My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Review: Wisdom of Solomon: (A Catholic Bible Commentary on the New Testament by Trusted Catholic Biblical Scholars - CCSS)

Wisdom of Solomon: (A Catholic Bible Commentary on the New Testament by Trusted Catholic Biblical Scholars - CCSS) Wisdom of Solomon: (A Catholic Bible Commentary on the New Testament by Trusted Catholic Biblical Scholars - CCSS) by Mark Giszczak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a Catholic commentary on the [apocryphal] Book of Wisdom [of Solomon], which is organized on the three parts of the scripture: The Book of Eschatology, The Book of Wisdom and the Book of History. This is preceded by an extensive Introduction covering the history, structure and form of this scripture (with a summary of important connections with the New Testament). Each part is further divided into pericopes with references to the Old Testament, New Testament, Catechism and Lectionary (where applicable) before a brief summary and verse by verse [roughly] commentary. Where possible (as cited in the Introduction) there is a reflection/application or a discussion on the connections with the Gospel/New Testament to end a section. The commentary itself is fairly straight forward with few surprises, but it does a decent job of providing context as well as textual analysis. The Book of Wisdom is not really something a lot of folks spent much time on; probably why there were not a lot of commentaries for it … so given all that we get here along with the excellent organization, this work gets top marks.

The chapters and sections in this work are:

Part 1. Life and Death (1:1-6-21)
- Love Righteousness (1:1-15)
- Ungodly Reasoning Wisdom (1:16-2:24)
- The Just and the Unjust Wisdom (3:1-4:20)
- The Judgement of the Ungodly and the Reward of the Righteous (5:1-23)
- Honor Wisdom (6:1-21)
Part 2. Solomon’s Pursuit of Wisdom (6:22-9:18)
- Solomon’s Quest for Wisdom (6:22-8:1)
- Solomon’s Love for Wisdom (8:2-21)
- Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom (9:1-18)
Part 3. Book of History (10:1-19:22)
- Prologue: Wisdom from Adam to Moses (10:1-21)
- Water from the Rock versus River of Blood (11:1-14)
- Excursus: God’s Mercy toward Egyptians and Canaanites (11:15-12:27)
- Excursus: Against Idol Worship (13:1-15:19)
- Unappetizing Animals versus Delicious Quail (16:1-4)
- Lethal Creatures versus Saving Bronze Serpent (16:5-14)
- Storms of Wrath versus Manna from Heaven (16:15-29)
- Plague of Darkness versus Pillar of Light (17:1-18:4)
- Death of the Firstborn versus Israel’s Deliverance from Death (18:5-25)
- Drowning in the Sea versus Being Saved by the Sea (19:1-9)
- Epilogue: Summary and Doxology (19:10-22)

Some of the other points that really got my attention are:

In its essence, wisdom has three distinct yet related meanings: (1) God’s perfect knowledge, (2) the knowledge of causes that human beings can come to possess, and (3) the habitual seeking of knowledge with integrity of heart.

Since the Wisdom of Solomon owes a debt to Greek philosophy, it contains many unique doctrinal perspectives that are only latent in the other books of the Old Testament. These ideas resurface in the New Testament and are incorporated into Christian teaching.

The Wisdom of Solomon stands at the very end of the Old Testament era and on the cusp of the New. It is the last Old Testament book to be written. Its meditation on salvation history allows us to take a deep breath and look back on the Old Testament before proceeding to the New.

Building on the imagery of Isa 59:16–17, the author describes the Lord putting on battle armor to mete out punishment on the ungodly. Each piece of armor is given a metaphorical meaning: the armor is zeal; the breastplate is righteousness; the helmet is justice (Greek krisis, “judgment”); the shield is holiness; and the sword is wrath.

Wisdom will grant Solomon not only virtue or honor but two kinds of †immortality—a personal immortality of the soul, as presented earlier (1:15; 3:1, 4; 4:1), and an everlasting remembrance, in which his memory will be held in honor by those who come after him (compare Sir 39:9–11).

The final verse of the prayer highlights the powerful effects of wisdom: (1) setting right one’s path—giving humans a sure route to living for God; (2) teaching humanity—likely a reference to the law of Moses; and (3) saving humanity. James Reese explains that “Lady Wisdom is a personification of God’s saving grace at work in the world.”

The idea corresponds to the wider biblical theology of retribution, that “those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:8). Wisdom’s view of retribution also corresponds to the legal version of this concept, the so-called lex talionis, the “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Exod 21:24), wherein legal penalties are designed to be proportionate and befitting.

Though Wisdom teaches that God’s immortal spirit is in all things, it does not teach †pantheism (that concept that the universe is God), but rather it reasserts the biblical teaching that the “breath of life” that sustains all creatures comes from God (Gen 2:7; Job 27:3; Ps 104:29–30; Eccles 12:7).

Wisdom counters that God did not want to hurt them but wanted to save them. The bronze serpent then was not an animal idol (although some Israelites later treated it as one, 2 Kings 18:4) but a token of deliverance or “sign of salvation” (Wis 16:6 NABRE).

Instead of receiving the Hebrews as honored guests, they enslaved them. To explain how terrible their wicked acts are, the author compares them to others, the despicable men of Sodom (Gen 19:1–11), a biblical comparison for emphasizing the gravity of a sin (Lam 4:6; Matt 10:15).

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#WisdomOfSolomon #CCSS #NetGalley

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.