Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 2: how to treat the Just Man

The high-priest Caiaphas screams at Christ in the Passion of the Christ film

Because the world is generally not a just place, the man of God is never treated well. Like the prophets of the Old Testament and Christ Himself in the New, those who follow the Law of God are at best given short shrift, and at worst violently persecuted, tortured and killed. The model for doing this is given by the second chapter of the Wisdom of Solomon, one of the books of the Bible that forms part of the so-called Wisdom literature of the Old Testament. Here’s the extract:

“Only a passing shadow, this life of ours, and from its end there is no returning; the doom is sealed, and there is no acquittal. Come then (they say), let us enjoy pleasure, while pleasure is ours; youth does not last, and creation is at our call; of rich wine and well spiced take we our fill. Spring shall not cheat us of her blossoming; crown we our heads with roses ere they wither; be every meadow the scene of our wanton mirth. Share we the revels all alike, leave traces everywhere of our joyous passing; no part or lot have we but this.

“Helpless innocence shall lie at our mercy; not for us to spare the widow, to respect the venerable head, grown white with years. Might shall be our right, weakness count for proof of worthlessness. Where is he, the just man? We must plot to be rid of him; he will not lend himself to our purposes. Ever he must be thwarting our plans; transgress we the law, he is all reproof, depart we from the traditions of our race, he denounces us. What, would he claim knowledge of divine secrets, give himself out as the son of God? The touchstone, he, of our inmost thoughts; we cannot bear the very sight of him, his life so different from other men’s, the path he takes, so far removed from theirs! No better than false coin he counts us, holds aloof from our doings as though they would defile him; envies the just their future happiness, boasts of a divine parentage.

“Put we his claims, then, to the proof; let experience shew what his lot shall be, and what end awaits him. If to be just is to be God’s son indeed, then God will take up his cause, will save him from the power of his enemies. Outrage and torment, let these be the tests we use; let us see that gentleness of his in its true colours, find out what his patience is worth. Sentenced let him be to a shameful death; by his own way of it, he shall find deliverance. So false the calculations that are blinded by human malice!”

Wisdom, 2: 5-21

The first paragraph could describe our culture today in the post-Christian West, as it could describe the dissipation of the Israelite kingdoms before the exile that destroyed their power and independence. The second paragraph demonstrates the view of the prophets of God that worldly people have, and the last paragraph is the way their malice wishes to cruelly try the prophet and crush him or her underfoot.