Monday, February 21, 2011

Ben Sira

Today we begin reading, and will be reading for the next two weeks, from one of the books of the Bible that many are not familiar with. Some translations name the book Sirach, some call it Ecclesiasticus (not to be confused with Ecclesiastes), the wisdom of Ben Sira, or the Proverbs of Ben Sira.

In style it is similar to Proverbs, with one notable exception. While the Book of Proverbs is a collection of Proverbs gathered from various sources, it appears that this book was the work of one inspired author who was a scribe living in Jerusalem in the second century before the birth of Christ.

Being one of the Old Testament books we only have in Greek, as English speakers we should not read anything into the fact that wisdom is referred to as female. In Greek, like many other languages, nouns have gender. In German girl is neuter, in Spanish a dress is male. One will notice that the Church in the new English translation of the missal is referred to as female, because in Latin it is. It says something about how egocentric we are that we expect gender to be used in the rest of the world the same way we use it, and can get into fights over using the pronoun "He" to refer to God, in translations of documents written in Hebrew, Greek or Latin.

In these two weeks as we read the wisdom of Ben Sira, may we move in every aspect of our life beyond the superficial and seek true wisdom, found only in God.