Light unto my path; Wisdom of the Bible
Light unto my path. I shall light a candle of understanding in the one heart which shall not be put. Light under my path an exploration of the books of the Old Testament from these books through the ages has come of the concept of man born in the image of
God and made to have dominion over all things. The Bible is the record of man's understanding of the role of the divine in human life. We now examine that record. When it was written. How it was preserved. And why it ranks first in our literature. Light unto my path produced by radio station WAGA of the University of Wisconsin under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. These programs are planned and prepared by Dr. Menachem Mansoor chairman of the department of Hebrew and Semitic Studies at the University of Wisconsin. Professor Mansoor Surely it's not surprising that we must take at least two programs in our series to
touch upon the wisdom books of the Bible. No other literature is so rich in wisdom and no desire is so universal in the family of mankind as the desire to pass on to our children whatever wisdom we may have learned. Fathers and Mothers of today in the 20th century still pass on by word of mouth the sayings of wisdom which our parents and grandparents taught us. We say United we stand divided we fall. Are birds of a feather flock together. Or early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy wealthy and wise. In these sayings we skipped from the Greek writer is up in the 6th century B.C. to survive auntie's of Spain in the 16th A.D. up to Ben Franklin of 18th century America. Yet these sayings are timeless and because they are true our generation of
mankind will not willingly let them be forgotten. So it was many many centuries ago in ancient Israel the Hebrews cherished wisdom and long before their sayings were written down and preserved in books. The wise men taught them by word of mouth and parents passed them on to their children. The last time we heard of one was the man the author of The Book of Ecclesiastes to us and we sketched what may have been his life living and teaching and one of the great cities of the Near East. But not all wisdom writers cast this kind of personal shadow. Some are lost to us and we do not know them as men as distinctive personalities. It doesn't matter when we tell our children to thine own self be true. The wisdom of what we see is important not the fact that we are quoting Shakespeare. And
so it is with the Book of Proverbs from the Old Testament which we shall look at first today. The words the wisdom is there. Just when and how these different collections were made is a problem for Scholars. We can disregard it here except to say that the final compilation of the book probably took place somewhere between 400 and 200 B.C.. Like all books the collection of Proverbs has a purpose and that purpose shines forth from its opening words that men may know wisdom and instruction understand words of insight receive instruction in wise dealing righteousness justice and equity that prudence may be given to the simple knowledge and discretion to the youth. The wise man also may hear and increase in learning and the man of understanding acquire skill to understand a proverb and a figure.
The words of the wise and their riddles. Here is the theme the grand motif of the work. Wisdom is precious. All men must seek wisdom righteousness. Learning and understanding. These are to be hungered for by young men and old. There is here no mention of Israel not even a mention of the relationship of God to man's hunger for wisdom. It is said that the wisdom literature in general is scarcely a body of spiritual writing. There is little of the intense expression of the Psalms nor the hide dedication of the prophets. And this wisdom literature we get no great sense of mission of spiritual oneness with God. From these writers of Proverbs. Yet we must remember that King Solomon himself as the highest symbol of the Old Testament wisdom was aware of its virtue not merely as a means of worldly success
but of the virtue of wisdom as God given. All this provides a key to the Hebrew concept of wisdom. The Bible critic of Prince Charles stiff Rich writes We cannot emphasize too strongly the difference between the wisdom literature of Israel and that of the pagan countries surrounding her. The emphasis on wickedness and righteousness and on the fear of Jehovah can be understood only in the light of a revealed law and prophetic religion. Israel redeemed the pagan wisdom of her day and made it feel centric. But let us look at some of these proverbs. These You will hear now are the simple 1:09 sayings somewhat like those we find in Poor Richard's adamant act. They are the oldest proverbs and the collection a wise son makes a glad father like a gold ring in a swine's note is a beautiful woman without discretion.
The memory of the righteous is a blessing but the name of the wicked will rot. A man who is kind benefits himself but a cruel man hurts himself. A soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fetid ox and hatred with it. The ideas expressed are sprung from daily experience and observation of human behavior. These are bits of advice on how to live and commonplace every day terms. There is an air of cheerfulness and confidence about this section of the book. It recognizes evil in the world. Hatred poverty injustice but it shows how to deal with them and directs us to rejoice in life and the good things it may hold for he who lives wisely. Let us hear the proverbs dealing with wealth treasures gained by
wickedness do not profit but righteousness delivers from death a rich man's wealth is his strong city the poverty of the poor is their ruin riches do not profit in the day of wrath but righteousness delivers from death. He who trusts in his riches will wither. But the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. One man pretends to be rich yet has nothing. Another pretends to be poor yet has great wealth. He who closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself cry out and not be heard. In a small nation like Israel encircled by powerful empires carried off into exile by the Assyrians and now rebuilding Jerusalem and their nation it is significant that so much of wisdom writing is directed against materialism. It sounds familiar to us in 20th century America faced as we are by the reproach that we are a
materialistic nation ourselves. The ancient Hebrews like the Americans put their sense of values into their proverbs and like the ancient Hebrews who taught their children these proverbs. I'm sure many parents today want to pass on to their offspring this kind of advice. My son if your heart is wise my heart too will be glad to be not among wine bibbers or among gluttonous eaters of meat for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags. Hearken to your father who begat you and do not despise your mother when she is old by truth and do not sell it by wisdom instruction and understanding. Let your father and mother be glad. Let her who bore you rejoice my son give me your heart and let your eyes observe my ways. Fret not yourself because of evil doers and be not envious of the wicked for the evil man has no future. The lamp of the wicked will be put out.
I must say however I have my doubts that modern American thinking will agree with this advice about disciplining children. Do not withhold discipline from a child if you beat him with a rod. He will not die if you beat him with the rod you will save his life from shale. The writers of these proverbs sometimes told a story a parable instead of one line saying in order to teach less and buy a more colorful style. Here is a parable about laziness. I passed by the field of a sluggard by the vineyard of a man without sense. And lo it was all overgrown with thorns. The ground was covered with nettles and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it. I looked and received instruction. A little sleep a little slumber a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come upon you like a robber and want like an armed man. Another short
poem is used to give advice to a young man about drinking who has one who has sorrow who has strife who has complaining who has wounds without cause who has a redness of eyes. Those who tarry long over wind do not look at wine when it is red when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly at the last it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things and your mind utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea like one who lies on the top of a mast. They struck me you will say but I was not hurt. They beat me but I did not feel it. When shall I awake. I will seek another drink. Contrast the style of that passage with its very graphic and rather heavy handed advise on an age old problem with this. Another passage of lyric delicacy. This passage is from the 30th
chapter and is called the numerical proverbs. Because of the repeated use of numbers. There are three things which are too wonderful for me yea for which I know not the way of an eagle in the air the way of a serpent upon a rock. The way of a ship in the midst of the sea and the way of a man with Maiden. One more selection before we pass along to explore the book of Ecclesiasticus. No reading from the Book of Proverbs However does it justice without including the poem about The Good Wife elsewhere in the book are some harsh words about the shortcomings of women. But in this poem which ends the book of proverbs we find what has become a timeless unsurpassed tribute to wifely virtue. A good wife who can find for her price is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband trusts in her and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not harm all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax and works with willing hands. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household. She considers a field and buys it with the food in her hands she plants a vineyard. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. Strength and dignity are her clothing and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Her children rise up and call her blessing her husband also and he praises her. Many women have done excellently but you surpass them all. Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain but a woman who
fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands and let her works praise her in the gates. If you were following our discussion of Proverbs with your own copy of the Bible you discover now that the last chapter brings us to the Book of Ecclesiastes or the preacher. Go ahead life which we looked into in our last poll. We now want to explore a book which is similar in name but which must not be confused with Ecclesiasticus. It is called ecclesiastic course it bears the Latin ending. I see us. You will not find it in the King James or other Protestant versions of the Bible nor in the Jewish scriptures. Ecclesiasticus is part of a vast Hebrew literature known as the Apocrypha. A Greek word which means hidden or stored away. These books of the Apocrypha which we shall discuss in our next Talk. Were
written after the exile in Babylon probably between the third and first century B.C.. They were not accepted by the rabbis and the early church as sacred writings either because of doubtful authorship or because they were not regarded as divinely inspired. They were simply hidden or stored away not actually banned. It was felt that they should not be read neither should they be harmed or destroyed by readers at a later time. The Roman Catholic Church canonized them. That is they are regarded them as divinely inspired and therefore sacred. That's they were preserved in their Greek and Latin translations to our sorrow and loss. The Hebrew originals disappeared when Luther made his German translation of the Bible. He placed them all together in one collection between the old and the New Testaments for all
readers of biblical literature. These writings have great significance for the bridge of the gap in time between the old and the New Testaments. The gap covers about 400 years. It is true the writers of the apocryphal books that will look for understanding of the religious development through the centuries. Ben Sira was one of these writers. His first name was Jesus and he was the son of Sera. Hence the name bin Sera. The title of the book Ecclesiasticus is something of a puzzle. It likely comes from the fact that the early church used this book as a manual of instruction in life and manners. As such we can recognise it as belonging to the wisdom literature of the heroes and it is very similar to the main part of the Book of Proverbs
and like the authors of that book. However this author been Syrah costs quite as solid and personalized shadow. We know his name Jesus the Greek form of the common Old Testament Hebrew name Joshua or Jeshua in the Aramaic tongue. He is the only author in the Apocrypha whose name we know and his book has been called the most human among these writings. A scholar and gentleman we can truly call him a man whom we should like to know as friend and dinner companion as well as a guide to religious truth. His book reveals him as one to whom nothing human or divine is alien. He teaches no new doctrine but what he sais comes to us in striking fashion with deep religious feeling wide human experience and profound culture.
We know from his book that he traveled widely and like St. Paul frequently suffered hardship and misadventure. Like other wise men. He served on diplomatic missions and had a firsthand taste of life in the courts of kings as well as the quieter pleasures of a lecture on subjects of religious and ethical importance in his own words. I have seen much in my travels and I understand more than I can describe. I have often been in danger of death but I have been saved by these qualities and unrighteous tongue uttered slander to the King my soul drew nigh to death and my life was near to Hades beneath. Then I remembered your mercy Lord and I sent up my supplication from the earth and my prayer was heard for you saved me from
destruction. From his wealth of world experience Ben Sira our first match advice on good etiquette at table and at a party on happy relationships with people around you and rules of good health. His wisdom in matters of health has a curiously modern ring to it. And he writes a chapter in praise of physicians which is unique in the whole Bible. Honor a physician according to the need of him him also have got a portion from God a physician get us wisdom from a king. We receive with gifts the skill of a physician lift up his head and he may stand before Noble's God bring us out medicines from the earth and lead a prudent man not despise them. Was not water made sweet by wood to make every man know his power and he gave men understanding that they might glory in his mighty works by means of them does the physician assuage pain.
And likewise the apothecary make of the confection that his work may not cease nor health from the sons of men. My son in sickness be not negligent. Pray unto God for he with. When enjoying good health been Syria obviously enjoyed the social functions of his friends the musical entertainment which frequently followed the dinner and always the skills and talents which make a good conversationalist. His attention to detail which makes for good manners as well as good times. At such gatherings give us a glimpse of the times in which bin Sarah lived and also a forerunner of our modern books on etiquette. It may be said that we cannot improve on his good taste and timeless courtesy. Here is a sample. If you sit at a great table do not gulp at it and do not say how much there is on it. Do not reach out your hand wherever it
looks and do not crowd your neighbor in the dish. Be considerate of him of your own accord and be thoughtful in everything. Eat like a human being what is served to you. Do not chomp your food or you will be detested. Be the first to leave off for good men are sick and do not be greedy or you will give offense. How adequate A little is for a well-bred man. He does not have to gasp upon his bed. Healthy Sleep results from moderation in eating. One gets up in the morning in good spirits the distress of sleeplessness and indigestion and colic. Attend the greedy man. If you are compelled to eat get up in the middle of the meal and stop eating. Listen to me my child and do not disregard me. And in the end you will find my words true. Like many of the wisdom writers and engine times Ben Sira felt
great concern about the dangers of the opposite sex. It seems that the virtues of the ideal wife as we see them in Proverbs where of course obvious and to be desired. But what troubled BN Syrah and other wise men where women only types which could never be called ideal nor wife. The young man could not get too much advice warning him against these dangerous do not give your soul to a woman so that she will trample on your strength. Do not create a prostitute or you may fall into her snares. Do not associate with a woman singer or you may be caught by her wiles. Do not look closely at a girl or you may be entrapped in penalties on her account. Do not look around in the streets of the city and do not wander in the unfrequented parts of it of virtue or eyes from a beautiful woman and do not look closely at beauty that belongs to someone else. Many have been led astray by a woman's beauty and love is kindled by it like a fire. Do not ever sit at table with a married woman and do not feast and drink with her or your heart
may turn away to her and you may slip into spiritual ruin. Yet these are not the words of any angry bitter man bin Sera found the world a good place to be full of problems to be sure but still a happy experience for a sensible man. A cheerful face is a sign of a happy heart. The bee is one of the smallest of wicked creatures. But what she produces is the greatest of sweets. A carbuncle Signet in a gold setting is like a musical concert at a banquet and emerald Signet richly set in gold is the melody of music with the taste of wine in his school in Jerusalem Ben Sirach taught not only wisdom but the means and method of communicating wisdom. Man speaking to man and speaking effectively was much on his mind. Speak concisely say much in few words. Act like
a man who knows more than he sense. Prepare what you have to say and then you'll be listened to one man keep silence because he has nothing to say and another keep silence because he knows it is the time for it. A man who lectures to a fool lectures to one who is dozing and at the conclusion he will say what was it. If you hear something said let it die with you. Have courage it will not make you burst. How been Syrah came to write his book and how widely it was read in his lifetime. We do not know. We do know it was cherished by his family and 50 years after it was written. His grandson considered it very precious. This grandson went down to into Egypt and there of observe the movement which was under way to translate Jewish literature into Greek. He was convinced his grandfather's manuscript ought to be honored thus and be made available to students of the Greek world.
And so he set about translating it. The work must have been finished about 1 3 0 0 B.C. but not without difficulty. The translator apologizes for what may be shortcomings in his work and SES thinks ones expressed in Hero do not have the same force in them. When put into another language and not only this book but the law itself and the prophecies and the rest of the books differ and not a little in translation from the original. As a student I wholeheartedly endorse this observation. Whatever those differences were grateful to this grandson for Ecclesiasticus comes down to us through this centuries intact. Translation. It does not diminish its wisdom nor lessen our pleasure and we greet with affection across the years. The man who wrote with
warmth and standing do not indulge in too much luxury. Do not be tied to its expense. Do not be impoverished because of feasting on borrowed money when you have nothing in your purse. Do not envy the glory of a sinner for you do not know what dishonest or awaits him. If you never repeat what you are told you will fare none the worse before Friend or foe. Do not recount it and unless it would be sinful of you do not reveal it. Do not forsake an old friend for a new one is not equal to him. A new friend is new wine. When he grows old you will enjoy drinking it. Sand and salt and a lump of iron are easier to bear than a man without understanding.
- Light unto my path
- Wisdom of the Bible
- Producing Organization
- University of Wisconsin
- WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program focuses on the sayings of wisdom found in the Bible, including Proverbs.
- Series Description
- This series explores the books of the Old Testament, how they were written, how they were preserved, and why they continue to have influence.
- Broadcast Date
- Media type
Composer: Voegeli, Don
Host: Grauer, Ben
Narrator: Manning, Dean
Producing Organization: University of Wisconsin
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
Production Manager: Schmidt, Karl
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 60-50-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Light unto my path; Wisdom of the Bible,” 1960-11-04, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 27, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-tt4fsf2t.
- MLA: “Light unto my path; Wisdom of the Bible.” 1960-11-04. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 27, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-tt4fsf2t>.
- APA: Light unto my path; Wisdom of the Bible. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-tt4fsf2t