Respect for the Doctor (Sir 38:1-3)

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Wydawnictwo KUL
The first part of the article synthetically presents the Old Testament Israelites’ attitude to doctors and their activities. It is an essential prerequisite for the depiction of the innovative approach to the issue proposed by Sirach in Sir 38:1-15. Subsequently, the translation of the text’s Greek version into Polish is presented and the pericope’s structure is divided into four parts: I. 38:1-3 – respect for the doctor, II. 38:4-8 – the value of medicine, III. 38:9-11 – the relation of the sick to God, and IV. 38:12-15 – the doctor’s role in treating the sick. The present article is devoted to the exegetico-theological analysis of the first part of the Greek version of Sir 38:1-15, that is of 38:1-3. Even though the article is based primarily on the Greek text of the verses, it takes into account its original Hebrew version as well. Sirach calls the believing Israelites to completely change their perception of doctors and their activities. He encourages his readers not to reject doctors but to treat them with respect and reverence, and, indirectly, not to ignore the doctor’s efforts meant to restore health to the sick one. The sage justifies his novel approach with two arguments. First, doctors were created by God and given the task of aiding the sick in their suffering. They are a mere tool in God’s hands, for God is the only Doctor that can truly heal a person (this aspect is emphasized more by the Hebrew than by the Greek text). Secondly, doctors deserve respect for even kings and dignitaries benefit from their service and treat them with respect and reverence. In 38:1-3 Sirach offers a perfect synthesis of Israel’s traditional belief in God, who is the only doctor able to heal a person, with the Hellenistic influence related to medicine and the people who dabble in it.
the Wisdom of Sirac, doctor, Sir 38:1-3
"The Biblical Annals" 2020, T. 10, nr 1, s.31-62