John baptizes with water (Lk 3:16-3:16)

“John answered

All of them.

‘I baptize you

With water.

But one who is

More powerful

Than I

Is coming.

I am not worthy

To untie

The thong

Of his sandals.’”

 

ἀπεκρίνατο λέγων πᾶσιν ὁ Ἰωάνης Ἐγὼ μὲν ὕδατι βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς· ἔρχεται δὲ ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ·

 

This citation of John seems to be a response to an unasked question, although it is similar to Matthew, chapter 3:11, Mark, chapter 1:7, and John, chapter 1:26, where there was an explicit question.  Luke seemed closer to Mark, as he indicated that John answered all of the people (ἀπεκρίνατο λέγων πᾶσιν ὁ Ἰωάνης).  He said that he baptized them with water (Ἐγὼ μὲν ὕδατι βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς).  However, one more powerful than him was coming (ἔρχεται δὲ ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου).  John was not worthy (οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς) to untie the thong or the strap of his sandals (λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ).  John the Baptist said that he was anticipating a messianic figure greater than himself.  He clearly baptized in water.  However, after him there would be a messianic one more powerful than him.  Matthew had John unfit to carry the sandal of Jesus rather than untie the sandal.  Mark, John, and Luke here had John speak about being unfit to untie the tong or strap of his sandals.  John the Baptist saw himself as subservient or unworthy as compared to the Messiah to come.

The treatment of slaves (Sir 33:24-33:29)

“Fodder is for a donkey.

A stick is for a donkey.

A burden is for a donkey.

Bread is for a slave.

Discipline is for a slave.

Work is for a slave.

Set your slave to work.

You will find rest.

If you leave his hands idle,

He will seek liberty.

A yoke will bow his neck.

A thong will bow his neck.

A wicked servant should have

Rack and tortures.

Put him to work.

Thus he may not be idle.

Idleness teaches much evil.

Set him to work,

As is fitting for him.

If he does not obey,

Make his fetters heavy.

Do not be overbearing

Toward anybody.

Do nothing unjust.”

Sirach accepts slavery as a fact of life, not to be disputed. This was a common biblical theme, so that the slave owners who cited the Bible could not be faulted. Slaves were slaves, so what? There was no sense of the idea of an equal fellow human being. In fact, it was clear that they should work hard as there was a comparison of a slave to a donkey. Just as the donkey was fed, whipped, and burdened, so too the slave should be fed with bread, disciplined, and worked hard. If your slave worked hard, you could get some restful idleness time for yourself. You should put a yoke and thong around your slave’s neck. If he was bad, you could beat him up. The slave should never be idle because that would lead to evil and his possible escape. If the slave did not obey, he should be punished. However, there was a limit to this brutality. You should not be overbearing or unjust. Of course, it was your decision to evaluate the situation.