It's unfortunate that many editions of Protestant Bibles don't include the book of Wisdom.

In an attempt to return to the earliest expression of faith possible, some 16th-century reformers questioned the "canonicity" of any book of the Hebrew Scriptures that was not included in the Jewish Bibles of their day.

Since they didn't find the book of Wisdom there, they presumed the Jewish historical Jesus would not have had it in His Bible; so they relegated it to "deutero-canonical" -- second stage -- status, and eventually left it out of their editions of Scripture.

In or out?

The reformers had no way of knowing that the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures used in Europe's 16th-century synagogues wasn't put together until after the destruction of Jerusalem, 40 years after Jesus' death and resurrection! Scholars today believe Jesus used a broader collection of biblical books than later Jews employed.

We Catholics have the book of Wisdom in our Bibles not because Jesus had it in His Bible, but because the early Christian community read the Hebrew Scriptures not in their original Hebrew, but in the Greek translation known as the Septuagint. Since Wisdom was included in this translation, it became part of the early Church's canon.

I bring up the Protestant/Catholic canon dispute only because Sunday's Wisdom reading gives us the reason Jews eventually started to believe in an afterlife. Whether we accept the book as canonical or deutero-canonical, no one should ignore the author's insight about eternity (Wis 1: 13-15; 2: 23-24). The key phrase is the statement: "Justice is undying."

The word "justice" here refers to the relationship between God and us. Presuming God is eternal, the Wisdom author believes if someone forms a relationship with God, that relationship will exist as long as God exists. Of course, the relationship can exist only if the two parties continue to exist. In other words, those who form a relationship with God will never die.

According to the Wisdom author, our heavenly eternity is rooted in the relationship we build with God during our earthly existence.

(06-29-00)

Knowing Jesus

This insight seems to be the reason the early Christian authors put such emphasis on faith in Jesus. They're never concerned with people obeying rules and regulations in order to gain eternal life. Even when Paul (2 Cor 8: 7,9,13-15) encourages his community to engage in specific actions to relieve the needs of the poor, he doesn't zero in on the actions, but on the relationship with Jesus which motivates them.

"Though He was rich," Paul writes, "for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich." No one does anything without realizing how the action springs from the ties which he or she has with Jesus.

In the same way, in the Gospel (Mk 5: 21-43) notice what enables Jesus to cure the woman's uterine bleeding and raise Jairus' daughter from the dead. Though a mob is crushing Jesus from all sides, only one person in that whole crowd touches Him with faith. "Daughter," He assures her, "your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."

Likewise, when people from Jairus' house arrive to tell him not to bother the teacher any longer because his daughter has died, Jesus takes the synagogue official aside and encourages him, "Do not be afraid; just have faith." We know what happens next.

Scriptural "faith in Jesus" always refers to the relationship we have with Jesus.


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