Prophecy and Revelation in the Wisdom of Solomon

Episode 20 February 06, 2024 00:57:39
Prophecy and Revelation in the Wisdom of Solomon
Catholic Theology Show
Prophecy and Revelation in the Wisdom of Solomon

Feb 06 2024 | 00:57:39


Show Notes

How does the book of Wisdom encourage us to unite humanity’s philosophical pursuit of wisdom with God’s revelation in history? Today, Dr. Michael Dauphinais and Dr. Mark Giszczak, professor of scripture and theology at the Augustine Institute, unpack the Wisdom of Solomon, while addressing related themes such as how Scripture should be approached according to the Second Vatican Council. 



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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: The pursuit of wisdom is different. It's about communion with, it's about going out of myself in love for wisdom, love for the truth, love for God. And that as I'm sort of being caught up in that journey toward wisdom, I'm journeying toward God, what St. Bonaventure refers to as the journey of the mind to God. [00:00:24] Speaker B: Welcome to the catholic theology show presented by Ave Maria University. This podcast is sponsored in part by Annunciation Circle, a community that supports the mission of Ave Maria University through their monthly donations of $10 or more. If you'd like to support this podcast and the mission of Ave Maria University, I encourage you to visit slash join for more information. [00:00:50] Speaker C: I'm your host, Michael Doffiney, and we are joined today by professor of Scripture and theology from the Augustine Institute, Dr. Mark Gizcheck, who has just written a book on the wisdom of Solomon in the Old Testament. So welcome to the show. [00:01:04] Speaker A: Hey, it's really great to be with you, Michael. I'm really delighted. [00:01:07] Speaker B: Great. [00:01:08] Speaker C: Mark is not only a professor of scripture and theology at the Gustin Institute, but is also an alumni alumnus of Ave Maria College in Michigan and was one of our students up there and graduated in 2005. So it's great to see you come full circle and be teaching. You've been teaching at the Gustin Institute for I think, what, 13 years now? [00:01:30] Speaker A: Yeah, about 1314 years. That's right. [00:01:32] Speaker C: Professor Gizcheck holds degrees from Abe Mary College, the Augustine Institute, Catholic University of America. And is it the biblical in Rome as well? [00:01:43] Speaker A: It's the pontifical biblical commission, actually. [00:01:46] Speaker C: Okay, the Pontifical Biblical Commission, yeah, the biblical is in the, yeah, the, the. [00:01:51] Speaker A: Commission in the Vatican offers degrees by exam, which I did. [00:01:57] Speaker C: Oh, wonderful. Well, that's. So you have a book that's been published as part of the catholic commentary on Sacred Scripture, a commentary on the wisdom of Solomon. The Book of Wisdom from the Old Testament is really, I think, one of my favorite books from the Old Testament. There's so many favorite books, but the Book of Wisdom, it just kind of unpacks so much and it illumines the path of wisdom. It illumines a great sense of harmony between faith and reason, between the fact that God's law and his revelation really kind of perfects the longing for truth and wisdom that's at the heart of each person. So tell us a little bit about how you got interested in writing a commentary on the Book of Wisdom. [00:02:51] Speaker A: Sure. So this story, I guess, goes back a long ways, but I wrote my dissertation on another book in the wisdom literature, the Song of Songs. And I've always really been attracted to books that are difficult to interpret, books that are a little bit out of the spotlight, and that, to me, must contain mysteries that the Lord wanted to entrust to us. And I found that in spades in the Song of Songs, which is so complex and so beautiful and yet so short and seemingly simple. And something similar, I think, arises from the wisdom of Solomon in particular. I was drawn to it because I started looking through the literature and couldn't find anything. [00:03:32] Speaker D: Right. [00:03:32] Speaker A: There's just not that much that's been published about the book in the past 50 years or so. We really haven't seen a full length commentary in English since the 1970s. And so I really felt like it was time to write a book about this, especially as the catholic commentary on sacred scripture was gearing up to turn toward the Old Testament. So you're probably familiar with the commentary series on the New Testament, where there are 17 volumes and all the books of the New Testament. And just a few years ago, Peter Williamson and Mary Healy invited me to join the editorial team and to turn our focus to the Old Testament. So right now we're preparing. The plan is right now, 16 volumes on the Old Testament. And this particular one on Wisdom of Solomon is the inaugural one. It's the very first one. And then later, in 2024, we'll be releasing a commentary on the Book of Ezekiel. So I'm looking forward to watching those roll out over the next eight to ten years. And it's really wonderful to be part of a project like that. [00:04:33] Speaker C: And maybe you could say a little bit about the larger commentary series that Mary Healy and Peter Williamson were editing, and now you're editing with them. It's called the catholic commentary on sacred Scripture. I think some people might be familiar with. I think Scott Hahn has the Romans book. I think Peter Williamson writes the one on Ephesians. There are a number of other major scholars, I think. Is it William Wright and Francis Martin who wrote the one on? So. But what is it that you're trying to do in that commentary series? And maybe if you could talk a little bit about what did you find was lacking or what did the editors find was lacking in a lot of biblical commentaries? Because I think when the average perhaps priest or theology student thinks of a biblical commentary, often they're not really that helpful. They seem to be overly technical, maybe overly historical, and so a lot of people, I think, just skip over them. So I think, how did you want these or how do these catholic commentary on sacred scriptures. How did these different. [00:05:44] Speaker A: Yeah, so the purpose of the series is really to kind of hit the sweet spot between, let's say, your average study Bible and a kind of highly technical commentary with greek and Hebrew and all kinds of other things in it. And in the catholic world, we just haven't had a whole lot in that space. There are a handful of things that have come out over the years. And on the Old Testament side, there was a series back in the 1980s called the Old Testament message that kind of did this kind of approach, but it's been out of print for many, many years. And this is really a great opportunity, especially after the publication of the catechism. So in the catholic commentary and sacred scripture, what you'll find as you read through is the biblical text. Then you'll find cross references to other parts of the Bible, but then you'll also find where it appears in the catechism and where it appears in the lectionary. And then as you read through the exegesis where the text is being explained, the scholars who are writing here are trying to explain it in relatively normal catechetical language, not in kind of scholarly speak. And you'll also find helpful sidebars that quote voices from the sacred tradition and explain certain elements of the biblical background, whether it be archaeological or linguistic information. And I think you're right that a lot of biblical scholarship tends toward the highly abstract or highly academic. I'm thinking of a commentary I know of on the Book of Leviticus. That's three volumes, and each volume is maybe 1500 pages. Normal human beings are not going to read that kind of book. And so one of the things that the series does, I think, is it makes scripture and scripture scholarship accessible to priests, to catechists, to Bible study leaders, to people who really want to know more about the Bible. They've kind of gone above and beyond maybe your typical study Bible notes or kind of booklets and very simple information. They're longing for something they can kind of sink their teeth into, but they're not actually going to go take courses in Hebrew. Right. This commentary series, I think, really hits that spot in between the sort of highly abstract stuff and the kind of very low level popular stuff. [00:07:51] Speaker C: It's very well put. And maybe another thing, if you could unpack a little bit for us, is the church in Dave verbum in Vatican II. And as she continues to teach and kind of specified some of that material in the catechism, emphasizes that we don't receive scripture just as another book. It's not a book of antiquarian interest. It's not a book that was written merely by human beings. But the church speaks of scripture as having two authors, a human author who used his kind of talents, his historical situation, his language, in a fully human way. And yet, at the same time, that God is acting to inspire scripture so that scripture can be inerrant without heir, so that scripture really gives us a true part of God's revelation for our salvation. So could you say a little bit about how this kind of dual authorship of scripture kind of factors into the kind of interpretation that you offer and maybe specifically even in your commentary on the book? [00:09:11] Speaker A: Sure. I think that's a really important point to think about, the way that the church invites us to interpret scripture and the way that we often see it done. So I think it's tempting for catholic scholars to fall into one of two modes that Pope Benedict warns about in verbim Domini, right, to adopt a kind of overly historicist posture where we do treat it just like another book, and we just sort of join the kind of group of Bible scholars doing the thing that they're doing, and we forget that this is really meant to be God's revelation to his people. But then, on the other hand, there's the approach that he criticizes kind of overly spiritual exegesis. And Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical divino aflante Spiritu back in 1943, criticized this approach as well. That would be a kind of approach that's really just looking for points for prayer and reflection and isn't really interested in the literal sense of the text, isn't really interested in the historical questions at all, and is kind of floating above the text, kind of doing a kind of spiritual theology, as Pope Benedict says, without foundation. And so I think what we're really trying to do is operate in that kind of Ratzingerian, right, post Vatican II kind of mindset of, okay, we want to respect the historical, literal sense, we want to respect the intention of the human author, while at the same time welcoming divine revelation as it comes to us through the senses of scripture, as it comes to us in prophecy and fulfillment. And I mean, really reading scripture as scripture, not just as another book. A couple points where you might see this in the wisdom of Solomon are in these key passages that have been picked up by the tradition as prophetic, right, as indicating something about Christ. So, for example, it's in chapter two that we find a group of kind of scurrilous bad guys that are persecuting a righteous man. Because of his righteousness, he calls himself a son of God, and so we're going to put him to a shameful death. Well, this has often been read in the tradition as a prophecy of Christ, particularly fulfilled in the Gospel of Matthew right at Mount Calvary. A couple of other examples of this later on in the book would be, for example, in chapter 14, verse seven, where it's speaking of Noah's ark, and it says, blessed is the wood by which righteousness comes. [00:11:29] Speaker B: Right. [00:11:29] Speaker A: And there it's thinking of the deliverance of God's people through the flood by means of the wooden ark. But, of course, christian interpreters have adopted that as referring to the cross, right? Blessed is the wood by which righteousness comes. And so there are all these kind of, like, touch points that have been seen between the Book of Wisdom and the New Testament that have been then picked up in the interpretive and liturgical tradition and celebrated throughout time. And oftentimes we don't even hear them because we're not familiar enough with the Book of Wisdom to really see it. So one of my favorite ones is in chapter 16. I think it's verse 20. It says, instead of these things you gave your people food of angels, it's referring to the manna. And without their toil, you supplied them from heaven with bread ready to eat, providing every pleasure and suited to every taste. And that passage in the Vulgate is the basis for the antiphon that we use in eucharistic adoration. There are all these moments, right, where I was reading the song or reading the Book of Wisdom, interpreting it and being like, wow, people don't know about this link. [00:12:39] Speaker D: Right? [00:12:39] Speaker A: They don't know about this connection. And I'm so delighted to be able to kind of connect some of the dots for my readers. [00:12:48] Speaker C: Yeah, that's really kind of powerful to see those kind of expressions in reference to Christ's coming, Christ's suffering. Right. I think it even says in wisdom, too, where it talks about how that. What does it say? Something like that he calls God or he boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true. [00:13:11] Speaker B: Right. [00:13:11] Speaker C: Let us test what will happen at the end of his life. For if the righteous man is God's son, he will help him and he will deliver him. Let us therefore test him with insult and torture. [00:13:22] Speaker B: Right. [00:13:22] Speaker C: So it is a very prophetic theme. There's another one. I know that one of our guests, Father John Ricardo, who runs the acts 29 apostolate loves in wisdom 18. Really? It's like 18, kind of 14 and 15. But it says this when, while gentle silence enveloped all things and night in its swift course was half gone, your all powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of the land that was doomed, a stern warrior carrying the sharp sword of your authentic command. And in that particular context, it's talking about how the word of God leapt from heaven to judge the Egyptians. But that's also a prefigurement of the word of God leaping from heaven at Christmas, and that Christ comes at Christmas not merely as a child, but as a child who will become a stern warrior. [00:14:26] Speaker B: Right. [00:14:26] Speaker C: A pitiless warrior who will defeat Satan, who comes to lead the new exodus. [00:14:32] Speaker A: Yeah, I think it's with passages like these that we need to kind of work on our biblical vocabulary of imagination to come to understand the kinds of prophecies that are being made, the kinds of claims that are being made. I'm thinking, for example, of Handel's Messiah and Isaiah, chapter nine, to us, a son is given, and here we're seeing all kinds of hints of how the Lord is going to arrive and how he's going to save us. But the Lord doesn't really give us the key to unlock those mysteries until he himself arrives on the scene. It's only in retrospect that we can fully understand the scope of these prophecies and what they really signify. [00:15:16] Speaker C: Yeah. So one of the things that you note is you note there are two different ways of kind of dividing up the book of wisdom. The first book looks at. The first five chapters are on life and death, part two. Six to nine is on Solomon's pursuit of wisdom, and then ten to eleven or ten to 19, sorry, is on the book of history. But you also notice you can divide up the first nine books as kind of a more almost like a philosophical quest for wisdom, and then ten to 19 as this really theology of salvation history. And I think this is kind of interesting because the Book of wisdom is not in the protestant version of the Bible. So it's often, I think, seen as suspect because it uses a lot of greek philosophy, or at least shows familiarity with greek philosophy in terms of an overall understanding of creation, kind of reasoning back to the creator. But it also kind of shows how greek philosophy on its own is almost like kind of pregnant in waiting for the wisdom of God as revealed in the Torah and in the temple of the Old Testament, especially in the wisdom of God that comes to us through his commandments. So you have the first half, which is this pursuit of wisdom. And then the second half is necessarily historical, how God has actually saved. [00:16:46] Speaker A: Right. [00:16:47] Speaker C: How he delivered Israel from bondage to idolatry and confusion in time, in history. So it seems to me, I feel like we have a kind of beautiful theme of, like, the wisdom that's available in creation from God and then the wisdom that's available in God's redemption. So how would you see these themes? In a way? Because sometimes people contrast the philosophic pursuit of wisdom within God's actions in history, but it seems that the Book of wisdom forces us to hold them both side by side. [00:17:21] Speaker A: Yeah. So it might be helpful to kind of try to put our feet into the sandals of an ancient hellenistic jew living in Alexandria to really kind of grasp what's going on. [00:17:31] Speaker D: Right. [00:17:31] Speaker A: So this book is probably the very last book of the Old Testament to be written, probably written in the late hellenistic or early roman period. So the Romans took over Alexandria in 30 bc. So I think it's probably written right after that. It's possible that it was a little bit before then, but it's very, very late in the Old Testament period, almost certainly the last book of the Old Testament to be written. So what that means for us, though, is that to understand it well, we need to understand a little bit about that culture from which it arose, which is where you have a group of Jews, in fact, a lot of jews, there are more jews living in Alexandria than anywhere else at this time. And they have something of a kind of successful subculture right within that greek world of Alexandria. So you've got the great lighthouse of Alexandria, for example, and the Great Museum of Alexandria or the Library of Have. It's a kind of center of learning and culture, of trade, of finance and of religion and philosophy. But what's in vogue at that time is hellenistic philosophy. So you have a lot of different schools of thought within hellenism, where you have a lot of people who, they're embracing things like epicureanism and stoicism and cynicism and these other philosophies that kind of can be traced back to Plato and Aristotle and the early greek philosophers. And there are a lot of young jewish men living this environment who are very much attracted to the greek way of life. [00:19:03] Speaker D: Right? [00:19:03] Speaker A: So whether that be going to the Gymnasium, going to the museum, reading greek philosophy, discoursing in the marketplace about these philosophical ideas. And the Guy who writes the Book of Wisdom is living in that environment, and he's seeing what's happening, right? It's a cosmopolitan, pluralistic society, and the young men are falling away. They're forsaking their faith, and they're going after the idols of the pagans, or they're going after greek philosophy. But interestingly, his strategy for convincing them or converting them or helping them to receive the traditions of their fathers is not wholly negative. He doesn't just look out at the world and say, that's all terrible. You should just forget about all of that and shun all of that and come join our inviolate community. That's not really what he's doing. He's engaging with that philosophical world around them, and he's saying, okay, so you have all this beautiful philosophy and wisdom out there in the greek world, but let me show you the real secrets of wisdom. Let me explain to you the real quest for wisdom, which we can see in Solomon and in his quest for wisdom, and which we can see in the lessons that we can draw from the book of Exodus and our forefathers. And so for, like, his outreach program, if you will, is not about just merely censuring the world, but is about finding what's best in the world and then using it for the sake of drawing people into fidelity to God. And so for me, I think you're right. You see, the first half of the Book of Wisdom is all about the quest for wisdom, love, righteousness, you rulers of the earth. And then we hear Solomon's autobiography about his love story with Lady Wisdom, how he know, enticed by her and how he fell in love with her and then devoted his entire life to her. And that really is a kind of greek theme. What is philosophy after all? [00:20:51] Speaker D: Right. [00:20:51] Speaker A: Love of wisdom. Right? So he's playing up this kind of wisdom centric greek theme, talking about loving wisdom, seeking after wisdom, thinking about wisdom, which is really loving God, seeking God, and thinking about God, right? And it's only in the second half of the book, chapters ten through 19, that he does the kind of reveal, if you will, where if you think of the first half as about faith or, sorry, the first half about reason, then the second half is about faith. The first half is about the quest for wisdom. The second half is about reflecting on how God has revealed wisdom throughout time, and in particular how he's revealed his wisdom in the era of the Exodus, where God really divided humanity between the righteous and the unrighteous. So he's going to give you a kind of very stereotyped reading of the Book of Exodus in those chapters to illustrate God's hand at work. He's not so much interested in historical critical matters, right. He's not interested in parsing the details of where the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea or any of that stuff. He's much more interested in the divine pedagogy. Where do we see God's wisdom at work? How is God changing people? And how do we see his mercy at work, even in his dealing with the Egyptians and with the Canaanites? So some of the passages I love the most, he talks about how well the Lord could have created fearsome beasts that had sparks flying from their eyes to go after the Egyptians. But instead he sent frogs and gnats and other little creatures that they might be corrected little by little. It says in chapter twelve, verse two. Right. That they might come to learn and be converted to him. But in the end they approve, obstinate. And so the Lord has to judge them and bring the Hebrews out. And then it's a similar problem with the Canaanites, right, where the Lord is trying to correct them little by little, sending different judgments against them. But in the end, he has to get them out of the land and bring in the Israelites. And we see that the author of the Book of Wisdom is conscious of the fact that if somebody had a kind of naive reading of the Old testament stories, they could come to criticize the Lord and criticize his people on a number of grounds from a kind of greek philosophical vantage point. And he is responding to possible objections to the story and saying, look, this is how God is making his wisdom manifest is by rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked. [00:23:12] Speaker C: So in a way, the book of wisdom then, is somewhat of an apologetic work, showing how that the search for wisdom is wonderful and we should dedicate our lives to wisdom. But that the wisdom that we seek has to be a higher wisdom of really God's redemption. That we can't, in a way, solve the problem of being human on our own. [00:23:37] Speaker B: Right. [00:23:37] Speaker C: That's really where the Greeks were right to seek wisdom. But ultimately they were wrong in thinking that wisdom could be a human achievement. The wisdom we need is really the wisdom that only God can give us. And so the book of wisdom is kind of showing that. [00:23:57] Speaker A: Yes, well, and I think this is where we see a diversion between the pursuit of wisdom on the one hand and the pursuit of curiosity on the other. Right? So a lot of contemporary intellectual discourse is about the pursuit of curiosity. Where I have my own kind of idiosyncratic questions about the world. And I want to answer them. And I'm going to read a lot of books and do a lot of research to kind of satisfy myself, whereas the pursuit of wisdom is different. Right. It's about communion with God ultimately, right. It's about going out of myself in love for wisdom, love for the truth, love for God. And that as I'm sort of being caught up in that journey toward wisdom, I'm journeying toward God, what St. Bonaventure refers to as the journey of the mind to God. And I think that that's a real distinction between, if you will, christian approach to wisdom and curiosity, the search for wisdom and curiosity, and a secular approach. A secular approach really is kind of trapping me within myself. It's really about my own idiosyncrasies, whereas the search for wisdom is about ultimately being ready for communion with God, for being one with him, for loving him and being loved by him. And if the intellectual things that we're engaged in are really just kind of leading us back into the dark crevices of our own minds, we're not doing it the right way. We're not doing it the way that scripture invites us to, really. It's really about preparing our hearts, preparing our minds for being in love with. You know, this is where I love this idea that Thomas talks about how wisdom is the highest of the intellectual virtues. Why? Because it considers the supreme cause, which is God. [00:25:34] Speaker C: Right. [00:25:35] Speaker A: Like, there's no greater thing you could do than pursue wisdom because you're pursuing knowledge of God. And I think this is a kind of insight that the hellenistic Jews had that I think many of us have lost. Right. I think we live in a kind of emotive age or an anti intellectual age or an era where people are moved by social media and by other things like this and that a lot of folks, I think, even in the christian world, don't have a kind of long term, lifelong mindset of my christian life as an intellectual pursuit, as a quest for wisdom. And I love this idea in the Old Testament that our life should be characterized by a quest, and that quest is for wisdom. [00:26:20] Speaker D: Right? [00:26:20] Speaker A: So it's Sophia in Greek, right. For lady wisdom, that we long for knowledge, because knowledge is what connects us with God. And I think that if we can recover some sense of this kind of intellectual journey toward God, it might really go a long way to solving a lot of the kind of spiritual crises that we find ourselves in. [00:26:42] Speaker C: That's so well put, and let's take a break now. [00:26:45] Speaker B: And when we come back, I want. [00:26:46] Speaker C: To dive in a little bit more to this theme of kind of wisdom and maybe how our culture needs to recover it, and especially how we might find it in the book of wisdom and of course, in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. And then we'll also then dive into these three parts of the actual book that you discussed. [00:27:07] Speaker A: Sounds good. [00:27:15] Speaker D: You're listening to the catholic theology show presented by Ave Maria University and sponsored in part by Annunciation Circle. Through their generous donations of $10 or more per month, Annunciation circle members directly support the mission of AMU to be a fountainhead of renewal for the church through our faculty, staff, students, and alumni. To learn more, visit slash join. Thank you for your continued support. And now let's get back to the show. [00:27:44] Speaker B: Welcome back to the catholic theology show. I'm your host, Michael Doffiney. And today we are joined by Professor Mark Gischeck from the Guston Institute, who has written a recent commentary on the book of Wisdom from the Old Testament as part of the catholic commentary on sacred scripture. So thanks for being on the show today, Mark. [00:28:05] Speaker A: Hey, it's a real joy to be with Michael. [00:28:07] Speaker B: Excellent. And so we were just talking a little bit. You were mentioning how the Greeks did come up with the idea that wisdom was worth seeking, and that wisdom was a view of the whole, and that wisdom was a understanding of the highest cause. So in some sense, Plato and Aristotle had some view that there was a cause of the universe, the first cause, a first mover, and that coming to know that true good, that one the highest, was really what would make us happiest. That living virtuously and friendship in a magnanimous way, filled with boldness and daring, but also ultimately really seeking, knowing the highest things. Right. Aristotle say that contemplation of God makes us happiest. So they had that sense then, the book of wisdom. And say the christian tradition sees that that desire is what is actually fulfilled in God's revelation to himself with Israel, and then in Jesus Christ. So God makes himself known, so we can come to know the creator, which is our greatest desire. And I love the way you talk about with Aquinas, speaking of wisdom, as know the knowledge of the highest cause of everything. Another idea I like associated with wisdom is Aquinas will say, belongs to the wise man to order. This is how he speaks in the summa country and tiles. And so wisdom then, theological wisdom means we order the whole of our knowledge of reality around God. So it's knowledge of God, everything coming from God, everything going back to God. That's ultimately what wisdom is. And of course, as you note, that's not curiosity. That's really the story of my life, is to recognize that I'm part of God's story. I'm part of God's love story. And that's even getting first, John, that God is love. And this was revealed to us when he sent his son. So this idea then, that in a way, in modern society, we tend to, I think, through scientific knowledge, through empiricism, through a lot of different ways, both politically and scientifically, we believe in what we can know and touch. So I think we know a lot about parts, but we've lost kind of the wisdom of bringing together the whole. There's even a line from, I believe it's Lord of the Rings, the two towers or something, where at one point, though, Saruman, who's gone the way of the dark side. No longer Saruman the white, but now Saruman the many colored. And Gandalf says, to know he who breaks a thing, to understand it, has left the path of wisdom. But I think this is what we do, is we break things apart. And we're very good at breaking things apart and studying with intensity the little things and the parts. But we lose, in a certain sense, how to put back. And in a way, we've studied human beings so much, but we haven't learned how to put them back together so that I can put my life on a path of wisdom. And I think that's a real challenge for as a teacher, as a parent today, as really anybody in a modern society is trying to recover that sense of wisdom, that there is an order to the whole. I think the catechism at one point speaks about creation, and it talks about that we need a catechesis on creation. Because if we don't understand creation, which is really the wisdom of the creator and all things coming from the creator and going back to the creator, we lose the sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. So I think, again, wisdom, as you put it, it is intellectual. It is also something that we desire. [00:32:17] Speaker C: Right? [00:32:17] Speaker B: It's both something that moves the intellect and the will. But it's really that which gives our lives meaning. And, I mean, I think that the. [00:32:26] Speaker A: Way the Book of wisdom treats this problem is in terms of wisdom versus power. And in the hellenistic era, it's an era of confusion, of political confusion, in particular, because the old systems have broken down. And Alexander's conquered the whole world, and he's divvied up his empire among his generals. And you have all of these guys who are ruling not because they're hereditary monarchs, but because they happened to be Alexander's generals at the time of his death. And so there's a kind of political confusion in the hellenistic era. Know what constitutes political legitimacy? And there are a lot of different theories kind of floating around. Well, maybe political legitimacy is won by the spear, right? If I win enough battles, then I should be made king. But there's also another strand in there that kingship ought to be won by a strong moral life. And so for a lot of these hellenistic kings, they have people writing about them or writing about their legitimacy, talking about how moral they are. And it's because of their righteousness that they should be then made king, or that their kingship, that they already have should be legitimized. And it's those kinds of themes you see, like, right in the first verse of the Book of wisdom. Love, righteousness. You rulers of the earth, think of the Lord with uprightness and seek him with sincerity of heart, right? That idea is that the rulers of the hellenistic world are listening to the author of Wisdom. But then in one of my favorite passages, you see it again in chapter six, verse 17, the beginning of wisdom. Now, notably. Right. Of course, in proverbs, it's the fear of the Lord. But here it's a little different. The beginning of wisdom is the sincerest desire for instruction, and concern for instruction is love of her wisdom, and love of her is the keeping of her laws. Giving heed to her laws is assurance of immortality. And immortality brings one near to God. So the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom. And this is really the lesson, right, that there are a lot of people that want power but don't really understand the intellectual path to wisdom. But here he's saying, if you really want power, what you should desire first is wisdom. And if you desire wisdom first, then some kind of power will be granted to you. And here he's thinking of probably the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis, who sought wisdom, who sought God and was persecuted and ridiculed, but eventually vindicated and given a position of great authority and power. And I think the challenge in our era is similar, right? That people seek power. Yes, through politics and money, but I think largely through technology, right. Power over life and death, power over medical outcomes, power over financial outcomes, all kinds of things, through our technological approach to life. And that's done a lot of really good things, right. We've solved a lot of problems through technology, but the problem is people don't find it meaningful. Right. It's that we're living in an era with all kinds of wonderful technology. And people feel empty on the inside and feel sad and depressed and anxious and so forth on the inside. So what do we do about that? Right? What we have is a problem of meaning, which can't be solved through more technology. It can be only solved through these deeper currents of thought that we find present in the wisdom tradition. [00:35:46] Speaker B: Yeah, I love even after wisdom one, one that you read when it goes to wisdom one, two, and it says, because the Lord is found by those who do not put him to the test and manifests himself to those who do not distrust him. So in a way, if we turn from God, who is the source of wisdom, it's not surprising that we will not find wisdom. And then when we don't find wisdom, we won't be able to find that kind of inner, those lighthouses, that thing that really grounds our life. And it's also interesting, too, that when you talk about that idea of in Wisdom 620, the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom, as you quoted. And it's interesting, even back in Plato's republic, he had said that of course, the tyrant is in charge, but the tyrant is scared, because the tyrant knows he's going to be killed by someone. So he's constantly in fear of everyone under him. And so if you become a tyrant, you actually don't have a kingdom. If you are ruled by your base possessions, you're actually enslaved. And so this idea that only if you love wisdom can you see a kingdom. And I think that was part of the best maybe of Plato and Aristotle, but of course, over know it had degenerated into this kind of using wisdom or cunning for the sake of political manipulation. Sure. Especially in the stoics and everything. So one thing though, and I remember myself, I had a loved one, I had a sister who died when I was young. And I think I really thought that Christianity was kind of silly growing up or, well, probably more just stupid. I was angry at christians because I thought, how could somebody believe in a good God when the world is so broken, so corrupt, filled with corruption? We die. There's all this death and suffering. And I remember reading the book of Wisdom at some point after I'd come back to the faith, both in chapter one and chapter two. And I think the book of Wisdom's reflection on life and death is really just masterful. And I will say it's something that Plato and Aristotle never imagined. Right. The search for wisdom, yes. Is shared by many human beings across the world. Many different cultures have discovered that from time to time. But the fact that there's an answer right at the end of the apology Plato has, you know, I go to die, you go to live. Of course, he's on trial and he's condemned to death. So he goes, I go to die, you go to live. Which of us goes to the better as known only to the God, right? Well, in the Book of wisdom, even in the Old Testament, we already know that it's better to go to. [00:38:48] Speaker C: Right. [00:38:49] Speaker B: It's better to be righteous and to go to God. And we certainly know that in Jesus Christ. But, so in book one of wisdom, it says this, right, God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. He created all things that they might exist. Yeah, right. But ungodly men, by their words and deeds, summoned death. Considering him a friend, they pined away and they made a covenant with him. And then again, at the end of wisdom two, after putting to death the righteous man, it says this, right, God created man for incorruption and made him in the image of his own eternity. But through the devil's envy, death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it. So just say a little bit about this whole vision of life and death, that there is a meaning and purpose not only to worldly wisdom or to wisdom that could be seen within this life, but some kind of wisdom that goes beyond this life and the disordered wisdom that enters in through the devil and through ungodly men that somehow is associated with death. [00:40:10] Speaker A: Yeah, I think death here, while it's easy for us to think of death as natural, right, it's just our natural end. Everyone dies. Death here and in Genesis three is unnatural. [00:40:24] Speaker B: Right? [00:40:25] Speaker A: It's an aberration. It's something that wasn't part of the plan from the beginning, but that has somehow found a way to kind of sneak in. [00:40:33] Speaker B: Right? [00:40:33] Speaker A: And he uses a kind of extended metaphor in chapter two to describe why it is that people in this world get kind of seduced into making a covenant with death. And it really begins with what he calls unsound reasoning, right. With bad thinking. Bad thinking leads to bad morals. [00:40:53] Speaker D: Right? [00:40:53] Speaker A: They reasoned unsoundly. Chapter two, verse one. And what's their reasoning? Well, they're kind of materialists. They don't believe in an immortal soul. They don't believe in any kind of deeper life. I'm just a machine. Right? And it says in two, two, this is the bad guys talking. Reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts, right? So consciousness is an epiphenomenon right. Not a reality. It's something that appears to be true, but isn't really true. We're just physical machines. And so then the kind of consequence of that initially is just a kind of hedonism in chapter two, verse six. Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist. Right. Wine, women and song. Right. But then it gets worse. Right after they realize that the things of this world are kind of vacuous, the pleasures don't really satisfy. Then they look to the guy who claims to be one with God or to be God's son, and they decide to persecute him. [00:41:48] Speaker D: Right? [00:41:48] Speaker A: Let us lie and wait for the righteous man. Let us test to see if his words are true, the passage you read earlier, and eventually let us condemn him to a shameful death. So they've made a covenant with death. They're living a life that's actually oriented toward a kind of deathly outcome. And the outcome of their hedonism is not just kind of mere pleasure. The outcome of their hedonism is murderous thoughts that resolve in the persecution of the righteous. And I think that if the book were to be cut off after chapter two, we'd be left in the lurch thinking, well, is the writer of wisdom really just a kind of pessimist? Right? Like, there are all these bad guys in the world, they're persecuting the righteous, and that's it. But his view extends beyond death. [00:42:36] Speaker B: Right? [00:42:36] Speaker A: So one of the most consoling passages in the whole Bible, I think, is wisdom, chapter three, verse one, which is read at christian funerals, right? But the souls of the just are in the hand of God. Oh, my gosh. If that's true, if that's true, then we can hope for this kind of ultimate vindication beyond death. And he goes on to kind of give this depiction of what it's like at the final judgment, where those hedonists from chapter two come up for judgment before the Lord. And the righteous guy that they murdered is now accusing them right there before the divine throne. And, I mean, it's just, you know, it's such a consoling vision, especially when you think of the persecution of christians or the deaths of the martyrs or just all of the kind of challenges and sufferings and miseries that christians often face in their lives, and realizing that in the end, God is somehow going to vindicate the righteous. He's going to set everything right. And we have to have confidence in his judgment. We have to hope in his judgment. That is going to be the ultimate outcome of history. And if we don't have that vision, if we don't have that, I don't know if we really have hope. Right? If we're just living within the vicissitudes of this world and all of the kind of mixed and ambiguous outcomes it provides, there's a real kind of dissatisfaction we can experience. But if we can really believe that after death the Lord is going to vindicate the righteous, then there's a great confidence we can have in just trusting in him. [00:44:00] Speaker B: Yeah. And it's also beautiful to see how the book of WiSdoM teaches this. And jews believed it. We see it in the stories of the Maccabees and various martyrs in the Old Testament, and they believed it even before Jesus rose from the dead. [00:44:17] Speaker A: Yes. [00:44:17] Speaker B: So how much more we ought to have than great joy and confidence that ChrIST can overcome death? Now there are a handful of sections in here that are just beautiful on Wisdom. Wisdom 612. WISdom is radiant and unfading, easily discerned by those who love her, found by those who seek her. There's also a little section in wisdom 724. Wisdom is more mobile than any motion. Her pureness, she pervades and penetrates all things. She is a breath of the power of God, a pure emanation of the glory of the AlMighty. A little bit farther. Says in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God and prophets. [00:45:10] Speaker A: I don't know. [00:45:11] Speaker B: These hymns to wisdom are so beautiful and so inspiring. Right. What did you say about them in the commentary? [00:45:18] Speaker A: Well, I'm not going to read you all the passages about it, but I'll kind of give you a broad overview. I mean, I think really what we're seeing here are prophecies of the Holy Spirit. So the first reference that kind of gives us that hint is in chapter one, verse five, which refers to wisdom as a holy and disciplined spirit. And then there's this idea that the spirit of wisdom comes to inhabit holy souls. Right. It comes to dwell within the, just like our doctrine of the indwelling of the spirit. Right. So I think what we're seeing here is a kind of foretaste of Pentecost in these beautiful passages about wisdom. Obviously also a foretaste of the incarnation, as you pointed out from chapter 18. Right. That LadY Wisdom is a kind of twofold prophetic figure, right. On the one hand, she prophesied the coming of wisdom, incarnate ThE Lord Jesus, and on the other hand, she prophesied the coming of the Holy SpirIt who will come to inhabit us, dwell within us, with all of his gifts, including the gift of wisdom. So if you think of the Book of Wisdom as a kind of adapter between the greek and hebrew world and between the Old Testament and the New Testament, I think you could think of wisdom as a kind of adapter between the divine and human. Right. It's by gaining supernatural wisdom, by gaining access to God's mind that we become transformed. Right. Our minds become renewed and we become more like him. We have access to something that the world doesn't have access to and that we're able to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit. [00:46:58] Speaker D: Right. [00:46:58] Speaker A: We're able to operate in the wisdom of God by allowing his wisdom to penetrate our souls. [00:47:05] Speaker B: Yeah. And what a gift to become a friend of God, to become like a child of God and a prophet. And when we think about our current age's really epidemic of loneliness, of meaninglessness, that it is really discovering this wisdom. And I think that sense too, that wisdom can both be kind of a created wisdom which is within the world, that shapes the order of the world, and therefore is in us. And yet that created wisdom is only possible because of the uncreated wisdom. And that uncreated wisdom is revealed in the New Testament to be the uncreated wisdom of the Son and the uncreated wisdom of the spirit. We don't have too much time left, but I want to just maybe ask one more kind of substantive point, and then I want to turn to a couple of questions. So the wisdom of Solomon, chapters 13 and 14 are really kind of beautiful. I think they really echo Romans one in Paul. But in Wisdom 13, the author teaches that from the good things of creation, we can come to know the creator. But nonetheless, he then says that it was, however, though, that we didn't worship the creator and instead we worshipped created things. So this way in which through the created things of the world, we can come to know the creator. He puts it on chapter 13, verse five. From the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their creator. But nonetheless, then as it goes on in Wisdom 14, he says, of course, we didn't actually come to know the creator. Instead, we worship idols. And I think here he's definitely criticizing the grecoroman culture. But it goes on to even say in Wisdom 1427 that the worship of idols, not to be named, is the beginning and cause and end of every evil. So would you be able to discuss that a bit? [00:49:30] Speaker A: Yeah, sure. One of the things that you'll notice about chapters 1314 and 15 is that we're familiar with these themes because we're familiar with Romans chapter one. Now, the New Testament doesn't explicitly quote the Book of wisdom anywhere, but Romans one is one of the good candidates for maybe some allusions to the Book of Wisdom, because Paul's argument is essentially the same, right? That people became seduced by the creature and began to worship the creature rather than the creator. Even though they had the intellectual knowledge, they had the knowledge to know that these things were creatures. They had to have their origin somewhere else, but instead, they end up worshipping these things. And I think this is one of the ways in which the author of wisdom is very compassionate toward his audience of kings and rulers and pagans and Greeks. In chapter 13, he goes after the worship of nature and he says, you know, it's kind of understandable with all of these beautiful things all around us, the sun, the moon, the stars, the trees, the mountains, that you might be seduced into loving these things rather than loving their origin. Who is God? The creator. And yet it's a mistake, right? It's folly. And then he kind of, like, ups the ante a little bit, and he goes after another form of idolatry where people make statues of things, and then eventually he gets to the worst form in his mind, which is the worship of animals, right? How could anyone worship detestable creatures? It's so gross. But I think the kind of philosophical point here is that people are seeking happiness and people are seeking the good, and people are trying to love the good. And when they come to worship, say, creation, when they come to worship beautiful things, they're not worshipping something that is bad. They're just making an intellectual, or, if you will, theological error, right? They're not loving the supreme cause of all goods. They're not loving God himself. They're only loving his handiwork. And this is where I think the author of wisdom is inviting us to lift our sights higher toward God himself, toward him in his wisdom, in order that our whole being might be caught up in the mystery of loving God and being drawn to him. And I think these chapters, they give us in a kind of, like, negative image, right? Because they're a critique of idolatry. They give us a kind of negative image of what it means to really love God, right? And to forsake the things of this. [00:51:57] Speaker B: World now, as we are kind of coming to the end of our time, just maybe what are, like, I don't know, two to three kind of big takeaways that you would love readers of your book, be they maybe priests, seminarians, laypeople, catechists, just college students. What are a couple of things that you'd love them to take away from the book? [00:52:23] Speaker A: Yeah. Well, I think one is about the narrative shape of our life, right. That we need to think of our christian journey not as just a kind of either or. Am I justified or not? Am I saved or not? But we need to think of it as a story. And for Solomon, it's a love story. He falls in love with wisdom. He seeks her. He pursues her. He wooes her. He finds himself on a quest for her. And I think if we can paint that kind of picture for the people that we catechize and preach to and minister to and teach, I think that really gives people a kind of framework for thinking about a lifelong pursuit of Christ as a kind of quest for wisdom, as a love story, which I'm part of. And if we lose that sense of kind of narrative identity or narrative goal for our life, I think we can often kind of feel lost or kind of wandering out in the desert. But if our objective is to love God and to be caught up into that story that he's inviting us into, I think that really gives us a shape for the whole journey. [00:53:24] Speaker B: Well, that's very beautifully put. And sometimes I'll have students, when they read wisdom in the Old Testament, I'll have them know. Since Paul says that Christ is the wisdom and the power of know, obviously you have to make some adjustments, but sometimes actually read the story of, you know, if Christ is the one who is going to manifest himself to those who seek him, that we have not only wisdom, but wisdom's become a person. Yes. We're not only thinking of her as lady wisdom, it's actually wisdom and card. [00:54:01] Speaker A: Yes. Who we can love and have a relationship with. [00:54:04] Speaker B: Yeah, that's great. So just three questions I like to ask my. So, Mark, what's a book you're reading? [00:54:12] Speaker A: Oh, wow. Well, too many books, but one that I'm really enjoying is this book called Christian Prophecy, the post biblical tradition by Niels Christian Tvit. It has a preface by Pope Benedict, and it's a really fascinating book. It's a doctoral dissertation, but he explores the nature of prophecy after the death of the last apostle throughout christian history through the lives of the saints in a really deep theological mode, engaging some really important questions that were raised during the conciliar period. So that's been really enjoyable. [00:54:49] Speaker B: That's great. And what's a practice you do? A spiritual practice you do on a daily basis? To help you find greater meaning and purpose in Christ. [00:54:57] Speaker A: Yeah. Praying the rosary? Yeah. [00:55:02] Speaker B: Any tips, by the way, on how to pray the rosary? [00:55:04] Speaker A: Well, go on a pilgrimage. I think since going to the holy land, my prayer with the rosary has been enhanced one hundredfold because I've been to almost all of the places that are mentioned in the rosary. And so I can just picture them in my mind's eye every time that I pray it and put myself right there. So I find that really helpful. If you can't afford to go into pilgrimage, just look at pictures on the Internet of all those places or watch some videos about the holy land to get that same sense. But that's been really helpful to me. [00:55:35] Speaker B: And last question, what's a belief that you held about God that you later discovered was false, and what was the truth you discovered? [00:55:45] Speaker A: I mean, I think the main thing is what's been talked about as God's narrative identity versus God's ontological identity. Or as a child, it's really easy to think of God as a storybook character. He has a long white beard and wears purple pajamas and kind of swims through the clouds and creates. I think my engagement with philosophy at Avemria College and my engagement with theological thinkers has really helped me understand that God's not just a story, but character, but he is being itself, right? He's something far beyond what any story could describe, and that once we come to know God's ontological identity, then we can revisit the stories about him in scripture and understand them more precisely. [00:56:31] Speaker B: Very beautifully put and a great call, right? To study scripture and theology and theology and scripture, and to hold those two together. So thank you for all your work studying scripture and teaching it for so many years. For those who are interested, the book's simply called the Wisdom of Solomon. It's published by Baker Academic, and it's part of the catholic commentary on Sacred Scripture series. And for those who would like to learn more about Professor Mark Gizcheck, you can find him at the Augustine Institute. Thank you very much, Mark, for being on our show. [00:57:10] Speaker A: Hey, thanks so much for having me. [00:57:11] Speaker D: Michael, thank you so much for joining us for this podcast. If you like this episode, please rate and review it on your favorite podcast app to help others find the show. And if you want to take the next step, please consider joining our enunciation circle so we can continue to bring you more free content. We'll see you next time on the Catholic Theology show.

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