Sirach 16:3

Ben Sira, Ecclesiasticus

1 Do not desire a multitude of worthless children, and do not rejoice in ungodly offspring. 2 If they multiply, do not rejoice in them, unless the fear of the Lord is in them. 3 Do not trust in their survival, or rely on their numbers; for one can be better than a thousand, and to die childless is better than to have ungodly children. 4 For through one intelligent person a city can be filled with people, but through a clan of outlaws it becomes desolate. 5 Many such things my eye has seen, and my ear has heard things more striking than these.

John Chrysostom Homily 24 on Acts


For say, what profit is it, that there should be hay in plenty, when there might be precious stones? The amount consists not in the sum of numbers, but in the proved worth. Elias was one: yet the whole world was not worth so much as he. And yet the world consists of myriads: but they are no myriads, when they do not even come up to that one. Better is one that does the will of God, than ten thousand who are transgressors: for the ten thousands have not yet reached to the one. Desire not a multitude of unprofitable children. Such bring more blasphemy against God, than if they were not Christians. What need have I of a multitude? It is (only) more food for the fire. This one might see even in the body, that better is moderate food with health, than a (fatted) calf with damage. This is more food than the other: this is food, but that is disease. This too one may see in war: that better are ten expert and brave men, than ten thousand of no experience.

 Notes and References

"... The golden age of Greek patristic literature, that is, the fourth and fifth centuries, are no exception as far as the popularity of Sirach. Besides John Chrysostom, nearly all of the most prominent authors of this period cite from Sirach, including, inter alia, Clement of Alexandria, Ambrose, and Augustine. Clement of Alexandria even believed that Sirach had influenced the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (Stromata 2:5). Sirach was also popular with authors such as Tertullian, Origen and Cyprian. Jerome, however, rejected the canonical status of Sirach. The first full commentary on Sirach was only completed in the ninth century by Rabanus Maurus. The citations in John’s homilies are often sporadic proof-texts. But what is interesting is the constant repetition of certain citations, citations that seem to have remained in John’s memory. The homilies on the books of the New Testament come in the guise of a sermonic commentary, with verse-by-verse expositions. But inside these expositions one finds many other citations which were probably quoted from memory and not necessarily from a text. It is therefore problematic to speculate from which text or version a citation originates, since John probably memorized many Sirachic proverbs during his monastic retreat or ministerial period. This obviously does not rule out the possibility that John probably had a written text at his disposal (which he may have read for study and devotion). Some proverbs are cited or alluded to more often than others. The more popular citations, which occur frequently in the homilies, are Sirach 1:22; 5:6; and 18:16-17. Other citations occurring more than once include Sirach 2:4; 3:30; 4:8; 9:9, 13, 15; 10:9, 12-13; 11:3; 13:15; 15:9; 16:3, 12; 18:30; 19:10-11; 21:2; 23:10, 17; 28:3; and 34:23. There are a total of 65 individual verses cited from Sirach in John’s New Testament homilies, only slightly fewer than the 77 verses cited from Proverbs ..."

de Wet, Chris John Chrysostom's Use of the Book of Sirach in his Homilies on the New Testament (pp. 1-6) University of Pretoria, 2010

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