Introduction: Book of Sirach (Bible Marathon Day 358)
The Book of Sirach, also known as Ecclesiasticus, is part of the Wisdom Literature of the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate Bible. While originally written in Hebrew, the Book was read only through its Greek translation, known as S????. The Book was not included in the Hebrew Masoretic Text as part of the Hebrew Canon of the Old Testament. However, most of the Hebrew text of Sirach has been uncovered in the Cairo Geniza, at Masada, and in three Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran. 2QSir designates Sirach from Cave 2 at Qumran, 11QPsª designates a scroll from Cave 11, which contained the canticle from Sirach Chapter 51:13-30, but which was found in the Psalms scroll! As with all ancient texts discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hebrew Scripture was in consonantal text only. A manuscript with six chapters of Sirach was found at Masada. Survivors following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD fled to Masada, a fortress on a mountain plateau built by Herod near the Dead Sea. (source: http://biblescripture.net/)
At the present day, the authorship of the book is universally and rightly assigned to a certain “Jesus”, concerning whose person and character a great deal has indeed been surmised but very little is actually known. In the Greek prologue to the work, the author’s proper name is given as Iesous, and this information is corroborated by the subscriptions found in the original Hebrew: 1, 27 (Vulgate, 1, 29); li, 30. His familiar surname was Ben Sira, as the Hebrew text and the ancient versions agree to attest. He is described in the Greek and Latin versions as “a man of Jerusalem” (1, 29), and internal evidence (cf. xxiv, 13 sqq.; 1) tends to confirm the statement, although it is not found in the Hebrew.
Ben Sira, the author, was a devout man of wisdom who lived in Jerusalem about 200 BC. The first 43 chapters of the Book provide moral instruction and common sense gained from experience, fitting of Wisdom literature.
Jesus, son of Eleazar, son of Sirach, is believed to have written this book between 200–175 BC.
As with the Book of Job, the author notes the “beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord.” Chapter One on Wisdom, Chapter Six on Friendship and Discipline, Chapters 25-26 on Wives and Women, and Chapter 42 on a Father’s Care for his Daughter are representative of the first section. Chapters 44-50 present a refreshing history of the ancestors, patriarchs, and leaders of Israel. A Fifty-First Chapter concludes the Book with a prayer.
In light of recent discoveries, while the Book had traditionally been known as Sirach or Ecclesiasticus, the text is now called Ben Sira in view of its Hebrew origin.