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Was Jesus Thinking of Sirach 35 in Luke 18?

October 17, 2013
Sirach=Ben Sira=Ecclesiasticus

Sirach=Ben Sira=Ecclesiasticus

This week’s Gospel lectionary reading is Luke 18:1-8. Quite a few commentaries have noted the (possible) connection between themes in Sirach 35 and Jesus’ parable. The two texts are below (NRSV):

Luke 18:1-8

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Sirach 35:17-22a

He will not ignore the supplication of the orphan,
or the widow when she pours out her complaint.

Do not the tears of the widow run down her cheek
as she cries out against the one who causes them to fall?

The one whose service is pleasing to the Lord will be accepted,
and his prayer will reach to the clouds.

The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds,
and it will not rest until it reaches its goal;
it will not desist until the Most High responds
and does justice for the righteous, and executes judgment.

The overlap of themes, of course, does not prove that either had/has impact on the other, but it is interesting to think about whether Jesus/Luke had the Sirach passage in mind when telling the parable in Luke.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. October 17, 2013 8:56 pm

    Don’t forget Ps 68:6 that God is a father of orphans and advocate of widows

    • October 17, 2013 9:01 pm

      Indeed! All sorts of intertextual references here, it seems. Or at least potential ones.

  2. October 17, 2013 9:39 pm

    I would say the Sirach text is important to show that Jesus’ teaching didn’t come out of thin air—common tradition. Gotta do the similarities and differences thing with the two contexts, though.

    • October 17, 2013 9:41 pm

      Yes, definitely. I’m not sure this will even make it into my actual sermon Sunday, but the similarities are striking. I haven’t looked at the Sirach context yet–may have to leave this one for another time! Eager to hear any more thoughts you have on it, though….

      • October 17, 2013 10:43 pm

        By “contexts” I’m thinking more broadly about Second Temple Judaism vs. the christology of the NT, especially with respect to the implications for access to the the Father. This is something that could easily preach.

        [If you want to add an apostrophe to Jesus in my first comment, my feelings wouldn’t be hurt and my nerves would calm.]

  3. October 17, 2013 11:10 pm

    Got you covered there, Brian!

    Good point about access to the Father. I will chew on that some more. There especially seems to be the message in this passage that (because God is contrasted with the judge) we can’t really bug God with even persistent prayer.

  4. November 3, 2013 10:19 am

    In the Roman Catholic lectionary for year C, we read this passage from Sirach as the first reading, which is selected to point to the gospel reading for the day, which for us too is the passage from Luke.

    Weirdly, though, verse 15 is omitted from our passage. How sad, that this image of a woman who weeps under injustice is suppressed! and how disturbing, really, considering the institutional sexism of the RC church. :sigh:

    I blogged a lectionary reflection on these readings last week.

    • November 3, 2013 1:51 pm

      Thanks for your comment, and great re-telling of the parable! I’ll file that away for next time I preach on it.

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  1. Words on the Word | Flannery O’Connor and Richard Vinson Read Luke

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