Nazarene Space

The Four Labors of Wisdom: Courage
By
James Scott Trimm



In our previous articles we cited the following passage from The Wisdom of Solomon concerning the “Four Labors of Wisdom” also known as the “Four Virtues”:

5  If riches are a desirable possession in life,
what is richer than wisdom who effects all things?
6  And if understanding is effective,
who more than she is fashioner of what exists?
7  And if any one loves righteousness,
her labors are virtues;
for she teaches self-control and prudence,
justice and courage;
nothing in life is more profitable for men than these.
(Wisdom of Solomon 8:5-7 RSV)

In another article we learned about Philo’s Midrash on Genesis 2:10 which teaches that generic virtue goes out as an unceasing and everlasting flow from the Word (logos) of Elohim to increase and nourish specific virtues in the souls of those that love Elohim and that from there generic virtue is marked off by fixed boundaries as prudence (rational judgment), courage, self-control, and justice and that each of these is a ruler and a queen that helps us to rule over our passions.

The Fourth Book of Maccabees (which has sometimes been titled “On the Supremacy of Reason) we learn much more about these four Labors of Wisdom, or “virtues” which 4Maccabees calls “Four Kinds of Wisdom”:

Now the kinds of wisdom are rational judgment, justice, courage, and self-control.
(4Macc. 1:18)

In today’s article I want to talk about courage and how to make ones reason sovereign over the emotions that can hider courage, which, according to 4Maccabees are “anger, fear, and pain” (4Macc. 1:4)

The Scriptures speak much about courage and overcoming fear:

“Wait on YHWH, be strong, and let your heart take courage: yes, wait you, for
YHWH.”
(Ps. 27:14 HRV)

“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you that wait for YHWH.”
(Ps. 31:25 (24) HRV)

“He shall not be afraid of evil tidings;
his heart is steadfast, trusting in YHWH.”
(Ps. 112:7 HRV)

“For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received
the spirit of adoption of sons, by which we call, Father, our Father.”
(Rom. 8:15 HRV)

“For Eloah did not give to us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of
instruction.”
(2Tim. 1:7  HRV)

Like the other three Labors of Wisdom, the Word (Reason; Logos/Memra) nurtures faith within us, and it is that faith that overcomes fear, pain and sorrow to express itself as courage.  As Paul writes:

“Therefore faith, is by the hearing of the ear, and the hearing of the ear by the word of
Elohim”
(Rom. 10:17)

This is just as the Hillel the great taught as recorded in the Talmud. (Hillel taught in the days when Yeshua was a small child).

Our Rabbis taught: It once happened with Hillel the elder that he was coming from a journey, and he heard a great cry in the city, and he said: I am confident that this does not come from my house. Of him Scripture says: He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. (Ps. 112:7) Raba said: Whenever you expound this verse you may make the second clause explain the first, or the first clause explain the
second. ‘You may make the second clause explain the first’, thus: ‘He will not fear evil tidings’. Why? Because ‘his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord’. ‘You may explain the second clause by the first’, thus: ‘His heart is steadfast trusting in the Lord’; therefore, ‘he shall not be afraid of evil tidings’.
(Ber. 60a)

We read in 4Maccabees that we have been given the Torah so that our minds might rule over our emotions and inclinations

21 Now when Elohim fashioned man, he planted in him emotions and inclinations,
22 but at the same time he enthroned the mind among the senses as a sacred governor over them all.
23 To the mind he gave the Torah; and one who lives subject to this will rule a kingdom that is temperate, just, good, and courageous.
(4Macc. 2:21-23)

Thus Ben Zoma says in the Mishnah: “Who is strong? He who controls his inclinations.”  (m.Avot 4:1)

For this reason the Zohar teaches that courage is broken when we violate Torah and fail to seek repentance.  The Zohar tells us this blocks our Yetzer Tov (good inclination) from contending with our evil inclination:

Hence it behooves a man to strive his utmost in this world to fortify himself in the Almighty, and put his trust in Him; for then, although he may have sinned, if he repents with all sincerity, since his stronghold is in the Holy One, it will be as though he had not sinned. The brothers were afraid (Gen. 43:18) on account of their sin in having stolen Joseph, for had they not sinned they would not have had any cause to fear; for it is only a man's sins that break his courage and deprive him of strength, the reason being that the good inclination is at the same time unnerved, and left powerless to contend with the evil inclination.  This is implied in the words: “What man is there that is fearful and faint- hearted?” (Deut. 20:8), on account, that is, of sins which he may have committed, these being the ruin of a stout heart.
(Zohar 1:202a)

Thus the Torah is designed to nurture courage in our souls so that we may not have a spirit of fear.

According to the Torah YHWH sent the ten spies out into the promised land telling them “And be you of good courage…” (Num. 13:20) yet all but two returned with a report expressing fear of the inhabitants of the land.  This resulted in Israel spending forty years in the wilderness before eventually entering the land.  When Israel did finally enter the land it was with the instruction:

Be strong and of good courage. Fear not, nor be affrighted at them, for YHWH your
Elohim, He it is that does go with you. He will not fail you, nor forsake you.
(Deut. 31:6)

The Scriptures give us many examples of faith inspired courage

When David faced Goliath armed with only a slingshot (1Sam. 17), he was armed with faith inspired courage.

When the three young men were cast into the fiery furnace (Dan. 3) their great faith gave them courage to face the flames.

When Daniel was twice thrown into a den of lions (Dan. 6 & Dan 14:28f (Bel the Dragon 28f)) his faith gave him the courage to face the loins.  

When Eliezer refused to eat meat sacrificed to idols (2Macc. 6:18-31) his rational faith gave him the courage to face tortures and a painful death without turning from YHWH’s Torah (4Macc. 5-7).

When Hanna and her seven sons faced death rather than bow Antioch Epiphanies as a god (2Macc. 7; b.Gittin 57b) it was also their rational faith that gave them the courage to face tortures and painful deaths without turning from YHWH (4Macc. 8:18)

When Stephen was stoned to death for his faith in Messiah (Acts 7) his faith gave him courage to face his execution without turning from his testimony.

And most of all, when Yeshua our Messiah faced tortures and death, he did not turn from his mission, but endured his torture and death with unimaginable courage.  As the Historia passionis Domini records:

We read in the Gospel of the Nazarenes that the Judeans
bribed four soldiers to scourge the Lord so severely
that the blood might flow from every part of his body.
They had also bribed the same soldiers to the end
that they crucified him as it is said in John 19…
(Historia passionis Domini; MS: Theolog.
Sammelhandschrift 14th-15th Century, Foll. 44r)

As believers we should endeavor to follow the Messiah as an example and walk even as he walked (1Jn. 2:6) we must take up our own gallows (Matt. 16:24-26; Mark 8:34 & Luke 9:23) with courage as well.  As King David wrote in the Psalms:

1  YHWH is my shepherd: I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures: He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul: He guides me in straight paths for His Name's sake.
4 Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for
You are with me: Your rod and Your staff--they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: You have anointed my
head with oil; my cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in
the House of YHWH forever.
(Psalm 23)

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Help support our project to put the ancient Aramaic text of the Book of the Enoch (see Jude 1:14-15) up on the internet in interlinear format keyed to Strong's Word Numbers. We started posting this material just recently, and will continue posting more every few days as the work continues. Click here to see it

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And our project to put the original Hebrew of the Books of the Apocrypha up on the internet in interlinear format keyed to Strong's Word Numbers. We will start posting this material very soon, and will continue posting more every few days as the work continues. Click here to see it

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