By Martha Himmelfarb

In line with the account within the e-book of Exodus, God addresses the kids of Israel as they stand earlier than Mt. Sinai with the phrases, "You might be to me a nation of clergymen and a holy state" (19:6). The sentence, Martha Himmelfarb observes, is paradoxical, for clergymen are through definition a minority, but the which means in context is obvious: the total humans is holy. The phrases additionally aspect to a couple major tensions within the biblical figuring out of the folks of Israel. If the whole humans is holy, why does it want monks? If club in either humans and priesthood is an issue now not of advantage yet of delivery, how can both the folks or its clergymen desire to be holy? How can one reconcile the space among the respect due the priest and the particular habit of a few who crammed the function? What can the folk do to make itself actually a state of priests?Himmelfarb argues that those questions develop into primary in moment Temple Judaism. She considers various texts from this era, together with the booklet of Watchers, the publication of Jubilees, felony files from the useless Sea Scrolls, the writings of Philo of Alexandria, and the publication of Revelation of the recent testomony, and is going directly to discover rabbinic Judaism's emphasis on descent because the fundamental criterion for inclusion one of the selected humans of Israel—a place, she contends, that took on new strength in response to early Christian disparagement of the concept mere descent from Abraham used to be adequate for salvation.

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You overflowed like a river with u n d e r s t a n d i n g . . For your songs and proverbs and para­ bles, and for your interpretations, the countries marveled at y o u " (Sir 47: 14, 1 7 ) . T h e river simile recalls the description o f W i s d o m / T o r a h (Sir 24:25-27); the works S o l o m o n wrote recall the subjects o f the scribe's re­ search (Sir 39:2-3). But fortunately for b e n Sira, S o l o m o n was also a famous sinner: You gathered gold like tin and amassed silver like lead.

Still, whether h e c o m m i t t e d his doubts to writing o r not, b e n Sira c o u l d hardly have b e e n u n t r o u b l e d by the c o n d i t i o n o f foreign rule in his o w n time. 101 102 It is different for the circumstance o f rule by high priest, however. H e r e , it seems to m e , b e n Sira is quite c o n v i n c e d , contrary to the d o m i ­ nant biblical view, that Israel has n o n e e d o f a king. H e has persuasively retold Israel's history so that there is n o reason for nostalgia for king­ ship and h e has shown w i s d o m e m b o d i e d n o t in the king, whose p o w e r corrupts, but in the p e r s o n o f the high priest, heir to the eternal covenants o f A a r o n and Phinehas.

H e will serve among great men and appear before rulers; he will travel through the lands of foreign nations, for he tests the good and the evil among men. (Sir 39:1-4) 69 T h e scribe b e n Sira describes h e r e is clearly b o t h scribe and wise m a n , a student o f the Torah a n d o f o b s c u r e texts o n the o n e hand, an advisor to rulers o n the other. I n d e e d , the b o o k h e wrote shows b e n Sira to have b e e n the kind o f scribe h e holds u p as an ideal in chapter 39, devoting himself to the study o f the law o f the Most H i g h , seeking o u t the w i s d o m o f the ancients (Sir 39:1).

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