[Editor’s Note: This is a rather long question with a fairly long response]


 I read your article “Is Chapter 2 of Wisdom (part of the Apocrypha) inspired prophecy of Jesus?” and wanted to address your points.

First, you asked where the Messianic prophecy is. Wisdom 2:12-20 contains a very clear Messianic prophecy: “For if the righteous one is the son of God, God will help him and deliver him from the hand of his foes.” This parallels Matthew 27:43, where the Jewish leaders taunts that God will save the Son of God during the crucifixion: “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ””

There is no passage in the Protestant OT where the Jewish leaders quoted where God would save the Son of God. Some people would say it is citing Psalm 22:7-8 but that doesn’t say “God will save the Son of God”, only Wisdom says that God will save the righteous Son of God. Matthew is quoting the Psalm and Wisdom.

Notice that Wisdom 2:17 takes the truthful claim to be the “Son of God” a condition for God delivering him. This is obviously about a very specific Son of God figure because prophets and the like are many times called the sons of God in the Bible but God didn’t always deliver them from their foes.

Also, the Jewish leaders wouldn’t cite Wisdom if they didn’t believe it was Scripture. It makes no sense why they would use this passage against Jesus to mock him if they didn’t believe it’s authoritative, otherwise, their taunt would have been meaningless, perhaps even blasphemous, since it would then have amounted to a demand for a miraculous rescue that God never promised.

The combination of using Psalm 22 and Wisdom 2 shows that the chief priests, scribes and elders understood both of the texts to be messianic and used it interchangeably with one another, indicating that it is indeed Scripture. This is in contrast to the New Testament writers citing Enoch or ancient Roman/Greek writings where it is merely flickers of the truth. The New Testament refers to almost every verse mentioned in Wisdom 2:

● Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, (Matthew 23:1-4, 13-33)
● Reproaches us for transgressions of the law (Matthew 15:6, John 7:19, et al.)
● and charges us with violations of our training. (Matthew 12:3, 5, 19:4, 23:31, Mark 12:26, John 7:19, etc.)
● He professes to have knowledge of God (Matthew 11:27, Luke 10:22, John 10:15, 12:50, et al.)
● and styles himself a child of the LORD. (Mark 14:36, John 5:20)
● To us he is the censure of our thoughts; (Matthew 9:4, Mark 2:8, Luke 5:22, 11:17, et al.)
● merely to see him is a hardship for us, Because his life is not like other men’s, and different are his ways. (Matthew 7:28-29, 15:2, and 22:16; Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32)
● He judges us debased; (Matthew 23:27-28, et al.)
● he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. (Matthew 23:3)
● He calls blest the destiny of the just (Matthew 5:10)
● and boasts that God is his Father (Matthew 11:27, John 5:17, 6:32, 40; 8:19, 49, 54, etc.)
● Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. (Matthew 27:40-42, 49)
● For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. (Matthew 27:43)
● With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; (Deuteronomy 21:22, Galatians 3:13, Hebrews 12:2)
● for according to his own words, ‘God will take care of him’. (Matthew 4:11, 26:53)
● These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them, (Matthew 15:14, 23:16-26)
● And they knew not the hidden counsels of God; (John 8:55, 1 Corinthians 2:8, 1 John 2:4)
● neither did they count on a recompense of holiness nor discern the innocent souls’ reward. (John 7:49)
● For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. (1 Corinthians 15:45)

The Deuterocanon was used as early as 1st Clement (Wisdom, Judith, Tobit, Deutero Esther) and Polycarp (Tobit) and even the Jewish historian Josephus used 1st Maccabees in his Antiquity of the Jews, book 12, chapter 5.1-3 and Deutero Esther in book 11, chapter 6, which further proves that the Deuterocanon was in the 1st century Septuagint. There is no proof the canon was closed by about the 4th century BC and this theory goes against the abundant evidence of a constant continuation of prophecy and prophets.

The 2nd problem is you said it can’t be inspired because Wisdom 2:2 says “By chance we came to birth, and after this life we shall be as if we had never been. The breath in our nostrils is a puff of smoke, reason a spark from our beating hearts”, which is against Christianity. You mustn’t have read the whole chapter because this is exactly the writer’s point! In verse 1, immediately before the part you quoted, it says: “Wicked people are wrong when they say to themselves,” then tells us all of these incorrect beliefs. Regarding your 2nd example, I don’t see how this could possibly be disqualifying.

Wisdom, like the rest of the DC, was accepted and received by the body of the Church as Scripture, which is the only way we know what the canon of Scripture is. To reject the DC and agree with its removal from Scripture in the 16th century, you have to believe the early Christians for over a millennium were wrong and that the Apostles were disastrous at passing on the truth, because Christian writers from the time and throughout early Christianity affirmed Deuterocanonical books as Scripture.

I would be happy to send an extensive document on the Deuterocanon addressing all the evidence for the Deuterocanon and arguments against it, and including hundreds of quotes from Church writers, fully referenced, affirming the Deuterocanon.


Let me respond first to what appears to be your strongest or most essential argument.  It is that Wisdom 2:12-20 is an inspired messianic prophecy, which, by implication, proves (or at least very strongly implies) that Wisdom is inspired.  Let us put aside for the moment that this would be an argument for Wisdom, but the implication for you is that this argument would also, by implication, spread to Tobit, Judith, 1,2 Maccabees, etc.  Let me, then, analyze Wisdom 2:12-20.  By the way, I am using the Jerusalem Bible, which is not the Catholic New American Bible, but I do not see a large difference.  In this passage, I do see parallels between the idea of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53:1-12.  The fact is, that this passage of Wisdom is a sort of a targum on Isaiah 53:1-12.  You say that there is nowhere in the Hebrew Bible where this is anticipated, but this is simply not the case.  The relevant passage, of which Wisdom 2:12-20 is an interpretation, is Isaiah 53:11-12.  The parallel is fairly obvious.  Besides, if I look at Matthew 27:43, there is no indication that the Old Testament is being quoted.  In this case, the enemies of Jesus are mocking Jesus, not quoting the Old Testament.  So, I consider this use of Matthew 27:43 a bit of a red herring argument.  Many times Matthew uses the formula “as it was said.”  He certainly does not do so in Matthew 27:43, and, in fact, I see no indication whatsoever that the enemies of Christ are trying to quote Scripture. There is no New Testament example of an enemy of Jesus quoting an Old Testament prophecy with regard to the Messiah (unless you count Matthew 27:43, but that would be circular reasoning).
The fact remains, as you mention in your paper, that neither the Essenes, nor Philo, nor Jesus, nor any of the New Testament writers ever quote Wisdom or Ecclesiasticus or, indeed, any of the Deuterocanon.  This is a plain fact, and your use of Matthew 27:14 is not a good counter example.  You give an impressive list of things in this passage which are also found in the New Testament, but all of them are also found elsewhere in the Old Testament, and scholars agree that none of your examples are actual quotes from Wisdom.  Now, as I already said, there are clearly messianic undertones in Wisdom 2:12-20.  I certainly do not deny this, and I would be a fool to deny this.  There are also many messianic references in the Essene writings, and in many intertestamental writings, but there is no indication in this passage that it is being quoted by a NT writer. We do not consider the Essene writings as canonical just because they talk about the coming Messiah. In fact, the best I can tell, there is literally nothing in Wisdom 2:12-10 that is not also found, by implication, in Isaiah 53 (except the reference to the name Son of God).  This is why I conclude, tentatively, that it is a sort of Targum of Isaiah 53.  Let me also say that I agree with you that Wisdom 2:12-20 identifies the Messiah that the writer expects to come to be known as the Son of God.  But this is not at all unique to Wisdom 2:17 (Isaiah 9:6-7).
I will also agree whole-heartedly with you that the church fathers used the Deuterocanonical books.  The evidence for this in the first century is lacking (https://effectualgrace.com/2017/12/21/the-apostolic-fathers-and-their-quotations-of-the-deutero-canonical-books/).  The evidence is that the use of these passages began as a trickle in the second century, but only really took off in the third century.  I will concede that by the third century, church fathers were using Wisdom as if it were inspired.  This, of course, does not make it true, but it is a fact that the opponents of the canonicity of these books should not–indeed cannot–ignore.  Here is the bottom line: Who chooses the canon of the Hebrew Bible?  The answer, historically, is that God used the Jews to do this.  If Jesus or his apostles had said differently, then I suppose I would accept their authority, but I do not accept the authority of a church leader in the third century to determine the Jewish Bible.
I reject these books as canonical for a few reasons:
1. Despite all of your efforts, you fail completely to demonstrate that Jesus or the apostles considered these passages canonical.  It is simply unavoidable and incontrovertible that Paul, Peter and Jesus did not use these books as part of their canon.  There are many hundreds of quotes of the Old Testament in the New.  Nearly every book is quoted.  Psalms is quoted nearly one hundred times, and  Isaiah many dozens of times.  But there are absolutely zero quotes from 1 Maccabees, and zero quotes from Judith, Tobit, the additions to Daniel, Baruch and the other books of the Deuterocanon. This fact cannot be ignored, and, I believer, it cannot be explained.
2. Although there is a very small amount of evidence that a very small number of Jews may have used some of these books, there is literally zero evidence that the bulk of the Jews of any part of the Jews ever considered these part of their canon.  You note that the Pharisees rejected these books, which is true, but you point out that they were not the only sect of teachers of the Law.  What you fail to do is point to an important and influential group of Jews from any point in history who systematically used these books.  They did not write Targums of these books. We have no Jewish commentaries of these non-canonical books simply because they are not canonical.  The Essenes and Philo never used these works.  You point out correctly that lack of evidence is not proof, but you do not provide contravening evidence.
3. I will not get into a debate with you over the wisdom of certain really cool sayings in Wisdom and Ecclesasticus, of which there are many.  However, I am sorry, but there are passages in these books which are problematic (Ecclesiasticus 3:14-15, Ecclesiasticus 3:30, Ecclesiasticus 25:12,18).  But let us ignore that for a minute.  Maybe I am wrong here, but either all of these Deuterocanonical books are inspired, or none of them are.  Or, more carefuly, either all of them are canonical or none of them are.  They all fly or hang together.  So, I look at other books in the collection, and my opinion is swayed very strongly against the group as a whole. 1 Maccabees seems to be reliable historically, but not its partner.  For example, in 2 Maccabees 15:37-39 the writer clearly does not consider himself as inspired (I have done the best I can…).  Far from it.  It is simply unimaginable that Luke would have said something like this at the end of Acts, or the writer of 2 Kings saying this.  Let us face it, 2 Maccabees is not inspired.  Even the Catholic Bibles admit that Tobit and Judith are second-rate books, and the additions to Daniel are rather obvious fables.  Does the inspired canon include rather obvious fables which include clear historical errors, such as in the additions to Daniel (examples: Judith has Nebuchadnezzar a king of Assyria, the NAB says “Any attempt to read the book (Judith) against the backdrop… of Jewish history is doomed to fail”)?
So, I will concede that the primitive Greek and Latin church fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries did consider these books to be inspired and even canonical.  I will also agree that the earliest Protestants, such as Luther and Zwingli did not completely reject these books.  However, I, like Jerome, and like virtually all scholars today who are not influenced by what I would call the circular reasoning of certain groups who have been using these books for a long time, reject that these were ever part of the Jewish/Hebrew canon, and are therefore conclude that they not part of the Christian canon.
Now, the fact that Orthodox, Coptic and Roman Catholic churches do include these in their canon of Scripture, while an error, is not at catastrophic error in my opinion, and I am fully willing to fellowship with those who accept these books as canonical.  I see that you have thought long and deeply about these passages, but I believe you are looking through circular reasoning blinders at the facts.  Perhaps I am wrong, and forgive me if I incorrectly assume your motivation, but it appears to me that you accept these books first and foremost because they are accepted.  The fact that one particular Christian group accepts these books does not make them canonical.  Now, that is not the only reason, of course.  It is not that one cannot make a reasoned case for these books, but, on balance, the evidence is that the church of Christ in the first century did not accept these as canonical, neither did the Jews (ever!), and neither did Jesus or his apostles, and that is sufficient for me.
John Oakes

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