurice Gilbert has shown, the expression τῆς καίσαρος κρατήσεως, used with reference to the conquest of Egypt by Octavian, appears to have been completely abandoned after the death of the emperor, which happened in 14 CE. The use of κράτησις, therefore, not only constitutes a terminus a quo, but should also be considered as a terminus ad quem for the dating of the book.65

Further clues which bring the book close to the Augustan period are the text of Wis 14:22, which could be an ironic allusion to the pax romana proclaimed by Octavian Augustus in 9 CE, while the entire section of 14:16-22 could refer to the nascent cult of the emperor which was already current in the time of Augustus, not only in that of Caligula. The hostility displayed by the book in its dealings with the Egyptians could be read as a sign of the changed social situation created in Alexandria after the arrival of the Romans, but, above all, of the discontent widespread among the Alexandrian Jews following the institution of the so-called laographía. This was the poll tax already instituted by Rome in the first years of the rule of Augustus for all those who, like the Jews, did not enjoy the totality of Alexandrian citizenship.

Wis 19:13-17 and the question of civil rightsHere we have a polemic which is well reflected in Wis 19:13-17, a text which presupposes that Alexandrian Jews did not enjoy full civil rights. The problem of the struggle for civil rights causes the emergence of a deeper question: the Jews of Alexandria are striving simultaneously both for integration and for the recognition of their own particular identity. If the rich and prosperous Philo feels himself very close to the Greeks and seeks forcefully for equality between the Jews of Alexandria and the Greek element of the population, the author of the Third Book of the Maccabees regards the seeking of Alexandrian citizenship or even the search for any kind of integration on the political and social level as a betrayal of the faith, done “for the sake of the belly” (3 Macc 7:11). In fact, the Jews are a λαός ἐν ξένει γῇ ξένος, a foreign people in a foreign land (3 Macc 6:3).66 In 3 Macc 3:3-4, the Jews considered truly faithful are those who, though maintaining their loyalty in their dealings with their rulers (εὔνοιαν καὶ πίστιν ἀδιάστροφον), conduct themselves (πολιτευόμενοι) according to the law of their God “and for this reason appeared hateful to some”.

It is clear that full integration with the Greek population, beginning with access to the gymnasium, would have set insurmountable problems of faith for the majority of Jews. Is it possible, then, to look for integration with the Greek world and, at the same time, preserve one’s own faith? With various nuances, and with solutions that are often opposed (at the two extremes, Philo and the Third Book of the Maccabees), the Jews of Alexandria want to be, at one and the same time, citizens and yet different. Our sage intends to place himself half-way between the polemical view of the Third Book of the Maccabees and the overtures which characterise Philo a little later. The attitude defended by the book of Wisdom in relation to the problem of the rights of the Jews of Alexandria is that of a Judaism which is conscious of its own special nature but which, at the same time, is seeking a certain amount of integration.67

As in the rest of the book, in Wis 19:13-17 also, our author never yields to the temptation of renouncing his own faith. Even the Egyptians, although pagans, have benefited from the presence of the Israelites and, if there is anyone who has hated guests and foreigners, it has been precisely them. There is undoubtedly some idealism in this position: we would like to maintain our full religious identity, our sage seems to be saying, and, at the same time, receive the recognition of the rights common to the Greek part of the city. For the Greeks, the Jews would remain so privileged as to be hated, as Josephus will write, putting the phrase in the mouth of Apion: “Why, then, if they are citizens, do they not worship the same gods as the Alexandrians?” (C. Ap. 2.65). For the book of Wisdom, on the other hand, it is a question of keeping up good relations with the Greeks although remaining faithful to the law of Moses.68

Place

That Egypt was the environment of the composition of the book of Wisdom seems indisputable. Together with the Israelites, the Egyptians are the key protagonists of the whole of the third part of the book which, although basing itself on a relecture of the texts of the Exodus, continually alludes to the historical situation of Greco-Roman Egypt. The text of Wis 19:13-17, just mentioned, leaves few doubts about the Egyptian origin of our author. The figure of the ungodly presented in Wis 2 finds its most natural explanation if set against the background of life in the city of Alexandria. With its famous institutions, the Library and the Museum, Alexandria was a cultural and religious crossroads. From the time of its foundation, it was the site of the most numerous and important Jewish colony outside the land of Israel. It is thus the best candidate for the place of composition of the book.69

The Book of Wisdom and the Scriptures70

The author of Wisdom displays a great familiarity with the Scriptures of Israel and presupposes his audience’s deep knowledge of them. The book of Wisdom often follows the Greek translation of the LXX closely, even if direct recourse to the Hebrew text is not to be precluded entirely.71 A peculiar characteristic of our author is that of never citing any biblical book explicitly but only suggesting it or alluding to it. He thus hands over to his audience the effort (but also the joy) of discovery.72

We offer here a general overview which can serve as a first orientation to the way in which our sage makes use of the sacred text.

Wis 1-6 In the first part of the book (Wis 1-6), the author keeps firmly in mind the questions posed by Job and by Qoheleth on the problem of retribution. What is the justice of God about if the just suffer and die while the ungodly seem to have success?73 The response offered by the book of Wisdom, namely, the eternal happiness of the just and the sad fate of the ungodly in the last judgement, arises from a bold relecture of the text of Gen 1-3.74 God’s original plan for man as expressed in the Genesis text is reread, in the key of incorruptibility, especially in Wis 1:13-15 and 2:23-24. We note how the texts of Gen 1-3 are scattered throughout the book. That reveals our sage’s fundamental interest in the theology of creation: the cosmos is destined for life (Wis 1:13-14; 2:23-24); salvation (cf. Wis 19:6-12) will consist precisely in a creation that has been renewed. Idolatry is an overturning of the meaning of creation (Wis 13:13; 15:8, 11).

The presentation of the ungodly in Wis 2:1-20 takes up many biblical themes (cf. Job and the Psalms); but, already in Wis 1:10-11, the Exodus theme of murmuring had emerged. In the theme of the suffering just man (Wis 2:10-20), our author is rereading Ps 22 and especially Isa 53, the Fourth Servant Song.75 In the announcement relating to the happiness of the just (cf. Wis 3-4), we discover the presence of texts of an eschatological character such as Ps 2 (utilised as early as Wis 1:1) in addition to Dan 7 and 12. The Daniel texts are reproduced within a sapiential dimension and deprived of their messianic content, transforming them into a real sapiential anthropology.76 Finally, in chapters 3 and 4 of Wisdom, the book of Isaiah is well and truly present for our sage (cf. also Wis 5:17-20 in comparison with Isa 59:16-17). Isaiah is one of the principal sources for our sage whereas Jeremiah and Ezekiel are present to a much lesser extent.77 The novelty of Wisdom’s teaching concerning the immortality of the just arises particularly from the deep reflection our sage makes on the Isaiah texts (cf. Wis 2:23 and Isa 54:16-17).

Wis 7-9In the second part of the book (Wis 7-9), the point of departure is furnished, first of all, by two classic texts on Solomon’s prayer to obtain wisdom: 1 Kgs 3:5-15 and 2 Chr 1:7-12 (cf. 1 Kgs 5:13). These are especially the basis of Wis 9. Here, echoes of texts from Genesis, Exodus, and the prophets also return. In the description of Solomon’s love for wisdom, use is also made of various passages from Proverbs,78 in addition to many other biblical texts. The presentation of wisdom in Wis 7-8 echoes, among other places, Prov 8:22-30 (cf. Wis 7:12, 21; 8:6) but also Sir 24.

Wis 10-19 In the third part of the book (Wis 10-19), the list of the eight just men, from Adam to Moses, in Wis 10 is a careful and sweeping résumé of many passages from Genesis and Exodus. This list in chapter 10 recalls the praise of the ancestors in Sir 44-50.79

The seven antitheses (Wis 11:1-14; 16:1-19:9) follow the Exodus traditions closely (in particular Exod and Num)80 but also the rereading of these traditions which is already present in Psalms 78, 105, and 107. These psalms do not contribute as such to the general architecture of the book. However, the whole of the book of Wisdom is continually threaded through with allusions to and citations from the Psalms.81

Less present in the book are Leviticus (in fact, our author does not have any great interest in the cult) and Deuteronomy (cf., however, Wis 6:7ab and Deut 1:7; Wis 16:26 and Deut 8:3). Our sage does not award primary importance to the Torah understood as a legislative text. Even with Exod-Num, it is the narrative texts that are privileged. The texts of the Exodus tradition, then, are presented by means of a constant work of actualisation and reread in the light of the situation of the Alexandrian Jews at the end of the first cent. BCE.

In the first digression, Wis 11:15-12:27, the book of Wisdom reflects on why God did not punish the Egyptians as severely as he later did the Canaanites. The stories of the Pentateuch and the book of Joshua are utilised to highlight the divine “philanthropy”.

In the digression on idolatry (Wis 13-15), our author has recourse to the texts of the prophetic and psalmic traditions which polemicise against the worship of idols. Particularly prominent is the use of the texts against the idols typical of Isa 40-55; cf. Isa 44:9-20 but also Ps 113:1-16.