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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Sirach, Book of
4. Counsels of Prudence
1. Jesus, Son of Sirach
2. Other Views
1. Most Probable Views
2. Brief Statement of Other Views
1. Composed in Hebrew
2. Margoliouth's View
Sirach is the largest and most comprehensive example of Wisdom Literature (see WISDOM LITERATURE ), and it has also the distinction of being the oldest book in the Apocrypha, being indeed older than at least two books (Daniel, Esther) which have found a place in the Canon alike of the Eastern and Western churches.
The Hebrew copy of the book which Jerome knew bore, according to his explicit testimony (see his preface to his version of Libri Sol .), the same title as the canonical Proverbs, i.e. משׁלים ,
Lagarde in his corrected text prefixes the title, "The Wisdom of Baruch = Hebrew
Though older than both Dan and Esther, this book was never admitted into the Jewish Canon. There are numerous quotations from it, however, in Talmudic and rabbinic literature, (see a list in Zunz, Die Gottesdiensilichen Vortrage2 , 101 f; Delitzsch, Zur Geschichte der jud. Poesie , 204 f; Schechter,
It is quite impossible in the book as it stands to trace any one scheme of thought, for the author's mind moves lightly from topic to topic, recurring frequently to the same theme and repeating not seldom the same idea. It is, however, too much to say with Sonntag ( De Jesu Siracidae , etc.) that the book is a farrago of sayings with no connection, or with Berthold that the "work is but a rhapsody," for the whole is informed and controlled by one master thought, the supreme value to everyone of Wisdom. By this last the writer means the Jewish religion as conceived by enlightened Jews toward the beginning of the 2nd century BC, and as reflected in the Law of Moses (see Sirach 24:23-34 ), and in a less degree in the books of the Prophets and in the other writings (see Prologue). The book follows the lines of the canonical Book of Proverbs, and is made up of short pithy sayings with occasional longer discussions, largely collected but in part composed, and all informed and governed by the dominant note of the book: true Wisdom, the chief end of man. Most of the book is poetical in form, and even in the prose parts the parallelism of Hebrew poetry is found. Many unsuccessful attempts have been made to trace a definite continuous line of reasoning in the book, but the vital differences in the schemes propounded suggest what an examination of the book itself confirms, that the compiler and author put his materials together with little or no regard to logical connection, though he never loses sight of his main theme
Eichhorn ( Einleitung , 50 ff) divides the book into three parts ( Sirach 1 through 23; 24 through 42:14; 42:15 through 50:24), and maintains that at first each of these was a separate work, united subsequently by the author. Julian divides the work into three, Scholz into twelve, Fritzsche ( Einleitung , xxxii) and Ryssel (op. cit., 240) into seven, Edershelm (op. cit., 19 f) and R.G. Moulton ( Modern Reader's Bible: Ecclus , 16 ff) into five portions, and many other arrangements have been proposed and defended as by Ewald, Holzmann, Bissell, Zockler, etc. That there are small independent sections, essayettes, poems, etc., was seen by the early scribes to whom the Septuagint in its present form was largely due, for they have prefixed headings to the sections beginning with the following verses: Sirach 18:30 ("Temperance of Soul"); 20:27 ("Proverbs"); 23:7 ("Discipline of the Mouth"); 24:1 ("The Praise of Wisdom"); 30:1 ("Concerning Children"); 30:14 ("Concerning Health"); 30:16 ("Concerning Foods "; this is absent from many manuscripts, though retained by Swete who, however, omits the preceding heading); 30:24 (English Versions of the Bible 33:24, "Concerning Servants"); Sirach 35 (English Versions of the Bible 32:1, "Concerning Rulers"); 44:1 ("Praise of the Fathers"); 51:1 ("The Prayer of Jesus, Son of Sirach"). Probably the whole book possessed such headings at one time, and it is quite possible that they originated in the need to guide readers after the book had become one of the chief church reading-books (so W. J. Deane 2 The Expositor , II, vi, 327). These headings are given in English in the King James Version proper (in the margin), though in modern reprints, as also in the Revised Version (British and American), they are unfortunately omitted. The whole book has been arranged in headed sections by H. J. Holzmann (Bunsen's Bibelwerk, IX, 392 ff) and by R. G. Moulton (op. cit.).
In general it may be said that the principles enunciated in this book agree with those of the Wisdom school of Palestinian Judaism about 200 BC, though there is not a word in the book about a Messianic hope or the setting up of a Messianic kingdom. None of the views characteristic of Alexandrian Judaism and absent from the teaching of Palestinian Judaism are to be found in this book, though some of them at least are represented in Wisdom (see
The view of God given in this book agrees generally with that put forth by the later writers of the Old Testament from the exile (Second Isaiah, Job, etc.) onward, though the God of this book lacks the love and tenderness of the Yahweh of the Old Testament prophets. God is present everywhere (Sirach 16:17-23 ); He created the world as an ordered whole (Sirach 16:26-30 ) and made man intelligent and supreme over all flesh. The expressions used are no doubt modeled on Genesis 1 , and it may fairly be inferred that creation out of nothing is meant. Wisdom, on the other hand, teaches the Alexandrian doctrine that matter (
In harmony with other products of the "Wise Men," Sirach sets chief value upon natural religion, that revealed in the instincts, reason and conscience of man as well as by the sun, moon, stars, etc. Yet Sirach gives far more prominence than Proverbs to the idea that the Divine Will is specially made known in the Law of Moses (Sirach 24:23; 45:1-4 ). We do not meet once with the word "law" in Ecclesiastes, nor law in the technical sense (Law of Moses) in either Job, Wisdom or Proverbs. In the last-named it is simply one of many synonyms denoting "Wisdom." In Sirach the word occurs over 20 times, not, however, always, even when the expression "Law of Moses" is used, in the sense of the "five books" (Pentateuch). It generally includes in its connotation also "the prophecies and the rest of the books" (Prologue); see Sirach 32 (Septuagint 32(35):24; 33 (Septuagint 33(36):1-3 .
Sin is due to the wrong exercise of man's free will. Men can, if they like, keep the commandments, and when they break from them they are themselves alone to be blamed (Sirach 15:14-17 ). Yet it was through a woman (Eve) that sin entered the world and death by sin (Sirach 25:24; compare 1 Timothy 2:14 ). See Romans 5:12 where "one man," strictly "human being" ( Romans 5:14 , "Adam"), is made the first cause of sin. But nowhere in Sirach is the doctrine of original sin taught.
Notwithstanding the prominence given to "free will" (see (3), above), Sirach teaches the doctrine of predestination, for God has determined that some men should be high and some low, some blessed and others cursed (33:10 ft).
The word "Satan" ( Σατανᾶς ,
There is no salvation except by way of good works on man's part ( Sirach 14:16 f) and forgiveness on God's ( Sirach 17:24-32 ). The only atonement is through one's own good works (Sirach 5:5 f), honoring parents ( Sirach 32:14 f), almsgiving, etc. ( Sirach 3:30; 17:19 ff). There is no objective atonement ("expiation," literally, "propitiation"; the Greek verb ἐξιλάκομαι ,
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to God (Sirach 34:18 ff), though He Himself appointed sacrifices and first-fruits ( Sirach 45:20 f), and when the righteous offer sacrifices to God they are accepted and remembered in the time to come ( Sirach 35:1-12 ).
Festivals as well as seasons are ordained by God to be observed by man (Sirach 33 (Septuagint 33(36):8 f; compare Genesis 1:14 ).
The duty of prayer is often pointed out (Sirach 37:15 , etc.), the necessary preparation defined (Sirach 17:25; 18:20,23 ), and its successful issue promised (Sirach 35:17 ). There must be no vain repetitions (Sirach 7:14; compare Matthew 6:7 ), nor should there be any faint-heartedness in the matter (Sirach 5:10; compare James 1:6 ). Men are to pray in sickness (Sirach 38:9), but all the same the physician should be consulted and his advice followed (Sirach 38:1 f, 12 ff).
Sirach nowhere clearly expresses his belief in angels or uses language which implies such a belief. For "an angel ( ὁ ἄγγελος ,
Nowhere in this book is the doctrine of a future life taught, and the whole teaching of the book leaves no place for such a doctrine. Men will be indeed rewarded or punished according to their conduct, but in this world (see Sirach 2:10 f; 9:12; 11:26 f). The retribution is, however, not confined to the individuals in their lifetime; it extends to their children and involves their own glorious or inglorious name after death (see Sirach 11:28; 40:15; 41:6; 44:11-13 ). The passage concerning Gehenna (Sirach 7:17 ) is undoubtedly spurious and is lacking in the Syriac, Ethiopic, etc. Since the book is silent as to a future life, it is of necessity silent on the question of a resurrection. Nothing is hinted as to a life beyond the grave, even in Sirach 41:1-4 , where the author deprecates the fear of death. In these matters Sirach agrees with the Pentateuch and the prophetic and poetical books of the Old Testament (Psalms, Job, etc.), none of which give any intimation of a life beyond the grave. Little or nothing is said of the Messianic hope which must have been entertained largely by Palestinian Jews living in the author's time, though in Sirach 36 (Septuagint 36(33):1-17 the writer prays for the restoration of Israel and Jerusalem, i.e. R.H. Charles thinks ( Eschatology , etc., 65), for the bringing in of the Messianic kingdom.
(12) Sirach's Doctrine of Wisdom.
For a general discussion of the rise and development of the conception of Wisdom in the Old Testament and in the Apocrypha see WISDOM LITERATURE . A brief statement as to what the word implies in Sirach is all that can here be attempted. It is in chapters 1,24 that Ben Sira's doctrine is chiefly contained.
Wisdom is from God: He created it and it must therefore have a separate existence. Yet it is dependent on Him. It is omnipresent, though it dwells in a peculiar sense with all flesh. The root and beginning of Wisdom, its fullness and crown, are the fear of God (Sirach 1:14,16 , 18,21 ); so that only the obedient and pious possess it (Sirach 1:10,26 ); indeed Wisdom is identified with the fear of the Lord and the observance of the Law (Sirach 19:20 ); it is even made one with the Law of Moses (Sirach 24:23 ), i.e. it consists of practical principles, of precepts regulating the life. In this doctrine we have a combination of universalism, principles of reason and Jewish particularism as the teaching of the revealed Law. We have the first in Sirach 24:3-21; the second in 24:23-34. Have we in this chapter, as in Proverbs, nothing outside the teaching of Palestinian Judaism? Gfrorer (op. cit., II, 18 ff) denies this, maintaining that the whole of Sirach 24 was written by an Alexandrian Jew and adopted unchanged by Ben Sira. But what is there in this chapter which an orthodox, well-informed Palestinian Jew of Ben Sira's time might not well have written? It is quite another question whether this whole conception of Wisdom in the so-called Wisdom books is not due, in some measure, to Greek, though not Alexandrian, influence, unless indeed the Greek influence came by way of Alexandria. In the philosophy of Socrates, and in a less exclusive sense in that of Plato and Aristotle, the good man is the wise one. Cheyne ( Job and Solomon , 190) goes probably too far when he says, "By Greek philosophy Sirach, as far as we can see, was wholly uninfluenced."
The ethical principle of Sirach is Hedonism or individual utilitarianism, as is that of Proverbs and the Old Testament generally, though in the Psalms and in the prophetical writings gratitude to God for the love He has shown and the kind acts He has performed is the basis of endless appeals and vows. Moreover, the individual point of view is reached only in the late parts of the Old Testament. In the older Old Testament books, as in Plato, etc., it is the state that constitutes the unit, not the individual human being. The rewards and penalties of conduct, good and bad, belong to this present world. See what is said in (11) "Eschatology," above; see also Sirach 2:7 f; 11:17; 16:6 f; 40:13 f, etc.
The hedonistic principle is carried so far that we are urged to help the good because they are most likely to prove serviceable to us (Sirach 12:2 ); to aid our fellow-man in distress, so that in his days of prosperity he may be our friend (Sirach 22:23 ); contrast the teaching of Jesus Christ (Luke 6:30-36 ). Friends are to be bemoaned for appearance' sake (Sirach 38:17). Yet many of the precepts are lofty. We are exhorted to show kindness and forbearance to the poor and to give help to our fellow-man (Sirach 29:8, 20); to give alms (Sirach 12:3); speak kindly (Sirach 18:15-18); masters should treat servants as brethren, nay as they would themselves be treated (Sirach 7:20-22; 33:30 f); parents should give heed to the proper training of their children (Sirach 3:2; 7:23; 30:1-13); and children ought to respect and obey their parents (Sirach 3:1-16). It is men's duty to defend the truth and to fight for it. So shall the Lord fight for them (Sirach 4:25, 28). Pride is denounced (Sirach 10:2 ff), and humility (Sirach 3:18), as well as forgiveness (Sirach 28:2), commended.
Sirach is as much a code of etiquette as one of ethics, the motive being almost invariably the individual's own good. Far more attention is given to "manners" in Sirach than in Proverbs, owing to the fact that a more complex and artificial state of society had arisen in Palestine. When one is invited to a banquet he is not to show greed or to be too forward in helping himself to the good things provided. He is to be the first to leave and not to be insatiable (Sirach 31:12-18 ). Moderation in eating is necessary for health as well as for appearance' sake (Sirach 31:19-22 ). Mourning for the dead is a social propriety, and it should on that account be carefully carried out, since failure to do this brings bad repute (Sirach 38:16 f). It is quite wrong to stand in front of people's doors, peeping and listening: only fools do this ( Sirach 21:23 f). Music and wine are praised: nay even a "concert of music" and a "banquet of wine" are good in their season and in moderation ( Sirach 32 (Septuagint 32(35 ) :5 f). The author has not a high opinion of woman (Sirach 25:13 ). A man is to be on his strict guard against singing and dancing girls and harlots, and adultery is an evil to be feared and avoided (Sirach 36:18-26 ). From a woman sin began, and it is through her that we all die (Sirach 25:4 ). Yet no one has used more eulogistic terms in praising the good wife than Ben Sira (Sirach 26:1 ff), or in extolling the happiness of the home when the husband and wife "walk together in agreement" ( Sirach 25:1 ).
4. Counsels of Prudence:
Never lend money to a man more powerful than thyself or thou wilt probably lose it (Sirach 8:12 ). It is unwise to become surety for another (Sirach 29:18; 8:13 ), yet for a good man one would become surety (Sirach 29:14 ) and he would even lend to him (Sirach 29:1 ff). It should be remembered that in those times lending and becoming financially liable were acts of kindness, pure and simple: the Jewish Law forbade the taking of interest in any form (see Century Bible , "Ezra," etc., 198). "A slip on, a pavement is better than a slip with the tongue," so guard thy mouth ( Sirach 20:18 ); "He that is wise in words shall advance himself; and one that is prudent will please great men" (Sirach 20:27 ). The writer has the pride of his class, for he thinks the common untrained mind, that of the plowman, carpenter and the like, has little capacity for dealing with problems of the intellect (Sirach 38:24-34 ).
V. Literary Form.
The bulk of the book is poetical in form, abounding in that parallelism which characterizes Hebrew poetry, though it is less antithetic and regular than in Prov. No definite meter has been discovered, though Bickell, Margoliouth and others maintain the contrary (see
Bickell ( Zeitschr. far katholische Theol ., 1882) translated Sirach 51:1-20 back into Hebrew and tried to prove that it is an alphabetic acrostic psalm, and Taylor supports this view by an examination of the lately discovered fragments of the Hebrew text (see The Wisdom of Ben Sira , etc., by S. Schechter and C. Taylor, 79 ff). After Sirach 51:12 of the Greek and other versions the Hebrew has a psalm of 15 verses closely resembling Psalm 136; but the Hebrew version of Sirach 51:1-20 does not favor Bickell's view, nor does the ps, found only in the Hebrew, lend much support to what either Bickell or Taylor says. Space precludes detailed proofs.
1. Jesus, Son of Sirach:
The proper name of the author was Jesus (Jeshua, Greek
2. Other Views:
Many suppositions have been put forward as to the author's identity.
(1) That the Author Was a Priest:
So in Codex Sinaiticus (Sirach 50:27 ). In Sirach 7:29-31 he speaks much of the priesthood, and there are numerous references to sacrifices in the book. In 45:6-26 he has a long poem in praise of Aaron and his high-priesthood. Yet on the whole Ben Sira does not write as a priest.
(2) That He Was a High Priest:
So Syncellus ( Chronicles , edition Dindf., 1 525) through a misunderstanding of a passage in Eusebius. But the teaching and temper of the book make this supposition more improbable than the last.
(3) That He Was a Physician:
An inference drawn from Sirach 38:1 f, 12 ff and other references to the professional healer of the body (10:10). But this is a very small foundation on which to build so great an edifice.
(4) That He Was One of the 72 Translators (Septuagint):
So Lapide ( Comm. ), Calmer, Goldhager, a wholly unsupported hypothesis.
(5) No One of Course Believes That Solomon Wrote the Book:
Though many of the early Fathers held that he was the author of the five Wisdom Books
VII. Unity and Intergrity.
There is, on the whole, such a uniformity in the style and teaching of the book that most scholars agree in ascribing the whole book (except, the Prologue, which is the work of the translator) to Ben Sira. This does not mean that he composed every line; he must have adopted current sayings, written and oral, and this will account for the apparent contradictions, as about becoming surety (Sirach 29:14 ), and refusing to become surety (Sirach 8:13; 29:18 ); words in praise (Sirach 25:1; 26:1 ff) and condemnation of women ( Sirach 25:4,13; 36:18-26 ); the varying estimates of life (Sirach 36:16-35; 40:1-11 ), etc. But in these seeming opposites we have probably no more than complementary principles, the whole making up the complete truth. Nothing is more manifest in the book than the all-pervading thought of one dominant mind. Some have denied the genuineness of Sirach 51 , but the evidence is at least indecisive. There is nothing in this chapter inconsistent with the rest of the book.
In the recently discovered fragments of Hebrew text there is a psalm between Sirach 51:12,13 of the Greek and English Versions of the Bible which seems a copy of Psalm 136 . It is absent from the versions and its genuineness is doubtful. But in both the Hebrew and Greek texts there are undoubted additions and omissions. There are, in the Greek, frequent glosses by Christian editors or copyists and other changes (by the translators?) in the direction of Alexandrian Judaism; see Speaker's Apocrypha and other commentaries for details.
In the book itself there is one mark of definite date (Sirach 50:1 ), and in the Prologue there is another. Unfortunately both are ambiguous. In the Prologue the translator, whose grandfather or ancestor (Greek πάππος ,
1. Most Probable Views:
The conclusions to which the evidence has brought the present writer are these: (1) that Simon I (died 290 BC) is the high priest meant; (2) that Ptolemy 7 Physcon (218-198 BC) is the Euergetes meant.
(1) In Favor of the First Proposition Are the Following:
( a ) The book must have been written some time after the death of Simon, for in the meantime an artificial fame had gathered around the name, and the very allusion to him as a hero of the past makes it clear that he had been long dead. Assuming that Simon had died in 290 BC, as seems likely, it is a reasonable conclusion that the original Hebrew work was composed somewhat later than 250 BC. If Simon 2 is the man intended, the book could hardly have been composed before 150 BC, an impossible date; see below.
( b ) In the list of great men in Sirach 44 through 50 the praises of Simon (50:1 ff) are sung after those of Nehemiah ( Sirach 49:13 ), suggesting that the space of time between them was not very great.
( 100 ) The "Simon the Just" of Josephus was certainly Simon I, he being so called, this Jewish historian says ( Ant. ,
( d ) It is probable that the "Simon the Just" of the Mishna (
( e ) In the Syriac version (Pesh) Sirach 50:23 reads thus: "Let it (peace) be established with Simon the Just," etc. Some manuscripts have "Simon the Kind." This text may of course be wrong, but Graetz and Edersheim support it. This is the exact title given to Simon I by Josephus (op. cit.), the Mishna and by Jewish tradition generally.
( f ) The only references to Simon 2 in Jewish history and tradition depict him in an unfavorable light. In 2 Maccabees 3 he is the betrayer of the temple to the Syrians. Even if the incident of the above chapter were unhistorical, there must have been some basis for the legend. Josephus ( Ant. ,
( g ) The high priest Simon is said ( Sirach 50:1-13 ) to have repaired the temple and fortified the city. Edersheim says that the temple and city stood in need of what is here described in the time of Simon I, but not in the time of Simon II, for Ptolemy I (247-222 BC) in his wars with Demetrius destroyed many fortifications in Palestine to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy, among which Acco, Joppa, Gaza are named, and it is natural to think that the capital and its sanctuary were included. This is, however, but a priori reasoning, and Derenbourg argues that Simon 2 must be meant, since according to Josephus ( Ant. ,
( h ) Of the numerous errors in the Greek text some at least seem due to the fact that the version in that language was made so long after the composition of the original Hebrew that the sense of several Hebrew words had become lost among the Alexandrian Jews. If we assume that the Simon of chapter 50 was Simon I (died 290 BC), so that the Hebrew work was composed about 250 BC; if we further assume that the Euergetes of the Prologue was Ptolemy 7 (died 198 BC), there is a reasonable space of time to allow the sense of the Hebrew to be lost in many instances (see Halevy, Revue semitique , July, 1899). It must be admitted that there is no decisive evidence on one side or the other, but the balance weighs in favor of Simon I in the opinion of the present writer.
(2) Euergetes of the Prologue:
That the Euergetes of the Prologue in whose reign the translation was made must have been Ptolemy 7 Physcon, Euergetes II, seems proved by the translator's statement that he came to Egypt in the 38th year, ἐπἰ τοῦ Εὐεργέτου βασιλέως ,
2. Brief Statement of Other Views:
(1) That the Euergetes of the Prologue and the Simon of chapter 50 are in both cases the first so called. So Hug, Scholz, Welt, Keil, Edersheim ( Speaker's Apocrypha ) and many others. The book was accordingly written after 290 BC, perhaps in 250 BC, or later, and the translation was made some time after 220 BC, say 200 BC.
(2) That Euergetes 2 (died 116 BC) and Simon 2 (died 198 BC) are the two persons referred to. So Eichhorn, De Wette, Ewald, Franz Delitzsch, Hitzig, Schurer.
(3) Hitzig ( Psalms , 1836, II, 118) made the original work a product of the Maccabean period - an impossible supposition, for the book says nothing at all about the Maccabees. Moreover, the priestly house of Zadok is praised in this book ( Sirach 50 , etc.); it was held in little respect during the time of the Maccabean wars, owing to the sympathy it showed toward the Hellenizing party.
IX. Original Languages.
1. Composed in Hebrew:
Even before the discovery of the substantial fragments of what is probably the original Hebrew text of this book, nearly all scholars had reached the conclusion that Sirach was composed in Hebrew. (1) The fact of a Hebrew original is definitely stated in the Prologue. (2) Jerome ( Praef. in vers. libri Sol .) says that he had seen the Hebrew original - the same text probably that underlies the fragments recently published, though we cannot be sure of this. (3) Citations apparently from the same Hebrew text are made not seldom in Talmudic and rabbinical literature. (4) There are some word-plays in the book which in the Greek are lost, but which reappear in the discovered Hebrew text, e.g. ( Sirach 43:8 ) ὁ μὴν κατὰ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτῆς ἐστιν αὐξανομένη (read ἀνανεομένη ),
The strongly supported conjecture of former years that the book was composed in Hebrew was turned into a practical certainty through the discovery, by Dr. S. Schechter and others in 1896 and after, of the fragments of a (probably the ) Hebrew text called now
2. Margoliouth's View:
D. S. Margoliouth ( Origin of the Original Hebrew of Ecclesiasticus , 1899) has tried to prove that the Hebrew text of the fragments is a translation of a Persian version which is itself derived from Greek and Syriac. The proofs he offers have not convinced scholars.
(1) He refers to words in Hebrew which in that language are senseless, and he endeavors to show that they are disguised Persian words. As a matter of fact, in such cases the copyist has gone wholly wrong or the word is undecipherable.
(2) There do appear to be Persian glosses, but they are no part of the original text, and there can be no reasonable doubt that they are due to a Persian reader or copyist.
(3) There are many cases in which the Hebrew can be proved to be a better and older text than the Greek or Syriac (see Konig, The Expository Times , XI, 170 ff).
(4) As regards the character of the language, it may be said that in syntax it agrees in the main with the classical Hebrew of the Old Testament, but its vocabulary links it with the latest Old Testament books. Thus we have the use of the "
(5) It is nevertheless admitted that in some cases the Syriac or the Greek or both together preserve an older and correcter text than the Hebrew, but this because the latter has sometimes been miscopied and intentionally changed.
(6) The numerous Hebraisms in the Greek version which in the Hebrew have their original expression point to the same conclusion - that this Hebrew text is the original form of the book.
Margoliouth has been answered by Smend (
The Septuagint translation was made from the Hebrew direct; it is fairly correct, though in all the extant manuscripts the text is very corrupt in several places. (1) The book occurs in the uncials Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Ephraemi, and part of Alexandrinus fairly free from glosses, though abounding in obvious errors. (2) The text is found in a much purer form in Codex Venetus and also in Codex Sinaiticus (ca) and part of Codex Alexandrinus. All extant Greek manuscripts except the late cursive 248 seem to go back to one original MS, since in all of them the two sections Sirach 30:25 through 33:15,33:16 through 36:11 have changed places, so that 33:16 through 36:11 follows 30:24,30:25 through 33:15 comes after 36:11. Most scholars accept the explanation of Fritzsche ( Exeg. Handbuch zu den Apok , V, 21 f) that the two leaves on which these two parts (of similar size) were written got mixed, the wrong one being put first. On the other hand, the cursive 248 (14th century) has these sections in their proper order, and the same is true of the Syriac (Peshitta), Latin and Armenian versions and of the Greek version of the Complutensian Polyglot (which follows throughout 248 and not the uncials) and English Versions of the Bible which is made from this Polyglot. The superiority of 248 to the older manuscript (B
The Syriac (Peshitta) version is now almost universally acknowledged to have been made from the Hebrew, of which, on the whole, it is a faithful rendering. In some places, however, it agrees with the Septuagint against the Hebrew, probably under the influence of the inaccurate idea that the Greek text is the original one. In this version the two sections Sirach 30:25 through 33:5,33:16 through 36:11 are in proper order, as in the Hebrew, a fresh proof that the Syriac is not translated from the Greek
The Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) agrees with the Old Latin which follows the Septuagint closely. Lapide, Sabatier and Bengel tried to prove that the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) was based on the lost original Hebrew, but the evidence they supply falls far short of proof, and recently discovered Hebrew fragments show that they were wrong. The two sections transposed in the Septuagint (except 248) are also transposed in the Latin, showing that the latter is based on the Greek text. The Latin text of both Sirach and Wisdom according to the codex Amiant is given by Lagarde in his Mittheilungen , I, 243-84. This closely follows the Greek text.
The King James Version follows the cursives and often repeats their errors. the Revised Version (British and American) is based, for the most part, on the uncials and thus often departs from the Hebrew. Sirach 3:19 is retained by the King James Version but omitted by the Revised Version (British and American). For the latter clause of the verse ("mysteries are revealed unto the meek"), the King James Version is supported by codex 248, the Syriac and the Hebrew. Both English Versions of the Bible should be corrected by the Hebrew in Sirach 7:26,38:1,15 .
For fuller details concerning versions see Speaker's Apocrypha , II, 23-32 (Edersheim); Kautzsch, Die Apok. des Altes Testament , I, 242 ff (Ryssel), and the article by Nestle in
In addition to books mentioned under Apocrypha and in the course of the present article, note the following:
(1) The Text of the Hebrew Fragments:
For accounts of the discovery and decipherments of these see
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Sirach, Book of'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/s/sirach-book-of.html. 1915.
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29