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Annual of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Jerusalem

Michele Piccirillo (1944 - 2008) In memoriam

Michele Piccirillo (1944 - 2008) In memoriam






© 2009, Edizioni Terra Santa - Milano


Massimo Pazzini

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Giovanni Bissoli, G. Claudio Bottini, Giovanni Loche, Gregor Geiger, Pietro Kaswalder, A. Marcello Buscemi, Massimo Luca, Alviero Niccacci, Carmelo Pappalardo, Eugenio Alliata, Rosario Pierri, Tomislav Vuk

Publications of the STUDIUM BIBLICUM FRANCISCANUM sponsored by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land:

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Indice generale


  • E. CortEsE

Come leggere il DeuteroIsaia


  • A. NiCCACCi

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom: Two Instructions (Chs. 1–5, 6–19)

in Line with Old Testament Wisdom Tradition


  • G. GiurisAto

John 13:10: An Archaeological Solution of a Textcritical Problem


  • M. rosik

Discovering the Secrets of God̓s Gardens. Resurrection as New Creation

(Gen 2:4b-3:24; Jn 20:1-18)


  • A. M. BusCEMi

La struttura retorica della Lettera ai Colossesi


  • r. PiErri

L̓aspetto verbale dell̓indicativo nel Nuovo Testamento


  • D. H.WENkEl

A Component Based Definition of the Inferential Construction ἄρα οὖν in the

Greek of the NT


  • A. PAssoNi DEll̓ACquA

La tradizione della traduzione: riflessioni sul lessico del ̔tradurre̓ nella Bibbia

greca e nel giudaismo-ellenistico

  • F. MANNs



Indice generale

  • C. t. BEGG

Abraham and the Philistines According to Josephus


  • E. EsHEl, H. EsHEl, G. GEiGEr

Mur 174: A Hebrew I. O. U. Document from Wadi Murabba̔at


  • s. H. A. Al-HouDAliEH

The Byzantine Church of Khirbet el-Lauz


  • C. Ji, M. Al-FuqAHA, A. kuliEF

The Hoebah Dolmen Field in the Region of Sayl Haydan, Jordan:

Findings and Implication for Jordanian Dolmens


  • s. AMorAi-stArk

Roman Miniature Sculptural Bezel Rings from a Caesarea Maritima Workshop


  • G. loCHE

Breve storia del convento latino presso la basilica della Natività a Betlemme


  • P. kAsWAlDEr

Il torrente d̓Egitto: nuove proposte per un vecchio problema di geografia



  • J. P. MoNFErrEr-sAlA

Anecdotæ preislamicæ. On deities Cari and Nazai,a in a Greek inscription and

some remarks on the toponym Ḥumaymah


  • s. H. A. Al-HouDAliEH

Ottoman Clay Tobacco Pipes


  • G. C. BottiNi

Michele Piccirillo (1944-2008) francescano di Terra Santa e archeologo


Sintesi degli articoli (Abstracts)


Ricerca storico-archeologica in Giordania XXVIII - 2008


Recensioni e libri ricevuti


SBF: Anno accademico 2007 - 2008


Indici Liber Annuus 1981 - 2007


Alviero Niccacci

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom:

Two Instructions (Chs. 1–5, 6–19) in Line with Old Testament Wisdom Tradition

Following a recent publication of mine, 1 I wish first to outline the literary compo- sition of the book of Wisdom (Wis) on the basis of well-defined criteria (§ 1), then to discuss different opinions of scholars on this subject (§ 2), and finally to draw some conclusions concerning general interpretation (§ 3).

§ 1. A Reading of Wis

The four criteria that have guided my reading of Wis are: vocabulary, grammatical and syntactic texture, literary genre and meaning. These are the same criteria that along the years guided my research on wisdom literature of the OT, a corpus unfortunately al- most totally ignored by interpreters of Wis, who instead analyze this book essentially from the point of view of Hellenism. For my part, I intend to conduct my analysis basically in the light of Biblical wisdom literature, yet without denying Hellenistic cultural milieu. I will come back later to this extremely important point (§ 2).

1.1. Criteria of Analysis

First of all, let me underline that, in spite of the importance of vocabulary, gram- matical and syntactic dynamics have the first place in the analysis because they are able to reveal the weaving of a text and therefore also the use that a text makes of the vocabulary, i.e., the function that individual lexemes play on the whole text and the meaning that derives from it. The vocabulary is the first criterion in order of time, but not of importance. In fact, the repetition of a lexeme or of a sentence clearly signals a connection, but the type of the connection – whether it is a chias- mus, or inclusion, and therefore it concludes an argument and a literary unity, or it is a literary resumption in order to complete an argument already started, or else a

  • 1 Il libro della Sapienza. Introduzione e commento, Padova 2007.


Alviero Niccacci

transition from an argument to another connected to it – this is to be evaluated on the basis of the compositional dynamics, of the literary genre and of the global meaning (cf. infra, § 2.1). On the other hand, the literary weaving of the text is indicated, as far as the grammatical aspect is concerned, in a special way by the particles of connection that appear in the Greek original, even if often the translators omit them, like “in fact” (ga¿r), “because” (o¢ti), “in order to” (iºna), “instead” (de÷), “on the one hand… on the other” (me÷nde÷). These coordinating or subordinating particles, together with the verbal forms, determine the syntactic weaving of the clauses and therefore the process of communication. In order to establish the limits, beginning and end, of the literary units and their reciprocal connections, it is necessary to take into account the literary genres. This problem is complex and controversial: which are the literary genres attested in Wis, and which is the main one? Do the literary genres reflect the ancient Biblical tradi- tion or the contemporary Hellenistic one? As I will show in the course of the following analysis, the main literary genre of Wis is the traditional sapiential instruction. It consists of an introduction, with direct appeal to the addressee(s), an invitation to listen together with a motivation that justi- fies it, and of the contents of the instruction itself (cf. infra, 1.2.3). This genre of instruc- tion may also include a sub-genre that is called self-presentation of the instructor, be he the teacher of wisdom or the personified Wisdom herself (cf. infra, 2.2). Another sub-genre frequently used in the contents of the instruction is the an- tithesis wicked-just, or more generally evil-good. Indeed, the antithesis was a teaching method often used by wisdom teachers in order to present reality in an antithetical form and to encourage the young people, and the addressees in general, to a clear, correct choice of life. On the basis of these criteria that will be illustrated as they are applied in the text, I present now a continuous reading of Wis.

1.2. Wis 1–5

The literary genre of Biblical sapiential instruction suggests that chs. 1–5 form a compact literary unit consisting of an introduction (ch. 1) and the contents of the instruction (chs. 2–5).

1.2.1. Wis 1: An Invitation to Love Justice and not to Seek Death

Wis 1 includes three series of exhortations (vv. 1.11a.12), each accompanied by motivations that justify them. Five particles o¢ti “because” are found after the first series of exhortations (vv. 2.4.6b.7.10), one after the second series (v. 11b) and one after the third one (v. 13), together with six ga¿r “in fact” (vv. and one dia» touvto “therefore” (v. 8) that develop the same motivations.

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


We find therefore the typical basic plan of the wisdom instruction, according to the style of the ancient sages of Israel, a plan that includes, besides the appeal to the addressees, a) an exhortation, b) a motivation. In this way, we are able to un- derstand the grammatical and syntactic texture of the text, which is a proper guide toward interpretation. The composition of the three instructions of Wis 1 can be outlined as follows:


exhortation with direct appeal (v. 1), b) motivations (vv. 2-10);


exhortation (v. 11a), b1) motivation (v. 11b);

– a²)

negative exhortation (admonition, v. 12), b2) motivations (vv. 13-16).

The addressees of the invitation, literally “you who judge the earth (oi˚ kri÷nonteß th\n ghvn),” are those who govern, the kings. The terminology here is reminiscent of a very similar passage from Ps 2,10 according to the LXX: “And therefore, o kings (basilei√ß), understand; / be instructed, all of you who judge the earth (oi˚ kri÷nonteß th\n ghvn).” In light of this, the addressees of Wis 1,1 are the same as those of 6,1: “Listen therefore, o kings, and understand; / learn, o governors of the ends of the earth (dikastai« pera¿twn ghvß), / give ear, you who judge (oi˚ kri÷nonteß) the multitudes.” The instructor ‘Solomon’ addresses to the governors several invitations (vv. 1.11a) and an admonition (v. 12) that are to be read and interpreted in relationship one to the other and also to the motivations that accompany them (vv. 2-10.11b, and 13-16, respectively). It is necessary to note, e.g., that in vv. 1-9 three terms are found – “justice” (dikaiosu/nh), “wisdom” (sofi÷a) and “spirit” (pneuvma) – that alternate and exchange in different ways: a) “justice” in parallel with “the Lord” (oJ ku/rioß) or with “God” (qeo/ß) (vv. 1-3), b) “wisdom” (v. 4), c) “holy spirit” (v. 5), b) “wisdom / spirit” (v. 6a), a) “God” (v. 6b), c) “spirit of the Lord” (vv. 7-9a), a) “the Lord” (v. 9b). This varied language, frequent in Biblical literature and espe- cially in wisdom books, is a poetic way of illustrating the same reality from various points of view, with different perspectives that it is necessary to combine together in order to get the whole picture. 2 The following outline shows in greater detail the composition of ch. 1, consist- ing of a) exhortations and b) motivations:

– a)

Exhortation: “love justice,” specified by “think of the Lord in goodness / and in simplicity of heart seek him” (v. 1), 3

  • 2 This already suggests that there is no reason to see any meaningful differences between the invitation to “justice” in ch. 1 and the invitation to “wisdom” in chs. 6–9 (cf. infra, § 2.3).

  • 3 The meaning is that the kings are invited to love a kind of justice that is not simply human but requires relationship with God. They are encouraged to “think (of him)… in goodness (fronh/satee˙n aÓgaqo/thti),” not like the pagans who “had evil thoughts of God (kakw◊ß e˙fro/nhsan), by giving heed to idols” (14,30).


Alviero Niccacci

– b) and motivation: because God “is found (euJri÷sketai)” by the one who searches him in simplicity, 4 not by the one who puts him to test for lack of faith, 5 who cultivates wicked thoughts, or is slave of sin, deceit, injustice (vv. 2-5); in fact, wisdom, that is a spirit loving man, will not leave unpun- ished the wicked; because God knows him in his depth, both the roots of its thoughts (reins, heart) and their outside manifestation (lips, tongue); God also knows what is murmured in secret, since the spirit of the Lord has filled the universe and knows every voice; a jealous ear overhears everything and so the words of the wicked will come to the Lord for his condemnation (vv. 6-10). – a¹) Second exhortation to avoid murmuring and slander, also in secret (v.



and motivation: because nothing remains hidden (cf. vv. 6-10) and “a bely-


ing mouth kills the soul,” i.e., the person in its completeness (v. 11b). With two admonitions (v. 12), directly connected to the topic of death just


mentioned, the kings are invited to stop seeking death and drawing ruin upon themselves with the errors of their life, i.e., with the works of their hands; and motivation (1,13-16): because God has not made death (qa¿natoß), the kingdom of Hades does not dominate on the earth; instead, God has cre- ated all for life, all creatures are good and justice (dikaiosu/nh) is immor- tal (aÓqa¿natoß); 6 “but the impious (aÓsebei√ß de÷)” with their life called the kingdom of Hades to themselves, longed for it, thinking it a friend (fi÷loß); 7 they made a covenant with it because they are worthy to share its destiny, i.e., death (cf. vv. 11b-12).

In the motivations, verbs in the present or in the future are used in order to ex- press truths that are and will always be; see, e.g., vv. 2-3 (in the present) and vv. 4-6 (in the future). 8 Past verb forms are used for the work of creation: 9 since the

  • 4 The same is true of the personified Wisdom (cf. 6,12).

  • 5 As the Israelites did in the desert (cf. Exod 17,2.7).

  • 6 This is the kind of “justice” that the kings are invited to love in the way indicated in v. 1 (see fn. 3 above), i.e., by avoiding the ill-doings referred to in vv. 2-5.

    • 7 Instead, Wisdom is really “a spirit who loves man (fila¿nqrwpoß)” (v. 6).

  • 8 Similar transitions from a temporal axis to another, even in parallel lines, are characteristic of the ancient Hebrew poetry; see my paper, “The Biblical Hebrew Verbal System in Poetry,” in S.E. Fassberg - A. Hurvitz (eds.), Biblical Hebrew in Its Northwest Semitic Setting. Typological and His- torical Perspectives, Jerusalem - Winona Lake IN 2006, 247-268, § 2. On the basis of this indication, even if small, besides the one of a varied language found in vv. 1-9 (see above), I think that Wis is a poetic book, even of highest degree, that combines traditional wisdom genres and style with Hellenis- tic genres and style (cf. infra, fn. 37). See also a careful analysis of poetic parallelism in Wis by E.D. Reymond, “The Poetry of the Wisdom of Solomon Reconsidered,” VT 52 (2002) 385-399.

    • 9 Past verb forms also appear in v. 16, where the impious are mentioned, and this temporal

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


beginning, the spirit of the Lord has filled up the universe (v. 7); God has not made death but has created everything for life (vv. 13.14).

1.2.2. Wis 2–5: Four Main Topics

Ch. 2 is closely linked to ch. 1 for two reasons: on one hand, 2,1 contains ga¿r “in fact” and refers to the words of the impious in 1,16; on the other hand, 1,16 presents the first case of the antithesis impious-righteous that in other similar cases marks the beginning of a text unit (cf. infra). For this reason, one could think that in 1,16 a new section starts. I think, however, that there are sufficient reasons for considering 1,16 as a verse of transition, i.e., conclusion of ch. 1 and at the same time link to ch. 2. In fact, from the point of view of grammatical dynamics, the expression aÓsebei√ß de÷ of v. 16 contrasts and is linked to v. 15. Also the pronouns that appear in v. 16, aujto/n (3

times) and e˙kei÷nou, refer to fa¿rmakon ojle÷qrou // a‚ˆdou basi÷leion “poison of

destruction // kingdom of Hades” of 1,14, both designations of the death that the impious “have summoned… because they are worthy to belong to it (o¢ti a‡xioi÷ ei˙sin thvß e˙kei÷nou meri÷doß ei•nai)” (1,16). This is confirmed by the parallelism with 2,24: “but through the devil’s envy death (qa¿natoß) entered into the world / and those that belong to it (oi˚ thvß e˙kei÷nou meri÷doß o¡nteß) experience it,” and also with 1,12: “seek not death (qa¿naton) with the errors of your life.” At the same time, however, 1,16 establishes a connection with the following chapter. In fact, it switches from the verb form of the exhortation that governs the previous verses, to forms of the past. i.e., the aorist (“they called… they longed… they made…”), which then continues in ch. 2, in the introductions to the speeches of the impious quoted by the instructor (vv. 1 ei•pon ga¿r; 21a tauvta e˙logi÷santo) and in the continuation of the same chapter (vv. 21b-24). These past verb forms, even if they are not always maintained in the translations, indicate a decision already taken, that is irrevocable. Further, the particle ga¿r “in fact” of 2,1 establishes a link to what precedes and shows that the continuation, i.e., chs. 2–5, develops 1,16:

1,16 But the impious summoned it (i.e., the kingdom of death) by their

hands and by their words; regarding it as a friend, they longed for it and with it they made a covenant, because they are worthy to belong to it.” “ 2,1 In fact, they said within themselves, reasoning not correctly…”

reference is again used for them later (cf. 2,1.21-22). In this way, a link is established and also a transition from the introduction to the contents of the instruction (cf. here below).


Alviero Niccacci

Within chs. 2–5 a series of antitheses impious-righteous appear, linked with an adversative de÷ “but,” that begin in 1,15-16, a transitional passage:

15 In fact, justice (dikaiosu/nh) is immortal (aÓqa¿natoß). 16 But the impious (aÓsebei√ß de÷)…”

Afterwards, the antitheses alternate in the following way:


dikai÷wn de« yucai÷ “but the souls of the righteous…”;


oi˚ de« aÓsebei√ß “but the impious…”;


di÷kaioß de÷ “but the righteous man…”;


oi˚ de« laoi÷ “but the nations…”;


di÷kaioi de÷ “but the righteous…”

Since the term “the nations” (4,14b) is used in a negative sense 10 , we can affirm that the antithesis impious-righteous covers all the chs. 2–5. It is not a simple lexical “flash- back” (cf. fn. 52 below), but it defines the dynamics of the text and its composition. Taking into account these antitheses, four units are defined. On the basis of the topics dealt with, they are arranged as follows:


life on earth and life after death (2,1–3,9);


wife and descendants (3,10–4,6);

B 1 )

long life (4,7-14a);

A 1 )

God’s final judgment (4,14b–5,23).

Thus, the sequence of the topics follows a chiastic or circular order, a frequent literary technique in Wis as in Biblical literature in general. This technique is also found in each of the four sections outlined below. 11 The description that follows takes into account the four topics discussed (A-B- B 1 -A 1 ) and also the alternate sequence of a) impious and b) righteous.

A) Life on Earth and Life after death (2,1–3,9)

This section is articulated in two movements: 1) reasonings of the impious concern- ing life on earth and after death (2,1-20), and 2) their refutation and truth on the topic (2,21–3,9). I indicate with a) the impious, b) the righteous:

  • 10 Cf., e.g., J. Reider, The Book of Wisdom, New York 1957, 87.

  • 11 This is a technique usually accepted by scholars, even if the actual division of the units differs considerably; cf. infra, § 2.3.1.

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


– 1) a) They (i.e. aÓsebei√ß, 1,16) in fact (ga¿r) complained of the shortness of human existence on earth, of the disintegration of the body after death, of the end of the memory without any hope of return (2,1-5); on these considerations they base a self invitation (deuvte ou™n) to enjoy life, particularly in youth (2,6-9), to assert themselves by oppressing the weak, i.e., the widow, the old and above all the righteous who is a living reproach to the their way of life, and even pretends to be son of God (2,10-20). – 2) a) The foolish “these things have thought (tauvta e˙logi÷santo)” but “they have not known the mysteries of God (oujk e¶gnwsan musth/ria qeouv)” (2,21-22), because God has created man for immortality (2,23-24); b) but the souls of the righteous (dikai÷wn de« yucai÷), contrary to what the foolish thought (e¶doxan), are in the hands of God (3,1-6) and in the day of judgment they will shine forth and will judge the nations (3,7-8); those who trust in God “will understand truth (sunh/sousin aÓlh/qeian)” and will live with him in love (3,9).

B) Wife and Descendants (3,10–4,6)

In contrast to the reward for the righteous, the punishment for the impious is af- firmed by showing the vanity of their hopes and of all their efforts, exemplified by wife and sons. This topic is developed in an alternated way, a) for the impious in a negative sense, b) for the righteous in a positive sense, again in a chiastic order:


but the impious (oi˚ de« aÓsebei√ß) will be punished according to what they


have thought (kaqa» e˙logi÷santo; cf. 2,21): their wives are foolish and their sons bad (3,10-12), for is better a barren woman who is undefiled (hJ aÓmi÷antoß) and an eunuch


who is righteous (3,13-15); but the sons of adulterers (moicw◊n) will be exterminated, without any hope

in the day of judgment (3,16-19); – b¹) better to be without sons and to possess virtue (meta» aÓrethvß; 4,1-2); – a²) but a numerous offspring of the impious (aÓsebw◊n) will be of no profit; indeed, they will testify against them in the final judgment (4,3-6).

B 1 ) Long Life (4,7-14a)


But the righteous one (di÷kaioß de÷), even if he dies prematurely, will find rest (4,7); for venerable old age is virtue, not years (4,8-9); God soon takes the righteous with him because he loves him, in order to preserve him from evil (4,10-14a).


Alviero Niccacci

A 1 ) God’s Final Judgment (4,14b–5,23)


But the nations (oi˚ de« laoi÷), though seeing yet not understanding (i˙do/nteß


kai« mh\ noh/santeß) the destiny of the righteous one, will not understand (ouj noh/sousin) his destiny; however, God will laugh at them and in the judgment they will be condemned (4,14b-20); then the righteous one (to/teoJ di÷kaioß) will be standing with confi-


dence in front of his oppressors (tw◊n qliya¿ntwnkai« tw◊n aÓqetou/ntwn;


– a¹)

who at the end will repent and acknowledge the vanity of their life, which

passed like a shadow, like a ship in the sea, like a bird, like an arrow…


– b¹) but the righteous (di÷kaioi de÷) lives for ever under protection of God and will receive a magnificent crown (5,15-16);

– a²)

God and the creation (lightnings, hail, wind, sea) will destroy the enemies, “the crazy ones” (tou\ß para¿fronaß); indeed “iniquity (aÓnomi÷a) will lay waste the earth / and crime (hJ kakopragi÷a) will overthrow the thrones of the powerful” (5,17-23).

1.2.3. Unity of Wis 1–5: Literary Genre and Topics

The above reading, based on vocabulary, grammatical texture and the topics of chs. 1–5, has revealed important correspondences between the four sections identified, which follow a chiastic order:

Both in A and in A 1 , the truth concerning life on earth and after death is proclaimed in antithesis with what the impious think; however, in A 1 God’s intervention is more fully expounded, showing how he protects the righteous and fights the impious also making use of the forces of creation (as in the second part of Wis; cf. infra, § 3); – in B the real value of having an offspring is discussed for both sexes (cf. “the barren woman” and “the eunuch”), and in B 1 the value of a long life, i.e., the values that are most rooted in human beings, above all in those who do not have any hope of life after death.

Who are the impious who oppose the righteous in chs. 2–5? At least in a couple of passages, the language of the impious clearly reflects the Jewish tradition, even if they repudiate it with their life. They in fact are “those who neglected the right- eous (i.e., his instruction) and revolted against the Lord” (3,10); and they complain of the righteous saying: “he reproaches us with sins against the law, / and charges us with transgressions of our education (aJmarth/mata paidei÷aß hJmw◊n)” (2,12).

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


Therefore, the impious are most probably Jewish apostates who have abandoned their faith, probably in order to be able to enter in the administration of the city or to freely undertake prominent economic activities. 12 The first part of the book begins therefore with an appeal to the rulers of the earth, kings and leaders of different kinds, to love justice, to think with goodness and simplic- ity about the Lord, because the opposite would amount to gain death with one’s own hands, while God has not made death but he has created everything for life. At this point, I think that the possibility enunciated above is confirmed, i.e., that chs. 1–5 are structured according to the literary genre of wisdom instruction. Ac- cording to the traditional model, this genre comprises an introduction – with direct appeal, exhortation to listen to and/or an admonition not to neglect the instruction, accompanied by a motivation – and the contents of the instruction itself. Examples of the genre of Biblical instruction are found in Proverbs, e.g., Prov 22,17–24,22, the so-called third collection of the book. In short, this collection com- prises three sections, each one opening with an introduction (i.e., directed appeal, exhortation or admonition and motivation), followed by the instruction itself: 13


22,17–23,11, an introduction (22,17-21) and an instruction with ten


topics (22,22–23,11); 23,12-25, an introduction and four instructions (vv. 12-14, 15-18, 19-21,


and 22-25); 23,26-24,22, an introduction and three instructions (23,26-28; 23,29-35;


In light of this, Wis 1–5 is a wisdom instruction comprising an introduction (ch. 1) and four instructions connected to it (2,1–3,9; 3,10–4,6; 4,7-14a; 4,14b–5,23). The traditional literary genre of the instruction is also found in Ben Sira, the Biblical book most similar to Wis, as for time of composition, literary genre, lan- guage and concept. 14

  • 12 M. Kepper, Hellenistische Bildung im Buch der Weisheit. Studien zur Sprachgestalt und Theologie der Sapientia Salomonis, Berlin - New York 1999, concludes her close analysis of Wis 2 as follows: “Die Gottlosen sind also wohl Juden, die eine verfeinerte, hellenisierte Lebensart pflegten und in Auseinandersetzung mit sich als gerecht verstehenden Kreisen standen” (p. 146). In this con- nection, Kepper also rejects the idea that Wis suggests a historical background of persecution by Hellenists against Jews (ibid.; cf. infra, § 3).

  • 13 See my papers, “Proverbi 22,17-23,11”, LA 29 (1979) 42-72; “Proverbi 23,12-25”, ibid. 47 (1997) 33-56; “Proverbi 23,26-24,22”, ibid. 48 (1998) 49-104. Of course, Prov 1–9 also consists of a series of instructions composed according to the same pattern.

  • 14 Consult the composition that I have proposed in Siracide o Ecclesiastico. Scuola di vita per il popolo di Dio, Cinisello Balsamo (Milano) 2000, 16-19. In my book Il libro della Sapienza, I have indicated various points of contacts with Ben Sira, e.g., the reflection on sacred history (p. 23), the reasoning of the impious in Wis 2–5 (pp. 55-65), the instructions that ‘Solomon’ addresses to the kings in ch. 6 (pp. 80-81), and the relationship between wisdom and kingship (pp. 99, 106-110).


Alviero Niccacci

The antitheses impious-righteous that cover the four instructions of Wis 2–5 also constitute a genre that is traditional in Biblical wisdom, from Proverbs (cf., e.g., ch. 10) to Ben Sira (cf. Sir 29,1-14, and 32,14-18). As mentioned above (§ 1.1), the antitheses – with the resulting vision of reality in black and white, good and bad – convey an invitation to make a resolute choice of life and constitute a method of instruction typical of the Israel ancient sages. 15

1.3. Wis 6–19

The second part of Wis begins with a wisdom instruction addressed to kings and governors of the earth. There are strong indications to suggest that chs. 6–9 consti- tute the introduction, containing a complex self-presentation by the instructor and his prayer to God in order to obtain wisdom, while the remaining chs. 10–19 pro- pose the specific topics of the instruction. If this is the case, a precise parallel is established with the first part of the book, which also comprises an introduction (ch. 1) and the contents (chs. 2–5) of a wisdom instruction. In order to evaluate this possibility, let us first analyze chs. 6–9 that, in spite of divergent opinions of many scholars, are strongly linked together. The main prob- lem consists in the fact that for many authors ch. 6 constitutes the conclusion of the exposition begun in ch. 1, instead of an analogous resumption and a new beginning, as I hope to demonstrate in the course of the following presentation.

1.3.1. Wis 6–9: The Model Experience of ‘Solomon’

After a pressing invitation, in ch. 6, to the kings and governors of the earth to listen to his words, in chs. 7–8 ‘Solomon’ continues to speak in the first person and in- troduces himself as the model that they are invited to follow; afterwards, in ch. 9 he shares with them the prayer that he, still in his youth, addressed to the Lord in order to obtain wisdom.

Wis 6: “Therefore, listen, you kings, and understand”

Ch. 6 is linked to the last line of 5,23 that, besides concluding the antitheses impi- ous-righteous of chs. 2–5, again mentions the rulers to which the initial appeal is addressed (1,1):

“Love justice, you who judge the earth (oi˚ kri÷nonteß th\n ghvn)…” (1,1);

  • 15 Cf. my books, La casa della sapienza. Voci e volti della sapienza biblica, Cinisello Balsamo (Milano) 1994, 16-21, and Siracide o Ecclesiastico, 24-25.36-39.

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


“and crime will overthrow the thrones of the powerful (qro/nouß dunastw◊n)” (5,23d); “Listen, therefore, o kings (basilei√ß), and understand, learn, o governors (dikastai÷) of the ends of the earth” (6,1).

Wis 6 is a wisdom instruction according to the traditional model, with appeal, exhortation and motivation (similar to that of ch. 1; cf. § 1.2.1). The similarity between the invitation to kings and governors of the earth in 6,1 and the one in 1,1 is considered by several scholars as marking a conclusion; as a conse- quence, the first part of the book would extend until ch. 6, even if the exact closing verse differs – vv. 8.21 or 25 according to different opinions. I think, however, that the grammatical-syntactic dynamics and above all the literary genre of wisdom instruction suggests that 1,1 and 6,1 are both the beginning of a separate literary unit, well defined in itself, although linked one to the other as is shown by the very beginning of the second unit (aÓkou/sate ou™n “listen, therefore,” 6,1; see above). On the basis of literary genre, the instruction of ch. 6 comprises, a) appeal and/ or exhortation, b) motivation:

– a) It starts with a complex exhortation with four imperatives (aÓkou/satekai« su/nete / ma¿qetee˙nwti÷sasqe “listen… and understand / learn…

give ear”) and four designations of the addressees: “you kings (basilei√ß) / governors (dikastai¿) of the ends of the earth / you that have dominion (oi˚ kratouvnteß) over the multitudes / you that boast (gegaurwme÷noi) of many nations” (vv. 1-2); – b) a vast motivation follows with four o¢ti “because” (vv. 3.4.5b.7b) and two ga¿r “in fact” (vv. 6.7);


a new appeal to the addressees (w° tu/rannoi) introduces the purpose of the instructor: “that you may learn wisdom (iºna ma¿qhte sofi÷an) and fall not away” (v. 9),

– b¹) and a motivation with ga¿r “in fact” (v. 10); –


a new exhortation follows to desire the words of the instructor (v. 11),

– b²)

with an implicit motivation (i.e., not introduced by “because / in fact”) that

proclaims the qualities of the personified Wisdom, in order to support the initial invitation to listen (vv. 12-20); – a³) after a variant form of appeal to the addressees (“if therefore you delight in thrones and scepters”), 16 a short exhortation follows to “honor” wisdom (v. 21a), – b³) then the purpose (“ that you may reign for ever”), which functions as the

  • 16 Cf., e.g., J. Reider, The Book of Wisdom, New York 1957, 87.


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motivation (v. 21b); to this a promise of the instructor 17 is connected to ex- plain fully and correctly what Wisdom is and its advantages (vv. 22-24); a conclusive exhortation to let oneself instruct (v. 25a),

a 4 ) b 4 )

with a promise of the advantage that will follow (v. 25b).

Wis 7–8: “Now, I also am a mortal man, like all”

Chs. 7 and 8 show an analogous development, with three main principles that recur, develop and complete one another: a) human condition of the instructor, like all, b) his prayer to obtain the beloved Wisdom, c) excellence of Wisdom. On this basis, a literary unit is outlined, composed in a circular, or chiastic, order:

– a) 7,1-6: I also am a mortal man like all, formed in the breast and born; – b) 7,7-21: therefore, I prayed and Wisdom was given me; I preferred and loved her more than everything; with her all goods came to me and I en- joyed them, because “Wisdom guides them (aujtw◊n hJgei√tai sofi÷a)” and she is their “mother” (gene÷tin) (vv. 7-12); I correctly learned and without reluctance communicate its riches, and may God grant me to speak of her adequately (vv. 13-16); in fact, God has granted me knowledge of creation, “in fact Wisdom the

crafts-woman of all instructed me (hJ ga»r pa¿ntwn tecni√tiß e˙di÷daxe÷n me

sofi÷a)” (vv. 17-21);

c) 7,22–8,1: in Wisdom there is “an intelligent spirit (pneuvma noero/n)”… (a series of 21 attributes of Wisdom follows, 7,22-23); she is the most mobile element, a breath of divine power, a glare of eternal light; she is one but can do everything, and God only loves “the one who lives together with Wisdom (to\n sofi÷aˆ sunoikouvnta)” (7,24–8,1);


8,2-16: Wisdom I have loved and searched from my youth, “she who lives

together with God (sumbi÷wsin qeouv e¶cousa),” better than every wealth, supreme “crafts-woman” (tecni√tiß), teacher of all virtue and knowledge (vv. 2-8); “therefore, I decided to take her for life together (pro\ß sumbi÷wsin),” for through her I will get glory, immortality, and coming home I will enjoy “the life together with her (hJ sumbi÷wsiß aujthvß)” (vv. 9-16); – a¹) 8,17-21: reflecting on this, I was seeking “how I may take her to myself

(o¢pwß la¿bw aujth\n ei˙ß e˙mauto/n)” (vv. 17-18);

I was by nature an endowed young man, but knowing that I could not be virtu- ous if God did not grant it to me, I prayed him with all my heart (vv. 19-21).

  • 17 This is a technique usually accepted by scholars, even if the actual division of the units differs considerably; cf. infra, § 2.3.1.

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


Wis 9: The prayer of ‘Solomon’ to receive Wisdom

Also this prayer shows a circular, or chiastic, pattern with three main elements: a) God, Wisdom and man as king, b) request for Wisdom by the praying weak person, c) by king ‘Solomon’:


Invocation: “God of the fathers… who by your Word / by your Wisdom


(e˙n lo/gwˆ sou / kai« thvØ sofi÷aˆ sou) have formed man… that he should

have dominion (a‡nqrwponiºna despo/zhØ)” over creation (vv. 1-3);

kai÷to\ a‚gio/n sou pneuvma) (vv. 13-17);


request: “Give me Wisdom who sits by your throne (th\n tw◊n sw◊n qro/nwn


pa¿redron sofi÷an),” because the praying ‘Solomon’ feels himself inex- pert and small (vv. 4-6); God has chosen him as king and has ordered him to build a temple on his

– b¹)

Holy Mount; with God is Wisdom (meta» souv hJ sofi÷a), who knows what is pleasing to him (vv. 7-9); new request for Wisdom who knows all and will guide the praying ‘Solo- mon’ (vv. 10-11);


thus his works will be pleasing to God and he will be worthy of the throne


of his father (qro/nwn patro/ß mou; v. 12); because no man (a‡nqrwpoß), weak as he is, would know the will of God,


unless he would have not given to him Wisdom and his Holy Spirit (sofi÷an

– a¹)

therefore men (a‡nqrwpoi) have been instructed on the ways of God “and by Wisdom they have been saved” (v. 18).

1.3.2. Wis 10-19: Wisdom and God’s rule on history - Foolishness of idolatry

It is my hope to show that chs. 10–19 constitute a compact section from both literary and thematic points of view. Clearly, this section is linked to the previous one, chs. 6–9, since the first two verses of ch. 10 refer back to the beginning and the end of ch. 9. In fact, on the one hand, 10,1 resumes the topic of Wisdom in connection with the formation of the human being enunciated in 9,1-3; on the other hand, 10,2 develops the topic of the saving Wisdom announced in 9,18:

1 God of the fathers and Lord of mercy, who made all things by your Word, 2 and through your Wisdom have formed man (a‡nqrwpon), that he should govern the creatures produced by you, 3 and he rule the world in sanctity and justice…” (9,1-3); – “And thus the paths of those upon the earth (tw◊n e˙pi« ghvß) were made straight,


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men were taught the things pleasing to you, and through Wisdom they were saved (kai« thvØ sofi÷aˆ e˙sw¿qhsan)” (9,18); “ 1 She the first formed father of the world (prwto/plaston pate÷ra ko/smou), created alone, protected (diefu/laxen), delivered him from his transgression 2 and gave him strength to have dominion over all things (e¶dwke÷n te aujtw◊ˆ

i˙scu\n krathvsai aJpa¿ntwn)” (10,1-2). 18

To these connections one should add the fact that throughout chs. 10–19 a “we” group appears (12,18.22; 15,1-4; 16,8; 18,6-8) who is defined as “a holy people” (10,15), “your people” (after 9,7.12, see 12,19; 15,14; 16,2.20; 18,7; 19,5.22) and “your sons” (after “your sons and daughters” in 9,7, see 12,19.21; 16,10.26; 18,4). More than once they appeal directly to God as “you” (after 9,7.17, see 11,25; 12,12.18; 15,1; 16,8.13), “you, (our) Father” (11,10; 14,3). This fact suggests that the prayer of king ‘Solomon’ (ch. 9) goes on without any break and develops into a reflection on history done in the presence of God (chs. 10–19). It is a reflection of the same king, who, giving voice to all his people, meditates on the behavior of God along history, from the beginning of humanity until the settlement in the Promised Land. 19 But on this point I will come back later (cf. § 2.3.2). Further, let us notice that while in 9,18 the salvation of humanity is indicated

with passive verbs (diwrqw¿qhsan / e˙dida¿cqhsan / kai« thvØ sofi÷aˆ e˙sw¿qhsan “have

been made straight / were taught / and through Wisdom they were saved,” i.e., three times with the so-called “theological passive”) and therefore is considered as an action of God alone or by means of Wisdom, in 10,1-2 the protection of the first man is presented as a direct action of Wisdom. Indeed, taking into account the language of Wis, such a difference is stylistic rather than real, since more than once we read that several manifestations or attributes of God – e.g., “justice,” “wisdom” and “spirit” in 1,1-9 (cf. § 1.2.1) – alternate and exchange one with the other; further, that the same action is made by God directly or through his Wisdom, or that the same Wisdom acts alone (cf. chs. 10–11, infra). The reason is that for Wis, as for the Biblical wisdom movement in general, the only Wis- dom is the one of God and represents his plan both of creation and of the regimen of the world. As a consequence, saying Wisdom is not different from saying God. 20

  • 18 On the interpretation of this passage, see my paper, “Wisdom as Woman — Wisdom and Man, Wisdom and God,” in N. Calduch-Benages - J. Vermeylen (eds.), Treasures of Wisdom. Studies in Ben Sira and the Book of Wisdom. Festschrift M. Gilbert, Leuven 1999, 369-385, esp. pp. 371-374.

  • 19 This aspect is well recognized by M. Gilbert, “Sagesse de Salomon (ou Livre de la Sagesse),” in DBS XI (1986) 58-119, col. 86, even though he proposes the encomium as the dominant literary genre of Wis (cf. infra, § 2.3.2, ‘In Chs. 10–19’).

  • 20 This fact renders highly improbable any discontinuity between 11,1 and 11,2 assumed, e.g., by A.G. Wright, “The Structure of the Book of Wisdom,” Bib 48 (1967) 165-184, esp. pp. 168-

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


A) Wis 10: Wisdom as guide of history

The composition of ch. 10 is delineated by six pronouns au¢th “she,” all related to the personified Wisdom active in the history of humanity (vv. This stylistic element, together with the various characters referred to, delimits the individual units of ch. 10. Another stylistic element is the antithesis positive vs. negative characters that covers all the chapter. It will be noticed that Wis never mentions the names of the characters evoked (however, I will indicate them in parenthesis):

  • - She protected the first man (Adam), while an unjust (a‡dikoß) fratricidal (Cain) perished, but she saved the submerged land by guiding the boat of the just one (to\n di÷kaion, Noah, vv. 1-4);

  • - among wicked, confused people (e˙qnw◊n, Babel), preserved the righteous one (to\n di÷kaion, Abraham, v. 5);


  • - saved a righteous one (di÷kaion, Lot) among the impious (aÓsebw◊n) of the Pentapolis, of whose wickedness still signs remain (vv. 6-9);


  • - guided a righteous one (di÷kaion, Jacob) escaping from his brother (Esau)


and showed him the reign of God, guarded him in order that he might un- derstand (vv. 10-12);

  • - preserved a righteous one (di÷kaion) who was sold (Joseph) and gave him eternal glory (vv. 13-14);


  • - she freed a holy people (lao\n o¢sion, the Israelites) from the oppressors (qlibo/ntwn, Egyptians), entered in a servant of the Lord (Moses) and faced terrible kings (basileuvsin foberoi√ß, Egyptians), rewarded the holy (oJsi÷oiß), let them cross the Red Sea, while she drowned their enemies (tou\ß de« e˙cqrou\ß aujtw◊n), and because of this the righteous (di÷kaioi) spoiled the impious (aÓsebei√ß) and sang to the Lord (vv. 15-21).

B) Wis 11–12: From Wisdom to God – Antitheses Israelites-enemies

Ch. 11 continues the reflection of ch. 10, which finishes with the crossing of the Red Sea, by adding the journey of the Israelites through the desert. In 11,1 the act- ing subject is still Wisdom, but then in 11,7 God, already invoked with direct appeal in 10,20 and 11,4, becomes the explicit subject and thus remains in all the follow- ing chapters. As I have already observed, this switch from personified Wisdom to God does not indicate a real difference, but rather a different perspective within the same plan that God outlines and realizes through his Wisdom or directly (cf. begin- ning of § 1.3.2).

169.176-177, and C. Larcher, Le livre de la Sagesse ou la Sagesse de Salomon, I, Paris 1983, 98.123. See also fn. 42, infra.


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In spite of divergent opinions among scholars (cf. § 2. 3.2, ‘In Chs. 10–19’), ch. 11 forms a compact literary unit with ch. 12. As it will appear from the following analysis, they are both a reflection on God’s behavior towards the enemy peoples – first the Egyptians, then the Canaanites – and towards his own people. Thus, a new series of antitheses starts that continues the one of ch. 10 and is similar to the one of chs. 2–5. Yet, while in chs. 2–5 the antitheses refer to the pair impious-righteous in general, in chs. 11–12 they refer to two peoples, one righteous (a), the other impious (b), and are accompanied by a series of reflections meant to interpret the significance of God’s behavior towards them (c). As mentioned above, the reflections contain a series of directed appeals to God; therefore, they are made in his presence in a context of prayer, in continuation with ch. 9. In the light of the elements just mentioned – a) righteous, b) impious, c) God’s behavior – the composition of chs. 11–12 can be outlined as follows:


Wisdom let the Israelites succeed in the desert through a holy prophet


(Moses) and water was given (by God) to their thirst (11,1-4); instead of a putrid river (Nile, first plague; cf. Exod 7,14-21) as a punish-

ment for the decree (by the Egyptians) to kill children (of the Israelites; cf. Exod 1,15-16) (Wis 11,5-7a), – a¹) you gave them (the Israelites) water in abundance (cf. Exod 17,1-7; Num 20,7-13) (Wis 11,7b-8); – c) 11,9–12,2:

– in their test, (the Israelites) understood the torments of the impious (the Egyptians), since you tried the ones (the Israelites) like a father who cor- rects, while as a strict king you condemned the others (the Egyptians); they were all afflicted and in the end “they became aware of the Lord… were

astonished (h¡Øsqonto touv kuri÷oue˙qau/masan)” (11,9-14);

– since (the Egyptians) worshiped animals, you punished them with ani- mals (second, third, fourth and eighth plagues; cf. Exod 8; 10), in order that they may learn that punishment corresponds to sin (Wis 11,15-16); – indeed, your hand could have destroyed them (hjdu/nato sunektri√yai aujtou/ß, the Egyptians) with various animals or with a breath of your power (11,17-20a), “but you have ordered all things with measure, number and

weight (aÓlla» pa¿nta me÷trwˆ kai« aÓriqmw◊ˆ kai« staqmw◊ˆ die÷taxaß)… / you

have mercy on all… / you spare all, because they are yours, o Sovereign

lover of the person (fei÷dhØ de« pa¿ntwn o¢ti sa¿ e˙stin de÷spota filo/yuce).

/ In fact, your incorruptible Spirit is in all things… / Therefore, you correct little by little those who stumble… / that, having been freed from their wickedness, they may believe in you, O Lord (iºna aÓpallage÷nteß thvß

kaki÷aß pisteu/swsin e˙pi« se÷, ku/rie)” (11,20b–12,2);

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


– b¹) since you hated the inhabitants of your Holy Land (the Canaanites) for their disgusting crimes (12,3-6a), – a²) you have destroyed them by the hands of our fathers, in order that “the Land most precious to your eyes” may be inhabited by the “sons of God”


– c¹) 12,8-27:

– “but these too (the Canaanites), as men, you spared (aÓlla» kai« tou/twn wJß aÓnqrw¿pwn e˙fei÷sw)…”; / you could have destroyed them (e˙ktri√yai)…, / “however, judging them little by little, you were giving them a place of

repentance (kri÷nwn de« kata» bracu/ e˙di÷douß to/pon metanoi÷aß)…”; /

nor for being afraid of anyone, you were leaving them unpunished for their sins. / In fact, who will say to you: “What have you done?”… / In fact, neither is there any God besides you… / But you, being righteous, govern all things righteously…” (12,8-18); – “but you have taught your people with such actions” the way you punish the enemies and your sons; while you correct us, you strike our enemies by punishing them with indulgence, by means of the animals that they considered as their gods; thus they have recognized the true God and were finally condemned (12,19-27).

C) Wis 13–14: Foolishness of human idolatry in general

The main topic of chs. 11–12 (cf. element c, supra), connected with the antitheses impious Egyptians/Canaanites-people of the sons of God (cf. elements a-b, supra), is that God, though punishing the impious, did not destroy them at once; he pun- ished them in measure, leaving space for their conversion, because all, also the enemies of his people, are his creatures and he loves life that has created. 21 The foolishness of idolatry, enunciated at the end of ch. 12 (vv. 24-27) in a more explicit way than previously, becomes the main topic in chs. 13–14. In fact, they pro- claim the guiding principle, i.e., a) foolish those who, considering the works of creation, through them have not recognized the Creator but have thought gods the works them- selves, and b) still miserable those who consider gods the work of their own hands. The text first conveys the principle (a-b), then a series of corresponding exam- ples (b 1 -a 1 -b 2 -a 2 ). Here are the subdivisions that are identifiable on this basis:

  • 21 For an interpretation of the parallel units c // c 1 of chs. 11–12 on God’s moderation towards the enemies of his people, both Egyptians and Canaanites, consult my book, Il libro della Sapienza, 125-133. On her part, M. McGlynn, Divine Judgement and Divine Benevolence in the Book of Wisdom, Tübingen 2001, sees “the Mercy Dialogue” as “the interpretive key of 11.15-12.27” (p. 25). She concludes her book affirming that “the judgement/benevolence dialogue, thus, links each section of Wisdom” (p. 220). Note that for her Wis consists of three sections, i.e., 1,1–6,21 (“6.12-21 overlaps this section and the following section,” p. 22), 6,12–10,21, and 11,1–19,22 (pp. 22-24).


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In fact, on the one hand, really foolish (ma¿taioi me«n ga¿r) by nature are


all men in whom was the ignorance of God / and from the good things that are seen were not able to know the One-who-is (to\n o¡nta), / nor, consid- ering the works, recognized the Craftsman (to\n tecni÷thn),” but adored one or the other of the creatures, astonished by their beauty; thus, they are to be blamed, even if partially (13,1-9); “on the other hand, miserable (talai÷pwroi de÷) and having their hopes on

dead things / are those who called gods the works of the hands of men”; in fact, a craftsman models an image, adorns it and then he prays it for his needs, although he knows well that it is a fragile thing (13,10-19); – b¹) thus, a navigator prays to an idol more fragile than the boat that carries him, which was built by the “crafts-woman… Wisdom (tecni√tißsofi÷a)”; moreover, “it is your providence, o Father, that guides it (hJ de«

sh/ pa¿ter diakuberna◊ˆ pro/noia)” (14,1-5);

– a¹) also at the beginning of humanity, the giants perished while “the hope of the world (hJ e˙lpi«ß touv ko/smou)” was saved in a boat (of Noah); in fact, blessed is the wood through which justice is accomplished (ark of Noah)


b²) but cursed (e˙pikata¿raton) is the idol and the one who made it, the impi-


ous and his impiety; also the idols of the nations will be judged because their invention carried ruin to creation and deceit to men (14,8-14); a grieved father had an image of his dead son made and venerated it as a god, and this custom became a law; images of remote king were also made, by initiative of both flatterers and of ambitious artists, and this be- came a trap for the living (14,15-21); they not only erred concerning the knowledge of God, “but also, living in the midst of a great war of ignorance (kai« e˙n mega¿lwˆ zw◊nteß aÓgnoi÷aß pole÷mwˆ), / they call such great evils peace (ei˙rh/nhn)”; by means of infan- ticidal cults, secret mysteries and orgiastic banquets, they corrupt life and wedding; and all this because they adore idols, which is “beginning, cause

and end of every evil (panto\ß aÓrch\ kakouv kai« ai˙ti÷a kai« pe÷raß e˙sti÷n)”;

but God’s punishment pursues the sinners (14,22-31).

C 1 ) Wis 15,1-13: From idolatry again to the antitheses Israelites-enemy peoples

The beginning of ch. 15 enunciates an element that is not explicit in chs. 13–14, i.e., the affirmation that God is good and patient towards his people:

“But you, Lord our God, are gracious and faithful (crhsto\ß kai« aÓlhqh/ß), patient (makro/qumoß) and ruling all with mercy.

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


And in fact, even if we sin, we are yours (kai« ga»r e˙a»n aJma¿rtwmen soi÷ e˙smen)…” (15,1-2).

This affirmation strongly contrasts with the one which closes the previous chapter:

“but the punishment of those who sin (aÓll∆hJ tw◊n aJmartano/ntwn di÷kh) always pursues the transgression of the unrighteous (e˙pexe÷rcetai aÓei« th\n

tw◊n aÓdi÷kwn para¿basin)” (14,31).

Thus, 15,1 introduces again the antithesis impious/enemies-righteous/Israelites that structures chs. 11–12, and before that, chs. 2–5. However, at the same time ch. 15 continues the topic of idolatry, by means of two units that begin in a similar way and recall each other. In fact, we notice the similarity of 15,6, which introduces a new unit on the craftsmen of idols, to 15,14, which starts a unit on the Egyptians:

Lovers of the evil things and worthy of such hopes (kakw◊n e˙rastai« a‡xioi÷ te toiou/twn e˙lpi÷dwn, i.e., of the idols) / are those who make, those who desire and those who worship (them)” (15,6); – “But most foolish of all and more wretched (pa¿nteß de« aÓfrone÷statoi kai« ta¿laneß) than a soul of a child / are the enemies of your people that op- pressed them” (15,14).

Let us notice that, on one hand, this similar way of opening two connected units recalls chs. 13–14, particularly 13,1 and 13,10:

In fact, on the one hand, really foolish (ma¿taioi me«n ga¿r) by nature are all men in whom was the ignorance of God” (13,1); – “on the other hand, miserable (talai÷pwroi de÷) and having their hopes on dead things / are those who call gods the works of the hands of men”


On the other hand, 15,14 introduces the topic of the idolatry of the Egyptians, while in chs. 13–14 the idolaters are men in general, without any other label. 22 The first two units of ch. 15 (vv. 1-5 and 6-13), delimited on the basis of the initial phrases examined above (vv. 6 and 14), mark a transition from the topic of

  • 22 Among other things, these phrases that put in parallel the idolaters (15,6) and the enemies of the people of God (15,14) are of decisive importance in order to comprehend the close connections that link together the topic of the enemies (chs. 11–12 and 15,14–19,21) and the topic of idolatry (chs. 13–14), a point that poses some problems to the exegetes who usually posit two “digressions” in the exposition (cf. infra, § 3).


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idolatry (cf. section C) to that of the reflection on history with the antitheses be- tween the people of God and its enemies that are involved (cf. section B). In this specific case, the antithesis is the following:

The people of Israel recognizes having been freed from idolatry and exalts

its God (15,1-5), while the idolaters are lovers of evil, as is the case with a craftsman who molds an idol for gain, disowning his Creator (15,6-13).

B 1 ) Wis 15,14–19,21: Foolishness of the Egyptians – Plagues and crossing of the Red Sea

The reflection on history starts again, especially on the plagues that God sent against the Egyptians using the same animals that they adored and other elements of creation. The reflection develops by means of a series of seven antitheses be- tween the enemies (the Egyptians) and the people of the sons of God (the Israel- ites; cf. B section). The exact identification of the antitheses can vary for two divergent reasons. On one hand, the antitheses enemies-Israelites are more than seven; 23 on the other hand, the topics evoked by the antitheses are less than seven, because, e.g., the plague of darkness appears in subdivision 4, but is taken up again in subdivision 5, and the topic of the decisive night of Passover and the exodus is common to sub- divisions 6 and 7. 24 However, it seems to me that, according to the compositional dynamics attested, the two topics appear in various contexts and connections. On the basis of the structuring elements – a) enemies, b) people of God, and c) reflections on God’s behavior (cf. B section, chs. 11–12) – the sequence of the seven antitheses that I propose to identify is as follows:



– a) 15,14–16,1: since they worshiped animals, the enemies of your people (the Egyptians) were rightly punished with frogs (second plague; cf. Exod 7,26–8,2), – b) 16,2-4: while with the quails you fed your people (cf. Exod 16,11-

  • 23 E.g., in 16,2-4, a passage that according to the division proposed here below is part of the first literary unit (15,14–16,4), three antitheses are present: aÓnq∆h∞ß kola¿sewß “instead of which punishment” (for the Egyptians) vs. eujergeth/saß to\n lao/n sou “having shown kindness to your people”; e˙kei√noi me/n “those, on one hand” vs. aujtoi« de/ “these, on the other hand”; e˙kei÷noiß me/n “on those, on one hand” vs. tou/toiß de/ “for these, on the other” (vv. 2-4).

  • 24 According to M. Priotto, La prima Pasqua in Sap 18,5-25. Rilettura e attualizzazione, Bolo- gna 1987, the night of Passover is the argument of two “diptychs,” which, in his view, are 18,6-19 and 19,1-21, with 18,5 as an introduction to both (p. 16). See, however, here below.

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


13; Num 11,31-32); the former ones lost their appetite, while the latter ones received an exquisite food;




– b) vv. 5-8: (the Israelites) were bitten by snakes, but for correction,

and you, Savior of all, saved them by means of a salvation pledge (the bronze snake; cf. Num 21,4-9), “and also in this way you convinced our enemies (tou\ß e˙cqrou\ß hJmw◊n)” that it is you that liberate;

– a)

v. 9: in fact, they were not freed from locusts (eighth plague; cf.

Exod 10,1-20) and from flies (fourth plague; cf. Exod 8,16-28), – b) vv. 10-15: while on your sons the poisonous snakes did not pre- vail, in order that they may remember that it was “your Word, O Lord (oJ so/ß ku/rie lo/goß)” that healed them and that you have the power over life and death;




– a) vv. 16-17a: “the impious” (aÓsebei√ß) were struck by rains and hail sent by God (seventh plague; cf. Exod 9,13-35),

– b)

v. 17b: while the universe fights “for the righteous” (dikai÷wn);

– a) vv. 18-19: inside the water, fire was burning “an unrighteous

earth” (aÓdi÷kou ghvß),

– b) b) vv. 20-21: while you fed your people with the food of the angels (the manna; cf. Exod 16; Num 11,6-9); – c) vv. 22-29: in fact, obeying you, his Creator, creation becomes rigid “against the unrighteous ones (kata» tw◊n aÓdi÷kwn)” and softens “in favor of those who trust in you (uJpe«r tw◊n e˙pi« soi« pepoiqo/twn),” so that “your sons (oi˚ ui˚oi÷ sou)” 25 may understand and pray at daybreak;



– a) 17,1-18: in fact, your judgments are great and difficult; because of that, (the Egyptians), believing they were capable of dominating a holy people, found themselves enclosed in their houses for fear (vv. 1-5, ninth plague of darkness; cf. Exod 10,21-23), without being able to make for themselves any light either with fire or with the light of the stars (v. 6), or with impotent magic (vv. 7-8), being attacked by an un- expected and inexplicable terror (vv. 9-18);

  • 25 Significantly, in this unit, as elsewhere, the pair impious-righteous alternates with “your sons,” while “our enemies” appears in the previous unit and the pair “righteous-enemies” in the following unit (18,4-13). This alternation confirms that the transition from the general pair impious-righteous of the first part (chs. 2–5) to the specific pair Israelites-enemies of the second (chs. 11–12, and 15–19) is intentional; it does not mark any diversity and requires to be evaluated correctly (cf. infra, § 3).


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– b) 17,19–18,1a: in fact, the whole world was illuminated and every- one was engaged in his own occupation, except them (the Egyptians), “while for your holy ones (toi√ß de« oJsi÷oiß sou)” a great light was shin- ing, – a) 18,1b-2: and (the Egyptians) proclaimed them blessed, were grateful (to the Israelites) for not doing evil to them and were asking their forgiveness; – b) 18,3: instead, to them (the Israelites) you gave a fire column as guide for their unknown journey (cf. Exod 13,21-22; Num 9,15-23);




– a) vv. 4-5: the jailers of your sons (the Egyptians) were worthy of being imprisoned in darkness, and since they had decided to kill the babies of the holy ones, of which only one (Moses) was exposed and saved (cf. Exod 1,15-22), for their punishment you eliminated a multi- tude of their sons in an impetuous water (the Red Sea); – c) vv. 6-8: that night (of Passover) was announced beforehand to our fathers; as a consequence, “by your people (uJpo\ laouv sou) was ex- pected, / on one hand, salvation of the righteous and, on the other, exter-

mination of the enemies (swthri÷a






– b) v. 9: “in fact, the holy sons of good men (o¢sioi pai√deß aÓgaqw◊n)” offered a sacrifice in secret and established a divine law with songs (the ritual of the paschal lamb; cf. Exod 12), – a) vv. 10-13: while “the outcry of the enemies (e˙cqrw◊n hJ boh/)” was heard lamenting for their sons (plague of the firstborns; cf. Exod 11,4- 7.29-30), and finally they confessed that “the people are sons of God

(qeouv ui˚o\n lao\n ei•nai)”;



– c) vv. 14-16: and in fact, in a deep silence, at midnight, “your om- nipotent Word (oJ pantodu/namo/ß sou lo/goß)” from the sky as an im- placable warrior filled all things with death; – a) vv. 17-19: terrible dreams terrified (the Egyptians) in order that they would not die ignoring the reason of their suffering; – b) vv. 20-25: now, the experience of death also touched the righteous (the Israelites) in the desert (for the rebellion of the Levites against Mo- ses and the Aaron; cf. Num 17,6-15), but it lasted a short time because a blameless man (Aaron) defended them with prayer and expiatory sac- rifice; he stopped the exterminator, recalling the covenants of the fa- thers, thanks to his garment on which the whole world was represented

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


and the name of the fathers, and thanks to your majesty that was on the crown of his head;



– a) vv. 1-4: “instead, for the impious (toi√ß de« aÓsebe÷sin)” (the Egyp- tians) the anger was implacable, because God previewed that, after hav- ing promised to let (the Israelites) leave, they would have pursued them, in order that in this way they may fill up their punishment, – b) v. 5a: “and your people (kai« oJ me«n lao/ß sou)” may experience an extraordinary journey, – a) v. 5b: “instead, they (e˙kei√noi de÷) may find a strange death” (cf. Exod 12,31-33; 14,1-18); – c) vv. 6-21: in fact, all creation was fashioned anew, obedient to your commands: a cloud darkened the army, a dry and verdant earth took the place of water; thus, the Red Sea became a free road, so that “your sons (oi˚ soi« pai√deß)” remained unharmed and crossed the sea protected, watching your wonders, and sang happily, remembering the extraordi- nary events of their exile: the gnats, the frogs and the quails (vv. 6-12); and “on the sinners (toi√ß aJmartwloi√ß)” (the Egyptians) just punish- ments fell because of their hatred for the strangers; they were stricken with blindness (like the inhabitants of Sodom; cf. Gen 19,11) and the elements of the world – animals, fire and water, manna – changed their nature (vv. 13-21).

A 1 ) Wis 19,22: God’s protection of his people – Conclusion of the book

“In fact, in everything, O Lord, you have magnified and glorified your people (to\n lao/n sou), / and have not neglected them, standing by them at every time and place” (19,22).

This solemn proclamation recalls the conclusion of ch. 9 (v. 18) and also the opening of ch. 10 (vv. 1-2). As I have already quoted these passages and indicated the connections between them at the beginning of my reading of Wis 10–19 (cf. § 1.3.2), I wish now to point out their similarity with 19,22, the last verse of Wis. In fact, in spite of differences in vocabulary, one notices an important thematic similarity: salvation, protection of the chosen people (19,22), of men in a general (9,18), and of Adam (10,1-2). Moreover, ch. 10 finished by proclaiming the assistance of Wisdom to the Isra- elites on the occasion of crossing the Red Sea (vv. 18-21), which is the last episode of God’s assistance evoked in ch. 19. Besides, the Red Sea is only mentioned in these two passages.


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Further, 9,18, the verse that concludes the prayer of ‘Solomon,’ marks the tran- sition from Wisdom that is necessary for the king in order to govern (9,4-12) to Wisdom that is necessary for every man to be able to know the thoughts of God (9,13-17). In fact, as 9,18 states, through Wisdom the behavior of man became right; man became able to know what is pleasing to God and thus he was saved. On its part, ch. 10 illustrates the truth of this affirmation along the history of human- ity, from Adam to Noah, to Abraham and to Lot, to Joseph and to the Israelites who were freed from the slavery of Egypt and without any damage crossed the Red Sea, to the opposite of their oppressors. Thus, a transition is delineated, first from king ‘Solomon’ (9,1-12) to man in general (9,18), then from the first man and humanity in general (10,1-4) to the Is- raelites (10,5–19,22). For Wis these transitions are entirely natural. More than that, understanding the connaturality outlined in these passages is fundamental in order to correctly interpret the sacred book in its overall unity, both thematic and com- positional. The basic conception can be outlined as follows. According to Biblical tradi- tion, the dominion of creation is entrusted to the human being, who is created ac- cording to the image of God as a couple man-woman, like the prayer of ‘Solomon’ magnificently proclaims:

1 God of the fathers and Lord of mercy, who made all things by your Word, 2 and through your Wisdom have formed man (a‡nqrwpon), that he should govern (despo/zhØ) the creatures produced by you, 3 rule (die÷phØ) the world in sanctity and justice and execute judgment (kri÷sin kri÷nhØ) in uprightness of soul, 4 give me Wisdom who sits by your throne and reject me not from among your sons (pai÷dwn sou)…” (9,1-4);

11 In fact, she (Wisdom) knows and understands all things, and shall guide me in my actions prudently and guard me with her glory; 12 and shall my works be acceptable, I shall judge (diakrinw◊) your people righteously and I shall be worthy of the throne (qro/nwn) of my father. In fact, which man (a‡nqrwpoß) shall know the counsel of God



?” (9,11-13).

With these words, partly already quoted above (cf. § 1.3.2) for a similar pur- pose, ‘Solomon’ addresses God who has created man in order that he might be the king of creation in a correct way (9,1-4), knowing the thought of the Creator (9,13); from the same God, ‘Solomon’ asks Wisdom for himself, first in order not to be excluded from the number of God’s sons, i.e., in order to be part of the people of

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


Israel (9,4), then in order to be able to govern the Israelites in a correct way (9,11- 12). This means that, on one hand, the royal dignity of the human being as such and the royal dignity of the king are fundamentally of the same nature and both need Wisdom that only God can give; on the other hand, a deep connaturality also exists between man in general as created by God and the Israelite “son of God,” member of the chosen people (cf. 12,7.20; 19,6). From this, a splendid anthropology emerges, the extraordinary dignity of the human being according to God’s plan, of the couple man-woman who knows God through his Wisdom present in creation and in history, and who, being king by nature, is rendered able to govern the creation in holiness and justice. What counts and makes the difference is not the nationality but simply to know the true God and to avoid idolatry, the source of every evil. A similar vision, from the anthropologi- cal point of view so profound and universalistic, is already found in Ben Sira. 26

1.4. The Overall Composition of Wis

From the above analysis, the unit of the entire Wis strongly emerges, both from the point of view of literary composition and of linguistic marks of connection between the parts that compose it, and also from the point of view of the message. In synthesis, we have outlined a composition in two main parts that are two instructions (chs. 1–5 and 6–19), each one consisting of an exhortation addressed to the kings of the earth, functioning as the introduction, and followed by the con- tents of the instruction.

I) Wis 1–5

Wis 1 is the introduction of the first instruction. It is composed of an invitation to the judges/kings of the earth to love justice according to God, because the contrary would be equivalent to seek death, while God has created all for life. From the last verse (1,16), a reflection develops on the pair impious-righteous (chs. 2–5) that constitutes the contents of the first instruction. It discusses the following topics:

– A)

2,1–3,9: life on the earth and life after death, with 1) reasonings of the impious (2,1-20), and 2) their refutation (2,21–


– B)

3,10–4,6: wife and descendants, with alternate discussion of the following topics:

  • 26 This universalistic view is attested particularly in the conclusions of the first and of the second part of the Praise of the Fathers (Sir 45,24 e 50,22-24). See my interpretation in “La Lode dei Padri: Ben Sira tra passato e futuro,” in R. Fabris (ed.), Initium sapientiae. Scritti in onore di Franco Festorazzi nel suo 70° compleanno, Bologna 2000, 199-225, esp. pp. 206-207.220.


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  • a) better than the fate of the impious who have a wife and numerous de-

scendants (3,10-12 // 3,16-19 // 4,3-6)

  • b) is the fate of the barren woman undefiled and of the righteous eunuch

(3,13-15 // 4,1-2);

– B¹)

4,7-14a: long life, with alternate discussion of the topics:

  • a) the righteous who dies prematurely finds rest with the Lord, who thus

preserves him from evil (4,7 // 4,10-14a),

  • b) venerable old age is the virtue, not the years (4,8-9);

– A¹)

4,14b–5,23: God’s judgment, with alternate discussion of:

  • a) fate of the impious (4,14b-20 // 5,2-14 // 5,17-23),

  • b) fate of the righteous (5,1 // 5,15-16).

II) Wis 6–19

Wis 6 is the introduction of the second instruction. It comprises an invitation to the kings and governors of the earth to listen to ‘Solomon,’ who will explain what is the Wisdom that is necessary to know how to govern correctly. In order to support his invitation to listen, ‘Solomon’ presents himself as the model for kings: a man like them, he prayed God and Wisdom was given to him (chs. 7–9). From his prayer to obtain Wisdom (ch. 9), a long reflection on history develops (chs. 10–19) that constitutes the contents of the second instruction. It comprises:

– A)

ch. 10: a reflection on the activity of Wisdom in the history of humanity

– B)

from the beginning to the exodus of the chosen people from Egypt; chs. 11–12, linked to ch. 10: a reflection on the journey of the Israelites in

– C)

the desert under the guidance first of Wisdom, then directly of God, with two antitheses between Israelites and their enemies (Egyptians and Ca- naanites); chs. 13–14, linked to ch. 12: a reflection on the foolishness of idolatry which

– C¹)

deifies the works of God the creator or even the works of the artisan man; 15,1-13: two units of transition from the topic of idolatry (cf. C) to that of

– B¹)

the antitheses between the people of God and the idolaters (cf. B); 15,14–19,21: reflection on the foolishness of the Egyptians, the idolaters

– A¹)

par excellence, on the plagues and the passage of the Red Sea, with seven antitheses Egyptians-Israelites; 19,22: God has always benefited his people.

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


§ 2. Discussion

After having presented my analysis of Wis, I now enter into discussion with differ- ent opinions of scholars concerning this difficult but fascinating book.

2.1. On the Criteria of Analysis: Two Exemplar Cases

Vocabulary, grammatical and syntactic texture, literary genre and meaning are the four criteria that have guided the analysis of § 1. Vocabulary is the first criterion that signals a relationship between different passages in a text, but this relationship needs to be evaluated on the basis of the other criteria, in the order indicated above. If we compare the structure proposed here with that of other scholars, many strong differences emerge. 27 Actually, some scholars divide the book in two parts, others in three, others even in four parts, always with many differences of detail. Great diversity is also attested as far as the literary genre is concerned, i.e., which are the literary genres of Wis and which is the dominant one. It is not my intention to discuss all the opinions, but rather to identify, in comparison with the literary structure proposed above, the crucial passages in the book that constitute the main problems as far as its literary structure and thematic coherence are concerned. A major problem that emerges from the various proposals that I consulted consists in the correct use of the criteria of analysis mentioned above, i.e., vocabulary, gram- matical and syntactic texture, literary genre and meaning. It seems to me that the domi- nant criterion at the basis of several proposals is simply the meaning; however, this is the most general criterion, the one that should be applied as the last one, as a criterion of control and definition of the results obtained by means of the other, prior criteria. Further, in other proposals, the dominant criterion seems to be the vocabulary, i.e., the lexical element of a text which, as mentioned above, is the first criterion but not the decisive one, because it needs to be evaluated with the aid of the other criteria. In fact, as I have already pointed out (cf. § 1.1), the recurrence of the same term or of the same expression in two units of a text can mark the conclusion of an exposition; in this case, the result is the phenomenon of chiasmus, circular struc- ture, or inclusion. The same recurrence, however, can also be a means of taking back again a topic already discussed; in this case, it indicates the beginning of a

27 To my knowledge, J. Vílchez Líndez, Sapienciales. V: Sabiduría, Estella (Navarra) 1990, 22-27, presents the most comprehensive survey on the various proposals concerning the structure of Wis and its unity (pp. 27-34) and also on literary genre (pp. 34-58). See also the exposition of L.L. Grabbe, Wisdom of Solomon, Sheffield 1997, 13-47, and of M. Gilbert, “The Literary Structure of the Book of Wisdom. A Study of Various Views,” in A. Passaro - G. Bellia (eds.), Yearbook 2005:

The Book of Wisdom in Modern Research. Studies on Tradition, Redaction, and Theology, with an Introduction by John J. Collins, Berlin - New York 2005, 19-32.


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new literary unit, with the intention of developing the topic in some way, and the result is the phenomenon of literary resumption. Thus, once a repetition of a term or phrase is identified, one should not hastily take it as an inclusion; it can also be a literary resumption. A significant example is the similar invitation addressed to the kings and gov- ernors of the earth in Wis 1,1 and 6,1. This repetition is considered by most schol- ars as an inclusion; as a result, the first section of the book would extend from ch. 1 to ch. 6, even if the exact closing verse varies from one scholar to the other (6,8, 6,21, or 6,25). Instead, I believe I have demonstrated that the grammatical-syntac- tic dynamics of the text, together with the literary genre of the traditional wisdom instruction, suggest that both 1,1 and 6,1 do not constitute an inclusion but are rather each the beginning of a separate literary section, well defined and structured in itself, even though the two are firmly linked one to the other (cf. § 1.3.1). A similar problem appears in 1,16 and 2,1. For some scholars, the likeness be- tween these two verses means that in 1,16 a new unit of text begins, while it is possible, and I believe also preferable, to decide that the likeness has rather the function of connecting two distinct units, each one with its specific literary struc- ture. In fact, ch. 1 is the introduction to the wisdom instruction and is marked by a series of exhortations and motivations, while the chs. 2–5 present the contents of the instruction, with a series of antitheses impious-righteous (cf. §§ 1.2.1-1.2.3).

2.2. On the Literary Genre

As the dominant literary genre of Wis I have proposed the sapiential instruction of the old sages of Israel (cf. §§ 1.1; 1.2.3) and on this basis I have interpreted the entire book. I must confess that until now I did not find any scholar sharing this proposal. 28 The genre of the sapiential instruction comprises in certain cases a sub-genre, called self-presentation of the instructor, who can be the teacher of wisdom or the personified Wisdom herself (cf. §§ 1.1; 1.3). Examples of self-presentation are, for the wisdom teacher, Prov 4,1-9 and Sir 24,28-32, 34,9-12 and 51,13-22; for the personified Wisdom, Prov 8. 29

  • 28 Among the four authors of the first decade of the XX cent. that according to Vílchez Líndez, Sapienciales, V, 24, fn. 1, proposed a division similar to mine (chs. 1–5 and 6–19), I have been able to check F. Focke, Die Entstehung der Weisheit Salomos. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des jüdischen Hellenismus, Göttingen 1913, 21-86. Focke, however, proposes that division for reasons very dif- ferent from mine, i.e., because of presumed differences between the first and second part concerning various arguments discussed, like wisdom, God merciful, eschatology, syntax, etc.

  • 29 On various models of personification in Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern literatures, consult M.V. Fox, Proverbs 1–9. A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, New York 2000, 331-341. Also see my book Siracide o Ecclesiastico, 69-79. A comparison with Biblical parallels of self-presentation suggests that it is not correct the opinion of J.M. Reese, Hellenistic Influence on the Book of Wisdom and Its Consequences, Roma 1970, 105, according to whom the series of auto-

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


In the OT wisdom literature, the purpose of the self-presentation is to stimulate the addressee to accept the invitation to listen to the instruction, be it of the teacher of wisdom or of Wisdom in person. The case of Wis is fundamentally the same, even though it is the instructor who, while presenting himself, also presents Lady Wisdom and weaves her praises in order to persuade the addressees to accept the instruction concerning her and to follow the instructor’s example. Indeed, Wisdom, though presented as very active in human history, never intervenes in the first person. Further, the genre of the instruction in Wis comprises, in the second part of the book, long sections that I have attributed to a genre called reflection on history, while other scholars prefer to call it “Jewish-Hellenistic midrash”. 30 In my opinion, one should remember that this genre is already attested in the OT, in a large section of Ben Sira called “the praise of the Fathers” (Sir 44,1–50,24). 31 In spite of its title, that section is a reflection on history for a didactic purpose rather than a praise. As it is known, in Ben Sira, for the first time in the OT, the reflection on creation combines with the re- flection on history, while for the older sages creation is the only subject of research and source of wisdom, and sacred history is not considered at all. In my opinion, what we find in Wis is a reflection on Biblical history for a di- dactic purpose, exactly as in Ben Sira. As such, it is also similar to the later midrash, but one should notice that in Wis, the reflection is made in the context of prayer and praise to God, in continuity with the prayer of ch. 9 (cf. supra, § 1.3.2). A further characteristic of the genre of the instruction in Wis is that the instruc- tor wears the garment of king Solomon and addresses his invitations to the judges, kings and governors of all the earth. Now, in ancient Israel the religious directives to the kings mainly came from the prophets; however, once prophecy came to an end, the sages took up also the task of the prophets. This is seen in Ben Sira, who, in an age in which the High Priest was also the political leader of the nation, reaf- firms the covenant with the king besides that with the High Priest, and thus ex- plicitly stands for the distinction of powers. In fact, he addresses to both powers the following invitation: 32

biographic details given in chs. 7–8 “introduces elements found neither in the biblical Wisdom hymns nor in the hellenistic Isis aretalogies.”

  • 30 Cf. Reese, Hellenistic Influence, 92-98; Vílchez Líndez, Sapienciales, V, 42-48.

  • 31 Later examples are 1Mac 2,49-68; 3,1-9; 14,4-15; and in the NT, Heb 11. See my essays, Siracide o Ecclesiastico, 63-68, and “La Lode dei Padri: Ben Sira tra passato e futuro.”

  • 32 See my interpretation in “La Lode dei Padri: Ben Sira tra passato e futuro,” 205-207. I think, therefore, that it is necessary at least to downgrade the affirmation of Reese, Hellenistic Influence, according to whom in 1,1 and 6,1.21 “the Sage adopts a Hellenistic literary convention in preference to the Semitic style of speaking to a ‘son’” (p. 111). I would say that no such contrast exists, because in Wis a transition is outlined from an instruction addressed to a young person in view of a public career, according to the old Biblical model, to an instruction addressed to the kings. It remains true, though, that Hellenistic treaties on kingship influenced Wis (cf. ibid., 72-74; and also P. Bizzeti, Il libro della Sapienza. Struttura e genere letterario, Brescia 1984, 41-42). See infra, § 3.


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25 Therefore bless the Lord, the Good One, who has crowned you with glory,

  • 26 in order that he may give you the wisdom of heart, so that your goodness may never cease, [nor] your [stren]gth, through perennial generations” (Sir 45,25-26; cf. 50,22-24).

Instead, traditional sages in Israel never addressed the kings but, as we see in Proverbs, wore the garment of the father and addressed the young person calling him “son,” “my son,” or in a more general way, “sons”. 33 The best model for the instructor of Wis, who addresses the kings of the earth introducing himself as ‘Solomon,’ is that of David ‘his father’ (cf. § 1.2.1), who, aware of being an (adoptive) son of God, addresses his colleagues the kings and exhorts them to govern in a correct way in the light of God: 34

7 I will speak about the decree of the Lord. He said to me: «You are my son; today I have begotten you…»

  • 10 And therefore, o kings, be wise; accept correction, o judges of the earth! Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling…” (Ps 2,7.10-11).

Unfortunately, scholars of Wis usually do not take into account at all the wisdom tradition of the OT. 35 In my opinion, this is a serious neglect because one runs the risk of ignoring Biblical, and Ancient Near Eastern, tradition 36 and excessively

  • 33 Cf. my book La casa della sapienza, 7-15. Very influential on my research on wisdom was G. von Rad, Wisdom in Israel, Nashville 1972; cf. my paper, “La teologia sapienziale nel quadro dell’Antico Testamento. A proposito di alcuni studi recenti,” LA 34 (1984) 7-24.

  • 34 The fact that the exhorter of Wis presents himself as Solomon, the ideal king of Israel and the patron of Biblical wisdom, and is not at all afraid of addressing his exhortations to the kings of the earth, even in a period in which Israel did not have a reign any more and was living in diaspora, reveals in him a highly strong conscience of the excellence of his own religion, able to carry every good to all the world. It also suggests that the historical situation that is reflected in Wis is not one of persecution, as I have tried to show in Il libro della Sapienza, 14-17.205. See also infra, § 3.

  • 35 Indeed, Gilbert, “Sagesse de Salomon,” 93-100, 104-107, presents an overview on both Biblical tradition and Hellenistic culture in Wis. From this, however, does not emerge any specific importance of the traditional Biblical wisdom.

  • 36 See, e.g., my paper, “Proverbi 22,17-23,11 tra Egitto, Mesopotamia e Canaan,” in S. Graziani (ed.), Studi sul Vicino Oriente Antico dedicati alla memoria di Luigi Cagni, Napoli 2000, 1859- 1891. Until today, A. Leproux, Un discours de Sagesse. Étude exégétique de Sg 7-8, Roma 2007, 104-106, supports the opinion of scholars who assume marked differences between the figure of Wisdom in Wis and in the OT sapiential literature, while emphasizing dependences from Hellenis- tic culture (cf. fn. 37 below). Instead, I maintain a marvelous continuity in the Biblical wisdom tradition until the NT; see my paper, “The Trajectory of Wisdom from the Old Testament to its

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


relying on Hellenistic culture. 37 It should be clear that I am not proposing at all to disregard the strong opening of Wis towards the Hellenistic world, literature and culture. I rather intend to emphasize that for the author of Wis this opening goes hand in hand with a deep link to Jewish Biblical tradition and a high awareness of its excellence over any other culture. Now, on the basis of Hellenistic literature, scholars propose either the “epidictic (i.e., demonstrative) discourse,” or the logos protreptikos (“exhortatory discourse”), 38 as the dominant literary genre of Wis. Clearly, in the light of the genre proposed above, for me the second proposal is preferable (cf. infra, § 2.3.2). As I have tried to show above, the “exhortatory discourse,” or the wisdom in- struction in my terminology, is the dominant literary genre of both the main parts of Wis, and this genre is able to include sub-genres functional to its basic didactic purpose. We have already mentioned the self-presentation of the instructor, a sub- genre that in Wis also includes the presentation of Wisdom, and also the sub-genre of the reflection on history. We need to add a third sub-genre, also found in older wisdom tradition, i.e., the antithesis between impious and righteous, in the first part of Wis, or between enemies and the people of God, in the second part. As I have already pointed out, the antithesis is a favorite didactic tool used by ancient sages in order to stimulate the young people to make firm, positive choices of life (cf. § 1.2.3). A significant example is Prov 10, in which everyone of the 32 verses presents an antithesis wise-foolish or righteous-impious, or in reverse order. Examples of the antithesis enemies-people of God are not found in Proverbs for the reason already mentioned, that the older wisdom does not deal with history.

Fulfillment,” in L. Goh - Th. Chan (eds.), Studium Biblicum OFM Hong Kong 50th Anniversary, The Open Lectures, 5th-7th Nov. 1995, Hong Kong 1996, 63-79; my book, Il libro della Sapienza, 195-201; and fn. 66 below.

  • 37 One of the scholars who, to my knowledge, more illustrated the connections of Wis with the Hellenistic culture, i.e., Reese, Hellenistic Influence, shows from time to time an insufficient ac- quaintance with Biblical tradition. E.g., he affirms that the purpose of the praise of Wisdom beside God is to oppose Hellenism, particularly the cult of Isis. He also maintains that the personification of Wisdom in Wis is based on Hellenistic hymns of praise to Isis, not on wisdom literature of the OT (pp. 35-42). He further quotes with approval the opinion of R.H. Pfeiffer, according to whom in Wis “a deliberate effort was made to give the book the structural unity characteristic of Greek writ- ings but entirely foreign to Hebrew wisdom books” (pp. 98-99), an opinion that completely ignores the high literary level of the wisdom writings of the OT. See also M.-F. Baslez, “The Author of Wisdom and the Cultured Environment of Alexandria,” in Passaro - Bellia (eds.), Yearbook 2005, 33-52; and fn. 29 above.

  • 38 Although he leaves open the definition of the literary genre of chs. 11–19, U. Schwenk- Bressler, Sapientia Salomonis als ein Beispiel frühjüdischer Textauslegung. Die Auslegung des Buches Genesis, Exodus 1-15 und Teilen der Wüstentradition in Sap 10-19, Frankfurt am Main etc. 1993, 52-55, underlines the protreptic character of those chapters rather than referring to the model of “synkrisis” or of “midrash.” A survey of the different opinions on the literary genre of Wis is found in Reese, Hellenistic Influence, ch. III; Vílchez Líndez, Sapienciales, V, 34-52; and Grabbe, Wisdom of Solomon, 25-28.


Alviero Niccacci

Instead of antithesis, or opposition, many scholars prefer to speak of “diptych,” 39 or synkrisis, i.e. “comparison,” at least for chs. 10–19. 40 I will return to this argu- ment in the following discussion on literary structure.

2.3. On Literary Structure

As indicated above (§ 2.1), the scholarly proposals on the structure of Wis vary from three to four main parts, and also more. Apart from Focke (cf. fn. 28), a structure in two parts is proposed by Wright (as 1,1–11,1 and 11,2–19,22) and by Scarpat (as 1,1–6,23 and chs. 7–19). 41 However, Wright, and Scarpat as well, do not recognize the genre instruction, and therefore do not start a new section with c. 6. Moreover, at the beginning of ch. 11 Wright establishes a break between vv. 1 and 2, due to the fact that from v. 2 onward the text seems to forget Wisdom that is the main topic of what comes before. In my opinion, this break is not justified, although it is accepted by other scholars as well. 42 In fact, as I have pointed out more than once, Wisdom is one of the attributes or manifestations of God, beside justice and spirit, that alternate and exchange with God himself (cf. § 1.2.1); there- fore, nothing changes if one reads that God acts by means of his Wisdom or di- rectly (cf. § 1.3.2). Between the proposals of a structure in three parts, those of Grimm (chs. 1–5; 6–9; 10–19) and of Larcher (chs. 1–5; 6,1–11,1; 11,2–19,22) are perhaps most similar to the one advanced here. 43 Their division in three main parts has the ad- vantage of not considering ch. 6 as a literary inclusion with chs. 1–5, what unfor- tunately seems to have become a rather common opinion (cf. infra, § 2.3.2). 44

  • 39 Of “diptyques” especially speaks Gilbert in his analysis of the literary structure of Wis in “Sagesse de Salomon,” 65-77. Further, at the beginning of his discussion of the literary genre, he makes affirmations that, in light of what I am saying, do not seem correct; e.g., “Pris dans son en- semble, Sg ne trouve aucun livre biblique dont le genre littéraire serait comparable au sien; on peut même avancer qu’aucune de ses parties essentielles ne trouve de parallèle dans la Bible; celle-ci ne connaît guère de construction en diptyque…; elle ne connaît pas d’éloge de la Sagesse selon sa nature, son origine et ses œuvres…” (cols. 77-78).

    • 40 See the exposition of Vílchez Líndez, Sapienciales, V, 48-52.

  • 41 Cf. Reider, The Book of Wisdom, 2; Wright, The Structure of the Book of Wisdom, 168-169; G. Scarpat, Libro della Sapienza. Testo, traduzione, introduzione e commento, I, Brescia 1989, 13.

  • 42 Cf. fn. 20. See further J. Fichtner, Weisheit Salomos, Tübingen 1938, 7; H. Hübner, Die Weisheit Salomons: Liber Sapientiae Salomonis, Göttingen 1999, 23.

  • 43 Cf. C.L.W. Grimm, Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch zu den Apokryphen des Alten Testamentes, Sechste Lieferung, Das Buch der Weisheit, Leipzig 1860, 4-5; Larcher, Le livre de la Sagesse, I, 120-123. Grimm expressly states that the admonition of ch. 6 marks the beginning of the second part of the book, contrary to the opinion of previous interpreters (p. 4, fn. 2).

    • 44 Already Fichtner, Weisheit Salomos, 7, did not accept this opinion.

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


2.3.1. In Chs. 1–5

I am not aware of any modern scholar who thinks, as proposed here, that chs. 1–5 constitute the first part of Wis and are coherent from the point of view of literary genre (wisdom in- struction) and also of the thematic coherence (four main topics discussed; cf. § 1.2). 45 The prevailing analysis is in line with the proposal of Gilbert, who discovers the following “structure concentrique”: A) 1,1-12; B) 1,13–2,24; C) chs. 3–4; B’) 5,1-23; A’) 6,1-21. 46 However, it seems to me that this division is based rather on vocabulary than on the grammatical and syntactic dynamics of the text. 47 In fact, on one hand, 1,13 conveys the motivation of the third exhortation of ch. 1 (v. 12; cf. supra, § 1.2.1), and therefore is not separable from what comes before; on the other hand, the composition of chs. 2–5 is determined by the antitheses impious- righteous and the four arguments treated (cf. supra, § 1.2.2). Thus, it seems clear that the two units, i.e., chs. 1 and 2–5, are closely related one to the other on the basis of the genre of wisdom instruction, being the introduction and the contents of the instruction, respectively (cf. supra, § 1.2.3). Also worthy of attention is the fact that, as indicated above (§ 1.2.2), the four main topics dealt with in chs. 2–5 on the basis of the antitheses impious-righteous are as follows: A) life on earth and life after death; B) wife and descendants; B 1 ) long life; A 1 ) God’s final judgment. Clearly, the values of human life on earth are evaluated in the light of the final judgment of God and of eternal life, but the basic perspective remains human life on earth. Therefore, I would not call this section simply “eschatological,” as done by many scholars. 48 Moreover one needs to refrain from asserting that the eschatology of Wis con- stitutes a total innovation in comparisons with the OT. 49

  • 45 In Medieval times, a division in two parts on the basis of the two exhortations on justice (chs. 1–5) and on wisdom, respectively, was proposed by St. Bonaventure in his Commentarius in librum Sapientiae. See on this M. Kolarcik, The Ambiguity of Death in the Book of Wisdom 1-6. A Study of Literary Structure and Interpretation, Roma 1991, 3. It is true, as Kolarcik asserts (ibid.), that this division is made “according to Theme,” i.e., is based on the arguments treated. However, I would say that S. Bonaventure also takes into account the genre of the ex- hortation, something that unfortunately modern scholars neglect, although for Kolarcik they divide the book “according to its Literary Structure” (pp. 11-28). On his part, Kolarcik presents a good historical overview on the literary structure of Wis, particularly interesting that on the older phase, which is less known (pp. 2-11).

  • 46 Gilbert, “Sagesse de Salomon,” 68-69. The analysis of Bizzeti, Il libro della Sapienza, 51-67, is similar, although for him the last unit A' comprises the whole ch. 6. Also similar is the analysis of Kolarcik, The Ambiguity of Death, ch. 2, with only small differences in the subdivision of chs. 1–2.

    • 47 See Gilbert’s detailed lexical analysis in “Sagesse de Salomon,” 65-68.

  • 48 E.g., Reese, Hellenistic, 109-114, calls the sections 1,1–6,11 + 6,17-20 “the book of eschatology” on the basis of the arguments treated. However, in the course of his exposition he affirms that “the ordinary title «book of eschatology» does not correspond to the real literary genre” (p. 113). On his part, Grabbe, Wisdom of Solomon, 18, calls “Book of Eschatology” the chs. 1–5; and McGlynn, Divine Judgement, 54, calls “The Apocalyptic Drama” the section 1,1-6,21. Also see J.J. Collins, “The Reinterpretation of Apocalyptic Traditions in the Wisdom of Solomon,” in Passaro - Bellia (eds.), Yearbook 2005, 143-157.

    • 49 E.g., Gilbert, “Sagesse de Salomon,” 94, is convinced that “par son enseignement sur


Alviero Niccacci

2.3.2. In Chs. 6–19

As indicated above (§ 2.3), the prevailing opinion connects ch. 6 to ch. 5. I believe, however, I have shown that, on one hand, the end of ch. 5 mentions “the throne of the powerful” (v. 23b), which marks a transition to ch. 6, but also recalls the beginning of ch. 1 (v. 1); on the other hand, the literary genre suggests that ch. 6, together with chs. 7–9, constitute the introduction of the second instruction of Wis, while the re- maining chapters convey the contents of the same instruction (cf. supra, § 1.3). According to the literary structure usually adopted by scholars, chs. 6–19 com- prise three sections, as I will discuss here below.

In Chs. 6–9

Besides the undue linkage of chs. 5 and 6 indicated above, the break normally proposed for ch. 6 – in vv. 8, or 21, or 25, according to cases – is not acceptable from the point of view of the grammatical-syntactic dynamics, because it would interrupt the sequence exhortation-motivation that governs all the chapter accord- ing to the genre of the wisdom instruction. 50 In the (supposed) unit 6,22–8,21, Gilbert discovers, after 6,22-25 that is thought to be the introduction, the following concentric structure: A) 7,1-6; B) 7,7-12; C) 7,13-22a; D) 7,22b–8,1; C’) 8,2-9; B’) 8,10-16; A’) 8,17-21. 51 Actually, the differences from the division proposed by me are not many, except for the fact that Gilbert separates 8,9 from 8,10-16, asserting that inside vv. 2-9 “l’inclusion est nette.” Instead, I believe that what we find here is not at all an inclu- sion, but a literary resumption (cf. supra, § 2.1). In fact, after having asserted the excellence of Wisdom (8,2-8), ‘Solomon’ continues: “therefore, I decided to take her for life together (pro\ß sumbi÷wsin)” (8,9); he further enumerates the benefits

l’eschatologie, l’auteur se détache sur un fond où Job et Qohélet situaient leurs interrogations radi- cales; c’est toute la doctrine classique de la rétribution terrestre que l’auteur de Sg dépasse en af- firmant l’immortalité et la rétribution dans l’au-delà.” On his part, Hübner, Die Weisheit Salomons, 20-21, again proposes a doctrine, rather common in German scholarship in the past decades, on the principle of the so-called “Tun-Ergehen-Zusammenhang,” or automatic retribution on earth, both in good and in evil, without any perspective beyond death. Still, on the problem of how the beyond is conceived in the OT, taking into due consideration the conceptions of the Ancient Near East, one can refer to my articles, “Sulla vita futura nei Proverbi,” ED 34 (1981) 381-391; “La foi eschatologique d’Israël à la lumière de quelques conceptions égyptiennes,” LA 33 (1983) 7-14; “La teologia sapien- ziale nel quadro dell’Antico Testamento. A proposito di alcuni studi recenti,” ibid. 34 (1984) 7-24; “Qohelet o la gioia come fatica e dono di Dio a chi lo teme,” ibid. 52 (2002) 29-102, § 1.4.

  • 50 Different proposals to divide chs. 6–19 in three sections are listed by Vílchez Líndez, Sapi- enciales, V, 25-26.

  • 51 Gilbert, “Sagesse de Salomon,” 69-70; Idem, “The Literary Structure of the Book of Wisdom,” 22-26. Similarly, Bizzeti, Il libro della Sapienza, 67-72, and also Leproux, Un discours de Sagesse, who, however, slightly revises Gilbert’s proposal as far as chs. 7–8 are concerned (pp. 67-72).

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


that he will receive from her, among which that “the life together with her (hJ sumbi÷wsiß aujthvß) does not have any bitterness, / but happiness and joy” (8,16). Since clearly in 8,17 a new unit starts (with “having considered these things in myself… / I was going around seeking how I might take her to myself,” vv. 17.18), we can assert that here indeed we have an inclusion between vv. 9 and 16 on the basis of the lexeme sumbi÷wsiß. 52

In Chs. 10–19

A rather common literary structure of Wis today is in three sections, and the more authoritative supporter is perhaps Gilbert. Concerning the literary genre, he adopts the opinion of P. Beauchamp, for whom the entire book belongs to the epidictic genre, or “éloge,” and accordingly it is structured as follows: “exorde,” 1,1–6,21; “éloge,” 6,22–9,18; “syncrisis,” or comparison between two opposite realities in order to shape a “diptych,” 53 10,1–19,9; and “épilogue et conclusion,” 19,10-22. 54 Since I have already discussed the first and the second section, I will consider now the third, the most large and complex one. According to Gilbert, ch. 10 is a “nomenclature” with eight successive stages concerning various characters of his- tory. For my part, I saw in it a sub-genre of the wisdom instruction called “reflection on the history,” an important genre also in the rest of the book. 55

  • 52 In the light of what I am saying, it is advisable to check the several affirmations of “plans con- centriques” found, e.g., in the sections 1,1–6,21 and 6,22–8,21 (cf. Gilbert, “Sagesse de Salomon,” 71). A further example is found soon after (ibid.), where the author discovers in ch. 9 a “plan… également concentrique (ix, 1-6, l’homme; ix, 7-12, Salomon; ix, 13-18, l’homme).” Already in v. 4, however, the speaker is ‘Solomon,’ not the man in general; he addresses to God a first request for Wisdom (vv. 4-6 + 7-9), after which a second one exactly parallel follows (vv. 10-11 + 12), while the man in gen- eral appears again in vv. 13-18. Therefore, the division proposed above seems preferable to me (§ 1.3.1). It will be also advisable to control and to evaluate accurately, on the basis of the dynamics of communication, the long series of repetitions of terms or phrases, called “flashbacks,” identified by Reese, Hellenistic Influence, 123-140. More so because, according to Reese, the author of Wis “shows a lack of discipline” in arranging together the several units of the text (p. 123).

  • 53 “Diptych” is a literary sub-genre important both in the first and in the second part of the book (cf. supra, fn. 39). On his part, Schwenk-Bressler, Sapientia Salomonis, 50-52, is critical of those who call this genre “synkrisis” because what we find in Wis are “Gegenüberstellungen,” rather that “Vergleiche.”

  • 54 Cf. Gilbert, “Sagesse de Salomon,” 84-85. Vílchez Líndez, Sapienciales, V, 26-27, adopts a similar division, although he admits different literary genres for the three parts, i.e., 1,1–6,21, “Vida humana y juicio escatológico”; 6,22–9,18, “Encomio de la Sabiduría”; 10,1–19,21 “La justicia de Dios se revela en la historia.” Similar is also the division adopted by A. Sisti, Il libro della Sapienza. Introduzione, versione, commento, Assisi 1992, 4-10, who however takes 19,1-22 as a unit.

  • 55 Others prefer to call this a “Jewish-Hellenistic Midrash.” As I have indicated above (cf. § 2.2) and is also recognized by Gilbert, “Sagesse de Salomon,” 72, and by Bizzeti, Il libro della Sapienza, 75, who follows Gilbert, this genre finds antecedents in the OT, starting from Ben Sira, in a time when for the first time Biblical wisdom also considered sacred history, while before it was only based on the doctrine of creation. As for the composition of Wis 10, I have preferred to give prominence to the six pronouns au¢th “she,” referring to Wisdom, rather than to identify eight scenes or antitheses concerning different charac- ters of sacred history. In this case, the difference may be marginal; however, it attests a different way of


Alviero Niccacci

Due to differences among scholars, in chs. 11–19 seven or five diptychs are identified that compare seven or five plagues for the Egyptians with as many ben- efits for the Israelites, and two “digressions” in between. I deal here with the proposal of Gilbert, who subdivides the text in seven dip- tychs (1 o -7 o ) and two “digressions” (*): 56 11,1-5, a topic transition from Wisdom (ch. 10) to the Israelites after the crossing of the sea; (1 o ) 11,6-14, water of the river vs. water from the rock; (*) 11,15–12,27, God punishes with moderation; (*) chs. 13–15, idolatrous cults; 57 (2 o ) 16,1-4, frogs vs. quails; (3 o ) 16,5-14, locusts and flies vs. bronze snake; (4 o ) 16,15-29, storm and hail vs. manna; (5 o ) 17,1–18,4, darkness vs. light; (6 o ) 18,5-25, death of firstborns vs. Israel saved; (7 o ) 19,1-9, drowning in the Red Sea vs. crossing it on dry ground, with an “anamnèse hym- nique” (19,9, echoing 10,20); 19,10-22, conclusion. For my part, I am surprised at the two so-called “digressions” that would be interposed between the first and the six successive plagues. 58 Here too, the main problem concerns the criteria of analysis, i.e., whether the priority is accorded to vocabulary and the topics discussed, or rather these criteria are evaluated in the light of the grammatical-syntactic dynamics of the text (cf. supra, § 2,2). Clearly, the differences between the proposal of Gilbert and mine are many and would require an accurate discussion. Permit me, however, to concentrate on some elements that are able to delineate a compact, coherent section from the point of view of literary composition and topics discussed.

proceeding, i.e., giving prominence to the criterion of vocabulary and/or the topics dealt with, or instead to the grammatical and syntactic criteria that guide the communication (cf. supra, § 2,1).

  • 56 I refer here to two writings of Gilbert – “Sagesse de Salomon,” 72-77, and La Sapienza di Salomone, 1, Roma 1995, 191 – that I have combined. The problem is that in the first one Gilbert wants to give in parallel the division that admits seven plagues and the one that admits five, with the result of complicating a bit the exposition. Instead of “digression,” other scholars speak of “excur- sus.” E.g., Schwenk-Bressler, Sapientia Salomonis, 159, calls 11,16–12,27 “der erste «Exkurs».”

  • 57 M. Gilbert, La critique des dieux dans le Livre de la Sagesse (Sg 13-15), Rome 1973, studied carefully this section. He rightly signals lexical and structural similarities between 13,1 (ma¿taioi me÷n), 13,10 (talai÷pwroi de÷) and 15,14 (pa¿nteß de« aÓfrone÷statoi). I would signal, on the one hand, that 13,1.10 are also linked to 14,8, which enunciates a similar negative judgment against any idol and its maker (e˙pikata¿raton aujto/); on the other hand, that 15,14 is in relationship with the preceding 15,6 (kakw◊n e˙rastai÷). Besides, in 15,1 a new element appears as, with a direct appeal to God, his grace and faithfulness towards his people are proclaimed. In my opinion, these elements suggest a division of the units different from the one proposed by Gilbert (13,1-9; 13,10–15,13; 15,14-19; ibid., 253). See my proposal in § 1.3.2, above.

  • 58 For Grabbe, Wisdom of Solomon, 22-23, who on the basis of recent important studies identifies five diptychs, the first diptych, called “Plague of small animals,” begins in 11,15-16 but is interrupted by two digressions in 11,17–12,22 and 13,1–15,17, and is resumed in 16,1-14. Among other things, however, 16,1-

  • 14 may not refer to the same plague as 11,15-16. It is true that in both units a rare term appears, i.e., knw¿dala

“vermin, wild animals” (11,15 and 16,1); nevertheless, the exact pair found in 11,15, e˚rpeta» kai« knw¿dala “snakes and worms,” is found again in 17,9 as a reason of fright for the Egyptians in connection with the ninth plague. Moreover, 16,1 is linked to the previous chapter, because it asserts that the Egyptians were punished justly di∆oJmoi÷wn “with similar” animals, i.e., those mentioned in 15,19.

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


First, grammatical-syntactic dynamics clearly show that the chs. 10–19 are a well defined literary unit, strongly connected to the previous chs. 6–9. At risk of repeating in part the analysis above (§ 1.3.2), I would summarize it as follows:

– After the conclusion of the chs. 6–9, “and thus the paths of those upon the earth were made straight, / men were taught the things pleasing to you (Lord), / and through Wisdom they were saved (kai« thvØ sofi÷aˆ e˙sw¿qhsan)” (9,18), it follows:

– A)

ch. 10, six times “she” (au¢th) delineate, with a sequence of antitheses

– B)

righteous-impious, a list of beneficial works of Wisdom from the beginning of humanity until the crossing of the Red Sea by of the people of God; chs. 11–12, unified by three elements: journey through the desert, with

– C)

antitheses of a) righteous people and b) impious people, first the Egyptians (11,1-8), then the Canaanites (12,3-7); and linked to this, c) a series of re- flections on God’s behavior towards them, in two parallel units (11,9–12,2 // 12,8-27), based on two series of antitheses that, with reference to the enemies, speak first generically of “sinning / wickedness (aJmarta¿nousin / thvß kaki÷aß)” (12,2), but at the end they explain that idolatry is meant (“taking as gods even the beasts that are despised among the abominable ones… / the creatures that they believed gods,” 12,24.27); chs. 13–14, developing the topic of idolatry in two movements that de-

– C¹)

limit the literary units involved: a) foolish those who consider gods the works of the creation and did not recognize the Craftsman; b) indeed miserable those who consider gods the works of their own hands; 15,1-13, going back from the topic of idolatry to that of the antitheses (cf. B//B 1 ), in two movements (similar to those of C) that delimit the literary unit: a) lovers of evil those who make idols, desire and worship them, b) but most foolish and wretched the enemies who oppressed your people;

– B¹) 15,14–19,21, in connection with the end of C 1 , a reflection on history is resumed that evokes the plagues for the Egyptians and the benefits for the Israelites, both in Egypt and during the journey through the desert, with seven antitheses that delimit as many literary units: 1) frogs vs. quails; 2) snakes and locusts vs. bronze snake; 3) rains and hail vs. manna; 4) dark- ness vs. fire column; 5) drowning in the sea and massacre of the firstborns vs. the paschal night; 6) death and terror vs. exterminator stopped; 7) vari- ous punishments (gnats, frogs, quails) vs. creation remodeled in favor;

– A¹)

19,22, a solemn conclusion: “In fact, in everything, O Lord, you have magni- fied and glorified your people, / and have not neglected them, standing by them at every time and place,” a conclusion that recalls the salvation of hu- manity through Wisdom and the series of her beneficial works (cf. A). 59

  • 59 As I will show later (§ 3), the transition from humanity in general to the people of God, which


Alviero Niccacci

In light of a composition so well defined from the literary point of view, I would object that the usually accepted structure of chs. 11–19 (cf. supra) takes for grant- ed a fragmentation that seems hardly acceptable. Several questions come to my mind. Is there sufficient basis for admitting two “digressions” interposed between seven diptychs? Is this not an evaluation based on the two arguments treated – the plagues, on one hand, and God’s behavior and idolatry, on the other – while ignoring the way how the two arguments are linked and alternate, and how the exposition passes from one to the other? Moreover, after having postu- lated two “digressions,” is there any sense in asserting the unity of the text? 60 Indeed, it seems that scholars define Wis 11,15–12,27 and chs. 13–15 as “digres- sions” simply because they are unable to see a clear correlation between the sequence of comparisons between enemies and the people of God, on one hand, and the reflection on God’s behavior towards the two entities and on idolatry, on the other. However, dur- ing the analysis above many elements have emerged that are fully able to establish a close link between, e.g., sin or wickedness in general (12,2) and idolatry (12,24.27; cf. § 2.3.2, ‘In Chs. 10–19’), on one hand, and between idolaters (15,6) and the enemies of God’s people (15,14; cf. § 1.3.2, ‘Wis 15,1-13…’ and fn. 22), on the other. On the basis of these thematic correlations and of the strong literary coherence of the text, I think that speaking of “digressions” is totally out of place. They are not “digressions” at all; on the contrary, they are an integral part of a coherent argu- ment intended to reveal that idolatry is the ultimate reason for enmity towards God’s people and God’s plan on history. In light of the analysis above, I do not think it justified to affirm that the domi- nant literary genre of Wis is the encomium, with its three parts (cf. supra, § 2.3.2, ‘In Chs. 10–19’), exordium (1,1–6,21), encomium proper (6,22–9,18), series of diptychs (10,1–19,9), and epilogue (19,10-22). First of all, these divisions do not seem justified from the literary point of view. Without repeating the criticism already expressed concerning the first section, with regard to the epilogue I would object: how is it possible to separate 19,10-21 from what precedes, as the reflection continues and is connected with ga¿r? Indeed, the synthesis comes after, in v. 22, not before. 61 Moreover, the genre encomium does not seem justified from any point of view. The three supposed main subdivisions (1,1–6,21; 6,22–9,18; 10,1–19,9), besides not being correctly delimited, hardly correspond to the functions attributed to them, i.e., exordium, encomium and diptychs, respectively. In fact, after the exhortation to the

is already outlined in ch. 10, is totally natural for Wis on the basis of faith in the true God.

  • 60 See Gilbert’s conclusion in “Sagesse de Salomon,” 77. On his part, Schwenk-Bressler, Sapientia Salomonis, 34-35, calls “Schaltverse” the passages of Wis that establish transition and link among units of the text that treat different topics. At the end of his research, he positively affirms that the “Schaltverse” establish a coherence not only literary but also thematic (pp. 340-341).

    • 61 Contrast the opinion of Gilbert, “Sagesse de Salomon,” 77.

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


kings in ch. 1, chs. 2–5 already contain a series of diptychs; besides, in chs. 6–9 it is ‘Solomon’ that again exhorts the kings, introduces himself as a model for them, prais- es Wisdom, prays in order to have her, and then in chs. 10–19, with a second series of diptychs and in continuity of prayer, reflects on the behavior of Wisdom and/or of God in human history. I doubt that the Hellenistic genre of the encomium can be recognized in this sequence. Instead, the Biblical genre of wisdom instruction, in its full develop- ment from Proverbs to Ben Sira, seems to me perfectly adequate.

§ 3. Thematic Coherence and Overall Meaning of Wis

Another important problem arises concerning the coherence of chs. 1–5: how is it that the introduction of the first instruction of Wis (ch. 1) addresses the kings, while the contents linked to it (chs. 2–5) discuss four topics that concern the human being in general – life on the earth and life after death, wife and descendants, long life, God’s final judgment (cf. supra, § 1.2.3) – instead of topics specific to the addressees? Further, with reference to the second part of Wis (chs. 6–19): how is it that the antitheses of chs. 2–5 concern impious and righteous men in general, while the antitheses of chs. 11–12 and 15–19 concern the enemies (Egyptians and Canaanites) and the chosen people? Answering these questions is of fundamental importance because they are de- cisive for the coherence of Wis as a whole. In spite of the recurrent affirmations of unity by scholars (cf. § 2.3.2, ‘In Chs. 10–19’), without a convincing answer to these questions the problem remains unsolved. In this respect, it is important to notice that in ch. 1 the argument passes from the kings/chiefs of the earth (v. 1), to the impious (v. 16); vice versa, in 5,23b the argument passes from the impious, who are the topic of chs. 2–5, to the governors of the earth. In order to evaluate the logic of this transition, we have to take into considera- tion the new appeal to kings/chiefs of all the earth that we read in 6,1 (cf. supra, § 1.2.3). Here are the passages concerned:

Love justice (dikaiosu/nhn), you who judge the earth (oi˚ kri÷nonteß th\n ghvn)… (1,1)

Iniquity (aÓnomi÷a) will lay waste the whole earth (pa◊san th\n ghvn)


But the impious (aÓsebei√ß) by their hand and words / summoned it (i. e., the kingdom of Hades, a‚ˆdou basi÷leion, v. 14) (1,16)

and crime (kakopragi÷a) will overthrow the thrones of the powerful (dunastw◊n)

Love justice ( dikaiosu/nhn ), you who judge the earth ( oi˚ kri÷nonteß th\n ghvn )…
Love justice ( dikaiosu/nhn ), you who judge the earth ( oi˚ kri÷nonteß th\n ghvn )…

Listen, therefore, o kings (basilei√ß), and understand, learn, o governors of the ends of the earth (dikastai« pera¿twn ghvß) (6,1)


Alviero Niccacci

This twofold transition from the governors to the impious and, vice versa, from the impious to the governors in chs. 1–5 appears perfectly designed from literary as well as from thematic points of view. For the instructor, there is no inconsistency between the two topics, to the point that the governors are invited to reflect on a general model of behavior, resulting from the antitheses impious-righteous concern- ing the values of life on earth and beyond, and to make the right choices. In fact, for everybody, for the chiefs as for common people, the principle is valid that justice brings life and every good, while wrongdoing brings death and final ruin. Further, the diagram presented above shows that the conclusion of ch. 5, by men- tioning “the thrones of the powerful,” establishes a connection with ch. 6, where a new instruction starts addressed to the “kings / governors of the ends of the earth.” We can also notice that the final part of the ch. 5 (vv. 17-23) enunciates the idea that God arms himself as a warrior (cf. Isa 59,17) and uses creation (lightnings, clouds, hail, wind, sea, storm) in order to fight the wicked, an element that antici- pates, even if with variant vocabulary, a conception that is developed in the second part of the book (cf. 16,17-25; 19,6-12). In my opinion, these are important elements, both linguistic and thematic, that attest the coherence of the two main parts of Wis. Another problem is: How is it that the instructor addresses the kings, and not the young people as did the ancient sages (cf. supra, § 2.2)? On this subject, I am surprised by affirmations of authoritative scholars like Reese and Gilbert, who think that in real- ity the author of Wis addresses not the kings of the earth but the “future intellectual leaders of his people… because this is a recognized literary device, comparable to the author’s identification of himself with wise King Solomon…”, or that “la royauté politique peut paraître purement fictive: l’auteur semble s’adresser essentiellement à ses frères d’Israël qu’il veut conduire à la royauté de la Sagesse.” 62 My first reaction to these affirmations is as follows: Why then would the author of Wis have made use of such an amount of Hellenistic terminology, literature and culture, 63 if he intended to address the Israelite young people? Even if, as held by

  • 62 Cf., respectively, Reese, Hellenistic Influence, 148-149, and Gilbert, “Sagesse de Salomon,” 101. I would not say, with Gilbert, that in chs. 1 and 6–9 “la royauté est celle du sage, et l’auteur s’adresse en fait à quiconque veut recevoir la Sagesse, spécialement à ces jeunes comme Salomon qui devront guider demain la communauté” (ibid., 109). Rather, I would say that Wisdom is pre- sented as a necessary gift from God in order to govern well, not that the kingship in Wis is that of the sage. For an overview of the various positions, see Grabbe, Wisdom of Solomon, 91-94.

  • 63 As noted above (cf. fn. 37), this is a major topic of Reese, Hellenistic Influence. Unexpect- edly, Scarpat, Libro della Sapienza, I, 27, aligns himself with a minority of scholars who tend to downplay the links of the author of Wis with Hellenism; see also Reider, The Book of Wisdom, 38- 40. Instead, Scarpat emphasizes the importance for Wis of the LXX tradition, especially Psalms, Isaiah, Proverbs, Ben Sira and Job. But the scholar who in my opinion best outlines the situation of the author of Wis as a Jewish sage deeply rooted in Biblical tradition as well as trained in Hellenis- tic culture is Kepper, Hellenistische Bildung im Buch der Weisheit. She shows well that for the author of Wis one should speak of Hellenistic “Bildung,” rather than “Einfluß” (see, e.g., p. 204).

The Structure of the Book of Wisdom


both Reese and Gilbert, the addressees were young intellectuals, a problem re- mains: Why would the author of Wis have decided to present ideas that are funda- mentally Biblical in Hellenistic language and categories, instead of presenting them rather according to the original Jewish tradition, especially in times of di- aspora, when those ideas ran the danger of being forgotten? And also, why could the author qualify the Israelite intellectual young people with the titles of “judges / kings / governors of the ends of the earth,” particularly in the social situation in which they lived? For my part, I am convinced than the “judges / kings / governors of the ends of the earth” are exactly what the terms mean. And the solution to the problem of how could a Jewish sage – especially in a condition of diaspora, although disguised as the king Solomon – address his instruction to the kings of the earth comes from the “principle of connaturality” that Wis proclaims in a wonderful way. In fact, in his prayer in ch. 9 ‘Solomon’ asks God to grant him his Wisdom, the Wisdom by which he created the ideal couple man-woman and entrusted them the task to govern the world with holiness and justice (vv. 1-3; cf. supra, § 1.3.2). This Wisdom ‘Solo- mon’ asks for himself in order not to be excluded from the people of the sons of God (v. 4), and also to be able to govern this people according to the task that has been entrusted to him (v. 12). From this prayer, clearly emerges that the notion of belonging to the people of God is not a question of race but of faith. To all those who believe in him and pray to him God grants the gift of Wisdom, exactly like to ‘Solomon,’ regardless of the race to which they belong. Thus, on the basis of the divine Wisdom, a twofold equivalence is outlined: first, between the ideal human couple and the people of the sons of God, and, second, between ‘Solomon,’ the king of Israel, and the kings of the peoples of the earth, to whom ‘Solomon’ proposes himself as a model, of course, on the condition that they abandon the idols and believe in the only true God. We recognize then that in the perspective of Wis the two antithetical pairs, impious-righteous in the first part of the book and enemies-people of God in the second, are equivalent. The impious men of the first part, although identifiable as Israelites (cf. supra, § 1.2.3), are equivalent to the enemy peoples of the Israelites, the Egyptians and the Canaanites, of the second part, and the righteous of the first part are equivalent to the chosen people of the second part. Besides, the chosen people is presented as the model for an ideal humanity, the one that corresponds to God’s plan of creation. In synthesis, thanks to the gift of Wisdom received from God, ‘Solomon’ can present himself as the ideal king and model for all kings of the earth, and for their instruction he proposes a reflection on opposite categories, both general and spe- cific, and invites them to choose the way of justice and wisdom. In all this, one perceives in Wis a strong consciousness of the excellence of


Alviero Niccacci

Judaism in comparison with every other religion and culture, to the point that, in spite of the situation of diaspora, ‘Solomon’ feels himself in a position to dictate a “mirror of the king” to all the rulers of the earth, without any distinction or restric- tion (cf. supra, fn. 32), and thus to contribute to the welfare of the whole world. It is understood, moreover, that the social atmosphere of Wis does not seem at all one of persecution, as often proposed by scholars, because the series of the antitheses righteous-impious in chs. 2–5 is located inside the Jewish community and does not reflect any kind of persecution from the Hellenistic environment. 64 A deep connaturality emerges, on the one hand, between the royal dignity of the human being created by God, who receives Wisdom and lives together with her, and the people of the sons of God; on the other, between ‘Solomon,’ who thanks to Wisdom is not only a member of the people of God but is also called to guide them, and the kings of the earth. From the kings of the earth nothing more is re- quired. Indeed, what counts is not race, but only knowledge of the true God, be- cause thanks to it every human being becomes son of God and king of creation and eventually can govern his people with justice. I emphasize that, in spite of the principle of connaturality, every element pre- serves its own identity: the human being is king by creation; he can become king of his people by vocation. Therefore, the kings of Wis are the real kings of the earth, but everything is seen in the light of the only God and of his people. There is no privilege of race, but a wide opening to every human being, because every human being is a creature of the only God. In conclusion, from Wis comes a wonderful message on the dignity of the hu- man being. A message that, although not fully perceived by scholars, 65 reaches its fulfillment in Christ. 66

Alviero Niccacci Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Jerusalem

  • 64 Cf. supra, § 1.2.3, and fn. 34. For different opinions, see, e.g., Larcher, Le livre de la Sagesse, I, 157-158, and Gilbert, “Sagesse de Salomon,” 103-104.

    • 65 Cf., e.g., the theological reading of Gilbert, “Sagesse de Salomon,” 104-106.

  • 66 See my exposition in Il libro della Sapienza, 164-168 (“Re per creazione, re per alleanza, re per la fede in Gesù Cristo”).

Giorgio Giurisato

John 13:10: An Archaeological Solution of a Textcritical Problem

John 13:10 presents us with a well-known problem for textual criticism concerning

Jesus’ answer to Peter. Apart from a few variations regarding the details, there are es- sentially two variant readings: the lectio brevior of the Codex Sinaiticus:

ὁ λελουμένος οὐκ ἔχει χρείαν νίψασθαι, ἀλλ’ ἔστιν καθαρὸς ὅλος,

and the lectio longior of the Codex Vaticanus:

ὁ λελουμένος οὐκ ἔχει χρείαν εἰ μὴ τοὺς πόδας νίψασθαι, ἀλλ’ ἔστιν καθαρὸς ὅλος.

The difference lies in the washing of the feet. Paradoxically, while the majority of manuscripts and the Nestle-Aland edition represent the longer variant, many exegetes prefer the shorter one. 1 In both cases the commentators find themselves before an aporia: whoever chooses the lectio brevior has difficulty explaining the former wash- ing of the feet; whoever chooses the longior has difficulty explaining the following statement regarding the purity of the one who has washed himself. 2 Schnackenburg says that this text is one of the most discussed passages of the gospel of John. 3 This

  • 1 J.C. O’Neill, “John 13:10 again”, RB 101 (1994) 67-74, takes 12 variant readings beginning with the shortest text to the longest one (pp. 67-68) and opts for the formula of manuscript 579 – ὁ λελουμένος οὐ χρείαν ἔχει ἀλλ’ ἔστιν καθαρὸς ὅλος – shorter than that of Sinaiticus, following M.E. Boismard, “Le lavement des pieds (Jn 13, 1-17)”, RB 71 (1964) 5-24. For a wider discussion of the problem cf. J.C. Thomas, Footwashing in John 13 and the Johannine Community, Sheffield 1991, 19-25, who prefers the lectio longior; A. Gangemi, Signore, tu a me lavi i piedi? Acireale 1999, 99-163.

  • 2 N.M. Haring, “Historical Notes on the Interpretation of John 13:10”, CBQ 13 (1951) 355-380, writes: “Although the textual question has gradually been solved in favor of the shorter reading (…) the exegetical difficulties still divide the commentators to a considerable degree” (pp. 355-356).

  • 3 R. Schnackenburg, The Gospel according to St John (Herder’s Theological Commentary on the New Testament), III, Guildford 1982, 20: “Jesus’ reply to Peter in this verse is one of the places in the fourth gospel that is most disputed by exegetes. It has been interpreted in very many different


Giorgio Giurisato

article intends to give a contribution to the solution of the problem with a reading of the Johannine words in the light of the archaeological findings from the excavations carried out in the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem.

  • 1. The archaeological findings

The final results of the archaeological expedition in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City have only been published in part; 4 but the archaeologist N. Avigad, who has directed the excava- tions, has made various statements, 5 in which one finds the description, the photographic reproduction and a hypothesis about the function of a specimen of the findings concerning Jn 13:10. It deals with a certain element of the miqweh or ritual bath, 6 more specifically

ways and this divergence of interpretation has played the most important part in the extreme variety of views concerning the meaning of the washing of the disciples’ feet”.

  • 4 H. Geva (ed.), Jewish Quarter Excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem conducted by Nah- man Avigad, 1969-1982. Vol. I: Architecture and Stratigraphy: Areas A, W and X-2. Final Report, Jerusalem 2000; Vol. II: The Finds from Areas A, W and X-2. Final Report, Jerusalem 2003.

  • 5 Cf. N. Avigad, “Excavations in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, 1969/70 (Preliminary Report)”, IEJ 20 (1970) 1-8; “Excavations in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, 1970 (Second Preliminary Report)”, IEJ 20 (1970) 129-140; Discoveries in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem (The Israel Museum, Jerusalem Cat. No. 144), Jerusalem 1976; Discovering Jerusalem, Nashville 1983 (original in Hebrew, Jerusalem 1980); Italian translation: Gerusalemme. Archeologia nella città santa, Roma 1986; The Herodian Quarter in Jerusalem - Wohl Archaeo- logical Museum, Jerusalem (no date, however later than 1987, as can be deduced from p. 12: “The site was inaugurated and opened to the public on October 11, 1987”).

  • 6 Ritual baths (pl. miqwa’ot) have been discovered in different archaeological sites, including the fortress of Masada and the Herodion after the zealots’ occupation. For a description of these ritual baths cf. Avigad, The Herodian Quarter in Jerusalem, 19s: “Ritual Baths (Miqwa’ot)”; also cf. R. Reich, “Hellenistic to Medieval Strata 6-1”, in H. Geva (ed.), Jewish Quarter Excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem conducted by Nahman Avigad, 1969-1982. Vol. I: Architecture and Stratigraphy:

Areas A, W and X-2. Final Report. Jerusalem 2000, Loci 65.67.94, pp. 88-90. 96-97; Id., “The Hot Bath-House (balneum), the Miqweh and Jewish Community in the Second Temple Period”, JJS 39/1 (1988) 102-107; Id., “The Synagogue and the miqweh in Eretz-Israel in the Second Temple, Mish- naic and Talmudic Periods”, in D. Urman - P.V.M. Flesher (ed.), Ancient Synagogues, Historical Analysis and Archaeological Discoveries, Leiden 1995, 289-297; Id., “Two Possible Miqwa’ot on the Temple Mount”, IEJ 39 (1939) 63-65; Id., “The Great Mikweh Debate”, BAR 19/2 (1993) 52-53; Id., “The Miqweh (Ritual Bath)”, in G. Edelstein - I. Milevski - S. Aurant (ed.), Villages, Terraces and Stone Mounds, Excavations at Manahat, Jerusalem 1987-1989 (= IAA Reports, No. 3), Jerusa- lem 1998, 122-124; Id., “Miqwa’ot at Khirbet Qumran and the Jerusalem Connection”, in L.H. Schiffman - E. Tov - J.C. Vanderkam (ed.), The Dead Sea Scrolls. Fifty Years after their Discovery. Proceedings of the Jerusalem Congress, July 20-25, 1997, Jerusalem 2000, 728-731; Id., “They Are Ritual Baths”, BAR 28/2 (2002) 50-55 (Sefforis); B.G. Wood, “To Dip or Sprinkle? The Qumran Cistern in Perspective”, BASOR 256 (1984) 53-58; E. Netzer, “Ancient Ritual Baths (Miqwa’ot) in Jericho”, in L.I. Levine (ed.), The Jerusalem Cathedra, vol. 2 (1982) 106-119; S.D. Ricks, “Miqwa’ot:

Ritual Immersion Baths in Second Temple (Intertestamental) Jewish History”, in J.F. Hall - J.W. Welch (ed.), Masada and the World of the New Testament. Provo (Utah) 1997, 277-286; B. Štrba, "Miqveh rituálne vodné zariadenie na očist̓ovanie v ranom judaizme, Studia Biblica Slovaca 2 (2006) 79-106: this research was carried out in English at the “Studium Biblicum Franciscanum” (Jerusalem): Miqweh – a ritual water installation of the early Judaism.

John 13:10: An Archaeological Solution of a Textcritical Problem


about a stone container, 7 found at the beginning of the steps that go down to the immersion bath: the basin has a bulge at the center, which was used as a foot rest, with three holes for the water flow. 8 The Mishnah text quoted by Avigad (Yadayim 4,1) speaks of a “footbath” and the amount of water that it must contain (“from two logs [1 log = 0,6 liters] to nine kabs [1 kab = 2,5 liters]”), but it does not say whether the feet have to be washed before or after having taken a bath. Avigad thinks that one washed his feet “before” (“prior”: the italics in the quotation are mine), Deines sees the possibility of both moments (“vor oder nach”), 9 Schwank believes it was afterwards (“beim Heraussteigen”). 10

  • 2. The archaeological findings and Jn 13:10

Joachim Jeremias retains Jn 13:10 lectio longior to be original; 11 he speaks about it in relation to POxy V 840, of which he published the original Greek and German trans-

  • 7 Regarding the importance of the stone utensils used in the purification ritual cf. N. Avigad, “Jerusalem Flourishing. A Craft Center for Stone, Pottery, and Glass”, BAR 9/6 (1983) 48-65, p. 59:

“The Mishnah tells us that stone vessels are among those objects that are not susceptible to unclean- ness (Kelim 10,1; Parah 3,2)”; Id., The Herodian Quarter in Jerusalem, 22; Y. Magen, “Jerusalem as a Center of the Stone Vessel Industry during the Second Temple Period”, in H. Geva (ed.), Ancient Jerusalem Revealed, Jerusalem 1994, 244-256, notes: “The largest quantity of stone vessels was discovered in Jerusalem” (p. 255), often used in the purification ritual (cf. pp. 252-255).

  • 8 Avigad, The Herodian Quarter in Jerusalem, 55-56, gives the following description: “A stone basin, square on the outside and round on the inside, stands near the new pier at the entrance to the ritual bath. Its bottom is pierced by three holes and it has a round bulge at the center. This basin was found in the debris which filled the ritual bath. Elsewhere in the Upper City (see Discovering Jeru- salem, pp. 84-86) a similar, but larger, basin was found in situ at the entrance to a ritual bath. At present, it is exhibited on the extended footpath of the Southern House (G). It seems to have served for washing the feet before descending into the immersion pool. The Mishnah mentions a ‘foot- through’ used for washing the feet (Yadayim 4,1). Several such pierced basins of various size are on display on our site”; on p. 77, describing “The Southern House”, adds: “On the footpath on display are two of the pierced stone basins which were apparently used for washing the feet. The larger of them (19.3 x 19.3 in / 80 x 80 cm) was found complete in situ at the entrance of a ritual bath”. Dis- covering Jerusalem gives the photographic evidence of the finding (p. 84), his location and a hy- pothesis of the explanation of its use (pp. 85-86): “A prominent place is occupied by a large ritual bath, partly vaulted over, which was entered by a stairway. Near the entrance a peculiar stone vessel was found in situ, a square basin, round within with a bulge at its center and its bottom pierced by three holes. This may have served as a laver for washing the feet prior to descending into the ritual bath and, if so, was a ‘footbath’ of the type noted in the Mishnah (Yadayim 4,1). We have found such ‘footpaths’ in other houses as well, although smaller and not in their original position”.

    • 9 R. Deines, Jüdische Steingefässe und pharisäische Frömmigkeit (WUNT, 52), Tübingen 1993, 93.

      • 10 B. Schwank, Evangelium nach Johannes, St. Ottilien 1998 2 , 345.

    • 11 J. Jeremias, Unbekannte Jesusworte (GTS 376), Gütersloh 1983, 54, note 24, says: “Der Lang- text ist Joh 13,10a überwältigend bezeugt; εἰ μὴ τοὺς πόδας fehlt nur bei S c vg-codd Orig. Der viel gequälte Satz gibt in Zusammenhang einen ausgezeichneten Sinn, sobald man ihn wörtlich – ohne symbolisch-allegorische Bezugnahme auf die Taufe oder das Abendmahl – versteht. Auf die Bitte des Petrus, ihm auch Hände und Haupt zu waschen, antwortet Jesus: wer (als Passapilger) das (vorge- schriebene) Vollbad genommen hat, bedarf nur einer Waschung der Füsse, um rein zu sein. Erst in dem anschliessenden Wort über Judas (10b-11) wird von der Reinheit im übertragenen Sinn gesprochen”.


Giorgio Giurisato

lation. In the context of the rabbinic literature, he shows that the unknown author of the manuscript knew the temple ritual well: whoever had finished the purification bath, before entering into the temple had to wash his feet again; 12 for this reason Levi the Pharisee, a chief-priest in charge of controlling access to the temple area, rebuked Jesus for entering without having taken the bath and for allowing his disciples to enter without having washed their feet. In 1923, when he wrote his dissertation “Jerusalem zur Zeit Jesu”, Jeremias did not yet have present the recent discoveries of the installations of the ritual baths (miqwa’ot), which were widespread in Jesus time. 13 Today, despite the copious documentation in its regard, none of the numerous studies on the foot-washing makes reference to these archaeological discoveries 14 and to the respective Jewish customs. 15

  • 12 Cf. Jeremias, Unbekannte Jesusworte, 54, refers to the prescription in the Mishnah (mBer 9,5): “One may not enter the Holy Mount (of the Temple) with his staff or with his shoes on or with his money belt or with dust upon his feet” (cf. tBer 6,19: “A man should not enter the Temple Mount with money tied in his purse, or with dust on his feet”); on the connections of Jn 13:10 with POxy V 840 cf. M.J. Kruger, The Gospel of Savior. An Analysis of POxy V 840 and its Gospel Tradition of Early Christianity, Leiden 2005, 179-182.

  • 13 The diffusion of the miqwa’ot at the time of the Second Temple gives context to John the Baptist’s preaching: cf. J.E. Taylor, The Immerser: John the Baptist within Second Temple Judaism, Grand Rapids 1997, 49: “Rather, it may be that in understanding immersion and the importance of ritual purity in Second Temple Judaism, John’s baptism will be better understood”. The archaeolgists consider the presence of the miqwa’ot among the characteristic signs of a Jewish settlement; at the time of Jesus they could be seen in all parts of Palestine, but especially in Jerusalem, according to J.D. Crossan - J.L. Reed, Excavating Jesus: Beneath the stones, Behind the Texts, New York 2001, 207: “We consider stone vessels and ritual baths, those two widespread artifacts, already encoun- tered at Qumran and Masada, that typify Judaism in the archaeological record. Both are ubiquitous in Early Roman layers at sites in the Jewish homeland, in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, all across Galilee, and in the southern Golan. But they are virtually absent in neighbouring territories”. Reich, The Great Mikweh Debate, 52, gives the following figures: “Over 300 stepped-and-plastered water installations are known from the archaeological record. Of these about 150 have been found in Je- rusalem – about 60 in the Upper City (Avigad’s excavations), about 40 from the excavations near the southern gates of the Temple Mount and the rest in various locations”; Id., “Miqwa’ot at Khirbet Qumran and the Jerusalem Connection”, 729, notes: “In Jerusalem the frequent use of miqwa’ot was in relation to the Temple Mount and the daily life of the priestly families”.

  • 14 It is a confirmation of Deines’ complaint, Jüdische Steingefässe, 37 (cf. p. 260): “Das Igno- rieren archäologischer Fakten durch die Mehrzahl der Johannesexegeten ist Zeichen für eine gewis- se doketische Tendenz innerhalb der historisch-kritischen Exegese, die in der Gefahr steht, die in den Texten bezeugte Wirklichkeit zu übersehen”; a fact, that J.H. Charlesworth, Jesus Research and Archaeology: A New Perspective”, in Id. (ed.), Jesus and Archaeology, Grand Rapids 2006, xxiii, sees as being overcome: “The following chapters disclose how New Testament scholars learn from archaeologists, who are expert stratigraphers of archaeological sites, and how archaeologists garner knowledge from New Testament scholars, who are experts in the stratification of texts”.

  • 15 Those which are closer to the point, without however touching it, are the following articles: D. Tripp, “Meanings of the Foot-washing: John 13 and Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 840”, ExpT 103 (1991-92) 237-239 (the author sees reflected in the manuscript the criticism of a group of Christians against baptism: “But what is attacked is not Jewish lustration, but all baptism”, and at the light of some texts concerning the priesthood in the OT – Ex 29,4; 30,17-21; 40,31 – interprets the washing of the feet by Jesus as “a sort of sacerdotal ordination”, p. 239); R. Kieffer, “L’arrière-fond juif du lavement des

John 13:10: An Archaeological Solution of a Textcritical Problem


Among the commentaries, only that of Benedikt Schwank, as much as I know, makes mention of it in a short parenthesis: “Das Wort nur noch die Füsse könnte eingefügt sein für jene Leser, die den Unterschied zwischen baden (ganzen Körper) und waschen (die Füsse beim Heraussteigen) nicht mehr erkannten”. 16 Schwank’s argument appears strange: an addition would have been made to the original text for a clever purpose – in reality it would not have achieved its purpose from the moment that the commentators, instead of recognizing this Jewish use in the lectio longior, saw an illogical and superfluous element after having taken a bath of the entire body. Roland Deines, who dedicates the 2 nd chapter of his dissertation to the stone jars in Jn 2:6 placing them in the context of the industry and use of stone in Jesus’ time, focuses also on Jn 13:1-11. He explains it with reference to two texts: firstly, Jn 15:3 where the purification by water is substituted by the listening to the word of Jesus; secondly, the parchment fragment discovered at Oxyrhynchus (POxy V 840); after having illustrated this text in the context of the rabbinic literature, Deines arrives at the conclusion that Jn 13:10 reflects a normal way of behaving by the pilgrims as they went up to the temple. 17 Besides this explanation, which uses that of Jeremias, I propose to see in the lectio longior of Jn 13:10 a reference to that which was practiced in the private miqwa’ot, at least in those discovered in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, in the houses of the rich priestly families, 18 where the washing of the feet was immediately connected to the immersion bath.

pieds”, RB 105 (1998) 546-555 (the author criticizes the solutions given by eight commentators – Zahn, Lagrange, Lindars, Bultmann, Barrett, Schnackenburg, Brown and Haenchen – and proposes his own, p. 552: “Grâce au lavement des pieds, les disciples qui, comme tous les Juifs, se sont purifiés avant la fête de la Pâque (cf. 11,55), sont initiés à la signification profonde de cette fête”, John in this way demonstrates once again how “Jésus remplace et accomplit les fêtes juives”).

  • 16 Schwank, Evangelium nach Johannes, 345.

  • 17 Deines, Jüdische Steingefässe, writes: in 15,3 “das Wasser als Mittel zur Reinheit wird ersetzt durch das Hören des Wortes, durch die bleibende Verbindung mit dem Gottessohn, auf die auch schon 13,8 Bezug nimmt” (p. 256); “Eine interessante Parallele für den Gebrauch von λούειν im Zusammenhang mit den Tempelmiqwa’ot liefert auch das Fragment eines unbekannten Evangeli- ums, das 1905 in Oxyrhynchos gefunden wurde” (p. 257); “Der Papyrus setzt voraus, dass jeder, der die inneren Tempelvorhöfe betreten wollte, seine Reinheit durch ein Tauchbad nachzuweisen hatte. Dazu wurden die Eingänge kontrolliert” (p. 258); and concludes: “Das Jesuslogion beschreibt einen realen Vorgang im jüdischen Wallfahrtsleben” (p. 260).

  • 18 Avigad, The Herodian Quarter in Jerusalem, 76, writes: “We have seen the special importance they attached to the ritual baths, both in numbers and in architectural design”; “The Palatial Mansion [inside the Herodian Quarter] is certainly worthy of being the residence of a noble family such as that of a High Priest”; L. & K. Ritmeyer, Jerusalem in the Year 30 A.D., Jerusalem 2004, 43, based on the news of Josephus Flavius that the High Priests palace and that of Agrippa and Bernice were burned together (Bell. Jud. 2, 426), arrive at a further clarification for the year of Jesus’ condemnation to death and speaks of the “possible identification with the palace of Annas the High Priest”. To whom belonged properly this palace: to Annas, “the father-in-law of Caiaphas”, or to Caiaphas, “the high priest that year” (Jn 18,13)? After his arrest Jesus was brought “first to Annas” (Jn 18,13); if the following verse 18,24 is interpreted as a “parenthesis” (cf. F. Neirynck, “Parentheses in the Fourth Gospel”, ETL 65 (1989) 119-123 = Evangelica II , 693-698), it means that after a brief encounter with Jesus “Annas had


Giorgio Giurisato

John’s text, then, would not only reflect this nexus, but would also indicate the moment of the washing of the feet: after having taken the immersion bath and hav- ing walked the steps that lead from the bath to the floor for redressing: “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed”. 19 From what has been said it seems clear that in Jn 13:10 the lectio potior is not the brevior, as normally considered, rather the longior, which in the text in question is difficilior, as it appears illogical compared with the statement which follows. 20 It is precisely because of its difficulty that the Committee that prepared the Nestle- Aland edition preferred this lectio, 21 difficulty that is not resolved on a logical level, but on a practical one, remembering the Jewish use, brought back into the light with the archaeological discoveries.

  • 3. The meaning of Jn 13:10 in its context

The exegetes have proposed various interpretations of the washing of the feet: bap- tismal, penitential, charity service, hospitality, and others. 22 Even though in itself it may have many meanings, the most appropriate one is determined by the text itself

sent him bound to the high priest Caiaphas”, the same “high priest” who interrogated Jesus (18,19). The conclusion is threefold: that Annas is never called “high priest” in Jesus’ trial by John (18,13.19.24), that the “high priest” to whom Jesus’ disciple “was known” is Caiaphas (18,15), that “the high priests palace” belongs to him. Also independently from this identification, it is clear that this disciple, who “testifies to these things” (Jn 21,24), did not ignore the reality and the working of the ritual baths, similar to those discovered recently in that palace.

  • 19 Deines, Jüdische Steingefässe, 93, relates Jn 13:10 to the archaeological findings, but does not focus on the textcritical problem; he develops the relationship between the Johannine text and the use made by the pilgrims in taking the entire bath and then, immediately before entering the temple, the washing of the feet: “Auf dem Plan Abb. 84 [referring to Avigad, Discovering Jerusalem, p. 98] sind zwei weitere Fussbäder jeweils am Eingang zu einer Miqweh eingezeichnet, woraus geschlossen werden muss, dass dem Waschen der Füsse vor oder nach dem Untertauchen im Tauchbad gesonderte Bedeutung zukam (vgl. Joh 13,10 und dazu unten S. 258f und 264f)”. His commentary on Jn 13:10 sees justified, in the entire bath and the partial washing, the baptismal and penitential interpretation:

“Dann liegt es nahe, an die Taufe als Generalreinigung einerseits und die Fusswaschung als wieder- holbare Teilreinigung zu denken, wie es viele ältere Ausleger tun”; “Im Hintergrund könnte das Pro- blem des Sündigens nach der Taufe stehen” (p. 256, note 524; cf. p. 260).

  • 20 Schnackenburg, The Gospel according to St John, III, 20, writes: “The continuation of the

phrase «but he is clean all over», does not, strictly speaking allow for the addition ‘except for his feet’




for the sake of a linguistic logic”.

  • 21 B.M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (UBS), London - New York 1975, 204, explains: “Because, however, the words εἰ μὴ τοὺς πόδας may have been omitted accidentally (or even deliberately because of the difficulty of reconciling them with the following declaration, ἀλλ’ ἔστιν καθαρὸς ὅλος), a majority of the Committee considered it safer to retain them on the basis of the preponderant weight of external attestation”.

  • 22 Besides the already cited Haring, “Historical Notes on the Interpretation of John 13:10”, and Thomas, Footwashing in John 13 and the Johannine Community (“Prominent Interpretations of Foot- washing”), cf. J. Michl, Der Sinn der Fusswaschung (AnBib 11), Rome 1959, 129-140; G. Richter, Die Fußwaschung im Johannesevangelium. Eine Geschichte ihrer Deutung (BU l), Regensburg 1967.

John 13:10: An Archaeological Solution of a Textcritical Problem


and by its context. It appears to me that in 13:10 – to which the explanation given from v. 11 must be added, being introduced by the conjunction γάρ – it is necessary to distinguish two levels of meaning in Jesus’ words, as is usual in John. The first is that in which Jesus recalls the normal practice: the pilgrims, after having taken the purification bath (cf. Jn 11:55), before going up to the temple had to wash their feet (mBer 9,5); the priests in their private miqwa’ot, those discovered in the Jewish Quarter, performed a complete bath, immediately followed by the washing of the feet, prescribed before entering the temple (cf. Ex 30:17-21). The practice therefore involved two ways of washing oneself: the entire one, so that whoever washed himself became completely pure (λελουμένος, ἔστιν καθαρὸς

ὅλος), and the partial one, the foot-washing (τοὺς πόδας νίψασθαι): Peter op- posed the second one, that is the washing of the feet, or better, to allow them to be washed by Jesus. 23 The second level of the meaning in Jesus’ words – that is: what realities corre- spond to the two ways of washing oneself – is indicated in the context that follows, connected by coordination (καί): 24 καὶ ὑμεῖς καθαροί ἐστε, ἀλλ’ οὐχὶ πάντες. ᾔδει γὰρ τὸν παραδιδόντα αὐτόν· διὰ τοῦτο εἶπεν ὅτι Οὐχὶ πάντες καθαροί ἐστε.

These words declare the disciples present at the supper “pure”, but “not every one” of them; one person is excluded: “the betrayer”. Here it is no longer about ritual purity, pursued by the Jewish practice and referred to by the former logion of Jesus, but of a different purity, defined in opposition to the betrayal: if Judas is not “pure” because he betrays Jesus, everyone who receives him is “pure”, according to what is said afterwards (v. 20: ὁ δὲ ἐμὲ λαμβάνων). 25 The washing of the feet must be understood in an analogous sense: if the complete washing is to receive Jesus in his wholeness, the partial one consists in receiving Jesus who performs the humble act of washing the feet. Peter opposes this. His reaction against Jesus’ act is like his reaction to the foretelling of the passion. 26 Equally serious

  • 23 T. Zahn, Das Evangelium des Johannes. Leipzig 1921, 538, points out that the middle νίψασθαι may mean to wash oneself, or to allow oneself to be washed.

  • 24 Jeremias, Unbekannte Jesusworte, 54, note 24, says: “Erst in dem anschliessenden Wort über Judas (10b-11) wird von der Reinheit im übertragenen Sinn gesprochen”.

  • 25 On the composition of 13,1-20 cf. J.D.G. Dunn, “The Washing of the Disciples’ Feet in John 13,1-20”, ZNW 61 (1970) 247-252); G. Richter, “Die Fusswaschung Joh 13,1-20”, in J. Hainz (ed.), Studien zum Johannesevangelium (BU 13), Regensburg 1977, 42-57; S.S. Segovia, “John 13,1-20. The Footwashing in the Johannine Tradition”, ZNW 73 (1982) 31-51.

  • 26 Cf. F.-M. Braun, “Le lavement des pieds et la réponse de Jésus à saint Pierre (Jean 13,4-10)”, RB 44 (1935) 26-27: “Un rapprochement avec l’épisode raconté dans Mt 16,21ss s’impose. (…) Mais la réaction est semblable (…) Identique aussi, dirait-on, serait la réprimande”.


Giorgio Giurisato

is Jesus’ answer: if Peter does not want to have his feet washed by the Master – in other words if he does not receive “this Jesus” also (Ac 2:32), not only the powerful one, who has “all things in his hands” (Jn 13:3) – he would be excluded from com- munion with him. To have heard: “you have no part with me” (v. 8) is as drastic as to have been treated as “satan” (Mt 16:23). Peter therefore must receive “the Master” even when his teaching is paradoxical, so much that he washes the disciple’s feet, and he must not presume to have a “greater” wisdom than his Master (v. 16). This explanation adheres well to the words of Jesus. As already pointed out by Jeremias, the text makes no allusion to baptism or to post-baptismal penance. Instead it contains a prophetic act: while offering an example of humble service (vv. 12-15), 27 it preludes to the giving of ones own life for his friends in the passion (15:13). 28 Peter must accept the Master’s humility: now he can “understand” this example (v. 17), but he will know his depth “later” (v. 7; cf. 2:22; 12:16), when Judas’ betrayal has attained his aim (cf. vv. and Jesus has gone “from this world to the Father” (v. 1). In conclusion, regarding the textcritical problem of Jn 13:10 three results emer- ge: firstly, the Jewish practice of ritual bathing, brought to the light by the archaeo- logical excavations, completely justifies Jesus logion about the two ways to wash oneself and goes beyond the “incompatibility with the linguistic logic”: 29 the origin of the lectio brevior and the preference given to it by many exegetes is to be ex- plained as an attempt to obtain a logical text and as a consequence of having for- gotten the Jewish practice; secondly, the lectio difficilior and potior is the longior one, therefore the choice of the Committee who decided to conserve it in the editing of Nestle-Aland is confirmed and the brackets that indicate uncertainty could be taken away; thirdly, once again John shows himself to be an excellent connoisseur of the Jewish practices of his time. 30

Giorgio Giurisato Theologische Schule, Benediktinerabtei - Einsiedeln (CH)

  • 27 Cf. R.A. Culpepper, “The Johannine Hypodeigma: A Reading of John 13”, Semeia 53 (1991) 133-152, especially 142-144.

  • 28 R.E. Brown, The Gospel according to John (The Anchor Bible 29A), New York 1970, 562, says: “The footwashing is presented as a prophetic action symbolizing Jesus’ death in humiliation for the salvation of others”; cf. H. Zorilla, “A service of Sacrificial Love : Footwashing (John 13,1- 11)”, Direction 24 (1995) 74-85.

    • 29 Schnackenburg, The Gospel according to St John, III, 20.

  • 30 Cf. W.A. Meeks, “‘Am I A Jew?’. Johannine Christianity and Judaism”, in J. Neusner (ed.), Christianity, Judaism and Other Greco-Roman Cults, I, Leiden 1975, 163-186; R. Kysar, “The Fourth Gospel. A Report on Recent Research”, in ANRW II/25,3 (1985) 2389-2480; F. Manns, John and Jamnia: How the Break occured Between Jews and Christians c. 80-100 A.D., Jerusalem 1988. With haste M. Davies, Rhetoric and Reference in the Fourth Gospel (JSNT SS 69), Sheffield 1992, 312, writes: “Of the Jewish practices referred to in the Fourth Gospel, most could have been known from a reading of Scripture or the Synoptics, but one suggests independent knowledge: circumcision taking precedence over the Sabbath (7,22)”: the use spoken about in 13,10 may be added to the unique one found by the author, who concludes: “The evidence indicates that the author was not a Jew”.

Mariusz Rosik

Discovering the Secrets of God’s Gardens. Resurrection as New Creation (Gen 2:4b-3:24; Jn 20:1-18)

One of the most heavily laden with symbolism texts in the Old Testament is the story of the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:4b-3:24), sometimes referred to by Bible scholars as the Myth of Paradise, the stress being on this literary genre being set apart by its specificity as compared to other myths of the ancient cultures. Within the New Testament, the greatest number of symbols appears in the Johannine texts, particularly in the Apocalypse and the Gospel. Certain symbols are anchored down in the consciousness of many cultures for which they serve as archetypes. They are identified by their commonality. Other symbols can only really be understood in the environment and mentality in which they are anchored due to having formed there. The Yahwist story of the Garden of Eden, covering the creation of the first people, their initial happiness and their consequent fall into sin, contains – con- structed out of symbols – motifs and themes that appear also, though in a different form, in the Johannine narration regarding the open tomb (Jn 20:1-18). This coin- cidence of motifs and themes may modify the interpretation of the Evangelist’s story. 1 In this sketch we will focus mainly upon the following motifs and themes that appear in both stories: the motif of the garden and the gardener, the theme of sear- ching and the associated motif of the name, the theme of knowing and seeing (vi- sual perception), the motif of heavenly beings and the associated motif of the swords, God’s prohibition or the motif of the covered body. It is not the aim of this article to determine whether this coincidence (of motifs and themes) is accidental or if it due to the theological assumptions and content of both stories or if it due to the conscious intentions of the Evangelist. We will only focus upon showing how the meaning of the motifs appearing in the story of the Garden of Eden might modify the interpretation of the story of the open tomb. With

  • 1 A terminological issue is that of the need to distinguish the motif from the theme. In literature studies a motif is a theme of one of the smallest part of literary work; definition from: S. Sierotwin- ski, Słownik terminów literackich. Teoria i nauki pomocnicze literatury, Wrocław etc. 1986 4 , 149. A theme is either a fully developed single motif or a complex of associated motifs.


Mariusz Rosik

the aim of dealing with the topic systematically, discussing the individual motifs and themes, we will first consider their meaning in the Yahwist text and then in the Gospel of John, taking into account the conclusions drawn from the analysis in the first section. 2 In conclusion, apart from a short summary and general comparison, we will also indicate the scope for future research into the topic presented.

1. God’s flowering garden

The symbol of the garden appears often in the literature of the Ancient Middle East as well as in the works of the Ancient Greeks and properly understanding it may make it easier to read the Biblical story of Eden. The construction or digging of graves within gardens took place in Egypt during the age of the New Kingdom. There is evidence for this both within texts and in tomb painting which show that the Egyptians, who were fond of gardens, wanted to rest after death under the shade of trees they, themselves, planted. 3 Anka, who lived at the beginning of the New Kingdom era (1567-1085 B.C.), was depicted with his wife in front of a gar- den filled with 28 types of plants. The Egyptian fondness for gardens as well as their habit of burying in them their dead is shown by the tomb painting known as the Garden of Rehmire, originally from the Theban necropolis and currently in the British Museum. 4 The garden’s owner, written about in a text from the eighteenth dynasty, expresses the hope that after death he’ll be able “to walk through the gar- den in the west, to rest under its sycamores and to wonder at its extensive and beautiful cultivated area”. The Egyptians believed that the dead continue their lives in gardens, in plenty and security. Among the Sumerian texts found in Nippur in Babylon at the beginning of the 20 th century was a manuscript containing the my- th, which has been given the name “Enki and Ninhursag”. The myth describes a place called Dilmun, a place of pleasure in which neither illness nor death are known. In the text, Dilmun is presented both as a region and as a city. 5 In latter

  • 2 Accepting the principle Sitz im Leben when discussing individual motifs it turns out to be useful to look at the texts of the ancient world. These might be objects, events, situations or experi- ences. A complex of interrelated motifs or a fully developed motif constitute a theme.

  • 3 On the epitaphs from the 15 th and 16 th centuries the hopes of eternal happiness of the deceased were often depicted in the form of a garden of paradise. This motif is obviously taken from the Bible and not from ancient Egypt.

  • 4 For more information on this topic see the voice Gardenin G. Rachet, Dictionnaire de la civilisation égyptienne, Paris 1968, 249-250.

  • 5 At first Dilmun lacked water but, thanks to Enki, the Goddess of water, the problem was solved. The virtues of Dilmun are described in detail by S.N. Kramer in the introduction to the English translation of the text contained in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testa- ment, published by J.R. Pritchard, Princeton 1969 3 , 37-38.

Discovering the Secrets of God’s Gardens. Resurrection as New Creation


times, the Babylonians called Dilmun “The Land of the Living” – the place in which it was thought that immortality is the norm: 6 “In Dilmun, the raven utters no cries, The ittidu-bird utters not the cry of the ittidu- bird, The lion kills not, The wolf snatches not the lamb, […] The sick-eyed says not ‘I am sick-eyed,’ The sick-headed [says] not ‘I am sick-headed,’ Its old woman (says) not ‘I am an old woman,’ Its old man (says) not ‘I am an old man,’” 7 The ancient inhabitants of the Middle East were enthusiastic about gardening. They possessed extraordinary knowledge on the topic and a fine aesthetic sense. The kings of Babylon and Assyria competed with one another in planting gardens with ever new kinds of tress; the gardens being famed far beyond the borders of the individual states. 8 Babylonian shrines were usually surrounded by gardens, due to the idea that they were inhabited by gods. The ancient Epic of Gilgamesh descri- bes the journey of the eponymous hero, accompanied by his friend, Enkidu. When they approach the seat of the gods: “they beheld the cedar mountain, abode of the gods, Throne-seat of Irnini. From the face of the mountain the cedars raise aloft their luxuriance. Good is their shade, full of delight.” 9 The seat of the goddess Irnini, identified with Ishtar, is, therefore, a verdant gar- den. 10 It’s pointing out that the motif of the garden was brought into the epic, which deals with the search for immortality, by the eponymous hero. This immortality is to be granted by a mysterious plant of which Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh. 11 Ancient beliefs that the garden is the place where gods dwell or at least where their presence is felt and a place of immortality were transferred onto the pages of the Bible. Due to the phonetic sound of the Hebraic name ‘Eden’ (!d,[)e both the translator of the Septuagint as well as that of the Vulgate see in it a reference to the concept of pleasure. 12 The translator into Greek writes of paradeisos tes trufes (Gen

  • 6 “Certain similarities between this Sumerian notion of an earthly paradise and the biblical Eden emerge and some scholars therefore conclude that the Genesis account is dependent upon the Sum- erian. But an equally possible explanation is that both accounts refer to a real place, the Sumerian version having collected mythological accretions in the course of transmission” (T.C. Mitchell, Eden, Garden of, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, I, Leicester 1998 5 , 408-410).

  • 7 After J.S. Synowiec, Na początku. Wybrane zagadnienia Pięcioksięgu, Warszawa 1987, 178. It’s worth noting that Mesopotamian mythical stories also present gardens as the abodes of Gods.

  • 8 W. Chrostowski, Ogród Eden. Zapoznane świadectwo asyryjskiej diaspory (Rozprawy i stu- dia biblijne 1), Warszawa 1996, 80-81.

    • 9 After: Gilgamesz - Powieść starobabilońska, trans. J. Wittlin, Warszawa 1986, 31.

    • 10 Similarly luxuriant is the garden of Siduri, mentioned in Gilgamesh, being said to have contained a tree full of grapes, extraordinary fruit and precious stones.

      • 11 Gilgamesz - Powieść starobabilońska, 74.

    • 12 A similar state of happiness and pleasure is mentioned in the Sumerian epic about King Enmerkar. During his times snakes, scorpions, hyena, lions and wolves did not exist (all animals which for the Sumerians symbolised evil), while all people honoured the God Enlil with one voice; B. Jacobs-Horing, “ˆg gan”, in W. Kohlhammer - G.J. Botterweck - H. Ringgren (ed.), Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament, II, Stuttgart 1978, 157.


Mariusz Rosik

3:24), while St. Hieronymus chose the term paradisum voluptatis (Gen 2:15). 13 Many experts think, however, that Eden is not a proper name but a common noun taken either directly from the Sumerian edin, which means “a plain”, or through Accadian, in which this noun has the form edinu. This would mean the noun indi- cated that the garden was located in a flat area. 14 The translation of the Hebraic eden into the Greek paradeisos in LXX is the equivalent of granting the Greek term religious meaning. 15 In the Old Testament, Eden is thought of as a garden in which it is God, himself, who is the gardener. This is shown by the analysis of elements of the Book of Ge- nesis and the Book of Ezekiel. 16 It suffices to recall Gen 2:8 where the Yahwist states that it was God who planted the Garden of Eden. Apart from that, the phrase “Yahweh’s garden” (Gen 13:10) turns up in Ezekiel as “God’s Garden” (Ezek 31:8) and the phrase “God’s garden”, as it would be understood by the ancient Canaani- tes, indicates who cultivates the garden, 17 in this case this being God, himself. It is also worth noting that the phrase “Yahweh’s garden” is used as synonymous with Eden in Isaiah 51:3: “Her [Zion’s] deserts He [the Lord] shall make like Eden, her wasteland like the garden of the Lord [Yahweh]”. The fact that Yahweh places a man in the Garden of Eden, seen through the prism of the garden as being the place of residence of gods, takes on a meaning that has great theological implications: “Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and he placed there the man whom he had formed” (Gen 2:8). Man’s residence in the garden indicates harmony between Yahweh and man; the keeping of God’s laws by man and, to a certain degree, man’s participation in God’s life. This motif was emphasised by mention of God’s walk in the garden of Paradise (Gen 3:8). Other parts of the Old Testament (particularly parts of the Book of Ge- nesis and the Book of Isaiah) also show the garden as a place of connection between man and God. 18 The motif of the garden used by the Yahwist in Gen 2:4b-3:24 has several meanings, of which two are the most significant: the garden as the place of where God is resident, where his presence is made evident, as the garden as linked

  • 13 The idea of a beautiful orchard was reinforced for the Israelite by the name Eden. The word Eden we can find an echo of the Hebrew word ‘eden, ‘delight’; see Jacobs-Horing, “ˆg gan”, 157.

    • 14 Mitchell, “Eden, Garden of”, 408.

  • 15 The noun paradeisos was taken from the Old Persian word paridaida, which means a garden, without any implication of it being inhabited by Gods.

  • 16 A detailed analysis of the motif of the garden in the Book of Genesis and the Book of Ezekiel was carried out by Chrostowski in Ogród Eden.

    • 17 Jacobs-Horing, “ˆg gan”, 157.

  • 18 Of the valley by the banks of the Jordan it was written: “Looking round, Lot saw all the Jordan plain, irrigated everywhere this was before Yahweh destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah-like

the garden of Yahweh or the land of Egypt, as far as Zoar” (Gen 13:10). A similar motif was used by Isaias to stress God’s compassion (Is 51:3 cited above) as well as God’s justice (“For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth her seed to shoot forth: so shall the Lord God make

Discovering the Secrets of God’s Gardens. Resurrection as New Creation


to the idea of human immortality. Both these meanings turn out to be significant in the analysis of the 4 th Gospel. These conclusions cast a new light upon the Johannine story of the open tomb (Jn 20:1-18). According to St. John the Evangelist, Jesus’ tomb was set in a garden (Jn 19:41). The picture of the garden within ancient Middle Eastern culture sket- ched above should be added to the symbolism of the garden within Hellenic cultu- re. In the mythological literature of ancient Greece the motif of the garden is linked not just to the idea of eternal life but also with the idea of resurrection. The plants grown in vases, baskets and flowerpots were reminders of the resurrection of Ado- nis. 19 They were even called “the Gardens of Adonis”. The myth of Adonis came from Syria but was transmitted to ancient Greece. 20 Adonis’ striking beauty brought him the adoration of Aphrodite and Persephone. In order to decide their resulting dispute, the Goddesses turned to Zeus who in turn decided that Adonis was to spend one third of the year with Aphrodite, one third with Persephone and the remaining part of the year in a place of his own desiring. 21 However, Adonis was attacked by a bull sent by the jealous Ares who was the lover of the Goddess of love. 22 Upon hitting the ground, Adonis’ blood turned into anemones, which flowers briefly in the spring, whereas the blood of Aphrodite, who was cut by thorns as she ran to help her lover, turned white roses red. 23 The roots of the Greek cult of Adonis come from Phoenician beliefs whose centre was ancient Byblos. The previously mentio- ned Ishtar, known also as Astarte, was worshipped there as was her lover Baalot (or Tammuz). Baalat in turn died and was resurrected. The myth travelled to Greece most probably through Cyprus with the name Adonis being a reminder of the Phoenician roots as it most probably comes from the Phoenician word “Adon” (Lord). 24 So, it is worth noting that in the Greek culture the symbol of the garden was also intimately tied to the idea of immortality. This is much the same as in the New Testament. There, the motif of the garden is used by John in the Book of Revelation. The garden, together with the tree of life, is in this book the sign of the eternal joy of the saved ones who live together with God: “And he showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street thereof, and on both sides of the river, was the tree of life, bearing twelve fruits, yielding its fruit every month: the leaves of the tree for the healing of the nations” (Rev 22:1-2). It

  • 19 W. Kopaliński, Słownik mitów i tradycji kultury, Kraków 1996 5 , 17.

  • 20 The Adonis myth has its roots in the cult of Astharte; D. Sacks, Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World, New York 1995, 12.

  • 21 According to another version, Adonis was to spend half of the year with the Goddess of the underground and the Goddess of love; see Sacks, Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World, 12-13.

  • 22 According to other versions of the myth, Ares himself turned into the bull. Yet other stories put in Ares’ place Apollo or Artemis.

    • 23 J. Schmidt, Dictionaire de la mythologie grecque et romaine, Paris 1985, 13-14.

    • 24 Compare with Hebraic “Adonai” (“My Lord”).


Mariusz Rosik

is easy to see in these words a reference to the Old Testament tradition of the Gar-

den of Paradise. This leads us to ask: Is it also the case with the Johannine story of the open tomb? Werner Lemke, observing that it was the ancient tradition to bury kings in tombs

set within gardens (2Kings 21:18 and 26), thinks that Jesus’ burial in the garden

might be used as an indirect and symbolic reference to his kingly dignity. 25 Develo- ping this line of thought, it might be possible to understand allegorically the ap- pearance of the resurrected Christ to Mary Magdalene in the guise of a gardener as a reference to Eden in which God walked among the trees. This allegory can not, of course, be a direct argument for Christ’s godhood but it can indicate that the garden is the place where God’s power is made manifest. In this event this power manifested itself through the resurrection. 26 The particular time at which the woman arrives at Jesus’ tomb may also lead to associations with the garden of Paradise. Mary Magdalene to the tomb “cometh early, when it was yet dark” (Jn 20:1). According to some exegetical scholars, this may be a reference to Eden’s location: “God planted a garden in Eden, in the east” (Gen 2:8). These scholars think that “in the east” means much the same as “where the sun rises” and in this sense it symbolises awakening life. The day’s life begins with the coming of the sun from the east, the first people were called to life by God in Eden in the east; and, finally, at sunrise Mary Magdalene discovered Jesus’ em- pty tomb, the sign of his new life. 27 The setting of Jesus’ tomb in the garden does not only belong to the literary level of the Johannine story but is anchored in the historical level. This does not hinder the symbolic reading of this location. This detail, read as a symbol, shows the garden – just like in the story of Paradise – as the place where God’s presence is evident, in this case manifested through Jesus’ resurrection. The resurrection it- self contains within it the idea of immortality, closely tied to the ancient symbolism

  • 25 W.E. Lemke, “Ogród”, in P. Achtemeier (ed.), Encyklopedia biblijna, trans. Z. Kościuk, Warszawa 1999, 866.

  • 26 Continuing, the garden in the Old Testament, as was shown above, has a metaphorical and symbolic meaning – it is the place where God’s presence is made manifest and the place of immor-

tality. In the Canticle however the symbol of the garden refers to the beloved to whom the lover

comes (Sg 4:12; compare 5:1; 6:2). J.L. Ska identifies the beloved in the Canticle with Mary

Magdalene who meets Jesus in the garden. John 20 and Canticle 3 describe two very similar experi- ences, even using the same terminology. Mary Magdalene searches for Jesus in the morning just as does the beloved in the Canticle but she does not find him. Mary meets two angels, the beloved meets guards. In both cases a short dialog eventuates between the woman and the individuals she has just met. The detailed allegory means: the garden is the Church, Jesus is the gardener who is leading the Church, and Mary Magdalene is symbolic of those who belong to the Church (this is why she is identified with the garden in the Canticle).

  • 27 P. Perkins notes that the stress upon the early hour recalls Johannine symbolism of light; “John”, in R.E. Brown - J.A. Fitzmyer - R.E. Murphy (ed.), The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, London 1994 4 , 983.

Discovering the Secrets of God’s Gardens. Resurrection as New Creation


of the garden. In this way, the Johannine view of the garden fits perfectly into the mental milieu of his times.