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Inspired Writings that Cite Non-inspired Writings for Inspiration (Paul, other New Testament writers)

The apostle Paul — in both his speeches and writings—made extensive use of the late apocryphal work known as The Wisdom of Solomon — not to be confused with the Book of Proverbs, but instead, a late non-canonical apocryphal work attributed to “Solomon”:

Inspired Writings that Cite Non-inspired Writings

Romans 1:19-23 (compare Wisdom of Solomon 13:1-5

  • 1 For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know him who exists, nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works;
  • 2 but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world.
  • 3 If through delight in the beauty of these things men assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them.
  • 4 And if men were amazed at their power and working, let them perceive from them how much more powerful is he who formed them.
  • 5 For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.)

Romans 1:24-23 (compare Wisdom of Solomon 14:22-31

  • 22 Afterward it was not enough for them to err about the knowledge of God, but they live in great strife due to ignorance, and they call such great evils peace.
  • 23 For whether they kill children in their initiations, or celebrate secret mysteries, or hold frenzied revels with strange customs,
  • 24 they no longer keep either their lives or their marriages pure, but they either treacherously kill one another, or grieve one another by adultery,
  • 25 and all is a raging riot of blood and murder, theft and deceit, corruption, faithlessness, tumult, perjury,
  • 26 confusion over what is good, forgetfulness of favors, pollution of souls, sex perversion, disorder in marriage, adultery, and debauchery.
  • 27 For the worship of idols not to be named is the beginning and cause and end of every evil.
  • 28 For their worshipers either rave in exultation, or prophesy lies, or live unrighteously, or readily commit perjury;
  • 29 for because they trust in lifeless idols they swear wicked oaths and expect to suffer no harm.
  • 30 But just penalties will overtake them on two counts: because they thought wickedly of God in devoting themselves to idols, and because in deceit they swore unrighteously through contempt for holiness.
  • 31 For it is not the power of the things by which men swear, but the just penalty for those who sin, that always pursues the transgression of the unrighteous.)

Romans 5:12-21 (compare Wisdom of Solomon 2:23-24

  • 23 for God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity,
  • 24 but through the devilʼs envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it.)

Romans 9:19-23 (compare Wisdom of Solomon 12:12-18 and 15:7

  • 12 For who will say, “What hast thou done?” Or will resist thy judgment? Who will accuse thee for the destruction of nations which thou didst make? Or who will come before thee to plead as an advocate for unrighteous men?
  • 13 For neither is there any god besides thee, whose care is for all men, to whom thou shouldst prove that thou hast not judged unjustly;
  • 14 nor can any king or monarch confront thee about those whom thou hast punished.
  • 15 Thou art righteous and rulest all things righteously, deeming it alien to thy power to condemn him who does not deserve to be punished.
  • 16 For thy strength is the source of righteousness, and thy sovereignty over all causes thee to spare all.
  • 17 For thou dost show thy strength when men doubt the completeness of thy power, and dost rebuke any insolence among those who know it.
  • 18 Thou who art sovereign in strength dost judge with mildness, and with great forbearance thou dost govern us; for thou hast power to act whenever thou dost choose…
  • 19 The Lord will take his zeal as his whole armor, and will arm all creation to repel his enemies)

Romans 13:10 (compare Wisdom of Solomon 6:18

  • 18 and love of her is the keeping of her laws, and giving heed to her laws is assurance of immortality,)

1 Corinthians 2:9 (compare the non-canonical Ascension of Isaiah 11:34; also note that the early church father Origin said this verse in 1 Cor. was from the non-canonical, Apocalypse of Elijah — Origen, Commentary on Matthew 27.9. Originʼs idea was bitterly disputed by Jerome (Letter 57 [to Pammachius] §9 [NPNF, 2nd series, vol. 6, p. 117]), who claimed the verse was taken from Isaiah 64:3-4 “according to the Hebrew text.” In fact, however, the Hebrew is only a very rough approximation of Paulʼs language in 1 Corinthians 2:9, so Jerome may well have been wrong on this point. So, compare the Ascension of Isaiah 11:34 as originally noted.)

1 Corinthians 6:2 (compare Wisdom of Solomon 3:8

  • 8 They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them for ever.)

1 Corinthians 10:4 (Jewish tradition)

2 Corinthians 11:14 (Life of Adam and Eve)

Galatians 3:19 (Jewish tradition; cf. also Acts 7:38, Acts 7:53, and Hebrews 2:2)

Ephesians 5:14 (Apocalypse of Elijah — So identified by Epiphanius, Against Heresies 1.3.42; see also Jerome, Commentary on Ephesians 3.5.15.)

Ephesians 6:11-17 (compare Wisdom of Solomon 5:17-20

  • 17 The Lord will take his zeal as his whole armor, and will arm all creation to repel his enemies;
  • 18 he will put on righteousness as a breastplate, and wear impartial justice as a helmet;
  • 19 he will take holiness as an invincible shield,
  • 20 and sharpen stern wrath for a sword, and creation will join with him to fight against the madmen.)

James King West writes: “Among the characteristics of Wisdom as depicted in The Wisdom of Solomon, two are of particular interest. First, the afterlife is described in terms of the Hellenistic dualism which debases matter in contrast to the immortality of the soul, rather than the Judaic concept of the resurrection of the body (cf. the remarkably beautiful passage in 3:1-9, also such vss. as 8:13). Second, the personification of wisdom, introduced, for example, in Proverbs 1-9, is here carried much farther than in any parallel Judaic literature. In the book of Proverbs the personification of wisdom is symbolic, but in this book wisdom is described in terms intended to be taken quite seriously as:

  • ‘a kindly spirit’ (1:6);
  • ‘radiant and unfading’ (6:12);
  • ‘the fashioner of all things,’ whose twenty-one attributes include intelligence, holiness, mobility, omnipotence, interpenetration, and the like (7:22);
  • ‘breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty’ (7:25);
  • ‘spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness’ (7:26; cf. 10:1, 5, 6, 9; 11:1; 12:1).

These descriptions of wisdom, especially the crucial passage in 7:22-8:21, reflect the increasing emphasis on the transcendence of God characteristic of later Judaism, combined with an unmistakable influence from Hellenism. How far the author intended his definition of Wisdom as an intermediary between God and the world is impossible to say. Viewing his words from the perspective of Greek thought, it would probably be easy to read too much into them. Whether consciously or not, he nevertheless spoke a language that during the next two centuries and later was to play a profound role in religious development.” (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 464-465)

As I have noted in another post, the Pauline idea about a “spiritual body” and living in “heaven” rather than on a recreated earth is the earliest formulation of the “resurrection” according to the earliest documents we possess, and certainly seems to agree with what is found in The Wisdom of Solomon. Even Paulʼs Christology seems to owe something to the way Wisdom has grown more like a person than a metaphor according to The Wisdom of Solomon.

Not only Paul but other authors of the New Testament employed — and even appealed to the authority of — non-canonical ideas, oral traditions, deuterocanonical, extracanonical writings, and varying textual recensions (like the Greek Septuagint Bible where it said something different from the Hebrew Bible):

  • Matthew 2:23 (unknown prophecy)
  • Matthew 23:2-3 (rabbinic tradition)
  • Matthew 27:24 (“Story of Susanna” = Daniel 13:46 LXX)
  • Mark 10:19 (“do not defraud” = Sirach 4:1 LXX)
  • Luke 11:49 (unknown scripture)
  • John 7:38 (unknown Scripture)
  • Acts 7:14 (vs. Exodus 1:5)
  • Acts 7:16 (cf. Genesis 50:12-14, Joshua 24:32)
  • Acts 7:20-30 (Jewish traditions about the early life of Moses)
  • Acts 7:36 (Testament of Moses)
  • Acts 17:27 (compare Wisdom of Solomon 13:6 [6] Yet these men are little to be blamed, for perhaps they go astray while seeking God and desiring to find him.)
  • Acts 17:30 (compare Wisdom of Solomon 11:23 [23] But thou art merciful to all, for thou canst do all things, and thou dost overlook menʼs sins, that they may repent.)
  • 2 Timothy 3:8 (Book of Jannes and Jambres),
  • Hebrews 1:6 (Septuagint and Dead Sea Scrolls),
  • Hebrews 10:5-6 (Septuagint),
  • Hebrews 11:4-5 (Book of Enoch),
  • Hebrews 11:35-37 (2 Maccabees 6-7, Martyrdom of Isaiah),
  • 2 Peter 2:4 (Book of Enoch),
  • James 1:19 ( = Sirach 5:13),
  • James 4:5 (unknown Scripture),
  • Jude 9 (Assumption of Moses),
  • Jude 14-15 (Book of Enoch),
  • Revelation 15:3-4 (the Song of the Lamb—Note also that John 10:22 places Jesus at the Temple during the Feast of Dedication (i.e., Hanukkah), a religious celebration whose only scriptural justification is in the Books of Maccabees. [1 Maccabees 4:36-59; 2 Maccabees 1:18-2:19, 10:1-8])

Also, the structure of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 most likely was familiar to many Jews in the first century BCE, since they were already evidence in the Dead Sea Scrolls before Jesusʼ day:

  • “[Blessed is he who walks] with a pure heart” (Dead Sea Scroll 4Q525 2:1); compare, “Blessed are the pure in heart” (Matt 5:8)
  • “Bles[sed] are those who rejoice in her” (Dead Sea Scroll 4Q525 2:2); compare “Blessed are you when men revile you… rejoice and be glad” (Matt 5:11-12)
  • Blessed is the man who… in the distress [or ‘meekness’] of his soul, does not despise her” (Dead Sea Scroll 4Q525 2:3-6), and, “In the meekness [or ‘meekness’] of righteousness bring forth [your] words…” (4Q525 4:20); compare “Blessed are the meek” (Matt 5:5).

Of course thereʼs also the book of Enoch, mentioned by Jude and passages of which are cited by the author of Revelation. In fact recently scholars are acknowledging that the “Son of Man” figure mentioned in Enoch probably influenced early Gospel authors: “Parables of Enoch: A Paradigm Shift” And the Dead Sea Scrolls even mention a fascinating “Melchizadek” figure who is to “judge the holy ones of God, executing judgement.”

The above is just one aspect of NT writings being derivative of their day and age. But larger more general aspects of Hellenistic and Jewish cultures and their ideas about deity also lie behind ideas and stories in the NT. At any rate, sticking with the way NT authors cite such inter-testamental non-canonical works, I always get a chuckle at how one NT writer, the author of the letter of Jude, says “Enoch the seventh from Adam… spoke a prophecy…” then cites some lines from the book of Enoch and applies them to his own day about how thousands of angels would come from heaven and the whole earth would be judged, including the deceivers inside the first century church whom the NT author was so worried about.

I also get a chuckle out of Paul citing an inter-testamental and non-canonical tale about a rock that rolled around on its own, following the Israelites around in the desert for decades, a rock that also have a stream of water flowing from it as needed, providing water for them as they remained on the move each day for forty years. And that rolling rock was Christ, Paul says.

Reminds me of how one famous British guy (a former prime minister of Britain during the Victorian era who was also a classics scholar) wrote a thick whole book claiming that Homerʼs works were inspired by God and pointed to Christianity being true. And in the days of the early church the Syballine Oracles and Virgilʼs poetry were cited as inspired in some sense and were interpreted as pointing to the truth of Christianity. I guess when you have the hammer of dogma in your hand everything looks like a nail.

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