The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Wisdom
Nay, here is one that will go a-voyaging, the wild waves for his pathway, and perishable wood to carry him, yet he makes his prayer to a piece of wood more perishable yet!
As for the ship’s timbers, it was man’s covetousness that made the need for them, and man’s skill that fashioned them;
but it is thy fatherly Providence that brings her safe to port; thou hast made the sea into a high road men may travel by without harm,
as if thou wouldst prove to us how strong is thy protection, though the sailor have little skill.
So careful art thou that the gifts thy wisdom affords us should not go unused; man ventures his life on a few planks, and the frail barque gives him safe conduct across the waves.
And what marvel? At the beginning of all, when the giants perished in their pride, was not such a barque the refuge of all the world’s hopes? Yet thy hand was at the helm, and the seed of life was saved for posterity.
A blessing on the wood that can so procure salvation!
But yonder idol is accursed, no less than the man who made it; he for his wicked design, and the lifeless thing for the legend of divinity that was attached to it.
Sinner and sin, God hates both;
pardon is none for deed or doer.
Thus it is that a time of reckoning will come for these idols the Gentiles make; part of God’s creation though they be, he detests them, so have they entangled men’s souls, and laid a trap for fools.
When idols were first devised, then began unfaithfulness; there was death in the invention of them.
For indeed they were no part of man’s life from the first, nor shall be at the last;
it was but man’s folly brought them into the world, and there shall be a short way with them yet.
Here was some father, bowed with sorrow before his time, his child untimely lost; the likeness of those features once made, to mortal man (that was dead besides) he would pay divine honours, and with that, rites of initiation must become the tradition of his clan.
As time went on, impious habit grew into impious custom. A king would have his own likeness adored,
and his subjects, living far away, so that they could not do obeisance to him in person, would have his present image set up in their view, eager to pay his absent royalty their adulation.
And if any spur were needed yet for their ignorant superstition, the rivalry of craftsmen afforded it;
each of these sought to please his master by improving the portrait, with the utmost abuse of his skill,
till at last the vulgar, carried away by so much grace of art, would account him a god whom yesterday they reverenced as mortal man.
So, unawares, the world was caught in the ambush; under the stress, now of bereavement, now of royal policy, men imparted to stocks and stones the incommunicable name of God.
Nor were they content with these false notions of God’s nature; living in a world besieged by doubt, they misnamed its innumerable disorders a state of peace.
Peace, amidst their rites of child-murder, their dark mysteries, their vigils consecrated to frenzy!
Peace, while there is no respect for life, or for wedlock undefiled; always the murderous ambush, the jealous pangs of a husband betrayed!
All is a welter of bloodshed and murder, theft and fraud, corruption and disloyalty, sedition and perjury;
honest men are assailed, kindnesses forgotten, souls defiled, breeds confused, marriages unsettled; adultery reigns and wantonness.
Name we all these, name we never the idols whose worship is the cause, the beginning and end, of all these!
Their ecstasies are but raving, their prophecies are but lies; ill live their worshippers, and lightly forswear themselves.
And no marvel; what hurt should they take from the oath falsely sworn, since all their faith is in dead gods?
But indeed they shall pay both scores, idolaters that thought so ill of God, and perjurers that by their treason slighted all honour;
not the power he swore by, but the justice that keeps watch over sinners, walks ever close on the heels of ill-doing.
The Holy Bible