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Ben Sira on the sage as exemplar

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Chapter Summary

In current scholarly literature and conversation, Hindy Najman has written about the pseudepigraphical attribution of Second Temple Jewish works to figures from the ancient past. Three distinct features of Ben Sira's book illuminate how he employs exemplarity and how he constructs the ideal sage as an exemplar: (1) the discourse of the father-son language of instruction; (2) the first-person speeches; and (3) the famous meditation on the activity of the scribe in 38:34c-39:11. Two of the three are characterized by use of first-person pronouns. Although a common feature of wisdom literature, this device is not used innocently, and Ben Sira employs this identification to great effect. The various features that feed into this larger rhetorical strategy limit the ability of his students to decide on their own whether or not to adopt the values that he propounds.

Keywords: Ben Sira; exemplar; Hindy Najman; sage



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