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Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15, 2:23-24

As Protestants, we don’t often pay attention to apocryphal literature. Maybe we should. Defined by genre, The Book of Wisdom is an encomium: something of a textbook, beautifully written and intended to inspire a certain kind of respect for wisdom, itself, paired with specific practices. The words from this teacher should, in fact, affect our pedagogy.

Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24:

because God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things so that they might exist; the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them, and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.

For righteousness is immortal.

for God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.

Our Old Testament Scriptures offer us very little in regard to resurrection theology, in part because the ancient Jewish people were far more concerned with life that carried on as a legacy passed down through the lives of future generations. However, t’chiyat hameitim (belief in the reuniting of the soul and body) is, indeed, one of the principles of Jewish faith, and there is more extended discussion about such in Intertestamental literature. This resurrection language has always been a part of Messianic hope. The beginning of Wisdom sets the stage for an explanation of how we came to the point where resurrection became a necessity, and it aptly challenges some assumptions about the origin of death.

God “created all things so that they might exist” seems like a simple phrase, perhaps even redundant, but the underlying message here is that God created all things that they might exist without end. It’s not a stretch to then suggest that God’s desire is for redemption that leads away from death and toward wholeness, for all created things, and, in fact, God has also created generative forces for this purpose.

This is difficult around which to wrap our minds, because we have never known a life, or a world, without death… without end. We are predisposed to assume this was God’s intent, or at the very least God’s “Plan B” if creation did not come together as God hoped, but death was never what God wanted, and this passage indicates that it is also not something God created (a difficult line to swallow when our traditions teach that God created all things… when this passage teaches that God created all things… but, surely the principles of contradiction preclude death from this definition).

Let’s recap: Everything God created was good, and God even installed a failsafe—generative forces lacking destructive powers.[1]

God created humanity Imago Dei, immortal, incorruptible. Then something dreadful and outside the parameters of God’s desire happened. Our natural tendency is to say, “We don’t like that!”

Particularly in instances of suffering and struggle, even Wesleyans often look for a God who controls all things, but this theology does not fall in step with a God who interacts relationally and works within the boundaries of legitimate free will. It actually doesn’t fit too well with holiness, either, and this passage denotes the authentic choice between those who seek life, holistically, maybe even as team players for humanity and all of creation, and those who seek death (even if indirectly and without all of the details) individualistically, fueled by envy.

At the beginning of all created things, there was no need for resurrection, because death was non-existent. But the circumstances changed quickly and drastically. God originally provided for the generation of new and lasting life, but even when death entered the world, God kept working creatively to provide regeneration. It would seem that although God does not force God’s own hand, God does, indeed, continue to provide every possibility for the participatory redemption of the world, us included. We can live forever, as God meant for it to be.


[1] Also, just as a side note, “the generative forces” is sometimes translated “the creatures,” which would be a very interesting study in God’s partnership with all of creation but is probably a touch beyond the scope of this commentary.


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