Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Wisdom 10 – He starts here to go over the history of human beings and Wisdom’s place in that history from Adam to Moses. “The father of the world, the first being to be fashioned, created alone [unique in nature], he had her [Wisdom] for his protector and she delivered him from his fault; she gave him the strength to subjugate all things” (10:1). The Jerusalem Bible footnote explains that “she” delivered Adam through the practice of repentance and atonement.
Cain deserts Wisdom and through the evil of his descendants brought on the flood. But Wisdom saved the world again, piloting the virtuous Noah and later Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph, the “virtuous man” who was sold into slavery.
The author overlooks some of the chosen peoples’ unfaithfulness in praising them as a “holy people and a blameless race” (10:15). “She entered the soul of a servant of the Lord, and withstood fearsome kings with wonders and signs” (10:16). Israel was delivered from slavery: “she led them by a marvelous road; she herself was their shelter by day and their starlight through the night” (10:17).
Wisdom 11 – “At the hand of a holy prophet [Moses] she [Wisdom] gave their actions success. They journeyed through an unpeopled wilderness and pitched their tents in inaccessible places” (11:1-2).
And, as they passed through the desert, ‘[o]n you they called when they were thirsty, and from the rocky cliff water was given them, from hard stone their thirst was quenched” (11:4).
Egypt and Israel are compared in a number of ways: the punishing waters that afflict the Egyptians when Moses turned it into blood [and I would add the waters that inundated them when they tried to catch up to the Israelites in the exodus] vs. the saving water that flowed from the rock to the Israelites; the foolishness of Egyptian worship of “mindless reptiles and contemptible beasts” (11:15) vs the faith of the Israelites. Perhaps he spends time on the sins of the Egyptians because the author is probably living in Alexandria and he is commenting on the problems with Egyptian history.
God punishes the Egyptians, but the author seems to stress that even they might look to God for forgiveness: “Yet you are merciful to all, because you can do all things and overlook men’s sins so that they can repent. Yes, you love all that exists, you hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrence, for had you hated anything, you would not have formed it” (11:23-24). “You spare all things because all things are yours, Lord, lover of life, you whose imperishable spirit is in all” (11:26).
1 Peter 2 – How then should we behave toward one another? Do not be “spiteful, or deceitful, nor hypocritical, or envious and critical of each other” (2:1).
Jesus is the “precious cornerstone” God has chosen to complete His holy temple. Believers are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praise of God (2:9).
They are “visitors and pilgrims” (2:11) who should act honorably always so as to give testimony to those who “denounce” them now but who will someday see them as holy.
Peter tells believers that they should “accept the authority of every social institution: the emperor . . . the governors . . . commissioned by him to punish criminals and praise good citizenship” (2:14-15). They are “slaves of no one except God” (2:16) but should not use their freedom “as an excuse for wickedness. Have respect for everyone and love for our community; fear God and honor the emperor” (2:16-17).
Then come the words we find so problematic, “slaves must be respectful and obedient to their masters, not only when they are kind and gentle but also when they are unfair . . . there is some merit in putting up with the pains of unearned punishment if it is done for the sake of God but there is nothing meritorious in taking a beating patiently if you have done something wrong to deserve it” (2:19-20).
Christ should be our example. He suffered but was innocent of any wrongdoing, but he “did not retaliate with insults” (2:23); he “put his trust in the righteous judge. He was bearing our faults in his own body on the cross, so that we might die to our faults and live for holiness; through his wounds you have been healed. You had gone astray like sheep but now you have come back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls” (2:24-25).