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. The discourse of the Catholic apologist being critiqued here appears to be fairly reasonable on a surface level, but the presented information nonetheless falls far short of proof.

          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 ultimately fulfills the themes of this text because He is the ultimate righteous man who suffers and is vindicated.

          However, Wisdom 2:12-20 was not written originally as a prophecy. The same themes can apply to faithful Christians today. This contrasts with a text like Isaiah 53 that sets up the enigmatic 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:

          "[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 authorship of the Book of Wisdom is unknown. It was not a part of the Jewish canon. It was originally composed in Greek. It was written during a time when there were no prophets alive in Israel. 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.

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