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Wisdom of Solomon

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Daniel J. Harrington writes: "Several factors point to Alexandria in Egypt as the place of composition: the use of Greek, the philosophical concepts, the focus on the exodus, the polemic against Egyptian animal-worship, and so on. A date in the first century B.C.E. seems most likely, though any time from the second century B.C.E. to the first century C.E. is possible. Efforts to link it with a specific crisis in the history of the Jewish community at Alexandria such as the threat posed by the cult of the Roman emperor Caligula (37-41 C.E.; see 14:17) have not won much support." (Invitation to the Apocrypha, pp. 55-56)

David A. deSilva writes: "There is wider debate concerning the date of Wisdom, which has been placed anywhere between 220 B.C.E. and 100 C.E. The terminus a quo is set by the author's use of the Greek translation of Isaiah, Job, and Proverbs, the first of which was probably available by 200 B.C.E. (Reider 1957: 14; Holmes 1913: 520). The terminus ad quem is set by the evident use of the work by several New Testament authors (Holmes 1913: 521; Reider 1957: 14). A date within the early period of Roman domination of Egypt, especially the early Roman Principate (or Empire), seems most likely. First, the description of the development of the ruler cult in 14:16-20 best describes not the cult of the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt, a cult that was organised and promoted from the center, but the spontaneous, decentralized development of the imperial cult under Augustus, who was also Egypt's first 'remote' ruler since Alexander (Holmes 1913: 521; Oesterley 1935: 207; Winston 1979: 21-22; Collins 2000: 195). Second, the author uses some thirty-five terms or phrases unattested in secular Greek before the first century C.E. (Winston 1979: 22-23 and n. 33). Further, Gilbert (1984: 312; 1973: 172) has detected a critique of the pax romanain 14:22, 'through living in great strife due to ignorance, they call such great evils peace' (cf. Tacitus Agricola 30), and considers the author's address in 6:1-2 to the 'judges of the ends of the earth' who 'rule over multitudes, and boast of many nations' to fit the Roman imperial period better than its predecessors." (Introducing the Apocrypha, pp. 132-133)

J. Alberto Soggin writes: "At least in the view of those who attributed the work to Solomon (who certainly did not write in Greek), the original language of Wisdom would seem to have been the Hebrew of the classical period. On the other hand, traditions handed down by the Muratorian canon and by Origen, Jerome and Augustine among the church fathers, contrast with the theory of an original Hebrew text. Jerome in particular insisted on the Hellenistic character of the work, especially as regards the book's oratory. In passing, we might point out that this is probably the first case of the application to a biblical book of the method of the history of literary genres. Practically all scholars, even in conservative circles, agree that the book should not be attributed to Solomon, while a linguistic examination of the work also rules out with a reasonable margin of certainty that its original language might have been Hebrew or Aramaic. There are too many technical terms and expressions typical of the world of Hellenistic philosophy for one to be able to conjecture that Wisdom was originally written in a Semitic language. It might be conceded that in ch. 1 we still have the relics of a translation of some kind, but the treatment has been so free that the final result is very far removed from the archetype." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 444-445)

Addison G. Wright writes: "Many scholars have proposed that Wis is the work of more than one author, and they distinguish two independent sections (1:1-11:1; 11:2-19:22 or 1-5; 6-19); some point out even three or four sections. Arguments in favor of composite authorship follow: the difference in style and tone between the first and last parts of the book; the absence of references in chs 11-19 to wisdom (save for 14:2, 5) and immortality; a number of striking linguistic differences, especially in the use of particles and in the choice of words (see Holmes, op. cit., 522-23). However, the majority of critics since Grimm defends the unity of authorship, finding that the factors mentioned are far outweighed by the homogeneity of vocabulary and of outlook throughout, as well as by the mutual cohesion of the parts. The differences between the sections are accounted for by postulating that some interval of time elapsed between their composition, the artistically and theologically inferior chs. 11-19 perhaps being written in the author's old age (P. W. Skehan, Traditio 3 [1945] 5)." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 557)

James M. Reese writes: "As a unified whole the Wisdom of Solomon belongs to the literary genre of protreptic, a genre of rhetorical exhortation in Greek philosophy. The sprawling genre of protreptic met the author's needs, namely, to justify God's actions toward the Israelites, to encourage Jewish readers to love their revealed tradition, to display encyclopedic knowledge capable of impressing sophisticated readers, and to portray biblical morals as superior to Hellenistic. The case is argued with great skill by a creative use of figurative language and literary allusions. The author's skill at coining new compound words compares favorably with that of the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 820)

James King West writes: "Among the characteristics of Wisdom, two are of particular interest. First, the afterlife is described in terms of the Hellenistic dualism which debases matter in contrast to the immortality of the soul, rather than the Judaic concept of the resurrection of the body (cf. the remarkably beautiful passage in 3:1-9, also such vss. as 8:13). Second, the personification of wisdom, introduced, for eaxmple, in Proverbs 1-9, is here carried much farther than in any parallel Judaic literature. In Proverbs the personification is symbolic, but in this book wisdom is described in terms intended to be taken quite seriously as: 'a kindly spirit' (1:6); 'radiant and unfading' (6:12); 'the fashioner of all things,' whose twenty-one attributes include intelligence, holiness, mobility, omnipotence, interpenetration, and the like (7:22); 'breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty' (7:25); 'spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness' (7:26; cf. 10:1, 5, 6, 9; 11:1; 12:1). These descriptions of wisdom, especially the crucial passage in 7:22-8:21, reflect the increasing emphasis on the transcendence of God characteristic of later Judaism, combined with an unmistakable influence from Hellenism. How far the author intended his definition of Wisdom as an intermediary between God and the world is impossible to say. Viewing his words from the perspective of Greek thought, it would probably be easy to read too much into them. Whether consciously or not, he nevertheless spoke a language that during the next two centuries and later was to play a profound role in religious development." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 464-465)

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