Biblical Studies Wisdom of Solomon
Daniel J. Harrington
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 September 2010
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 September 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0129


The Wisdom of Solomon (known as the Book of Wisdom in the Latin Bible tradition) is a book about wisdom—its benefits, nature, and role in ancient Israel’s history. It is more an exhortation to pursue wisdom than a collection of wise teachings (as in Proverbs, Sirach, and Ecclesiastes). Its implied author is King Solomon, and its implied audience is the rulers of the earth. However, its real author seems to have been a Greek-speaking Jew with some knowledge of Greek rhetoric and philosophy, and its real audience seems to have been young Jews in danger of slipping away from their Jewish heritage into pagan materialism. The use of the Greek language, the influence of Greek philosophy and rhetoric, its Jewish audience, and the links with Philo suggest an origin in Alexandria in Egypt. It is generally dated to the mid-1st century BCE (around 50 BCE), although scholars place it anywhere from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE. The purpose of the Wisdom of Solomon is to demonstrate the superiority of the Jewish religion and its great wisdom. The author knows Greek rhetoric and Greek philosophy, as well as the Bible in its Greek form. He adopts some concepts from Stoicism and Platonism, and opposes the Epicureans and Egyptian paganism. There are three major parts in the book: righteousness and immortality (chapters 1–5), the nature of wisdom (chapters 6–9), and wisdom’s role in the early history of Israel (chapters 10–19). All three parts seem to have been composed by the same author (though perhaps at different times) or at least in the same circle. The transitions between the various parts serve to meld them into a literary unity of some sort, so that it is difficult to decide exactly where one part ends and the next one begins. The Wisdom of Solomon is canonical in the Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions. While not canonical in the Jewish and Protestant traditions, it is generally respected as a witness to the synthesis of Hebrew and Greek worldviews, the development of Jewish beliefs in life after death, the encyclopedic nature of wisdom, and personified Wisdom as God’s agent in creation.

Introductory Works

Substantive treatments of Wisdom may be found in introductions to Jewish wisdom literature (Clifford 1998, Collins 1997, Murphy 1990) or to the Old Testament Apocrypha (deSilva 2002, Harrington 1999). These works are important resources for the study of not only the Book of Wisdom but also all of Israelite wisdom literature.

  • Clifford, Richard J. The Wisdom Literature. Interpreting Biblical Texts. Nashville: Abingdon, 1998.

    Excellent treatment of the book’s historical setting, structure, genre, content, and meaning in the early 21st century. See pp. 133–156.

  • Collins, John J. “Wisdom and Immortality.” In Jewish Wisdom in the Hellenistic Age. By John J. Collins, 178–221. Old Testament Library. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1997.

    Fine treatment of the book in the context of other Jewish wisdom books of the period.

  • deSilva, David A. “Wisdom of Solomon: ‘The Righteous Live Forever.’” In Introducing the Apocrypha: Message, Context, and Significance. By David A. deSilva, 127–152. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002.

    Thorough discussion of the book’s literary, historical, and theological significance, and of the history of its influence.

  • Harrington, Daniel J. “The Wisdom of Solomon: Immortality, Wisdom, and History.” In Invitation to the Apocrypha. By Daniel J. Harrington, 55–77. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999.

    Deals with introductory issues and the book’s three great themes of immortality, wisdom, and Israel’s early history.

  • Murphy, Roland E. “The Wisdom of Solomon: A View from the Diaspora.” In The Tree of Life: An Exploration of Biblical Wisdom Literature. By Roland E. Murphy, 83–96. Anchor Bible Reference Library. New York: Doubleday, 1990.

    Treats Wisdom as representative of Hellenistic Diaspora Judaism.

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