The book of Wisdom (of Solomon) is one of the lesser known books of the Apocrypha, but it is full of wisdom, as its title suggests, and even prophecy. In the Jerusalem Bible it is found immediately after the Song of Songs (of Solomon). In my study bible (the one I write in) there are lots of underlinings and notes. I also put tabs on the edges of the pages so I could find the books more quickly, but as many have found out, this is a mistake. The paper that most bibles are printed on is too fragile and thin to support the tabs, and over the almost 40 years that I've had this copy, many of the tabs have torn the pages or fallen off. Don't try this!
Since one of my friends just wrote me upon his discovery of this book in the Jerusalem Bible, I thought I would share some of my favorite passages in my blog. If you find these interesting and want to get a copy of the Jerusalem Bible, be advised that this version is not the same as the New Jerusalem Bible currently being published. The original (1966) Jerusalem Bible has recently been republished in hard cover, but there are still plenty of copies in used book stores and on the internet of the "phone book" edition of the JB, which is the one that I use as a study bible. A leather-bound copy, on the other hand, will be very rare and cost as much as $250.
The book of Wisdom starts out…
Love virtue, you who are judges on earth,
let honesty prompt your thinking about the Lord,
seek Him in simplicity of heart;
since He is to be found by those who do not put Him to the test,
He shows Himself to those who do not distrust Him.
But selfish intentions divorce from God;
and Omnipotence, put to the test, confounds the foolish.
There are prophetic passages that can only have been fulfilled by Jesus…
[The wicked say to each other]
Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man, since he annoys us
and opposes our way of life,
reproaches us for our breaches of the law
and accuses us of playing false to our upbringing.
He claims to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a son of the Lord.
Before us he stands, a reproof to our way of thinking,
the very sight of him weighs our spirits down;
his way of life is not like other men's,
the paths he treads are unfamiliar.
In his opinion we are counterfeit;
he holds aloof from our doings as though from filth;
he proclaims the final end of the virtuous as happy
and boasts of having God for his father.
Let's see if what he says is true,
let us observe what kind of end he himself will have.
If the virtuous man is God's son,
God will take his part
and rescue him from the clutches
of his enemies.
Let us test him with cruelty
and with torture,
and thus explore this gentleness of his
and put his endurance to the proof.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death
since he will be looked after
—we have his word for it.
In the book of Wisdom there are passages equating Wisdom with the Holy Spirit, and in this guise the feminine pronoun is used. This has led to the writing of ikons of holy Wisdom, where she is seated on a throne in the foreground, while Christ is farther in and up seated on the cherubim and seraphim, and seated on the Father's throne, the invisible God…
For within her is a spirit intelligent, holy,
unique, manifold, subtle,
active, incisive, unsullied,
lucid, invulnerable, benevolent, sharp,
irresistible, beneficent, loving to man,
steadfast, dependable, unperturbed,
penetrating all intelligent, pure,
and most subtle spirits;
for Wisdom is quicker to move than any motion;
she is so pure, she pervades and permeates
She is a breath of the power of God,
pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
hence, nothing impure can find a way into her.
She is a reflection of the eternal light,
untarnished mirror of God's active power,
image of His goodness.
Although alone, she can do all;
herself unchanging, she makes all things new.
In each generation she passes into holy souls,
she makes them friends of God, and prophets…
A large part of the book of Wisdom is taken up with recounting the history of the world and interpreting it from a spiritual perspective, showing how God was present and working in it through His Holy Spirit…The father of the world [Adam],
the first being to be fashioned,
created alone, he had her [Wisdom] for his protector
and she delivered him from his fault;
she gave him the strength
to subjugate all things.
But when a sinner [Cain] in his wrath deserted her,
he perished in his fratricidal fury.
Speaking of God's forebearance with Egypt during the Exodus…
For Your great strength is always at Your call;
who can withstand the might of Your arm?
In Your sight the world is like a grain of dust that tips the scales,
like a drop of morning dew falling on the ground.
Yet You are merciful to all, because You can do all things
and overlook men's sins so that they can repent.
Yes, You love all that exists,
You hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrance,
for had You hated anything, You would not have formed it.
And how, had you not willed it, could a thing persist,
how be conserved if not called forth by You?
You spare all things because all things are Yours,
Lord, lover of life,
You whose imperishable spirit is in all.
There is really too much in this book to give but a small sample, and even this can do it little justice. It is a great book of wisdom, as its title suggests, and whether you agree that it should be included among the books of the Bible or not, it is still worth reading. I can hardly lay my eyes anywhere in this book without finding treasures of divine truth. Speaking of what cured the Israelites of snake bite when they were in the wilderness…
But, for Your sons,
not even the fangs of venomous serpents
could bring them down;
Your mercy came to their help
and cured them.
One sting—how quickly healed!
—to remind them of Your oracles
rather than that,
by sinking into deep forgetfulness,
they should be cut off from Your kindness.
No herb, no poultice cured them,
but it was Your Word, Lord,
which heals all things.
For You have power of life and death,
You bring down to the gates of Hades
and bring back again.