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"Beguile your soul" (Sir xiv 16; xxx 23): An Epicurean eme in Ben Sira

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image of Vetus Testamentum

During the Hellenistic period, the different philosophical schools developed different theories and techniques of consolation. Epicurean technique called for distracting the mourner by pleasant memories and was widely practiced, even by those who were not philosophical hedonists. The technique was altered slightly as it passed into popular use, where in it came to be conceived as a kind of mental dissimulation or even as a therapeutic "beguiling" of the mind by any of a number of pleasant distractions. This forms the likely background to Ben Sira's advice to those confronting death at xiv 16 and xxx 23 to "beguile your soul," an observation that provides further evidence of Ben Sira's contact with and measured appropriation of Hellenistic intellectual culture.

Affiliations: 1: Glasgow


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