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Elisa Uusimäki

Itinerant Sages: The Evidence of Sirach in its Ancient Mediterranean Context

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This article examines passages in Sirach which posit that travel fosters understanding (Sir. 34.9–13) and that the sage knows how to travel in foreign lands (Sir. 39.4). The references are discussed in the context of two ancient Mediterranean corpora, that is, biblical and Greek literature. Although the evidence in Sirach is insufficient for demonstrating the existence of a specific social practice, the text at least attests to an attitude of mental openness, imagining travel as a professional enterprise with positive outcomes. This article argues that the closest parallels to Sir. 34.9–13 and Sir. 39.4 are not to be found in the Hebrew Bible or Hellenistic Jewish literature but in (non-Jewish) Greek writings which refer to travels undertaken by the sages who roam around for the sake of learning. The shared travel motif helps to demonstrate that Sirach belongs to a wider Hellenistic Mediterranean context than just that of biblical literature.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal for the Study of the Old Testament
Volume 44
Pages (from-to)315-336
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Ancient Greek writings, Mediterranean antiquity, Second Temple Judaism, Sirach, education, mobility, sages, travel

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