The Apocrypha’s “Wisdom of Solomon” I– Be Good, Mainly from Seeking, Obtaining, and Listening to Wisdom
In June, as every June in Philadelphia, I joined thousands of my fellow LGBT residents in celebrating Gay Pride. I will enjoy a similar celebration in October for National Coming Out Day, whose street fair closes four blocks in our Gayborhood. Both events have numerous street food vendors, crafts, info tables (for gay organizations), free mobile HIV testing, pets to adopt, and, of course, outdoor drinking in the typically lovely weather that tends to put most people in a good mood.
Except the religious protesters. These people seem to wear perpetual scowls behind their sad signs scrawled with scripture that announces how “wrong” we all are. As if that weren’t bad enough, their scratchy and droning voices, hiding behind their bullhorn, shout the same few recycled Old Testament verses plucked from books Jesus invalidated (according to the Gospels). Maybe, just maybe, their actions suggest, their repetition will sink in and compel all of us gays to “see the error of our ways.”
Although brainwashing does produce results, these people fail to realize that the advice they are trying to impart only works if it’s worth listening to. Fortunately for them, there are other, more worthwhile messages in books associated with (and formerly a part of) the Bible, such as The Apocrypha’s “Wisdom of Solomon.”
This former Bible book, which unfolds without the benefit of a narrative, is a collection of pieces of advice about how to live a better life. According to my edition, this book is the best example of the fusion of Greek and Hebrew ideas. Reading this, I questioned why then this book would have been excised from the Bible. Perhaps this combination of philosophies is too off-message from the rest of the Old Testament? But what is the message in this book?
Much of the book concerns itself with how to be a better person; the bulk of the advice handles seeking wisdom to accomplish this goal. First, the author suggests that wisdom cannot enter a deceitful soul (1), which would compel a person then to not be deceitful. But aren’t people who mis-represent the Bible being deceitful? (And by pulling ideas out of context, that’s what they do.) Hmm.
Perhaps even more interesting is what else the author advocates: Test upright men of God with insults and torture so that we may learn his patience (2:19). What constitutes torture is likely open to interpretation, for I can’t imagine he wants believers to be chained to a stake and burned. I could be wrong. But if you are righteous, God will grant you wisdom, which teaches self-control and understanding (8:7). Perhaps this is what compels the restraint that so many gay people exhibit when they encounter these protesters at gay events.
But maybe these protesters are only following the guideline that people with wisdom are to remind people of their sins (12:2) so that they can escape their wickedness and be given an opportunity to repent (12:10). Perhaps these protesters have it backwards: perhaps it’s our job as members of the LGBT community to pass on our wisdom and that these judgmental protesters are schooled, providing them with the chance to escape the wickedness of their hate and finally repent, for as the author here tells us, God loves all things and abhors none (11:24).
Anti-gay protesters—using the Bible as justification—seem to overlook or forget this idea, which is repeated throughout the Bible and, as “The Wisdom of Solomon” demonstrates, even in the books that have been cut.