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Bible Commentaries

Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

- Wisdom of Solomon

by George Haydock



This book is so called from the Greek word that signifies a preacher: because, like an excellent preacher, it gives admirable lessons of all virtues. The author was Jesus, the son of Sirach, of Jerusalem, who flourished about two hundred years before Christ. As it was written after the time of Esdras, it is not in the Jewish canon; but is received as canonical and divine by the Catholic Church, instructed by apostolical tradition, and directed by the Spirit of God. It was first written in Hebrew, but afterwards translated into Greek by another Jesus, the grandson of the author, whose prologue to this book is the following: (Challoner)

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--- If some forbear to urge the authority of this book, in disputes with the Jews, we need not be surprised, as there were other proofs against them. We often act with Protestants in the same manner, even using their versions, &c. (Haydock) --- It was alleged in the controversies about baptism and grace, and no one thought of rejecting its testimony, chap. xxxiv. 30. (St. Cyprian, ep. 65.; St. Augustine, Bap. vi. 34., and Grat. ii. 11., &c.) --- The Councils of Ephesus, 3d Carthage, (c.[canon?] 47.) Francfort, 8th Toledo, and Trent, ought to settle all doubts on this head. The Jews themselves have a great regard for the book, (though the Thalmud condemns it for admitting more persons than one in God) and seem to have copied many sentences from it into the two Syriac alphabets of Ben Sira. This may be the work which St. Jerome (Pref. in Sal.) testifies he saw in Hebrew, as that test cannot at present be found. (Calmet) --- See ep. 115. (Du Hamel) --- But this is no proof that it was not extant in St. Jerome's time, and the many variations between the Greek copies themselves and the Vulgate, may owe their rise to the different translators omitting some parts of it. (Haydock) --- The same person seems to have translated this and the former book [of Wisdom ] into Latin in the earliest ages, though the present work is more obscure, because the Greek is less beautiful, of which the Roman edition is deemed the most correct; though the Complutensian agrees with the Vulgate. He appears to have given frequently a double version, for fear of not having expressed the full sense in the first, unless the additions be his, or some other person's glosses, which have crept into the text. (Calmet) --- If this be the case, near one hundred verses ought to be cut off, yet as they are published without any distinction by the Church, perhaps it would be as well to adhere to the former sentiment, or to suspend our judgment, chap. ix. 12. (Haydock) --- Many of the Fathers quote this book as the production of Solomon, because it contains many of his sentences preserved by tradition, (Menochius) and resembles his works. (St. Augustine, City of God xvii. 20.) --- The Greek styles it "The Wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach." He has imitated (Haydock) the Proverbs to chap. xxiv., Ecclesiastes to chap. xlii. 15., where wisdom ends her exhortation, and the Canticle [ of Canticles ] in the remainder of the work, praising God and the great men of the nation, down to Simon II. (Vales in Eusebius iv. 22.) (Calmet) --- The last chapter contains a prayer, which may be in imitation of the book of Wisdom. This work is often styled Panaretos, a collection of pious maxims, (Haydock) or a "receptacle of all virtues." (Worthington) --- Many think it was composed between the year of the world 3711 and 3783; (Torniel.) but it seem rather to have appeared in times of persecution, (chap. 36.) after Philopator had been incensed against Simon II for opposing his entrance into the sanctuary, (chap. l. 4., &c.) for which he ordered the Jews in Egypt to be cruelly butchered, (2 Machabees) and after Epiphanes, the Syrian monarch, had commenced his most cruel persecution of that people, and of Onias III, twenty-two years after the death of Simon II, (chap. xxxv., and l.) the year of the world 3828, the year before Christ 176. (Eusebius; Grotius; Usher) (Calmet)