The Wisdom of Yeshua Ben Sira and the Gentle Mastery of Jesus Christ


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest

The Gentle Mastery of Christ.

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. Matthew 11:28-30)

When Jesus says “who labor and are burdened” he means burdened by the law as expounded by the scribes and Pharisees. On another occasion Matthew says:

They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. (Matthew 23:4)

Jesus invites the burdened to take the yoke of obedience to his word, under which they will find rest in place of the yoke of the law, complicated by scribal interpretation.

  • Thus says the LORD: Stand by the earliest roads, ask the pathways of old, “Which is the way to good?” and walk it; thus you will find rest for yourselves. But they said, “We will not walk it.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

These verses of Matthew are peculiar and are similar to ben Sirach’s invitation to learn wisdom and submit to her yoke:

  • Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instruction; (Sirach 51:23)
  • Take her yoke upon your neck; that your mind may receive her teaching. For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her. (Sirach 51:26)

The Wisdom of Ben Sirach

Sirach” or the “The Wisdom of Sirach” from which the verses, quoted above, attributed to Jesus ben Sira has been drawn is the last of the seven “Wisdom Books” in the Old Testament.  The other six are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Wisdom.

Illustration from Sirach, c. 1751.

Illustration from Sirach, c. 1751.

 

The Wisdom of Sirach is a collection of ethical teachings, a work from the early 2nd century BC. It is the work of a single author – Jesus ben Sirach of Jerusalem. It closely resembles Proverbs, which is an anthology of maxims drawn from various sources. The work derives its title from the author’s words:

  • Wise instruction, appropriate proverbs, I have written in this book— I, Yeshua [Jesus] Ben Eleazar Ben Sira — as they poured forth from my heart’s understanding. (Sirach 50:27)

The title “Sirach” comes from the Greek form of the author’s name.

The author, Jesus ben Sirach of Jerusalem was thoroughly imbued with love for the wisdom tradition, and also for the law, the priesthood, the Temple, and divine worship. As a wise and experienced observer of life he addressed himself to his contemporaries with the motive of helping them maintain religious faith and integrity through study of the books sacred to the Jewish tradition.

The Wisdom of Sirach contains numerous well-crafted maxims, grouped by affinity, and dealing with a variety of subjects such as the individual, the family, the community, the state, and communion with God. It treats of friendship, education, poverty and wealth, laws, religious worship, and many other issues that reflect the religious and social customs of the period.

Wisdom, in Ben Sira’s view, is synonymous with the reverence of God, and sometimes is identified in his mind with adherence to the Mosaic law.

The contents of “The Wisdom of Ben Sirach” are of a discursive nature, not easily divided into separate parts. Chapters 1–43 deal largely with moral instruction; 44:1–50:24 contain a eulogy of the heroes of Israel. There are two appendixes in which the author expresses his gratitude to God (51:1–12), and invites the unschooled to acquire true wisdom (51:13–30).

Jesus ben Sirach may have authored the work in Alexandria, Egypt, between 180 – 175 BC, where he is thought to have established a school. It was originally written in Hebrew. The text was translated into Greek by the author’s grandson after 117 BC, who also added a prologue, which contains valuable information about the book, its author, and himself as the translator.

The Wisdom of Sirach” seems to be the earliest title of the book it is also known by various names:

Book of the All-Virtuous Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira“,

Wisdom of Sirach“,

The Book Ecclesiasticus“,

Siracides“,

Proverbs of ben Sirach” (משלי בן סירא, Mišley ben Siraʼ),

Wisdom of ben Sirach” (חכמת בן סירא,Ḥokhmat ben Siraʼ), or simply “Sirach.”

Though there are numerous citations of Sirach in the Talmud and works of rabbinic literature (as “ספר בן סירא”, e.g., Hagigah 13a) the book was not accepted into the scriptural canon of Judaism after the first century A.D., nor, therefore, accepted by Protestants.

The Wisdom of Ben Sirach has been acknowledged by the Catholic Church as inspired and canonical. The Foreword, though not properly part of the book, is always included with it because of its antiquity and importance. Sirach is also accepted as part of the Christian biblical canon by Eastern Orthodox, and most Oriental Orthodox churches.

The Greek Church Fathers also called it the “All-Virtuous Wisdom.” The Latin Church Fathers, beginning with Saint Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (died September 14, 258) termed it “Ecclesiasticus.” The designation “Liber Ecclesiasticus,” meaning “Church Book,” appended to some Greek and Latin manuscripts, is perhaps due to the extensive use the church made of this book in presenting moral teaching to catechumens and to the faithful.

Until the close of the nineteenth century “The Wisdom of Ben Sirach” was known to Christians in translations, of which the Greek rendering was the most important. From it the Latin version was made. Between 1896 and 1900, again in 1931, and several times since 1956, incomplete manuscripts were discovered, so that more than two thirds of the book in Hebrew is available. These Hebrew texts agree substantially with the Greek. One such text, from Masada, is pre-Christian in date. So, the work of ben Sirach is presently known through various versions, which scholars still struggle to disentangle.

Hebrew translation of Ben Sira, 1814 (Vienna 1814)

Hebrew translation of Ben Sira, 1814 (Vienna 1814)

 

Here is a sample of Jesus Ben Sira’s wisdom.

Ben Sira’s Pursuit of Wisdom – Sirach 51:13-30

13 When I was young and innocent,
I sought wisdom.

14 She came to me in her beauty,
and until the end I will cultivate her.

15 As the blossoms yielded to ripening grapes,
the heart’s joy,
My feet kept to the level path
because from earliest youth I was familiar with her.

16 In the short time I paid heed,
I met with great instruction.

17 Since in this way I have profited,
I will give my Teacher grateful praise.

18 I resolved to tread her paths;
I have been jealous for the good and will not turn back.

19 I burned with desire for her,
never relenting.
I became preoccupied with her,
never weary of extolling her.
I spread out my hands to the heavens
and I came to know her secrets.

20 For her I purified my hands;
in cleanness I attained to her.
At first acquaintance with her, I gained understanding
such that I will never forsake her.

21 My whole being was stirred to seek her;
therefore I have made her my prize possession.

22 The LORD has rewarded me with lips,
with a tongue for praising him.

23 Come aside to me, you untutored,
and take up lodging in the house of instruction;

24 How long will you deprive yourself of wisdom’s food,
how long endure such bitter thirst?

25 I open my mouth and speak of her:
gain wisdom for yourselves at no cost.

26 Take her yoke upon your neck;
that your mind may receive her teaching.
For she is close to those who seek her,
and the one who is in earnest finds her.

27 See for yourselves! I have labored only a little,
but have found much.

28 Acquire but a little instruction,
and you will win silver and gold through her.

29 May your soul rejoice in God’s mercy;
do not be ashamed to give him praise.

30 Work at your tasks in due season,
and in his own time God will give you your reward.

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The Parable of the Mustard Seed


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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He [Jesus] proposed another parable to them.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.

It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’

- MATTHEW 13:31-32

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The people whom Jesus addressed during his lifetime were mainly rural folk who would have had enough knowledge of plants to understand the substance and nuances of Jesus’ teachings that involved plants.

Jesus taught profound spiritual truths to simple folk through parables, using relevant and familiar examples from daily life. The mustard plant, mentioned in the three Canonical gospels and in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas is one of these cases.

The term “Mustard” is used to describe several plant species in the genera Brassica and Sinapis whose small mustard seeds are used as a spice. The mustard seeds are ground and mixed  with water, vinegar or other liquids, to prepare the condiment known as mustard paste or prepared mustard. The seeds are also pressed to make mustard oil. The edible leaves can be eaten as mustard greens.

According to Theophrastus and Pliny, mustard was grown in gardens and did not need any cultivating, as it sprouts all by itself.

Some suggest that Salvadora persica (Arak, Galenia asiatica, Meswak, Peelu, Pīlu, Salvadora indica,or toothbrush tree) is a species  of Salvadora, also known as “mustard tree,” is the mustard referred to in the Bible. The Arabs called this plant chardal and the Hebrew equivalent is also chardalSalvadora persica is popularly used as a chewing stick throughout the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the wider Muslim world. It is often mentioned that Prophet Muhammad recommended its use. He is cited in various Hadith extolling the twig’s virtues. However, this plant,  Salvadora persica, cannot be the mustard mentioned in the canonical gospels because it is a shrub unlike any other member of the mustard family; it is never cultivated; found only in deserts; and the fruits are large.

So, the most probable contenders are plants of the Brassicaceae, a medium-sized and economically important family of flowering plants (Angiosperms), that are informally known as the mustards, mustard flowers, the crucifers or the cabbage family. Varieties that we normally come across are black mustard (Brassica nigra), Mild white mustard (Sinapis hirta), the white mustard (Sinapis arvensis or Sinapis alba), and Indian mustard (Brassica juncea). All these plants have small seeds.

So the logical conclusion arrived by many experts is that the parable points to Brassica nigra.

The seeds of both black and white mustard are similar in size – about 1.0 to 3.0 mm (1/8 inch) making them the smallest seed that can be planted in the ground. This clearly indicates that Jesus was comparing the mustard seed to other seeds that were commonly grown. Though there might have been numerous other plants with smaller seeds familiar to his listeners, there were only a few plants which grew large and rapidly in one season as a mustard, characterized by rapid germination of the seed. Mustard sowed one day would germinate and begin sprouting the next day.

From a botanical point of view, a grown black mustard would still be a herb. Trees in most parts of the Holy Land do not attain a large stature. The black mustard plant itself can grow from two to eight feet tall and could be considered a shrub. Wild mustard plants that grow over ten feet tall have been noticed near the Jordan River.

It has also been noticed that the stem of mustard plants becomes dry and wood-like, which gives it the look of a tree.

Black mustard is an exceptionally large mustard plant. But is it strong enough for birds to perch on them?

The answer can be found in Mark 4:32,

But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.

Almost all the versions of the gospel say that it becomes the largest of (garden) plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade. They do not say that the birds can make nests in the branches; but say:

    • can dwell in its shade
    • “dwell in its branches”
    • can make nests in its shade
    • can NEST UNDER ITS SHADE
    • will be able to perch in its shade
    • may lodge under the shadow of it
    • so that under its shade the fowls of the heaven are able to rest

and so on.

To summarize, the features of the mustard plant emphasized by Jesus in the Parable of the Mustard Seed are the small size of the mustard seed, the large size of the mustard plant in relation to the seed, and the rapid growth of the plant from germination onwards.

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The most overly used, yet most understood word in the Christian language…hypocrite


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Pastor Mike

 

 

..By Pastor Maike

 

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Hypocrite

If you walked down the street of the a busy city and asked random people about Christians what do you think they would say? I would love to say that those people would have nothing but good things to say, but sadly that is not true. Unfortunately, the word that would be most commonly used probably wouldn’t be loving, nice, compassionate or forgiving. Unfortunately, the word probably most often used to describe a Christian has been a hypocrite. That’s not to say that I agree with that, but that’s what a lot of people would say. So naturally I thought we should check out what the Bible has to say about hypocrites and hypocrisy.

Sometimes when looking up a certain topic in the Bible you can’t find a place where the Bible specifically talks about it and you have just have to put two and two together. Hypocrisy or hypocrites is not one of those topics. The Bible talks about hypocrites a lot and nobody talks about hypocrites in the Bible more often than Jesus himself.

Jesus obviously frowned upon hypocrisy, but what exactly is hypocrisy? There are a few different ways of being a hypocrite and each is shown in the Bible. The first type of hypocrisy can be found in Matthew chapter 6. In verse 2 Jesus says,

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

Jesus goes on to say,

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their rewards in full.

This is probably not the most common type of hypocrisy, although you may know someone like the people described in these verses. This type of a hypocrite is somebody that actually does something good, but does them for the wrong reasons. It’s not good enough to just pray to God or give to the needy, you must also have a good reason for it. A good Christian will pray because he wants to have a closer relationship with God or give to the needy out of compassion, but a hypocrite will do these things for their own glory. A hypocrite will make sure that other Christians see them so they can brag about how good a Christian they are.

Another type of hypocrite can be found in Matthew chapter 7. Verse 5 says,

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

This example of a hypocrite is probably the most common example of a hypocrite. Mainly because this type of hypocrisy isn’t really about being a Christian. This type of hypocrisy can be seen in anybody. Basically what this verse is talking about is that person A is telling person B about a flaw in them when person A is a hypocrite because they also have the same flaw. It basically would be like Lex Luthor walk up to Superman and telling him he should be nicer to people.

Like I said, this type of hypocrisy can be found in anybody, not just Christians, but how should a Christian act? A good Christian would first take a look at themselves and see if they have this flaw before calling somebody else out on it. If they also have that flaw, then they should take care of it before they tell anybody else what to do. That is what Jesus is talking about when he says to remove the plank from your own eye.

If you’re not being a hypocrite there is nothing wrong with confronting somebody with a problem they have but just like the hypocrites in the first example, you shouldn’t do this in public. Talk to the person in private.

Both of these are examples of hypocrites and you probably know people like them, but when people call Christians hypocrites they are usually referring to the third example. 1 John 2:4 tells us about this type of Christian:

“Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

It’s pretty simple. This type of hypocrite is the type of person that claims they are a Christian, but then doesn’t act like it. They might attend church on Sundays, even though the night before they were out doing sinful things. The Bible is very straightforward, these people are liars. You probably don’t need the Bible to tell you that, it’s pretty clear. In God’s eyes people that claim to be Christians but don’t act like it aren’t “Christian hypocrites”, they’re just non-Christians. They were never Christians to begin with.

Of course, God isn’t saying, “if you ever break one single rule, then that’s it, you’re a liar.” It just means if you really are a Christian then you will make a genuine attempt to follow all of his commandments. We aren’t perfect. Sometimes we’ll make a mistake and unfortunately when we make that mistake, a non-Christian will probably be there to call us a hypocrite because they love pointing them out. But as long as you keep on trying to follow God’s commandments, then you aren’t a hypocrite, you’re just human.

Are you a Christian Hypocrite

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Reposted from PASTOR MIKE SAYS

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What exactly is the millennium?


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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“But of that day and hour no one knows,
neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son,
but the Father alone.”

(Matthew 24:36)

The Millenium

The accepted definition of a millennium, a period of 1,000 years, did not originate from nature or from any practical calendar.

Unlike the primary cycles of days, lunations and years, it does not correspond to any factual astronomical cycles, or the practical needs of humanity, but to social factors, the peculiarities of Christianity. In fact, the issue of the millennium reflects a Christian-centric view.

Outside the Christian world the year 2000 will actually be the year 5760 according to the Jewish calendar, 5119 in the current Maya great cycle, 5100 years elapsed in Kali Yuga according to the Hindus, 2544 according to Buddhism and 1420 according to the Moslem calendar.

The arbitrary construction of the millennium is the domain of eschatology – a part of theology, physics, philosophy, and futurology concerned with the final events of history, the ultimate destiny of humanity – commonly called the “end of the world” or “end time”.

During the period of the great Roman empire, Jesus and his initial followers fully expected the fulfilment of the apocalypse and the inception of the millennium in their lifetime. It was no Utopian dream relegated to some future unspecified time at the time of Roman oppression, social turmoil and ideological uncertainty.

Millennial thinking is deeply embedded in the apocalyptic writings of the Bible. In traditional Christianity, “the millennium” means the future reign of Jesus lasting one thousand years, following a last battle between Christ and Satan. Satan loses, and is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, and Jesus wins, overseeing a Last Judgement of all the dead. Modern traditions of Christian eschatology use the term “Rapture” in two senses; as a general synonym for the final resurrection, and in the view of pre-tribulationists, where a group of people would be left behind on earth after the events mentioned in Matthew about “The Coming of the Son of Man”:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 24:29-31)

During Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica along with Silvanus and Timothy, a doubt arose among the Thessalonians about the fate of those Christians who would die before the return of Christ. Would they miss the glorious events of Christ’s second coming and the resurrection? Paul assuaged their fears. He assured them that God would save those who had already died, as well as those still living with these words:

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

After the crucifixion of Jesus, and even now, countless groups and people have compared the events of their time to Bible prophecies, and concluded that Jesus would
be returning soon. Some even set a date for the Rapture and led their followers into the deserts, to the mountains, and into the wilderness, to await the phenomenon.

Though the consummation of the second coming and the expected biblical millennium failed to materialise over the generations, and even after every one of those predictions turned out wrong, steadfast Christians still make modern-day predictions that Jesus will be returning soon and postpone the date of the expected apocalypse they ardently believe in.

However, most mainstream Bible scholars, do not think current world affairs evidence the imminent return of Christ. Even so, we still do come across Christian groups who believe in the Rapture as the centerpiece of the second coming of Jesus – a glorious, dramatic event with Jesus appearing and literally taking the believers physically along with him up into the sky.

In recent years, the Rapture and the second coming of Christ have spawned a lucrative industry. Besides the many books written on this subject, there are thousands of self-styled television evangelists with websites, radio stations, lecture series, audio recordings, videotapes and other Paraphernalia. Many of these accouterments feature imaginative and vivid embellishments of the Bible prophecies, and usually classified properly as fiction, and not as Bible prophecy.

Among these Christians, there are several theories about the timing of the Rapture. Thus the apocalyptic millennium has transformed itself into a calendrical measurement.

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Teach me how to pray …


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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I love listening to the mellow voice of my all-time favourite singer late gentleman Jim Reeves. My heart starts palpitating and tears flow from my eyes whenever I listen to his rendering of “Daddy my daddy teach me how to pray …”

One night a sleepy little boy knelt beside his bed.
He smiled and looked into my eyes and this is what he said:
“Daddy, my daddy, you‘ve taught me lots today;
So daddy, my daddy, teach me how to pray.”

“You brought me home a brand new kite, and you showed me how to fly;
And there ain’t no other kid whose dad can knock a ball so high;
I’d like to thank God for you but I don’t know what to say;
So daddy, my daddy, teach me how to pray.”

I had to turn and leave this room and he began to cry.
I didn’t want my boy to know but so did I
His best pal had forsaken him but what was there to say?
For daddy, his daddy, had forgotten how to pray.

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This song always makes me read the Gospel of Mathew 6:7-15 again and again.

When his disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, he tells them:

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Mathew 6:5-6)

And then Jesus presents them with an example of a communal prayer that stresses the fatherhood of God and acknowledges him as the one to whom all of us owe our daily sustenance, forgiveness, and deliverance from the final trial.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This is how you are to pray:

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

“If you forgive men their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

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