The Armor of the Four Virtues

The Armor of the Four Virtues
James Scott Trimm

Today’s article will bring this altogether and demonstrate that there is a direct relationship between the Full Armor of Elohim and the Four Labors of Wisdom.

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 teachesself-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)

4Maccabees goes on to say:

Rational judgment is supreme over all of these, since by means of it reason (Logos) rules over the emotions.
(4Macc. 1:19)

This agrees with Philo’s midrash on Gen. 2:10 that generic virtue goes out as an unceasing and everlasting flow from the Word (logos) of Elohim to increase and nourish the Four Virtues in our souls.

4 Maccabees gives us a working definition of “reason” (Logos):

Now reason (Logos) is the mind that with sound logic prefers the life of wisdom.
(4Macc. 1:15)

Followed by a working definition for “wisdom”:

16  Wisdom, next, is the knowledge of divine and human matters and the causes of these.
17 This, in turn, is education in the Torah, by which we learn divine matters reverently and human affairs to our advantage.
(4Macc. 1:16-17)

Thus learning Torah brings wisdom and living Torah produces a “life of wisdom” which is the kind of life preferred by “the mind with sound logic” and this sound logic of Torah is the Logos (Word, Reason).  This is stated more plainly later in the book:

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)

4Maccabees Chapters 5-7 cites the story of Eliezer (2Macc. 6:18-31) to illustrate this concept, saying:

“No city besieged with many ingenious war machines has ever held out as did that most holy man. Although his sacred life was consumed by tortures and racks, he conquered the besiegers with the shield of his devout reason (Logos).”
(4Macc. 7:4 RSV)

The Aramaic version reads:

No city besieged ever held out against mighty vassals coming against its walls and its various parts like this. He was dressed in all the armor. For while his soul was suffering, consumed by torture, and by tribulation, and by burning, he conquered the tribulation because of his mind was fighting with the shield of truth.
(4Macc. 7:4 – Aramaic)

And 4Maccabees 8-18 cites the story of Hannah and her seven sons (2Macc. 7; b.Gittin 57b) to illustrate this concept, saying:

Therefore let us put on the full armor of self-control, which is divine reason (Logos).
(4Macc. 13:16 RSV)

The Aramaic version reads:

Therefore put on the full armor of authority over the passions, which belongs to the mind that fears Eloah.
(4Macc. 13:16 Aramaic)

There is a direct relationship between the Full Armor of Elohim and these Four Labors of Wisdom!

In a future article I will explore the seven “emotions”/”passion” that can hinder the Four Labors or Wisdom, and how Reason (Logos) thru the Torah helps us to bring these under control of the rational mind so that we can have rational judgment, self-control, justice and courage.

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