Monday, September 12, 2005
Sirach On Forgiveness: A Doorway To The Lord's Prayer
The Gospels did not grow out of the Old Testament, we know that. Between the Two Testaments, there is a jump in quality because of the figure of Jesus Christ. It would be naive to think that the Old Testament writings, read in a particular way can lead one to the Letters of Paul and the Gospels. In fact, we know that the whole New Testament is a product of the rereading of the Jewish scriptures in the light of the death and resurrection of Christ. And yet, there are some passages in the Jewish Scriptures that show some continuity between Old and New Testaments. A case in point is today's OT reading: Sirach 27:30-28:7*
Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the Lord's vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor's injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven,
Should a man nourish anger against his fellows
and expect healing from the Lord?
Should a man refuse mercy to his fellows
yet seek pardon for his own sins?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor,
Think of the Most High's covenant, and overlook faults.
Note the bold phrases in black. These sentences actually echo the Lord's Prayer ("Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors") and the Beatitudes ("Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."). The lines in blue actually bases forgiveness and the love (opposite of hate) of neighbor in the commandments, specifically, in the commandments given at Sinai. Does not Paul echo this passage in Rom. 13:10 where he writes: "Love does not evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law."
*The Wisdom of Ben-Sirach is Jewish Scriptures; the Essenes of Qumran had it among their scrolls. It is inspired writing among the Jews of the Diaspora (the Alexandrine Old Testament gives witness to this). The Pharisees excluded it from their Hebrew canon after 70 AD; it is the Pharisaic canon which is used today by Protestants.