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Ben Sira and the Men Who Handle Books: Gender and the Rise of Canon-Consciousness

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What have women to do with the rise of canon-consciousness in early Judaism? Quite a lot, Claudia Camp argues, if the book written by the early second-century BCE scribe, Ben Sira, is any indication.

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SKU: 978-1-907534-74-4

What have women to do with the rise of canon-consciousness in early Judaism? Quite a lot, Claudia Camp argues, if the book written by the early second-century BCE scribe, Ben Sira, is any indication. One of the few true misogynists in the biblical tradition, Ben Sira is beset with gender anxiety, fear that his women will sully his honor, their shame causing his name to fail from the eternal memory of his people. Yet the same Ben Sira appropriates the idealized figure of cosmic Woman Wisdom from Proverbs, and identifies her with ‘the book of the covenant of the most high God, the law that Moses commanded us’.

This, then, is Ben Sira’s dilemma: a woman (Wisdom) can admit him to eternity but his own women can keep him out. It is Camp’s thesis that these conflicted perceptions of gender are fundamental to Ben Sira’s appropriation and production of authoritative religious literature, and that a critical analysis of his gender ideology is thus essential for understanding his relationship to an emerging canon. Ben Sira writes a book, and writes himself into his book, creating a possession into which he can sublimate his anxiety about the women he cannot truly possess and the God he cannot truly trust.

What is more, if Ben Sira can be considered representative of his scribal class and context, his work may also provide a window into aspects of the larger cultural process of canon building, including the question of whether we would have a canon at all —or have the canon we have —if the men in that particular patriarchal culture had not coded it in the gendered terms that Ben Sira did.

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Table of Contents

1. THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES
Symbols, Worldview, Ethos, and the Authorization of Religion
Honor and Shame in Sirach’s Gender Ideology
Canons, Canon-Consciousness, and the Textualization of Culture
The Iconic Book

2. BEN SIRA’S GENDERED ETHOS I: HONOR AND SHAME AMONG MEN
Shame and Honor
Honor, Shame and Wealth in Ben Sira: The Ideal and the Real
Honor and Shame in Ben Sira’s Class Ideology

3. BEN SIRA’S GENDERED ETHOS II: HONOR, SHAME, SEX, AND THE STRUGGLE FOR CONTROL
The Sage’s Struggle for Sexual Self-Control
The Sage’s Struggle for Control of his Household

4. BEN SIRA’S GENDERED WORLDVIEW: HONOR, SHAME, WISDOM, AND CULT
Abstraction
De-personalization and Domestication
Demonization
Erasure through Masculinization

5. BEN SIRA’S GENDERED SPACES: SEX, TEXT, AND TEMPLE
Critical Spatiality Theory
Space, Text, and Gender in Sirach’s Praise of the Fathers and the High Priest

6. BECOMING CANON: WOMEN, TEXTS, AND SCRIBES FROM PROVERBS TO SIRACH
The Strange Woman as Symbol of Evil in Proverbs
Female Imagery from Proverbs to Ben Sira
Canon-Consciousness from Proverbs to Ben Sira

7. MEN WHO HANDLE BOOKS I:
TEXTUALITY AND THE PROBLEM OF THEODICY
Ben Sira and the Older Wisdom Tradition
Fear of God, Wisdom, and Torah
God and the Problem of Contingency
Ben Sira’s Bad Faith
A New Educational Ideal: Textuality and a Theodicy of Denial

8. MEN WHO HANDLE BOOKS II:
TEXTUALITY AND THE BIRTH OF AUTHORIAL SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS
Ben Sira’s Self References
Killing the Father: Ben Sira’s ‘Solomon Complex’

9. WEALTH, WOMEN, AND THE ICONIC BOOK: POSSESSION AND THE ETHICS OF SHAME
Shame and the Construction of the Moral Self
Ben Sira, Shame, and Possessions
Shame, Sex, and Possessions: The Problem of Appropriation

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Book information

Author
Claudia V. Camp
List Price
£50 / $80 / €60
Series
Hebrew Bible Monographs, 50
Scholars' Price
£25 / $40 / €30
ISBN 13 hardback
978-1-907534-74-4
Format
Hardback
Page Extent
xv + 209
Publication Date
May 2013
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