Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reading Ecclesiasticus

Ecclesiasticus sounds like a word someone made up as a joke, like Colin Buchanan's jargonisationismacality in the evangelistic training dvd Just Start Talking. But it is the title of a long book of wisdom in Roman Catholic Bibles. Protestants don't need to be afraid of those books, which Christians have always believed to be worth reading, though Protestant Christians do not believe them to be holy writ.

There is some great stuff in Sirach [another name for Ecclesiasticus], which begins with a prologue by the author's grandson. I'd like to think that one day one of my grandsons would want to edit some of my ramblings!

Take chapters 22 and 23 for example. This morning I read this interesting observation on swearing, which I take to mean making an oath, in my read-through of the New Jerusalem Bible.
Sirach 23: 9 Do not get into the habit of swearing, do not make a habit of naming the Holy One; 10 for just as a slave who is constantly overseen will never be without bruises, so someone who is always swearing and uttering the Name will not be exempt from sin. 11 A man for ever swearing is full of iniquity, and the scourge will not depart from his house. If he offends, his sin will be on him, if he did it unheedingly, he has doubly sinned; if he swears a false oath, he will not be treated as innocent, for his house will be filled with calamities.

This may reflect part of the reason for substituting LORD for YAHWEH in the Septuagint, I suppose.

There was also some great advice for those who fear other people [such as myself, I admit]:
Sirach 23:18-19 ... the man who sins against the marriage bed and says to himself, 'Who can see me? There is darkness all round me, the walls hide me, no one can see me, why should I worry? The Most High will not remember my sins.' What he fears are human eyes, he does not realise that the eyes of the Lord are ten thousand times brighter than the sun, observing every aspect of human behaviour, seeing into the most secret corners.

But the words at the beginning of my reading today surely cannot be from God:
Sirach 22:3 It is a disgrace to have fathered a badly brought-up son, but the birth of any daughter is a loss
Some accuse the Bible of sexism, but I have not encountered anything like that comment in the canonical Scriptures.

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