Book of Sirach

or Ecclesiasticus

A book in the Old Testament Apocrypha

General Information

The Book of Sirach, or the Wisdom of Jesus the son of Sirach, is a book in the Apocrypha. It is also known as Ecclesiasticus ("church book") because of its wide use among Greek and Latin Christians in moral instruction. Classified among the wisdom writings, the book was written in Hebrew at Jerusalem c. 180 BC by a learned teacher, Jesus ben Sirach, and was translated into Greek in Egypt with a preface by his grandson not long after 132 BC.

The wisdom teaching of the book is climaxed by a long eulogy of the heroes of Israelite history. Using the sayings form typical of the Book of Proverbs, the author achieves a fusion of scribal piety, with its high regard for the Jewish law, and traditional wisdom.

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Book of Sirach

or Ecclesiasticus

General Information

Sirach or Ecclesiasticus is a book of the Old Testament in those versions of the Bible following the Greek Septuagint (generally Roman Catholic and Orthodox versions). It does not appear in the Hebrew Bible, and it is placed with the Apocrypha in Protestant versions of the Bible. Also known as "The Wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach," the book was written some time between 195 and 171 BC by Jesus the son of Sirach (Hebrew Joshua ben Sira). The author is thought to have been a scholar who taught wisdom in an academy in Jerusalem. He is the only author of an apocryphal book to have attached his own name to his work (50:27). About 130 BC, a Greek translation was made from the Hebrew original by a person who claimed in an added preface (ever since part of the book) to be a grandson of the author. Because of the great popularity earned by the book, it was translated subsequently into numerous other languages; the Greek text, however, is the only one to have survived in its entirety.

Sirach mainly consists of a series of loosely related maxims and other sayings of a proverbial nature, much in the manner of the Book of Proverbs. Throughout, the author offers instruction on how to conduct oneself wisely in all areas of life. He identifies wisdom with the divine law (24:23), but his counsels are more concerned with ethics than they are with divine revelation. In addition to its numerous, diverse instructions, Sirach contains several long poems that celebrate wisdom (1:1-20, 24:1-22), praise God and his wonderful works (42:15-43:33), and praise the venerable patriarchs and prophets of Israel (chap. 44-49). Noteworthy is chapter 24, introducing uncreated wisdom speaking as a divine person. Early Christian writers considered it an anticipation or foreshadowing of the Logos, or word of God, in the opening chapter of John's Gospel. Sirach is classified with the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, which includes the Books of Ecclesiastes, Job, and Proverbs. Some scholars regard it as the final outstanding specimen of that form of literature and the first example of the kind of Jewish thought developed subsequently by the Pharisaic and Sadducean schools.

Although highly regarded by early Jewish commentators, who often cited it, Sirach was excluded from the Hebrew canon. The rabbis who closed the canon felt that the period of divine inspiration had ended soon after the time of the Hebrew priest and reformer Ezra (flourished 5th-4th century BC); thus, Sirach, which clearly was written long after Ezra's time, could not have been divinely inspired. Early Christians, however, accepted it along with several other books regarded as spurious by the Jews. Since then, both the Orthodox church and the Roman Catholic church have decreed it to be canonical, and Protestants, following Martin Luther, consider it apocryphal rather than canonical.


Ecclesiasticus

Catholic Information

(Abbrev. Ecclus.; also known as the Book of Sirach.)

The longest of the deuterocanonical books of the Bible, and the last of the Sapiential writings in the Vulgate of the Old Testament.

I. TITLE

The usual title of the book in Greek manuscripts and Fathers is Sophia Iesou uiou Seirach, "the Wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach", or simply Sophia Seirach "the Wisdom of Sirach". It is manifestly connected with and possibly derived from, the following subscription which appears at the end of recently-discovered Hebrew fragments of Ecclesiasticus: "Wisdom [Hó khmâ ] of Simeon, the son of Yeshua, the son of Eleazar, the son of Sira". Indeed, its full form would naturally lead one to regard it as a direct rendering of the Hebrew heading: Hokhmath Yeshua ben Sira, were it not that St. Jerome, in his prologue to the Solominic writings, states that the Hebrew title of Ecclesiasticus was "Mishle" (Parabolae) of Jesus of Sirach. Perhaps in the original Hebrew the book bore different titles at different times: in point of fact, the simple name Hokhma, "Wisdom", is applied to it in the Talmud, while Rabbinic writers commonly quote Ecclesiasticus as Ben Sira. Among the other Greek names which are given to Ecclesiasticus in patristic literature, may be mentioned the simple title of Sophia, "Wisdom", and the honorary designation he panaretos sophia, "all-virtuous Wisdom".

As might well be expected, Latin writers have applied to Ecclesiasticus titles which are derived from its Greek names, such as "Sapientia Sirach" (Rufinus); "Jesu, filii Sirach" (Junilius), "Sapienta Jesu" (Codex Claromontanus); "Liber Sapientiae" (Roman Missal). It can hardly be doubted, however, that the heading "Parabolae Salomonis", which is prefixed at times in the Roman Breviary to sections from Ecclesiasticus, is to be traced back to the Hebrew title spoken of by St. Jerome in his prologue to the Solomonic writings. Be this as it may, the book is most commonly designated in the Latin Church as "Ecclesiasticus", itself a Greek word with a Latin ending. This last title -- not to be confounded with "Ecclesiastes" (Eccl.) -- is the one used by the Council of Trent in its solemn decree concerning the books to be regarded as sacred and canonical. It points out the very special esteem in which this didactic work was formerly held for the purpose for general reading and instruction in church meetings: this book alone, of all the deuterocanonical writings, which are also called Ecclesiastical by Rufinus, has preserved by way of pre-eminence the name of Ecclesiasticus (Liber), that is "a church reading book".

II. CONTENTS

The Book of Ecclesiasticus is preceded by a prologue which professes to be the work of the Greek translator of the origional Hebrew and the genuineness of which is undoubted. In this preface to his translation, the writer describes, among other things his frame of mind in undertaking the hard task of rendering the Hebrew text into Greek. He was deeply impressed by the wisdom of the sayings contained in the book, and therefore wished, by means of a translation, to place those valuable teachings within the reach of anyone desiring to avail himself of them for living in more perfect accord with the law of God. This was a most worthy object, and there is no doubt that in setting it before himself the translator of Ecclesiasticus had well realized the general character of the contents of that sacred writing. The fundamental thought of the author of Ecclesiasticus is that of wisdom as understood and inculcated in inspired Hebrew literature; for the contents of this book, however varied they may appear in other respects, admit of being naturally grouped under the genral heading of "Wisdom". Viewed from this standpoint, which is indeed universally regarded as the author's own standpoint, the contents of Ecclesiasticus may be divided into two great parts: chs. i-xlii, 14; and xlii, 15-1, 26. The sayings which chiefly make up the first part, tend directly to inculcate the fear of God and the fulfilment of His commands, wherein consists true wisdom. This they do by pointing out, in a concrete manner, how the truly wise man shall conduct himself in the manifold relationships of practical life. They afford a most varied fund of thoughtful rules for self-guidance

in joy and sorrow, in prosperity and adversity, in sickness and health, in struggle and temptation, in social life, in intercourse with friends and enemies, with high and low, rich and poor, with the good and wicked, the wise and the foolish, in trade, business, and one's ordinary calling, above all, in one's own house and family in connection with the training of children, the treatment of men-servants and maid-servants, and the way in which a man ought to behave towards his own wife and women generally (Schü rer).

Together with these maxims, which resemble closely both in matter and form the Proverbs of Solomon, the first part of Ecclesiasticus includes several more or less long descriptions of the origin and excellence of wisdom (cf. i; iv, 12-22; vi, 18-37; xiv, 22-xv, 11; xxiv). The contents of the second part of the book are of a decidely more uniform character, but contribute no less effectively to the setting forth of the general topic of Ecclesiasticus. They first describe at length the Divine wisdom so wonderfully displayed in the realm of nature (xlii, 15-xliii), and next illustrate the practice of wisdom in the various walks of life, as made known by the history of Israel's worthies, from Enoch down to the high priest Simon, the writer's holy contemporary (xliv-1, 26). At the close of the book (1, 27-29), there is first, a short conclusion containing the author's subscription and the express declaration of his general purpose; and next, an appendix (li) in which the writer returns thanks to God for His benefits, and especially for the gift of wisdom and to which are subjoined in the Hebrew text recently discovered, a second subscription and the following pious ejaculation: "Blessed be the name Of Yahweh from this time forth and for evermore."

III. ORIGINAL TEXT

Until quite recently the original language of the Book of Ecclesiasticus was a matter of considerable doubt among scholars. They, of course, know that the Greek translator's prologue states that the work was originally written in "Hebrew", hebraisti, but they were in doubt as to the precise signification of this term, which might mean either Hebrew proper or Aramaic. They were likewise aware that St. Jerome, in his preface to the Solomonic writings, speaks of a Hebrew original as in existence in his day, but it still might be doubted whether it was truly a Hebrew text, or not rather a Syriac or Aramaic translation in Hebrew characters. Again, in their eyes, the citation of the book by rabbinical writers, sometimes in Hebrew, sometimes in Aramaic, did not appear decisive, since it was not certain that they came from a Hebrew original. And this was their view also with regard to the quotations, this time in classical Hebrew, by the Bagdad gaon Saadia of the tenth century of our era, that is of the period after which all documentary traces of a Hebrew text of Ecclesiasticus practically disappear from the Christian world. Still, most critics were of the mind that the primitive language of the book was Hebrew, not Aramaic. Their chief argument for this was that the Greek version contains certain errors: for example, xxiv, 37 (in Gr., verse 27), "light" for "Nile" (xx); xxv, 22 (Gr. verse 15), "head" for "poison" (xx); xlvi. 21 (Gr., verse 18), "Tyrians" for "enemies" (xxx); etc.; these are best accounted for by supposing that the translator misunderstood a Hebrew original before him. And so the matter stood until the year 1896, which marks the beginning of an entirely new period in the history of the original text of Ecclesiasticus. Since that time, much documentary evidence has come to light, and intends to show that the book was originally written in Hebrew. The first fragments of a Hebrew text of Ecclesiasticus (xxxix, 15-xl, 6) were brought from the East to Cambridge, England, by Mrs. A.S. Lewis; they were identified in May 1896, and published in "The Expositor" (July, 1896) by S. Schechter, reader in Talmudic at Cambridge University. About the same time, in a box of fragments acquired from the Cairo genizzah through Professor Sayce for the Bodleian Library, Oxford, nine leaves apparently of the same manuscript (now called B) and containing xl, 9-xlix, 11, were found by A.E. Cowley and Ad. Neubauer, who also soon published them (Oxford, 1897) Next followed the identification by Professor Schechter, first, of seven leaves of the same Codex (B), containing xxx, 11-xxxi, 11; xxxii, 1b-xxxiii 3; xxxv, 11-xxxvi, 21; xxxvii, 30-xxxviii, 28b; xlix, 14c-li, 30; and next, of four leaves of a different manuscript (called A), and presenting iii, 6e-vii, 31a; xi, 36d-xvi, 26. These eleven leaves had been discovered by Dr.. Schechtler in the fragments brought by him from the Cairo genizzah; and it is among matter obtained from the same source by the British Museum, that G. Margoliouth found and published., in 1899, four pages of the manuscript B containing xxxi, 12-xxxii, 1a; xxxvi, 21-xxxvii, 29. Early in 1900, I. Lé vi published two pages from a third manuscript (C), xxxvi, 29a-xxxviii, la, that is, a passage already contained in Codex Bl and two from a fourth manuscript (D), presenting in a defective manner, vi, 18-vii, 27b, that is, a section already found in Codes A. Early in 1900, too, E. N. Adler published four pages of manuscript A, vix. vii, 29-xii, 1; and S. Schechter, four pages of manuscript C, consisting of mere excerpts from iv, 28b-v, 15c; xxv, 11b-xxvi, 2a. Lastly, two pages of manuscript D were discovered by Dr. M.S. Gaster, and contain a few verses of chaps. xviii, xix, xx, xxvii, some of which already appear in manuscripts B and C. Thus be the middle of the year 1900, more than one-half of a Hebrew text of Ecclesiasticus had been identified and published by scholars. (In the foregoing indications of the newly-discovered fragments of the Hebrew, the chapters and verses given are according to the numbering in the Latin Vulgate).

As might naturally be anticipated, and indeed it was desirable that it should so happen, the publication of these various fragments gave rise to a controversy as to the originality of the text therein exhibited. At a very early stage in that publication, scholars easily noticed that although the Hebrew language of the fragments was apparently classical, it nevertheless contained readings which might lead one to suspect its actual dependence on the Greek and Syriac versions of Ecclesiasticus. Whence it manifestly imported to determine whether, and if so, to what extent, the Hebrew fragments reproduced an original text of the book, or on the contrary, simply presented a late retranslation of Ecclesiasticus into Hebrew by means of the versions just named. Both Dr. G. Bickell and Professor D.S. Margoliouth, that is, the two men who but shortly before the discovery of the Hebrew fragments of Ecclesiasticus had attempted to retranslate small parts of the book into Hebrew, declared themselves openly against the originality of the newly found Hebrew text. It may indeed be admitted that the efforts naturally entailed by their own work of retranslation had especially fitted Margoliouth and Bickell for noticing and appreciating those features which even now appear to many scholars to tell in favour of a certain connection of the Hebrew text with the Greek and Syriac versions. It remains true, however, that, with the exception of Israel Lé vi and perhaps a few others, the most prominent Biblical and Talmudic scholars of the day are of the mind that the Hebrew fragments present an original text. They think that the arguments and inferences most vigorously urged by Professor D.S. Margoliouth in favour of his view have been disposed of through a comparison of the fragments published in 1899 and 1900 with those that had appeared at an earlier date, and through a close study of nearly all the facts now available. They readily admit in the manuscripts thus far recovered, scribal faults, doublets, Arabisms, apparent traces of dependence on extant versions, etc. But to their minds all such defects do not disprove the originality of the Hebrew text, inasmuch as they can, and indeed in a large number of cases must, be accounted for by the very late characrter of the copies now in our possession. The Hebrew fragments of Ecclesiasticus belong, at the earliest, to the tenth, or even the eleventh, century of our era, and by that late date all kinds of errors could naturally be expected to have crept into the origional language of the book, because the Jewish copyists of the work did not regard it as canonical. At the same time these defects do not disfigure altogether the manner of Hebrew in which Ecclesiasticus was primitively written. The language of the fragments is manifestly not rabbinic, but classical Hebrew; and this conclusion is decidely borne out by a comparison of their text with that of the quotations from Ecclesiasticus, both in the Talmud and in the Saadia, which have already been referred to. Again, the Hebrew of the newly found fragments, although classical, is yet one of a distinctly late type, and it supplies considerable material for lexicographic research. Finally, the comparatively large number of the Hebrew manuscripts recently discovered in only one place (Cairo) points to the fact that the work in its primitive form was often transcribed in ancient times, and thus affords hope that other copies, more or less complete, of the original text may be discovered at some future date. To render their study convenient, all the extant fragments have been brought together in a splendid edition. "Facsimiles of the Fragments hitherto recovered of the Book of Ecclesiasticus in Hebrew" (Oxford and Cambridge, 1901). The metrical and strophic structure of parts of the newly discovered text has been particularly investigated by H. Grimme and N. Schlogl, whose success in the matter is, to say the least, indifferent; and by Jos. Knabenbauer, S.J. in a less venturesome way, and hence with more satisfactory results.

IV. ANCIENT VERSIONS

It was, of course, from a Hebrew text incomparably better than the one we now possess that the grandson of the author of Ecclesiasticus rendered, the book into Greek. This translator was a Palestinian Jew, who came to Egypt at a certain time, and desired to make the work accessible in a Greek dress to the Jews of the Dispersion, and no doubt also to all lovers of wisdom. His name is unknown, although an ancient, but little reliable, tradition ("Synopsis Scripurae Sacrae" in St. Athanasius's works) calls him Jesus, the son of Sirach. His literary qualifications for the task he undertook and carried out cannot be fully ascertained at the present day. He is commonly regarded, however, from the general character of his work, as a man of good general culture, with a fair command of both Hebrew and Greek. He was distinctly aware of the great difference which exists between the respective genius of these two languages, and of the consequent difficulty attending the efforts of one who aimed atgving a satisfactory Greek version of a Hebrew writing, and therefore begs expressely, in his prologue to the work, his readers' indulgence for whatever shortcomings they may notice in his translation. He claims to have spent much time and labour on his version of Ecclesiasticus, and it is only fair to suppose that his work was not only a conscientious, but also, on the whole, a successful, rendering of the original Hebrew. One can but speak in this guarded manner of the exact value of the Greek translation in its primitive form for the simple reason that a comparison of its extant manuscripts -- all apparently derived from a single Greek exemplar -- shows that the primitive translation has been very often, and in many cases seriously, tampered with. The great uncial codices, the Vatican, the Sinaitic, the Ephraemitic, and partly the Alexandrian, though comparatively free from glosses, contain an inferior text; the better form of the text seems to be preserved in the Venetus Codex and in certain cursive manuscripts, though these have many glosses. Undoubtedly, a fair number of these glosses may be referred safely to the translator himself, who, at times added one word, or even a few words to the original before him, to make the meaning clearer or to guard the text against possible misunderstanding. But the great bulk of the glosses resemble the Greek additions in the Book of Proverbs; they are expansions of the thought, or hellenizing interpretations, or additions from current collections of gnomic sayings. The following are the best-ascertained results which flow from a comparison of the Greek version with the text of our Hebrew fragments. Oftentimes, the corruptions of the Hebrew may be discovered by means of the Greek; and, conversely, the Greek text is proved to be defective, in the line of additions or omissions, by references to parallel places in the Hebrew. At times, the Hebrew discloses considerable freedom of rendering on the part of the Greek translator; or enables one to perceive how the author of the version mistook one Hebrew letter for another; or again, affords us a means to make sense out of an unintelligible expressions in the Greek text. Lastly, the Hebrew text confirms the order of the contents in xxx-xxxvi which is presented by the Syriac, Latin, and Armenian versions, over against the unnatural order found in all existing Greek manuscripts. Like the Greek, the Syriac version of Ecclesiasticus was made directly from the original Hebrew. This is wellnigh universally admitted; and a comparison of its text with that of the newly found Hebrew fragments should settle the point forever; as just stated, the Syriac version gives the same order as the Hebrew text for the contents of xxx-xxxvi; in particular, it presents mistaken renderings, the origin of which, while inexplicable by supposing a Greek original as its basis, is easily accounted for by reference to the text from which it was made must have been very defective, as is proved by the numerous and important lacunae in the Syriac translation. It seems, likewise, that the Hebrew has been rendered by the translator himself in a careless, and at times even arbitrary manner. The Syriac version has all the less critical value at the present day, because it was considerably revised at an unknown date, by means of the Greek translation.

Of the other ancient versions of Ecclesiasticus, the Old Latin is the most important. It was made before St. Jerome's time, although the precise date of its origin cannot now be ascertained; and the holy doctor apparently revised its text but little, previously to its adoption into the Latin Vulgate. The unity of the Old Latin version, which was formerly undoubted, has been of late seriously questioned, and Ph. Thielmann, the most recent investigator of its text in this respect, thinks that chs. xliv-1 are due to a translator other than that of the rest of the book, the former part being of European, the latter and chief part of African, origin. Conversely, the view formerly doubted by Cornelius a Lapide, P. Sabatier, E.G. Bengel, etc., namely that the Latin version was made directly from the Greek, is now considered as altogether certain. The version has retained many Greek words in a latinized form: eremus (vi, 3); eucharis (vi, 5); basis (vi, 30); acharis (xx, 21), xenia (xx, 31); dioryx (xxiv, 41); poderes (xxvii, 9); etc., etc., together with certain Graecisms of construction; so that the text rendered into Latin was unquestionably Greek, not the original Hebrew. It is indeed true that other features of the Old Latin -- notably its order for xxx-xxxvi, which disagrees with the Greek translation, and agrees with the Hebrew text -- seem to point to the conclusion that the Latin version was based immediately on the original Hebrew. But a very recent and critical examination of all such features in i-xliii has let H. Herkenne to a different conclusion; all things taken into consideration, he is of the mind that: "Nititur Vetus Latina textu vulgari graeco ad textum hebraicum alterius recensionis graece castigato." (See also Jos. Knabenbauer, S.J., "In Ecclesiaticum", p. 34 sq.) Together with graecized forms, the Old Latin translation of Ecclesiasticus presents many barbarisms and solecisms (such as defunctio, i, 13; religiositas, i, 17, 18, 26; compartior, i, 24; receptibilis, ii, 5; peries, periet, viii, 18; xxxiii, 7; obductio, ii, 2; v, 1, 10; etc.), which, to the extent in which they can be actually traced back to the original form of ther version, go to show that the translator had but a poor command of the Latin language. Again, from a fair number of expressions which are certainly due to the translator, it may be inferred that at times, he did not catch the sense of the Greek, and that at other times he was too free in rendering the text before him. The Old Latin version abounds in additional lines or even verses foreign not only to the Greek, but also to the Hebrew text. Such important additions -- which often appear clearly so from the fact that they interfere with the poetical parallelisms of the book -- are either repetitions of preceding statements under a slightly different form, or glosses inserted by the translator or the copyists. Owing to the early origin of the Latin version (probably the second century of our era), and to its intimate connection with both the Greek and Hebrew texts, a good edition of its primitive form, as far as this form can be ascertained, is one of the chief things to be desired for the textual criticism of Ecclesiasticus. Among the other ancient versions of the Book of Ecclesiasticus which are derived from the Greek, the Ethiopic, Arabic, and Coptic are worthy of special mention.

V. AUTHOR AND DATE

The author of the Book of Ecclesiasticus is not King Solomon, to whom, at St. Augustine bears witness, the work was oftentimes ascribed "on account of some resemblance of style" with that of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Canticle of Canticles, but to whom, as the same holy doctor says, "the more learned" (apparently among the church writers of the time) "know full well that it should not be referred" (On the City of God, Bk. XVII, ch xx). 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. His close acquaintance with "the Law, the Prophets, and the other books delivered from the fathers", that is, with the three classes of writings which make up the Hebrew Bible, is distinctly borne witness to by the prologue to the work; and the 367 idioms or phrases, which the study of the Hebrew fragments has shown to be derived from the sacred books of the Jews, are an ample proof that Jesus, the son of Sirach, was thoroughly acquainted with the Biblical text. He was a philisophical observer of life, as can be easily inferred from the nature of his thought, and he himself speaks of the wider knowledge which he acquired by traveling much, and of which he, of course, availed himself in writing his work (xxxiv, 12). The particular period in the author's life to which the composition of the book should be referred cannot be defined, whatever conjectures may have been put forth in that regard by some recent scholars. The data to which others have appealed (xxxi, 22, sqq.; xxxviii, 1-15; etc.) to prove that he was a physician are insufficent evidence; while the similarity of the names (Jason-Jesus) is no excuse for those who have identified Jesus, the son of Sirach, a man of manifestly pious and honourable character with the ungodly and hellenizing high priest Jason (175-172 B.C. -- concerning Jason's wicked deeds, see 2 Maccabees 4:7-26).

The time at which Jesus, the author of Ecclesiasticus, lived has been the matter of much discussion in the past. But at the present day, it admits of being given with tolerable precision. Two data are particularly helpful for this purpose. The first is supplied by the Greek prologue, where he came into Egypt en to ogdoo kai triakosto etei epi tou Euergetou Basileos, not long after which he rendered into Greek his grandfather's work. The "thirty-eighth year" here spoken of by the translator does not mean that of his own age, for such a specification would be manifestly irrelevant. It naturally denotes the date of his arrival in Egypt with a reference to the years of rule of the then monarch, the Egyptian Ptolemy Euergetes; and in point of fact, the Greek grammatical construction of the passage in the prologue is that usually employed into the Septuagint version to give the year of rule of a prince (cf. Haggai 1:1, 10; Zechariah 1:1, 7; 7:1; 1 Maccabees 12:42; 14:27; etc.). There were indeed two Ptolemys of the surname Euergetes (Benefactor): Ptolemy III and Ptolemy VII (Physcon). But to decide which is the one actually meant by the author of the prologue is an easy matter. As the first, Ptolemy III, reigned only twenty-five years (247-222 B.C.) it must be the second, Ptolemy VII, who in intended. This latter prince shared the throne along with his brother (from 170 B.C. onwards), and afterwards ruled alone (from 145 B.C. onwards). But he was wont to reckon the years of his reign from the earlier date. Hence "the thirty-eighth year of Ptolemy Euergetes", in which the grandson of Jesus, the son of Sirach, came to Egypt, is the year 132 B.C. This being the case, the translator's grandfather, the author of Ecclesiasticus, may be regarded as having lived and written his work between forty and sixty years before (between 190 and 170 B.C.), for there can be no doubt that in referring to Jesus by means of the term pappos and of the definite phrase ho pappos mou Iesous, the writer of the prologue designated his grandfather, and not a more remote ancestor. The second datum that is particularly available for determining the time at which the writer of Ecclesiasticus lived is supplied by the book itself. It has long been felt that since the son of Sirach celebrated with such a genuine glow of enthusiam the deeds of "the high priest Simon, son of Onias", whom he praises as the last in the long line of Jewish worthies, he must himself have been an eyewitnes of the glory which he depicts (cf. 1, 1-16, 22, 23). This was, of course, but an inference and so long as it was based only on a more or less subjective appreciation of the passage, one can easily undertand why many scholars questioned, or even rejected, its correctness. But with the recent discovery of the original Hebrew of the passage, there has come in a new, and distinctly objective, element, whcih places practically beyond doubt the correctness of the inference. In the Hebrew text, immediatley after his eulogism of the high priest Simon, the writer subjoins the following fervent prayer:

May His (i.e. Yahweh's) mercy be continually with Simon, and may He establish with him the covenant of Phineas, that will endure with him and with his seed, as the says of heaven (I, 24).

Obviously, Simon was yet alive when this prayer was thus formulated; and its actual wording in the Hebrew implies this so manifestly, that when the author's grandson rendered it into Greek, at a date when Simon had been dead for some time, he felt it necessary to modify the text before him, and hence rendered it in the following general manner:

May His mercy be continually with us, and may He redeem us in His days. Besides thus allowing us to realize the fact that Jesus, the son of Sirach, was a contemporary of the high priest Simon, chap. 1 of Ecclesiasticus affords us certain details which enable us to decide which of the two Simons, both high priests and sons of Onias and known in Jewish history, is the one described by the writer of the book. On the one hand, the only known title of Simon I (who held the pontificate under Ptolemy Soter, about 300 B.C.) which would furnish a reason for the great ecomium passed upon Simon in Ecclus., l is the surname "the Just" (cf. Josephus, Antiq. of the Jews, Bk.XII, chap. ii, 5), whence it is inferred that he was a renowned high priest worthy of being celebrated among the Jewish heroes praised by the son of Dirach. On the other hand, such details given in Simon's panegyric, as the facts that he repaired and strengthened the Temple, fortified the city against siege, and protected the city against robbers (cf. Ecclus., 1 1-4), are in close agreement with what is known of the times of Simon II (about 200 B.C.). While in the days of Simon I, and immediately after, the people were undisturbed by foreign aggression, in those of Simon II the Jews were sorely harrassed by hostile armies, and their territory was invaded by Antiochus, as we are informed by Josephus (Antiq. of the Jews, Bk. XII, chap. iii, 3). It was also in the later time of Simon II that Ptolemy Philopator was prevented only by the high priest's prayer to God, from desecrating the Most Holy Place; he then started a fearful persecution of the Jews at home and abroad (cf. III Mach., ii, iii). It appears from these facts -- to which others, pointing in the same direction, could easily be added -- that the author of Ecclesiasticus lived about the beginning of the second century B.C. As a matter of fact, recent Catholic scholars, in increasing number, prefer this position that which identifies the high priest Simon, spoken of in Ecclus., l, with Simon I, and which, in consequence, refers the composition of the book to about a century earlier (about 280 B.C.)

VI. METHOD OF COMPOSITION

At the present day, there are two principal views concerning the manner in which the writer of Ecclesiasticus composed his work, and it is difficult to say which is the more probable. The first, held by many scholars, maintains that an impartial study of the topics treated and of their actual arrangement leads to the conclusion that the whole book is the work of a single mind. Its advocates claim that, throughout the book, one and the same general purpose can be easily made out, to wit: the purpose of teaching the practical value of Hebrew wisdom, and that one and the same method in handling the materials can be readily noticed, the writer always showing wide acquaintance with men and things, and never citing any exterior authority for what he says. They affirm that a careful examination of the contents disclosed a distinct unity of mental attitude on the author's part towards the same leading topics, towards God, life, the Law, wisdom, etc. They do not deny the existence of differences of tone in the book, but think that they are found in various paragraphs relating to minor topics; that the diversities thus noticed do not go beyond the range of one man's experience; that the author very likely wrote at different intervals and under a variety of circumstances, so that it is not to be wondered at if pieces thus composed bear the manifest impress of a somewhat different frame of mind. Some of them actually go so far as to admit that the writer of Ecclesiasticus may at times have collected thoughts and maxims that were already in current and popular use, may even have drawn material from collections of wise sayings no longer extant or from unpublished discourses of sages; but they, each and all, are positive that the author of the book "was not a mere collector or compiler; his characteristic personality stands out too distinctly and prominently for that, and notwithstanding the diversified character of the apophthegms, they are all the outcome of one connected view of life and of the world" (Schürer). The second view maintains that the Book of Ecclesiasticus was composed by a process of compilation. According to the defenders of this position, the compilatory character of the book does not necessarily conflict with a real unity of general purpose pervading and connecting the elements of the work; such a purpose proves, indeed, that one mind has bound those elements together for a common end, but it really leaves untouched the question at issue, viz. whether that one mind must be considered as the original author of the contents of the book, or, rather, as the combiner of pre-existing materials. Granting, then, the existence of one and the same general purpose in the work of the son of Sirach, and admitting likewise the fact that certain portions of Ecclesiasticus belong to him as the original author, they think that, on the whole, the book is a compilation. Briefly stated, the following are their grounds for their position. In the first place, from the very nature of his work, the author was like "a gleaner after the grape-gatherers"; and in thus speaking of himself (xxxiii, 16) he gives us to understand that he was a collector or compiler. In the second place, the structure of the work still betrays a compilatory process. The concluding chapter (li) is a real appendix to the book, and was added to it after the completion of the work, as is proved by the colophon in 1, 29 sqq. The opening chapter reads like a general introduction to the book, and indeed as one different in tone from the chapters by which its immediately followed, while it resembes some distinct sections which are embodied in furthur chapters of the work. In the body of the book, ch. xxxvi, 1-19, is a prayer for the Jews of the Dispersion, altogether unconnected with the sayings in verses 20 sqq. of the same chapter; ch. xliii, 15-1, 26, is a discourse clearly separate from the prudential maxims by which it is immediatley preceded; chs. xvi, 24; xxiv, 1; xxxix, 16, are new starting-points, which, no less than the numerous passages marked by the address my son (ii, 1; iii, 19; iv, 1, 23; vi, 18, 24, 33; etc.). and the peculiar addition in 1, 27, 28, tell against the literary unity of the work. Other marks of a compilatory process have also been appealed to. They consist in the significant repetition of several sayings in different places of the book (cf. xx, 32, 33, which is repeated in xli, 17b, 18; etc.); in apparent discrepancies of thought and doctrine (cf. the differences of tone in chs. xvi; xxv; xxix, 21-41; xl, 1-11; etc); in certain topical headings at the beginning of special sections (cf. xxxi, 12; 41:16; 44:1 in the Hebrew); and in an additonal psalm or canticle found in the newly discovered Hebrew text, between li, 12, and li, 13; all of which are best accounted for by the use of several smaller collections containing each the same saying, or differing considerably in their genral tenor, or supplies with their respective titles. Finally, there seems to be an historical trace of the compilatory character of Ecclesiasticus in a second, but unauthentic, prologue to the book, which is found in the "Synopsis Sacrae Scripturae". In this document, which is printed in the works of St. Athanasius and also at the beginning of Ecclesiasticus in the Complutensian Polyglot, the actual redaction of the book is ascribed to the Greek translator as a regular process of compilation detached hymns, sayings, prayers, etc., which had been left him by his grandfather, Jesus, the son of Sirach.

VII. DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL TEACHING

Before setting forth in a summary way the principal teachings, doctrinal and ethical, contained in the Book of Ecclesiasticus, it will not be amiss to premise two remarks which, however elementary, should be distinctly borne in mind by anyone who wished to view the doctrines of the son of Sirach in their proper light. First, it would be obviously unfair to require that the contents of this Sapiential book should come full up to the high moral standards of Christian ethics, or should equal in clearness and precision the dogmatic teachings embodied in the sacred writings of the New Testament or in the living tradition of the Church; all that can be reasonabley expected of a book composed some time before the Christian Dispensation, is that it shall set forth subsantially good, not perfect, doctrinal and ethical teaching. In the second place, both good logic and sound common sense demand that the silence of Ecclesiasticus concerning certain points of doctrine be not regarded as a positive denial of them, unless it can be clearly and conclusively shown that such a silence must be so construed. The work is mostly made up of unconnected sayings which bear on all kinds of topics, and on that account, hardly ever, if ever at all, will a sober critic be able to pronounce on the actual motive which prompted the author of the book either to mention or to omit a particular point of doctrine. Nay more, in presence of a writer manifestly wedded to the national and religious traditions of the Jewish race as the general tone of his book proves the author of Ecclesiasticus to have been, every scholar worthy of the name will readily see that silence on Jesus' part regarding some important doctrine, such for instance as that of the Messias, is no proof whatever that the son of Sirach did not abide by the belief of the Jews concerning that doctrine, and, in reference to the special point just mentioned, did not share the Messianic expectations of his time. As can readily be seen, the two general remarks just made simply set forth the elementary canons of historical criticism; and they would not have been dwelt on here were it not that they have been very often lost sight of by Protestant scholars, who, biased by their desire to disprove the Catholic doctrine of the inspired character of Ecclesiasticus, have done their utmost to depreciate the doctrinal and ethical teaching of this deuterocanonical book.

The following are the principal dogmatic doctrines of Jesus, the son of Sirach. According to him, as according to all the other inspired writers of the Old Testament, God is one and there is no God beside Him (xxxvi, 5). He is a living and eternal God (xviii, 1), and although His greatness and mercy exceed all human comprehension, yet He makes Himself known to man through His wonderful works (xvi, 18, 23 xviii, 4). He is the creator of all things (xviii, 1; xxiv, 12), which He produced by His word of command, stamping them all with the marks of greatness and goodness (xlii, 15-xliii ; etc.). Man is the choice handiwork of God, who made him for His glory, set him as king over all other creatures (xvii, 1-8), bestowed upon him the power of choosing between good and evil (xv, 14-22), and will hold him accountable for his own personal deeds (xvii, 9-16), for while tolerating, moral evil He reproves it and enables man to avoid it (xv, 11-21). In dealing with man, God is no less merciful than righteous: "He is mighty to forgive" (xvi, 12), and: "How great is the mercy of the Lord, and His forgiveness to them that turn to Him" (xvii, 28); yet no one should presume on the Divine mercy and hence delay his conversion, "for His wrath shall come on a sudden, and in the time of vengeance He will destroy thee" (v, 6-9). From among the children of men, God selected for Himself a special nation, Israel, in the midst of which He wills that wisdom should reside (xxiv, 13-16), and in behalf of which the son of Sirach offers up a fervent prayer, replete with touching remembrances of God's mercies to the patriarchs and prophets of old, and with ardent wishes for the reunion and exaltation of the chosen people (xxxvi, 1-19). It is quite clear that the Jewish patriot who put forth this petition to God for future national quiet and prosperity, and who furthermore confidently expected that Elias's return would contribute to the glorious restoration of all Israel (cf. xlviii, 10), looked forward to the introduction of Messianic times. It remains true, however, that in whatever way his silence be accounted for, he does not speak anywhere of a special interposition of God in behalf of the Jewish people, or of the future coming of a personal Messias. He manifestly alludes to the narrative of the Fall, when he says: "From the woman came the beginning of sin, and by her we all die" (xxv, 33), and apparently connects with this original deviation from righteousness the miseries and passions that weigh so heavily on the children of Adam (xl, 1-11). He says very little concerning the next life. Earthly rewards occupy the most prominent, or perhaps even the sole, place, in the author's mind, as a sanction for present good or evil deeds (xiv, 22-xv, 6; xvi, 1-14); but this will not appear strange to anyone who is acquainted with the limitations of Jewish eschatology in the more ancient parts of the Old Testament. He depicts death in the light of a reward or of a punishment, only in so far as it is either a quiet demise for the just or a final deliverance from earthly ills (xli, 3, 4), or, on the contrary, a terrible end that overtakes the sinner when he least expects it (ix, 16, 17). As regards the underworld or Sheol, it appears to the writer nothing but a mournful place where the dead do not praise God (xvii, 26, 27)

The central, dogmatic, and moral idea of the book is that of wisdom. Ben Sira describes it under several important aspects. When he speaks of it in relation to God, he almost invariable invests it with personal attributes. It is eternal (i, 1), unsearchaable (i, 6, 7), universal (xxiv, 6 sqq.). It is the formative, creative power of the world (xxiv, 3 sqq.), yet is itself created (i, 9; also in Greek: xxiv, 9), and is nowhere treated as a distinct, subsisting Divine Person, in the Hebrew text. In relation to man, wisdom is depicted as a quality which comes form the Almighty and works most excellent effects in those who love Him (i, 10-13). It is identified with the "fear of God" (i, 16), which should of course prevail in a special manner in Israel, and promote among the Hebrews the perfect fulfilment of the Mosaic Law, which the author of Ecclesasticus regards as the living embodiment of God d wisdom (xxiv, 11-20, 32, 33). It is a priceless treasure, to the acquistion of which one must devote all his efforts, and the imparting of which to others one should never grudge (vi, 18-20; xx, 32, 33). It is a disposition of the heart which prompts man to practise the virtues of faith, hope, and love of God (ii, 8-10), of trust and submission, etc. (ii, 18-23; x, 23-27; etc.); which also secures for him happiness and glory in this life (xxxiv, 14-20; xxxiii, 37, 38; etc.). It is a frame of mind which prevents the discharge of the ritual law, especially the offering of sacrifices, from becoming a heartless compliance with mere outward observances, and it causes man to place inward righeousness far above the offering of rich gifts to God (xxxv). As can readily be seen, the author of Ecclesiasticus inculcated in all this a teaching far superior to that of the Pharisees of a somewhat later date, and in no way inferior to that of the prophets and of the commendable, too, are the numerous pithy sayings which the son of Sirach gives for the avoidance of sin, wherein the negative part of practical wisdom may be said to consist. His maxims against pride (iii, 30; vi, 2-4; x, 14-30; etc.), covetousness (iv, 36; v, 1; xi, 18-21), envy, (xxx, 22-27; xxxvi, 22), impurity(ix, 1-13; xix, 1-3; etc.).anger (xviii, 1-14; x, 6), intemperance (xxxvii, 30-34). sloth (vii, 16; xxii, 1, 2), the sins of the tongue(iv, 30; vli, 13, 14; xi, 2, 3; i, 36-40; v, 16, 17; xxviii, 15-27; etc.), evil company, (xi, 31-36; xxii, 14-18; etc.), display a close observation of human nature, stigmatize vice in a forcible manner, and at times point out the remedy against the spiritual distemper. Indeed, it is probably no less because of the success which Ben Sira attained to in branding vice than because of that which he obtained in directly inculcating virtue, that his work was so willingly used in the early days of Christianity for public reading at church, and bears, down to the present day, the pre-eminent title of "Ecclesiasticus".

Together with these maxims, which nearly all bear on what may be called individual morality, the Book of Ecclesiasticus contains valuable lessons relative to the various classes which make up human society. The natural basis of society is the family, and the son of Sirach supplies a number of pieces of advice especially appropriate to the domestic circles as it was then constituted. He would have the man who wishes to become the head of a family determined in the choice of a wife by her moral worth (xxxvi, 23-26; xl, 19-23). He repeatedly describes the precious advantages resulting from the possession of a good wife, and contrasts with them the misery entailed by the choice of an unworthy one (xxvi, 1-24; xxv, 17-36). The man, as the head of the family, he represents indeed as vested with more power than would be granted to him among us, but he does not neglect to point out his numerous responsibilities towards those under him: to his children, especially his daughter, whose welfare he might more particularly be tempted to neglect (vii, 25 sqq.), and his slaves, concerning whom he writes: "Let a wise servant be dear to thee as they own soul" (vii, 23; xxxiii, 31), not meaning thereby, however, to encourage the servant's idleness or other vices (xxxiii, 25-30). The duties of children towards their parents are often and beautifully insisted upon (vii, 29, 30, etc.). The son of Sirach devoted a variety of sayings to the choice and the worth of a real friend (vi, 6-17; ix, 14, 15; xii, 8, 9), to the care with which such a one should be preserved (xxii, 25-32), and also to the worthlessness and dangers of the unfaithful friend (xxvii, 1-6, 17-24; xxxiii, 6). The author has no brief against those in power but on the contrary considers it an expression of God's will that some should be in exalted, and others in humble, stations in life (xxxiii, 7-15). He conceives of the various classes of society, of the poor and the rich, the learned and the ignorant, as able to become endowed with wisdom (xxxvii, 21-29). He would have a prince bear in mind that he is in God's hand, and owes equal justice to all, rich and poor (v, 18; x, 1-13). He bids the rich give alms, and visit the poor and the afflicted (iv, 1-11; vii, 38, 39; xii, 1-7; etc.), for almsgiving is a means to obtain forgiveness of sin (iii, 33, 34; vii, 10, 36) whereas hardheartedness is in every way hurtful 9xxxiv, 25-29). On the other hand, he directs the lower classes, as we might call them, to show themselves submissive to those in higher condition and to bear patiently with those who cannot be safely and directly resisted (viii, 1-13; ix, 18-21; xiii, 1-8). Nor is the author of Ecclesiasticus anything like a misanthrope that would set himself up resolutely against the legitmate pleasures and the received customs of social life (xxxi, 12-42; xxxii, 1 sqq.); while he directs severe but just rebukes against the parasite (xxix, 28-35; xi, 29-32). Finally, he has favourable sayings about the physician (xxviii, 1-15(, and about the dead (vii, 37; xxxviii, 16-24); and strong words of caution against the dangers which one incurs in the pursuit of business (xxvi, 28; xxvii, 1-4; viii, 15, 16).

Publication information Written by Francis E. Gigot. Transcribed by Beth Ste-Marie. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V. Published 1909. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York

Bibliography

Catholic authors are marked with an asterik (*) Commentaries: CALMET* (Venice, 1751): FRITZSCHE, (Leipzig, 1859); BISSELL (New York, 1880); LESETRE* (Paris, 1880); EDERSHEIM (London-1888); ZOCKLER, (Munich, 1891); RYSSEL (Tubingen, 1900-1901); KNABENBAUER* (Paris, 1902). Introductions to the Old Testament: RAULT* (Paris, 1882); VIGOUROUX* (Paris, 1886); CORNELY* (Paris, 1886); TRONCHON-LESETRE* (Paris, 1890); KONIG (Bonn, 1893); CORNILL, (Freiburg, 1899); GIGOT* (New York, 1906) Monographs on Ancient Versions: PETERS* (Freiburg, 1898); HERKENNE* (Leipzig, 1899). Literature on Hebrew Fragments: TOUZARD* (Paris, 1901); KNABENBAUER* (Paris, 1902).


Wisdom of Jesus the son of Sirach

Jewish Perspective Information

ARTICLE HEADINGS:

Names.

Author.

Date.

Contents.

Importance for the History of Thought.

Possible Traces of Hellenic Influence.

Popularity Among the Jews.

Popularity Among Christians.

Discovery of Hebrew Fragments.

Manuscripts.

Originality of the Hebrew Fragments.

The Final Hymn.

Critical Value of the Hebrew Text.

Importance for the History of the Bible.

The Greek Version.

The Vetus Latina.

Syriac Version.

Names.

Among the books of the Greek Bible is one entitled Σοφία Ἰησοῦ ϒἱοῦ Σιράχ (Codices Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus) or simply Σοφία Σειρáχ (Codex Vaticanus). The Greek Church Fathers called it also "The All-Virtuous Wisdom" (Πανάρετος Σοφία; Eusebius, "Chronicon," ed. Schoene, ii. 122; Ἡ Πανάρετος; Jerome, Commentary on Dan. ix.) or "The Mentor" (Παιδαγωγός; Clement of Alexandria, "Pædagogus," ii. 10, 99, 101, 109); while the Latin Church Fathers, beginning with Cyprian ("Testimonia," ii. 1; iii. 1, 35, 51, 95, et passim), termed it "Ecclesiasticus." All these names testify to the high esteem in which the book was held in Christian circles. The Jews, who never admitted its canonicity, called it during the Talmudic period the "Book of Ben Sira" (Ḥag. 13a; Niddah 16b; Ber. 11b; et passim) or the "Books of Ben Sira" (; Yer. Sanh. 28a; Tosef., Yad. ii. 13; possibly a scribal error; comp. the parallel passage of Eccl. R. xii. 11), and a Hebrew copy in the possession of Jerome was entitled "Parabolæ" (= ). However, the fact that the verses of this work cited in the Midrash are preceded by the word "Mashal" or "Matla" does not prove that such was the title of the book, but simply that these verses had come to be accepted as proverbs (contrary to the view of Ryssel in Kautzsch, "Apokryphen," p. 232, where he attributes to Lévi the opinion expressed by Blau in "R. E. J." xxxv. 22). Nor is it possible to draw any inference from the fact that Saadia calls the book in Arabic "Kitab al-Adab"; for he certainly did not give this appellation (which he had no reason to translate) as the title, but, contrary to the opinion of Harkavy ("Studien und Mittheilungen," v. 200) and Blau (l.c.), merely as a description of the contents of the book. The Syriac name is "Ḥekmata de-Bar Sira" = "The Wisdom of Bar Sira."

Author.

The author, who, alone of all Old Testament and Apocryphal writers, signed his work, is called in the Greek text (l. 27) "Jesus the son of Sirach of Jerusalem." The oldest manuscripts (Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Venetus) add to Σειρáχ the name Ἐλεáζαρ or ἘλεΆζαροζ, an error for Ἐλεαζáρου, probably the name of his grandfather. The copy owned by Saadia (Harkavy, l.c. p. 150) had: = "Simon, son of Jesus, son of Eleazar ben Sira"; and a similar reading occurs in the Hebrew manuscript B, which will be discussed below. By interchanging the positions of the names "Simon" and "Jesus," the same reading is obtained as in the other manuscripts. The correctness of the name "Simon" is confirmed by the Syriac version, which has = "Jesus, son of Simon, surnamed Bar Asira." The discrepancy between the two readings "Bar Asira" and "Bar Sira" is a noteworthy one, "Asira" (= "prisoner") being a popular etymology of "Sira." The evidence seems to show that the author's name was Jesus, son of Simon, son of Eleazar ben Sira.

Every attempt to identify this writer with some member of the high-priestly family has proved a failure, the only basis for the supposition that Ben Sira was a priest being due to a scribal error; for while the Sinaitic manuscript reads ελεαζαροιερευσοσολυμειτης, this is, beyond all question, a scribal error, and should be emended to ελεαςαροιεροσολυμειτης (see ). According to the Greek version, though not according to the Syriac, the author traveled extensively (xxxiv. 11) and was frequently in danger of death (ib. verse 12). In the hymn of ch. li. he speaks of the perils of all sorts from which God had delivered him, although this is probably only a poetic theme in imitation of the Psalms. The calumnies to which he was exposed in the presence of a certain king, supposed to be one of the Lagi, are mentioned only in the Greek version, being ignored both in the Syriac and in the Hebrew text. The only fact known with certainty is that Ben Sira was a scholar, and a scribe thoroughly versed in the Law, and especially in the "Books of Wisdom." He was not, however, a rabbi, nor was he a physician, as has been conjectured (see especially xxxviii. 24 et seq., xlix. 1-5, and the introduction by his grandson).

Date.

The approximate date of the redaction of the book and the period of its author's literary activity are somewhat less doubtful. The Greek translator states in his preface that he was the grandson of the author, and that he came to Egypt in the thirty-eighth year of the reign of Euergetes, an epithet borne by only two of the Lagi, Ptolemy III. (247-222 B.C.) and Ptolemy VII. (sometimes reckonedIX.). The former monarch can not be intended in this passage; for his reign lasted only twenty-five years. The latter ascended the throne in the year 170, together with his brother Philometor; but he soon became sole ruler of Cyrene, and from 146 to 117 held sway over all Egypt, although he dated his reign from the year in which he received the crown (i.e., from 170). The translator must, therefore, have gone to Egypt in 132, and if the average length of two generations be reckoned Ben Sira's date must fall in the first third of the second century. The result of this reckoning is confirmed by the fact that the author evidently lived before the persecution of Antiochus in 168, since he does not allude to it. Another argument is commonly relied on. In ch. l. Ben Sira eulogizes a high priest named Simon, son of Johanan (Onias in G), this laudation being apparently an expression of the admiration aroused by actual sight of the object of his praise. There were, however, a number of high priests named Simon b. Onias, one of whom exercised his functions from 300 to 287, and another from 226 to 199. The Simon b. Johanan mentioned here can only be the second of the name; and as the passage seems to have been written after the high priest's death (l. 1-3), the date of its composition coincides approximately with the period mentioned above (190-170). The work is in reality a collection of maxims written at various times-a fact which also explains its frequent repetitions and contradictions. Attempts have indeed been made to refute these arguments. According to Josephus, Simon I., the Just (300-287), was the only high priest whom Ben Sira could thus have extolled, and the book would accordingly be a century older; as to the number 38, it might refer to the age of the translator when he arrived in Egypt. Indeed, the word πάππο ς does not necessarily mean "grandfather"; it may mean also "remote ancestor." This, it has been held, would account for the translator's frequent miscomprehension of Ben Sira's words, which would be very strange had he actually been the author's grandson. All these quibbles, however, which it would be idle again to refute, have been definitely abandoned.

Ecclesiasticus closely resembles Proverbs, except that, unlike the latter, it is the work of a single author, not an anthology of maxims drawn from various sources. Some, it is true, have denied Ben Sira the authorship of the apothegms, and have regarded him as a mere compiler, basing their arguments on his own words: "And I myself, the last, I set myself to watch, like him that gleaneth grapes after the vintage" (xxxiii. 16). This, however, is probably a simple expression of modesty. The frequent repetitions and even contradictions only prove that Ben Sira, like all moralists, did not compose the entire work at one time; moreover, the unity of the book, taken as a whole, is remarkable.

Contents.

The Book of Ecclesiasticus is a collection of moral counsels and maxims, often utilitarian in character and for the most part secular, although religious apothegms occasionally occur. They are applicable to all conditions of life: to parents and children, to husbands and wives, to the young, to masters, to friends, to the rich, and to the poor. Many of them are rules of courtesy and politeness; and a still greater number contain advice and instruction as to the duties of man toward himself and others, especially the poor, as well as toward society and the state, and most of all toward God. These precepts are arranged in verses, which are grouped according to their outward form in case their content is not intrinsically coherent. The sections are preceded by eulogies of wisdom which serve as introductions and mark the divisions into which the collection falls.

Wisdom, in Ben Sira's view, is synonymous with the fear of God, and sometimes is confounded in his mind with the Mosaic law. It is essentially practical, being a routine knowledge; and it would be vain to seek to find in it any hypostasis, since mysticism is utterly opposed to the author's thought. The maxims are expressed in exact formulas, and are illustrated by striking images. They show a profound knowledge of the human heart, the disillusionment of experience, a fraternal sympathy with the poor and the oppressed, and an unconquerable distrust of women. Throughout the work are scattered pure and elevated thoughts; and the whole is dominated by a sincere, enlightened piety-what is now called a liberalism of ideas. As in Ecclesiastes, two opposing tendencies war in the author: the faith and the morality of olden times, which are stronger than all argument, and an Epicureanism of modern date. Occasionally Ben Sira digresses to attack theories which he considers dangerous; for example, the doctrines that divine mercy blots out all sin; that man has no freedom of will; and that God is indifferent to the actions of mankind, and does not reward virtue. Some of the refutations of these views are developed at considerable length. Through these moralistic chapters runs the prayer of Israel imploring God to gather together His scattered children, to bring to fulfilment the predictions of the Prophets, and to have mercy upon His Temple and His people. The book concludes with a justification of the Divinity, whose wisdom and greatness are revealed in all His works (hence is inserted a description of the beauties of creation), and also in the history of Israel; this form of sacred history, however, is little more than a panegyric on the priests, terminating in an enthusiastic delineation of the high priest Simon ben Onias. These chapters are completed by the author's signature, and are followed by two hymns, the latter apparently a sort of alphabetical acrostic.

Importance for the History of Thought.

The Wisdom of Jesus marks an epoch in the history of Jewish thought, on account both of what it teaches and of what it silently ignores. While the author advocates the offering of the prescribed sacrifices and the veneration of priests, he condemns all hypocrisy and urges the union of the outward practise of religion with a pure conscience and with the doing of charity. However, he never mentions the dietary laws, which are set forth at great length in Daniel and Tobit, and especially in Judith. In like manner, while he awaits the return of Elijah to reassemble the tribes of the past and to reconcile the fatherswith the children, and while he prays for the coming of a time which can be called Messianic, though without a Messiah-when Jerusalem and the Temple shall be restored to the divine favor and Israel delivered forever from the dominion of the stranger-he never alludes to a Messiah who will be the son of David; on the contrary, he asserts that the house of David has rendered itself unworthy of the divine favor, since of all the kings of Judah three alone remained faithful to God. God indeed made a solemn compact with the race of David; but it was one that differed widely from that into which He entered with Aaron, and which alone was to endure for eternity. Ben Sira never speaks of the resurrection of the dead nor of the immortality of the soul, but, on the contrary, declares that in Sheol there will be no joy, wherefore man should taste delight in this world in so far as it is compatible with an upright life.

Possible Traces of Hellenic Influence.

The view has been expressed that this work, early in date as it is, bears traces of Hellenic influence. The author, in his travels, may possibly have come in contact with Greek civilization, since he speaks of foreign poets and moralists whose fame was spread abroad. The customs which he describes are taken from Greek rather than from Hebrew society; thus he mentions banquets accompanied by brilliant conversation, at which musical instruments were heard, and over which presided "the masters [of the feasts]"; and the customs of the Sybarites also aroused his interest. The fatalistic philosophers whose opinions he contests were doubtless the Stoics; and the philosophical discussions instituted by him were innovations and probably borrowed. His criticisms of skeptics and would-be thinkers are further evidences of his knowledge of Hellenism; and some of his views find close analogues in Euripides. Not only does he share characteristic ideas with the Greek tragedians and moralists, but he even has the same taste for certain common topics, such as false friendship, the uncertainty of happiness, and especially the faults of women. The impression of Greek influence is strengthened by the presence of a polish quite foreign to Hebrew literature. The author composes his aphorisms with care; he makes his transitions with skill; and he inserts the titles of chapters, such as "Concerning Shame," "Proper Deportment at Table," and "The Hymn of the Patriarchs"; and the signing of his own name in full is a usage theretofore absolutely unknown.

The exclusion of Ecclesiasticus from the Hebrew canon was due in part to this imitation of the Greeks and these literary affectations. According to R. Akiba (Yer. Sanh. 28a), those who have no part in the world to come include the readers of foreign works, such as the books of Ben Sira; while Tosef., Yad. ii. 13 merely states that the writings of Ben Sira do not defile the hands, or, in other words, that they are uncanonical, so that they are ranked with the works of "minim" (heretics). Eccl. R. xii. 11, which is based on Yer. Sanh. 28a, contains a prohibition against having this work in one's house. R. Joseph, a Babylonian rabbi of the fourth century, in commenting on the view of R. Akiba, adds, "It is also forbidden to read the works of Ben Sira" (Sanh. 100c), although this prohibition, judging from the remainder of the passage, may have been restricted to reading in public. In his questions to R. Joseph (ib.), R. Abaye indicated some of the reasons for the exclusion of Ecclesiasticus from the canon.

"Why this prohibition?" he asked. "Is it on account of such and such verses?" With the exception of two verses written in Aramaic and which are not by Ben Sira at all, all of R. Abaye's citations are distinctly frivolous, being those relating to the anxiety caused by a young girl before and after her marriage, the uselessness of repining, and the danger of introducing strangers too freely into one's home. Abaye then condemns the misanthropy, misogyny, and Epicureanism of the author. To Ben Sira's Epicurean tendency must be attributed his denial of a future life, and, perhaps, also his pre-Sadducean spirit of reverence for the priesthood, with which the panegyric on his brethren is animated.

Popularity Among the Jews.

Curiously enough, the book retained its popularity among the Jews despite its exclusion from the canon. It was cited at a very early period: the Book of Tobit reproduces a number of passages word for word; while the Book of Enoch (Charles, "The Book of the Secrets of Enoch," p. 96; Index, p. i.), the Psalms of Solomon (Ryle and James, "The Psalms of Solomon," pp. lxiii. et seq.), and even the Talmud, the Midrashim, the Derek Ereẓ, and similar productions show decided traces of its influence. With the last-named work it has many points in common; and it is frequently quoted in the Talmud; passages from it are introduced by the formula reserved for the Biblical writings (Ḥag. 12a; Niddah 16b; Yer. Ber. 11c); and one verse is even referred to as if it belonged to the Hagiographa (B. Ḳ. 92a). It is cited by name in Sanh. 100b (= Yeb. 63c), where also a series of verses from it is given; and single verses appear in the following treatises and other works: Yer. Ber. 11b; Yer. Ḥag. 77c; Yer. Ta'an. 66d; Ḥag. 13a; Niddah 16b; Gen. R. viii., x., lxxiii.; Lev. R. xxxiii.; Tan., Wayishlaḥ, 8; ib. Miḳḳeẓ, 10; ib. Ḥuḳḳat, 1; a midrashic passage preserved in the "Shibbole ha-Leḳeṭ," ed. Buber, p. 23a; "Pirḳe de-Rabbenu ha-Ḳadosh," ed. Schönblum, 14a; Baraita Kallah (ed. Coronel, 7c, and in the Wilna edition of the Talmud). It is cited also by R. Nissim ("Sefer Ma'asiyyot ha-Ḥakamim wehu Ḥibbur Yafeh meha-Yeshu ah"), and especially by Saadia in the preface to his "Sefer ha-Galui" (Harkavy, l.c.). In his commentary on the "Sefer Yeẓirah" the latter author quotes verbatim two verses of Ben Sira, although he attributes them to one Eleazar b. Irai, of whom nothing is known. In another part of this work (p. 178) he cites the same text, again attributing it to that author. This is the more remarkable since Saadia speaks of Ben Sira in his introduction, and cites no less than seven of his maxims. The "Sefer ben Irai" contained also passages (two of them copied by Saadia) not found in Ecclesiasticus, and which were totally dissimilar to it both in form and in content. As Saadia himself says: "The book of Ben Sira is a work on ethics, similar in form to Proverbs, while that of Ben Irai is a book of Wisdom, bearing an external resemblance to Ecclesiastes." The "Sefer ben Irai" was probably a collection of maxims and sayings taken from various sources.

Quotations from Ben Sira without mention of his name are found also in the, "Mibḥar ha-Peninim," attributed to Solomon ibn Gabirol (for citations of this type see Zunz, "G. V." p. 110; Reifmann, in "Ha-Asif," iii. 271; Schechter, in "J. Q. R." iii. 682; Neubauer and Cowley, in their edition of Ecclesiasticus, pp. xix. et seq. [certain of their comparisons must be discarded]; the commentaries of Schechter and Lévi, especially on the Derek Ereẓ; Lévi, in "R. E. J." xliv. 291). The popularity of Ecclesiasticus among the Jews of the Talmudic period is shown by the citation of a number of verses in Aramaic, with an allusion to Ben Sira, which proves that it must have been translated into that dialect, this Aramaic collection being subsequently enriched with numerous additional aphorisms in that language (Sanh. 100b = Yeb. 63b). The Baraita Kallah even restricts its citations from Ben Sira to Aramaic verses which are not found in Ecclesiasticus. Another proof of his popularity is found in the two alphabets ascribed to him (see Ben Sira, Alphabet of), especially the second, in which he is the hero of a series of marvelous events.

Popularity Among Christians.

The Book of Ecclesiasticus has been honored still more highly among the Christians, being cited in the Epistle of James (Edersheim, in Wace, "Apocrypha," p. 21), the Didache (iv. 5), and the Epistle of Barnabas (xix. 9), while Clement of Alexandria and Origen quote from it repeatedly, as from a γραφή, or holy book. In the Western Church, Cyprian frequently appeals to it in his "Testimonia," as does Ambrose in the greater number of his writings. In like manner the Catalogue of Cheltenham, Damasus I., the Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397), Pope Innocent I., the second Council of Carthage (419), and Augustine all regard it as a canonical book. This is contrary, however, to the opinions of the Council of Laodicea, of Jerome, and of Rufinus of Aquileia, which authorities rank it among the ecclesiastical books. It was finally declared canonical by the Council of Trent; and the favor with which the Church has always regarded it has preserved it in its entirety.

Discovery of Hebrew Fragments.

Until recent years Ecclesiasticus was known only from the Greek and Syriac versions-the sources of all other translations-and from the Hebrew quotations already mentioned. At present the greater part of the original is known. In 1896 Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Gibson brought from the East a sheet of parchment covered with comparatively antiquated Hebrew characters. At Cambridge this was shown to S. Schechter, who recognized in it Ecclus. (Sirach) xxxix. 15-xl. 7, and who published the decipherment, which was by no means easy. Almost simultaneously Sayce presented to the Bodleian Library, Oxford, a collection of fragments of Hebrew and Arabic manuscripts, among which Neubauer and Cowley found nine leaves of the same volume to which the Lewis-Gibson leaf had belonged, and following immediately after it. These various fragments having come from the Genizah at Cairo, Schechter at once went to that city, and obtained the necessary authority to examine the contents of the collection, with the result that he found not only the final portion of the manuscript, but also xxx. 11, xxxii. 1b-xxxiii. 3, xxxv. 9-xxxvi. 21, and xxxvii. 27-xxxviii. 27. Two additional fragments of the same manuscript, called B by Schechter, and containing xxxi. 12-31 and xxxvi. 24-xxxvii. 26, have been secured by the British Museum. A second manuscript (A) was found by the same scholar in the collection brought by him from Egypt, containing iii. 6-xvi. 26, with a hiatus from vii. 29 to xi. 34, the missing pages of which subsequently came into the possession of Elkan Adler. A fresh discovery was made when the remaining contents of the genizah were offered for sale, and Israel Lévi secured a leaf from a third copy (C), containing xxxvi. 24-xxxviii. 1. This fragment is especially valuable, since it serves as a check on the manuscript B, which likewise includes these verses. The importance of this discovery is shown below. Finally, Schechter, Gaster, and Lévi found in consignments from the same genizah the following fragments of an anthology of the Wisdom of Jesus: iv. 23b, 30-31; v. 4-8, 9-13; vi. 18-19, 28, 35; vii. 1, 4, 6, 17, 20-21, 23-25; xviii. 30-31; xix. 1-2; xx. 4-6, 12 (?); xxv. 7c, 8c, 8a, 12, 16-23; xxvi. 1-2; xxxvi. 16; xxxvii. 19, 22, 24, 26.

There are, therefore, now in existence: (a) in one manuscript: iii. 6-16, 26; xviii. 30-31; xix. 1-2; xx. 4-6, 12 (?); xxv. 7c, 8c, 8a, 12, 16-23; xxvi. 1-2; xxvii. 5-6, 16; xxx. 11-xxxiii. 3; xxxv. 9-xxxviii. 27; xxxix. 15-li. 30; (b) in two manuscripts: iv. 23b, 30-31; v. 4-8, 9-13; vi. 18-19, 28, 35; vii. 1, 4, 6, 17, 20-21, 23-25; xxxvi. 16, 29-31; xxxvii. complete; xxxviii. 1; (c) in three manuscripts: xxxvii. 19, 22, 24, 26.

These manuscripts contain also some passages that are lacking in the translations, including a psalm fifteen lines in length inserted after li. 12.

Manuscripts.

Manuscript A: 18 × 11 cm.; 28 lines per page. The verses are generally marked by a double point; and certain ones are punctuated and accented, thus confirming certain statements of Saadia. "Matres lectionis" abound. The scribe has been guilty of the grossest errors, in addition to abbreviating some verses and omitting others.

Manuscript C: 16 × 12 cm. Certain words and entire verses are vocalized and accented; the script shows cursive tendencies, although of an early type. In the margin is given a variant verse which represents the original text, corrupted even in the days of Ben Sira's grandson.

Manuscript D: 143 × 100 mm.; 12 lines per page. The text is often preferable to that of A, and offers variants agreeing with the Greek version, while the readings of A correspond to the Syriac.

Manuscript B: 19 × 17 cm.; 22 lines per page. This is the most curious and interesting of all, as it contains certain peculiarities which are probably unique among all known Hebrew manuscripts. The lines are written with a stylus, as in the Torah scrolls; and, as in some copies of Proverbs and the Book of Job, a space is left between the hemistichs of each verse, so that the pages are divided into two columns; and the "sof pasuḳ" is placed at the end of the verse. This corroborates Saadia's assertion that the book of Ben Sira resembled Proverbs in its division into chapters and verses. The chapters are sometimes indicated by the initial letter (= ) and sometimes by a blank space. The most remarkable peculiarity consists in the chapter headings or titles, such as ("Instruction as to Shame"), ("Rules for Proper Deportment at Table"), and ("Hymn of the Patriarchs"), although in the Greek version these rubrics were regarded as scribal interpolations. Another noteworthy feature of this manuscript is its marginal Masorah, containing variants, some of which represent differences merely in orthography, while others are in synonyms or even words with totally different meanings. These glosses are the work of a Persian Jew, who in several marginal notes in Persian stated that he had used two manuscripts in addition to his principal one. Such care is indicative of the esteem in which Ben Sira's text was held. The marginal readings present an interesting problem. As a rule, the body of the text corresponds to the Greek version, and the glosses in the margin to the Syriac; but occasionally the reverse is the case.

Originality of the Hebrew Fragments.

Prof. S. Margoliouth, noticing the decadent character of the language, the number of rabbinisms, and the derivatives from the Arabic and Aramaic, regarded the Hebrew text as a reconstruction of the lost original on the basis of the Greek and Syriac versions, the variants representing different attempts at retranslation. The discovery of manuscript C, however, disproved this hypothesis, since this manuscript reproduces with exactness the greater part of the variants of B, even when they are obviously false, while the transcriber of this latter manuscript discharged his task with such scrupulous care that he even recorded variants which were meaningless. If, therefore, the difference between the text and the marginal glosses corresponds to the difference between the two translations, this only shows that there were two recensions of the original. It is clear, moreover, that these fragments are not the work of some medieval scholar, but are more or less perfect copies of the Hebrew text, as a single example will show. In xxxii. 22 the Hebrew version has . For the latter word the Syriac text substitutes (= "thy way"), which the context shows to be faulty, the reading being due to a confusion of with . The Greek version reads "thy children," the meaning attributed to in several passages of the Bible. But had the Jewish scribe used the Greek version, he would never have found beneath τῶν τέκνων σου the Hebrew , the correctness of which is attested by the Syriac. There are numerous examples of a similar nature.

Although Margoliouth's theory must be rejected as a whole, certain details indicate that both A and B are derived from a copy characterized by interpolations due to a retranslation from Syriac into Hebrew. In a number of passages the same verse is given in two distinct renderings, one of which usually corresponds to the Syriac, even when this text represents merely a faulty or biased translation of the original. These verses, moreover, in their conformity to the Syriac, become at times so meaningless that they can be explained only as incorrect translations from that language. Such suspicious passages are characterized by a comparatively modern style and language, by a commonplace phraseology, and by a break in the parallelism which is affected by Ecclesiasticus. It may therefore be safely concluded that these doublets are merely additions made to render the Syriac version more intelligible. The same statement holds true of certain textual emendations made by the glossarist. In this, however, there is nothing strange, since it is a well-known fact that the Jews of certain sections were familiar with Syriac, as is shown by the quotations made by Naḥmanides from the Wisdom of Solomon, from Judith, and from Bel and the Dragon, and also by the introduction of the Peshiṭta of Proverbs into the Targum of the Hagiographa.

The Final Hymn.

But the glossarist did not restrict himself to these slight additions and modifications, for he added to his copy a translation of the final hymn, basing this version also on the Syriac. This canticle, as Bickell has clearly shown, is an alphabetical acrostic, which may still be traced in the Syriac version, on account of the similarity between that language and Hebrew. There are lacunæ, however, in the Syriac text which are supplied in the Greek, even though these passages are lacking in the Hebrew. In the Hebrew some traces of the acrostic remain in cases where the Syriac was translatable only by a Hebrew word beginning with the same letter; but elsewhere all vestiges of it have disappeared. The Syriac version, moreover, shows evidences of corruptions and innovations, which are reproduced by the Hebrew. The Syriac occasionally corresponds to the Greek, but tends toward a confusion of sense which eventually alters the meaning, these modifications being also reproduced in the Hebrew text. The hymn, which follows the Syriac version closely throughout, is evidently a retranslation from the latter. These opinions have been championed especially by Israel Lévi, and are accepted by Ryssel and other scholars, although they are not universally held.

The Hebrew version contains an entire canticle which does not appear in either the Greek or the Syriac text. This, however, is of doubtful authenticity, although one may cite in its favor the sentence "O give thanks unto Him that chose the sons of Zadok to be priests," alluding to the pre-Maccabean high priests who were descended from Zadok; while another possible argument is furnished by the absence of any reference to ideas essentially Pharisaic, such as the resurrection of the body. Against the genuineness of the psalm may be urged: (1) its omission in the versions; (2) the sentence "O give thanks unto Him that maketh the horn of the house of David to bud," which is directly opposed in sentiment to ch. xxxvi. and to the entire "Hymn of thePatriarchs"; and (3) the remarkable similarity of the hymn to the "Shemoneh 'Esreh" together with the prayers which precede and follow the "Shema'." The question has not yet been definitely settled.

Critical Value of the Hebrew Text.

Despite the corrections and interpolations mentioned, however, the originalty of the text in these fragments of Ben Sira can not be denied. Besides the fact that many scholars deny the existence of any interpolations, there are portions in which it is easy to recognize the author's hand; for he has a characteristic technique, style, vocabulary, and syntax which are evident in all the versions. It may safely be said that in the main the work of Ben Sira has been preserved just as it left his hands, while the chief variant marginal readings recorded in the fragments and confirmed by the translations may be regarded as evidences of the existence of two separate editions written by Ben Sira himself. It is self-evident, moreover, that Ecclesiasticus has undergone some alterations at the hands of scribes, but it would have been strange indeed if this book alone should have wholly escaped the common lot of such writings. No more conclusive proof could be found, were any necessary, of the fidelity of the Hebrew version than its frequent agreement, in citations from the Bible, with the text on which the Septuagint is based rather than with the Masorah, as in the case of I Sam. xii. 3 as compared with Ecclus. (Sirach) xlvi. 19, or Isa. xxxviii. 17 with Ecclus. (Sirach) l. 2.

Importance for the History of the Bible.

Even before the discovery of these fragments the Book of Ecclesiasticus was regarded as a unique document of priceless value; but the account which it gives of the status of the Bible in its author's dayhas gained additional importance, now that the greater part of the original itself is known. The "Hymn of the Patriarchs," which has been preserved in its entirety, shows that the canon of the Law and of the Prophets was closed, as the author's grandson expressly states. The Prophets were arranged in the order generally adopted in the Hebrew Bible, as follows: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings ("Nebi'im Rishonim"), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve Minor Prophets ("Nebi'im Aḥaronim"); and the expression "the Twelve Prophets" was sanctioned by usage. The greater portion of the Hagiographa was already considered canonical, including the Psalms attributed nominally to David, Proverbs, Job (the Greek translator has made a gross blunder here), and possibly the Song of Solomon, Nehemiah, and Chronicles. The author's silence regarding some of the other Hagiographa proves nothing; since he intended, as has already been said, to eulogize the priesthood in this section, and all who were not included in his scheme were passed over without notice. In addition to this statistical information, Ben Sira furnishes other points of interest. The frequency with which he avails himself of Job and Proverbs proves that both these books had been long in circulation, although the divergence between the original and his quotation is very great. Furthermore, the labored attempt to imitate the literary style previously affected in didactic poetry was a failure, and radical changes had been introduced even as early as the time of the author. While he still availed himself of parallelism and employed verses symmetrically divided into two hemistichs, he introduced into this work on wisdom concepts thitherto excluded, such as allusions to sacred history and exhortations to fulfil the duty of religious worship. Mention has already been made of literary innovations which characterize the work. It is no less significant that the diction employed is essentially imitative, being a mixture of Biblical centos and reminiscences, yet marking a stage unattained by any analogous work. Still untouched by Hellenisms, the lexicography is characterized by rabbinisms and derivatives from the Aramaic and the Arabic. The style is decadent, showing a curious mixture of prolixity and conciseness, daring constructions, the repetition of certain figures, imitation, and false elegance, side by side with felicity of phraseology and imagery. These qualities denote a period when spontaneity and originality were replaced by pedantry, conventionality, and artificiality. Henceforth a thorough knowledge of Ecclesiasticus will be indispensable for any who wish to study the analogous portions of the Bible, although it has thus far been impossible to determine the relation of Ecclesiastes and Ecclesiasticus from a mere comparison of the two books, despite their frequent points of contact.

It is self-evident that the Hebrew fragments will aid in the reconstruction of the original of those portions for which no basal text has yet been found. These fragments, moreover, reveal the relative value of the Greek and Syriac texts, the two versions based on the Hebrew original.

The Greek Version.

The Greek text, as noted above, is the work of the author's grandson, who went to Egypt in 132. A prologue to the "Synopsis" of Athanasius gives his name as Jesus; but this passage is spurious. Although the translator may have gone to Egypt in 132, it does not necessarily follow that he entered upon his work in that year; indeed he himself says that he spent some time there before beginning his task. The theory has been advanced that he did not begin it until 116, since ἐπί ("in the time of"), which he uses in connection with Ptolemy Euergetes, is employed only after the death of the monarch whose name it precedes (Deissmann, in "Theologische Literaturzeitung," 1904, p. 558); but the incorrectness of this deduction has been demonstrated by Schürer. The translator, in the introduction, requests the indulgence of his readers, a precaution not without justification, since his rendering leaves much to be desired, sometimes straining the meaning of the text, and again containing crass blunders, so that the text must be freed from the numerous errors of the scribes before it can be fairly judged (see Lévi, "L'Ecclésiastique," p. xl.).

The Hebrew version shows that the Greek manuscript which has best preserved the wording of the original is No. 248 of Holmes and Parsons, which was used in the Complutensian Polyglot. Yet even after a rigid purification of the text, Ben Sira contains many blunders, due to overhasty reading (Lévi, l.c. pp. xliii. et seq.). While the translator generally adhered closely to the original, he sometimes added comments of his own, but seldom abridged, although he occasionally slurred over a passage in which the imagery was too bold or the anthropomorphism too glaring. Moreover, he frequently substituted for the translation of one verse another already given for a passage of similar content. The version used by him was not always identical with that contained in the Hebrew fragments. Sometimes he has verses which are missing in the Hebrew; but many of those mentioned by Fritzsche in his notes are found in the fragments. A revision of the Greek text is attested by the quotations in the "Pædagogus" of Clement of Alexandria.

An accident has disarranged the pages of the parent manuscript of all the copies thus far known, two sheets, containing respectively xxx. 25-xxxiii. 13a and xxxiii. 13b-xxxvi. 16b, having been interchanged. The Itala and the Armenian versions, however, avoided the error. The conjectural restoration of the order of the chapters should be made, according to Ryssel, on the basis of manuscript No. 248, which also avoided this inversion. On the Greek manuscripts and their individual and general value as regards the history of this version, see Ryssel in Kautzsch, "Apokryphen," i. 244 et seq. It may be said that the Greek version offers the most reliable material for the reconstruction of those portions of the original which have not yet been discovered.

The Vetus Latina.

As Jerome himself says, the Latin version contained in the Vulgate is not his work, but was the one generally used in the African churches during the first half of the third century (see Thielmann in "Archiv für Lateinische Lexicographie und Grammatik,"viii.-ix.); and the truth of this statement is proved beyond question by the quotations of Cyprian. This text is characterized by a number of interpolations of a biased trend, although it is in general a slavish and sometimes awkward translation from the Greek (comp. Herkenne, "De Veteris Latini Ecclesiastici Capitibus i.-xliii." Leipsic, 1899); but it also contains deviations from the Greek which can be explained only on the hypothesis of a Hebrew original. These divergences are corrections made on the basis of a Hebrew manuscript of the same recension as B and C, which were taken from a text that had already become corrupt. Such changes were made, therefore, prior to the third century. The corrections peculiar to the Itala are attested by the quotations of Cyprian, and may have been derived from a Greek manuscript taken to Africa. They may be divided into two groups: cases in which the corresponding passage of the Hebrew is placed beside the ordinary text of the Greek, and passages in which the Hebrew rendering is substituted for the Greek reading (comp. Lévi, l.c., introduction to part ii., and Herkenne, l.c.). After ch. xliv. the Vulgate and the Itala coincide. The other versions based upon the Greek are the Syriac Hexaplar, edited by Ceriani ("Codex Syro-Hexaplaris Ambrosianus Photolithographice Editus," Milan, 1874); the Coptic (Sahidic), edited by Lagarde ("Ægyptiaca," Göttingen, 1883; see Peters, "Die Sahidisch-Koptische Uebersetzung des Buchs Ecclesiasticus auf Ihren Wahren Werth für die Textkritik Untersucht," in Bardenhewer, "Biblische Studien," 1898, iii. 3); the Ethiopic, edited by Dillmann ("Biblia Veteris Testamenti Æthiopica," 1894, v.); and the Armenian, sometimes used to verify the reading of the Greek.

Syriac Version.

While the Syriac version does not possess the importance of the Greek, it is equally useful in the reconstruction of the Hebrew on which it was directly based, as has been clearly shown by the discovery of the fragments. As a rule the translator understood his text; but his blunders are innumerable, even making allowance for scribal errors, which are not infrequent. Unfortunately, his copy was incomplete, so that his version contains numerous lacunæ, one of which (xliii. 1-10) was filled by a passage borrowed from the Syriac Hexaplar. This entire translation is a puzzle. In some chapters it follows the original exactly, in others it is little more than a paraphrase, or even a mere epitome. In places the translation shows very few errors, in others it betrays total ignorance of the meaning of the text. It is possible that the Syriac version was the work of several translators. Some of its repetitions and corrections betray a Christian bias; and it even bears traces of a revision based on the Greek. As already noted, it contains many variants which the Hebrew fragments show to represent the original readings. Despite its numerous defects, it is a valuable check upon the Greek text, even where it diverges widely, except in passages where it becomes fantastic. It therefore deserves to be carefully studied with the assistance of the commentaries on it and the citations from it by Syriac authors, as has been done for the glosses of Bar Hebræus by Katz in his "Scholien des Gregorius Abulfaragius Bar Hebræus zum Weisheitsbuche des Josua ben Sira" (Halle, 1892). The Arabic translation included in the London Polyglot and based upon the Syriac version is likewise a valuable adjunct to the "apparatus criticus."

Crawford Howell Toy, Israel Lévi

Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.

Bibliography:

Editions of the Hebrew text, in chronological order: Schechter, Ecclesiasticus xxxix. 15-xl. 8, in Expository Times, July, 1896, pp. 1-15; Cowley and Neubauer, The Original Hebrew of a Portion of Ecclesiasticus (xxxix. 15-xlix. 11), Together with the Early Versions and an English Translation, Followed by the Quotations from Ben Sira in Rabbinical Literature, Oxford, 1897; Halévy, Etude sur la Partie du Texte Hébreu de l'Ecclésiastique Récemment Découverte [xxxix. 15-xlix. 11], in Rev. Sém. v. 148, 193, 383; Smend, Das Hebräische Fragment der Weisheit des Jesus Sirach, in Abhandlungen der Göttinger Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, 1897, ii. 2 (containing the same text); Collotype Facsimiles of the Oxford Fragment of Ecclesiasticus, Oxford, 1897; Israel Lévi, L'Ecclesiastique ou la Sagesse de Jesus, Fils de Sira, Texte Original Hébreu, Traduit et Commenté, in Bibliothèque de l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes, Sciences Réligieuses, x., No. i., Paris, 1897 (part ii., ib. 1901); Schlatter, Das Neugefundene Hebräische Stück des Sirach, Güterslohe, 1897; Kohn, same text, in Ha-Shiloaḥ, iii. 42-48, 133-140, 321-325, 517-520; Schechter, Genizah Specimens: Ecclesiasticus [xlix. 12-1. 22], in J. Q. R. x. 197; Schechter and Taylor, The Wisdom of Ben Sira, Cambridge, 1899; Halévy, Le Nouveau Fragment Hébreu de l'Ecclésiastique [xlix. 12-1. 22], in Rev. Sém. vii. 214-220; Margoliouth, The Original Hebrew of Ecclesiasticus xxxi. 12-31 and xxxvi. 22-xxxvii. 26, in J. Q. R. xii. 1-33; Schechter, A Further Fragment of Ben Sira [iv. 23-v. 13, xxv. 8-xxvi. 2], ib. pp. 456-465; Adler, Some Missing Fragments of Ben Sira [vii. 29-xii. 1]. ib. pp. 466-480; Lévi, Fragments de-Deux Nouveaux Manuscrits Hébreux de l'Ecclésiastique [xxxvi. 24-xxxviii. 1; vi. 18-19; xxviii. 35; vii. 1, 4, 6, 17, 20-21, 23-25], in R. E. J. xl. 1-30; Gaster, A New Fragment of Ben Sira [xviii. 31-33; xix. 1-2; xx. 5-7; xxvii. 19. 22, 24, 26; xx. 13], in J. Q. R. xii. 688-702; Ecclesiasticus: The Fragments Hitherto Recovered of the Hebrew Text in Facsimile, Cambridge and Oxford, 1901; Schlögel, Ecclesiasticus xxxix. 12-xlix. 16, Ope Artis Criticœ et Metricœ in Formam Originalem Redactus, 1901; Knabenbauer, Commentariusin Ecclesiasticum cum Appendice: Textus Ecclesiastici Hebrœus Descriptus Secundum Fragmenta Nuper Reperta cum Notis et Versione Litterali Latina, Paris, 1902; Peters, Der Jüngst Wiederaufgefundene Hebräische Text des Buches Ecclesiasticus, etc., Freiburg, 1902; Strack, Die Sprüche Jesus', des Sohnes Sirach, der Jüngst Wiedergefundene Hebräische Text mit Anmerkungen und Wörterbuch, Leipsic, 1903; Lévi, The Hebrew Text of the Book of Ecclesiasticus, Edited with Brief Notes and a Selected Glossary, Leyden, 1904, in Semitic Study Series, ed. Gottheil and Jastrow, iii.; La Sainte Bible Polyglotte, ed. Viguroux, vol. v., Paris, 1904; Peters, Liber Iesu Filii Sirach sive Ecclesiasticus Hebraice Secundum Codices Nuper Repertos, Vocalibus Adornatus Addita Versione Latina cum Glossario Hebraico-Latino, Freiburg, 1905.

On the question of the originality of the book: Margoliouth, The Origin of the "Original Hebrew" of Ecclesiasticus, London, 1899; Bacher, in J. Q. R. xii. 97-108; idem, in Expository Times, xi. 563; Bickell, in W. Z. K. M. xiii. 251-256; Halévy, in Rev. Sém. viii. 78-88; König, in Expository Times, x. 512, 564; xi. 31, 69, 139-140, 170-176, 234-235; idem, Die Originalität des Neulich Entdeckten Hebräischen Sirachtextes, Tübingen, 1900; idem, in Neue Kirchliche Zeitung, xi. 60, 67; idem, in Theologische Rundschau, iii. 19; idem, in Evangelische Kirchen-Zeitung, lxxiv. 289-292; Lévi, in R. E. J. xxxix. 1-15, xl. 1-30; Margoliouth, in Expository Times, xi. 90-92, 191, 427-429, 521; xii. 45, 95, et passim; Ryssel, in Theologische Studien und Kritiken, lxxv. 406-420; Schechter, in Expository Times, xi. 140-142, 382, 522; Selbie, ib. 127, 363, 378, 446, 494, 550; Tyler, in J. Q. R. xii. 555-562.

Studies on the Hebrew text, exclusive of the editions and commentaries mentioned above: Bacher, in J. Q. R. ix. 543-562, xii. 272-290; idem, in Stade's Zeitschrift, xx. 308; idem, in R. E. J. xl. 253; Blau, ib. xxxv. 25-29; Büchler, ib. xxxviii. 137-140; Chajes, ib. xl. 31-36; Cheyne, in J. Q. R. x. 13, xii. 554; Cowley, ib. xii. 109-111; Cowley and Neubauer, ib. ix. 563-567; Frankel, in Monatsschrift, xiii. 380-384, xliii. 481-484; Ginsburger, in R. E. J. xlii. 267; Grimme, in Orientalistische Literaturzeitung, ii. 213, 316; idem. in La Revue Biblique, ix. 400-413; x. 55-65, 260-267, 423-435;

Gray, in J. Q. R. ix. 567-572; Halévy, in Journal Asiatique, 1897, x. 501; Herz, in J. Q. R. x. 719-724; Hogg, in Expositor, 1897, pp. 262-266; idem, in American Journal of Theology, i. 777-786; Houtsma; in Theologisch Tijdschrift, xxxiv. 329-354; Jouon, in Zeitschrift für Katholische Theologie, xxvii. 583 et seq.; Kaufmann, in J. Q. R. xi. 159-162; idem, in Monatsschrift, xi. 337-340; Kautzsch, in Theologische Studien und Kritiken. lxxi. 185-199; Krauss, in J. Q. R. xi. 156-158; Landauer, in Zeitschrift für Assyriologie, xii. 393-395; Lévi, in R.E.J.xxxiv. 1-50, 294-296; xxxv. 29-47; xxxvii. 210-217; xxxix. 1-15, 177-190; xl. 253-257; xlii. 269; xliv. 291-294; xlvii. l-2; idem, in J. Q. R. xiii. 1-17, 331; Margolis, in Stade's Zeitschrift, xxi. 271; Margoliouth, in Athenœum, July, 1897, p. 162; Méchineau, in Etudes. lxxviii. 451-477, lxxxi. 831-834, lxxxv. 693-698; Müller, in W. Z. K. M. xi. 103-105; Nöldeke, in Expositor, 1897, pp. 347-364; Peters, in Theologische Quartalschrift, lxxx. 94-98, lxxxii. 180-193; idem, in Biblische Zeitschrift, i. 47, 129; Rosenthal, in Monatsschrift, 1902, pp. 49-52; Ryssel, in Theologische Studien und Kritiken, 1900, pp. 363-403, 505-541; 1901, pp. 75-109, 270-294, 547-592; 1902, pp. 205-261, 347-420; Schechter, in J. Q. R. xii. 266-274; Schlögel, in Z. D. M. G. liii. 669-682; Smend, in Theologische Literaturzeitung, 1897, pp. 161, 265; Steiniger, in Stade's Zeitschrift, xxi. 143; Strauss, in Schweizerische Theologische Zeitung, xvii. 65-80; Taylor, in J. Q. R. x. 470-488; xv. 440-474, 604-626; xvii. 238-239; idem, in Journal of Theological Studies, i. 571-583; Touzard, in Revue Biblique, vi. 271-282, 547-573; vii. 33 58; ix. 45-67, 525-563. Principal editions of the Greek text: Fritzsche, Libri Apocryphi Veteris Testamenti Grœce, Leipsic, 1871; Holmes and Parsons, Vetus Testamentum Grœcum cum Variis Lectionibus, iv., Oxford, 1827; Swete, The Old Testament in Greek, ii., Cambridge, 1891. Of the Syriac text: Lagarde, Libri Veteris Testamenti Apocryphi Syriace, Leipsic, 1861; Ceriani, Codex Syro-Hexaplaris Ambrosianus Photolithographice Editus, Milan, 1874. On the other translations derived from the Greek: Peters, Der Jüngst Wiederaufgefundene Hebräische Text des Buches Ecclesiasticus, pp. 35 et seq.; Herkenne, De Veteris Latini Ecclesiastici Capitibus i.-xliii., Leipsic, 1899; Ryssel, in Kautzsch, Apokryphen, i. Chief general commentaries: Fritzsche, Die Weisheit Jesus Sirach's Erklärt und Uebersetzt (Exegetisches Handbuch zu den Apokryphen), Leipsic, 1859; Edersheim, in Wace, Apocrypha, ii., London, 1888; Ryssel, in Kautzsch, Apokryphen, i. Special studies (following Schürer's list): Gfrörer, Philo, ii. 18-52, Stuttgart, 1831; Dähne, Geschichtliche Darstellung der Jüdisch-Alexandrinischen Religionsphilosophie, ii. 126-150, Halle, 1834; Winer, De Utriusque Siracidœ Ætate, Erlangen, 1832; Zunz, G. V. pp. 100-105 (2d ed., pp. 106-111); Ewald, Ueber das Griechische Spruchbuch Jesus' Sohnes Sirach's, in Jahrbücher der Biblischen Wissenschaft, iii. 125-140; Bruch, Weisheitslehre der Hebräer, pp. 266-319, Strasburg, 1851; Horowitz, Das Buch Jesus Sirach, Breslau, 1865; Montet, Etude du Livre de Jésus, Fils de Sirach, au Point de Vue Critique, Dogmatique et Moral, Montauban, 1870; Grätz, in Monatsschrift, 1872, pp. 49, 97; Merguet, Die Glaubens- und Sittenlehre des Buches Jesus Sirach, Königsberg, 1874; Sellgmann, Das Buch der Weisheit des Jesus Sirach in Seinem Verhältniss zu den Salomon. Sprüchen und Seiner Historischen Bedeutung, Breslau, 1883; Bickell, Ein Alphabetisches Lied Jesus Sirach's, in Zeitschrift für Katholische Theologie, 1882, pp. 319-333; Drummond, Philo Judœus, 1888, i. 144-155; Margoliouth, An Essay on the Place of Ecclesiasticus in Semitic Literature, Oxford, 1890; idem, The Language and Metre of Ecclesiasticus, in Expositor, 1890, pp. 295-320, 381-391; Bois, Essai sur les Origines de la Philosophie Judéo-Alexandrine, pp. 160-210, 313-372, Paris, 1890; Perles, Notes Critiques sur le Texte de l' Ecclésiastique, in R. E. J. xxxv. 48-64; Krauss, Notes on Sirach, in J. Q. R. xi. 150; Müller, Strophenbau und Responsion, Vienna, 1898; Gasser, Die Bedeutung der Sprüche Jesu ben Sira für die Datierung des Althebräischnen Spruchbuches, Güterslohe, 1904; comp. also Schürer, Gesch. iii. 157-166; André, Les Apocryphes de l' Ancien Testament, pp. 271-310, Florence, 1903; Toy, in Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl. s.v. Ecclesiasticus and Sirach; Nestle, Sirach, in Hastings, Dict. Bible.T. I. L.


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