The following was a portion taken from The New English Bible. The Oxford University Press
The promise of immortality
1 1 LOVE JUSTICE, you rulers of the earth; set your mind upon the 2 Lord, as is your duty, and seek him in simplicity of heart; for he is found by those who trust him without question, and makes himself 3 known to those who never doubt him. Dishonest thinking cuts men off from God, and if fools will take liberties with his power, he shows them 4 up for what they are. Wisdom will not enter a shifty soul, nor make her 5 home in a body that is mortgaged to sin. This holy spirit of discipline will have nothing to do with falsehood; she cannot stay in the presence of unreason, 6 and will throw up her case at the approach of injustice. Wisdom is spirit devoted to man’s good, and she will not hold a blasphemer blameless for his words, because God is a witness of his inmost being, who sees 7 clear into his heart and hears every word he says. For the spirit of the Lord fills the whole earth, and that which holds all things together is well aware 8 of what men say. Hence no man can utter injustice and not be found out, 9 nor will justice overlook him when she passes sentence. The devices of a godless man will be brought to account, and a report of his words will come 10 before the Lord as proof of his iniquity; no muttered syllable escapes that 11 vigilant ear. Beware, then, of futile grumbling, and avoid all bitter words; for even a secret whisper will not go unheeded, and a lying tongue is a 12 man’s destruction. Do not stray from the path of life and so court death; 13 do not draw disaster on yourselves by your own actions. For God did not make death, and takes no pleasure in the destruction of any living thing; 14 he created all things that they might have being. The creative forces of the world make for life; there is no deadly poison in them. Death is not king on 15 16 earth, for justice is immortal; but godless men by their words and deeds have asked death for his company. Thinking him their friend, they have made a pact with him because they are fit members of his party; and so they have wasted away.
2 1 They said to themselves in their deluded way: ‘Our life is short at full of trouble, and when a man comes to his end there is no remedy; no 2 man was ever known to return from the grave. By mere chance were we born, and afterwards we shall be as though we had never been, for the breath in our nostrils is but a wisp of smoke; our reason is a mere spark 3 kept alive by the beating of our hearts, and when that goes out, our body 4 will turn to ashes and the breath of our life disperse like empty air. Our names will be forgotten with the passing of time, and no one will remember anything we did. Our life will blow over like the last vestige of a cloud and as a mist is chased away by the sun’s rays and overborne by its heat 5 so will it too be dispersed. A passing shadow -such is our life, and there 6 no postponement of our end; man’s fate is sealed, and none returns. Come then, let us enjoy the good things while we can, and make full use of the 7 creation, with all the eagerness of youth. Let us have costly wines and perfumes 8 to our heart’s content, and let no flower of spring escape us. Let us 9 crown ourselves with rosebuds before they can wither. Let none of us miss his share of the good things that are ours; who cares what traces our revelry leaves behind? This is the life for us; it is our birthright. 10 ‘Down with the poor and honest man! Let us tread him under foot; let us show no mercy to the widow and no reverence to the grey hairs of old 11 age. For us let might be right! Weakness is proved to be good for nothing. 12 Let us lay a trap for the just man; he stands in our way, a check to us at every turn; he girds at us as law-breakers, and calls us traitors to our up 13 bringing. He knows God, so he says; he styles himself “the servant of the 15 Lord”. He is a living condemnation of all our ideas. The very sight of him is an affliction to us, because his life is not like other people’s, and his ways 16 are different. He rejects us like base coin, and avoids us and our ways as we were filth; he says that the just die happy, and boasts that God is his 17 father. Let us test the truth of his words, let us see what will happen to 18 him in the end; for if the just man is God’s son, God will stretch out a hand 19 to him and save him from the clutches of his enemies. Outrage and torment are the means to try him with, to measure his forbearance and learn 20 how long his patience lasts. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for on his own showing he will have a protector.’ 21 So they argued, and very wrong they were; blinded by their own malevolence, 22 they did not understand God’s hidden plan; they never expected that holiness of life would have its recompense; they thought that innocence 23 had no reward. But God created man for immortality, and made him 24 the image of his own eternal self; it was the devil’s spite that brought death into the world, and the experience of it is reserved for those who take his side.
3 1 But the souls of the just are in God’s hand, and torment shall not touch 2 them. In the eyes of foolish men they seemed to be dead; their departure 3 was reckoned as defeat, and their going from us as disaster. But they are at 4 peace, for though in the sight of men they may be punished, they have a 5 sure hope of immortality; and after a little chastisement they will receive great blessings, because God has tested them and found them worthy to 6 be his. Like gold in a crucible he put them to the proof, and found them 7 acceptable like an offering burnt whole upon the altar. In the moment of God’s coming to them they will kindle into flame, like sparks that sweep 8 through stubble; they will be judges and rulers over the nations of the 9 world, and the Lord shall be their kin for ever and ever. Those who have put their trust in him shall understand that he is true, and the faithful shall attend upon him in love; they are his chosen, and grace and mercy shall be theirs. 10 But the godless shall meet with the punishment their evil thoughts deserve, because they took no account of justice and rebelled against the 11 Lord. Wretched indeed is he who thinks nothing of wisdom and discipline; such men’s hopes are void, their labours unprofitable, their actions futile; 12 13 their wives are frivolous, their children criminal, their parenthood is under a curse. No, blessed is the childless woman if she is innocent, if she has never slept with a man in sin; at the great assize of souls she shall find a 14 fruitfulness of her own. Blessed is the eunuch, if he has never done anything against the law and never harboured a wicked thought against the Lord; he shall receive special favour in return for his faith, and a place in 15 the Lord’s temple to delight his heart the more. Honest work bears glorious fruit, and wisdom grows from roots that are imperishable. But the children of adultery are like fruit at never ripens; they have sprung 17 from a lawless union, and will come to nothing. Even if they attain length of life, they will be of no account, and at the end their old age will be without 18 honour. If they die young, they will have no hope, no consolation in 19 the hour of judgement; the unjust generation has a hard fate in store for it.
4 1 It is better to be childless, provided one is virtuous; for virtue held in remembrance is a kind of immortality, because it wins recognition from 2 God, and from men too. They follow the good man’s example while it is with them, and when it is gone they mourn its loss; and through all time virtue makes its triumphal progress, crowned with victory in the contest 3 for prizes that nothing can tarnish. But the swarming progeny of the wicked will come to no good; none of their bastard offshoots will strike deep root 4 or take firm hold. For a time their branches may flourish, but as they have no sure footing they will be shaken by the wind, and by the violence of the 5 winds uprooted. Their boughs will be snapped off half-grown, and their 6 fruit will be worthless, unripe, uneatable, and good for nothing. Children engendered in unlawful union are living evidence of their parents’ sin when God brings them to account. 7 8 But the good man, even if he dies an timely death, will be at rest. For it is not length of life and number of years which bring the honour due to 9 age; if men have understanding, they have grey hairs enough, and an unspotted 10 life is the true ripeness of age. There was once such a man who pleased God, and God accepted him and took him while still living from 11 among sinful men. He was snatched a way before his mind could be perverted 12 by wickedness or his soul deceived by falsehood (because evil is like witchcraft: it dims the radiance of good, and the waywardness of 13 desire unsettles an innocent mind); in a short time he came to the perfection 14 of a full span of years. His soul was pleasing to the Lord, who 15 removed him early from a wicked world. The mass of men see this and give it no thought; they do not lay to heart this truth, that those whom God has chosen enjoy his grace and mercy, and that he comes to the help of his 16 holy people. Even after his death the just man will shame the godless who are still alive; youth come quickly to perfection will shame the man 17 grown old in sin. Men will see the wise man’s end, without understanding what the Lord had purposed for him and why he took him into safe keeping; 18 they will see it and make light of him, but it is they whom the Lord will laugh to scorn. In death their bodies will be dishonoured, and among 19 the dead they will be an object of contempt for ever; for he shall strike them speechless, fling them headlong, shake them from their foundations and make an utter desert of them; they shall be full of anguish, and all 20 memory of them shall perish. So in the day of reckoning for their sins, they will come cringing, convicted to their face by their lawless doings.
5 1 Then the just man shall take his stand, full of assurance, to confront 2 those who oppressed him and made light of all his sufferings; at the sight of him there will be terror and confusion, and they will be beside themselves 3 to see him so unexpectedly safe home. Filled with remorse, groaning and gasping for breath, they will say among themselves: ‘Was not this then 4 man who was once our butt, a target for our contempt? Fools that we were, 5 we held his way of life to be madness and his end dishonourable. To think that he is now counted one of the sons of God and assigned a place of his 6 own among God’s people! How far we strayed from the road of truth! 7 The lamp of justice never gave us light, the sun never rose upon us. We roamed to our heart’s content along the paths of wickedness and ruin, wandering through trackless deserts and ignoring the Lord’s highway. 8 What good has our pride done us? What can we show for all our wealth and 9 arrogance? All those things have passed by like a shadow, like a messenger 10 galloping by; like a ship that runs through the surging sea, and when she has passed, not a trace is to be found, no track of her keel among the waves; 11 or as when a bird flies through the air, there is no sign of her passing, but with the stroke of her pinions she lashes the insubstantial breeze and parts it with the whir and the rush of her beating wings, and so she passes 12 through it, and thereafter it bears no mark of her assault; or as when an arrow is shot at a target, the air is parted and instantly closes up again and 13 no one can tell where it passed through. So we too ceased to be, as soon as we were born; we left no token of virtue behind, and in our wickedness we 14 frittered our lives away.’ The hope of a godless man is like down flying on the wind, like spindrift swept before a storm and smoke which the wind whirls away, or like the memory of a guest who stayed for one day and passed on. 15 But the just live for ever; their reward is in the Lord’s keeping, and the 16 Most High has them in his care. Therefore royal splendour shall be theirs, and a fair diadem from the Lord himself; he will protect them with his right 17 hand and shield them with his arm. He will put on from head to foot the armour of his wrath, and make all creation his weapon against his enemies. 18 With the cuirass of justice on his breast, and on his head the helmet of doom 19 20 inflexible, he will take holiness for his impenetrable shield and sharpen his relentless anger for a sword; and his whole world shall join him in the 21 fight against his frenzied foes. The bolts of his lightning shall fly straight on the mark, they shall leap upon the target as if his bow in the clouds were 22 drawn in its full arc, and the artillery of his resentment shall let fly a fury of hail. The waters of the sea shall rage over them, and the rivers wash 23 them relentlessly away; a great tempest will arise against them, and blow them away like chaff before a whirlwind. So lawlessness will make the whole world desolate, and active wickedness will overturn the thrones of princes.
from the NEW ENGLISH BIBLE, Oxford University Press