instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, July 03, 2015

The wicked with hands and words invited death

There was some harrowing language in last Sunday's First Reading (Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24). In particular, the conclusion:
But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,
and they who belong to his company experience it.
"They who belong to his company"? How's that for a matter of fact description of the damned? Another translation has "they that do hold of his side," which makes it sound like they not only happen to belong to the devil, they hold onto him.

That's even without getting into the fact that these people experience death, in a way that, by implication, those not belonging to the devil's company do not. The inspired author isn't writing about physical death, or at least not principally.

You'll note that the reading skips from 1:15 to 2:23. If they had included 1:16, it might really have made the people listening sit up straight in the pew:
It was the wicked who with hands and words invited death,
considered it a friend, and pined for it,
and made a covenant with it,
Because they deserve to be allied with it.
That's some unsettling stuff. Inviting, befriending, pining for death? What is wrong with these people?

Oh, right. They're "the wicked."

Here's a question: Does this verse, in associating the wicked with such awful behavior, make wickedness a narrower notion or a broader one? That is, is it saying that, unless you invite and pine for death, you aren't really wicked? Or is it saying that even low-level wickedness -- which, in a creation of a jealous God, is anything that isn't sanctity -- is a deserved covenant with death?