Sunday, March 18, 2007

1200BC to 100BC The Apocrypha (continued)

The Wisdom of Solomon. Most important of apocryphal books. Does not use brief, pithy, didactic epigram. More in style of literary essay. Different in purpose from Proverbs, etc. Not designed to prepare young men for service in stable, homogeneous environment. Tries to preserve transplanted way of life and thought in alien environment, e.e., Hellenistic Egypt where Jews were in danger of losing their identity.

Ecclesiasticus or the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach. By a sage or wisdom teacher who lived in Jerusalem in 2nd century BC. Wisdom literature consisted of essays and brief discourses. Revised edition of his oral teaching? Diverse content. No brief summary is possible. Man-centered and practical wisdom, but "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Identifies wisdom with the law. Learning, study, interpretation, exposition of Scriptures.

Baruch. Three parts. Prays on behalf of Jerusalem's conquerors. Equates wisdom with possession of the Torah, i.e., the Pentateuch. Lamentation for captivity of Zion's children.

Letter of Jeremiah. Rambling, repetitious attack on idols and idol worship. Appeal not to succumb to worship of Babylonian deities.

Prayer of Azariah or The Song of the Three. Additions to the Book of Daniel. Azariah (nicknamed Abednego) in fiery furnace--prayer. Blessing God, not thanksgiving. Willingness of Almighty to receive blessing from man is significant. Song of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego in fiery furnace.

Susanna and the Elders. Susanna accused of adultery by Jewish elders who had attempted her chastity. Innocence proved by Daniel. Elders put to death. Literary gem in support of morality. Joseph story in reverse. Also shows God loyal to individuals as well as to chosen people as a whole. Didactic story, not an historical incident. Builds suspense: How will author extricate heroine from her plight?

Daniel, Bel, and the Snake. Bel was the supreme Babylonian god of earth and atmosphere. Bel symbolizes male generative power. Same as Baal. Daniel exposes Bel as an image, not a living god. Not historical.

The Prayer of Manasseh. Manassah was the most evil of all the kings of Judah. Chief cause of Yahweh's punishment of Israel through the Babylonian conquest. Supposed to have repented. Explains how evil king could have such a long and quiet reign.

The First Book of the Maccabees. History. Period between the Testaments. Jewish wars of resistance against Syrian power, 175-135BC. Narratives of military campaigns and 6 poems. Describes 4 heroes: Mattathias, Judas, Jonathan, and Simon.

The Second Book of the Maccabees. Not a sequel to the First Book of the Maccabees. Different account of the same crisis from a different point of view. Flamboyant, emotional, Greek style. Emphasis on spectacular, miraculous, gruesome. Focus on only one hero: Judas Maccabeus. Preserves heroic image of the hero. Ignores his final defeat and death. Viewpoint of Hasidians, most deeply devoted to the Mosaic Law.

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