Is wisdom a mediatrix in Sirach? : a study of the wisdom poems

Rogers, Jessie Florence (1999-12)

Thesis (D.Phil.) -- University of Stellenbosch, 1999.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The figure of Woman Wisdom appears in several key poems in Sirach, namely Sir 1:1-10,1:11-30,4:11-19,6:18-37,14:20-15:10,24:1-34 and 51:13-30. Woman Wisdom is a metaphor that employs feminine imagery to speak of the tradition as taught by the sages and contained within the sacred writings of Judaism. Ben Sira uses it to show that the Jewish tradition is the pathway to genuine piety. The metaphor functions to reinforce the implicit claim of conservative scribal circles to be the legitimate interpreters of the tradition. The personification of wisdom is the basic trope underlying the presentations of Wisdom. This feminine personification is then filled out with a number of metaphors, rendering Woman Wisdom an easily recognisable entity in the text despite the wide range of imagery applied to her. The wisdom personified includes both the content of the Jewish tradition and the disposition to live in conformity with that tradition, summed up in the fear of the Lord. This tradition is seen as the distillation of universal wisdom. The gender of Woman Wisdom is rhetorically important in those poems where wisdom is presented as a desirable goal to be passionately and zealously sought. But Ben Sira does not exploit the metaphor 'wisdom as woman' as a conceptual tool for reflection on wisdom in and of itself or in its relationship to God. In Sir 24 the feminine dimension of the Wisdom figure recedes; Wisdom is personified as an angelic figure and her gender becomes simply a fact of grammar. The metaphor 'wisdom as angel' may be an attempt to picture wisdom in the closest possible association with the Lord and in the most exalted position possible without compromising monotheism. Angels are also portrayed as mediators in Second Temple writings. The movement and action of Wisdom, God and human beings relative to each other in the Wisdom poems provides hints that the Jewish tradition plays a vital role in the relationship between God and humanity. God relates to human beings by revealing to them wisdom, which finds its most perfect expression in the Jewish written tradition. How a person relates to this tradition will determine how God relates to that person. Conversely, it is impossible to find wisdom if one does not have the correct attitude toward God and if one does not live according to the tradition. Since all wisdom is from God, there is no wisdom outside of what God gives, and the wisdom God has given is embodied in the traditions of Israel.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Vrou Wysheid fuksioneer prominent in Sir 1:1-10, 4:11-19, 6:18-37, 14:20-15:10, 24:1-34 en 51:13-30. Sy is 'n literere figuur wat vroulike beeldspraak gebruik om van die tradisie wat in die heilige geskrifte van die ludaiisme voorkom, te praat. Dit stel daardie tradisie voor as deurweg na opregte pieteit. Ben Sira wend hierdie figuur aan om die aanspraak vanuit konserwatiewe skrywersskole te onderskraag dat huIle die legitieme interprete is van hierdie tradisie. Personifikasie is die basiese stylfiguur wat ten grondslag le van die voorsteIlings van wysheid en die vroulike personifikasie word met 'n hele aantal metafore ingeklee. luis daarom is die figuur van wysheid 'n maklik identifiseerbare entiteit in die teks afgesien van die wye reeks van beelde wat op haar van toepassing gemaak word. Die wysheid wat gepersonifieer word, omvat beide die inhoud van die loodse tradisie en die wil om volgens daardie tradisie te lewe; dit word opgesom in die vrees van die Here. Hierdie tradisie word beskou as die distillasie van universele wysheid. Die geslag van vrou wysheid is retories belangrik in daardie teksgedeeltes waar wysheid voorgestel word as 'n begeerlike doelwit wat ywerig en vuriglik nagestreef moet word. Desnietemin benut Ben Sira die metafoor "wysheid as vrou" nie vir die doeleindes om oor wysheid an sich, of in haar verhouding tot God te besinnie. In Sir 24 verskuif die vroulike dimensie van hierdie figuur op die agtergrond en word wysheid personifieer as 'n engelagtige figuur; haar geslag word gewoon 'n grammatikale gegewe. Die metafoor "wysheid as engel" open die moontlikheid dat wysheid voorgestel kan word in die mees inti em moontlike relasie met die Here en terselfdertyd in die mees verhewe posisie in 'n monotei"stiese sisteem. Engele funksioneer ook as middelaars in die geskrifte van die tussentestamentere tydperk. Die beweging en optrede van wysheid, God en die mens relatief tot mekaar in die wysheidspsalms suggereer dat die loodse tradisie 'n kardinale rol vervul in die verhouding tussen God en die mens. God· maak met mense kontak deur aan hulle wysheid te openbaar wat haar mees perfekte uitdrukking vind in die geskrewe loodse tradisie. 'n Persoon se verhouding tot daardie tradisie bepaal God se verhouding tot daardie persoon. Omgekeerd is dit onmoontlik om wysheid te vind as iemand nie die korrekte instelling tot God het nie en as iemand nie volgens die tradisie leef nie. Aangesien aIle wysheid van God afkomstig is, is daar geen wysheid buite dit wat God gee nie, en die wysheid wat God skenk, word omvat in die tradisies van Israel.

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