The wisdom of ben Sirach.
Counted among the apocrypha.
Jesus ben Sirach.
None on site.
Swete LXX (Greek only).
HTML Bible: Wisdom of Sirach
(Latin Vulgate only).
Humanities Text Initiative:
Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach (English only).
Kata Pi LXX: Ecclesiasticus (Greek and English).
Sacred Texts: Wisdom of ben Sira (polyglot).
Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
EJW (Peter Kirby).
Ecclesiasticus and the
apocryphal books in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Ecclesiasticus at Kata Pi (Oesterly and Robinson).
The wisdom of Sirach is counted among the apocryphal books
of the Old Testament.
The book is not extant among the Hebrew scriptures, but rather in
the Septuagint, abbreviated LXX.
It is also entitled the book of ben Sira, the book of Jesus son
of Sirach, and Ecclesiasticus.
Peter Kirby (Early Jewish Writings).
Peter Kirby surveys scholars writing on the book of the wisdom
of Jesus ben Sirach:
David A. deSilva writes: "Yeshua Ben Sira, a scribe living and teaching
in Jerusalem, brought the wisdom tradition of Israel squarely in line with the
core value of Torah observance. Unlike Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes, from
which he learned much and which he also rebutted on certain points, Ben Sira
places the pursuit of piety and obedience to the ancestral Jewish law at the
center of the pursuit of Wisdomand this at a time when tensions concerning
assimilation to the dominant culture of Hellenism were mounting and about to
reach a fevered pitch in the crisis of 175-164 B.C.E. Ben Sira was no reactionary,
but he was definitely a conservative voice in the first decades of the second
century B.C.E., calling his pupils to seek their fortune, their honor, and their
good name through diligent observance of the demands of the God of Israel first
and foremost. The path to Wisdom, and to a successful and secure life, was first
of all the way of Torah, supplemented (but never displaced or replaced) by the
worldly wisdom learned from many different cultures." (Introducing the
Apocrypha, p. 153)
James King West writes: "By far the longest book, comprising almost one
third of the Deuterocanon, Ecclesiasticus, or by its Greek title, the Wisdom
of Jesus (from the Hebrew, Joshua), the Son of Sirach, provides the reader with
the unusual advantage of a translator's preface. The author himself, moreover,
has obliged the reader with his signature along with a blessing upon those who
concern themselves with wisdom (50:27-29). From these passages, therefore, we
learn that the book was composed in Hebrew in Judea by an ardent collector of
gnomic sayings whose Hebrew name was Joshua ben Sira and was brought to the
Jewish community in Alexandria by his grandson and translated into Greek. In
his reference to 'the thirty-eighth year of the reign of Euergetes,' furthermore,
the grandson provides us with a clue to the date. How long after his arrival
in Egypt he made the translation, we are not told, but his arrival can be dated
quite precisely as 132 B.C. If, as is usually assumed, the high priest Simon,
celebrated in 50:1-21, is the Simon mentioned by Josephus in Antiquities
XII, 4, 10 (c. 200 B.C.), the original composition of the book can be fixed
somewhere between 150-170 B.C." (Introduction to the Old Testament,
Richard J. Coggins writes: "There are two positive pointers to support
the date proposed [based on the prologue]. First, it is very probable that the
high-priest eulogized in ch. 50 was Simon/Simeon, who had died in 196, and the
second-century date would fit very well with that. Secondly, there is no sign
of the tensions which developed into outright war during the reign of Antiochus
IV Epiphanes (175-164). No trace of the bitter conflicts alluded to in Daniel
and vividly described in the books of Maccabees appears in Sirach. One possible
exception to this might be noted: the allusions in 36.1-22 to the 'foreign nations'
(v. 3), 'hostile rulers' (v. 12), and the plea for pity on Jerusalem (v. 18).
This might suggest some of the underlying tensions which preceded the more open
hostility of Antiochus IV's time, but this rather generalized xenophobia is
not unusual in the Hebrew Bible tradition, and it would be unwise to read more
than that into such a passage. We have in any case already noted that, for literary
reasons, 36.1-22 has often been regarded as a later addition to the main body
of the work." (Sirach, p. 19)
J. Alberto Soggin writes (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 451-452):
The work can be divided into two parts. In the first (chs. 1-23), we find
to begin with a celebration of wisdom, which in all cases is given by God
(1.11, cf. 1.16). In 2.1-4.10 there is praise of the virtues connected with
it: patience, humility, mercy, trust in God and obedience to his commandments,
filial piety, solidarity with the poor, and so on; in 4.11-6.17 we have a
series of instructions from a wise man or from wisdom itself, the promise
of reward after trials have been undergone, and various pieces of practical
advice. 6.18-8.7 describes the best way of finding wisdom, by avoiding wickedness
and following some advice on the company to keep (advice which is also important
from a social point of view). 9.17-11.19 is directed to the rich and powerful,
exhorting them to use the power which they derive from their social position
justly, and to make good use of their money. 14.20-15.20 delivers a eulogy
on wisdom, while 16.1-18.14 presents the doctrine of God the Creator with
some examples drawn from biblical history. In 18.15-20.26 we have a series
of counsels on love, foresight and self-control. 20.27-23.28 contrasts the
wise man and the fool, the righteous and the sinner.
The second part (chs. 24-50) begins with an account of wisdom by herself
(24.1ff.); she is identified with the 'law of Moses' (24.22). Chapters 25-26
deal with the theme of marriage, and in 26.29-29.28 we have an exhortation
to honesty and prudence in word and deed. 30.1-32.13 discusses the education
of children, health and manners, especially at banquets; 32.14-35.18 gives
advice about how to find wisdom. 33.19-36.17 instructs heads of families about
various themes: the administration of patrimony, true piety (cf. 34.18-25,
etc.). 36.18-38.23 deals with some difficulties in which a man might find
himself; in such cases, however, he is aided by wife, children, friends, the
counsellor, the wise man, the doctor and so on. 38.1-15 discusses the interesting
theological problem of the relationship between the doctor's cure and faith
in God: which of the two is it better to trust? The reply is similar to that
given by James 5.14 in the New Testament: the divine wisdom enlightens the
doctor and gives him his gifts; therefore the two positions are complementary.
38.24-39.35 praises the scribe, whose profession is the most noble of all,
whereas 40.1-41.33 considers suffering and death. In 41.14-42.14 we have considerations
on shame, whether it is justified or not, a text which ends in 42.15ff. with
a song of praise to God for the virtue of which the fathers have given proof.
We have a list of the fathers in 44.1ff., followed by a mention of the last
legitimate high priest, Simeon II son of Jonathan (50.1). The book ends with
praise to God (ch. 51).
James L. Crenshaw writes: "Although Sirach resembles other Jewish literary
works of the third to first century B.C., the book also has points of contact
with Greek literature. Affinities with Jewish wisdom link Sirach more closely
with those texts in Hebrew than with the Greek Wisdom of Solomon. Ben Sira shares
a few phrases with Ecclesiastes, but he does not endorse this book's skepticism,
particularly with regard to the divine-human relationship. The book of Tobit
places more emphasis on specific acts of piety as an expression of loyalty to
the Mosaic law, but both Tobit and Sirach freely lift their voices in prayer.
Whereas Ben Sira prays for wondrous acts on God's part, Tobit both prays for
wondrous acts on God's part, Tobit both prays for and experiences divine feats.
Baruch's poem on wisdom (3:9-4:4) does not integrate mythic themes about wisdom's
role in creation with the idea that the concrete expression of wisdom occurs
in the law. The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs transcends the ritual
aspects of religion to a degree that Ben Sira never achieves. The author of
Wisdom of Solomon embraces Hellenistic concepts enthusiastically, whereas Ben
Sira's indebtedness to the Greeks appears to be no more than unconscious breathing
of the air." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 840)
Thomas H. Weber writes: "Sir is one of the deuterocanonical books; it
did not fit into the theology of the Pharasaic part of Judaism, which was responsible
for fixing the Jewish canon. The book was generally well received in Judaism
as is evident from its use in Jewish worship and literature. Its rejection from
the Jewish canon may have been partly because of its recent date, but the chief
reason is that it was associated with Sadducean literature. Sirach was no Sadducee,
but the tone of the work with its preoccupation with cult, the lack of any appreciation
for the afterlife, and minimal messianism put it in a class with later Sadducean
tenets." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 542)
Marjorie L. Kimbrough writes: "Chapter 22 begins with a discussion of
the disgrace of being idle, but then moves to these words: 'It is a disgrace
to be the father of an undisciplined son, and the birth of a daughter is a loss.
A sensible daughter obtains a husband of her own, but one who acts shamefully
is a grief to her father. An impudent daughter disgraces father and husband,
and is despised by both (22:3-5). I can easily understand how an undisciplined
son is a disgrace, but I cannot understand how the birth of a dughter is a loss.
. . . Then chapter 25 returns to female-bashing. There is no wickedness like
that of a woman and no anger worse than a woman's wrath. Her wickedness even
changes her appearance (25:13-17). Yet young men are warned not to be ensnared
by a woman's beauty or to desire her for her possessions (25:21). The writer
states that it is disgraceful for a wife to support her husband and that it
is her duty to make him happy (25:22-23). Women are the source of sin and death,
so if one of them is not obedient, a man should leave her (25:24-26)."
(Stories Between the Testaments, pp. 50-51)
Daniel J. Harrington writes: "The book of Sirach is not quoted directly
in the New Testament. The strongest parallel is Matthew 11:28-30 (see Sirach
6:24-25; 51:26-27). But even there it may be a matter of common terminology
and conceptuality. . . . The earliest patristic evdience for Sirach occurs in
Didache 4:5 and Barnabas 19:9, which appear to cite Sirach 4:31.
The book was translated into Latin, Coptic, Syriac, Ethiopic, Armenian, and
Arabic, thus insuring a wide circulation. Many Greek church fathers (Clement
of Alexandria, Origen, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Jerusalem) and Latin fathers
(Tertullian, Cyprian, Jerome, Augustine) quoted or incorporated material from
Sirach in their own works. Throughout the late patristic and medieval periods,
Sirach generated a rich commentary tradition." (Invitation to the Apocrypha,