Monday, 20 December 2010

Friendship : Wisdom from Ecclesiasticus

I remember as a young enthusiastic Christian thinking that the Apocrypha ( that is the writings found between the Old Testament and the New Testament in some Bibles such as the Common Bible and the Jerusalem Bible.)should be treated as either 100% God inspired or rejected completely as false teaching.

The Westminster Confession of Faith states:
“The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the Canon of Scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.”Despite that the Apocrypha has much wisdom in it.

Through reading the books of people such as A.W.Tozer, C.S.Lewis, the Church Fathers or John Stott we can gain great benefit, likewise from reading the Apocrypha we can also can gain great wisdom. When I first became a Christian I had a friend who used to say when reading certain Christian books: 'Eat the meat and spit out the bones'. My thanks to Romanos my Eastern Orthodox from America who originally posted this on his blog.

A kindly turn of speech multiplies a man's friends,
and a courteous way of speaking invites many a friendly reply.

Let your acquaintances be many,
but your advisors one in a thousand.

If you want to make a friend, take him on trial,
and be in no hurry to trust him;

for one kind of friend is only so when it suits him
but will not stand by you in your day of trouble.

Another kind of friend will fall out with you
and to your dismay will make your quarrel public,

and a third kind of friend will share your table,
but not stand by you in your day of trouble:
when you are doing well he will be your second self,
ordering your servants about;
but if ever you are brought low he will turn against you
and will hide himself from you.

Keep well clear of your enemies,
and be wary of your friends.

A faithful friend is a sure shelter,
whoever finds one has found a rare treasure.

A faithful friend is something beyond price,
there is no measuring his worth.

A faithful friend is the elixir of life,
and those who fear the Lord will find one.

Whoever fears the Lord makes true friends,
for as a man is, so is his friend.

Ecclesiasticus 6:5-17 Jerusalem Bible

Prick an eye and you will draw a tear,
prick a heart and you will bring its feelings to light.
Throw stones at birds and you scare them away,
revile a friend and you break up friendship.

If you have drawn your sword on a friend,
do not despair; there is a way back.
If you have opened your mouth against your friend,
do not worry; there is hope for reconciliation;

but insult, arrogance, betrayal of secrets, and the stab in the back—
in these cases, any friend will run away.

Ecclesiasticus 22:19-22 Jerusalem Bible


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Thanks for reposting this.
There are many good passages in the so-called apocrypha. In the book of the Wisdom of Solomon there are even prophetic references of Jesus Christ.

I know these books were thrown out by the Reformers, and I can understand why, but it seems to us to be a problem of mindset and of approach.

The Greek Orthodox attitude toward the Bible is a little less severe, less dogmatic, than that of most Bible believers in the evangelical wing of the Church. The Greek Old Testament (which includes these books) was taken over 'as is' by the early Church, and not until the ancient fathers began to rediscover Hebrew (Jerome, for example) did the question even come up that these books found only in Greek might not be fully inspired as the rest of the Bible.

Some Orthodox (like myself) read the books for wisdom and clarity and apply them to reinforce biblical doctrine in general, but feel they are on a slightly lower footing. Other Orthodox insist on them being every bit as inspired as the other books. Both views were espoused by the ancient fathers in Orthodox East and West, and even by the Reformers. In the Church of England (in my opinion, Orthodox West) the apocrypha were normally printed in the KJV bible and also used in the lectionary, without any problem. Since I have a foot in both worlds, Anglican and Greek Orthodox, I see no difference.

Anyway, I respect those who do not regard these books as any kind of scripture, and do not insist on them being so held. But, as you say, they contain some good words.

Andrew Kenny said...

'Let your acquaintances be many,
but your advisors one in a thousand.

Yes how true it is to have many acquaintances but few advisers. Wesley would say hat he was a friend of all and an enemy of none. Of course inreality John Wesley had many enemies and in some of his writings did not mince his words when critiquing them. We should be easy to get along with and as Paul encouraged us 'associate with the lowly'as the Master did himself.

' And your advisors one in a thousand'Be careful who you share your heart with,even some Christian leaders may view breaking your confidence as of little consequence.

J.C.Ryle said...

A FRIEND is one of the greatest blessings on earth. Tell me not of money: affec-tion is better than gold; sympathy is better than lands. He is the poor man who has no friends.
This world is full of sorrow because it is full of sin. It is a dark place. It is a lonely place. It is a disappointing place. The brightest sunbeam in it is a friend. Friendship halves our troubles and doubles our joys.
A real friend is scarce and rare. There are many who will eat, and drink, and laugh with us in the sunshine of prosperity. There are few who will stand by us in the days of darkness,—few who will love us when we are sick, helpless, and poor,—few, above all, who will care for our souls.
Does any reader of this paper want a real friend? I write to recommend one to your notice this day. I know of One “who sticks closer than a brother.” (Prov. xviii. 24.) I know of One who is ready to be your friend for time and for eternity, if you will receive Him. Hear me, while I try to tell you something about Him.
The friend I want you to know is Jesus Christ. Happy is that family in which Christ has the foremost place! Happy is that person whose chief friend is Christ!