Book of Wisdom

The Book of Wisdom, or the Wisdom of Solomon, is a Jewish work written in Greek and most likely composed in Alexandria, Egypt. Generally dated to the mid first century BC, the central theme of the work is "Wisdom" itself, appearing under two principal aspects. In its relation to man, Wisdom is the perfection of knowledge of the righteous as a gift from God showing itself in action. In direct relation to God, Wisdom is with God from all eternity. It is one of the seven Sapiential or wisdom books comprising the Septuagint, the others being Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job, and Sirach. It is included in the canon of Deuterocanonical books by the Roman Catholic Church and the anagignoskomena of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Most Protestants consider it part of the Apocrypha.

Structure, genre and content

The structure can be divided into three sections:
  1. Book of Eschatology
  2. * exhortation to justice
  3. * speech of the impious, contrasts of the wicked and the just
  4. * exhortation to wisdom
  5. Book of Wisdom
  6. * Solomon's speech concerning wisdom, wealth, power and prayer
  7. Book of History
  8. * introduction, followed by diptychs of plagues
  9. * digression on God's power and mercy
  10. * digression on false worship and further plagues
  11. * recapitulation and concluding doxology.
The book is addressed to the rulers of the earth, urging them to love righteousness and seek wisdom; the wicked think that all is chance and that they should enjoy each day, but they are deluded. In the second section Solomon tells of his search for wisdom.
The Wisdom of Solomon can be linked to several forms of ancient literature, both Jewish and non-Jewish, but it clearly belongs with biblical Wisdom books such as the Book of Job, one of only five such books among ancient Jewish literature. In terms of classical genre it has been identified as an encomium and with the Greek genre of the "exhortatory discourse", by which a teacher attempts to persuade others to a certain course of action.


in the 2nd century AD, Augustine and Pope Innocent I considered Wisdom of Solomon as part of the Old Testament. Athanasius writes that the Book of Wisdom along with three other deuterocanonical books, while not being part of the Canon, "were appointed by the Fathers to be read". Epiphanius of Salamis mentions that the Wisdom of Solomon was of disputed canonicity. According to the monk Rufinus of Aquileia the Book of Wisdom was not called a canonical but ecclesiastical book.
The Book of Wisdom was listed as canonical by the Council of Rome, the Synod of Hippo, the Council of Carthage and the Council of Carthage, the Council of Florence and the Council of Trent.


The Wisdom of Solomon was written in Greek, in Alexandria, in the late 1st century BC or early 1st century AD. The author's prime literary source was the Septuagint, in particular the Wisdom literature and the Book of Isaiah, and he was familiar with late Jewish works as the Book of Enoch and with Greek philosophical literature. It is uncertain whether the book has a single author or comes from a school of writers, but recent scholarship has favoured regarding it as a unified work. In either case its blend of Greek and Jewish features suggests a learned Hellenistic background, and despite the address to the "rulers of the world" the actual audience was probably members of the author's own community who were tempted to give up their Jewishness in the face of the temptations of Greek culture and the hostile conditions facing Jews in the Greek world.


The book opens with the opposed pairs righteousness/unrighteousness and death/immortality: those who do not follow righteousness will fall into "senseless reasoning" and will not be open to wisdom; wisdom is not an inherent human quality nor one that can be taught, but comes from outside, and only to those who are prepared through righteousness. The suffering of the righteous will be rewarded with immortality, while the wicked will end miserably. The unrighteous are doomed because they do not know God's purpose, but the righteous will judge the unrighteous in God's presence. Lady Wisdom dominates the next section, in which Solomon speaks. She existed from the Creation, and God is her source and guide. She is to be loved and desired, and kings seek her: Solomon himself preferred Wisdom to wealth, health, and all other things. She in turn has always come to the aid of the righteous, from Adam to the Exodus. The final section takes up the theme of the rescue of the righteous, taking the Exodus as its focus: "You have not neglected to help at all times and in all places.".