Wisdom Literature

Introduction to wisdom literature

Prepare Sirach Foreword and chapter 1 (HTML or PDF)

Wisdom literature

Greek philosophical traditions


Philo of Alexandria

Wisdom of Solomon

Canon consciousness in the Foreword to Sirach

Ben Sira on theodicy and the afterlife

Prepare Sirach 2; 39–41 (HTML or PDF)


Sirach 2, suffering

Sirach 39:16—40:10, Good and bad in creation


Sirach 41:3–13, afterlife

Lady Wisdom

Prepare Sirach 1, 24 (HTML or PDF)

Source Personification Relationship to creation Relationship to God When
Proverbs 8 (LINK) Woman Instrument of creation First begotten Predates creation
Sirach 1 (LINK) Woman Poured forth on creation Created (not begotten) Before all things, from eternity
Sirach 24 (LINK) Woman, Torah Found in Jerusalem From the mouth of God Before all ages
Col 1:15–18 (LINK) Jesus Instrument of creation Image of God Firstborn of creation
John 1:1–3 (LINK) Jesus, Word of God Instrument of creation God, with God In the beginning
Arian Christians Jesus Instrument of creation God, only begotten Son Before all things
Nicene Christians (LINK) Jesus Instrument of creation God, only begotten Son Before all ages (eternally begotten)

Wisdom personified as a woman

Different conceptions of eternity

Issue Arians Nicenes
Time of origin of Christ Before creation, following Proverbs Before all ages, following Ben Sira
Father-Son image Implies that God the Father is older than God the Son Only a metaphor, both are the same age (eternal)
Implication for Status God the Son is God and superior to all created things, but subordinate to God the Father God the Son and God the Father are of the same rank or status
Influence Though the majority at one point, was declared a heresy and died out The shared foundation of all Christianity today (Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant)

Universalism and particularism

In most of the wisdom tradition

Ben Sira chapter 24 (LINK)

Ben Sira on wives and daughters

Prepare Sirach 25–26; 42 (HTML or PDF)

Wives, Sirach 25-26

Daughters, Sirach 42:9-14

Honor and shame as a larger system

Hellenistic Judaism and the immortality of the soul

Prepare short selections from Philo (HTML or PDF); and Wisdom of Solomon 1–5 (HTML or PDF)

Philo on the afterlife

WisSol 2, immortality of the soul

Reward of the righteous

Punishment of the wicked

God will deliver the just

Wisdom of Solomon on theodicy

Prepare Wisdom of Solomon 11-13; skim 6-10; 14-19


Where is wisdom found?

Goodness of creation in the Wisdom of Solomon

Wisdom of Solomon on universalism and natural law

Natural law

Universalism and particularism

Test on wisdom literature