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Before the BibleThe Liturgical Body and the Formation of Scriptures in early Judaism$
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Judith H. Newman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190212216

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190212216.001.0001

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Shaping the Scribal Self Through Prayer and Paideia

Shaping the Scribal Self Through Prayer and Paideia

The Example of Ben Sira

Chapter:
(p.23) Chapter 1 Shaping the Scribal Self Through Prayer and Paideia
Source:
Before the Bible
Author(s):

Judith H. Newman

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190212216.003.0002

While much scholarship has been concerned with the role of the scribal hand in the formation of texts, this chapter takes a new approach by assessing the scribal body of Ben Sira. The embodied actions of the scribal figure involve daily prayer which is understood to activate the spirit of wisdom and the ability to teach. Contemporary neurocognitive theory that understands the Self as a process helps to situate the scribe in relation to these practices of “lived religion.” Cultural values, especially honor and shame, also shape the scribal self in his larger communal engagement. The sage teaches his students to emulate his pious practices, to learn and augment wisdom, resulting in the expanding corpus of Sirach. The book of Sirach can thus be understood as the ongoing enactment of scribal teaching and training rather than the synchronic textual product of a single author.

Keywords:   Ben Sira, wisdom, scribe, neurocognition, lived religion, indigenous psychology, paideia, prayer

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