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Wisdom 13 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Foolishness of Nature Worship

13 For all people who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature;
and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know the one who exists,
nor did they recognize the artisan while paying heed to his works;
but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air,
or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water,
or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world.
If through delight in the beauty of these things people assumed them to be gods,
let them know how much better than these is their Lord,
for the author of beauty created them.
And if people[a] were amazed at their power and working,
let them perceive from them
how much more powerful is the one who formed them.
For from the greatness and beauty of created things
comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.
Yet these people are little to be blamed,
for perhaps they go astray
while seeking God and desiring to find him.
For while they live among his works, they keep searching,
and they trust in what they see, because the things that are seen are beautiful.
Yet again, not even they are to be excused;
for if they had the power to know so much
that they could investigate the world,
how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of these things?

The Foolishness of Idolatry

10 But miserable, with their hopes set on dead things, are those
who give the name “gods” to the works of human hands,
gold and silver fashioned with skill,
and likenesses of animals,
or a useless stone, the work of an ancient hand.
11 A skilled woodcutter may saw down a tree easy to handle
and skillfully strip off all its bark,
and then with pleasing workmanship
make a useful vessel that serves life’s needs,
12 and burn the cast-off pieces of his work
to prepare his food, and eat his fill.
13 But a cast-off piece from among them, useful for nothing,
a stick crooked and full of knots,
he takes and carves with care in his leisure,
and shapes it with skill gained in idleness;[b]
he forms it in the likeness of a human being,
14 or makes it like some worthless animal,
giving it a coat of red paint and coloring its surface red
and covering every blemish in it with paint;
15 then he makes a suitable niche for it,
and sets it in the wall, and fastens it there with iron.
16 He takes thought for it, so that it may not fall,
because he knows that it cannot help itself,
for it is only an image and has need of help.
17 When he prays about possessions and his marriage and children,
he is not ashamed to address a lifeless thing.
18 For health he appeals to a thing that is weak;
for life he prays to a thing that is dead;
for aid he entreats a thing that is utterly inexperienced;
for a prosperous journey, a thing that cannot take a step;
19 for money-making and work and success with his hands
he asks strength of a thing whose hands have no strength.

Footnotes:

  1. Wisdom 13:4 Gk they
  2. Wisdom 13:13 Other ancient authorities read with intelligent skill
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wisdom 13 Common English Bible (CEB)

13 All humans who don’t know God are empty-headed by nature. In spite of the good things that can be seen, they were somehow unable to know the one who truly is. Though they were fascinated by what he had made, they were unable to recognize the maker of everything. Instead, they thought that all these things—fire or wind or quickly moving air or a constellation of stars or rippling water or the sky’s bright lights that govern the world—were all gods.

They should have known that all these things—which they took to be gods and delighted in—were much less beautiful than the one who rules them all. The creator of beauty itself created them. Those who fear the power and might of created things should know how much more powerful than these things is the one who fashioned them. These people could have perceived something of the one who created all things as they thought about the power and beauty of the things that were created. It is for this reason that they’re not without guilt.

Yet perhaps we shouldn’t blame them too much. They may have gone astray while they were looking for God, wanting to find him. They spend a lot of time exploring his works. Something about their appearance leads them to wonder, for the things that they see are indeed wonderful. Even so, these persons aren’t excused. After all, if they were indeed able to know so much that they could speculate about space and time, how is it that they weren’t able to discover the ruler of space and time more quickly?

10 How much more miserable, though, are those people who put their trust in things that are dead? These people call gods the works of human hands, objects of gold and silver that artisans practice on, artistic representations of animals, even worthless stones carved by someone long ago.

11 Imagine this. A woodcutter with some skill cuts down a pliable shrub. He carefully strips the outside covering of the plant and then, because he has some skill, shapes it into a tool for daily use. 12 Afterward he picks up the leftover bark that he had stripped away and uses it to cook a meal for himself. He eats his fill and 13 then picks up one of the leftover pieces of wood, one that wasn’t good for anything, a crooked hard piece with broken ends where the branches had been. Having nothing else to do, he takes this piece of wood and starts carving. By a process of trial and error, he’s finally able to give it a human shape, 14 or he fashions it into something that vaguely resembles some miserable creature. He covers it with red paint, giving it a rosy hue where the creature’s flesh is supposed to be. He covers over every flaw in the wood. 15 Finally, he makes a perfect little shrine for it and fastens the shrine securely to the wall with a nail 16 so that it doesn’t fall down. He knows full well that it can’t do anything for itself. After all, it’s only an image, and it requires help.

17 In time he begins to pray to it: for his possessions, for his marriage, for his children. He’s not ashamed to talk to this lifeless object. In fact, he begins to ask this fragile little creation to provide him with good health. 18 He begins to pray for his life to this lifeless object. He cries out for help to this thing that has no experience at all. He prays about a journey to a thing that can’t even take a single step. 19 He asks it for wealth, for profit in his work, and for success in all he sets his hands to do—all this from something whose hands are powerless to do anything.

Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

Wisdom 13 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

The Foolishness of Nature Worship

13 For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature;
and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know him who exists,
nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works;
but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air,
or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water,
or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world.
If through delight in the beauty of these things men[a] assumed them to be gods,
let them know how much better than these is their Lord,
for the author of beauty created them.
And if men[b] were amazed at their power and working,
let them perceive from them
how much more powerful is he who formed them.
For from the greatness and beauty of created things
comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.
Yet these men are little to be blamed,
for perhaps they go astray
while seeking God and desiring to find him.
For as they live among his works they keep searching,
and they trust in what they see, because the things that are seen are beautiful.
Yet again, not even they are to be excused;
for if they had the power to know so much
that they could investigate the world,
how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of these things?

The Foolishness of Idolatry

10 But miserable, with their hopes set on dead things, are the men
who give the name “gods” to the works of men’s hands,
gold and silver fashioned with skill,
and likenesses of animals,
or a useless stone, the work of an ancient hand.
11 A skilled woodcutter may saw down a tree easy to handle
and skilfully strip off all its bark,
and then with pleasing workmanship
make a useful vessel that serves life’s needs,
12 and burn the castoff pieces of his work
to prepare his food, and eat his fill.
13 But a castoff piece from among them, useful for nothing,
a stick crooked and full of knots,
he takes and carves with care in his leisure,
and shapes it with skill gained in idleness;[c]
he forms it like the image of a man,
14 or makes it like some worthless animal,
giving it a coat of red paint and coloring its surface red
and covering every blemish in it with paint;
15 then he makes for it a niche that befits it,
and sets it in the wall, and fastens it there with iron.
16 So he takes thought for it, that it may not fall,
because he knows that it cannot help itself,
for it is only an image and has need of help.
17 When he prays about possessions and his marriage and children,
he is not ashamed to address a lifeless thing.
18 For health he appeals to a thing that is weak;
for life he prays to a thing that is dead;
for aid he entreats a thing that is utterly inexperienced;
for a prosperous journey, a thing that cannot take a step;
19 for money-making and work and success with his hands
he asks strength of a thing whose hands have no strength.

Footnotes:

  1. Wisdom 13:3 Gk they
  2. Wisdom 13:4 Gk they
  3. Wisdom 13:13 Other authorities read with intelligent skill
Revised Standard Version (RSV)

Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wisdom 13 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 13

Digression on False Worship

A. Nature Worship[a]

Foolish by nature were all who were in ignorance of God,
    and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing the one who is,[b]
    and from studying the works did not discern the artisan;
Instead either fire, or wind, or the swift air,
    or the circuit of the stars, or the mighty water,
    or the luminaries of heaven, the governors[c] of the world, they considered gods.
Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods,
    let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these;
    for the original source of beauty fashioned them.
Or if they were struck by their might and energy,
    let them realize from these things how much more powerful is the one who made them.
For from the greatness and the beauty of created things
    their original author, by analogy, is seen.
But yet, for these the blame is less;[d]
For they have gone astray perhaps,
    though they seek God and wish to find him.
For they search busily among his works,
    but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair.
But again, not even these are pardonable.
For if they so far succeeded in knowledge
    that they could speculate about the world,
    how did they not more quickly find its Lord?

B. Idolatry[e]

10 But wretched are they, and in dead things are their hopes,
    who termed gods things made by human hands:
Gold and silver, the product of art, and images of beasts,
    or useless stone, the work of an ancient hand.

The Carpenter and Wooden Idols

11 A carpenter may cut down a suitable tree
    and skillfully scrape off all its bark,
And deftly plying his art
    produce something fit for daily use,
12 And use the scraps from his handiwork
    in preparing his food, and have his fill;
13 Then the good-for-nothing refuse from these remnants,
    crooked wood grown full of knots,
    he takes and carves to occupy his spare time.
This wood he models with mindless skill,
    and patterns it on the image of a human being
14     or makes it resemble some worthless beast.
When he has daubed it with red and crimsoned its surface with red stain,
    and daubed over every blemish in it,
15 He makes a fitting shrine for it
    and puts it on the wall, fastening it with a nail.
16 Thus he provides for it lest it fall down,
    knowing that it cannot help itself;
    for, truly, it is an image and needs help.
17 But when he prays about his goods or marriage or children,
    he is not ashamed to address the thing without a soul.
For vigor he invokes the powerless;
18     for life he entreats the dead;
For aid he beseeches the wholly incompetent;
    for travel, something that cannot even walk;
19 For profit in business and success with his hands
    he asks power of a thing with hands utterly powerless.

Footnotes:

  1. 13:1–9 The author holds a relatively benign view of the efforts of the philosophers to come to know God from various natural phenomena. This is not a question of proving the existence of God in scholastic style. The author thinks that the beauty and might of the world should have pointed by analogy (v. 5) to the Maker. Instead, those “in ignorance of God” remained fixed on the elements (v. 2, three named, along with the stars). His Greek counterparts are not totally blameless; they should have gone further and acknowledged the creator of nature’s wonders (vv. 4–5). Cf. Rom 1:18–23; Acts 17:27–28.
  2. 13:1 One who is: this follows the Greek translation of the sacred name for God in Hebrew; cf. Ex 3:14.
  3. 13:2 Governors: the sun and moon (cf. Gn 1:16).
  4. 13:6 The blame is less: the greater blame is incurred by those mentioned in v. 10; 15:14–16.
  5. 13:10–19 The second digression is an example of the polemic against idolatry (cf. Is 44:9–20; Jer 10:3–9; Ps 135:15–18). Whether the idols be of wood or clay, they were made by human beings and have become the source of evil.
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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