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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Setting.

1.

Wisdom echoes the Septuagint of the Prophets as well as the Pentateuch, and probably draws on 1 Enoch 1–36 and 91–108 (WIS A.2). It is therefore unlikely to be earlier than the second century BCE. It was valued in the early church, but its lack of Christian allusion suggests that it is not a Christian work. In the second century CE it was known to Irenaeus, as Eusebius notes (Hist. eccl. 5.8.8), and was named with comment in the Muratorian Canon (Horbury 1994a ); it also received a Latin translation, later incorporated by Jerome into the Vulgate, which forms the earliest surviving interpretation of Wisdom. Wisdom was explicitly quoted by Christian writers from Clement of Alexandria (c.150–215) onwards. Earlier allusions in Paul, 1 Clement, and Justin Martyr are probable but not certain. Wisdom is therefore likely to have been current by the early years of the first century CE, at latest. The vocabulary includes Greek words not otherwise attested before the first century CE, but the body of extant Greek literature from the previous century is not large.

2.

A date in or near Caligula's principate (37–41 CE) has often been suggested, in line with the old ascription to Philo (WIS A.1) that Jerome notes (in his comment cited in WIS B.1). This date is one of those which might suit address to the kings of the earth ( 6:1 ) and opposition to ruler-cult and idolatry (chs. 13–15 ), with the depiction of persecution (chs. 1–6 ), for these are themes of Philo's defence of the Alexandrian Jews under Caligula; but the academic tone of the remarks on ruler-cult is less urgent than would be natural under Caligula, and this date allows less time than would be expected for the book to gain the high esteem implied by its Christian usage. The first-century BCE date which has also often been suggested for Wisdom seems preferable. Address to kings and a theory of pagan cult would suit the Greek as well as the Roman period of Jewish history. In chs. 1–6 , on persecution, the argument seems to be directed against internal foes, as in 1 Enoch and the Psalms of Solomon. These chapters can then be tentatively associated with Sadducaic-Pharisaic strife, in which afterlife was a prominent topic ( WIS 3:1 ); persecution of those who defended it figured in the bloody repression of the Pharisees under Alexander Jannaeus in the early first century BCE. The Egyptian Jewish community, in close touch with Judea and probably including Judean refugees, seems the likeliest cradle for the Greek text of the whole book, perhaps between 100 and 50 BCE; these dates are speculative, but they would suit the points of contact with both Sirach and the Psalms of Solomon noted above. Sirach was put into Greek probably in 132 BCE, with what seems (especially but not only in the longer form of the Greek text) a fresh recognition of reward and punishment hereafter, specifically for circulation among Egyptian Jews. Their Greek epitaphs attest a difference of opinion on afterlife like that evinced between the Sadducee-like Ecclesiastes and the Hebrew Sirach on the one side, and the Pharisee-like Wisdom and Psalms of Solomon on the other (Horbury 1994b ). The young and still righteous Solomon of Wisdom endorses the Pharisaic-Stoic preaching of ‘justice, self-control, and the coming judgement’ (Acts 24:25 ). Sirach was translated to aid Jewish education (Prologue), and Wisdom will have been valued for this reason as well as for its special doctrine. Its Christian educational use (WIS A.11–12) probably had Jewish antecedents.

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