Wisdom 2 on the Suffering of Christ

Yesterday’s first reading at Mass was Wisdom 2:12, 17-20.  I think it’s a shame that they chopped up one of the clearest Old Testament prophesies of Christ.  Here’s 2:12-20 in its entirity:

Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD.
To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us,
Because his life is not like other men’s, and different are his ways.He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father.
Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him.For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes.
With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.

I’ve briefly mentioned this passage before on this blog, I think, in a post relating to the authenticity of the Deuterocanon.  And for me, this is one of the primary verses confirming that the Deuterocanon is God-breathed.  After all, even inspired Scripture tends to contain parts where we go, “Huh?”  Psalm 137:8-9, for example, says, “O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us – he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”  So the argument that the Deuterocanon says some strange or surprising things has never been that impressive to me.  Neither has the argument that the Deuterocanon contradicts other parts of the Bible – none of the concrete examples I’ve seen of this have been compelling in the slightest.  What the person saying this usually means is that the Deuterocanon contradicts fundamental Protestant doctrines.  And in fact, this is one of the reasons that the Reformers thought it must not be inspired.  But that’s a backwards way of determining canonicity: starting with what you believe, and basing your Bible around it is the opposite of what sola Scriptura alleges to be its exegetical method.

So in contrast to that, where there’s a clear pre-Christian prophesy that “the Just One” is coming who is going to claim to be the Son of God, and is going to be shamed and put to death to “test Him” (since if He is really the Son of God, “God will take care of Him”), it necessarily gives me pause.  This passage is directly prophetic, and lays of the story of Christ in only the most thinly veiled of terms — it ranks right up there with the Suffering Servant passage from Isaiah 53.  What adds to the power of the passage is that it appears to be directly fulfilled in Matthew’s Gospel.  Remember that Matthew was writing for a primarily Jewish audience, and took pains to note both Old Testament parallels, and prophetic fulfillment.  In the first category, it’s Matthew who points out the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, and their exodus back; it’s Matthew who presents the Sermon as being on the Mount; and so on.  Jesus is the New Moses: Pope Benedict XVI points out in Jesus of Nazareth, that Deuteronomy 18:18-19 includes a promise by God that “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen, and will put My words into His mouth; He shall tell them all that I command him.  If any man will not listen to My words which He speaks in My name, I Myself will make him answer for it.”  Yet Deuteronomy 34:10, written about the death of Moses, concludes that “Since then no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.”  St. Matthew recognized Jesus as fulfilling these prophesies, and went to great lengths to show this throughout his Gospel.

So in light of Matthew’s tendency to include clear Old Testament parallels, consider Matthew 27:41-44 in light of the Wisdom 2 passage above:

Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said,
He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.
He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”
The revolutionaries who were crucified with him also kept abusing him in the same way.

The parallels between the two passages, down to the nuances in the language, are so clear as to be nearly inescapable.  It seems to me that there are only three possibilities:

  1. The parallels are totally coincidental, and Wisdom 2 is uninspired.  In this case, God permitted a book which many (perhaps most) of His people leading up to the time of Christ thought of as Scripture to have eerily prophetic information.  This is an unbelievable conclusion.  It’s one thing for non-Judeo-Christian books to have Christological tones, because people grasping for the Truth find interesting elements of it.  There, there’s a clear purpose – like St. Paul at the Acropolis in Acts 17, these Christological shadows can be used as evidence to lead non-Christians to the fulness of the Truth.  The Old Testament, while more than shadows of Christ, does much of the same thing.  But what motive would there be for God to include Christological information in books He didn’t want His people embracing?  Christological prophesies always point towards the Truth.  Including them so clearly in a book held erroneously to be true would serve nearly the opposite purpose.

  2. Matthew believed Wisdom 2 to be Scripture, but it wasn’t.  This conclusion is also unbelievable, for three reasons.  First, Matthew is inspired when writing his Gospel.  The Holy Spirit could have inspired him to omit or rewrite the passage in such a way that there was no obvious Wisdom 2 parallel.  Second, for God to permit this sort of “prophesy fulfillment” signal, when in fact, no prophesy had existed to be fulfilled, would be to render part of the Bible, and a part dealing with Faith and morals, inaccurate.  In other words, if Matthew 27:41-44 is written as a prophesy fulfillment, and it’s not, then this part of the Bible is not only fallible, it’s wrong.  It seems to me that no Christian can hold to that while viewing the Bible as God-breathed.  Third, Matthew sat at the foot of Christ as a Disciple.  Are we really to believe that at no point Christ correctly him for using a non-Scriptural book as Scripture?  It seems that if we can trace the practice to Matthew here, we can trace it to his Teacher.
  3. The most obvious conclusion is that Wisdom 2 is canonical, was prophetic, and was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.

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