Article Analysis on Theology
Various articles on the Scriptures propose different interpretations of the main theological issues. The current paper examines the article “Ben Sira, the Genesis Creation Accounts, and the Knowledge of God’s Will” by Shane Berg (2013). The author analyzes the ideas of Ben Sira, in relation to the knowledge availability for human beings. Ben Sira believes that people have a full access to this knowledge and can comprehend it with the help of the law. This approach is directly opposite to the traditional sectarian claims that correct knowledge may be obtained only through divine revelation from the Genesis creation sources. The article proves its thesis and provides a number of theoretical arguments, supporting Ben Sira’s position. Although, some aspects require further elaboration, the main idea is very well-grounded.
The author demonstrates that “Ben Sira represents a major departure from the “natural theology” … tradition”. He consistently defends the view that wisdom is directly related to the law. Ben Sira makes his statements based on a close investigation of Genesis 1 and 2. He states that God makes law understandable and available to people. Thus, people can use this knowledge and live in accordance with these universally correct principles. The unique insight presented in this article refers to the statement that human beings can not only “do God’s law but also to know God’s law”. Therefore, the course of people’s actions is presented differently. Ben Sira explains that people do not act automatically and unconsciously according to God’s law. They may act in this way only if they consciously understand all the crucial issues and comprehend the causes and effects of their actions.
Ben Sira also claims that human beings possess knowledge about good and evil. All their subsequent actions and beliefs are based on this understanding. The availability of this knowledge is crucial for acting and respecting God’s will. At the same time, Ben Sira recognizes that all people have different inclinations and learning abilities. Therefore, wisdom is analyzed from an elite perspective. However, it does not contradict the statement that law is knowable for all people without any exception. Thus, Shane Berg (2013) provides a deep examination of Ben Sira’s views and contrasts them with the traditional sectarian claims.
It seems that the author is successful in proving his thesis for several reasons. First, Ben Sira is able to create a coherent system that explains human actions. As wisdom and law are interrelated, the latter can be objectively determined. Second, the essence of human nature is correctly specified. It is generally recognized that all people have goals and act on the basis of their understanding of causes and effects. Although they can make mistakes, they always consciously and rationally select the mode of actions that should be the most effective in a given case. The traditional sectarian view contradicts this common knowledge. People are supposed to act randomly and without any understanding of good, evil, and causes-and-effect relationships. Ben Sira, however, helps to remove this contradiction.
Third, the objective standard for understanding God’s will is presented. Ben Sira shows that the law is related to wisdom and can be discovered with the help of reason. As it is open for all people by nature, they can use it in the process of comprehending God’s will. Therefore, acting in accordance with God’s will does not require any additional sources of information except one’s reason and the objectively discovered law. Fourth, Ben Sira correctly criticizes the idea that God is responsible for human sin. He explains that human beings are created free; thus, they necessarily possess free will. Although people can choose almost any modes of action open to them, only some actions are morally justified. The correct choices can be determined with the help of reason and the objective law. At the same time, the role of free will is fundamental; God does not violate people’s ability to make free choices. Different actions lead to different consequences. Thus, people can select the proper course of their actions at any moment.
All these theoretical justifications demonstrate the author’s ability to defend his position and thesis. There are no contradictions in different aspects of the presented system. Therefore, this research is quite reliable and contributes to a better understanding of the Scriptures and epistemological issues. However, not all claims are well-developed and elaborated. It is also reasonable to focus on some disputable aspects.
In particular, the author does not explain the process of comprehending the universal knowledge. On the one hand, it is stated that human beings have such ability. On the other hand, the author recognizes that different people have different skills and talents. As a result, they can be at different levels of understanding. It seems that society needs universally acceptable rules to function properly and avoid the main sources of conflicts. Thus, people need some peaceful methods for dispute resolution and determining those laws that correspond to God’s will. As all people possess reason, the ultimate solution should be made with logical persuasion and analysis. Some additional insights can be derived from Genesis 2:17, where it is stated that the knowledge of good and evil is not delivered completely by the act of creation. Thus, additional efforts are needed to rediscover it.
Another important aspect that requires further elaboration is the question of punishment. The author recognizes the human diversity and people’s different abilities of comprehending God’s will. Thus, it necessarily leads to the situation when some people behave improperly. As Ben Sira demonstrates that wisdom and the law are closely interrelated, some people will necessarily violate it. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a just system of punishment that will both promote justice and be proportional to the given crimes. It seems that the system of punishment should also be objective and based on human ability to discover God’s will. In this way, the entire social and theological system may be fully developed.
It may be concluded that the author provides a deep elaboration of Ben Sira’s ideas in relation to wisdom, the law, and God’s will. He proves that they are interrelated and mutually interdependent. Moreover, all people have the capacity to obtain the objective knowledge about good and evil. However, it requires additional efforts, and wisdom achieved only by some of them. Ben Sira also shows that God should not be blamed for people’s sins, as they possess free will. Thus, they can make those choices that correspond to their interests. At the same time, they are subject to universal laws, and their different actions will lead to different results. Although some aspects of epistemology and theology require further development, the author is highly successful in defending his position. Ben Sira’s views are much more consistent in comparison with the traditional sectarian claims. They may serve as an appropriate basis for the further scientific research in this field.