James 1.27… and Sirach 4.10
In reading several commentaries, I keep seeing James 1.27 referred back to Isaiah 1.15-16. Admittedly, because I don’t have the time to search my entire library, I cannot tell you no one else has connected James 1.27 to Sirach 4.10. (Briefly looking at commentaries on Sirch, some have made allusions between the two.)
Read all of Sirach 4 here.
Sirach 4.10 reads,
Be like a father to orphans,
and take the place of a husband to widows.
Then God will call you his child,
and he will be merciful to you and deliver you from the pit.
James 1.27 reads,
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
You can easily see the connection. Not merely with the use of orphans and widows, but so too to the allusion of cleansing from sin.
Now, I’m not going to compare the rest of James 1 to Sirach 4, but you can.
This is important for several reasons. One, it informs James’s reception as part of the Wisdom tradition. This is really beyond doubt, in my opinion. Of course, in doing so, I am left to wonder how close a Jacobite Christology is to the Wisdom theology found in Sirach (Say, Sirach 24). Anyway, I would encourage you to read Sirach sometime.
Sirach’s God (2.18)
My son and I, as our Lenten practice, have selected to read a passage of Scripture every morning. We have settled on the book of Sirach (Ben Sira, Ecclesiasticus). It is, in my opinion, a worthy one for Protestants to reconsider. It is, somewhat, retained in the Anglican tradition via the lectionary and are supported for non-doctrinal teaching.
They should reconsider that.
Nevertheless, if you read the latter half of chapter 2, you’ll get this sense that God is actually…wait for it… love.
And full of Grace.
Do you teach the same thing?
what if Jesus died for God’s honor?
I realize this thesis has never been proposed before so bear with me…
In reading through what Jarvis Williams calls “martyrdom theology” I come across Eleazar of 2 Maccabees:
Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes, a man advanced in age and of noble appearance, was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork. 19 But preferring a glorious death to a life of defilement, he went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture, 20 spitting out the meat as they should do who have the courage to reject food unlawful to taste even for love of life.
21 Those in charge of that unlawful sacrifice took the man aside, because of their long acquaintance with him, and privately urged him to bring his own provisions that he could legitimately eat, and only to pretend to eat the sacrificial meat prescribed by the king. 22 Thus he would escape death, and be treated kindly because of his old friendship with them. 23 But he made up his mind in a noble manner, worthy of his years, the dignity of his advanced age, the merited distinction of his gray hair, and of the admirable life he had lived from childhood. Above all loyal to the holy laws given by God, he swiftly declared, “Send me to Hades!”
24 “At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense; many of the young would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar had gone over to an alien religion. 25 If I dissemble to gain a brief moment of life, they would be led astray by me, while I would bring defilement and dishonor on my old age. 26 Even if, for the time being, I avoid human punishment, I shall never, whether alive or dead, escape the hand of the Almighty. 27 Therefore, by bravely giving up life now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, 28 and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws.”
He spoke thus, and went immediately to the instrument of torture. 29 Those who shortly before had been kindly disposed, now became hostile toward him because what he had said seemed to them utter madness. 30 When he was about to die under the blows, he groaned, saying: “The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that, although I could have escaped death, I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging, but also suffering it with joy in my soul because of my devotion to him.” 31 This is how he died, leaving in his death a model of nobility and an unforgettable example of virtue not only for the young but for the whole nation.
Note specifically v.26-28. There is a connection between honor and blasphemy. If Jesus died as martyr, or with the theology of martyrdom on his side, then he died in response to the honor of God.
I don’t necessarily believe that is the case, as you should know by now; however, the story does give us a sense that there exists a connection, just as in suicide, for a chosen death and a sense of honor. Eleazar dies devoted to God — as a devotion to God — to avoid dishonoring God.
notes, not done. shoot, not even edited. going through the OT/Jewish writings looking for self-inflicted deaths.
Another suicide is found in 2 Maccabees, this time at 14.37–46, in which Razis, a loyal Jew who was soon to be arrested, killed himself because, “εὐγενῶς θέλων ἀποθανεῖν, ἤπερ τοῖς ἀλιτηρίοις ὑποχείριος γενέσθαι, καὶ τῆς ἰδίας εὐγενείας ἀναξίως ὑβρισθῆναι.” The phrase “εὐγενῶς θέλων ἀποθανεῖν” is immediately noticeable especially because of the praise it gives the suicidal Jew. The details of the story must be examined almost minutely. Razis is a title, rather than a name, possible derived derived from Isaiah 14.16–18 or 24.16 and related to his good standing in the community (2 Maccabees 14.17). As with Abimelech before him, a tower is involved (although it is doubtful the tower has a significance beyond the literary). He is intent, as with King Saul, refusing to allow any one or thing to stop him. It is 14.46, however, that gives us more pause. After the horrific self-inflicted death, he dies with his entrails in hands proclaiming vindication in the Resurrection: “παντελῶς ἔξαιμος ἤδη γινόμενος, προβαλὼν τὰ ἔντερα καὶ λαβὼν ἑκατέραις ταῖς χερσίν, ἐνέσεισε τοῖς ὄχλοις· καὶ ἐπικαλεσάμενος τὸν δεσπόζοντα τῆς ζωῆς καὶ τοῦ πνεύματος τὰ αὐτὰ αὐτῷ πάλιν ἀποδοῦναι, τόνδε τὸν τρόπον μετήλλαξεν.”
Though only loosely related at best, see Aristotle’s Ethica Nicomachea 1115b.5. A better connection — linguistically and contextually — can be found in Dionysius of Halicarnassus’s work, Roman Antiquities, 10.46.5–6 (c. 30 BCE).
Both Jewish and Christian theologians have struggled with this passage. “The nobility was that of feeling, since nobility of birth was not recognized among the Jews. The justification and laudation of self murder, which here comes to light, is not only anti-Jewish, but has also been justly urged by Protestant theologians as directly militating against the canonicity of the present book. To this objection Roman Catholics have never been able to make a satisfactory answer. The cases of Saul and of Samson, sometimes cited as parallel, are in quite another category” in John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, and Edwin Cone Bissell, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Apocrypha (Logos, 2008), 611.
Not done. Just notes. And notes make good blog posts.
As we will see below, the Maccabean books provides the early Christians with a great wealth of material for theological reflection as well as understanding the role of martyrdom. The first self-inflicted death in this series of books occurs when Eleazar rushes into a crowd of elephants to assassinate king Antiochus V (1 Maccabees 6.43–44): “καὶ εἶδεν Ἐλεαζὰρ ὁ Σαυαρὰν ἓν τῶν θηρίων τεθωρακισμένον θώραξιν βασιλικοῖς, καὶ ἦν ὑπεράγον πάντα τὰ θηρία, καὶ ὤφθη ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐστιν ὁ βασιλεύς. καὶ ἔδωκεν ἑαυτὸν τοῦ σῶσαι τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ, καὶ περιποιῆσαι αὑτῷ ὄνομα αἰώνιον.” In a less-than-ironic twist, the rather short episode accomplishes exactly what Eleazar meant to do, which is to preserve his name although we know that the sacrifice did nothing for his people. But, the story does not end there. In 4 Maccabees 1.7–10, Eleazar is held up as the example of a virtuous martyr. This may be in response to 3 Maccabees wherein the author recounts the story of Eleazar, but in a gander cosmic sense. In 3 Maccabees 6.16–19, Eleazar is pictured as piously recounting God’s promises — specifically the promise to never abandon Israel — just before the attack. Only instead of the quick dash by the Jew, the battled is enjoined by God and the heavenly host (3 Macc. 6.18). The story moves from a suicide for an unsuccessful but valiant reason (something like a noble death) to part of a rather dramatic cosmic battle of the gods (a martyrdom) (see figure 3.1 below).
|καὶ εἶδεν Ἐλεαζὰρ ὁ Σαυαρὰν ἓν τῶν θηρίων τεθωρακισμένον θώραξιν βασιλικοῖς, καὶ ἦν ὑπεράγον πάντα τὰ θηρία, καὶ ὤφθη ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐστιν ὁ βασιλεύς. καὶ ἔδωκεν ἑαυτὸν τοῦ σῶσαι τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ, καὶ περιποιῆσαι αὑτῷ ὄνομα αἰώνιον. (1 Maccabees 6.43–44)|
|Τοῦ δὲ Ελεαζαρου λήγοντος ἄρτι τῆς προσευχῆς ὁ βασιλεὺς σὺν τοῖς θηρίοις καὶ παντὶ τῷ τῆς δυνάμεως φρυάγματι κατὰ τὸν ἱππόδρομον παρῆγεν. καὶ θεωρήσαντες οἱ Ιουδαῖοι μέγα εἰς οὐρανὸν ἀνέκραξαν ὥστε καὶ τοὺς παρακειμένους αὐλῶνας συνηχήσαντας ἀκατάσχετον πτόην ποιῆσαι παντὶ τῷ στρατοπέδῳ. τότε ὁ μεγαλόδοξος παντοκράτωρ καὶ ἀληθινὸς θεὸς ἐπιφάνας τὸ ἅγιον αὐτοῦ πρόσωπον ἠνέῳξεν τὰς οὐρανίους πύλας, ἐξ ὧν δεδοξασμένοι δύο φοβεροειδεῖς ἄγγελοι κατέβησαν φανεροὶ πᾶσιν πλὴν τοῖς Ιουδαίοις καὶ ἀντέστησαν καὶ τὴν δύναμιν τῶν ὑπεναντίων ἐπλήρωσαν ταραχῆς καὶ δειλίας καὶ ἀκινήτοις ἔδησαν πέδαις. (3 Maccabees 6.16–19)|
|πολλαχόθεν μὲν οὖν καὶ ἀλλαχόθεν ἔχοιμ ἂν ὑμῖν ἐπιδεῖξαι ὅτι αὐτοκράτωρ ἐστὶν τῶν παθῶν ὁ λογισμός, πολὺ δὲ πλέον τοῦτο ἀποδείξαιμι ἀπὸ τῆς ἀνδραγαθίας τῶν ὑπὲρ ἀρετῆς ἀποθανόντων, Ελεαζαρου τε καὶ τῶν ἑπτὰ ἀδελφῶν καὶ τῆς τούτων μητρός. ἅπαντες γὰρ οὗτοι τοὺς ἕως θανάτου πόνους ὑπεριδόντες ἐπεδείξαντο ὅτι περικρατεῖ τῶν παθῶν ὁ λογισμός. τῶν μὲν οὖν ἀρετῶν ἔπεστί μοι ἐπαινεῖν τοὺς κατὰ τοῦτον τὸν καιρὸν ὑπὲρ τῆς καλοκἀγαθίας ἀποθανόντας μετὰ τῆς μητρὸς ἄνδρας, τῶν δὲ τιμῶν μακαρίσαιμ ἄν. (4 Maccabees 1.7–10)|
δειχθήτω πᾶσιν ἔθνεσιν ὅτι μεθ’ ἡμῶν εἶ, κύριε, καὶ οὐκ ἀπέστρεψας τὸ πρόσωπόν σου ἀφ’ ἡμῶν, ἀλλὰ καθὼς εἶπας ὅτι Οὐδὲ ἐν τῇ γῇ τῶν ἐχθρῶν αὐτῶν ὄντων ὑπερεῖδον αὐτούς, οὕτως ἐπιτέλεσον, κύριε.(3 Macc. 6.15)
Fitting: 2 Esdras on the Lion’s Justice to the Eagle #advent14ccumwv
I think this may just one of the most fitting quotes I’ve read in a long time.
Did John Wesley use the “Apocrypha?” Yes. Yes, he did. #umc
According to James Charlesworth (who used John Vicker’s data) he did.
This is taken from James Charlesworth paper for the Charles Wesley society (PDF). He concludes that both Wesleys, while some differences of use, still used and cherished the hidden books. He concludes by saying,
For John Wesley the most revered apocryphal document may have been the Wisdom of Solomon, followed by Sirach. The Wisdom of Solomon and the Fourth Book of Ezra seem to be the most attractive apocryphal books to Charles Wesley.
I note that John Wesley’s Articles of Religion, which was geared to the American Methodists (1784), says,
In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament of whose authority was never any doubt in the church. The names of the canonical books are:
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, The First Book of Samuel, The Second Book of Samuel, The First Book of Kings, The Second Book of Kings, The First Book of Chronicles, The Second Book of Chronicles, The Book of Ezra, The Book of Nehemiah, The Book of Esther, The Book of Job, The Psalms, The Proverbs, Ecclesiastes or the Preacher, Cantica or Songs of Solomon, Four Prophets the Greater, Twelve Prophets the Less.
All the books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive and account canonical.
The 39 Articles of Religion (Anglican) allows for the “apocrypha” but sets them up only to be read, not used for doctrine.
I note Rev. Martin’s suggestion for expanding our current doctrinal standards in regards to this particular article.
We could restore the part of the Anglican article that John Wesley removed before sending his abridged Articles of Religion to the new Methodist Episcopal Church in America. This means naming the additional books that are discussed in the 1971 one-volume commentary and declaring them, as the ancient biblical scholar Jerome did, to be worthy of reading “for example of life and instruction of manners” but not “to establish any doctrine.” Such a step would put us back in basic harmony with not only Jerome but also with the great reformer Martin Luther and with Anglican churches today, including the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. This action would be a limited move, and the additional books would clearly have a second-class status.
Or, we could shorten Article V to its first sentence, leaving us with a general statement about the Bible similar to that of the Confession: “The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” Such a broad affirmation would allow us, in our understanding of the extent of the Bible, to come much closer to agreement with Augustine, with the majority view of the Church before the Reformation and with the great majority of Christians in the world today.
@FortressPress “Commentary on the Bible: The Old Testament and Apocrypha” – Additions to Esther
Since he-who-must-not-be-named is reviewing the “normal books,” I wanted to take some time and focus on the books you good Protestants are missing due to the drunk who threw them out. Frankly, they are among my favorites.
Yes, you Wesleyans like James and you Calvinists like the Institutes, but for those of us who love Jesus, there are books (used by Christians since the beginning) like Wisdom of Solomon and the (Greek) Additions to Esther. Admittedly, the former of these two is my favorite.
The introduction to the entire section (split off as as they do in Protestant bibles) is a short, but masterful work on the history of the deuterocanon (or “Apocrypha”) in Protestant bibles. I’m not going to spend much time reviewing it, but Eileen M. Schuller has done her considerable homework and gets it, as far as I can see, right. By this I mean, Schuller presents exactly what I want to see presented in a commentary of this scope and it is appreciated. She presents the ups and downs (the drunken brawl that led to the books being discarded right up to their reemergence in our wayward and biblically illiterate society) of these “hidden” books in Protestantism. Further, she doesn’t exclude, as many are apt to do, the Orthodox varieties of lists.
Let me spend just a moment on the (Greek) Additions to Esther, for no other reason than it was penned by my favorite seminary professor, Dr. Vivian Johnson. She begins by noting the surface problem with Esther — there is no God (at least in the book). Therefore, later Jewish scribes sought to remedy that, adding to the story as they needed to deliver the message they wanted. Rightly so, Johnson speaks to how this book dealt with identity in Empire and how the additions turn the book from a very limited scope to one that has far reaching cosmic implications.
After taking us through the additions and what they mean inside the text, she turns to the interpretative tradition and the text in contemporary discussion (as is the case with all other books in this commentary). Since the Additions to Esther are so short, this has allowed Johnson to expand these two discussion sections greatly to the benefit of the reader. To my great joy, her section on contemporary discussion discusses the contrast between the Greek additions (and the story it produces) compared to that of the original and Hebrew forms. This is important in deciding which story to read — not necessarily which story is authoritative. Like Daniel and his additions, the additions to Esther are important to us as we discover how stories were told, retold, and redacted/edited to meet new challenges — not simply with mimetic reuse, but by adding directly to a sacred text.
In all, Johnson does exactly what this former student expects, delivers supremely.