Wisdom of Solomon

Daniel J. Harrington

in Biblical Studies

ISBN: 9780195393361
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:
Wisdom of Solomon


The Wisdom of Solomon (known as the Book of Wisdom in the Latin Bible tradition) is a book about wisdom—its benefits, nature, and role in ancient Israel’s history. It is more an exhortation to pursue wisdom than a collection of wise teachings (as in Proverbs, Sirach, and Ecclesiastes). Its implied author is King Solomon, and its implied audience is the rulers of the earth. However, its real author seems to have been a Greek-speaking Jew with some knowledge of Greek rhetoric and philosophy, and its real audience seems to have been young Jews in danger of slipping away from their Jewish heritage into pagan materialism. The use of the Greek language, the influence of Greek philosophy and rhetoric, its Jewish audience, and the links with Philo suggest an origin in Alexandria in Egypt. It is generally dated to the mid-1st century bce (around 50 bce), although scholars place it anywhere from the 2nd century bce to the 1st century ce. The purpose of the Wisdom of Solomon is to demonstrate the superiority of the Jewish religion and its great wisdom. The author knows Greek rhetoric and Greek philosophy, as well as the Bible in its Greek form. He adopts some concepts from Stoicism and Platonism, and opposes the Epicureans and Egyptian paganism. There are three major parts in the book: righteousness and immortality (chapters 1–5), the nature of wisdom (chapters 6–9), and wisdom’s role in the early history of Israel (chapters 10–19). All three parts seem to have been composed by the same author (though perhaps at different times) or at least in the same circle. The transitions between the various parts serve to meld them into a literary unity of some sort, so that it is difficult to decide exactly where one part ends and the next one begins. The Wisdom of Solomon is canonical in the Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions. While not canonical in the Jewish and Protestant traditions, it is generally respected as a witness to the synthesis of Hebrew and Greek worldviews, the development of Jewish beliefs in life after death, the encyclopedic nature of wisdom, and personified Wisdom as God’s agent in creation.

Article.  5572 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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