King Solomon on the Four Virtues

In the Wisdom of Solomon, in a long section on “Wisdom” Solomon writes (quoting the Aramaic translation):

ואן זדיקותא אנש רחם לותה איתיה תמיהא חכמתא גיר נכפותא מלפא וזדיקותא וגברותא לית מדם בעלמא דטב מנה לבני אנשא

If a man loves Righteousness, she [i.e. Wisdom] has wonderment. For Wisdom teaches Self-control and Righteousness and Courage. Nothing in the world is as good for the sons of men. (Wisdom of Solomon 8:7)

However the Aramaic תמיהא (amazement) is likely a scribal error for תמימא (virtues) as the Greek renders it here. So that the text should read:

If a man loves Righteousness, she [i.e. Wisdom] has virtues. For Wisdom teaches Self-control and Righteousness and Courage. Nothing in the world is as good for the sons of men.

At this point I should note that the Wisdom of Solomon was originally written in Hebrew. (click the hotlink to see proof of this claim) The original Hebrew is now lost, but the Peshitta Aramaic (quoted above) is a literal Aramaic translation of the original Hebrew (as evidenced at the hotlink above). This gives us a very good idea of the original Hebrew, because Hebrew and Aramaic are very similar cognate languages, while Greek bears little resemblance to Hebrew.

I will also add here that the great Rabbinic commentator Ramban maintained that the Wisdom of Solomon was an authentic writing of Solomon.

Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman) (1194-1270 C.E.) wrote one of the most authoritative Torah commentaries in Rabbinic Judaism.  In his Introduction to his Commentary to the Torah Ramban quotes from an Aramaic version of the Wisdom of Solomon and takes these quotes as the authentic words of Solomon:

King Solomon, peace be upon him, whom G-d had given wisdom and knowledge, derived it all from the Torah, and from it he studied until he knew the secret of all things created, even of the forces and characteristics of plants, so that he wrote about them even a Book of Medicine, as it is written, And he spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall (1Kings 5:13)

Now I have seen the Aramaic translation of the book called The Great Wisdom of Solomon, and in it is written: “There is nothing new in the birth of a king or ruler; there is one entrance for all people into the world, and one exit alike. Therefore I have prayed, and the spirit of wisdom was given to me, and I have called out and the spirit of knowledge came to me; I chose it above scepter and throne.” (Wisdom 7:3-8) And it is further said there: “It is G-d alone Who gives knowledge that contains no falsehood, [enabling one] to know how the world arose, the composition of the constellations, the beginning, the end and middle of the times, the angles of the ends of the constellations, and how the seasons are produced by the movement of heavens and the fixed positions of the stars, the benign nature of cattle and the fierceness of beasts, the power of the wind and the thoughts of man, the relationship of trees and the forces of roots; everything hidden and everything revealed I know.” (Wisdom 7:17-21)  All this Solomon knew from the Torah, and he found everything in it – in its simple meanings, in the subtleties of its expressions and its letters and its strokes, as I have mentioned.
(Ramban; The Introduction to the Commentary on the Torah)

One key element of Stoicism is the concept of the four cardinal virtues, which are said to have come into Stoicism from Plato, who wrote in his book The Republic, concerning the “Perfect State”  that “it will obviously have the qualities of wisdom, courage, self-discipline, and justice.” (Republic 5, 1, 428)

King Solomon reigned and wrote c. 970–931 BCE and this was long before the life of Plato (428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC). Once again, Plato, and Stoicism, have borrowed from Judaism.

According to Solomon, Wisdom teaches three virtues: Self Control, Righteousness and Courage. (Which together with Wisdom, a sort of master virtue, make four general virtues).

Also many key Hebrew words can be derived from this literal Aramaic translation, since many of the key words given in the Aramaic, have direct Hebrew cognates.

The Hebrew word for “virtue” is “tom” תם (Strong’s 8537) from the root תמם (Strong’s 8552) “to complete” and used in Job 22:3 “if you live uprightly” (כי תתם דרכיך)

The Hebrew word for “Wisdom” is “chakmah” חכמה (Strong’s 2451)

The Hebrew word for “righteous” or “justice” is “tzdakah” צדקה (Strong’s 6666)

The Hebrew word for “courage” is “gevurah” גבורה (Strong’s 1369) meaning “strength, courage”

Unfortunately there is no Biblical Hebrew cognate for the Aramaic נכפותא and the root כנף does not appear in Biblical Hebrew. The Biblical Hebrew would have been the phrase משל ברוח which appears in the Proverbs 16:32 “he who controls his spirit” and is quoted in m.Avot 4:1 to support Ben Zoma’s teaching “Who is strong? He who controls his inclinations”.

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