Digression 2: Romans And The Wisdom Of Solomon

Seeing Romans 1-8 is Paul's inspired exposition of the nature of sin and the Gospel, it's surely surprising that he makes no mention of the words satan or devil, let alone 'fallen Angel'. He lays the blame for sin quite clearly upon us and our weakness in the face of internal temptation. And Paul speaks of the Genesis account of the fall of Adam and Eve as if he accepted it just as it is written- he makes no attempt to say that the serpent was a Lucifer or fallen Angel. In fact, closer analysis shows that Paul is consciously rebutting the contemporary Jewish ideas about these things as found in The Wisdom Of Solomon and other writings. We must remember that in the first century, there was no canonized list of books comprising the "Old Testament" as we now know it. There was therefore a great need to deconstruct the uninspired Jewish writings which were then circulating- hence the many allusions to them in the inspired New Testament writings, in order to help the Jewish believers understand that these writings were uninspired and to be rejected.

The flood of apostate Jewish literature in the first century and just before it all have much to say about Adam's sin (e.g. the Apocalypse Of Baruch and Apocalypse Of Abraham), and I submit that Paul writes of Adam's sin in order to deconstruct these wrong interpretations. Wisdom 2:24 claimed: "Through the devil's envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it". This is actually the first reference to the idea that a being called 'the devil' envied Adam and Eve and therefore this brought about their temptation and fall. Paul rebuts this by saying that "By one man [Adam- not 'the devil'] sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12). This is evidently an allusion by Paul to this wrong idea- and he corrects it. The allusion becomes all the more legitimate when we appreciate that actually Paul is alluding to the Wisdom Of Solomon throughout his letter to the Romans. This book glorified the Jewish people, making them out to be righteous, blaming sin on the devil and the Gentiles. By way of allusion to it, Paul shows how the Jews are de-emphasizing sin, not facing up to the fact that all of humanity are under the curse of sin and death, and all therefore need salvation in Christ. This same basic emphasis upon personal responsibility, not blaming others for our sins, not seeing ourselves as pure and everyone else as the problem, is just as relevant today- surrounded as we are by false theologies that make us out to be basically pure, shifting all blame onto a 'devil' of their own fabrication. It should be noted that this way of alluding to contemporary writings and correcting them is common throughout Scripture- I've elsewhere given examples of where Jude and Peter do this in relation to the Book of Enoch, and how Genesis 1-3 does this with the views of creation and origins which were common at the time the book of Genesis was compiled.

Allusions From Paul's Letter To The Romans To The Wisdom Of Solomon

The Wisdom Of Solomon



Wisdom 4:5 The imperfect branches shall be broken off, their fruit unprofitable, not ripe to eat, yea, meet for nothing [concerning the Gentiles and those in Israel who sinned].

Rom. 11:17-20

Israel as an entire nation were the broken off branches; Gentile believers through faith in Christ could become ingrafted branches.

Wisdom 1:13 For God made not death: neither hath he pleasure in the destruction of the living.

Rom. 1:32; Romans 5,7

Death is "the judgment of God"- death does come from God. It doesn't come from "the devil". It was God in Genesis who 'made' death. Death comes from our sin, that's Paul's repeated message- death isn't something made by the 'devil' just for the wicked.

Wisdom 1:14 For he created all things, that they might have their being: and the generations of the world were healthful; and there is no poison of destruction in them, nor the kingdom of death upon the earth: [in the context of the earth / land of Israel]

Romans 1,5,7

Paul makes many allusions to these words. He shows that all humanity, including Israel, the dwellers upon the earth / land of Israel, are subject to sin and death. Paul argues against the position that God made man good but the devil messed things up- rather does he place the blame upon individual human sin.

Wisdom 8:20 I was a witty child, and had a good spirit. Yea rather, being good, I came into a body undefiled.

Romans 3,7

As a result of Adam's sin, our bodies aren't "undefiled"- we will die, we are born with death sentences in us. "There is none good" (Rom. 3:12); "in my flesh dwells no good thing" (Rom. 7:18)

Wisdom 10:15 She delivered the righteous people and blameless seed from the nation that oppressed them.

Romans 9-11

Israel were not blameless; "there is none righteous, not one" (Rom. 3:10).

Wisdom 12:10 But executing thy judgments upon them by little and little, thou gavest them place of repentance

Rom 2:4

" Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Rom. 2:4). Paul's argument is that it is God's grace in not immediately punishing us as we deserve which should lead us to repentance.

Wisdom 12 raves against the Canaanite nations in the land, saying how wicked they were and stressing Israel's righteousness- e.g. Wisdom 12:11 For it was a cursed seed from the beginning; neither didst thou for fear of any man give them pardon for those things wherein they sinned.

Rom. 1,2,9-11

Paul uses the very same language about the wickedness of Israel

Wisdom 12:12 For who shall say, What hast thou done? or who shall withstand thy judgment? or who shall accuse thee for the nations that perish, whom thou made? or who shall come to stand against thee, to be revenged for the unrighteous men?

Rom. 8:30-39; 9:19

Wisdom marvels at how God judged the wicked Canaanites. But Paul reapplies this language to marvel at God's mercy in saving the faithful remnant of Israel by grace. Paul's answer to "Who shall accuse thee [Israel]?" is that only those in Christ have now no accuser (Rom. 8:34).

Wisdom 12:13 uses the phrase "condemned at the day of the righteous judgment of God" about the condemnation of the Canaanite tribes.

Rom. 2:5

Paul stresses that Israel will be condemned at the "day of the righteous judgment of God" (Rom. 2:5)

Wisdom 12:22 Therefore, whereas thou dost chasten us, thou scourgest our enemies a thousand times more, to the intent that, when we judge, we should carefully think of thy goodness, and when we ourselves are judged, we should look for mercy.


Rom. 2:1-4; 11:28; 14:4


Paul says that Israel are the "enemies" (Rom. 11:28); and that judging is outlawed for those who are themselves sinners. Paul's case is that we receive mercy at the judgment because we have shown mercy rather than judgment to others.

Wisdom 13:1 Surely vain are all men by nature, who are ignorant of God, and could not out of the good things that are seen know him that is.

Romans 1,10

Wisdom's implication is that the Gentiles are vain by nature, but Israel aren't, because they aren't ignorant of God, and see Him reflected in the "good things" of His creation. Paul contradicts this. He says that all humanity is "vain... by nature"; Israel are "ignorant of God" (Rom. 10:3); and it is believers in Christ who perceive God from the things which He has made. Indeed, it is Israel who are now "without excuse" because they refuse to see "the goodness of God" [cp. "good things"] in the things which He has created (Rom. 1:20-30).

Wisdom 12:26 But they that would not be reformed by that correction, wherein he dallied with them, shall feel a judgment worthy of God.
Wisdom 12:27 For, look, for what things they grudged, when they were punished, that is, for them whom they thought to be gods; now being punished in them, when they saw it, they acknowledged him to be the true God, whom before they denied to know: and therefore came extreme damnation upon them.

Romans 1

It is Israel and all who continue in sin who are worthy of judgment (Rom. 1:32). It was Israel who changed the true God into what they claimed to be gods (Rom. 1:20-26).

Wisdom 13:5-8: For by the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionably the maker of them is seen. But yet for this they are the less to be blamed: for they peradventure err, seeking God, and desirous to find him. For being conversant in his works they search him diligently, and believe their sight: because the things are beautiful that are seen. Howbeit neither are they to be pardoned.

Romans 1,2

It is Gentile Christians who 'found' God (Rom. 10:20). It was they who were led by the beauty of God's creation to be obedient to Him in truth (Rom. 2:14,15). It was Israel who failed to 'clearly see' the truth of God from the things which He created (Rom. 1:20).

Wisdom 14:8 But that which is made with hands is cursed, as well it, as he that made it: he, because he made it; and it, because, being corruptible, it was called god.

Rom. 1:23

It was Israel who changed the glory of the true God into images made by their hands and called them gods (Rom. 1:23)

Wisdom 14:9 For the ungodly and his ungodliness are both alike hateful unto God.

Rom. 4:5; 5:6

Paul argues that Christ died for the ungodly before they knew Him (Rom. 5:6); God justifies the ungodly not by their works but by their faith (Rom. 4:5)

Wisdom 14:31 For it is not the power of them by whom they swear: but it is the just vengeance of sinners, that punisheth always the offence of the ungodly.

Romans 5

Paul argues that the offence of man is met by God's grace in Christ, and not dealt with by God through taking out vengeance against sinners. It was the "offence" of Adam which was used by God's grace to forge a path to human salvation (Rom. 5:15-20). As "the offence" abounded, so therefore did God's grace (Rom. 5:20).

Wisdom 15:2 For if we [Israel] sin, we are thine, knowing thy power: but we will not sin, knowing that we are counted thine.
Wisdom 15:3 For to know thee is perfect righteousness: yea, to know thy power is the root of immortality.


Romans 3

Paul argues that we all sin- it's not a case of 'we don't sin, because we are God's people' (Rom. 3:23). And knowledge isn't the basis for immortality, rather this is the gift of God by grace (Rom. 6:23). Paul leaves us in no doubt that there's no question of "if we sin"; for we are all desperate sinners, Jew and Gentile alike (Rom. 3:23). And our sin really does separate us from God and from His Son; we are "none of His" if we sin (Rom. 8:9- cp. "we are thine"). We are not automatically "His... even if we sin". Paul speaks of how both Jew and Gentile are equally under sin; whereas Wisdom claims that there's a difference: "While therefore thou dost chasten us, thou scourgest our enemies [i.e. the Gentiles] ten thousand times more" (12:22).

Wisdom 15:7 For the potter, tempering soft earth, fashioneth every vessel with much labour for our service: yea, of the same clay he maketh both the vessels that serve for clean uses, and likewise also all such as serve to the contrary: but what is the use of either sort, the potter himself is the judge.

Rom. 9:21-30

Wisdom mocks the potter for making idols- Paul shows that God is the potter and Israel the clay, and they will be discarded like an idol. For they became like that which they worshipped. Paul uses the same language as Wisdom here- he speaks of how the Divine potter uses "the same clay" to make different types of vessels.

Wisdom 15 often laments that the Gentiles worship the created more than the creator

Romans 1 and 2

Romans 1 and 2 make the point, using this same language, that Israel as well as the Gentiles are guilty of worshipping the created more than creator

Wisdom 18:8 For wherewith thou didst punish our adversaries, by the same thou didst glorify us, whom thou hadst called.

cp. Rom. 8:30

The "us" who have been "called" and are to be "glorified" are those in Christ- not those merely born Jews.

Wisdom 18:13 For whereas they would not believe any thing by reason of the enchantments; upon the destruction of the firstborn, they acknowledged this people to be the sons of God.

cp. Rom. 8:14

The true "sons of God" are those in Christ, the Son of God; for not those who merely call themselves "Israel" are the children of God, as Wisdom wrongly argues (Rom. 9:6)

As for the ungodly, wrath came upon them without mercy unto the end: for he knew before what they would do... For the destiny, whereof they were worthy, drew them unto this end, and made them forget the things that had already happened, that they might fulfil the punishment which was wanting to their torments" (Wisdom 19:1,4)


What Wisdom says about the Gentile world and Egypt, Paul applies to Israel in their sinfulness. And he stresses many times that the result of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), not "torments" in the way the Jews understood them. "Wrath... without mercy" is a phrase Paul uses about the coming condemnation of those Jews who refused to accept Christ (Rom. 1:18; 2:5,8). Paul uses the idea of foreknowledge which occurs here in Wisdom, but uses it in Romans 9 and 11 to show that foreknowledge is part of the grace of God's predestination of His true people to salvation. It is the Jews who reject Christ who are "worthy" of death (Rom. 1:32)- not the Gentile world. No wonder the Jews so hated Paul!


Wisdom of Solomon 13-14 criticizes the Gentiles for idolatry and sexual immorality. And Paul criticizes the Gentiles for just the same things in Rom. 1:19-27- in language which clearly alludes to the Wisdom of Solomon. It's as if Paul is reviewing the Wisdom of Solomon and placing a tick by what is right (e.g., that Gentiles are indeed guilty of idolatry and immorality), and a cross by what is wrong in the book. E.P. Sanders has observed: "Romans 1:18-32 is very close to the Wisdom of Solomon, a Jewish book written in Egypt. Paul's reference to 'images representing... birds, animals or reptiles' (Rom. 1:23) points to... Egypt. Birds, animals and reptiles were idolized in Egypt, but not commonly in the rest of the Graeco-Roman world" (1). The point of the reference to these things would therefore simply be because Paul is alluding to, almost quoting, the Wisdom of Solomon.

Paul's Other Allusions To The Wisdom Of Solomon

Having spoken of how "the destroyer" destroyed the Egyptian firstborn, Wisdom 18 goes on to speak of how this same "destroyer" tried to kill Israel in the wilderness, but the evil "destroyer" was stopped by Moses: "For then the blameless man made haste, and stood forth to defend them; and bringing the shield of his proper ministry, even prayer, and the propitiation of incense, set himself against the wrath, and so brought the calamity to an end, declaring that he was thy servant. So he overcame the destroyer, not with strength of body, nor force of arms, but with a word subdued him that punished, alleging the oaths and covenants made with the fathers (Wisdom 18:21,22). Paul in 1 Cor. 10 alludes to this- showing that "the destroyer" was sent by God to punish Israel's sins. The author of Wisdom speaks as if "the destroyer" is some evil being victimizing Israel- and Paul appears to correct that, showing that it was the same "Destroyer" Angel who protected Israel in Egypt who later slew the wicked amongst them. Wisdom 19 makes out that all sins of Israel in the wilderness were committed by Gentiles travelling with them- but Paul's account of Israel's history in 1 Cor. 10 makes it clear that Israel sinned and were punished.

It should be noted in passing that 1 Cor. 10:1-4 also alludes to the Jewish legend that the rock which gave water in Num. 21:16-18 somehow followed along behind the people of Israel in the wilderness to provide them with water. Paul is not at all shy to allude to or quote Jewish legends, regardless of their factual truth, in order to make a point [as well as to deconstruct them]. God Himself is not so primitive as to seek to 'cover Himself' as it were by only alluding to true factual history in His word; He so wishes dialogue with people that He appears quite happy for His word to refer to their mistaken ideas, in order to enter into dialogue and engagement with them in terms which they are comfortable with. Another example of allusion to Jewish legend is in Rev. 2:17, where the Lord Jesus speaks of giving His people "of the hidden manna"- referring to the myth that Jeremiah had hidden a golden jar of manna in the Holy of Holies at the destruction of the temple in 586 BC, which then ascended to Heaven and is to return with Messiah. Jesus doesn't correct that myth- He as it were runs with it and uses it as a symbol to describe the reward He will bring. He adds no footnote to the effect 'Now do understand, this is myth, that jar never really ascended to Heaven nor will it come floating back through the skies one day'. Perhaps this is why the New Testament often quotes the Septuagint text, even where it incorrectly renders the Hebrew original- because God is not so paranoic as to feel bound to only deal in the language of strictly literal truths. If first century people were familiar with the Septuagint, even if is a poor translation of the Hebrew original in places- well OK, God was willing to run with that in order to engage with people in their language. And this approach is very helpful in seeking to understand some of the Biblical references to incorrect ideas about Satan and demons- but more of this in chapters 4 and 5.

It seems to me that Paul's allusion to wrong Jewish ideas in order to deconstruct them is actually a hallmark of his inspired writing. Ecclesiasticus is another such Jewish writing which he targets in Romans; Rom. 4:1-8 labours the point that Abraham was declared righteous by faith and not by the Law, which was given after Abraham's time; the covenant promises to Abraham were an expression of grace, and the 'work' of circumcision was done after receiving them. All this appears to be in purposeful allusion to the words of Ecclus. 44:21: "Abraham kept the law of the Most High, and was taken into covenant with Him".


(1) E.P. Sanders, Paul (Oxford: O.U.P., 1996) p. 113.

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