Wisdom and the Deuterocanon

I’ve never read much of the Deuterocanon (also called the Apocrypha by Protestants) before — just the occasional Mass readings from those books. I’ve been unsure of their role in the canon. Catholics attest to their canonicity and divine inspiration; but then, why did Protestants exclude them? (I know, for one thing, that the Deuterocanon contains the scriptural foundation for the Catholic beliefs in prayer for the dead and Purgatory. Were the Reformers so petty as to exclude books because they didn’t like what they said?)

This passage came up in Mass reading last week — and it bowled me over:

“Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,
because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
he reproaches us for sins against the law,
and accuses us of sins against our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a child of the Lord.
He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;
the very sight of him is a burden to us,
because his manner of life is unlike that of others,
and his ways are strange.
We are considered by him as something base,
and he avoids our ways as unclean;
he calls the last end of the righteous happy,
and boasts that God is his father.
Let us see if his words are true,
and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;
for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him,
and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
Let us test him with insult and torture,
so that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”
Wisdom 2:12-20 (NRSV)

Can anyone really read this and maintain that this book doesn’t belong in the Bible? This is clearly a Messianic prophecy. The ever-academic New Oxford Annotated Bible doesn’t comment on that, but points out that it is similar to Isaiah 52-53. But this passage goes further than any other Old Testament Messianic prophecy that I’ve seen:

  1. The “righteous man” would oppose the actions of the ungodly, reproach them for “sins against the law,” and accuse them of “sins against their training.”
  2. He would “profess to have knowledge of God” and “boast that God is his father.” (I don’t think the Messiah’s claim to be the Son of God is made this explicit in other prophecies.)
  3. He would be “insulted,” “tortured,” and “tested”: “For if the righteous man is God’s child, He will help him, / and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries” (cf. Matthew 27:39-40, Mark 15:29-32, Luke 23:35-37, for exact parallels).

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