The New Testament and the Deuterocanonicals (1/4)

The New Testament and the Deuterocanonicals: Matthew-Acts

It is often claimed by Roman Catholic apologists that the New Testament is full of quotations, citations, or allusions to the deuterocanonical or apocryphal writings, which is supposed to prove that Christ and the apostles considered these books canonical.

The following article (in four parts), examines some 78 alleged uses of the deuterocanonicals or apocryphal writings in the New Testament.

Matt. 2:16 – Herod’s decree of slaying innocent children was prophesied in Wis. 11:7 – slaying the holy innocents.

Here is the verse cited from Wisdom:

Wisdom 11:
7 For a manifest reproof of that commandment, whereby the infants were slain, thou gavest unto them abundance of water by a means which they hoped not for:

At a glance it will be seen that the relevant phrase is in the past tense, not in the context of a prophecy about the future. Not only that, but when we examine the verse in its complete context, we find that this is a reference to the killing of the firstborn in Egypt:

Wisdom 11:
1 She prospered their works in the hand of the holy prophet.
2 They went through the wilderness that was not inhabited, and pitched tents in places where there lay no way.
3 They stood against their enemies, and were avenged of their adversaries.
4 When they were thirsty, they called upon thee, and water was given them out of the flinty rock, and their thirst was quenched out of the hard stone.
5 For by what things their enemies were punished, by the same they in their need were benefited.
6 For instead of of a perpetual running river troubled with foul blood,
7 For a manifest reproof of that commandment, whereby the infants were slain, thou gavest unto them abundance of water by a means which they hoped not for:
8 Declaring by that thirst then how thou hadst punished their adversaries.

We can see that this entire passage is speaking of God’s care of the children of Israel in the wilderness. A contrast is made between the ways in which God cared for them in the wilderness, and the ways in which He punished Egypt. God punished the Egyptians by turning their water to blood, but blessed Israel in providing them with fresh water to drink.

Matt. 6:19-20 – Jesus’ statement about laying up for yourselves treasure in heaven follows Sirach 29:11 – lay up your treasure.

This citation is particularly loose. We are told that Christ’s statement ‘follows Sirach 29:11’, without being told exactly what ‘follows’ means. We are supposed to infer that Christ is using this passage in Sirach as the basis of his own statement, but when we turn to the relevant passage in Sirach, we find that it is saying the exact opposite of what Christ is saying:

Sirach 29:
10 Lose thy money for thy brother and thy friend, and let it not rust under a stone to be lost.
11 Lay up thy treasure according to the commandments of the most High, and it shall bring thee more profit than gold.
12 Shut up alms in thy storehouses: and it shall deliver thee from all affliction.

This passage is speaking of literal money, and provides nothing more than financial advice. Not only that, but the spirit of the passage is the exact opposite to the spirit of Christ’s words – Sirach is advising how to increase one’s wealth and use it to one’s best advantage, whilst Christ is instructing us that what we should be ‘laying up’ as treasure are spiritual qualities and a Godly way of life:

Matthew 19:
19 “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.
20 But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Christ’s words in verse 19 are the exact opposite of Sirach’s advice. If Christ is making any allusion to Sirach’s words here, he is certainly rebuking them rather than quoting them as Scripture.

Matt.. 7:12 – Jesus’ golden rule “do unto others” is the converse of Tobit 4:15 – what you hate, do not do to others.

This is a particularly poor attempt, since Christ himself tells us that he is deriving his commandment from the law and the prophets:

Matthew 7:
12 In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for this fulfills the law and the prophets.

The famous Jewish rabbi Hillel is recorded as having made the same statement:

Whatsoever is hateful to thee, that do not thou to thy neighbour; this is all the whole law, and the rest is an explication of it, go and be perfect.

Talmud Babylon, Tractate Sabbath, folio 31.1, compiled 5th century AD

We can see that neither in Christ’s statement, nor in the statement by Hillel is there any reference to Sirach.

Matt. 7:16,20 – Jesus’ statement “you will know them by their fruits” follows Sirach 27:6 – the fruit discloses the cultivation.

The passage in Sirach is not actually very close to Christ’s words:

Sirach 27:
6 The fruit declareth if the tree have been dressed; so is the utterance of a conceit in the heart of man.

Matthew 7:
15 “Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves.
16 You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they?
17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
18 A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit.
19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.

The passage in Sirach speaks of the fruit of a tree showing whether or not the tree has been pruned (‘dressed’), but Christ’s words speak of the fruit identifying the kind of tree which bears it, and the quality of the fruit identifying whether or not the tree is good.

Christ’s words are far closer to the following Jewish proverb:

‘This accords with the popular saying: Every pumpkin can be told from its stalk.’

Talmud Babylon, Tractate Beracot, folio 48.1, compiled 5th century AD

Later rabbinical commentary on this proverb interpreted it as saying ‘It is, as if it was said, from the time it buds forth, and goes out of the branch, it is known whether it is good or not.’

Matt. 9:36 – the people were “like sheep without a shepherd” is same as Judith 11:19 – sheep without a shepherd.

The passage in Judith reads thus:

Judith 11:
19 And I will lead thee through the midst of Judea, until thou come before Jerusalem; and I will set thy throne in the midst thereof; and thou shalt drive them as sheep that have no shepherd, and a dog shall not so much as open his mouth at thee: for these things were told me according to my foreknowledge, and they were declared unto me, and I am sent to tell thee.

It may appear as if Christ is quoting or citing Judith, but the fact of the matter is that this phrase was used in the Old Testament long before Judith was written:

Numbers 27:
15 Then Moses spoke to the Lord:
16 “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over the community,
17 who will go out before them, and who will come in before them, and who will lead them out, and who will bring them in, so that the community of the Lord may not be like sheep that have no shepherd.”

1 Kings 22:
17 Micaiah said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains like sheep that have no shepherd. Then the Lord said, ‘They have no master. They should go home in peace.’”

2 Chronicles 18:
16 Micaiah replied, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains like sheep that have no shepherd. Then the Lord said, ‘They have no master. They should go home in peace.’”

If anything, Judith is simply borrowing the phrase from the earlier Old Testament books.

Matt. 11:25 – Jesus’ description “Lord of heaven and earth” is the same as Tobit 7:18 – Lord of heaven and earth.

Here is the passage in Tobit:

Tobit 7:
18 Be of good comfort, my daughter; the Lord of heaven and earth give thee joy for this thy sorrow: be of good comfort, my daughter.

Here are Christ’s words:

Matthew 11:
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to little children.

There is no similarity between these two passages other than the phrase ‘Lord of heaven and earth’. The contexts are not even remotely similar. There is nothing to suggest that Christ is quoting Tobit here, still less ascribing it canonical status.

Matt. 12:42 – Jesus refers to the wisdom of Solomon which was recorded and made part of the deuterocanonical books.

This statement implies that Christ is referring to the deuterocanonical book known as ‘Wisdom of Solomon’, but when we read Christ’s words we find that he is not saying any such thing:

Matthew 12:
42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon—and now, something greater than Solomon is here!

Christ is speaking of Solomon’s personal wisdom (the queen of Sheba came to hear the wisdom of Solomon from his own mouth), not of the deuterocanonical book ‘Wisdom of Solomon’.

Matt. 16:18 – Jesus’ reference to the “power of death” and “gates of Hades” references Wisdom 16:13.

Here is the passage from Wisdom:

Wisdom 16:
12 For it was neither herb, nor mollifying plaister, that restored them to health: but thy word, O Lord, which healeth all things.
13 For thou hast power of life and death: thou leadest to the gates of hell, and bringest up again.

Here are Christ’s words:

Matthew 16:
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

It will be seen immediately that there is no obvious or even implicit connection between these two passages. The only similarity between them is the phrase ‘gates of hell’. The contexts of these two passages are completely different, Christ does not refer to the ‘power of death’, and the phrase ‘gates of hell’ was a commonly used Jewish term for the grave (as used in Talmud Babylon, Tractate Erubin, folio 19.1).

Matt. 22:25; Mark 12:20; Luke 20:29 – Gospel writers refer to the canonicity of Tobit 3:8 and 7:11 regarding the seven brothers.

This is a particularly ambitious claim, as we shall see. First let’s place the quotations from Tobit next to the relevant gospel verses, including them in context:

Tobit 3:
7 It came to pass the same day, that in Ecbatane a city of Media Sara the daughter of Raguel was also reproached by her father’s maids;
8 Because that she had been married to seven husbands, whom Asmodeus the evil spirit had killed, before they had lain with her. Dost thou not know, said they, that thou hast strangled thine husbands? thou hast had already seven husbands, neither wast thou named after any of them.

Matthew 22:
23 The same day Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to him and asked him,
24 “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and father children for his brother.’
25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children he left his wife to his brother.
26 The second did the same, and the third, down to the seventh.

Mark 12:
18 Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) also came to him and asked him,
19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us: ‘If a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, that man must marry the widow and father children46 for his brother.’
20 There were seven brothers. The first one married, and when he died he had no children.
21 The second married her and died without any children, and likewise the third.

Luke 20:
27 Now some Sadducees (who contend that there is no resurrection) came to him.
28 They asked him, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies leaving a wife but no children, that man must marry the widow and father children for his brother.
29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died without children.
30 The second
31 and then the third married her, and in this same way all seven died, leaving no children.

The first point to note is that none of the gospel writers ‘refer to the canonicity of Tobit 3:8 and 7:11 regarding the seven brothers’. Indeed, the canonicity of Tobit is not even referred to in this passage. The second point to note is that this story of the seven brothers was invented by the Sadduccees who questioned Christ. It is not the work of an inspired gospel writer, and nor it is it a story told by Christ. This means that even if it were drawn from Tobit, it was not borrowed by either Christ or any of the gospel writers, it was borrowed by the Sadduccees.

The third point to note that it doesn’t even share many similarities with the story in Tobit, other than the seven husbands who died. The husbands in Tobit were killed by a demon, but there is no mention of this by the Sadduccees. Regardless of whether or not it was borrowed by the Sadduccees from Tobit, the fact remains that the hypothetical situation was presented by the Sadduccees and not Christ. There is no way to assert that Christ or the gospel writers were treating Tobit as canonical.

Matt. 24:15 – the “desolating sacrilege” Jesus refers to is also taken from 1 Macc. 1:54 and 2 Macc. 8:17.

Here are the passages from the Maccabbees:

1 Maccabbees 1:
54 Now the fifteenth day of the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and fifth year, they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar, and builded idol altars throughout the cities of Juda on every side;

2 Maccabbees 8:
17 We hope also, that the God, that delivered all his people, and gave them all an heritage, and the kingdom, and the priesthood, and the sanctuary,

Clearly the reference to 2 Maccabbees 8:17 is in error (demonstrating that the person who compiled this list did not check it thoroughly). The reference was probably supposed to be this passage:

1 Maccabbees 6:
7 Also that they had pulled down the abomination, which he had set up upon the altar in Jerusalem, and that they had compassed about the sanctuary with high walls, as before, and his city Bethsura.

Immediately we see that Christ’s words cannot be a quote from either passage, since these two passages are speaking of historical events which took place under the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes in the 2nd century BC. Christ’s words, on the other hand, are a prophecy of events which would come on Israel in 70 AD. There is no way to assert that Christ was quoting from either passage in the Maccabbees, still less that he was treating them as canonical.

Again, as we have seen before, Christ’s words are actually taking from a genuinely canonical book, the book of Daniel, which does contain a prophecy concerning what would happen to Israel in 70 AD:

Daniel 9 (Greek text, LXX):
27 And one week shall establish the covenant with many: and in the midst of the week my sacrifice and drink-offering shall be taken away: and on the temple shall be the abomination of desolations; and at the end of time an end shall be put to the desolation.

This is what we find in the gospels:

Matthew 24:
15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation—spoken about by Daniel the prophet—standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),

Mark 13:
14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains

Note that both Matthew and Mark use the Greek translation of Daniel, referring to the abomination standing in the holy place (or ‘on the temple’, as the Greek Daniel has it). We know that Christ was quoting from Daniel, because he actually tells us in Matthew 24:15 that he is quoting from Daniel. To ignore Christ’s own words and assert that he was both quoting from and ascribing canonical status to 1 and 2 Maccabbees, is grossly irresponsible.

Matt. 24:16 – let those “flee to the mountains” is taken from 1 Macc. 2:28.

Here is the passage from the Maccabbees:

1 Maccabbees 2:
27 And Mattathias cried throughout the city with a loud voice, saying, Whosoever is zealous of the law, and maintaineth the covenant, let him follow me.
28 So he and his sons fled into the mountains, and left all that ever they had in the city.

We see that the phrase ‘flee to the mountains’ does not in fact appear in this passage. On the contrary, we simply have a description of what Matthias and his sons did. Christ could hardly be quoting from this passage when the words he spoke are not here. Even if the command ‘flee to the mountains’ did appear in 1 Maccabbees 2:28, would it prove that Christ was quoting the passage?

The command ‘flee to the mountains’ appears in Genesis 19:17, when the angel of God instructs Lot to ‘flee to the mountain’, which is a lot closer to Christ’s words than the quote here in Maccabees, but no one would suggest that Christ was quoting the angel’s words to Lot.

Matt. 27:43 – if He is God’s Son, let God deliver him from His adversaries follows Wisdom 2:18.

The passage in Wisdom is as follows:

Wisdom 2:
18 For if the just man be the son of God, he will help him, and deliver him from the hand of his enemies.

At first it seems as if there may be a connection here, but once more we find that the quote is in fact from a canonical book:

Matthew 27:
41 In the same way even the chief priests—together with the experts in the law and elders—were mocking him:
42 “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! He is the king of Israel! If he comes down now from the cross, we will believe in him!
43 He trusts in God—let God, if he wants to, deliver him now because he said, ‘I am God’s Son’!”

Psalm 22:
7 All who see me taunt me; they mock me and shake their heads.
8 They say, “Commit yourself to the Lord! Let the Lord rescue him! Let the Lord deliver him, for he delights in him.”

We can now see that this article has in fact misrepresented the words of Matthew in order to make them sound more like the words of Wisdom 2:18. The account in Matthew does not say ‘if He is God’s Son, let God deliver him from His adversaries’, but ‘He trusts in God – let God, if he wnts to, deliver him now because he said, ‘I am God’s son’!’. The words are a direct quote from Psalm 22:8, as numerous commentators note.

Mark 4:5,16-17 – Jesus’ description of seeds falling on rocky ground and having no root follows Sirach 40:15.

Here is the passage in Sirach, compared with the passage in Mark:

Sirach 40:
15 The children of the ungodly shall not bring forth many branches: but are as unclean roots upon a hard rock.

Mark 4:
5 Other seed fell on rocky ground where it did not have much soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep.
6 When the sun came up it was scorched, and because it did not have sufficient root, it withered.
16 These are the ones sown on rocky ground: As soon as they hear the word, they receive it with joy.
17 But they have no root in themselves and do not endure. Then, when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, immediately they fall away.

We note the following differences between Sirach and Christ’s words:

* In Sirach, the ‘unclean roots’ are fertile, and bring forth branches, though not many

* In Christ’s parable, the seed on the rocky ground springs up, but withers away immediately before it has a chance to grow properly

* In Sirach, the unGodly are compared with ‘unclean roots upon a hard rock’

* In Christ’s parable, those who hear the word with joy, but who forsake it because of persecution, are described as the seed which springs up on the rocky ground

* In Sirach, the ‘unclean roots’ are ‘upon a hard rock’

* In Christ’s parable, the seed is ‘on rocky ground’, which has soil though the soil is ‘not deep’

It is clear that a similar idea is being used, that of plants having insufficient nourishment to grow properly. But to claim that Christ’s parable is at all dependent on this single verse in Sirach is to claim too much. There is no evidence for such a dependence, still less any evidence that Christ was treating Sirach as canonical. The argument would be more convincing if Christ’s entire parable contained a number of clear references to this chapter in Sirach, or at least some obvious dependence on this chapter.

Mark 9:48 – description of hell where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched references Judith 16:17.

Is Christ really describing ‘hell’, and quoting from Judith? Here is the passage in Judith:

Judith 16:
17 Woe to the nations that rise up against my kindred! the Lord Almighty will take vengeance of them in the day of judgment, in putting fire and worms in their flesh; and they shall feel them, and weep for ever.

Firstly, there is no reference to ‘hell’ here. Instead, there is a reference to punishment which God will inflict on disobedient nations in the day of judgment. Secondly, there is a reference to ‘putting fire and worms in their flesh’ which appears nowhere in Mark 9:48. Thirdly, there is no reference in Judith 16:17 to the undying worm and the unquenchable fire.

Once more we find that Christ was in fact using a canonical Old Testament book:

Mark 9:
47 If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out! It is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, [‘gehenna’, the burning rubbish dump outside Jerusalem, not ‘hell’]
48 where their worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.

Isaiah 66:
24 “They will go out and observe the corpses of those who rebelled against me, for the maggots that eat them will not die, and the fire that consumes them will not die out. All people will find the sight abhorrent.”

It is clear that Christ is taking his words directly from Isaiah 66:24. It is also apparent that the author or Judith was doing the same.

Luke 1:42 – Elizabeth’s declaration of Mary’s blessedness above all women follows Uzziah’s declaration in Judith 13:18.

Here is the passage in Judith:

Judith 13:
18 Then said Ozias unto her, O daughter, blessed art thou of the most high God above all the women upon the earth; and blessed be the Lord God, which hath created the heavens and the earth, which hath directed thee to the cutting off of the head of the chief of our enemies.

Here are Elizabeth’s words in Luke:

Luke 1:
42 She exclaimed with a loud voice, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child in your womb

Aside from the fact that Uzziah’s blessing in Judith is slightly different from the blessing of Elizabeth (Elizabeth says ‘Blessed are you among women’, whereas Uzziah says ‘blessed art thou of the most high God above all the women upon the earth’), we can see some similarities here between the two passages. But was Elizabeth quoting Judith, or an earlier canonical work? Consider the following passage from Judges:

Judges 5:
24 The most rewarded of women [Hebrew ‘blessed among women’] should be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite! She should be the most rewarded of women [Hebrew ‘blessed above all women’] who live in tents.

Not only can we see that Elizabeth’s blessing is taken from the blessing of Jael, but we can also see that this is very probably the source of the blessing in Judith.

Luke 1:52 – Mary’s magnificat addressing the mighty falling from their thrones and replaced by lowly follows Sirach 10:14.
Here are the two passages:

Sirach 10:
14 The Lord hath cast down the thrones of proud princes, and set up the meek in their stead.

Luke 1:
52 He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of lowly position;

Despite similarities in English (though obviously not identical), the two passages are even more different in their original Greek:

Sirach 10:
14 yronouv arcontwn kayeilen o kuriov kai ekayisen praeiv ant autwn

Luke 1:
52 kayeilen {HE PUT DOWN} dunastav {RULERS} apo {FROM} yronwn {THRONES,} kai {AND} uqwsen {EXALTED [THE]} tapeinouv {LOWLY:}

As we can see, there are no common phrases in these two verses. In fact, there is only two common words are found here (the words for ‘throne’, and ‘cast down’, highlighted). There is a similar idea expressed (the mighty, or rulers being cast down), which is found also in the Old Testament (in such passages as Psalm 107:40-41 and Psalm 113:7-8), but the two passages themselves are completely different, sharing only two words (they do not share the same word for mighty/rulers, for set up/lifted up, or for meek/lowly).

The passage in Sirach speaks of proud princes being replaced by the meek, whereas the passage in Luke speaks of the rulers being cast down and the lowly exalted.

Luke 2:29 – Simeon’s declaration that he is ready to die after seeing the Child Jesus follows Tobit 11:9.

A simple comparison of Tobit with Luke shows that the two have little in common:

Tobit 11:
9 Then Anna ran forth, and fell upon the neck of her son, and said unto him, Seeing I have seen thee, my son, from henceforth I am content to die. And they wept both.

Luke 2:
29 “Now, according to your word, Sovereign Lord, permit your servant to depart in peace.

We can see that Simeon’s speech is addressed to a third party (God), whereas Anna’s is addressed to her son. The passage from Tobit has far more in common with the following passage from Genesis, from which it was possibly borrowed:

Genesis 46:
29 Joseph harnessed his chariot and went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen. When he met him, he hugged his neck and wept on his neck for quite some time.
30 Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive.”

Luke 13:29 – the Lord’s description of men coming from east and west to rejoice in God follows Baruch 4:37.

This claim is particularly obscure. Here is the passage in Baruch:

Baruch 4:
36 O Jerusalem, look about thee toward the east, and behold the joy that cometh unto thee from God.
37 Lo, thy sons come, whom thou sentest away, they come gathered together from the east to the west by the word of the Holy One, rejoicing in the glory of God.

Here is the passage in Luke:

Luke 13:
29 Then people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and take their places at the banquet table in the kingdom of God.

The passage in Baruch is speaking of Jews returning to their land after exile and persecution, whereas Christ’s words speak of Gentiles being accepted into the Kingdom of God at his return. The two passages have nothing in common other than people coming ‘from the east and west’, which is simply a phrase meaning ‘from everywhere’. In fact Christ’s words are even more inclusive than those in Baruch, speaking of ‘east and west, and from north and south’.

Luke 21:24 – Jesus’ usage of “fall by the edge of the sword” follows Sirach 28:18.

The passage in Sirach is as folllows:

Sirach 28:
18 Many have fallen by the edge of the sword: but not so many as have fallen by the tongue.

This image (of people falling or being killed ‘by the edge of the sword’), is a common Hebrew phrase which occurs around 32 times in the Old Testament, in a number of books. To assert that Christ was quoting Sirach 28:18 and ascribing it canonical status, more evidence than this is required.

Luke 24:4 and Acts 1:10 – Luke’s description of the two men in dazzling apparel reminds us of 2 Macc. 3:26.

This claim is questionable in the extreme. Here are the two passages:

2 Maccabbees 3:
26 Moreover two other young men appeared before him, notable in strength, excellent in beauty, and comely in apparel, who stood by him on either side; and scourged him continually, and gave him many sore stripes.

Luke 24:
4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood beside them in dazzling attire.

In 2 Maccabbees, we have to ‘young men’, who are ‘notable in strength, excellent in beauty, and comely in apparel’, whereas in Luke we have simply ‘two men’ who are ‘in dazzling attire’. The words used here are not even similar.

John 1:3 – all things were made through Him, the Word, follows Wisdom 9:1.

The passage in Wisdom simply speaks of God having made all things by His word:

Wisdom 9:
1 O God of my fathers, and Lord of mercy, who hast made all things with thy word,

This is nothing more than a paraphrase of an existing Bible passage:

Psalm 33:
6 By the Lord’s decree [Hebrew ‘By the word of the Lord’] the heavens were made; by a mere word from his mouth all the stars in the sky were created.

There is no evidence that Wisdom is being referred to here as a canonical work.

John 3:13 – who has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven references Baruch 3:29.

In context, this passage in Baruch is speaking of wisdom:

Baruch 3:
27 Those did not the Lord choose, neither gave he the way of knowledge unto them:
28 But they were destroyed, because they had no wisdom, and perished through their own foolishness.
29 Who hath gone up into heaven, and taken her, and brought her down from the clouds?
30 Who hath gone over the sea, and found her, and will bring her for pure gold?
31 No man knoweth her way, nor thinketh of her path.

It is not apparent that this has anything to do with John 3:13, which reads entirely differently and is in a completely different context:

John 3:
13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven—the Son of Man.

There is no significant parallel here.

John 4:48; Acts 5:12; 15:12; 2 Cor. 12:12 – Jesus’, Luke’s and Paul’s usage of “signs and wonders” follows Wisdom 8:8.

Exactly what point is being made here is uncertain. In the New Testament passages cited, the phrase ‘signs and wonders’ is used, but certainly not in the context of the passage in Wisdom:

Wisdom 8:
8 If a man desire much experience, she knoweth things of old, and conjectureth aright what is to come: she knoweth the subtilties of speeches, and can expound dark sentences: she foreseeth signs and wonders, and the events of seasons and times.

This personification of wisdom speaks of how wisdom enables a man to understand parables, proverbs, and ‘subtleties of speech’, as well as enabling a man to forsee certain future events. There is nothing like this in the New Testament passages cited. This passage in Wisdom appears to have borrowed from a number of places in the Psalms and proverbs, including the following description of the importance of wisdom:

Proverbs 1:
1 The Proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
2 To6 learn wisdom and moral instruction, and to discern wise counsel.
3 To receive moral instruction in skillful living, in righteousness, justice, and equity.
4 To impart shrewdness to the morally naive, and a discerning plan to the young person.
5 (Let the wise also hear and gain instruction, and let the discerning acquire guidance!)
6 To discern the meaning of a proverb and a parable, the sayings of the wise and their riddles. [Hebrew ‘dark sayings’]

There is no evidence that the ‘signs and wonders’ references in the New Testament are affirming the canonicity of Wisdom.

John 5:18 – Jesus claiming that God is His Father follows Wisdom 2:16.

In context, the passage in Wisdom refers to the righteous man, who is being described by the wicked:

Wisdom 2:
12 Therefore let us lie in wait for the righteous; because he is not for our turn, and he is clean contrary to our doings: he upbraideth us with our offending the law, and objecteth to our infamy the transgressings of our education.
13 He professeth to have the knowledge of God: and he calleth himself the child of the Lord.
14 He was made to reprove our thoughts.
15 He is grievous unto us even to behold: for his life is not like other men’s, his ways are of another fashion.
16 We are esteemed of him as counterfeits: he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness: he pronounceth the end of the just to be blessed, and maketh his boast that God is his father.

One of the grievances the wicked have against the righteous man is that he separates himself from them, declares their ways to be evil, and speaks of God as his father.

Here are Christ’s words:

John 5:
18 For this reason the Jewish leaders were trying even harder to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was also calling God his own Father, thus making himself equal with God.

Did Christ speak of God as his father because he was quoting Wisdom 2:16, or did he speak of God as his father because God was his father? Certainly the latter, since in Wisdom 2:16 the righteous man is not saying that God is literally his father, whereas God most certainly was the literal father of Christ.

John 6:35-59 – Jesus’ Eucharistic discourse is foreshadowed in Sirach 24:21.

Here is the passage in Sirach, in context:

Sirach 24:
1 Wisdom shall praise herself, and shall glory in the midst of her people.
2 In the congregation of the most High shall she open her mouth, and triumph before his power.

21 They that eat me shall yet be hungry, and they that drink me shall yet be thirsty.

Here wisdom is saying that those that ‘eat’ her and those that ‘drink’ her shall remain both hungry and thirsty. In the passage cited from John however, Christ says the exact opposite regarding himself:

John 6:
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.
36 But I told you that you have seen me and still do not believe.

It is difficult to understand exactly how these words of Christ could be read as a quote from Sirach, or how they could be interpreted as indicating that Christ held Sirach to be canonical.

John 10:22 – the identification of the feast of the dedication is taken from 1 Macc. 4:59.

In John 10:22, the ‘feast of dedication’ is referred to, which is certainly the Hanukkah festival instituted in 1 Maccabbees 4:

1 Maccabbees 4:
56 And so they kept the dedication of the altar eight days and offered burnt offerings with gladness, and sacrificed the sacrifice of deliverance and praise.
57 They decked also the forefront of the temple with crowns of gold, and with shields; and the gates and the chambers they renewed, and hanged doors upon them.
58 Thus was there very great gladness among the people, for that the reproach of the heathen was put away.
59 Moreover Judas and his brethren with the whole congregation of Israel ordained, that the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month Casleu, with mirth and gladness.

All the passage in John tells us, however, is that the festival was still being continued in the time of Christ. It tells us nothing about the canonicity of 1 Maccabbees (which John does not even quote or cite), though it does indicate that 1 Maccabbees has certain historical value.

John 10:36 – Jesus accepts the inspiration of Maccabees as He analogizes the Hanukkah consecration to His own consecration to the Father in 1 Macc. 4:36.

Here are the two passages in question:

1 Maccabbees 4:
36 Then said Judas and his brethren, Behold, our enemies are discomfited: let us go up to cleanse and dedicate the sanctuary.

John 10:
34 Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’?
35 If those people to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ (and the scripture cannot be broken),
36 do you say about the one whom the Father set apart and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

Even in the full context of the surrounding verses, there is no indication that in John 10:36 Jesus ‘analogizes the Hanukkah consecration to His own consecration to the Father’. There is no reference to Hanukkah whatever.

John 15:6 – branches that don’t bear fruit and are cut down follows Wis. 4:5 where branches are broken off.

Here is the passage from Wisdom, in context, compared with the passage in John:

Wisdom 4:
1 Better it is to have no children, and to have virtue: for the memorial thereof is immortal: because it is known with God, and with men.
2 When it is present, men take example at it; and when it is gone, they desire it: it weareth a crown, and triumpheth for ever, having gotten the victory, striving for undefiled rewards.
3 But the multiplying brood of the ungodly shall not thrive, nor take deep rooting from bastard slips, nor lay any fast foundation.
4 For though they flourish in branches for a time; yet standing not last, they shall be shaken with the wind, and through the force of winds they shall be rooted out.
5 The imperfect branches shall be broken off, their fruit unprofitable, not ripe to eat, yea, meet for nothing.

John 15:
6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown out like a branch, and dries up; and such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and are burned up.

In Wisdom the author tells us that the unGodly, though they may ‘flourish in branches for a time’, will not prosper forever. Like ‘imperfect branches’, they will evnetually ‘be broken off’. Christ uses a figure which is similar (though not identical), when referring to those who do not remain in him. There is no indication that he is dependent on Wisdom for this figure, which is different in any case. There is certainly no indication that Christ is ascribing canonical status to Wisdom.

Acts 1:15 – Luke’s reference to the 120 may be a reference to 1 Macc. 3:55 – leaders of tens / restoration of the twelve.

A comparison of the two passages indicates that this is highly unlikely:

1 Maccabbees 3:
55 And after this Judas ordained captains over the people, even captains over thousands, and over hundreds, and over fifties, and over tens.

Acts 1:
15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty people) and said,

There is no explicit or even implicit connection between these two passages, which do not even share a single common phrase.

Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Gal. 2:6 – Peter’s and Paul’s statement that God shows no partiality references Sirach 35:12.

The passage in Sirach is as follows:

Sirach 35:
12 Do not think to corrupt with gifts; for such he will not receive: and trust not to unrighteous sacrifices; for the Lord is judge, and with him is no respect of persons.

Here are the New Testament passages cited:

Acts 10:
34 Then Peter started speaking: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people, [Greek ‘is no respecter of persons’]

Romans 2:
11 For there is no partiality with God. [Greek ‘God is no respecter of persons’]

Galatians 2:
6 But from those who were influential (whatever they were makes no difference to me; God shows no favoritism between people) [Greek ‘God is no respecter of persons’] —those influential leaders added nothing to my message.

In all three passages, the only similarity with the quote from Sirach is the statement that God is no respecter of persons. The statement that God does not respect persons is found in the canonical Old Testament, where it appears in a verse very similar to the passage from Sirach:

2 Chronicles 19:
7 Respect the Lord and make careful decisions, for the Lord our God disapproves of injustice, partiality, and bribery.” [Hebrew ‘for there is not with the Lord our God injustice, lifting up of a face/respect of persons, and taking a bribe’]

It is likely that the author of Sirach borrowed from this passage when writing his own exhortation against bribery on the grounds that God does not respect persons. Certainly there is nothing to indicate that either Peter or Paul were quoting Sirach. They were simply describing God as He is described in the canonical Old Testament.

Acts 17:29 – description of false gods as like gold and silver made by men follows Wisdom 13:10.

Here is the passage in Wisdom:

Wisdom 13:
10 But miserable are they, and in dead things is their hope, who call them gods, which are the works of men’s hands, gold and silver, to shew art in, and resemblances of beasts, or a stone good for nothing, the work of an ancient hand.

The passage in Acts 17 does seem very similar:

Acts 17:
29 So since we are God’s offspring, we should not think the deity is like gold or silver or stone, an image made by human skill [Greek ‘men’s hands’] and imagination.

There are, however, passages from the Old Testament which are even more similar to the passage in Wisdom, showing that the author of Wisdom is simply using the same language already used in the canonical works, and is possibly quoting them:

Deuteronomy 4:
28 There you will worship gods made by human hands—wood and stone that can neither see, hear, eat, nor smell.

2 Kings 19:
18 They have burned the gods of the nations for they are not really gods, but only the product of human hands manufactured from wood and stone. That is why the Assyrians could destroy them.

Psalm 115:
Their idols are made of silver and gold— they are man-made. [Hebrew ‘the work of mens’ hands’]

Psalm 135:
15 The nations’ idols are made of silver and gold, they are man-made. [Hebrew ‘the work of mens’ hands’]

Isaiah 37:
19 They have burned the gods of the nations, for they are not really gods, but only the product of human hands [Hebrew ‘the work of mens’ hands’] manufactured from wood and stone. That is why the Assyrians could destroy them.

Part two.


One comment

  1. Thank You

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