The Deuterocanonocal book Wisdom has a fairly obvious messianic prophecy. Why is it not included in the Protestant Bible?
"The Book of Wisdom was the last book of scripture written before the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. Today, Protestants deny that it is a book of scripture. However, it contains a very clear prophecy of Jesus Christ. Listen to the words of Wisdom 2:12-20
‘Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will
I think it’s obvious what the author speaks of."
If this predicts the coming of the messiah, why was it rejected by Protestants?
This is a complicated issue. I have an entire chapter on this question in my book Daniel, Prophet to the Nations (www.ipibooks.com) because part of the OT Apocrypha includes the "Additions to Daniel." The short answer to your question is that Protestants eventually rejected the OT Apocrypha because these books were not a part of the Jewis canon of scripture. Ultimately, a reasonable view of the matter is that God used the Jews (not the Christians!) to put together the Hebrew Bible. If the Jews do not accept Wisdom or 1 Macabees or Tobit, then most Christians will be extremely hesitatant to include these books in their Old Testament canon as well.
Having said that, the story is really rather complicated. As far as we know, Jesus never quoted from the OT Apocrypha. Neither did the New Testament writers with the likely exception of Jude, who appears to quote, not from the OT Apocrypha, but from the book of Enoch, (which some Christian groups have actually considered canonical, but which the Roman Catholic Church has rejected). The evidence is that the Jews produced a great number of religious books in the third through first centuries BC of varying quality. Some of these took on canonical or at least semi-canonical status for at least some Jews. When the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible was made in the late third century BC, some of these other Deuterocanonical books were translated and circulated. It is debatable how much respect the Jews at the time of Jesus gave to these other books. The Jews did not have such a clear-cut division between the inspired and the non-inspired books that we would probably have. In any case, it is surely significant that Jesus and the apostles did not use these books. It seems inescapable that Jesus saw these books to be of much lesser quality.
Bottom line, at the Council of Jamnia, the Pharisaical Jewish leaders rejected these Deuterocanonical books and accepted as the Jewish scripture the Protestant Old Testament.
Up to this point, it all sounds pretty clear. Unfortunately, that is not the whole story. The fact is that it was the early Christian Church which used these Deuterocanonical books, much more than the Jews ever did, at least as far as we know. In the second century we find the church Fathers using books like Wisdom of Sirach and others to a limited extent. By the third and fouth centuries the Western and Eastern churches were both using the Apocrypha quite extensively. One likely reason for this is that they used a Greek Old Testament almost to the exclusion of the Hebrew Bible. The Greek manuscripts generally included what we call the Apocrypha. By the fourth century, the church used the OT Apocrypha nearly interchangeably with the rest of the Hebrew scripture. In fact, some have speculated that the Church’s extensive use of the Apocrypha may have been part of the motivation for the Jews more fully rejecting these books.
When Jerome made the famous Vulgate translation of the Bible into Latin in the fifth century, he included the Deuterocanonical books, apparently against his will because as a scholar he was well aware of the lesser quality of these books. In any case, this, plus the use of the Apocrypha by the Eastern Church settled the matter for over one thousand years. The OT Apocrypha became part of the Christian Canon.
You will probably be surprised that the early Protestants included the entire Apocrypha in their earliest Bibles as well. The King James and Martin Luther’s Bibles included these books. It was only upon further study and scholarship that Protestant teachers began to advise reverting back to only including the Jewish canon for the Old Testament. It was not until the eighteenth century that the Apocrypha was excluded from the Protesant Old Testaments.
Why do we not accept Wisdom of Sirach as inspired today? That is a good question. Actually, it is difficult to establish with absolute certainty whether his book is in fact inspired. It is not a requirement that every inspired book ever written be included in the Bible. I assume that Paul and other apostles wrote other inspired material. In the end, by faith, I trust God’s wisdom and his sovereign will to determine what ended up in the accepted Christian scripture. Might part or even all of Ecclesiasticus or Wisdom be inspired? Perhaps. The Apocrypha are of varying quality. Both books include some very questionable material. For example, Sirach has the following: Worst of all wounds is that of the heart, worst of all evils is that of a woman… There is scarce any evil like that in a woman; may she fall to the lot of the sinner (Sirach 25:12,18) We can see why the Roman Catholic Church likes this one: "Water quenches a flaming fire and alms atone for sins." (Ecclesiasticus 3:29). Can you imagine Paul of Jesus saying that?
What about the apparent messianic prophecies in Wisdom? And what about the really good spiritual wisdom there (even if sprinkled with some very bad doctrine)? I believe it is possible that the book is what I will call sub-inspired. God may well have influenced the writer, but in the end, Wisdom, Tobit, 2 Macabees, Judith, Baruch and the other Deuterocanonical books are of a lower quality than the books which have ended up in our Old Testaments. My suggestion to you is this. Read the Apocrypha for yourself. I believe that, although you will find wisdom and perhaps even some signs of possible inspiration there, the overall impression you will get is that these books are of lesser quality than the canonical Old Testament. Even in this, the answer is uneven. 1 Maccabees is of higher quality than 2 Maccabees. Wisdom is of greater quality than Tobit. I believe that you can read these books. as perhaps you read other non-biblical books, to encourage your faith, but they are not inspired. In the end, I believe that, like Paul told Timothy, the scripture we have is "sufficient for every good work." (2 Tim 3:17).
John Oakes, PhD