After spending a little over 4 years on the Old Testament, it will be fun to study the New Testament. I learned a lot about the Hebrew Scriptures. I am now able to better understand the Jewish background of Jesus. All my life I have tried to understand the Christian message of Jesus. As an emeritus professor of religious studies, I began my retirement Bible project at the age of 74 in 2013. Now in 2018, at age 78, I going to dive into the Greek New Testament aided by reading the Bible in French, La Sainte Bible: traduite en francais sous la direction du L’Ecole Biblique de Jerusalem, the 1961 edition of the Jerusalem Bible that I first studied in 1962. As a guide to help me with this translation, I will use the New Revised Standard Version of the New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha: An Ecumenical Study Bible Completely Revised and Enlarged, the 1994 edition. I will also use Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine by Eberhard and Erwin Nestle and Kurt Aland, the 1960 edition, that I used over fifty years ago. To be more precise, the 1904 Nestle Greek edition is now on line as found at Bible Hub. To help understand the Greek New Testament text, I will use The Jewish Annotated New Testament of the New Revised Standard Version, edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, 2011. As a further aid, I will use the Bible Concordance, Synopsis Quattuor Evavgeliorum, Locis parallelis evangeliorum apocyrphorum et pratrum adhibitis edidit Kurt Aland, the 1964 edition. Finally, I will use that invaluable online web site of the Bible Hub. http://biblehub.com/.
The temple prostitutes (Bar 6:42-6:44)
With cords around them,
Sit along the passageways.
The burn bran
When one of them
Is led off
By one of the passers-by,
They are taken to bed
She then derides
The woman next to her,
Because she was not
Was not broken.
Whatever is done
For these idols
Why then must anyone think
That they are gods?
Why call them gods?”
Here there is a description of the temple prostitutes and their behavior. These women, with cords around them, would sit in the passageways at the temple, burning bran for incense. Then a passer-by would invite them or take them off to sleep with them. Strangely enough, when the woman would return, she would make fun of the other women who were not chosen to have sex with these passer-bys, because they were not as attractive as she was. These other women had no one to break their cords. Thus these false idols bring about all kinds of strange behaviors. That is why people might doubt that these were true gods. How could you call them gods?
Drunken Moab (Jer 48:26-48:27)
“Make him drunk!
Because he magnified himself
Let Moab wallow
In his vomit.
He too shall become
A laughing stock.
A laughing stock
He was not caught
Whenever you spoke of him
You shook your head.”
Yahweh, via Jeremiah, wanted Moab to get drunk since Moab had made himself a big shot, magnifying himself against Yahweh. Now he would wallow in his vomit and become a laughing stock for others, because he had made Israel a laughing stock. This was an allusion to the fact that Moab was in Reuben territory that was always in dispute. Although Moab was not a thief, he did make fun of Israel. Thus when Israel spoke, they simply shook their heads.
Master of the banquet (Sir 32:1-32:2)
“If they make you
Master of the feast,
Do not exalt yourself.
Be among them
As one of them.
Take good care of them first.
Then sit down.
When you have fulfilled
All your duties,
Take your place.
Thus you may be merry
Along with them.
Receive a wreath
For your excellent leadership.”
Sirach has some ideas if you are the master of a banquet. You should not exalt yourself. You should be among the others at the banquet just like one of them. However, you should take good care of all your guests first before you sit down to enjoy yourself. When everything has been done, you should then sit down and have some fun with the others. In the end, you should receive a wreath for your wonderful leadership.
Respect for others (Sir 8:4-8:7)
“Do not make fun of one
Who is ill-bred.
Otherwise your ancestors may be insulted.
Do not reproach one
Who is turning away from sin.
Remember that we all deserve punishment.
Do not disdain one
Who is old.
Some of us are also growing old.
Do not rejoice over any one’s death.
Remember that we all must die.”
Sirach reminds us that we should respect other people. We should not make fun of ill bred people because some of our ancestors might be insulted. We should not criticize a penitent, since all of us deserve punishment. We should not make fun of old people because some of us are getting old. We should not rejoice over the death of anyone because we too are going to die.
Your precepts are my song (Ps 119:49-119:56)
“Remember your word to your servant!
You have made me hope.
This is my comfort in my distress.
Your promise gives me life.
The arrogant utterly deride me.
But I do not turn away from your law.
When I think of your ordinances from of old,
I take comfort.
Hot indignation seizes me
Because of the wicked.
They forsake your law.
Your statutes have been my songs,
Wherever I make my home.
I remember your name in the night.
I keep your law.
This blessing has fallen to me.
I have kept your precepts.”
This psalmist wanted Yahweh to remember what he promised. His promises gave hope to him when he was in distress. Even though arrogant people made fun of him, he did not turn away from the laws of Yahweh. He was comforted by remembering the ordinances of Yahweh. He really was mad about those who had not followed Yahweh’s precepts. This psalmist was putting the commandments of Yahweh to song. He remembered them when he lay in bed at night. He considered the precepts of the law to be a blessing. So ends this section on the seventh consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Zain.
The present distress of Job (Job 30:1-30:8)
“But now they make sport of me.
Those who are younger than I,
Whose fathers I would have disdained
To have them set with the dogs of my flock.
What could I gain from the strength of their hands?
All their vigor is gone.
Through want and hard hunger
They gnaw the dry and desolate ground.
They pick mallow and the leaves of bushes,
They pick the roots of the broom to warm themselves.
They are driven out from society.
People shout after them as after a thief.
They must live in the gullies of the Wadi torrents.
They must live in the holes of the earth.
They must live in the holds of the rocks.
Among the bushes they bray.
Under the nettles they huddle together.
A senseless, a disreputable brood,
They have been whipped out of the land.”
The difference between then and now is evident. Job instead of being a distinguished member of the community he was now derided. Now even the outcasts of society ridiculed him. Young people, whose fathers Job would have had them sit with his dogs watching his flock, are now making fun of him. Job was no longer strong. He then colorfully described the indigent homeless society of people who were making fun of him. These were the people who gnaw at the dry ground and eat in the salt marshes near the Dead Sea. They warm themselves with the roots of brooms, a shrub that grows in regions of that area. People shout after them as if they were thieves. They live along the river banks, the holes in the ground and in the caves. They huddle together like a senseless disreputable brood of people that have been sent away from the land.