Melito of Sardis and the Book of Wisdom

A few weeks ago, I had a discussion about Melito’s canon. As we know, he was the first among the early Church (that we know of) to publicly advocate for a Hebrew canon for the Old Testament. It wasn’t until Jerome that the West moved in this general direction, two hundred years later.

From the Book of Extracts.75

Melito to his brother Onesimus, greeting:-

As you have often, prompted by your regard for the word of God, expressed a wish to have some extracts made from the Law and the Prophets concerning the Saviour, and concerning our faith in general, and have desired, moreover, to obtain an accurate account of the Ancient Books, as regards their number and their arrangement, I have striven to the best of my ability to perform this task: well knowing your zeal for the faith, and your eagerness to become acquainted with the Word, and especially because I am assured that, through your yearning after God, you esteem these things beyond all things else, engaged as you are in a struggle for eternal salvation.

I accordingly proceeded to the East, and went to the very spot where the things in question were preached and took place; and, having made myself accurately acquainted with the books of the Old Testament, I have set them down below, and herewith send you the list. Their names are as follows:-

“I accordingly proceeded to the East, and went to the very spot where the things in question were preached and took place; and, having made myself accurately acquainted with the books of the Old Testament, I have set them down below, and here with send you the list. Their names are as follows:- The five books of Moses — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Joshua, Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings, the two of Chronicles, the book of the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, the Wisdom also, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Job, the books of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, of the twelve contained in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras.” – St. Melito of Sardis, The Book of Extracts

According to the conversation, the text in bold is found in Greek as ‘Σολομῶνος Παροιμίαι ἡ καὶ Σοφία.’

Did Melito hold to the Book of Wisdom?

Post By Joel Watts (10,115 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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9 thoughts on “Melito of Sardis and the Book of Wisdom

  1. Whether he was referring to the book of the Proverbs of Solomon and the book of Wisdom, or whether he was calling one book “Solomon’s Proverbs and Wisdom,” I will not venture a guess. But what about you? Does Joel Watts hold to the Book of Wisdom.

    • My daughter’s name is Sophia :)

      I feel that regarding the use of the Deuterocanons – some of them are beneficial to theology and study of the New Testament; however, to avoid controversy, I wouldn’t hold public readings out of it or call it Scripture. Privately, well, …..

      • Fair enough. One treatment of the issue I found particularly tactful was in a sermon on Manasseh in the Old Testament. The fellow who was preaching wanted to quote the deuterocanonical ‘Prayer of Manasses’ because it painted a beautiful protrait of repentence, but he did not personally consider it authoritative scripture, and there were members of the church who would probably be quite upset to see him bringing “those pagan books” into a church service. And so he said something along these lines:

        “What exactly is it that Manasseh said when he repented? Our Bibles don’t tell us. But Jewish tradition has preserved for us an excellent prayer of repentence that is traditionally called the Prayer of Manasses: ‘O Lord, Almighty God of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous seed . . .’

        • I can agree with his stance, and his wording. I’ve used Wisdom at a funeral service before.

          Some of those books I would consider something along the lines of theologians, etc… and a whole lot better than many today.

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