Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Is Wisdom 2:12-20 A Messianic Prophecy?

  • Discussion:
           -Roman Catholic apologists, in their zeal to defend the veracity of the Apocrypha, will sometimes make the following claim:

         "Wisdom 2:12-20 is one of the clearest passages that point to a person who would call himself Son of God, who would be put to death by jealous people."

           Then, the author of the quoted excerpt goes on to parallel that text from the apocryphal Book of Wisdom with various passages from the four gospels. This was done in an effort to prove that the seven additional books that the Roman Catholic Church has included in its Old Testament canon are of divine origin. What the Catholic apologist claims seems to be fairly reasonable on a superficial level, but the presented information nonetheless falls far short of proof when the text is examined in context.

          The first and foremost problem with this argumentation is that it neglects the intention of the original author. The context was originally about the wicked, the persecution of the righteous, and the vindication of God’s children. This pious literature is very similar to the Book of Proverbs. Christ in an ultimate sense fulfills the themes of Wisdom 2:12-20 because He is the ultimate righteous man who suffers and is vindicated. He did that on our behalf at Calvary.

          However, Wisdom 2:12-20 was not written originally as a prophecy. The same themes can apply to faithful Christians today. This differs from Isaiah 53 in that it sets up the mysterious Servant that suffers on behalf of His people. Wisdom 2 is talking about a "righteous man," not Christ Himself. To take similarities and claim prophecy in this case is pure eisegesis.

          Even if Wisdom 2:12-20 was intended to speak of the coming Messiah, it does not require us to accept it as inspired or canonical. The statements could be gleaned from what the canonical books of the Old Testament teach. In fact, the Roman Catholic New American Bible Revised Edition has this footnote on this passage:

          "[2:12–5:23] From 2:12 to 5:23 the author draws heavily on Is 52–62, setting forth his teaching in a series of characters or types taken from Isaiah and embellished with additional details from other texts."

           There was all kinds of Jewish literature at the time that spoke of the coming Messiah in light of canonical Scripture. There are other Jewish writings that even Roman Catholics would not accept as canonical that speak of the coming Messiah. Consider, for example, the book of 1 Enoch.

            The author was obviously familiar with texts of the Old Testament, but that factor does not in itself prove the work to be inspired. The authors of the New Testament never cited Wisdom 2:12-20, which would be ironic if it truly was a Messianic prophecy.

            "Whether the author here has in mind some contemporary Jewish martyrdom known to him, or whether he drew upon the stories in the Books of Maccabees for a generalized description of suffering for the Jewish faith, cannot be determined. He may also have been influenced by Glaucon's description in Plato's Republic of the binding, scourging, and crucifixion of the perfectly just man who is esteemed to be unjust. In both cases the parallel to Christ is more apparent than real."  (Bruce M. Metzger, Introduction to the Apocrypha, p. 76)


  1. I don't accept those books either but the rational above is not correct. For some reason even we Christians use the world's idea of what prophecy is from false predictions people have made, Nostradamus, also from movies and TV examples.
    Just take a look at how the New Testament writers pull quotes out of seemingly nowhere and then say.. So the scripture is fulfilled.
    No one thought half of those quotes were prophecies. Especially many from the Psalms but the Apostles say they are.
    There are virtually no prophecies in the OT that only pertain to Christ alone. They usually are talking about someone else or even Israel as a nation and *Then they applied to Christ.
    That's the way God inspired the word. It's not straight up prediction. Even Daniel, which are the closest to straight up prediction, have the Abomination of desolation applying to more than one event. It may even happen 3 times or more.
    Many are dualistic or even more. Satan & the king of Tyre, Jesus and Immanuel, and David, and Solomon etc etc.... So Wisdom (if it were scripture) could apply also to Christ, just as most prophecies do refer to more than one person.
    Remember, there are Messianic prophecies that a few lines later in the passage have the person being a sinner in need of atonement. So again, it does not work how most people think.

  2. Hello John,

    All your examples in the New Testament were by men who were speaking for God. If they used an Old Testament passage and enlightened its context, then that is not a problem.

    No one other than a prophet of God or apostle has the right to claim what something is besides the context of a biblical passage.

    I think that treating Wisdom 2:12-20 as a messianic prophecy is a misuse and abuse of the text.