The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for the ‘Notes on Wisdom’ Category

Background and Brief Notes on Wisdom 18:6-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 31, 2016

Background~The New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture entitles Wisdom 11:2-19:4 as a “Midrash on Pericope of Exodus,” (pericope is a Latin word meaning “selected text[s]”). The NABRE extends the section to the end of the book (i.e., 11:2-19:22) and entitles it the “Special Providence of God During the Exodus.”  The author takes as his starting point various events from the Exodus and presents a series of contrasts to highlight God’s special care of His people (For through the very things by which their enemies were punished, they themselves received benefit in their need~11″5). In my opinion (following the New Jerusalem Bible and the Anchor Bible Commentary on Wisdom), there are seven contrasts. These contrasts are as follows:

I. Wis 11:2-14. God used water to test and save His people (cf. Ex 17:1-7; Num 20:2-13) and to punish the Egyptians (Ex 7:17-21) who used water to kill the people of God (Ex 1:15-16).

II. Wis 16:1-4.  Animals [frogs?] brought hunger among the Egyptians (Ex 7:26-8:3); but God fed His people with quail (Ex 16:9-13; Num 11:10-32).

III. Wis 16:5-14. Though God sent biting serpents among his people to “trouble” them “for a little while,” He also healed them when they looked upon the bronze serpent (Num 21:4-9). The Egyptians on the other hand were punished by biting insects (locust and flies) with no remedy for them (Ex 8:16-20; 10:4-15).

IV. Wis 16:15-29. God sent destructive storms (hail) upon the Egyptians (Ex 9:13-35; Ps 78:47-49; 105:32), but rained down manna upon His people (Ex 16:1-36; Ps 78:25; 105:40).

V. Wis 17:1-18:4. God plagued the Egyptians with darkness (Ex 10:21-22) even as His own people had light (Ex 10:23). By means of a pillar of fire God preceded them out of Egypt (Ex 13:21-22).

VI. Wis 18:5-25. The Egyptians who had killed the children of Israel (Ex 1:15-16) suffered the loss of their firstborn sons (Ex 11:1-10; 12:29-30), even as the holy children of God offered the Passover sacrifice (Ex 12:1-28). As a result the Egyptians were forced to acknowledge Israel as the child of God (Wis 18:13).

VII. Wis 19:1-12. The Egyptians broke off mourning their dead and chased after God’s people, only to lose their lives in the Red Sea while the Israelites passed through it safely (Ex 14:1-31) and celebrated (Ex 15:1-21).


Wis 18:6 That night was made known beforehand to our fathers, so that they might rejoice in sure knowledge of the oaths in which they trusted.  ‎

As the previous verse (Wis 18:5) makes clear, that night which was made known beforehand to our fathers is the night of the Passover and the tenth plague against Egypt (death of the firstborn. See Ex 11:1-12:36) whereby the people’s bondage was brought to an end. It was made known  to the fathers by Moses (Ex 6:6-7; 11:4-7). The reason for their being informed about it beforehand is that they might have a trusting faith in God’s oaths and rejoice in their fulfillment.

In some sense it could be said that father Abraham knew of that night in advance inasmuch as he was informed by God that his descendants would be held in bondage for 400 years and then freed by God’s judgement against the nation which so held them (Ge 15:13-14).

Wis 18:7 The deliverance of the righteous and the destruction of their enemies were expected by thy people.  ‎

The people’s expectation of their deliverance and the destruction of their enemies is due to the trust they put in God’s oaths.

Wis 18:8 For by the same means by which thou didst punish our enemies thou didst call us to thyself and glorify us. By the same means highlights the basic principle of the seven contrasts outlined above (see Wis 11:6). In the immediate context this verse prepares for the contrasting experiences of God’s people and their enemies on Passover night (see Wis 18:10-13).

Wis 18:‎9 For in secret the holy children of good men offered sacrifices, and with one accord agreed to the divine law, that the saints would share alike the same things, both blessings and dangers; and already they were singing the praises of the fathers.

Father James Reese comments: “The holy children of good men experienced the saving power of God’s word in their Passover sacrifices. This term implies that the meal sealed a special covenant for the generation of Moses by agreeing to the divine law.” (Reese, James M. “The Book of Wisdom, Son of Songs.” Old Testament Message: A Biblical-Theological Commentary. Vol. 20. Wilmington, Del: Michael Glazier Inc. 1983).

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My Notes on Wisdom 6:1-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 11, 2013

The brief introduction and outline that opens this post also opened my notes on Monday’s reading (1:1-7).

The Book of Wisdom is generally divided into three major sections (see the Introduction to the Book of Wisdom in the NAB). Today’s reading is taken from the first major section (Wis 1:1-6:21) which can be divided into five parts written in the form of a reverse parallel (technically known as a chiamus).

A1) An Exhortation to practice righteousness and a warning for those who refuse (Wis 1:1-15).

B1) The words of the wicked against the just man and a condemnation of their thoughts by the author (Wis 1:16:2:24).

C) Triumph of the just, punishment of the wicked (Wis 3:1-5:1).

B2) The words of the wicked acknowledging their foolishness in opposing the just man followed by a confirmation of their thoughts by the author (Wis 5:2-23).

A2) Closing exhortation to seek wisdom, and a warning to those who refuse (Wis 6:1-21).

Such a structure has a twofold purpose, to establish connections between the parallel sub-sections (A1 with A2, B1 with B2), but also to indicate that the entire section (1:1-6:21) is a unity. Today’s reading (Wis 6:1-11) is taken from the A2 sub-section (Wis 6:1-21), and in my notes I’ll try to bring out some connections with the A1 section and the unit as a whole.

Wis 6:1  Hear, therefore, ye kings, and understand, learn ye that are judges of the ends of the earth.
Wis 6:2  Give ear, you that rule the people, and that please yourselves in multitudes of nations:

Hear…Give ear is an exhortatory call to attention found throughout both the wisdom literature and the prophets to introduce instructions or warnings (often the two go hand in hand). Therefore is a conjunctive providing a connection with what has preceded. Those who judge (rule) over the earth were called upon to love justice and to seek the Lord in simplicity (integrity) of heart (Wis 1:1). The faithless testing of God, perversity of counsel,the plotting of evil and deceit are acts of injustice and will be punished (Wis 1:2-5). Injustice is an attack on just men and God loathes it (passim Wis 1:1-6:21). When judgment comes rulers who act unjustly will come to realize that the just have God as their protector, and that their arrogance, pride, wealth, and low esteem for the just will come to nought (Wis 5:1-13). They will see that their wickedness was a sorry basis for hope (Wis 5:14-15). These kings and rulers will become as insignificant as chaff and smoke driven by the wind, but by a marvelous reversal, the just will receive a kingdom of glory, and a crown of beauty at the hand of the Lord: for with his right hand he will cover them, and with his holy arm he will defend them (Wis 5:16). No wonder then that the rulers are called upon to hear, understand, and learn.

That please yourselves in the multitude of nations. You who pleased yourselves by following your own vain wisdom, living lives of wantonness, luxury and oppression (Wis 1:16-2:24)

Wis 6:3  For power is given you by the Lord, and strength by the most High, who will examine your works: and search out your thoughts:
Wis 6:4  Because being ministers of his kingdom, you have not judged rightly, nor kept the law of justice, nor walked according to the will of God.

For power is given you by the Lord, &c. The word for is a conjunctive and introduces the reasons (in this and the following verses) for the call to attention in verses 1-2. Their power and strength to rule came not from themselves but from God, and he will demand an accounting. He will examine their works to determine if they were in accordance with his will? He will search their thoughts to see if they were in accord with the wisdom of God which they should have sought (Wis 2:21-22; Wis 3:1-11). He will thus reveal to them what he already knows! Being ministers of his kingdom they have not judged rightly, nor kept the law of justice, nor walked according to the will of God.

Note the parallel structure of the following verses:

Wis 6:5  Horribly and speedily will he appear to you: for a most severe judgment shall be for them that bear rule.

Wis 6:6  For to him that is little, mercy is granted: but the mighty shall be mightily tormented.

Wis 6:7  For God will not except any man’s person, neither will he stand in awe of any man’s greatness: for he made the little and the great, and he hath equally care of all.

Wis 6:8  But a greater punishment is ready for the more mighty.

Verses 5 & 8 (verses 6 and 7 will be treated below) For a most severe judgment shall be for them that bear rule….neither will he stand in awe of any man’s greatness.  Greater gifts bring greater responsibilities, and a greater judgment. See Luke’s parable is Lk 12:41-48.

“But in order that justice may be retained in government it is of the highest importance that those who rule States should understand that political power was not created for the advantage of any private individual; and that the administration of the State must be carried on to the profit of those who have been committed to their care, not to the profit of those to whom it has been committed. Let princes take example from the Most High God, by whom authority is given to them; and, placing before themselves His model in governing the State, let them rule over the people with equity and faithfulness, and let them add to that severity, which is necessary, a paternal charity. On this account they are warned in the oracles of the sacred Scriptures, that they will have themselves some day to render an account to the King of kings and Lord of lords; if they shall fail in their duty, that it will not be possible for them in any way to escape the severity of God: “The Most High will examine your work and search out your thoughts: because being ministers of his kingdom you have not judged rightly… Horribly and speedily will he appear to you, for a most severe judgment shall be for them that bear rule… For God will not accept any man’s person, neither will he stand in awe of any man’s greatness; for he made the little and the great, and he hath equally care of all. But a greater punishment is ready for the more mighty” (Encyclical Letter of Pope Leo XIII, Diuturnum).

“They, therefore, who rule should rule with evenhanded justice, not as masters, but rather as fathers, for the rule of God over man is most just, and is tempered always with a father’s kindness. Government should, moreover, be administered for the well-being of the citizens, because they who govern others possess authority solely for the welfare of the State. Furthermore, the civil power must not be subservient to the advantage of any one individual or of some few persons, inasmuch as it was established for the common good of all. But, if those who are in authority rule unjustly, if they govern overbearingly or arrogantly, and if their measures prove hurtful to the people, they must remember that the Almighty will one day bring them to account, the more strictly in proportion to the sacredness of their office and preeminence of their dignity. “The mighty shall be mightily tormented” (2 ) . Then, truly, will the majesty of the law meet with the dutiful and willing homage of the people, when they are convinced that their rulers hold authority from God, and feel that it is a matter of justice and duty to obey them, and to show them reverence and fealty, united to a love not unlike that which children show their parents. (Encyclical Letter Immortale Dei, Pope Leo XIII).

Wis 6:7For to him that is little, mercy is granted: but the mighty shall be mightily tormented.
Wis 6:8  For God will not except any man’s person, neither will he stand in awe of any man’s greatness: for he made the little and the great, and he hath equally care of all.

All human beings have been created by God, and those humans who rule over others do so by the grace and will of God, not by right of their own power and authority which they do not possess. No ruler can count on his/her greatness when the time for judgement comes: for he made the little and the great, and he hat equally care of all.

Wis 6:9  To you, therefore, O kings, are these my words, that you may learn wisdom, and not fall from it.
Wis 6:10  For they that have kept just things justly, shall be justified: and they that have learned these things, shall find what to answer.
Wis 6:11  Covet ye, therefore, my words, and love them, and you shall have instruction.

An exhortation to embrace the teaching of chapters 1-6.

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Background and Brief Notes on Wisdom 9:13-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 1, 2013

 I am here using the RSVCE in accordance with its copyright permission: The [New] Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted.   

Notice of copyright must appear on the title or copyright page of the work as follows:  “The Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1965, 1966 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Background~Wisdom 6:22-11:1 consists of a praise of wisdom focusing on its nature; its power; and Solomon’s quest for it. After a brief introduction (Wis 6:22-25), the author,  in Wisdom 7:1-8:21, presents a speech by Solomon which consists of seven parts arranged as a reverse parallel (see the outline in this post). At the beginning of his speech Solomon acknowledges that he is like all other men (Wis 7:1-6), and at the end he comes to his conclusion, in spite of his nobility he is still human and must needs have divine Wisdom as a gift (Wis 8:17-21). His speech concluded and the realization that one can possess wisdom only as a gift, leads Solomon to pray for wisdom (Wis 9:1-18). In his prayer he acknowledges that God’s wisdom is at man’s source and actions (Wis 9:1-6), and so he asks for wisdom (Wis 9:4), for without it he could not rule as king (Wis 9:7), build the temple (Wis 9:8), accomplish the work God has given him, know God’s will, be guided by it, and thus be acceptable to God (Wis 9:9-12). It is at this point that today’s reading (Wisdom 9:13-18) begins. It is not hard to see how this reading relates to the Gospel for Today (Luke 14:25-33).

Wis 9:13 For what man can learn the counsel of God? Or who can discern what the Lord wills?


For what man can learn the counsel of God? This is a common question in the Scripture (Isa 40:13-14, 55:8; Prov 30:2-4; Sir 1:1-10; 18:1-7; 24:28-29), and ancient Jewish writings (1 Baruch 3:29-37; 1 Enoch 93:11-14).  The question here must be seen in light of what has preceded and by what follows; by himself man can do nothing. Even Solomon, in spite of his ancestry, his nobility and his wealth, had to confess: I also am mortal, like all men, a descendant of the first-formed child of earth; and in the womb of a mother I was molded into flesh, within the period of ten months, compacted with blood, from the seed of a man and the pleasure of marriage. And when I was born, I began to breathe the common air, and fell upon the kindred earth, and my first sound was a cry, like that of all. I was nursed with care in swaddling cloths. For no king has had a different beginning of existence; there is for all mankind one entrance into life, and a common departure (Wis 7:1-6). He thus realized the need to pray for wisdom as a gift: Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me; I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me (Wis 7:7). In this way he acknowledged:  I am thy slave and the son of thy maidservant, a man who is weak and short-lived, with little understanding of judgment and laws (Wis 9:5).

Wis 9:14 For the reasoning of mortals is worthless, and our designs are likely to fail, 
Wis 9:15 for a perishable body weighs down the soul, and this earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind.

Simply put, man’s nature has its limitations. A number of scholars like to draw comparisons between these verses (especially 15) and the philosophy of Plato (Phaedo 66B; Republic 611C; Timaeus 43BC), claiming that the author of Wisdom was a dualist who held matter to be evil. But the foundations upon which Platonism was built are not the same as the foundations of the teaching of the Book of Wisdom, and superficial comparisons cannot change that. “(T)he author does not go beyond such texts as Psalm 10314; Job 4:19; Isa 38:12; he merely says that the earthbound body is a weight on the heavenward aspirations of the soul (cf. also Gal 5:17; Rom 7:14-25; 2 Cor 4:7).” [Addison G. Wright, S.S., in his Commentary on Wisdom in THE JEROME BIBLICAL COMMENTARY 34:29].

Wis 9:16 We can hardly guess at what is on earth, and what is at hand we find with labor; but who has traced out what is in the heavens? 
Wis 9:17 Who has learned thy counsel, unless thou hast given wisdom and sent thy holy Spirit from on high? 
Wis 9:18 And thus the paths of those on earth were set right, and men were taught what pleases thee, and were saved by wisdom.”

We can hardly guess what is on earth, and what is at hand we find with labor, &c. These words hearken back to verses 9 & 10: With thee is wisdom, who knows thy works and was present when thou didst make the world, and who understand what is pleasing in thy sight and what is right according to thy commandments. Send her forth from the holy heavens, and from the throne of thy glory send her, that she may be with me and toil, and that I may learn what is pleasing to thee. God in wisdom made the earth and the heavens and all they contain according to a wise plan (counsel), therefore man, a part of God’s wise creation, cannot comprehend fully what is on earth, and what he can comprehend (what is at hand) he can only find with labor. Wisdom must therefore be sent, that she may be with me and toil, and that I may learn what is pleasing to thee (verse 10). Only because God has sent wisdom to men as a gift can the author say: And thus the paths of those on earth were set right, and men were taught what pleases thee, and were saved by wisdom

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Aquinas’ Summa Theologica on Wisdom 7:7-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 9, 2012

The following post contains those articles from the Summa which employ any part of the text of Wisdom 7:7-11.

ST. I-II Q.2, Art. 6: Whether Man’s Happiness Consists in Pleasure. (Wisdom 7:9).

Objection: 1. It would seem that man’s happiness consists in pleasure. For since happiness is the last end, it is not desired for something else, but other things for it. But this answers to pleasure more than to anything else: “for it is absurd to ask anyone what is his motive in wishing to be pleased” (Ethic. x, 2). Therefore happiness consists principally in pleasure and delight.

2. Further, “the first cause goes more deeply into the effect than the second cause” (De Causis i). Now the causality of the end consists in its attracting the appetite. Therefore, seemingly that which moves most the appetite, answers to the notion of the last end. Now this is pleasure: and a sign of this is that delight so far absorbs man’s will and reason, that it causes him to despise other goods. Therefore it seems that man’s last end, which is happiness, consists principally in pleasure.

3. Further, since desire is for good, it seems that what all desire is best. But all desire delight; both wise and foolish, and even irrational creatures. Therefore delight is the best of all. Therefore happiness, which is the supreme good, consists in pleasure.

On the contrary Boethius says (De Consol. iii): “Any one that chooses to look back on his past excesses, will perceive that pleasures had a sad ending: and if they can render a man happy, there is no reason why we should not say that the very beasts are happy too.”

I answer that Because bodily delights are more generally known, “the name of pleasure has been appropriated to them” (Ethic. vii, 13), although other delights excel them: and yet happiness does not consist in them. Because in every thing, that which pertains to its essence is distinct from its proper accident: thus in man it is one thing that he is a mortal rational animal, and another that he is a risible animal. We must therefore consider that every delight is a proper accident resulting from happiness, or from some part of happiness; since the reason that a man is delighted is that he has some fitting good, either in reality, or in hope, or at least in memory. Now a fitting good, if indeed it be the perfect good, is precisely man’s happiness: and if it is imperfect, it is a share of happiness, either proximate, or remote, or at least apparent. Therefore it is evident that neither is delight, which results from the perfect good, the very essence of happiness, but something resulting therefrom as its proper accident.But bodily pleasure cannot result from the perfect good even in that way. For it results from a good apprehended by sense, which is a power of the soul, which power makes use of the body. Now good pertaining to the body, and apprehended by sense, cannot be man’s perfect good. For since the rational soul excels the capacity of corporeal matter, that part of the soul which is independent of a corporeal organ, has a certain infinity in regard to the body and those parts of the soul which are tied down to the body: just as immaterial things are in a way infinite as compared to material things, since a form is, after a fashion, contracted and bounded by matter, so that a form which is independent of matter is, in a way, infinite. Therefore sense, which is a power of the body, knows the singular, which is determinate through matter: whereas the intellect, which is a power independent of matter, knows the universal, which is abstracted from matter, and contains an infinite number of singulars. Consequently it is evident that good which is fitting to the body, and which causes bodily delight through being apprehended by sense, is not man’s perfect good, but is quite a trifle as compared with the good of the soul. Hence it is written (Sg 7,9) that “all gold in comparison of her, is as a little sand.” And therefore bodily pleasure is neither happiness itself, nor a proper accident of happiness.

Reply to Objection: 1. It comes to the same whether we desire good, or desire delight, which is nothing else than the appetite’s rest in good: thus it is owing to the same natural force that a weighty body is borne downwards and that it rests there. Consequently just as good is desired for itself, so delight is desired for itself and not for anything else, if the preposition “for” denote the final cause. But if it denote the formal or rather the motive cause, thus delight is desirable for something else, i.e. for the good, which is the object of that delight, and consequently is its principle, and gives it its form: for the reason that delight is desired is that it is rest in the thing desired.

2. The vehemence of desire for sensible delight arises from the fact that operations of the senses, through being the principles of our knowledge, are more perceptible. And so it is that sensible pleasures are desired by the majority.

3. All desire delight in the same way as they desire good: and yet they desire delight by reason of the good and not conversely, as stated above (ad 1). Consequently it does not follow that delight is the supreme and essential good, but that every delight results from some good, and that some delight results from that which is the essential and supreme good.

ST. I-II, Q. 4, art 8: Whether the Fellowship of a Friend is Necessary for Happiness? (Wisdom 7:11).

Objection: 1. It would seem that friends are necessary for Happiness. For future Happiness is frequently designated by Scripture under the name of “glory.” But glory consists in man’s good being brought to the notice of many. Therefore the fellowship of friends is necessary for Happiness.
2. Further, Boethius [*Seneca, Ep. 6] says that “there is no delight in possessing any good whatever, without someone to share it with us.” But delight is necessary for Happiness. Therefore fellowship of friends is also necessary.

3. Further, charity is perfected in Happiness. But charity includes the love of God and of our neighbor. Therefore it seems that fellowship of friends is necessary for Happiness.

On the contrary It is written (Song 7:11): “All good things came to me together with her,” i.e. with divine wisdom, which consists in contemplating God. Consequently nothing else is necessary for Happiness.

I answer that If we speak of the happiness of this life, the happy man needs friends, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. ix, 9), not, indeed, to make use of them, since he suffices himself; nor to delight in them, since he possesses perfect delight in the operation of virtue; but for the purpose of a good operation, viz. that he may do good to them; that he may delight in seeing them do good; and again that he may be helped by them in his good work. For in order that man may do well, whether in the works of the active life, or in those of the contemplative life, he needs the fellowship of friends.But if we speak of perfect Happiness which will be in our heavenly Fatherland, the fellowship of friends is not essential to Happiness; since man has the entire fulness of his perfection in God. But the fellowship of friends conduces to the well-being of Happiness. Hence Augustine says (Gn ad lit. viii, 25) that “the spiritual creatures receive no other interior aid to happiness than the eternity, truth, and charity of the Creator. But if they can be said to be helped from without, perhaps it is only by this that they see one another and rejoice in God, at their fellowship.”

Reply to Objection: 1. That glory which is essential to Happiness, is that which man has, not with man but with God.

2. This saying is to be understood of the possession of good that does not fully satisfy. This does not apply to the question under consideration; because man possesses in God a sufficiency of every good.
3. Perfection of charity is essential to Happiness, as to the love of God, but not as to the love of our neighbor. Wherefore if there were but one soul enjoying God, it would be happy, though having no neighbor to love. But supposing one neighbor to be there, love of him results from perfect love of God. Consequently, friendship is, as it were, concomitant with perfect Happiness.

ST. I-II, Q. 5, art. 4: Whether Happiness Once Had Can be Lost? (Wisdom 7:11).

Objection: 1. It would seem that Happiness can be lost. For Happiness is a perfection. But every perfection is in the thing perfected according to the mode of the latter. Since then man is, by his nature, changeable, it seems that Happiness is participated by man in a changeable manner. And consequently it seems that man can lose Happiness.

2. Further, Happiness consists in an act of the intellect; and the intellect is subject to the will. But the will can be directed to opposites. Therefore it seems that it can desist from the operation whereby man is made happy: and thus man will cease to be happy.

3. Further, the end corresponds to the beginning. But man’s Happiness has a beginning, since man was not always happy. Therefore it seems that it has an end.

On the contrary It is written (Mt 25:46) of the righteous that “they shall god . . . into life everlasting,” which, as above stated (Article [2]), is the Happiness of the saints. Now what is eternal ceases not. Therefore Happiness cannot be lost.

I answer that If we speak of imperfect happiness, such as can be had in this life, in this sense it can be lost. This is clear of contemplative happiness, which is lost either by forgetfulness, for instance, when knowledge is lost through sickness; or again by certain occupations, whereby a man is altogether withdrawn from contemplation.This is also clear of active happiness: since man’s will can be changed so as to fall to vice from the virtue, in whose act that happiness principally consists. If, however, the virtue remain unimpaired, outward changes can indeed disturb such like happiness, in so far as they hinder many acts of virtue; but they cannot take it away altogether because there still remains an act of virtue, whereby man bears these trials in a praiseworthy manner. And since the happiness of this life can be lost, a circumstance that appears to be contrary to the nature of happiness, therefore did the Philosopher state (Ethic. i, 10) that some are happy in this life, not simply, but “as men,” whose nature is subject to change.But if we speak of that perfect Happiness which we await after this life, it must be observed that Origen (Peri Archon. ii, 3), following the error of certain Platonists, held that man can become unhappy after the final Happiness.This, however, is evidently false, for two reasons. First, from the general notion of happiness. For since happiness is the “perfect and sufficient good,” it must needs set man’s desire at rest and exclude every evil. Now man naturally desires to hold to the good that he has, and to have the surety of his holding: else he must of necessity be troubled with the fear of losing it, or with the sorrow of knowing that he will lose it. Therefore it is necessary for true Happiness that man have the assured opinion of never losing the good that he possesses. If this opinion be true, it follows that he never will lose happiness: but if it be false, it is in itself an evil that he should have a false opinion: because the false is the evil of the intellect, just as the true is its good, as stated in Ethic. vi, 2. Consequently he will no longer be truly happy, if evil be in him.Secondly, it is again evident if we consider the specific nature of Happiness. For it has been shown above (Question [3], Article [8]) that man’s perfect Happiness consists in the vision of the Divine Essence. Now it is impossible for anyone seeing the Divine Essence, to wish not to see It. Because every good that one possesses and yet wishes to be without, is either insufficient, something more sufficing being desired in its stead; or else has some inconvenience attached to it, by reason of which it becomes wearisome. But the vision of the Divine Essence fills the soul with all good things, since it unites it to the source of all goodness; hence it is written (Ps 16,15): “I shall be satisfied when Thy glory shall appear”; and (Sg 7,11): “All good things came to me together with her,” i.e. with the contemplation of wisdom. In like manner neither has it any inconvenience attached to it; because it is written of the contemplation of wisdom (Sg 8,16): “Her conversation hath no bitterness, nor her company any tediousness.” It is thus evident that the happy man cannot forsake Happiness of his own accord. Moreover, neither can he lose Happiness, through God taking it away from him. Because, since the withdrawal of Happiness is a punishment, it cannot be enforced by God, the just Judge, except for some fault; and he that sees God cannot fall into a fault, since rectitude of the will, of necessity, results from that vision as was shown above (Question [4], Article [4]). Nor again can it be withdrawn by any other agent. Because the mind that is united to God is raised above all other things: and consequently no other agent can sever the mind from that union. Therefore it seems unreasonable that as time goes on, man should pass from happiness to misery, and vice versa; because such like vicissitudes of time can only be for such things as are subject to time and movement.

Reply to Objection: 1. Happiness is consummate perfection, which excludes every defect from the happy. And therefore whoever has happiness has it altogether unchangeably: this is done by the Divine power, which raises man to the participation of eternity which transcends all change.

2. The will can be directed to opposites, in things which are ordained to the end; but it is ordained, of natural necessity, to the last end. This is evident from the fact that man is unable not to wish to be happy.

3. Happiness has a beginning owing to the condition of the participator: but it has no end by reason of the condition of the good, the participation of which makes man happy. Hence the beginning of happiness is from one cause, its endlessness is from another.

ST. I-II, Q. 113, art. 3: Whether for the Justification of the Ungodly There is Required a Movement of the Free Will? (Wisdom 7:7).

Objection: 1. It would seem that no movement of the free-will is required for the justification of the ungodly. For we see that by the sacrament of Baptism, infants and sometimes adults are justified without a movement of their free-will: hence Augustine says (Confess. iv) that when one of his friends was taken with a fever, “he lay for a long time senseless and in a deadly sweat, and when he was despaired of, he was baptized without his knowing, and was regenerated”; which is effected by sanctifying grace. Now God does not confine His power to the sacraments. Hence He can justify a man without the sacraments, and without any movement of the free-will.

2. Further, a man has not the use of reason when asleep, and without it there can be no movement of the free-will. But Solomon received from God the gift of wisdom when asleep, as related in 1Kings 3 and Ch 1. Hence with equal reason the gift of sanctifying grace is sometimes bestowed by God on man without the movement of his free-will.

3. Further, grace is preserved by the same cause as brings it into being, for Augustine says (Gn ad lit. viii, 12) that “so ought man to turn to God as he is ever made just by Him.” Now grace is preserved in man without a movement of his free-will. Hence it can be infused in the beginning without a movement of the free-will.

On the contrary It is written (Jn 6,45): “Every one that hath heard of the Father, and hath learned, cometh to Me.” Now to learn cannot be without a movement of the free-will, since the learner assents to the teacher. Hence, no one comes to the Father by justifying grace without a movement of the free-will.

I answer that The justification of the ungodly is brought about by God moving man to justice. For He it is “that justifieth the ungodly” according to Rom 4,5. Now God moves everything in its own manner, just as we see that in natural things, what is heavy and what is light are moved differently, on account of their diverse natures. Hence He moves man to justice according to the condition of his human nature. But it is man’s proper nature to have free-will. Hence in him who has the use of reason, God’s motion to justice does not take place without a movement of the free-will; but He so infuses the gift of justifying grace that at the same time He moves the free-will to accept the gift of grace, in such as are capable of being moved thus.

Reply to Objection: 1. Infants are not capable of the movement of their free-will; hence it is by the mere infusion of their souls that God moves them to justice. Now this cannot be brought about without a sacrament; because as original sin, from which they are justified, does not come to them from their own will, but by carnal generation, so also is grace given them by Christ through spiritual regeneration. And the same reason holds good with madmen and idiots that have never had the use of their free-will. But in the case of one who has had the use of his free-will and afterwards has lost it either through sickness or sleep, he does not obtain justifying grace by the exterior rite of Baptism, or of any other sacrament, unless he intended to make use of this sacrament, and this can only be by the use of his free-will. And it was in this way that he of whom Augustine speaks was regenerated, because both previously and afterwards he assented to the Baptism.

2. Solomon neither merited nor received wisdom whilst asleep; but it was declared to him in his sleep that on account of his previous desire wisdom would be infused into him by God. Hence it is said in his person (Song 7,7): “I wished, and understanding was given unto me.”Or it may be said that his sleep was not natural, but was the sleep of prophecy, according to Num 12,6: “If there be among you a prophet of the Lord, I will appear to him in a vision, or I will speak to him in a dream.” In such cases the use of free-will remains.And yet it must be observed that the comparison between the gift of wisdom and the gift of justifying grace does not hold. For the gift of justifying grace especially ordains a man to good, which is the object of the will; and hence a man is moved to it by a movement of the will which is a movement of free-will. But wisdom perfects the intellect which precedes the will; hence without any complete movement of the free-will, the intellect can be enlightened with the gift of wisdom, even as we see that things are revealed to men in sleep, according to Job 33,15-16: “When deep sleep falleth upon men and they are sleeping in their beds, then He openeth the ears of men, and teaching, instructeth them in what they are to learn.”

ST. I-II, Q. 123, art 2: Whether Fortitude is a Special Virtue? (Wisdom 7:7).

Objection: 1. It seems that fortitude is not a special virtue. For it is written (Sg 7,7): “She teacheth temperance, and prudence, and justice, and fortitude,” where the text has “virtue” for “fortitude.” Since then the term “virtue” is common to all virtues, it seems that fortitude is a general virtue.

2. Further, Ambrose says (De Offic. i): “Fortitude is not lacking in courage, for alone she defends the honor of the virtues and guards their behests. She it is that wages an inexorable war on all vice, undeterred by toil, brave in face of dangers, steeled against pleasures, unyielding to lusts, avoiding covetousness as a deformity that weakens virtue”; and he says the same further on in connection with other vices. Now this cannot apply to any special virtue. Therefore fortitude is not a special virtue.

3. Further, fortitude would seem to derive its name from firmness. But it belongs to every virtue to stand firm, as stated in Ethic. ii. Therefore fortitude is a general virtue.

On the contrary Gregory (Moral. xxii) numbers it among the other virtues.

I answer that As stated above (FS, Question [61], Articles [3],4), the term “fortitude” can be taken in two ways. First, as simply denoting a certain firmness of mind, and in this sense it is a general virtue, or rather a condition of every virtue, since as the Philosopher states (Ethic. ii), it is requisite for every virtue to act firmly and immovably. Secondly, fortitude may be taken to denote firmness only in bearing and withstanding those things wherein it is most difficult to be firm, namely in certain grave dangers. Therefore Tully says (Rhet. ii), that “fortitude is deliberate facing of dangers and bearing of toils.” In this sense fortitude is reckoned a special virtue, because it has a special matter.

Reply to Objection: 1. According to the Philosopher (De Coelo i, 116) the word virtue refers to the extreme limit of a power. Now a natural power is, in one sense, the power of resisting corruptions, and in another sense is a principle of action, as stated in Metaph. v, 17. And since this latter meaning is the more common, the term “virtue,” as denoting the extreme limit of such a power, is a common term, for virtue taken in a general sense is nothing else than a habit whereby one acts well. But as denoting the extreme limit of power in the first sense, which sense is more specific, it is applied to a special virtue, namely fortitude, to which it belongs to stand firm against all kinds of assaults.

2. Ambrose takes fortitude in a broad sense, as denoting firmness of mind in face of assaults of all kinds. Nevertheless even as a special virtue with a determinate matter, it helps to resist the assaults of all vices. For he that can stand firm in things that are most difficult to bear, is prepared, in consequence, to resist those which are less difficult.

3. This objection takes fortitude in the first sense.

St I-II. Q. 180, art. 2: whether There Are Various Actions Pertaining to the Contemplative Life? (Wisdom 7:7).

Objection: 1. It would seem that there are various actions pertaining to the contemplative life. For Richard of St. Victor [*De Grat. Contempl. i, 3,4] distinguishes between “contemplation,” “meditation,” and “cogitation.” Yet all these apparently pertain to contemplation. Therefore it would seem that there are various actions pertaining to the contemplative life.

2. Further, the Apostle says (2Co 3,18): “But we . . . beholding [speculantes] the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same clarity [*Vulg.: ‘into the same image from glory to glory.’].” Now this belongs to the contemplative life. Therefore in addition to the three aforesaid, vision [speculatio] belongs to the contemplative life.

3. Further, Bernard says (De Consid. v, 14) that “the first and greatest contemplation is admiration of the Majesty.” Now according to Damascene (De Fide Orth. ii, 15) admiration is a kind of fear. Therefore it would seem that several acts are requisite for the contemplative life.

4. Further, “Prayer,” “reading,” and “meditation” [*Hugh of St. Victor, Alleg. in N.T. iii, 4] are said to belong to the contemplative life. Again, “hearing” belongs to the contemplative life: since it is stated that Mary (by whom the contemplative life is signified) “sitting . . . at the Lord’s feet, heard His word” (Lc 10,39). Therefore it would seem that several acts are requisite for the contemplative life.

On the contrary Life signifies here the operation on which a man is chiefly intent. Wherefore if there are several operations of the contemplative life, there will be, not one, but several contemplative lives.

I answer that We are now speaking of the contemplative life as applicable to man. Now according to Dionysius (Div. Nom. vii) between man and angel there is this difference, that an angel perceives the truth by simple apprehension, whereas man arrives at the perception of a simple truth by a process from several premises. Accordingly, then, the contemplative life has one act wherein it is finally completed, namely the contemplation of truth, and from this act it derives its unity. Yet it has many acts whereby it arrives at this final act. Some of these pertain to the reception of principles, from which it proceeds to the contemplation of truth; others are concerned with deducing from the principles, the truth, the knowledge of which is sought; and the last and crowning act is the contemplation itself of the truth.

Reply to Objection: 1. According to Richard of St. Victor “cogitation” would seem to regard the consideration of the many things from which a person intends to gather one simple truth. Hence cogitation may comprise not only the perceptions of the senses in taking cognizance of certain effects, but also the imaginations. and again the reason’s discussion of the various signs or of anything that conduces to the truth in view: although, according to Augustine (De Trin. xiv, 7), cogitation may signify any actual operation of the intellect. “Meditation” would seem to be the process of reason from certain principles that lead to the contemplation of some truth: and “consideration” has the same meaning, according to Bernard (De Consid. ii, 2), although, according to the Philosopher (De Anima ii, 1), every operation of the intellect may be called “consideration.” But “contemplation” regards the simple act of gazing on the truth; wherefore Richard says again (De Grat. Contempl. i, 4) that “contemplation is the soul’s clear and free dwelling upon the object of its gaze; meditation is the survey of the mind while occupied in searching for the truth: and cogitation is the mind’s glance which is prone to wander.”

2. According to a gloss [*Cf. De Trin. xv, 8] of Augustine on this passage, “beholding” [speculatio] denotes “seeing in a mirror [speculo], not from a watch-tower [specula].” Now to see a thing in a mirror is to see a cause in its effect wherein its likeness is reflected. Hence “beholding” would seem to be reducible to meditation.

3. Admiration is a kind of fear resulting from the apprehension of a thing that surpasses our faculties: hence it results from the contemplation of the sublime truth. For it was stated above (Article [1]) that contemplation terminates in the affections.

4. Man reaches the knowledge of truth in two ways. First, by means of things received from another. In this way, as regards the things he receives from God, he needs “prayer,” according to Sg 7,7, “I called upon” God, “and the spirit of wisdom came upon me”: while as regards the things he receives from man, he needs “hearing,” in so far as he receives from the spoken word, and “reading,” in so far as he receives from the tradition of Holy Writ. Secondly, he needs to apply himself by his personal study, and thus he requires “meditation.”

St. I-II, Q. 188, art. 5: Whether a Religious Order Should Be Established for the Purpose of Study? (Wisdom 7:8).

Objection: 1. It would seem that a religious order should not be established for the purpose of study. For it is written (Ps 70,15-16): “Because I have not known letters [Douay: ‘learning’], I will enter into the powers of the Lord,” i.e. “Christian virtue,” according to a gloss. Now the perfection of Christian virtue, seemingly, pertains especially to religious. Therefore it is not for them to apply themselves to the study of letters.

2. Further, that which is a source of dissent is unbecoming to religious, who are gathered together in the unity of peace. Now study leads to dissent: wherefore different schools of thought arose among the philosophers. Hence Jerome (Super Epist. ad Tt 1,5) says: “Before a diabolical instinct brought study into religion, and people said: I am of Paul, I of Apollo, I of Cephas,” etc. Therefore it would seem that no religious order should be established for the purpose of study.

3. Further, those who profess the Christian religion should profess nothing in common with the Gentiles. Now among the Gentiles were some who professed philosophy, and even now some secular persons are known as professors of certain sciences. Therefore the study of letters does not become religious.

On the contrary Jerome (Ep. liii ad Paulin.) urges him to acquire learning in the monastic state, saying: “Let us learn on earth those things the knowledge of which will remain in heaven,” and further on: “Whatever you seek to know, I will endeavor to know with you.”

I answer that I answer that As stated above (Article [2]), religion may be ordained to the active and to the contemplative life. Now chief among the works of the active life are those which are directly ordained to the salvation of souls, such as preaching and the like. Accordingly the study of letters is becoming to the religious life in three ways.First, as regards that which is proper to the contemplative life, to which the study of letters helps in a twofold manner. In one way by helping directly to contemplate, namely by enlightening the intellect. For the contemplative life of which we are now speaking is directed chiefly to the consideration of divine things, as stated above (Question [180], Article [4]), to which consideration man is directed by study; for which reason it is said in praise of the righteous (Ps 1,2) that “he shall meditate day and night” on the law of the Lord, and (Si 39,1): “The wise man will seek out the wisdom of all the ancients, and will be occupied in the prophets.” In another way the study of letters is a help to the contemplative life indirectly, by removing the obstacles to contemplation, namely the errors which in the contemplation of divine things frequently beset those who are ignorant of the scriptures. Thus we read in the Conferences of the Fathers (Coll. x, 3) that the Abbot Serapion through simplicity fell into the error of the Anthropomorphites, who thought that God had a human shape. Hence Gregory says (Moral. vi) that “some through seeking in contemplation more than they are able to grasp, fall away into perverse doctrines, and by failing to be the humble disciples of truth become the masters of error.” Hence it is written (Qo 2,3): “I thought in my heart to withdraw my flesh from wine, that I might turn my mind to wisdom and might avoid folly.”Secondly, the study of letters is necessary in those religious orders that are founded for preaching and other like works; wherefore the Apostle (Titus 1:9), speaking of bishops to whose office these acts belong, says: “Embracing that faithful word which is according to doctrine, that he may be able to exhort in sound doctrine and to convince the gainsayers.” Nor does it matter that the apostles were sent to preach without having studied letters, because, as Jerome says (Ep. liii ad Paulin.), “whatever others acquire by exercise and daily meditation in God’s law, was taught them by the Holy Ghost.”Thirdly, the study of letters is becoming to religious as regards that which is common to all religious orders. For it helps us to avoid the lusts of the flesh; wherefore Jerome says (Ep. cxxv ad Rust. Monach.): “Love the science of the Scriptures and thou shalt have no love for carnal vice.” For it turns the mind away from lustful thoughts, and tames the flesh on account of the toil that study entails according to Si 31,1, “Watching for riches* consumeth the flesh.” [*Vigilia honestatis St. Thomas would seem to have taken ‘honestas’ in the sense of virtue]. It also helps to remove the desire of riches, wherefore it is written (Sg 7,8): “I . . . esteemed riches nothing in comparison with her,” and (1M  12,9): “We needed none of these things,” namely assistance from without, “having for our comfort the holy books that are in our hands.” It also helps to teach obedience, wherefore Augustine says (De oper. Monach. xvii): “What sort of perverseness is this, to wish to read, but not to obey what one reads?” Hence it is clearly fitting that a religious order be established for the study of letters.

Reply to Objection: 1. This commentary of the gloss is an exposition of the Old Law of which the Apostle says (2Co 3,6): “The letter killeth.” Hence not to know letters is to disapprove of the circumcision of the “letter” and other carnal observances.

2. Study is directed to knowledge which, without charity, “puffeth up,” and consequently leads to dissent, according to Pr 13,10, “Among the proud there are always dissensions”: whereas, with charity, it “edifieth and begets concord.” Hence the Apostle after saying (1Co 1,5): “You are made rich . . . in all utterance and in all knowledge,” adds (1Co 1,10): “That you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you.” But Jerome is not speaking here of the study of letters, but of the study of dissensions which heretics and schismatics have brought into the Christian religion.

3. The philosophers professed the study of letters in the matter of secular learning: whereas it becomes religious to devote themselves chiefly to the study of letters in reference to the doctrine that is “according to godliness” (Titus 1:1). It becomes not religious, whose whole life is devoted to the service of God, to seek for other learning, save in so far as it is referred to the sacred doctrine. Hence Augustine says at the end of De Musica vi, 17: “Whilst we think that we should not overlook those whom heretics delude by the deceitful assurance of reason and knowledge, we are slow to advance in the consideration of their methods. Yet we should not be praised for doing this, were it not that many holy sons of their most loving mother the Catholic Church had done the same under the necessity of confounding heretics.”

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My Notes on Wisdom 7:7-11 for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 8, 2012

Background:The Book of Wisdom is generally divided into three major sections (see the Introduction to the Book of Wisdom in the NAB). Addison G. Wright, S.S., in his Commentary on Wisdom in the Jerome Biblical Commentary offers a different structural analysis, dividing the work into two  sections (e.g., Wis 1:1-11:1 and Wis 11:2-19:22). He divides the first major section (1:1-11:1) into two subsections (1:1-6:21 and 6:22-11:1).  He see the first subsection (1:1-6:21) as concentrically arranged(concerning which, see the outline here at the beginning of my post on Wisdom 1:1-7 here). He likewise sees part of the second subsection (6:22-11:1), which contains today’s reading, as concentrically arranged. That part consists of 7:1-8:21 and is Solomon’s speech concerning wisdom. Wright arranges this section as follows (today’s reading is the B1 section):

A1) Solomon is as mortal as any other man (7:1-6).

B1) Solomon prayed for Wisdom holding all natural riches as naught; yet with Wisdom came countless riches in which Solomon rejoiced, for she (Wisdom) is, as it were, their mother and queen (7:7-12).

C1) Solomon prayed that he might speak of Wisdom to others (7:13-22a).

D) Wisdom’s essence and dignity (7:22b-8:1).

C2) Solomon searched for Wisdom, its riches and blessings (8:2-8).

B2) Solomon searched for wisdom to be his counselor and comforter (8:9-16).

A2) There is immortality in kinship with Wisdom, a sheer gift from God (8:17-21).

The significance of the parallels can only be touched upon here:

A1 (7:1-6 and A2 (8:17-21). The mortal Solomon by nature shares the lot of all human beings: breathing the common air, dwelling on the kindred earth, crying as is common to new-born babies, dying (A1). But there is immortality in kinship with Wisdom. Wisdom is not natural, rather, it is a gift, a grace, from God (A2).

B1 (7:7-12) and B2 (8:9-16). Wisdom (prudence) as a leader and mother holds sway over and gives real meaning to earthly riches and accomplishments etc. She is to be preferred before scepter and throne, health and beauty (B1). With Wisdom, Solomon, though a young king (leader), could become keen in judgement, thus becoming esteemed before elders, and a marvel to to other rulers, governing (leading) peoples and nations. What he has inherited from mother Wisdom he could leave to those after him (B2).

C1 (7:13-22a) and C2 (8:2-8). The treasure and riches of Wisdom Solomon wished to share with others: prudence, knowledge of crafts and existing things, times, natural phenomenon, etc. (C1). Wisdom is a wise instructor, giving understanding of all things, all that God has created. She is of more value to man than all other riches. None in the world is a better craftsman than she. She knows the times; the things of the past and the things to come.

D (7:22:b-8:1). The hinge around which the parallels are built.


Wis 7:7  Wherefore I wished, and understanding was given me: and I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came upon me:

Solomon’s origin was like that of all other men (Wis 7:1-6) and, therefore, like all other mortal kings (Wis 7:5-6). Realizing this, in the present verse Solomon prays for something better (I called upon God), that he might be set apart from other kings and rulers (see the parallel in Wis 8:10-11, 14). His prayer was answered (the spirit of wisdom came upon me). According to 1 Kings 3:5-15 Solomon’s prayer takes place in the context of a dream/vision (see also 2 Chron 1:7-12). See also Solomon’s prayer for Wisdom in Wisdom 9:1-18. I should note that the section of Wisdom outlined above (Wis 7:1-8:21) prepares for that prayer.

Wis 7:8  And I preferred her before kingdoms and thrones, and esteemed riches nothing in comparison of her.

Concerning Solomon’s preference see 1 Kings 3:11. Solomon knew that if he chose Wisdom over kingdoms and thrones he would hold sway over nations and peoples, and cause other kings to marvel (see Wis 8:9-16).

Wis 7:9  Neither did I compare unto her any precious stone: for all gold, in comparison of her, is as a little sand; and silver, in respect to her, shall be counted as clay.

This verse continues the end of the previous verse: and (I) esteemed riches nothing in comparison of her.  Neither did I compare unto her any precious stone, & c. See 8:5~And if riches be desired in life, what is richer than wisdom, which maketh all things? Solomon preferred Wisdom to kingdoms, thrones and riches because of its surpassing value: By me princes rule, and the mighty decree justice. I love them that love me: and they that in the morning early watch for me, shall find me. With me are riches and glory, glorious riches and justice. For my fruit is better than gold and the precious stone, and my blossoms than choice silver. I walk in the way of justice, in the midst of the paths of judgment, That I may enrich them that love me, and may fill their treasures (Prov 8:16-21).

Wis 7:10  I loved her above health and beauty, and chose to have her instead of light: for her light cannot be put out.

Health is not lasting, and so is far inferior to immortality (Wis 8:13). Beauty often plays second fiddle to other qualities. Rebekah was pleasant to behold and yet it is her generous and hospitable nature that is emphasized (Gen 24:15-20). Abigail too was a looker, but she is first introduced as intelligent, then beautiful. Further, it is her good judgement that is honored, and keeps David from evil (1 Sam 25:2-36). Beauty also can introduce sin, as was the case with David and Bathsheba (2 Sam 11:2-5). Absalom too was very handsome, priding himself because of his hair (2 Sam 14:25-26), and too proved to be his downfall (2 Sam 18:9-17).

Light. Wisdom is described as the aura of the power of God, and a certain pure emmanation of the glory of the Almighty God: and therefore no defiled thing cometh into her. For she is the brightness of eternal light, and the unspotted mirror of God’s majesty, and the image of his goodness (Wis 7:25-26).

Wis 7:11  Now all good things came to me together with her, and innumerable riches through her hands.

All good things come together with her because she (Wisdom) is, as verse 12 goes on to note, their leader and, by implication, their dispenser. All good things would include include the counsel she gives when all is well, and the comfort she give when there is grief (Wis 8:9), which makes grief disappear (Wis 8:16).

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My Notes on Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 28, 2012

The brief outline which begins this post was previously used in my notes on Wisdom 1:1-7.

The Book of Wisdom is generally divided into three major sections (see the Introduction to the Book of Wisdom in the NAB). Today’s reading is taken from the first major section (1:1-6:11) which can be divided into five parts written in the form of a reverse parallel (technically known as a chiamus).

A1) An Exhortation to practice righteousness and a warning for those who refuse (1:1-15).

B1) The words of the wicked against the just man and a condemnation of their thoughts by the author (1:16:2:24).

C) Triumph of the just, punishment of the wicked (3:1-5:1).

B2) The words of the wicked acknowledging their foolishness in opposing the just man followed by a confirmation of their thoughts by the author (5:2-23).

A2) Closing exhortation to seek wisdom, and a warning to those who refuse (6:1-12).

Wis 1:13  For God made not death, neither hath he pleasure in the destruction of the living.

These words should be seen in reference to the preceding context, Wisdom 1:7-12. Death  (see 2:24 below) here is the death men bring upon themselves via God’s judgement  (destruction) against them for the sins of their lips, which manifest their thoughts. Note the various (color-coded) references to these themes in 7-12~

For the Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world: and that which containeth all things, hath knowledge of the voice. Therefore he that speaketh unjust things, cannot be hid, neither shall the chastising judgment pass him by. For inquisition shall be made into the thoughts of the ungodly, and the hearing of his words shall come to God, to the chastising of his iniquities. For the ear of jealousy (i.e., God’s “ear”) heareth all things, and the tumult of murmuring shall not be hid. Keep yourselves, therefore, from murmuring, which profiteth nothing, and refrain your tongue from detraction, for an obscure speech shall not go for nought: and the mouth that belieth, killeth the soul. Seek not death in the error of your life, neither procure ye destruction by the works of your hands (Wisdom 1:7-12).

Wis 1:14  For he created all things that they might be: and he made the nations of the earth for health: and there is no poison of destruction in them, nor kingdom of hell upon the earth.

This translation differs somewhat from that found in modern translations such as the NAB and the RSV.

He created all things that they might be. I.e., He created everything to exist.

He made the nations of the earth for health. Nations is translated in the NAB in relation to creation in general; in the RSV its is translated in reference to anything that propagates life among itself (see the translations).  Health is translated as wholesomeness in the NAB and RSV. Winston, in the Anchor Bible Commentary translates the phrase in reference to creation in general, its original purpose being to preserve its existence. In my opinion (for whatever it’s worth) the translation of “nations” is far better than the more generic renderings of the RSV and NAB. The exhortation is, after all, addressed to those who love justice, and singles out judges, i.e., rulers, kings (Wis 1:1). Among such men perverse (unjust) or senseless counsel (sins of the lips) can provoke God (Wisdom 1:3; Wis 1:5).

The parallelism of the first half of verse 14 is suggestive:

a. For he created all things that they might be:
b. and he made the nations of the earth for health (“wholesomeness,” “to endure”).

Beside the parallels between (a) and (b), there are parallels within (a) and (b).

In (a) parallelism occurs  between he created and might be (i.e., exist). In (b) parallelism occurs between he made and for health (better, “to be wholesome,” “to endure”).

The basic meaning of the text is obvious enough. Pope John Paul II, invoking two verses which form part of our reading (i.e., Wis 1:13-14 and Wis 2:23-24) catches the basic meaning:

“God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he has created all things that they might exist … God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it” (Wis 1:13-14; Wis 2:3-24).

The Gospel of life, proclaimed in the beginning when man was created in the image of God for a destiny of full and perfect life (cf. Gen 2:7 Wis 9:2-3), is contradicted by the painful experience of death which enters the world and casts its shadow of meaninglessness over man’s entire existence. Death came into the world as a result of the devil’s envy (cf. Gen 3:1-5) and the sin of our first parents (cf.  Gen  Gen 2:17, Gen 3:,17-19).  (The Gospel of Life #7)

And there is no poison of destruction in them. Poison could also be translated as medicine.That which is beneficial (medicine) can also be used to kill (poison). That which can foster relationships, peace, etc., (i.e., in our reading’s context: speech, evil counsel, etc.,) can also destroy. In these matters, where man is concerned, he is his own administering physician, and his free will is his prescription pad: Seek not death in the error of your life, neither procure (prescribe) ye destruction by the works of your hands (Wisdom 1:12). It was God’s intention that man be open, honest, integral in speech: Man tends by nature toward the truth. He is obliged to honor and bear witness to it: “It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons . . . are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2467).

Nor kingdom of hell upon the earth. The Greek speaks of the the kingdom of Hades, the abode of the dead. This was not God’s intended lot for man: but the wicked with works and words have called it (death, destruction) to them: and esteeming it (death, destruction) a friend, have fallen away and have made a covenant with it (death, destruction): because they are worthy to be of the part thereof (Wis 1:16).

God is in ultimate control of what takes place on earth, therefore, the thoughts of of sinners who seek to destroy the just (Wis (2:10-20) shows forth their lack of right knowledge: And they knew not the secrets of God, nor hoped for the wages of justice, nor esteemed the honour of holy souls (Wis 2:22).

Wis 1:15  For justice is perpetual and immortal.

Justice is the very opposite of sin and death, and what these have wrought. Again we quote Wisdom 1:16~the wicked with works and words have called it (death, destruction) to them: and esteeming it (death, destruction) a friend, have fallen away and have made a covenant with it (death, destruction): because they are worthy to be of the part thereof.

Wis 2:23  For God created man incorruptible, and to the image of his own likeness he made him.

These words, as the introductory for indicates, should be seen in relation to the preceding verses, especially the just quoted words of 1 :16~the wicked with works and words have called it (death, destruction) to them: and esteeming it (death, destruction) a friend, have fallen away and have made a covenant with it (death, destruction): because they are worthy to be of the part thereof. Such men (note the theme of speech and thought)~ have said, reasoning with themselves, but not right: The time of our life is short and tedious, and in the end of a man there is no remedy, and no man hath been known to have returned from hell  [hell, here meaning Hades, the abode of the dead, not the place of eternal punishment which they never give thought to] (Wis 2:1).

Those who never give thought to their creaturly  status cannot stand the  thoughts, teaching and ways of the just man:  He is become a censurer of our thoughts (see Wis 2:1-20). To men who think this way, the final words of today’s reading are applicable: Wis 2:24  But by the envy of the devil, death came into the world:




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My Notes Wisdom 5:1-5

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 6, 2012

Background~The first section of the Book of Wisdom has a five-fold concentric structure, i.e., written in the form of a reverse parallel:

A1) an exhortation to love justice for it is undying (1:1-15).

B1) the wicked reject judgment, justice and immortality, especially in their speech (1:16-2:24).

C) the hidden counsels of God in relation to suffering, childlessness, and an early death (3:1-4:19)

B2) Judgement of the wicked. Their lament (speech) concerning the effects their rejection of judgement, justice and immortality have brought (4:20-5:23).

A2) An exhortation to learn, honor and love wisdom, the basis of incorruptibility  (6:1-21).

Such a structure has a twofold purpose, to establish connections between the parallel sub-sections (A1 with A2, B1 with B2), but also to indicate that the entire section (1:1-6:21) is a unity. Today’s reading is taken from the B2 sub-section (4:20-5:23), and in my notes I’ll try to bring out some connections with other parts of the whole ((1:1-6:20); but especially with the B1 sub-section (1:16-2:24).

1 Then the righteous man will stand with great confidence in the presence of those who have afflicted him, and those who make light of his labors. (see 2 Thess 1:3-10)

Then. The word provides a connection with verse the last verse of chapter 4 which opens the B2 section from which our reading is taken. That verse (4:20) reads: They will come with dread when their sins are reckoned up, and their lawless deeds will convict them to their face.  The reference is to those who do not understand the hidden counsels of God in relation to things such as suffering, childlessness, and an early death, the subject of the C section in the outline above (Wis 3:1-4:19).

In contrast to the dread felt by the foolish for their sins and lawless deed (Wis 4:20), the righteous man will stand with great confidence in the presence of those who afflicted him, and those who make light of his labors (Wis 5:1). The realization of this fact will cause the just man’s oppressors even more dread and fear (see next verse).

 2 When they see him, they will be shaken with dreadful fear, and they will be amazed at his unexpected salvation.

The reaction of the foolish is brought about by the sudden realization that their philosophy of “might makes right” has been in vain.  Their wisdom was expressed in these words: “Let our might be our law of right, for what is weak proves itself to be useless” (Wis 2:11 the B1 section outlined above). The wisdom of God by which the just man conducts himself is abhorrent to those who hold such a philosophy, a philosophy which led to their afflicting the just: “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.” (Wis 2:12-15).

They will be amazed at his unexpected salvation. For these men by their words and deeds summoned death; considering him a friend, they pined away, and they made a covenant with him, because they are fit to belong to his party (Wis 1:16). But, of course, this judgement of those who embraced God’s wisdom was rejected by those who embraced their own: for their wickedness blinded them, and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hope for the wages of holiness, nor discern the prize for blameless souls; for God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it. (Wis 2:21-24)

3 They will speak to one another in repentance, and in anguish of spirit they will groan, and say,

Notice that their repentance is not spoken to God, rather they speak to one another, for the time or repentance has passed. Their anguish of spirit now contrasts with their previous self-exhortation: Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist, and make use of the creation to the full as in youth. Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes, and let no flower of spring pass by us. Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither. Let none of us fail to share in our revelry, everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment, because this is our portion, and this our lot. (Wis 2:6-9).

4 “This is the man whom we once held in derision and made a byword of reproach — we fools! We thought that his life was madness and that his end was without honor.

This is the man whom we once held in derision. See especially Wisdom 2:10-20.

5 Why has he been numbered among the sons of God? And why is his lot among the saints?

Why has he been numbered among the sons of God? The question indicates that the wisdom of God by which the just man lived-and which these wicked have rejected-is still hidden from them, even as they see the outcome of the just man’s way of life. They know that they have erred (Wis 5:6-13), but they give no indication as to why.  They know that they have been fools because of their thoughts regarding the just (Wis 5:4), but they give no indication of how they themselves should have lived and acted. To leave this life as a fool is to enter into eternity eternally foolish.

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My Notes on Wisdom 2:1, 12-22

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 18, 2012

Wis 2:1  For they have said, reasoning with themselves, but not right: The time of our life is short and tedious, and in the end of a man there is no remedy, and no man hath been known to have returned from hell:

For they have said. A reference to the wicked and ungodly men introduced at the end of the last chapter with these words: But the wicked with works and words have called it  (i.e., death) to them: and esteeming it a friend, have fallen away and have made a covenant with it: because they are worthy to be of the part thereof (Wisdom 1:16). Their culture of death philosophy is introduced here, and continues in the following verses. They reject the concept of immortality (Wisdom 2:1-5) and, as a result, adopt a “live for today alone” approach to the things of this world (Wisdom 2:6-9), and a “might makes right” approach to their fellow human beings (Wisdom 2:10-11). For this reason they persecute the just man whose life and very existence is a witness against them (Wisdom 2:12-20). But they err in thought, and are blinded by wickedness, unable to discern God’s plan for humanity (Wisdom 2:21-22). No doubt thinking themselves highly independent, each one priding himself on being his own man, they are in reality in the devil’s possession (Wisdom 2:23-24).

Verses 12-22 which forms the bulk of today’s readings concerns the suffering of the just man. As is the case with so many texts along these lines, this one is often applied to Christ in the liturgy. See the Responsorial Psalm used today (Psalm 34:17-23) and the Gospel reading (John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30).

Wis 2:12  Let us, therefore, lie in wait for the just, because he is not for our turn, and he is contrary to our doings, and upbraideth us with transgressions of the law, and divulgeth against us the sins of our way of life.

The truly righteous man is a living witness against the sinner who cannot abide the testimony.They say he is not for our turn, i.e., he refuses to turn in their immoral direction. They are incensed that this is itself a witness against them: he is contrary to our doings. The righteous man thinks the time past is sufficient to have fulfilled the will of the Gentiles, for them who have walked in riotousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings and unlawful worshipping of idols, because they know a judgement is coming. The unrighteous, however, think it strange that you run not with them into the same confusion of riotousness (see 1 Peter 4:3-4).

(He) upbraideth us with transgressions of the law, and divulgeth against us the sins of our way of life

I’m reminded of the words of St John Chrysostom concerning St John the Baptist and King Herod:

So great a thing is virtue: so immortal is its memory, so completely even by words only doth it strike down its adversaries. For wherefore did he (Herod) cast him (John) into the prison? Wherefore did John not despise Herod? Was John going to drag him before the judgment-seat of Law? Did John demand vengeance upon Herod for his adultery? Was not what he said then simply a reproof? Why then doth Herod fear and tremble? Was it not words and talk merely? But they stung the king more than deeds. The prophet led Herod not to any judgment-seat, but he dragged him before that other tribunal of conscience; and he sets as judges upon him all who freely gave their verdicts in their thought. Therefore the tyrant trembled, unable to endure the lustre of virtue. Seest thou how great a thing is philosophy? It made a prisoner more lustrous than a king, and the latter is afraid and trembles before him. He indeed only put him in bonds; but that polluted woman rushed on to his slaughter also, although the rebuke was leveled rather against him, [than herself.] For he did not then meet “her” and say, Why cohabitest thou with the king? not that she was guiltless, (how should she be so?) but he wished by that other means to put all to rights. Wherefore he blamed the king, and yet not him with violence of manner. For he did not say, O polluted and all-polluted and lawless and profane one, thou hast trodden under foot the law of God, thou hast despised the commandments, thou hast made thy might law. None of these things; but even in his rebukings great was the gentleness of the man, great his meekness. For, “It is not lawful for! thee,” he says, “to have thy brother Philip’s wife.” The words are those of one who teacheth rather than reproveth, instructeth rather than chasteneth, who composeth to order rather than exposeth, who amendeth rather than trampleth on him. But, as I said, the light is hateful to the thief, and the mere sight of the just man is odious to sinners; “for he is grievous unto us even to behold” (Wisdom 2:15) For they cannot bear his radiance, even as diseased eyes cannot bear the sun’s. But to many of the wicked he is grievous not to behold only, but even to hear of. And therefore that polluted and all-polluted woman, the procuress of her girl, yea rather her murderess, although she had never seen him nor heard his voice, rushed on to his slaughter; and prepareth her whom she brought up in lasciviousnss to proceed also to murder, so extravagantly did she fear him (Homily 28 on 2 Corinthians).

Pope John Paul II (Veritatis Splendor #93)~By witnessing fully to the good, they (martyrs and saints) are a living reproof to those who transgress the law (cf.  Wisdom 2:12), and they make the words of the Prophet echo ever afresh: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5:20)

(he) upbraideth us with transgressions of the law, and divulgeth against us the sins of our way of life.

Christological: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you tithe mint and anise and cummin and have left the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and faith. These things you ought to have done and not to leave those undone (Matt 23:23).

Wis 2:13  He boasteth that he hath the knowledge of God, and calleth himself the son of God.
Wis 2:14  He is become a censurer of our thoughts.

He hath the knowledge of God…He is become a censurer of our thoughts. Recall that these men were described as “reasoning within themselves, but not rightly (Wisdom 2:1). In their own thoughts they are deceived, and they know not the secrets of God (Wisdom 2:21-22).

He hath the knowledge of God.

Christological: And you have not known him: but I know him. And if I shall say that I know him not, I shall be like to you, a liar. But I do know him and do keep his word (John 8:55).

And calleth himself the Son of God.

Christological:  And they that passed by blasphemed him, wagging their heads, And saying: Vah, thou that destroyest the temple of God and in three days dost rebuild it: save thy own self. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.  In like manner also the chief priests, with the scribes and ancients, mocking said: He saved others: himself he cannot save. If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross: and we will believe him.  He trusted in God: let him now deliver him if he will have him. For he said: I am the Son of God. (Matt 27:39-43).

Do you say of him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world: Thou blasphemest; because I said: I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though you will not believe me, believe the works: that you may know and believe that the Father is in me and I in the Father. They sought therefore to take him: and he escaped out of their hands (John 10:36-39).

He is become a censurer of our thoughts.

Christological: And he entered again into the synagogue: and there was a man there who had a withered hand. And they watched him whether he would heal on the sabbath days, that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand: Stand up in the midst. And he saith to them: Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to destroy? But they held their peace. And looking round about on them with anger, being grieved for the blindness of their hearts, he saith to the man: Stretch forth thy hand. And he stretched it forth: and his hand was restored unto him. And the Pharisees going out, immediately made a consultation with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him (Mark 3:1-6).

Wis 2:15  He is grievous unto us, even to behold: for his life is not like other men’s, and his ways are very different.

The very sight of the righteous man makes them irate. This statement of the unrighteous will take on added meaning in verses 17 and 19 (see notes below)

Wis 2:16  We are esteemed by him as triflers, and he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness, and he preferreth the latter end of the just, and glorieth that he hath God for his father.

Triflers because of their superficial philosophy (Wisdom 2:1-5) and the lifestyle they have embraced because of it (Wisdom 2:6-10). Triflers because they treat the righteous man of no account, and persecute him (Wisdom 2:12-20). They are thoroughly superficial:  clouds without water, which are carried about by winds: trees of the autumn, unfruitful, twice dead, plucked up by the roots: Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own confusion: wandering stars, to whom the storm of darkness is reserved for ever (Jude 12-13).

Wis 2:17  Let us see then if his words be true, and let us prove what shall happen to him, and we shall know what his end shall be.
Wis 2:18  For if he be the true son of God, he will defend him, and will deliver him from the hands of his enemies.

In verse 15 they said, he is grievous to us, even to behold, but here they wish to try and test him to see for themselves if he is righteous and true, and if his end is as he hopes. Here they imitate Satan, the Devil, in whose possession they are (Wisdom 2:24-25, John 8:42-44), for he tempted Christ is just such a manner: If thou be the son of God…(Matt 4:1-11). See also Matt 27:39-43.

Wis 2:19  Let us examine him by outrages and tortures, that we may know his meekness, and try his patience.

Note the reference to examining and knowing. They bring up once again the theme of sight (verse 15 & 17) and knowledge (“reasoning with themselves”, verse 1). Also, having determined that we are born of nothing, and after this we shall be as if we had not been: for the breath in our nostrils is smoke (Wisdom 2:2), the unrighteous have decided that the lives of others of of no real consequence: Let us examine him by outrages and tortures.

Wis 2:20  Let us condemn him to a most shameful death: for there shall be respect had unto him by his words.

Modern translation such as the RSV differ regarding the second part of the verse: Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.

Wis 2:21  These things they thought, and were deceived: for their own malice blinded them.
Wis 2:22  And they knew not the secrets of God, nor hoped for the wages of justice, nor esteemed the honour of holy souls.

These verses take us back to the beginning of the passage.


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My Own Catena Aurea on Wisdom 2:23-3:9

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 6, 2011

Those who know what a Catena Aurea actually is may be disappointed.

Wis 2:23  For God created man incorruptible, and to the image of his own likeness he made him.

Gaudium et Spes 12: For Sacred Scripture teaches that man was created “to the image of God,” is capable of knowing and loving his Creator, and was appointed by Him as master of all earthly creatures(Gen 1:26, Wis 2:23)) that he might subdue them and use them to God’s glory (cf. Sirach 17:3-10). “What is man that you should care for him? You have made him little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet” (Ps 8:5-7).

Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life 34: In the biblical narrative, the difference between man and other creatures is shown above all by the fact that only the creation of man is presented as the result of a special decision on the part of God, a deliberation to establish a particular and specific bond with the Creator: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1:26). The life which God offers to man is a gift by which God shares something of himself with his creature.

Israel would ponder at length the meaning of this particular bond between man and God. The Book of Sirach too recognizes that God, in creating human beings, “endowed themwith strength like his own, and made them in his own image” (Sir 17:3). The biblical author sees as part of this image not only man’s dominion over the world but also those spiritual faculties which are distinctively human, such as reason, discernment between good and evil, and free will: “He filled them with knowledge and understanding, and showed them good and evil” (Sir17:7). The ability to attain truth and freedom are human prerogatives inasmuchas man is created in the image of his Creator, God who is true and just (cf. Deut 32:4). Man alone, among all visible creatures, is “capable of knowing and loving his Creator” (GS 12) The life which God bestows upon man is much more than mere existence in time. It is a drive towards fullness of life; it is the seed of an existence which transcends the very limits of time: “For God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity” (Wis 2:23).

Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei Socialis 29: Development which is not only economic must be measured and oriented according to the reality and vocation of man seen in his totality, namely, according to his interior dimension. There is no doubt that he needs created goods and the products of industry, which is constantly being enriched by scientific and technological progress. And the ever greater availability of material goods not only meets needs but also opens new horizons. The danger of the misuse of material goods and the appearance of artificial needs should in no way hinder the regard we have for the new goods and resources placed at our disposal and the use we make of them. On the contrary, we must see them as a gift from God and as a response to the human vocation, which is fully realized in Christ.

However, in trying to achieve true development we must never lose sight of that dimension which is in the specific nature of man, who has been created by God in his image and likeness (cf.  Gen 1:26). It is a bodily and a spiritual nature, symbolized in the second creation account by the two elements: the earth, from which God forms man’s body, and the breath of life which he breathes into man’s nostrils (cf.  Gen 2:7).

Thus man comes to have a certain affinity with other creatures: he is called to use them, and to be involved with them. As the Genesis account says (cf.  Gen 2:15), he is placed in the garden with the duty of cultivating and watching over it, being superior to the other creatures placed by God under his dominion (cf.  Gen 1:25-26). But at the same time man must remain subject to the will of God, who imposes limits upon his use and dominion over things (cf.  Gen 2:16-17), just as he promises his mortality (cf. Gen 2:9; Wis 2:23). Thus man, being the image of God, has a true affinity with him too. On the basis of this teaching, development cannot consist only in the use, dominion over and indiscriminate possession of created things and the products of human industry, but rather in subordinating the possession, dominion and use to man’s divine likeness and to his vocation to immortality. This is the transcendent reality of the human being, a reality which is seen to be shared from the beginning by a couple, a man and a woman (cf.  Gen 1:27), and is therefore fundamentally social.

Wis 2:24  But by the envy of the devil, death came into the world:
Wis 2:25  And they follow him that are of his side.

Please note that in modern translations such as the NAB verses 24 and 25 are combined, thus the NAB has no verse 25. I’m here using the Douay-Rheims.

Pope St Gregory the Great, The Pastoral Rule, part 3, chapter 10: The envious are to be admonished how great is their blindness who fail by other men’s advancement, and pine away at other men’s rejoicing; how great is their unhappiness who are made worse by the bettering of their neighbour, and in beholding the increase of another’s prosperity are uneasily vexed within themselves, and die of the plague of their own heart. What can be more unhappy than these, who, when touched by the sight of happiness, are made more wicked by the pain of seeing it? But, moreover, the good things of others which they cannot have they might, if they loved them, make their own. For indeed all are constituted together in faith as are many members in one body; which are indeed diverse as to their office, but in mutually agreeing with each other are made one. Whence it comes to pass that the foot sees by the eye, and the eyes walk by the feet; that the hearing of the ears serves the mouth, and the tongue of the mouth concurs with the ears for their benefit; that the belly supports the hands, and the hands work for the belly. In the very arrangement of the body, therefore, we learn what we should observe in our conduct. It is, then, too shameful not to act up to what we are. Those things, in fact, are ours which we love in others, even though we cannot follow them; and what things are loved in us become theirs that love them. Hence, then, let the envious consider of how great power is charity, which makes ours without labour works of labour not our own. The envious are therefore to be told that, when they fail to keep themselves from spite, they are being sunk into the old wickedness of the wily foe. For of him it is written, But by envy of the devil death entered into the world (Wis 2:24). For, because be had himself lost heaven, he envied it to created man, and, being himself ruined, by ruining others he heaped up his own damnation. The envious are to be admonished, that they may learn to how great slips of ruin growing under them they are liable; since, while they cast not forth spite out of their heart, they are slipping down to open wickedness of deeds. For, unless Cain had envied the accepted sacrificeof his brother, he would never have come to taking away his life. Whence it is written, And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering, but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell (Gen 4:4). Thus spite on account of the sacrifice was the seed-plot of fraticide. For him whose being better than himself vexed him he cut off from being at all. The envious are to be told that, while they consume themselves with this inward plague, they destiny whatever good they seem to have within them. Whence it is written, Soundness of heart is the life of the flesh, but envy the rottenness of the bones (Prov 14:30). For what is signified by the flesh but certain weak and tender actions, and what by the bones but brave ones? And for the most part it comes to pass that some, with innocence of heart, in some of their actions seem weak; but others, though performing some stout deeds before human eyes, still pine away inwardly with the pestilence of envy towards what is good in others. Wherefore it is well said, Soundness of heart is the life of the flesh; because, if innocence of mind is kept, even such things as are weak outwardly are in time strengthened. And rightly it is there added, Envy is the rottenness of the bones; because through the vice of spite what seems strong to human eyes perishes in the eyes of God. For the rotting of the bones through envy means that certain even strong things utterly perish.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1008: Death is a consequence of sin. The Church’s Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin(Gen 2:17; 3:3; 3:19; Wis 1:13; Rom 5:12; 6:23; Denzinger 1511).  Even though man’s nature is mortal God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin (Wis 2:23-24). “Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned” is thus “the last enemy” of man left to be conquered (GS 18, #2; 1 Cor 15:26).

Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life 7: “God did not make death, andhe does not delight in the death of the living. For he has created all thingsthat they might exist … God created man for incorruption, and made him in theimage of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered theworld, and those who belong to his party experience it” (Wis 1:13-14; 2:23-24).

The Gospel of life, proclaimed in the beginning when man was created in the image of God for a destiny of full and perfect life (cf. Gen 2:7; Wis 9:2-3), is contradicted by the painful experience of death which enters the world and casts its shadow of meaninglessness over man’s entire existence. Death came into the world as a result of the devil’s envy (cf. Gen 3:1, 4-5) and the sin of our first parents (cf.  Gen 2:17,). And death entered it in a violent way, through the killing of Abel by his brother Cain:”And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel,and killed him” (Gen 4:8).

This first murder is presented with singular eloquence in a page of the Book of Genesis which has universal significance: it is a pagerewritten daily, with inexorable and degrading frequency, in the book of human history.

Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life 53: God proclaims that he is absolute Lord of the life ofman, who is formed in his image and likeness (cf.  Gen 1:26-28). Human lifeis thus given a sacred and inviolable character, which reflects the inviolability of the Creator himself. Precisely for this reason God will severely judge every violation of the commandment “You shall notkill”, the commandment which is at the basis of all life together in society. He is the “goel” (Hebrew גּאל,) the defender of the innocent (cf. Gen 4:9-15; Isa 41:14 Jer 50:34 Ps 19:14). God thus shows that he does not delight in the death of the living (cf.  Wis 1:13). Only Satan can delight therein: for through his envy death entered the world (cf.  Wis 2:24). He who is”a murderer from the beginning”, is also “a liar and the fatherof lies” (Jn 8:44). By deceiving man he leads him to projects of sin and death, making them appear as goals and fruits of life.

St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ I-II, 81, 1: The Apostle says (Rom 5:12): “By one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death.” Nor can this be understood as denoting imitation or suggestion, since it is written (Wis 2:24): “By the envy of the devil, death came into this world.” It follows therefore that through origin from the first man sin entered into the world.

I answer that According to the Catholic Faith we are bound to hold that the first sin of the first man is transmitted to his descendants, by way of origin. For this reason children are taken to be baptized soon after their birth, to show that they have to be washed from some uncleanness. The contrary is part of the Pelagian heresy, as is clear from Augustine in many of his books [*For instance, Retract. i, 9; De Pecc. Merit. et Remiss. ix; Contra Julian. iii, 1; De Dono Persev. xi, xii.]In endeavoring to explain how the sin of our first parent could be transmitted by way of origin to his descendants, various writers have gone about it in various ways. For some, considering that the subject of sin is the rational soul, maintained that the rational soul is transmitted with the semen, so that thus an infected soul would seem to produce other infected souls. Others, rejecting this as erroneous, endeavored to show how the guilt of the parent’s soul can be transmitted to the children, even though the soul be not transmitted, from the fact that defects of the body are transmitted from parent to child—thus a leper may beget a leper, or a gouty man may be the father of a gouty son, on account of some seminal corruption, although this corruption is not leprosy or gout. Now since the body is proportionate to the soul, and since the soul’s defects redound into the body, and vice versa, in like manner, say they, a culpable defect of the soul is passed on to the child, through the transmission of the semen, albeit the semen itself is not the subject of the guilt.But all these explanations are insufficient. Because, granted that some bodily defects are transmitted by way of origin from parent to child, and granted that even some defects of the soul are transmitted in consequence, on account of a defect in the bodily habit, as in the case of idiots begetting idiots; nevertheless the fact of having a defect by the way of origin seems to exclude the notion of guilt, which is essentially something voluntary. Wherefore granted that the rational soul were transmitted, from the very fact that the stain on the child’s soul is not in its will, it would cease to be a guilty stain binding its subject to punishment; for, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. iii, 5), “no one reproaches a man born blind; one rather takes pity on him.”Therefore we must explain the matter otherwise by saying that all men born of Adam may be considered as one man, inasmuch as they have one common nature, which they receive from their first parents; even as in civil matters, all who are members of one community are reputed as one body, and the whole community as one man. Indeed Porphyry says (Praedic., De Specie) that “by sharing the same species, many men are one man.” Accordingly the multitude of men born of Adam, are as so many members of one body. Now the action of one member of the body, of the hand for instance, is voluntary not by the will of that hand, but by the will of the soul, the first mover of the members. Wherefore a murder which the hand commits would not be imputed as a sin to the hand, considered by itself as apart from the body, but is imputed to it as something belonging to man and moved by man’s first moving principle. In this way, then, the disorder which is in this man born of Adam, is voluntary, not by his will, but by the will of his first parent, who, by the movement of generation, moves all who originate from him, even as the soul’s will moves all the members to their actions. Hence the sin which is thus transmitted by the first parent to his descendants is called “original,” just as the sin which flows from the soul into the bodily members is called “actual.” And just as the actual sin that is committed by a member of the body, is not the sin of that member, except inasmuch as that member is a part of the man, for which reason it is called a “human sin”; so original sin is not the sin of this person, except inasmuch as this person receives his nature from his first parent, for which reason it is called the “sin of nature,” according to Ep 2,3: “We . . . were by nature children of wrath.”

St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, II-II 36, 4: It does not follow from the passage quoted (from Pope Gregory the Great’s Moralia) that envy is the greatest of sins, but that when the devil tempts us to envy, he is enticing us to that which has its chief place in his heart, for as quoted further on in the same passage, “by the envy of the devil, death came into the world” (Sg 2,24).There is, however, a kind of envy which is accounted among the most grievous sins, viz. envy of another’s spiritual good, which envy is a sorrow for the increase of God’s grace, and not merely for our neighbor’s good. Hence it is accounted a sin against the Holy Ghost, because thereby a man envies, as it were, the Holy Ghost Himself, Who is glorified in His works.

Wis 3:1  But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them.

Saint Robert Cardinal Bellarmine, The Seven Words on the Cross, chapter 19: We have come to the last word which our Lord pronounced. At the point of death Jesus, “crying with a loud voice said, Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46). We will explain each word separately. “Father.” Deservedly does He call God His Father, for He was a Son who had been obedient to His Father even unto death, and it was proper that His last dying request, which was certain to be heard, should be prefaced by such a tender name. “Into Thy hands.” In the Sacred Scriptures the hands of God signify the intelligence and will of God, or in other words His wisdom and power, or, again, the intelligence of God which knows all things, and the will of God which can do all things. With these two attributes as with hands, God does all things, and stands not in need of any instruments in the accomplishment of His will. St. Leo says: “The will of God is His omnipotence.”  Consequently, with God to will is to do. “He hath done all things, whatsoever He would.” (Ps 115:3) “I commend.” I hand over to your keeping My life, with the sure faith of its being restored when the time of My resurrection shall come. “My Spirit.” There is a diversity of opinion as to the meaning of this word. Ordinarily the word spirit is synonymous with soul, which is the substantial form of the body, but it can also mean life itself, since breathing is the sign of life. Those who breathe live, and those die who cease to breathe. If by the word spirit we here understand the Soul of Christ, we must take care not to think that His Soul at the moment of it’s separation from the Body was in any danger. We are accustomed to commend with many prayers and much anxiety the souls of the agonizing, because they are on the point of appearing at the tribunal of a strict Judge to receive the reward or the punishment of their thoughts, words, and deeds. The Soul of Christ was in no such need, both because it enjoyed the Beatific Vision from the time of its creation, was hypostatically united to the person of the Son of God, and could even be called the Soul of God, and also because it was leaving the body victorious and triumphant, an object of terror to the devils, not a soul to be scared by them. If the word spirit then is to be taken as synonymous with soul, the meaning of these words of our Lord, “I commend my spirit,” is that the Soul of Christ which was enclosed in the body as in a tabernacle was about to throw itself into the hands of the Father as into a place of trust until it should return to the body, according to the words of the Book of Wisdom: “The souls of the just are in the hand of God.” (Wis 3:1). However, the more generally accepted meaning of the word in this passage is the life of the body. With this interpretation the word may be thus amplified. I now give up My breath of life, and as I cease to breathe I cease to live. But this breath, this life I intrust to you, My Father, that in a short time you may again restore it to My Body. In your keeping nothing perishes. In you all things live. By a word you call into existence things which were not, and by a word you give life to those who had it not.

Wis 3:2  In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery:
Wis 3:3  And their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace.
Wis 3:4  And though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality.
Wis 3:5  Afflicted in few things, in many they shall be well rewarded: because God hath tried them, and found them worthy of himself.
Wis 3:6  As gold in the furnace, he hath proved them, and as a victim of a holocaust, he hath received them, and in time there shall be respect had to them.
Wis 3:7  The just shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds.
Wis 3:8  They shall judge nations, and rule over people, and their Lord shall reign for ever.
Wis 3:9  They that trust in him shall understand the truth: and they that are faithful in love, shall rest in him: for grace and peace are to his elect.

Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, November 5, 2009“The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God” (Wis 3:1). The First Reading, taken from the Book of Wisdom, speaks of the righteous who are persecuted, unjustly put to death. But, the sacred Author emphasizes, even if their deaths occurred in circumstances so humiliating and painful as to seem shocking, in truth, for those who have faith this is not so, for “they are at peace”. And even if they undergo punishment in the eyes of men, “their hope is full of immortality” (Wis 3:3-4). The loss of loved ones is painful. The event of death is a disquieting enigma; but for believers, however it occurs, it is always illumined by the “hope of immortality”. Faith sustains us in these moments, charged with human sadness and discouragement. “In your eyes, life is not taken away but transformed,” the Liturgy recalls, “and whilst the land of this earthly exile is destroyed, an eternal home is being prepared in Heaven” (Preface, Mass for the Dead). Dear brothers and sisters, we know well and we experience in our own journeys that there is no lack of difficulties and problems in this life. There are situations of suffering and of pain, difficult moments to understand and accept. All this, however, acquires worth and meaning if it is considered in the perspective of eternity. In fact, every challenge, accepted with persevering patience and offered for the Kingdom of God, already works to our spiritual advantage here on earth and above all in the next life, in Heaven. In this world we are in transit; we are tested in the crucible like gold, as the Sacred Scripture affirms (cf.  Wis 3:6). United mysteriously to Christ’s passion, we can make of our existence a pleasing offering to the Lord, a voluntary sacrifice of love.

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