THE BOOK OF WISDOM


The Book of Wisdom - Σοφία or Sophia - is part of the Wisdom Literature in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate Old Testaments of the Bible. The author is unknown but the Book was written in Greek during Second-Temple Judaism in Alexandria, Egypt in the first century before Christ. As it was not written in Hebrew, it was considered as part of the Apocrypha. The style is patterned on Hebrew verse. To support the traditional use of the Greek Septuagint as the source of the Christian Old Testament, St. Augustine and the Council of Hippo in 393 AD preserved seven books of the Apocrypha in the Old Testament Canon, known as the deuterocanonical books, which included the Wisdom Books of Wisdom and Sirach (Ben Sira). Both Catholic and Orthodox Churches consider the Books of Wisdom and Ben Sira inspired, and thus are included in their Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament of the Bible, along with Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Wisdom and Sirach traditionally follow the Song of Songs, and precede the Latter Prophets beginning with the Prophet Isaiah.

The Book of Wisdom is witness to the trend in post-exilic Second-Temple Judaism that looked forward to life after death: immortality is a reward of the just (3:1-4). Wisdom 11:23-26 is a beautiful reflection on God's mercy. The book also records that all living creatures reflect the perfection of the Creator - "For from the grandeur and the beauty of created things is derived a corresponding perception of the Creator" (Wisdom 13:5).

Virtue - αρετή - arete͂ - is noted in Wisdom 4:1, 5:13, and 8:7. Chapters 7-9 reflect the writer's belief in the importance of Wisdom, as well as the Cardinal Virtues, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance (8:7).

Five of nineteen Chapters of the Book of Wisdom are reproduced here. "Scripture taken from THE NEW CATHOLIC BIBLE®. Copyright © 2019 Catholic Book Publishing Corp. Used by permission. All rights reserved."


THE BOOK OF WISDOM


Chapter 3

Life Eternal for the Righteous

1 But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment can overtake them.
2 From the viewpoint of the foolish, they seemed to be dead,
and their passing away was reckoned as a misfortune,
3 and their departure from us as their ruin.
But they are at peace.
4 Although in the eyes of others they were chastised,
their hope is full of immortality.

5 Having endured a slight chastisement, they will receive great blessings,
because God tested them and found them worthy to be with him.
6 He put them to the proof like gold in a furnace,
and he accepted them as a sacrificial burnt offering.
7 In the time of their visitation they will shine brightly
and spread like sparks among the stubble.
8 They will judge nations and have dominion over peoples,
and the Lord will be their King forever.
9 Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will dwell with him in love,
because grace and mercy are reserved for his holy ones,
and he shows concern for his elect.
10 However, the godless will receive a punishment in accord with their reasoning,
for they had no concern for the righteous and rebelled against the Lord.
11 Those who despise wisdom and discipline are wretched:
vain is their hope, unprofitable are their labors,
and worthless are their achievements.
12 Their wives are foolish and their children depraved;
their lineage is accursed.

Better Is Virtue than Offspring

13 Blessed is the barren woman who is undefiled,
who has not experienced a sinful union;
she will bear fruit at the visitation of souls.
14 Blessed also is the eunuch whose hands have committed no iniquity
and who has never harbored any wicked thoughts against the Lord;
he shall receive a special grace for his faithfulness
and a more illustrious share in the temple of the Lord.
15 For the fruit of good works is glorious,
and the root of understanding is ever fruitful.
16 But the children of adulterers will never see maturity,
and the offspring of an unlawful union will disappear.
17 Even should they achieve a long life, they will be regarded as of no account,
and in the end their old age will be without honor.
18 But if they die young, they will have no hope,
nor any consolation on the day of judgment,
19 for the fate of a wicked generation is harsh.


Chapter 7

1 I too am mortal, like everyone else,
descended from the first being formed out of the earth.
I was molded into flesh inside the womb of my mother,
2 solidified in blood within a period of ten months
from the seed of a man and the pleasure that accompanies marriage.
3 And I too, when I was born, began to breathe the common air
and fell upon an earth equal for everyone;
the first sound I uttered was a cry, as is true of all.
4 I was nurtured in swaddling clothes and surrounded with care.
5 No king has begun life in any other way,
6 for there is only one way of entering life, and only one way of leaving it.

Wisdom Is Worth More than Any Riches

7 Therefore, I prayed, and understanding was given to me;
I pleaded, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.
8 I preferred her to scepters and thrones,
and I accounted riches as nothing compared with her.
9 Neither did I reckon any precious stone to be her equal,
because, compared with her, all gold is but a few grains of sand,
and beside her, silver is accounted as clay.
10 I loved her more than health and beauty and preferred her to the light
because her radiance is unceasing.
11 Together with her, all good things came to me,
and in her hands are countless riches.
12 And I delighted in them all, since Wisdom was their source,
although I did not realize at the time that she was their mother.
13 I pass on ungrudgingly what I learned about her with an open mind;
her riches I do not conceal.
14 For she is an inexhaustible treasure for all;
those who acquire her achieve friendship with God,
commended to him by the gifts that derive from her instruction.

Wisdom is Divine

15 May God grant me the ability to speak according to understanding
and to express thoughts worthy of the gifts I have received,
since it is he that guides Wisdom and directs the wise.
16 For in his hand are both we and our words,
as are also all understanding and skill in crafts.
17 It was he who granted me accurate knowledge of what exists,
so that I might understand the constitution of the world and the operation of its elements:
18 the beginning and the end and the midpoint of times,
the alternation of the solstices and the changes of the seasons,
19 the cycles of the year and the positions of the stars,
20 the natures of animals and the dispositions of wild beasts,
the powers of spirits and the thoughts of men,
the varieties of plants and the properties of roots.
21 All that was hidden and all that was manifest I learned,
22 for Wisdom, who fashioned all things, instructed me.

Reflection of God’s Light

Within Wisdom is a spirit that is intelligent, holy,
unique, manifold, subtle,
mobile, clear, unstained,
certain, invulnerable, benevolent, shrewd, irresistible, beneficent,
23 kindly, steadfast, secure, tranquil,
all-powerful, all-surveying, and penetrating all spirits
that are intelligent, pure, and very subtle.
24 For Wisdom has more mobility than any motion;
she is so pure that she pervades and penetrates all things.
25 She is the breath of the might of God
and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
therefore, nothing that is defiled can enter into her.
26 For she is the reflection of eternal light,
the spotless mirror of the active power of God
and the image of his goodness.
27 Although she is only one, she can do all things;
while unchanging herself, she makes all things new.
Generation after generation she enters into holy souls,
and turns them into friends of God and prophets.
28 For God loves nothing more
than one who dwells with Wisdom.
29 She is more beautiful than the sun
and outshines every constellation of the stars.
In comparison with the light she is far superior,
30 for light is supplanted by the night,
but evil cannot overpower Wisdom.


Chapter 8

1 She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,
and she governs all things exceedingly well.

A Companion in Life

2 I loved Wisdom and searched for her from my youth;
I resolved to have her for my spouse
and was in love with her beauty.
3 She manifests her noble birth by union of life with God,
for the Lord of all has loved her.
4 She is privy to the secrets of the knowledge of God
and chooses his works.

5 If riches are deemed a desirable possession in life,
what offers greater wealth than Wisdom who fashions everything that exists?
6 If understanding is at work,
who is a more effective fashioner of whatever exists than she?
7 And if one prizes righteousness,
the fruits of her labors are virtues.
For she teaches temperance and prudence,
justice and fortitude,
and nothing in life is of more value for men than these.

8 Or again, if one yearns for great experience,
she knows the things of the past and foresees those of the future.
She understands the subtleties of speech and the solutions of riddles;
she has advance knowledge of signs and wonders
and can predict the outcome of times and ages.
9 And so I determined to take her as my life companion,
confident that she would counsel me in times of prosperity
and comfort me in times of anxiety and sorrow.
10 Because of her presence I will receive glory among the multitudes
and honor among the elders, even though I am young.
11 I will be considered wise when I sit in judgment,
and I will win the admiration of rulers.
12 When I remain silent, they will await my utterances;
when I do speak, they will listen carefully.
And should I speak at great length,
they will put their hands over their mouths.
13 Through her I will achieve immortality
and leave an everlasting memory to my successors.
14 I will govern peoples, and nations will become subject to me;
15 fierce monarchs will be in dread when they hear my name,
but among the people I will be regarded as good and as valiant in battle.
16 When I return to my home I will rest beside her,
for to be in her company involves no bitterness,
and life with her entails no pain,
but only gladness and joy.

Lord, Send Forth Your Wisdom

17 Reflecting upon these things within myself
and having concluded in my heart
that there is immortality in kinship with Wisdom
18 and pure delight in friendship with her,
inexhaustible wealth in the works of her hands
and understanding in frequenting her company
as well as great renown in conversing with her,
I began to search in all directions,
seeking to win her for myself.
19 As a child I was blessed with natural gifts,
and a good soul was my heritage,
20 or rather, being good, I had entered into an undefiled body.
21 But realizing that I could not possess Wisdom unless God gave her to me—
and this itself was an indication of understanding,
to know the source of that gift—
I turned to the Lord and implored him
and with all my heart I said:


Chapter 9

1 "God of my ancestors and Lord of mercy,
by your word you have created all things,
2 and in your wisdom you have fashioned man
to have power over all the creatures you have made,
3 to govern the world in holiness and righteousness,
and to mete out justice with an upright heart.
4 Grant me Wisdom, who sits beside your throne,
and do not exclude me from the number of your children.
5 "For I am your servant and the son of your handmaid,
a weak man with but a short time to live
and with meager comprehension of justice and law.
6 Indeed, even one who is perfect among the sons of men
will be of no account
if he lacks the Wisdom that comes from you.
7 You have chosen me to be king of your people
and to sit in judgment over your sons and daughters.
8 You have commanded me to build a temple on your holy mountain,
and an altar in the city that is your dwelling,
a replica of the sacred tabernacle that you prepared from the beginning.
9 With you is Wisdom, who knows your works
and was present when you created the world.
She understands what is pleasing in your eyes
and what is in conformity with your commandments.
10 "Send her forth from your holy heavens,
and dispatch her from the throne of your glory,
so that she may labor at my side
and I may learn what is pleasing to you.
11 For she knows and understands all things,
and with prudence she will guide me in my deeds
and guard me with her splendor.
12 Then will my works be acceptable to you,
and I will judge your people uprightly
and be worthy of the throne of my father.
13 "What person can have knowledge of the counsel of God,
or who can discern what the will of the Lord is?
14 The reasonings of mortals are faulty
and our reflections are unstable.
15 For a perishable body burdens the soul,
and its earthly tent weighs down the mind filled with many cares.
16 With difficulty do we assess what is on earth,
and that which is within our reach we discover only after arduous labor;
who then can seek out the things of heaven?
17 Who could ever have known your counsel if you had not given Wisdom
and sent your Holy Spirit from on high?
18 And thus the paths of those on earth were straightened,
and men were taught what pleases you
and were saved by Wisdom."


Chapter 11

1 Through the holy prophet, Wisdom gave them success in everything.
2 They journeyed through an inhospitable wilderness
and pitched their tents in untrodden wastes;
3 they stood firm against their enemies and turned back their foes.
4 When they were thirsty they cried out to you,
and water was given to them out of unyielding rock,
a refreshment for their thirst out of hard stone.
5 The very means that had served to punish their enemies
became a benefit for them in their need.
6 Instead of the spring of an ever-flowing river
befouled by blood mingled with water
7 as a rebuke for the decree to slaughter infants,
you gave them abundant water unexpectedly,
8 showing them by their thirst at that time
how you punished their enemies.
9 For when they themselves were tested, although they were only chastised in mercy,
they comprehended the torments of the godless who had been judged in anger.
10 You tested the former, admonishing them like a father,
but the latter you sifted as a stern king does in condemnation.
11 Whether far off or close by, they were afflicted alike,
12 for a twofold grief seized them,
and a groaning over the remembrances of the past.
13 When they heard that through their punishment the righteous had received benefits,
they perceived the presence of the Lord.
14 For the one whom long before they had cast out, exposed, and rejected with scorn,
they regarded with admiration at the end of the events,
when they experienced thirst vastly different from that of the righteous.

A Dose of Chastisement for Egypt

15 In return for the foolish reasonings of their wickedness,
which misled them into worshiping serpents bereft of reason and insects devoid of worth,
you sent as punishment upon them hordes of irrational creatures,
16 so that they might learn that the agents of one’s sin are the instruments of one’s punishment.
17 For your all-powerful hand,
which created the world out of formless matter,
had the wherewithal to send upon them a host of bears or savage lions,
18 or newly created, ferocious, unknown beasts
either breathing fiery blasts
or belching forth thick smoke
or flashing frightful sparks from their eyes.
19 These could not only destroy people by the harm they did
but also strike them dead by their terrifying appearance alone.
20 Even without these, a single breath would have sufficed to overcome them
when pursued by justice
and dispersed by your powerful spirit.
But you have ordered all things by measure, number, and weight.

God's Mercy

21 For you always have the option to exert great strength,
and who can withstand the might of your arm?
22 Indeed, before you, the whole world is like a speck that tips the scales,
or like a drop of morning dew that falls on the ground.
23 Yet you are merciful to all, for you can do all things,
and you overlook men’s sins so that they may repent.
24 For you love everything that exists
and abhor nothing that you have created,
since you would not have fashioned anything that you hated.
25 How could anything have continued to exist unless you had willed it,
or be preserved if it had not been called forth by you?
26 You spare all things,
for they are yours, O Lord, you who love souls.




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