I have two items for my write-up today on the Anchor Bible commentary on The Wisdom of Ben Sira.
1. Patrick Skehan’s translation of Ben Sira 41:21c, 20b, and 22a says that one should be ashamed of the following:
“Of gazing at a man’s wife, and of entertaining thoughts about another woman; Of trifling with a servant girl of yours…”
When Jesus in Matthew 5:28 criticized lusting after women and equated that with adultery, was he condemning the male sex drive in general, or was he simply making the same point as Ben Sira: that a man should not look at another man’s wife or a woman other than his wife with lust? According to Hans Dieter Betz, that was the point of Matthew 5:28, but Jerome translated the passage as condemning looking at any woman, not just another man’s wife. But, according to Betz, Jerome himself thought that the passage was against looking with lust at other women besides one’s own wife. See here.
I think that the difference between Ben Sira and Jesus in Matthew 5:28 is this: According to Alexander Di Lella, Ben Sira believes that lust can lead to adultery, whereas Jesus in Matthew 5:28 holds that lust is adultery.
Something else that interested me was that Ben Sira was against masters sleeping with their female slaves. Even if Ben Sira believed in slavery, he thought that there was such a thing as an unacceptable abuse of power.
2. According to Skehan’s translation of Ben Sira 42:2, one should not be ashamed “of justice to acquit the godly.” Di Lella says this means that one should acquit the ungodly person when he is innocent of a charge. I like seeing fairness. I think of a movie about a medieval disputation between a Christian and a Jew, called The Disputation: in judging who won, the king (a Christian) decided for the Jew because he felt that the Jew made better arguments. The king could have upheld Christianity by deciding for the Christian, but he chose to be fair rather than ideological.