I was recently interviewed by T.L. Putnam on his podcast entitled “Outside the Walls.” It always makes me think of the great basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. I have been on his show before, but this time we’re talking about my new commentary on the Wisdom of Solomon in the CCSS series. Check it out:
Hooray! My commentary on the Wisdom of Solomon in the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture is now released as of today, February 13, 2024.
Description of the Book
The Wisdom of Solomon is the first volume published in the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, Old Testament series. The commentary offers a robust introduction to the historical and theological background of the often-overlooked Wisdom of Solomon, the RSV-2CE translation of the biblical text, cross references, Catechism and Lectionary references, and a detailed interpretation of each passage in the 19-chapter book. It also includes helpful sidebars on biblical background and important references in the living tradition of the Church. This commentary guides the Catholic reader in a thorough and careful study of the Wisdom of Solomon.
I hope you all pick up a copy, read it, enjoy it and learn something from it!
Where to Find the Book
- Baker: https://bakeracademic.com/p/Wisdom-of-Solomon-Mark-Giszczak/542807
- Amazon: https://a.co/d/5ufZiPn
- Soon, Verbum software: https://verbum.com/product/252803/wisdom-of-solomon
I’ve been doing some interviews on my new books. Take a listen:
The Catholic Theology Show with Michael Dauphinais
Little did I know some 20+ years ago that I would get interviewed by one of my professors! I took classes with Dr. Dauphinais in Ypsilanti, Michigan back at Ave Maria College (before the Florida campus was even purchased). I think he was 29 years old when he arrived as a professor fresh out of doctoral studies at Duke and I arrived as a freshman. I’m happy to find out that we’re still both on the same page–studying theology together. Very cool. We talk about the commentary and the Wisdom of Solomon in general, a terribly under-studied book of the Bible.
Drew Mariani Show
On Tuesday 2/6, I appeared on the Drew Mariani Show. He wanted to ask about recent archaeological finds that relate to the Bible and Christian settlement in the Holy Land. In particular, we talked about the recently found fifth century inscription mentioning “Christ, born of Mary” near Megiddo. It was a fun segment with a lot of topics and some speculation about what happened to the Ark of the Covenant. I hope you enjoy listing!
I am very happy to announce that my new book is available for pre-order. This commentary on the Wisdom of Solomon is the first volume of the Old Testament series of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture from Baker Academic.
Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture
The CCSS series has been valuable for teaching and research on the New Testament since the first volume on the Gospel of Mark by Mary Healy came out in 2008. Since that time the CCSS series has offered a total of 17 volumes, covering all the books of the New Testament. Peter Williamson and Mary Healy asked me to join the editorial team for the Old Testament series back in 2019. We have been working hard since then to bring out commentaries that will deliver a serious, scholarly, yet pastoral and accessible Catholic theological reading of the biblical text. We have recruited a great team of authors and are very happy to share this volume as the firstfruits of the OT series. Know that more volumes are coming as we continue writing and editing!
Why Write on Wisdom?
The Wisdom of Solomon is in one of the most overlooked books of the Bible. As a deuterocanonical book, it is not in the Protestant canon and so only Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican scholars (and some Lutherans) would think of it as Scripture. As an Old Testament book, it is an outlier since it was originally written in classical Greek. In terms of Greek, it is an outlier because it uses very rare vocabulary words. In terms of doctrine, it combines Hebrew doctrine with Greek philosophy, so it is not a favored topic of biblical scholars looking for the unique contribution of the Hebrew tradition. In terms of timeline, it is likely the very last book of the Old Testament to be composed. And in terms of resources in English, very little has been published on it. The last full-length English commentary was David Winston’s 1979 Anchor Bible volume (and fortunately, that has been added to by the Italian–and now translated–volume by Luca Mazzinghi in the IECOT series from Kohlhammer Verlag in 2019). I’ve posted before about how few resources are available on Wisdom of Solomon in English. To me, it was important to make a unique contribution that would help people read and understand this valuable book of the Bible. To that end, you might have noticed my name on the Ignatius Study Bible booklet on Wisdom. But this commentary is a much more complete treatment.
What is Wisdom of Solomon About?
The book of Wisdom or “Wisdom of Solomon” is an unusual book. Having read Proverbs and Sirach, you might expect it to be full of one-liner aphorisms, but it’s not. It takes up a different approach to talking about the pursuit of wisdom that is more reminiscent of Ecclesiastes, albeit in a Hellenistic Jewish mode. The author, who lived in Alexandria, attempts to fuse together Jewish appreciation of Torah and salvation history with a Greek philosophical approach to life. He addresses his work to “kings and rulers” and invites his audience to pursue Wisdom. But the book unfolds as a series of exhortations, vignettes, quests and symbolic narratives. The author speaks with the voice of Solomon (at least in chaps. 6-9), but is not actually Solomon, who died centuries earlier. However, the author sees Solomon as representative of an ideal life, of the pursuit of wisdom as the goal of life. By “loving righteousness” and honoring wisdom, one finds the path to God. So Wisdom of Solomon is about the quest for wisdom.
What is the Commentary’s Approach?
If you are familiar with the New Testament volumes of the CCSS series, you’ll know the approach. It is highly focused on the text–presenting the text of each passage with cross-references, Lectionary references and Catechism references. Then each verse or passage is discussed in paragraph form, with many quotations of Wisdom and other biblical passages. We have included Biblical Background sidebars that explain certain topics not directly treated in body text–topics like “The Devil’s Envy,” “Aristobulus,” and “Immortality in the Old Testament.” Also, we have included Living Tradition sidebars that offer quotations from major Christian writers on certain special topics such as “St. Irenaeus on Adam’s Salvation,” St. Augustine on Sevenfold Gifts and Sevenfold Evils.” The commentary includes a glossary of key terms. The hope is to explain the meaning of each passage in the Wisdom of Solomon with clarity, aware of the historical background, the literary techniques the writer is using and the tradition of the Catholic Church. The commentary is addressed to the educated general reader and will be accessible to priests, catechists, theology students, Bible study leaders and avid Bible readers. I hope that readers of the commentary will come to love the Wisdom of Solomon as I have!
Where to Buy
If you are interested in picking up a copy of this new resource, you can find available for pre-order it at these sites:
- Baker Academic: https://bakeracademic.com/p/Wisdom-of-Solomon-Mark-Giszczak/542807
- Amazon: https://a.co/d/a91Ukha
- Verbum (for the electronic edition): https://verbum.com/product/252803/wisdom-of-solomon
When Will It Arrive?
The book is in production now and is set to be released on February 13, 2024. Perhaps it will make a great Valentine’s Day gift! 🙂
I hope that you will enjoy the book and that it will lead you into a deeper study of the Sacred Page. As we continue to work on the Old Testament series of the CCSS, I am hoping that many people will find these commentaries to be useful, inspiring and enjoyable.
My new article, “The Quest of the King in the Wisdom of Solomon,” was just published in the Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, Volume 31, issue 1. I presented an early version of this paper at the 2020 SBL Annual Meeting.
Historians largely agree that Hellenistic kingship was founded, not primarily on heredity, but on military achievement (MacDonald, 2015). The right to rule was thus militarily meritocratic, but philosophically unsteady, so kings felt the need to propagandize by commissioning writings peri basileias. Diogenes Laertius gives evidence that this type of kingship literature was widely produced in this era, though only fragments of these texts survive. The tracts attributed to Ecphantus, Diotogenes, and Sthenidas, along with the Letter of Aristeas, reveal that Hellenistic kingship was supported by a mythos that viewed obtaining kingship as a kind of moral achievement. The king’s virtues are emphasized as godlike and worthy of imitation by his subjects, as he embodies the law in his person. The Wisdom of Solomon reworks this kingship tradition by “democratizing” kingship (Newman, 2004) to all to call his readers to imitate Solomon’s choice of wisdom over folly. Solomon’s search for and embrace of wisdom (7:7; 8:2) takes the place of militaristic emphases and establishes a universalizable pattern for the moral quest of the individual. Wisdom domesticates a Hellenistic pattern of seeking wisdom and thus achieving kingly rule, which eventually allows one to be a benefactor of others. Wisdom is beneficent (7:23) and, rather than becoming a god, the wise Solomon benefits others with his wise and just rule (Wis 8:10–15; 9:12). Even the wise Israelites become benefactors to others (19:14). Thus, the quest of the king for wisdom follows a familiar outline of the journey of a king from obscurity, to conquest, to rule, to beneficence.
If you are interested in reading the whole thing, here is the permanent link to it: https://doi.org/10.1177/09518207211032890
The video below is the second installment of my lectures that were supposed to be delivered at the 2020 Summer Scripture conference event at the Institute for Pastoral Leadership in Mundelein, IL. I am sad that we had to cancel the conference due to the pandemic, but happy that I am still able to share my paper with you.
This lecture is on how the Wisdom of Solomon serves as a model for how Christians read the Old Testament. Its origin in the milieu of Hellenistic Judaism, its philosophical approach and its interpretation of biblical events set the stage for the New Testament’s own perspective on the Old Testament. I hope you enjoy it!
Thanks again to the co-sponsors of this video lecture series: the Institute of Pastoral Leadership and the Augustine Institute!
I was studying this Sunday’s first reading, Wisdom 18:6-9 while working on my weekly column and noticed something rather odd: The second half of Wisdom 18:9 is simply missing from the text. The full verse in the NAB is:
For in secret the holy children of the good were offering sacrifice
and carried out with one mind the divine institution,
So that your holy ones should share alike the same blessings and dangers,
once they had sung the ancestral hymns of praise.
Yet the English Lectionary only includes:
For in secret the holy children of the good were offering sacrifice
and carried out with one mind the divine institution,
Now, often the Lectionary will include partial verses, but they are always indicated by a letter, so you might have Gen 18:1-10a, for example. But in this case, there is no letter indicated by the verse reference. I thought this mystery might call for a little Catholic Bible Student investigation, so I dug up a copy of the Ordo Lectionum Missio, editio typica altera from 1981. This is the official Latin listing of the Lectionary readings. And sure enough for Lectionary #117, Wisdom 18:6-9 are listed not 18:6-9a.
The abbreviation “Sap” is for “Sapientia,” Wisdom. After seeing this, I thought that the difference might be in the versification of the Nova Vulgata, on which the 1981 Lectionary is based. But no, the verse appears in full in the Nova Vulgata:
Absconse enim sacrificabant iusti pueri bonorum
et divinitatis legem in concordia disposuerunt;
similiter et bona et pericula recepturos sanctos
patrum iam ante decantantes laudes. (Wisdom 18:9)
You’ll also notice that the Ordo Lectionum also gives an “incipit” (Nox liberationis…) that clarifies the subject of the first line by adding a single word and omitting the first word of verse 6.
But in the end, we’re left with a puzzle. Why would Wisdom 18:9b be omitted from the reading in the English translation? Here are possible theories: (a) the Latin Lectionary actually omits the lines and the English translators followed suit, (b) the English translators made a mistake by omitting them, (c) the lines struck the English translators as problematic, so they deliberately omitted them. If we go with Theory C here, I still don’t understand why the lines would be problematic–perhaps because they mention the fact that the saints will share in dangers as well as good things?
Yet many other parts of Scripture talk about us sharing in suffering, so I can’t think that’s the issue here. In fact, the lines are included in the Spanish edition of this reading. I’d be curious to look at Lectionaries in other languages to see if these lines are present or omitted, but for now we’ll have to chalk this one up as a mystery!
Owl image credit: By Athene_noctua_(portrait).jpg: Trebol-a derivative work:Stemonitis (Athene_noctua_(portrait).jpg) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Often the Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament receive short shrift because they are not part of the canon accepted by many Christians. However, I don’t think any book gets less press than the Wisdom of Solomon. Readings from it appear eight times in the Sunday lectionary, but I’ll bet you can’t find a commentary on it online or at your local library. Here’s the short list of available book-length resources in English. Add more in the comments…if you can find any!
- Reider, Joseph. The Book of Wisdom: An English Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Harper, 1957. 233 pp.
- Geyer, John. The Wisdom of Solomon: Introduction and Commentary. Torch Bible Commentary. London, SCM Press, 1963. 128 pp.
- Clarke, Ernest G. The Wisdom of Solomon. Cambridge Bible Commentary on the NEB.Cambridge University Press, 1973. 136 pp.
- Winston, David. The Wisdom of Solomon. Anchor Yale Bible Commentary. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979. 360 pp.
- Grabbe, Lester. Wisdom of Solomon. T&T Clark Study Guides. Bloomsbury, 2004. 105 pp.
- Clifford, Richard. Wisdom. New Collegeville Bible Commentary, vol. 20. Liturgical Press, 2013. 88 pp.
There’s a wider-ranging bibliography put together by Daniel Harrington here. But yes, that’s it! Just a handful of short commentaries, and nothing very recent.
Here are few more items to add to our list, though not all fit the criteria of being book-length or in English:
- Deane, William J. The Book of Wisdom. Oxford: Clarendon, 1881. (Full view online access)
- Goodrick A.T.S. The Book of Wisdom. Oxford Church Bible Commentary. 1914. (Full view online access)
- Kolarick, Michael. “Book of Wisdom” in Volume 5: Proverbs to Sirach. New Interpreters Bible. Abingdon, 1997.
- Larcher, Chrysostome. Le Livre de la Sagesse. 3 vols. Paris: Gabalda, 1983.
- Reese, James M. The Book of Wisdom, Song of Songs. Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1983.
- Reese, James M. Hellenistic Influence on the Book of Wisdom and Its Consequences. Analecta Biblica. Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1970.