Busy weekend but I wanted to get in the habit of summarising the presentations of the people who present.
Last Monday (Oct 25), Shane Berg from Princeton Theological Seminary presented a paper entitled ‘Knowing and Obeying the Law in Ben Sira’. This draws from his larger work on ‘religious epistemology’, which is a bit more neutral terminology for what has been termed ‘revelation’ in the past.
The main part of his paper was an exposition of two passages in Ben Sira: sections from chapters 15-17 (16.24-17.14 and 15.11-20) that speak about knowing and doing the Law. One key aspect of Ben Sira’s argument was the juxtaposition of allusions to creation (Gen 1-3) and the giving of the Law. The thrust thus runs that God gave this knowledge of what to do to everyone, so the Jews have no excuse not to follow it. It was also noted later in discussion afterwards that Paul too juxtaposes creation and Law in Romans 7.
Berg then mentioned two Qumran documents [update: now that I’ve got back to the handout 4Q417 1 i 16-18 and 1 QHa VII, 12-14] who focused upon the limitation of true knowledge to those within the community based on a more deterministic view of God’s election.
It was an interesting paper, and it stirred up a lively discussion afterwards. Berg also spoke very highly of Greg Schmidt Goering’s book on Ben Sira and the Election of Israel as it discusses the dialectic of universal and particular and the mix of Wisdom and Torah.