27 Aug 2016

Wisdom of Solomon, The Apocrypha, Reading Books Outside the Bible, and Spiritual Wisdom

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Apocrypha, Bible, Bobby's World, Chronicles, Discipleship, Reading, Spiritual Disciplines, Wisdom of Solomon
1611 King James Version, Wisdom of Solomon

1611 King James Version, Wisdom of Solomon

Over the last week I have been out at the Waunita Hot Springs Dude Ranch about 28 miles into the Rocky Mountains outside of Gunnison, Colorado.  While there I have tried to keep up with my daily readings though a day or two they were not always done at the same time.  Reading through the Bible has brought me to that area between Malachi and Matthew in the Protestant Bible called “The Apocrypha.”

This Saturday morning (today), having finished my Psalm time and with nothing else to do I turned to my place to do my “next days reading” which happened to be in the Wisdom of Solomon 10-12. When I finished and engaged in a moment of prayer, I began to reflect on just how rich the material was that I have been reading.  Some will cry “heresy” when I say this, but I knew that Jesus, Paul, the Hebrews Preacher, the Church Fathers, Augustine, and millions of believers before me had also read these words and thanked God for them!

There is the wonderful passage in 2.12-20 which the Church Fathers believed was one of the clearest prophecies of the betrayal, suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. The promise to the “eunuch” receiving “special favor” from God and “finding a place of delight in the temple of the Lord” (3.14) was often cited as being fulfilled by the Ethiopian in Acts 8.26f.  And Paul clearly is referring to, if not outright citing, the wonderful description of the whole armor of God (there are only two places in all biblical Greek where the word “panoplia” occurs, Eph 6.13 and Wis 5.17), this is worth citing in full …

The Lord will take his zeal as his whole armor (panoplia)
and will arm all creation to repel his enemies;
he will put on righteousness as a breastplate
and wear impartial justice as a helmet;
he will take holiness as an invincible shield,
and sharpen stern wrath for a sword,
and creation will join with him to fight
against His frenzied foes.

For more on Ephesians and Wisdom see Ephesians 6.13: A Short Cultural and Historical Study

The Hebrews Preacher draws on Wisdom 7 when talking to his congregation that was baptized in the language of the Septuagint.

wisdom, the fashioner/molder/maker of all things, taught me” (7.22, cf. Heb 1.1-4)

[wisdom] is the breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty … for [wisdom] is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness” (7.25-26, cf. Heb 1.2-3)

But in today’s reading it is the hunger and thirst for wisdom as a divine gift that caught me. The follower of Yahweh will be known for wisdom and insight as they pray and seek it from him! As the prayer warrior implores …

Medieval Latin Vulgate Opened to Wisdom of Solomon

Medieval Latin Vulgate Opened to Wisdom of Solom

O God of my ancestors and Lord of mercy, who make all things by your word,
and by your wisdom have formed humanity, to have dominion over the creatures
you have made, and rule the world in holiness and righteousness, and pronounce
judgment in uprightness of soul,
give me the wisdom that sits by your throne, and do not reject me from among
your servants. For I am your servant, the son of your servant girl, a man who is
weak and short-lived, with little understanding of judgment and laws …”

At the end of chapter 11 in today’s reading I found these wonderful and true words.

But you are merciful to all, for you can do all things,
and you overlook people’s sins, SO that they may repent.
For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the
things you have made, for you would not have made
anything if you had hated it. How would anything
have endured if you had hated it? Or how would anything
not called forth by you have been preserved? You
spare all things, for they are yours,
O Lord, you who love the living.” (11.23-26)

And in chapter 12 these marvelous truths that are worth placing in our hearts. There is a powerful lesson here for those who mete out condemnation on a routine basis while claiming to be “fruit inspectors!”

Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness,
and with great forbearance you govern us … So while chastening us
you scourge our enemies ten thousand times more, So that, when
WE judge, WE may meditate upon your goodness, and when we are
judged we may expect mercy” (12.19, 22)

There are reasons that some of the Church Fathers, such as Athanasius, who is routinely cited as one that rejected the Apocrypha (he did not), thought Wisdom of Solomon was part of the New Testament!!

TruthReading Books Outside the Bible

As my time was wrapping up with Wisdom of Solomon my mind went to a public rebuke I received on Facebook for daring to say that there was some Spiritual worth in the Apocrypha or other works that are not bound in the pages of the Bible.  But something does not have to be canonical in order to be a Gift of Grace from God! Who has not been Spiritually edified by the contents of our hymnals? Who has not been challenged or uplifted or even sometimes “converted” through a sermon? Who has not been blessed to the core by classic works? Anyone that believes in the Triune God will readily affirm such as a given actually!

It is a faux conservatism to claim that God’s people are only receive Spiritual insight or receive benefit from Bible itself!  This is self-defeating and even hypocrisy because the folks that make such claims and chastise some of us publicly subscribe to various publications that they would insist teach the truth and point to the way.

But as I was reflecting on that charge in light of this morning’s reading in Wisdom it dawned on me that not only is such a claim not “conservative” but it is actually UNBIBLICAL!  The biblical writers themselves cite and point to sources outside the Bible.  We have just seen that in Wisdom of Solomon itself there are numerous passages that reappear in the New Testament writings themselves (many more examples could be provided).

The apostle Paul clearly had not only been reading but studying books outside the “Bible” either before or during (or both) his missionary trips. Not only does Paul cite the famous Aratus and his lengthy poem about the gods, Phaenomena 1-5 but he cites it as if what it said was true!! I am sure some one could claim that the Holy Spirit gave Paul sudden inspiration and he never actually read this poem but it makes more sense to say that Paul had done his “homework” and found places that proclaimed truth.  So in the poem we read,

Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoke
For every street, every market-place is full of Zeus.
Even the sea and the harbour are full of this deity.
Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus.
For we are indeed his offspring.

In Acts 26.13 when Paul is presenting his defense in front of Agrippa and the pagan Festus, Paul quotes a line from a play by Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 1624.

It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (a line that did not appear in his earlier defense in Acts 9).

There are more. Here is a summary of the pagan writings that Paul studied and quoted in the pages of the canonical New Testament.

Acts 17. 8 – Epimenides
Acts 17. 8 – Aratus
Acts 26. 13 – Aeschylus
1 Corinthians 15.33 – taken from Euripedes, and probably Menander
Titus chapter 1.12 – Epimenides

Luke, the author of the Gospel and Acts, clearly did a bunch of study and probably kept the ancient equivalent of “note cards” as he was doing his research to write his material.  He states rather forthrightly,

“Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first to write an orderly account …” (Luke 1.1-3)

In the Hebrew Bible we find copious amounts of nonbiblical material cited in ancient “footnotes” with the implied invitation to “go check it out.”  So we read of the following examples (not exhaustive) from Chronicles …

The annals of King David (1 C 27.24)
The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah (2 C 27.7; 35.27; 36.8)
The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel (2 C 16.11; 25.26; 28.26; 32.32)
The Book of the Kings (2 C 9.1; 2 C 24.27)
The Decree of David the King of Israel and the Decree of Solomon his Son (2 C 35.4)
The Annotations of the Book of the Kings (2 C 24.27)

None of these writings are in the Bible.  Each one is cite to validate a claim made by the Chronicler.  Each was available for investigation and the Chronicler never dreamed that God’s people could not learn from or be edified from or learn of God’s wisdom, faithfulness, mercy or truth from any of these sources.

Reading is a Spiritual Discipline

The Bible itself frequently knows of and points to works that are not in the Bible itself.  The claim that it disrespects God’s word, or you are putting a book on par with the canon, or that you can learn some Spiritual truth from a work outside the Bible is in direct contradiction of the Spirit guided writers themselves! It is not conservative to make such a claim, it is unbiblical!

God’s word is supreme! But God’s people have prayed with, wrestled with, worshiped with and struggled with God’s word and have left a treasure of Spiritual writings that only fools in the true sense of the word would cut themselves off from.  As David deSilva once wrote the Apocrypha is the greatest body of devotional literature in history!  In a thousand years, should the Lord tarry, the Spiritual Sword and Wineskins will never have been heard of even by the most erudite historian … but folks will still be reading the Wisdom of Solomon!!!

6 Responses to “Wisdom of Solomon, The Apocrypha, Reading Books Outside the Bible, and Spiritual Wisdom”

  1. dwight Says:

    I believe we short change ourselves when we try to limit spirituality to things and words contained in the scriptures, instead of using the scriptures as a guide to spiritual things. Our prayers and work can uplift another, but is not so defined by scripture as what we say or do.

  2. Andrew Swango Says:

    Stay strong amid the rebukes from the naysayers of the “Apocrypha.” Such people are more in agreement with Luther, who established the Protestant canon, than the apostles who established the Septuagint as their Old Testament (which included the “apocrypha”). Well done pointing out that the Scriptures themselves cite works by secular [even pagan] folks.

    Thanks for your great post about the book of Wisdom. I have a couple questions and wanted to hear your thoughts.

    1) What do you think about the author of Wisdom? The Muratorian Fragment (170 AD) says that the “friends of Solomon” wrote it in his honor. Are there any other evidences that point to the author’s identity?

    2) What do you think about Wisdom which seems to say that children inherit sin? This is mostly found in chapter 3. And what the author says in 8:19-20 which seems to say that children do not inherit sin?

    • Profile photo of Bobby Valentine Bobby Valentine Says:

      Andrew delighted to have your comment. Americans have to be careful because their version of “Protestant” is more akin to fundamentalistism and the Left Behind folks. Luther, for example, loved the Wisdom of Solomon. He went thru the effort to translating it and placing it in his Bible after all (and that IS a lot of effort!). I will quote his Preface to the book for it is worth reading …

      ““[T]here are many good things in this book, and it is well worth reading . . . It pleases me beyond measure that the author here extols the Word of God so highly, and ascribes to the Word all the wonders God has performed, both on enemies and in his saints.

      From this it can be clearly seen that what the author here calls wisdom is not the clever or lofty thoughts of pagan teachers and human reason, but the holy and divine Word. . .

      To refer to this book as the Wisdom of Solomon is as much to call it: A Book of Solomon about the Word of God. So the spirit of wisdom is nothing other than faith, our understanding of that same Word; this, however, the Holy Spirit imparts. Such faith or spirit can do all things, and does do all things, as this book glories in chapter 7 [v.27]. . .

      This is the foremost reason why it is well to read this book: one may learn to fear and trust God. To that end may he graciously help us. Amen.” (Luther’s Works, vol. 35, pp. 343-345).

      As for the author of the book I have no clue. The vast majority of scholarship date the book after 200 BC and some in the first century BC. I doubt that Solomon had any connection with the book historically and interestingly enough he is never named in the book.

      As for children inheriting ontological guilt in 3.16-19, I do not think that is what the author is arguing there at all. The passage, which does not say children inherit guilt, must be understood in an “honor/shame” culture which is what existed around the Mediterranean basin. The author simply argues that those who have wantonly flaunted God’s will suffer shame. The child born from such shameful actions was often ostracized even until modern times. This is just to show “the end of the unrighteous generation is grievous” (3.19). I think this perspective is pretty much shared with canonical literature and not unique to Wisdom of Solomon.

      I do not think 8.19-20 is discussing the issue any more than chapter 3. That is just me 🙂

      I have a longer blog focused on Wisdom of Solomon as a whole if you are curious It is here: Wisdom of Solomon: The Righteous Will Live Forever

  3. Dwight Says:

    A bit of irony is that we have countless religious pamphlets and books and songs/songbooks written by non-inspired people and circulated and read/sung by many and yet we condemn anything that was written during or around the first century and/or before as being not worthy because they are not in the Bible canon or not considered inspired or even claim to be. Even the Song of Songs (Solomon) didn’t make it into the Jewish canon until the second century and has no clear author, except by tradition Solomon who was never considered to be a prophet and is it purely sensual in nature, but is read allegorically.

  4. John Dukes Says:

    The ‘I read the Bible only’ position is pseudo-spiritual and actually quite arrogant. There’s a real danger in Biblicist circles… I say this as a Biblicicst… in ignoring the testimony of Church history. We need to interact with it.

    The Book of Enoch is not part of the traditional Apocrypha but is well worth reading. Quoted by Jude it cannot be exegeted like Scripture but it presents a cosmology and certain narratives that both Peter and Jude seem to accept. Sadly many have gone off on some pretty unfortunate tangents which end up discrediting the actual teaching of Enoch which again is explicitly echoed in Jude.

  5. Profile photo of robert hogue bob hogue Says:

    Please add me to your Blog list. Thanks Bob

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