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Festschrift in Honor of Professor Paul Nadim Tarazi

Volume 3- Studies in Intertestamental, Extra-Canonical, and Early Christian Literature-


Tom Dykstra and Vahan Hovhanessian

This is the third of three volumes dedicated to Professor Paul Nadim Tarazi. Volume 3 of Festschrift in Honor of Professor Paul Nadim Tarazi is a collection of articles discussing the latest findings in a variety of theological subjects related to the Bible as received and interpreted in the Orthodox Church tradition. Scholars from around the world have contributed their recent findings in the field of their research and teaching in this volume.
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“Bow your head low to the great; rescue the oppressed from the oppressor.” Ben Sira and the Struggle with Elitism



Second Temple scribes such as Ben Sira held in tension two primary societal functions: on the one hand, they sat within elite circles, as intellectual retainers, serving their political and religious authorities to varying degrees and fulfilling necessary duties as advisors and ambassadors.1 On the other hand, scribes were charged with the task of preserving their own cultural heritage, their paideia, in the midst of a competing and encroaching Hellenistic paideia. Both of these tasks required an elite standing—a life devoid of the physical labor that defined the vast majority of Judean society and, therefore, a life dependent on wealthy benefactors. While Ben Sira was, as scholars often note, an active supporter of the priestly aristocracy (especially when compared to the authors behind 1 Enoch), he was by no means a content supporter. His writings betray a significant dissatisfaction and struggle with elitism—with his own privileged position in society, with the authorities above him, and with the elite nature of his sapiential predecessors—that significantly shape his understanding of the relationship between the privileged and the socially disadvantaged. Out of the dialectic of submission to one’s own authorities and fidelity to one’s own cultural repertoire, Ben Sira’s cautious understanding of how to act to those socially above and below him is born.

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