The Hagiographers

My son, keep the commandments of your father (Proverbs 6:20)

The books of the Hagiographers: Joshua, Chronicles, Judith, Maccabees, Tobit, Esther, Ezra, the Psalms, Job, Wisdom, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Sirach warn us of the consequences if we do not follow the commands established in the Law which are necessary for us to follow if we are to arrive at eternal life. Here moral virtues are taught as though a father were teaching his sons: by word and by deed. Some of the books teach in one of these ways exclusively and one teaches moral virtue by both word and deed.

Moral virtue is taught by example, or deeds in two ways: one by warning us about future consequences – Joshua does this – another way is by using past events as examples of virtue and this is done for each moral virtue. Care of the common good or justice is shown in Chronicles, temperance is exemplified by Judith, the aspect of fortitude which attacks enemies is shown in Maccabees, whereas the aspect of fortitude which endures attack by enemies is show in Tobit. The final moral virtue, prudence, is extolled in the book of Ezra, as he gives an example of guarding against plots of the enemy, and in Esther, as she gives an example of repelling the violence of her enemy, not through arms as in Maccabees but through wisdom.

Those books which instruct moral virtue by word do so by asking for the gift of wisdom and by teaching wisdom to the reader. The Psalter is a book of prayers seeking the gifts of God.

The books which teach wisdom first expose the liar – the book of Job accomplishes this – and then by teaching wisdom itself, without lies either by commending the pursuit of wisdom, as in the book which bares this very name, Wisdom,  or by teaching wisdom’s precepts as they apply to politics so that a man learns to use the goods of the world moderately, purgation so that we learn how to despise the goods of the world, and contemplation whereby we learn to delight in the wisdom alone. The book of Proverbs contains many practical maxims, Ecclesiastes teaches contempt for the world, and the Song of Songs speaks of the souls delight in wisdom.

The book of Sirach teaches virtue both by word and deed.