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 in regards to the Book of Wisdom:

         "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 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 version of the 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 context was originally about the wicked, the persecution of the righteous, and the vindication of God’s children. This pious literature is 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 on the Cross. He rose bodily from the grave.

          However, Wisdom 2:12-20 was not written originally as a prophecy. The same themes can apply to anyone else who faithfully serves God. This is distinguished from a passage such as Isaiah 53 in that it points out a Servant who 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 granting the premise that Wisdom 2:12-20 speaks of the coming Jewish Messiah, that does not require us to accept it as inspired or canonical. The statements could easily have been 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 were many pieces of Jewish literature at this point in history that spoke of the coming Messiah in light of the Old Testament. Roman Catholics would reject many of those as canonical. Consider, for example, the book of 1 Enoch. This work was even cited as Scripture by some of the early church fathers, yet Roman Catholics do not accept it as canonical Scripture.

            The author of Wisdom was obviously well-acquainted with the Old Testament, but that factor does not in and of itself prove the book to be inspired. The authors of the New Testament never treated Wisdom 2:12-20 as if it were a messianic prophecy, which would be ironic. Bruce M. Metzger writes,

            "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."  (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.

    1. 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.

  2. This is clearly a Messianic prophecy. It describes a righteous figure that boasts that God is their Father, even calling themselves a child of the Lord. This child opposes the actions of the writer (collective jewish people obviously implied) and reproaches them for sins against the law, and as a result is tortured and killed.

  3. Anonymous,

    Nice try, but your interpretation of Wisdom 2:12-20 is starry-eyed. The description taken in its context could legitimately be applied to anyone who faithfully serves God. The writer of Wisdom was obviously well-acquainted with the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament and extracted information from those sources. You are merely regurgitating already refuted assertions of this text being a messianic prophecy.

  4. The book of wisdom is in the Bible, you Protestants might not think so because you removed 7 books; but the early church had established the canon by the end of the 4th century and it had been unchanged for over 1000 years, until the Protestant reformation.

    The Septuagint which is quoted by Jesus and the gospel writers also contained these books, and the original reasoning that Martin Luther had removed them (no Hebrew copies) has in recent history been thoroughly crushed with the discovery of deuterocannon Hebrew fragments among the Dead Sea scrolls.

    In terms of all of the messianic prophecies in the Bible, this one is clearly one of the most robust ones. Your “rational Christian discernment” is obviously lacking. A Son of God being tortured and killed. “Could be anyone who faithfully serves God”, what a joke, it explicitly says Son of God.

    Further there are plenty of messianic prophecies within the Bible that don’t fall into the “prophecy” category. Psalms 22 for example which Jesus makes an allusion to on the cross. Psalms 2, which even the Jews seen as messianic as you can read about in their Talmud Sukkah 52a:6.

    Try discerning a little harder next time.

  5. Anonymous,

    I obviously hit you where it hurts. It is only too bad that you in your cowardice hide behind a cloak of anonymity. You are free to impugn my integrity, but your whiny comments are only going to get deleted in moderation. My patience with your juvenile behavior is limited.

    "Protestants" did not "remove" the Book of Wisdom from the Old Testament canon. Disputes about the authenticity of apocryphal books lasted all the way until the timing of the Council of Trent. Did Catholics remove the Book of Enoch from the Old Testament since it was cited as Scripture by early church fathers, yet is still not in your canon? Most of the issues surrounding the New Testament canon were resolved by the end of the second century.

    The comments that I provided on Wisdom 2:12-20 are very much valid because they accurately represent the meaning of the text. It is talking about righteous people in general and them being afflicted by wicked peoples. Later Christians did see this text as being applicable to Christ, and in certain respects it is. However, it is not hard to say that something is a "fulfillment" of something else. It is way too easy to strain parallels.

    Luther made arguments based on the information available to him in his own day, but that has no bearing on anything said here. The fact that you are trying to distract from the point of the article with all these side issues shows you have no real argument. I already answered your claims about the apocrypha and Septuagint elsewhere on this blog:


    Jesus Christ is God and has full authority to apply Psalm 22 to Himself. That premise would readily be accepted by Christians as true. Many parts of the Psalms are not prophetic in nature. You cannot simply go searching through the Old Testament and claim a passage to be a messianic prophecy just because you want it to be.