The signs (Lk 21:25-21:25)

“There will be signs

In the sun,

The moon,

And the stars.

On the earth,

There will be

Anxious distress

Among the nations

With the roaring noise

Of the sea

And the swelling waves.”

 

Καὶ ἔσονται σημεῖα ἐν ἡλίῳ καὶ σελήνῃ καὶ ἄστροις, καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς συνοχὴ ἐθνῶν ἐν ἀπορίᾳ ἤχους θαλάσσης καὶ σάλου,

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said that there would be signs (Καὶ ἔσονται σημεῖα) in the sun (ἐν ἡλίῳ), in the moon (αὶ σελήνῃ), and in the stars (καὶ ἄστροις).  On the earth (καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς), there would be anxious distress among the gentile nations (συνοχὴ ἐθνῶν ἐν ἀπορίᾳ) because of the roaring noise of the sea (ἤχους θαλάσσης) and the swelling waves (καὶ σάλου).  This was a unique use of the term ἀπορίᾳ that means perplexity, anxiety, or doubt, not found elsewhere in the Greek biblical literature.  This Jesus saying is similar to Matthew, chapter 24:29, that is actually closer to Mark, chapter 13:24-25.  Mark indicated that Jesus said that in those days (Ἀλλὰ ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις), after the sufferings (μετὰ τὴν θλῖψιν), there would be a cosmic upheaval.  The sun would be darkened (ὁ ἥλιος σκοτισθήσεται).  The moon would not give its light (καὶ ἡ σελήνη οὐ δώσει τὸ φέγγος αὐτῆς).  The assumption was that the moon had its own source of light, not merely a reflection of the sun.  The stars would fall from the skies (καὶ οἱ ἀστέρες ἔσονται ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πίπτοντες).  Matthew indicated that Jesus said that immediately after the sufferings mentioned earlier in those days (Εὐθέως δὲ μετὰ τὴν θλῖψιν τῶν ἡμερῶν ἐκείνων), there would be a cosmic upheaval.  The sun would be darkened (ὁ ἥλιος σκοτισθήσεται).  The moon would not give its light (καὶ ἡ σελήνη οὐ δώσει τὸ φέγγος αὐτῆς).  The stars would fall from the skies (καὶ οἱ ἀστέρες πεσοῦνται ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ).  This is fully in line with the great Israelite prophetic tradition of the Day of Yahweh, like Ezekiel, chapter 32:7, Joel, chapter 2:10, Amos, chapter 8:9, and Zephaniah, chapter 1:15.  Luke did not have the details that were in Mark and Matthew.  What kind of cosmic upheaval do you expect at the end times?

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The sun and moon will fail (Mk 13:24-13:24)

“But in those days,

After that suffering,

The sun

Will be darkened.

The moon

Will not give its light.”

 

Ἀλλὰ ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις μετὰ τὴν θλῖψιν ἐκείνην ὁ ἥλιος σκοτισθήσεται, καὶ ἡ σελήνη οὐ δώσει τὸ φέγγος αὐτῆς,

 

This is almost word for word in Matthew, chapter 24:29, with a vague reference to this in Luke, chapter 21:25.  Mark indicated that in those days (Ἀλλὰ ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις), after the sufferings (μετὰ τὴν θλῖψιν), there would be a cosmic upheaval.  The sun would be darkened (ὁ ἥλιος σκοτισθήσεται).  The moon would not give its light (καὶ ἡ σελήνη οὐ δώσει τὸ φέγγος αὐτῆς).  The assumption was that the moon had its own source of light, not merely a reflection of the sun.  This was fully in line with the great Israelite prophetic tradition of the Day of Yahweh, as in Ezekiel, chapter 32:7, Joel, chapter 2:10, Amos, chapter 8:9, and Zephaniah, chapter 1:15.

The weak idols compared to the heavenly bodies (Bar 6:66-6:67)

“These weak idols

Can neither curse

Nor bless kings.

They cannot show signs

In the heavens

For the nations.

They cannot shine

Like the sun.

They cannot give light

Like the moon.”

Once again, this shows the weakness of these false idols, since they can neither curse nor bless kings. They cannot show signs in the heavens for the various nations. They cannot shine like the sun. They cannot give light like the moon. Instead of berating the nature gods of the sun or the moon, this author praises them. His emphasis was on those weak wooden man made false idols. Notice that this author believes that the moon gives light. In fact, we often still speak of moonlight. When in fact, the light from the moon is really a reflection of the sun.

Senseless dreams (Sir 34:1-34:8)

“The senseless have vain hopes.

The senseless have false hopes.

Dreams give wings to fools.

As one who catches at a shadow,

As one who pursues the wind,

So is anyone who believes in dreams.

What is seen in dreams

Is but a reflection.

It is like a face

Looking at itself.

From an unclean thing

What can be clean?

From something false,

What can be true?

Divinations are unreal.

Omens are unreal.

Dreams are unreal.

Like a woman in labor,

The mind has fantasies.

Unless they are by intervention

From the Most High,

Pay no attention to them.

Dreams have deceived many.

Those who put their hope in them

Have failed.

Without such deceptions,

The law will be fulfilled.

Wisdom is complete

In the mouth of the faithful.”

Sirach takes on the role of dreams. The dreams of Joseph in Egypt played a major role in the Genesis story. However, Sirach seems to point holes in theory of dreams. He believes that the dreams of the senseless fools are in vain. They give false hope to these fools. They are like trying to catch a shadow or a gust of wind as they easily disappear. A dream is nothing more than a reflection of yourself. Your dreams are nothing more than looking at yourself. How can anything good or clean come from an unclean person? No truth can come from falsehood. Dreams are like unreal divinations and omens. They are like the fantasies of a woman in labor. Unless they are sent from the Most High God, dreams should be disregarded. Many people have been deceived by dreams. Sirach believes that the law and wisdom are more important than dreams.

Creation of humans (Sir 17:1-17:7)

“The Lord created human beings

Out of the earth.

He makes them return to it again.

He gave them a fixed number of days.

He granted them authority

Over everything on the earth.

He endowed them with strength

Like his own.

He made them in his own image.

He put the fear of them

In all living beings.

He gave them dominion

Over beasts.

He gave them dominion

Over birds.

They obtained the use of

The five faculties of the Lord.

As sixth,

He distributed to them the gift of mind.

As seventh,

He gave them reason,

The interpreter of one’s faculties.

He gave them a tongue

He gave them eyes.

He gave them ears.

He gave them discretion to think.

He filled them with knowledge.

He filled them with understanding.

He showed them good and evil.”

Sirach used the first chapter of Genesis in his understanding of the created nature world before the creation of humans, who were superior to all creation. These humans came from the earth and would return to it just like all the other living creatures. These humans had a fixed number of days, but they had authority over everything on earth. Nature was for the use of humans. The Lord created them in his own image and with strength like his. Thus humans were a reflection of God. All living things feared humans, since they had dominion over animals and birds. Using the Stoic interpretation of man, he had 5 faculties, but the Lord added 2 more, the mind and reason that were not in other living things. These humans had tongues, eyes, and ears. They also were able to think. Thus they were filled with knowledge and understanding. The Lord showed them both good and evil. Clearly, Sirach believed that humans were the high point of creation.

Conclusion (Wis 19:22-19:22)

“In everything,

O Lord!,

You have exalted your people.

You have glorified your people.

You have not neglected to help them

At all times.

You have not neglected to help them

In all places.”

There seems to be an abrupt ending to this book that has wandered away from wisdom into a reflection on the Exodus situation. This books ends with an exclamation or praise of the Lord because he has exalted and glorified his people. In other words, the Lord (Κύριε) has made his people great, since he never neglects them at any time or in any place.

The ambiguity of water (Wis 11:5-11:8)

“Through the very things

By which their enemies were punished,

They received benefit in their need.

Instead of the fountain

Of an ever-flowing river

Stirred up with blood,

Defiled with blood,

You gave them abundant water unexpectedly.

Instead of a rebuke for the decree

To kill the infants,

You gave them abundant water unexpectedly.

They showed by their thirst at that time

How you punished their enemies.”

We have here a reflection on the role of water. Just as water punished the Egyptians, it saved the Israelites in the wilderness. Water destroyed the Egyptians as they crossed the Red Sea that was stirred up and defiled with blood. Their infants were killed. However, the Israelites received water (ὕδωρ) unexpectedly. In their thirst, they saw how their enemies had been punished.