The Deacon’s Den May 12, 2021
I’m thinking, one of the wonderful things about being an Episcopalian, besides the top 10 pointed out by the late Robbin Williams (e.g., 1. “No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.”), is that we are a liturgical community that follows the Revised Common Lectionary for our daily scriptural readings. And that gives us the opportunity to read through most of the entire Bible (and then some) every three years. If you’re in a hurry, you can participate in daily Morning and Evening Prayer and do it in two years.
The past few weeks at Morning Prayer we have been reading through the Book of Wisdom, aka the Wisdom of Solomon. We read through parts of all 19 chapters and truly got a sense of what a powerful and uplifting book this is. “Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.”
Now, before you run off and pick up your pew Bible to start looking for the Book of Wisdom, (why do you have a pew Bible at home?), just know that you won’t find it there, because our pew Bible doesn’t contain the so-called Apocryphal Books of the Old Testament.In a nutshell, the size of a pistachio, the term "apocrypha" comes from the Greek word meaning "hidden" or "secret." Originally, the term was applied to sacred books whose contents were too exalted to be made available to the general public. Gradually, the term "apocrypha" took on a disparaging connotation, since the orthodoxy of these “hidden books” was often questionable.
In the late fourth century C.E. St. Jerome was tasked with translating the Greek Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament) into Latin (to become the Latin Vulgate in 405 C.E.), but he also based his translations on the original Hebrew in the Old Testament. In the translation process, St. Jerome doubted that the apocryphal books were divinely inspired. He believed they could be helpful to people, but he clearly stated his belief that they were not divinely authoritative. His assessment of the Apocrypha was ignored. The Apocryphal Books of the Old Testament became known in the Roman and Orthodox Church as the Deuterocanonical Books, meaning “belonging to the second canon” and the books are placed in the “intertestamental section” of the Bible, in other words between the Old and New Testament. But if Wisdom is “radiant and unfading, and easily discerned by those who love her,” why is the Book of Wisdom considered to be too exalted to be made available to us, the general public, or to be excluded to the intertestamental section, the “second canon” section of the Bible?
Perhaps it’s because of our misunderstanding of just what “Wisdom” really is: “Wisdom is the appropriate application of knowledge.” If we acquire knowledge through reading, study and education, then Wisdom would be our applying that accrued knowledge appropriately. But how do we know what the “appropriate application” is? Proverbs 1: 20-22 tells us that “Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates, she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?”
The author of Proverbs seems to be telling us that, like Grace, Wisdom is a gift from God, and all we must do is ask for it. James tells us in the very first chapter of his letter that “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.” That is all you must do, in any situation; ask God to give you Wisdom. If you read Proverbs chapter 8, especially verses 22 to 31, it really sounds like Wisdom was not “created” by God along with the rest of creation, but “acquired” by God and “born” of God before the very act of creation. Theologian and philosopher Peter Enns puts it this way: “When we seek to live our lives “by Wisdom”, we are participating in the “life force” by which God created the universe…When instead of simply reacting to a jerk coworker or an internet troll, we pause and calmly seek wisdom for that moment, even if imperfectly (for surly we are all on the journey of gaining wisdom), we are tapping into something big that created and sustains the cosmos.” We are tapping into the Wisdom of God through his son Jesus Christ. Just as St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his first letter: “but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” This then, sisters and brothers, is Wisdom. AMEN.
Deacon George Packer+