Lectionary Calendar
Friday, July 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Search for…
Prev Entry
Ecclesiastical Law
Next Entry
Ecclesiasticus (2)
Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

one of the most important of the apocryphal books of the O.T., (See APOCRYPHA), being of the class ranked in the second canon. (See DEUTEPRO-CANONICAL).

I. Title. The original Hebrew title of this book, according to the authority of the Jewish writings and St. Jerome (Praef. in Libr. Sol. 9:1242), was מְשָׁלַים, Proverbs, or, more fully, מַשְׁלֵי יְשׁוּעִ בֶּן סַירָא, the Proverbs of Jesus, son of Sira, which was abbreviated, according to a very common practice, into בֶּןאּסַירָא Ben-Sira; סַירוּק Siruk, which we find in a few later writers, evidently originated from a desire to imitate the Greek Σιράχ . Hence all the quotations made from this book in the Talmud and Midrashim are under these titles. (Comp. Mishna, Yadaim, 3:15; Chagiga, page 15; Midrash Rabba, page 6, b.; Tanchuma, page 69, a, etc.) The Greek MSS. and fathers, however, as well as the prologue to this book, and the printed editions of the Sept., designate it Σοφία Ι᾿ησοῦ υἱοῦ Σιράχ (v.r. Σειράχ and even Σηράχ ), The wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach, or, by way of abbreviation, Σοφία Ξιράχ, The wisdom of Sirach, or simply Sirach; also σοφία ἡπανάρετος, or simply πανάρετος , The book of all virtues, because of the excellency and diversity of the wisdom it propounds (Jerome, l.c.; comp. Routh, Reli. Sacr. 1:278). In the Syriac version the book is entitled The book of Jesus, the son of Simeon Asiro (i.e., the bound); and the same book is called the wisdom of the Son of Asiro. In many authors it is simply styled Wisdom (Orig. in Matthew 13:1-58, § 4; compare Clam. Al. Pad. 1:8, § 69, 72, etc.), and Jesus Sirach (August. ad Simplic. 1:20). The name Ecclesiasticus, by which it has been called in the Latin Church ever since the second half of the fourth century (Rufinus, Vers.; Orig. Hom. in Numbers 17:3), and which has been retained in many versions of the Reformers (e.g. the Zurich Bible, Coverdale, the Geneva version, the Bishops' Bible, and [together with the other title] the Authorized Version) is derived from the old Latin version, adopted by Jerome in the Vulgate, and is explained to mean church reading-book. Calmet, however, is of opinion (Preface) that this name was given to it because of its resemblance to Ecclesiastes. But as this explanation of the title is very vague, it is rightly rejected by Luther, and almost all modern critics. The word, like many others of Greek origin, appears to have been adopted in the African dialect (e.g. Tertull. De pudic. c. 22, page 435), and thus it may have been applied naturally in the Vetus Latina to a church reading-book; and when that translation was adopted by Jerome (Profe. in Libro Sal. juxta LXX. 10:404, ed. Migne), the local title became current throughout the West, where the book was most used. The right explanation of the word is given by Rufinus, who remarks that "it does not designate the author of the book, but the character of the writing," as publicly used in the services of the Church (Comm. in Symb. § 38). The special application by Rufinus of the general name of the class (ecclesiastici as opposed to canonici) to the single book may be explained by its wide popularity. Athanasius, for instance, mentions the book (Ep. Fest. s.f.) as one of those "framed by the fathers to be read by those who wish to be instructed (κατηχεῖσθαι ) in the word of godliness."

II. Design and Method. The object of this book is to propound the true nature of wisdom, and to set forth the religious and social duties which she teaches us to follow through all the varied stages and vicissitudes of this life, thus exhibiting the practical end of man's existence by reviewing life in all its different bearings and aspects. Wisdom is represented here, as in Proverbs, as the source of human happiness, and the same views of human life, founded on the belief of a recompense, pervade the instructions of this book also, wherein, however, a more matured reflection is perceptible (De Wette's Einleitung). It is, in fact, the composition of a philosopher who had deeply studied the fortunes and manners of mankind, and did not hesitate to avail himself of the philosophy of older moralists: Ecclesiastes 12:813:23; 15:11-20; 16:2617:20; 19:6-17; 23:16-27; 26:1-18; 30:1-13; 37:27; 38:15, 24:139:11, etc. (Ib.). It abounds in grace, wisdom, and spirit, although sometimes more particular in inculcating principles of politeness than those of virtue (Cellerier, Introd. a la Lecture des Liv. Saints). It is not unfrequently marked by considerable beauty and elegance of expression, occasionally rising to the sublimest heights of human eloquence (Christian Remembrancer, volume 9). It has been observed of it by Addison (see Horne's Introd. volume 4) that "it would be regarded by our modern wits as one of the most shining tracts of morality that are extant if it appeared under the name of a Confucius, or of any celebrated Grecian philosopher."

In addition to the fact that no Palestinian production, whether inspired or uninspired, can be reduced to a logically developed treatise according to Aristotelian rules, there are difficulties in tracing the plan of this book, arising from the peculiar circumstances of the author, as well as from the work itself. Ben-Sira brings to the execution of his plan the varied experience of a studious and practical life, and in his great anxiety not to omit any useful lesson which he has gathered, he passes on, after the manner of an Eastern logic, from the nature of heavenly wisdom to her godly teachings, from temptation in her varied forms to filial duties; he discloses before the eyes of his readers the inward workings of the heart and mind, he depicts all passions and aspirations, all the virtues and vices, all the duties towards God and man, in proverbs and apothegms, in sayings which have been the property of the nation for ages, and in maxims and parables of his own creation, with a rapidity and suddenness of transition which even an Eastern mind finds it at times difficult to follow. Add to this that the original Hebrew is lost, that the Greek translation is very obscure, that it has been mutilated for dogmatic purposes, and that some sections are transposed beyond the hope of readjustment, and the difficulty of displaying satisfactorily the method or plan of this book will at once be apparent, and the differences of opinion respecting it will be no matter of surprise. The book (see Fritzsche's proleg. in his Commentar) is divisible into seven parts or sections:

1. Comprising chapters 116:21, describes the nature of wisdom, gives encouragements to submit to it, as well as directions for conducting ourselves in harmony with its teachings;

2. 16:2223:17, shows God in the creation, the position man occupies with regard to his Maker, gives directions how he is to conduct himself under different circumstances, and how to avoid sin;

3. 24:130:24; 33:1236:16a; 30:25-27, describes wisdom and the law, and the writer's position as to the former, gives proverbs, maxims, and admonitions about the conduct of men in a social point of view;

4. 30:2833:11; 36:16b-22, describes the wise and just conduct of men, the Lord and his people;

5. 36:2339:11, instructions and admonitions about social matters;

6. 39:1242:14, God's creation, and the position man occupies with regard to it;

7. 42:11-1, 26, the praise of the Lord, how he had glorified himself in the works of nature, and in the celebrated ancestors of the Jewish people. Thereupon follows an epilogue, chapter 1:27-29, in which the author gives his name, and declares those happy who will ponder over the contents of this book, and act according to it; as well as an appendix, chapter 51:1-30, praising the Lord for deliverance from danger, describing how the writer has successfully followed the paths of wisdom from his very youth, and calling upon the uneducated to get the precious treasures of wisdom. (See WISDOM PERSONIFIED).

III. Its Unity. The peculiar difficulties connected both with the plan of the book and the present deranged condition of its text will have prepared the reader for the assertions made by some that there is no unity at all in the composition of this book, and that it is, in fact, a compilation of divers national sayings, from various sources, belonging to different ages (see Davidson, in Horne's Introd. 2:1013 sq.). Encouragement is sought for these assertions from the statement in the spurious prologue of this book, οὐμόνον τὰ ἑτέρων τῶν πρὸ αὐτοῦ συνετῶν ἀνδρῶν ἀπαφθέγματα συνήγαγεν, ἀλλἀ καὶ αὐτὸς ἴδιά τινα ἀπεφθέγζατο, as well as from the remark of St. Jerome: "Quorum priorem [πανάρετον Jesu filii Sirach librum] Hebraicum reperi, non Ecclesiasticum ut apud Latinos, sed Parabolas praenenotatum, cui juncti erant Ecclesiastes et Canticum Canticorum, ut similitudinem Salomonis non solum librorum numero, sed etiam materiarum genere cosequaret" (Praef. in Libr. Solom.), which seems to imply that the book of Ben-Sira was intended to answer to all the three reputed works of Solomon. So also Luther. Eichhorn can see in it three different books: the first book consists of chapters 123, comprising desultory remarks upon life and morals, and is divisible into two sections, viz. (a) 19, and (b) 33; the second book comprises 2442. 14, begins with a vivid description of wisdom whereupon follow remarks and maxims without any order; and the third book, comprising 42:15-1, 24, is the only portion of Sirach carefully worked out, and contains praise of God and the noble ancestors of the Hebrews (Einleitung in d. Ap. page 50, etc.). Ewald, again, assures us that Ben-Sira made two older works on Proverbs the basis of his book, so that his merit chiefly consists in arranging those works and supplementing them. The first of these two books originated in the fourth century before Christ, extends from chapter 1 to 16:21, and contains the most simple proverbs, written with great calmness. The second book originated in the third century before Christ, extends from 16:22, to 36:22, and displays the excitement of passions as well as some penetrating observations, and has been greatly misplaced in its parts, which Ewald rearranges. The third book, which is the genuine work of Ben-Sira, extends from 36:23, to 51:30, with the exception of the song of praise contained in 39:12-35, which belongs to the author of the second work (Geschichte d. V. Isr. 4:300, etc.; Jahrb. 3:131, etc.). These must suffice as specimens of the opinions entertained by some respecting the unity of this book. Against this, however, is to be urged I. That the difference in form and contents of some of the constituent parts by no means precludes the unity of the whole, seeing that the writer brought to the illustration of his design the experience of a long life, spent both in study and traveling. 2. That this is evidently the work of the author's life, and was written by him at different periods. 3. That the same design and spirit pervade the whole, as shown in the foregoing section; and, 4. That the abruptness of some portions of it is to be traced to the Eastern style of composition, and more especially to the present deranged state of the Greek translation.

IV. Author and Date. This is the only apocryphal book the author of which is known. The writer tells us himself that his name is Jesus (Ι᾿ηαοῦς, יְשׁוּעִ, יְהוֹשׁוּעִ i.e., Jeshua), the son (Sirach, and that he is of Jerusalem (1:27). Here, therefore, we have the production of a Palestinian Jew. The conjectures which have been made to fill up this short notice are either unwarranted (e.g. that he was a physician, from 38:1-15) or absolutely improbable. There is no evidence to show that he was of priestly descent; and the similarity of names is scarcely a plausible excuse for confounding him with the Hellenizing high-priest Jason (2 Maccabees 4:7-11; Georg. Sync. Chronogr. page 276). In the Talmud, the name of Ben-Sira ( בֶּןאּסַירָא for which סירוּק is a late error, Jost, Gesch. d. Judenth. page 311) occurs in several places as the author of proverbial sayings which in part are parallel to sentences in Ecclesiasticus, but nothing is said as to his date or person, and the tradition which ascribes the authorship of the book to Eliezer (B.C. 260) is without any adequate foundation (Jost, ib.; yet see note 1). The Palestinian origin of the author is, however, substantiated by internal evidence, e.g. 24:10 sq. For the various speculations advanced about the personal character, acquirements, and position of the author, we must refer to the article JESUS, SON OF SIRACH (See JESUS, SON OF SIRACH) . That the book should have been ascribed by the Latin Church to Solomon, notwithstanding this plain declaration of the book itself, the discreditable terms in which Solomon is spoken of, the reference to Solomon's successors, to prophets and other great men who lived before and after the Babylonish captivity, the mention of the twelve minor prophets (49:10), the citation from the prophet Malachi (comp. 48:10, with Malachi 4:6), and the description of the high-priest Simon (chapter 1), only shows what the fathers can do.

The age of the book has been, and still is, a subject of great controversy. The life-like description of the high-priest Simon, contained in chapter 1, seems to indicate that the writer had seen this high functionary officiate in the Temple; but there were two high priests of the same name, viz. Simon, son of Onies, surnamed the Just, or the Pious, who lived B.C. cir. 370-300, and Simon 2, son of Onias, who lived in the reign of Ptolemy Philopator, B.C. 217-195 (3 Maccabees 1:2). (See SIMON). Some interpreters, therefore, are of opinion that Simon 1 is described by Ben-Sira, whilst others think that Simon 2 is intended. The lives and acts of these two pontiffs, however, as well as the esteem in which they were respectively held by the people, as recorded in their national literature, must show to which of these two high- priests the description of Ben-Sira is applicable. 1. The encomiums show beyond doubt that one of Israel's most renowned high-priests is described, whereas Simon 2 was so little distinguished that Josephus cannot relate a single good thing about him. 2. Ben-Sira characterizes him as the deliverer of his people from destruction; whereas in the time of Simon 2 no deliverance of either the people or the Temple was necessary. 3. In the time of Simon 2, Hellenism, the great enemy of Judaism, which was represented by the sons of Tobias, had made great progress; and if Ben- Sira had written about this time, we should have had some censures from this pious poet of these thoughtless and godless innovations, whereas there is no allusion to these throughout the whole of this book. This appears the more strange when it is borne in mind that Simon 2 himself sided with these faithless sons of Tobias, as Josephus distinctly declares (Ant. 12:4, 11). 4. It is utterly impossible that such a man as Simon 2 should be described in such extraordinary terms in the catalogue of national benefactors, and that Simon 1, the personification of goodness, nobility, and grandeur, whom the nation crowned with the title the Just, the Pious, should be passed over with silence. 5. No Jew, on reading so sublime a description of the high-priest, would ever think, with his national traditions before him, of applying it to any one else but the Simon, unless he were distinctly told that it was intended for another Simon. These considerations, therefore, show that Ben-Sira's life-like description refers to Simon 1. Now as Simon 1 died B.C. cir. 300, Ben-Sira must have written his work not earlier than 290-280, as chapter 1 implies that this high-priest was dead. (See also infra, section 6).

V. The original Language of the Book. The translator of this work into Greek most distinctly declares in his preface that it was written in Hebrew, and St. Jerome assures us that he had seen the Hebrew original (vide supra, section 3). That by the term ῾Εβραϊστί is meant Hebrew, and not Aramaean, is evident from the numerous quotations made from this book both in the Talmud and the Midrashim. Compare

Ben-Sira. Talmud and Midrashim.

Chapter 3:20 Chagiga, 13; Bereshith Rab. 10.

Chapter 4 Sanhed. 10:100; Yebamoth, 63, b; Erub. 65, a.

Chapter 7:34 Derek Erets, 19, c. 4.

Chapter 9:8 Sanhed. 100, b; Yebamnoth, 63. Chapter 9:12 (Syriac) Aboth, 1:5. Chapter 11:27 Je. Berach. 29, a; Nazir, 18, a; Beresh. Rab. 78, b.

Chapter 11:27 Sanhed. 100.

Chapter 13:15 Baba Kama, 92, b.

Chapter 13:25 Bereshith Rabba, 82.

Chapter 13:31 Bereshith Rabba, 64, b.

Chapter 14:11 Erubin, 54, a.

Chapter 14:17 Erubin, 71.

Chapter 15:8 Pesachim, 66; Erubin, 55, a.

Chapter 18:23 Tanchuma Vayikra, 41, b.

Chapter 25:3, 4 Pesachim, 113.

Chapter 25:13 Sabbath, 11, a.

Chapter 26:1 Sanhed. 100; Yebamoth, 63, b.

Chapter 26:20 Nida, 70.

Chapter 27:9 Baba Kama, 92, b.

Chapter 28:14 Vayikra Rab. 153, a.

Chapter 30:21 Sanhed. 100, b.

Chapter 30:25 Yebamoth, 63, b.

Chapter 38:1 Sanhed. 41; Taanith, 9, a; Shemoth. R, 106, b.

Chapter 38:4, 8 Beresh. Rab. S, a; Yalkut Job, 148.

Chapter 38:16-23 Moed Katon, 27.

Chapter 40:28 Betza. 32, b; Yalkut Job, 149.

Chapter 42:9, 10 Sanhedrin, 100, b.

By some writers, however, it is thought that the Sentences of Ben-Sirach, cited in the Talmud (Sanhed. Gem. 11:42; Bereschith Rabba, 8, f. 10; Baba Kama f. 92, c. 2), and published in Latin by Paul Fagius (1542), and in Hebrew, Chaldee, and Latin by Drusius (1597), though so similar to those in Ecclesiasticus, are, upon the whole, a different work (Eichhorn's and Bertholdt's Introductions).

Almost all of these quotations are in Hebrew, though the works in which they are found are in Aramaan, thus showing beyond doubt that the book of Ben-Sira was written in genuine Hebrew. Besides, some of the blunders in the Greek can only be accounted for from the fact that the original was Hebrew. Thus, for example, in 24:25 we read, "He maketh knowledge to come forth as light, as Gihon in the days of vintage," where the parallelism Γηών῟ גַיחוֹן (Genesis 2:13), whereby the Nile was designated in later times, which the Sept. also understands by שַׁיחוֹר (Jeremiah 2:18), shows that ώς φώς in the first hemistich originated from the translator's mistaking the Hebrew כיאור like a stream, for כאיר, like light. Compare also 49:9, which is most unintelligible in the Greek through the translator's mistaking the Hebrew בזים for בזרם Bishop Lowth, indeed, went so far as to assert that the translator "seems to have numbered the words, and exactly to have preserved their order, so that, were it literally and accurately to be retranslated, I have very little doubt that, for the most part, the original diction would be recovered." The learned prelate has actually retranslated chapter 24 into Hebrew (Hebrew Poet. Lecture 24, Oxford ed. 1821, page 254). This retranslation is also printed by Fritzsche, who has added some corrections of his own, and who also gives a translation of chapter 1.

VI. The Greek and other Translations of this Book. The Greek translation incorporated in the Sept. was made by the grandson of the author ( πάππος μου Ι᾿ησοῦς ), who tells us that he came from Palestine into Egypt in his thirty-eighth year, "in the reign of Euergetes" (ἐν τῷ ὀγδόῳ καὶ τριακοστῷ ἔτει ἐπὶ τοῦ Ε ù εργέτου βασιλεως ). But there were two kings who have borne this name Euergetes I, son and successor of Ptolemy II, Philadelphus, B.C. 247-222, and Euergetes II, i.e., Ptolemy VII, known by the nickname Physcon, the brother of Ptolemy VI, B.C. 145-116, and the question is, which of these two is meant? Now, if Ben-Sira wrote B.C. cir. 290-280, when an old man, and if we take πάππος μου to mean great-grandfather, a sense which it frequently has, and that the translator was born after the death of his illustrious ancestor, his arrival in Egypt in his thirty-eighth year would be B.C. cir. 230, i.e., in the reign of Euergetes I. On the other hand, the manner in which the translator speaks of the Alexandrine version of the Old Testament, and the familiarity which he shows with its language (e.g. 44:16, Ε᾿νὼχ μετετέθη , Genesis 5:24; comp. Linde, ap. Eichhorn, pages 41, 42), is scarcely consistent with a date so early as the middle of the third century. Winer (Deutr. Sirac. atate, Erlang. 1832) maintains that Simon the Just is the person referred to, but that it is not necessary to conclude that the author was his contemporary. He thinks that, although the grammatical construction rather requires ἔτει τῷ ἐπὶ τοῦ Ε ù εργέτου to refer to the age of the monarch's reign, Euergetes the Second was the king in whose reign the translation was made, and that the canon could not have been yet closed under the reign of the first Euergetes, as implied in the preface "the law, the prophets, and the other books." As there appears to be no special reason for the translator's reference to his own age, the date has been taken to allude to that of the reigning Ptolemy by many critics since Eichhorn, e.g. by Bruch, Palfrey, Davidson, Ewald, Fritzsche, etc. The "thirty-eighth year of his reign," although not applicable to the first Euergetes, may refer to the second, if his regency be included. According to this, which De Wette conceives the most probable hypothesis, the translator would have lived B.C. 130, and the author B.C. 180. But if, with most interpreters, the chronological datum in question refers to the translator's own age, then the grandson of the author was already past middle-age when he came to Egypt; and if his visit took place early in the reign of Ptolemy Physcon, it is quite possible that the book itself was written while the name and person of the last of "the men of the great synagogue" was still familiar to his countrymen. Even if the date of the book be brought somewhat lower than the times of Simon the Just, the importance of the position which that functionary occupied in the history of the Jews would be a sufficient explanation of the distinctness of his portraiture; and the political and social troubles to which the book alludes (2:6, 12; 36, sq.) seem to point to the disorders which marked the transference of Jewish allegiance from Egypt to Syria rather than to the period of prosperous tranquility which was enjoyed during the supremacy of the earlier Ptolemies. On the whole, therefore, we may conclude that the book was probably written B.C. cir. 200, and translated B.C. cir. 140.

The present state of this translation, however, is very deplorable; the text as well as the MSS. are greatly disfigured by numerous interpolations, omissions, and transpositions. The Old Latin version, which Jerome adopted in the Vulgate without correcting it, was made from this Greek translation, and, besides being barbarous in style, is also greatly mutilated, and in many instances cannot be harmonized with its original. Even in the first two chapters the following words occur which are found in no other part, of the Vulgate: defunctio (1:13), religiositas (1:17, 18, 26), compartior (1:24), inhonoratio (1:38), obductio (2:2; 5:1, 10), receptibilis (2:5). The Syriac alone is made direct from the Hebrew, and contains a quotation made by Joseben-Jochanan about 150 B.C. (comp. Aboth, 1:5 with Ben-Sira 9:12), which the secondary versions have not, because it was dropped from the Greek. Notwithstanding the ill treatment and the changes which this version has been subjected to, it is still one of the best auxiliaries for the restoration of the old text. The Arabic seems to have been made from the Syriac; whilst the old English version of Coverdale, as usual, follows the Zurich Bible and the Vulgate, the Bishops' Bible again copies Coverdale; the Geneva version, as is often the case, departs from the other English version for the better. The present A.V. chiefly follows the Complutensian edition of the Greek and the Latin Vulgate. The arrangement, however, of chapters 30:2536:17 in the Vatican and Complutensian editions is very different. The English version here follows the latter, which is supported by the Latin and Syriac versions against the authority of the Uncial MSS. The extent of the variation may be seen in the following table:

Compl., Lat., Syr, A. V. Vat., WSS. "A, B, C."

Chapter 30:25 33:13, λαμπρὰ καρδία, κ .τ .λ .

Chapter 31, 32 34, 35.

Chapter 33:16, 17, ἠγρύπνησα 36:1-16.

Chapter 33:10 sq. ὡς καλαμώμενος 30:25 sq.

Chapter 34, 35 31, 32.

Chapter 36:1-11, φυλάς Ι᾿ακώβ 33:1-13.

Chapter 36:12 sq καὶ κατεκ - 36:17 sq. ληρονόμησαμησα

The most important interpolations are: 1:5, 7; 18b, 21; 3:25; 4:23b; 7:26b; 10:21; 12:6c, 13:25b; 16:15, 16, 22c; 17:5, 9, 16, 17a, 18, 21, 23c, 26b; 18:2b, 3, 27c, 33c; 19:5b, 6a, 13b, 14a, 18, 19, 21, 25c; 20:3, 14b, 17b, 32; 22:9, 10, 23c; 23:3e, 4c, 5b, 28; 24:18, 24; 26:12, 26c; 26:19-27; 1, 29b.

All these passages, which occur in the A.V. and the Compl. texts, are wanting in the best MSS. The edition of the Syro-Hexaplaric MS. at Milan, which is at present reported to be in preparation (since 1858), will probably contribute much to the establishment of a sounder text.

The name of the Greek translator is unknown. He is commonly supposed to have borne the same name as his grandfather, but this tradition rests only on conjecture or misunderstanding (Jerome, Synops. S. Script. printed as a Prologue in the Compl. ed. and in the A.V.).

VII. Canonicity. Though this book has been quoted in the Jewish Church as early as B.C. 150 and 100, by Jose ben-Jochanan (Aboth, 1:5) and Simon ben-Shetach (Nazis, Genesis 5:3), and references to it are dispersed through the Talmud and Midrashim (aide sup. section 5), yet these latter declare most distinctly that it is not canonical. Thus Yadaim, c. 2, says the book of Ben-Sira, and all the books written from its time and afterwards, are not canonical. We also learn from this remark that Ben-Sira is the oldest of all apocryphal books, thus confirming the date assigned to it in section 4. Again, the declaration made by R. Akiba, that he who studies uncanonical books will have no portion in the world to come (Mishna, Sanhed. 10:1), is explained by the Jeremiah Talmud to mean the books of Ben-Sira and Ben-Laanah (comp. the Midrash on Coheleth 12:12). It was never included by the Jews among their Scriptures; for though it is quoted in the Talmud, and at times like the Kethubim, yet the study of it was forbidden, and it was classed among "the outer books" סְפָרַים חַעוֹנַים, that is, probably, those which were not admitted into the Canon (Dukes, Rabb. Blumenlese, page 24 sq.).

Allusions to this book have been supposed to be not unfrequently discernible in the New Testament (compare, especially, Sirach 33:13; Romans 9:21; Romans 11:19; Luke 12:19-20; Luke 5:11; James 1:19, etc.; 24:17, 18; Matthew 11:28-29; John 4:13-14; John 6:35, etc.). The earliest clear coincidence with the contents of the book occurs in the epistle of Barnabas (c. 19 = Sirach 4:31; compare Const. Apost. 7:11), but in this case the parallelism consists in the thought and not in the words, and there is no mark of quotation. There is no sign of the use of the book in Justin Martyr, which is the more remarkable, as it offers several thoughts congenial to his style. The first distinct quotations occur in Clement of Alexandria; but from the end of the second century the book was much used and cited with respect, and in the same terms as the canonical Scriptures; and its authorship was often assigned to Solomon, from the similarity which it presented to his writings (August. De Cura pro Mort. 18). Clement speaks of it continually as Scripture (Pad. 1:8, § 62; 2:2, § 34; 5, § 46; 8, § 69, etc.), as the work of Solomon (Strom. 2:5, § 24), and as the voice of the great Master (παιδαγωγός , Pad. 2:10, § 98). Origen cites passages with the same formula as the canonical books (γέγραπται , in Johann. 32, § 14; in Matthew 16:1-28, § 8), as Scripture (Comm. in Matthew § 44; in Ep. ad Romans 9:1-33, § 17, etc.), and as the utterance of "the divine word" (c. Cels. 8:50). The other writers of the Alexandrine school follow the same practice. Dionysius calls its words "divine oracles" (Frag. de Nat. 3, page 1258, ed. Migne), and Peter Martyr quotes it as the work of "the Preacher" (Frag. 1, § 5, page 515, ed. Migne). The passage quoted from Tertullian (De exhort. cast. 2, "Sicut scriptum est: Ecce posui ante te bonum et malum; gustati enim de arbore agnitionis," etc.; compare Sirach 15:17, Vulg.) is not absolutely conclusive; but Cyprian constantly brings forward passages from the book as Scripture (De bono pat. 17; De mortalitate, 9, § 13), and as the work of Solomon (Ep. 65:2). The testimony of Augustine sums up briefly the result which follows from these isolated authorities. He quotes the book constantly himself as the work of a prophet (Serm. 39:1), the word of God (Sermon 87:11), "Scripture" (Lib. de Nat. 33), and that even in controversy (c. Jul. Pelag. 5:36); but he expressly notices that it was not in the Hebrew Canon (De Cura pro Maort. 18), "though the Church, especially of the West, had received it into authority" (De Civit. 17:20; compare Speculum, 3:1127, ed. Paris). Jerome; in like manner (Praef. in Sap. Sir. § 7), contrasts the book with "the canonical Scriptures" as "doubtful," while they are "sure," and in another place (Prol. Galeat.) he says that it "is not in the Canon," and again (Prol. in Libr. Sol.), that it should be read " for the instruction of the people (plebis), not to support the authority of ecclesiastical doctrines." The book is cited by Hippolytus (Opp. p. 192) and by Eusebius (Opp. 4:21, etc.), but is not quoted by Irenaeus; and it is not contained in the Canon of Melito, Origen, Cyril, Laodicea, Hilary, or Rufinus. (See CANON).

But while the book is destitute of the highest canonical authority, it is a most important monument of the religious state of the Jews at the period of its composition. As an expression of Palestinian theology it stands alone; for there is no sufficient reason for assuming Alexandrine interpolations, or direct Alexandrine influence (Gfrorer, Philo, 2:18 sq.). The translator may, perhaps, have given an Alexandrine coloring to the doctrine, but its great outlines are unchanged (comp. Dahne, Relig. Philos. 2:129 sq.). The conception of God as Creator, Preserver, and Governor is strictly conformable to the old Mosaic type; but, at the same time, his mercy is extended to all mankind (18:11-13). Little stress is laid upon the spirit world, either good (48:21; 45:2; 39:28?) or evil (21:27?), and the doctrine of a resurrection fades away (14:16; 17:27, 28; 44:14, 15. Yet comp. 48:11). In addition to the general hope of restoration (36:1, etc.), one trait only of a Messianic faith is preserved, in which the writer contemplates the future work of Elias (48:10). The ethical precepts are addressed to the middle class (Eichhorn, Einl. page 44 sq.). The praise of agriculture (7:15) and medicine (38:1 sq.), and the constant exhortations to cheerfulness, seem to speak of a time when men's thoughts were turned inwards with feelings of despondency and perhaps (Dukes, u.s. page 27 sq.) of fatalism. At least the book marks the growth of that anxious legalism which was conspicuous in the sayings of the later doctors. Life is already imprisoned in' rules: religion is degenerating into ritualism: knowledge has taken refuge in schools (compare Ewald, Gesch. d. Volkes Isr. 4:298 sq.). Kitto, s.v.; Smith, s.v.

VIII. Commentaries, etc. Special exegetical works which have appeared on the whole of this book are the following, of which the chief are designated by an asterisk prefixed: Rabanus Maurus, In Ecclesiasticuna (in his Opp.); Anon. Beschreib. u. Uebers. (in Lorsbach's Archiv, 2:11 sq.); Alexander, De libro Ecclus. (in his Hist. Ecclesiastes 3:690); Bengel, Muthmassliche Quelle, etc. (in Eichhorn's Bibliothek, 7:852-64); De Sacy, L'Ecclesiastique (in his Sainte Bible, 16); Bossuet, Liber Ecclus. (in his OEuvres, 22:1 sq.); Couz, Bemerkangen (in Henke's Hus. 2:177-243); *Camerarius, Sententiae J.S. (Lips. 1570, 8vo); Sapientia J.S. (Lips. 1570, 8vo); Striegel, in his Libri Sapientiae (Lpz. 15,5, 12mo), page 277 sq.; Drusius, Ecclus. interpretatus (Franecker, 1596, 4to); Hoschel, Sap. Sirachi (Augsb. 1604, 4to; also in the Crit. Sacri, 5); *a Lapide, Commentarius (Antwerp, 1634, 1687, fol.); Stiffer, Homiliae (Lips. 1676, 4to); Calmet, Commentarius (Paris, 1707, fol.; in Latin, ed. Manse, Wirceb. 1792; 8:351 sq.); *Arnald, Crit. Commentary (Lond. 1748, fol., and often since); Koken, Das. B. Sirach (Hildesheim, 1756, 12mo); Teleus, Disquisitiones (Hafn. 1779, 8vo); Bauer, Erlaut. m. Anmerk. (Bamberg, 1781, 1793, 8vo); Onymus, Weisheit J.S. (Wtirtzburg, 1788, 8vo); Sonntag, De Jes. Siracide (Riga, 1792, 4to); *Linde, Sententiae Jes. Sir. (Danz. 1795, 4to); also Glaubens a. Sittenlehre Jes. Sir. (Lpz. 1782, 1795, 8vo); Zange, Denkspruche Jes. Sir. (Amst. 1797, 8vo); Feddersen, Jes. Sir. ubers. (Anst. 1797, 1827, 8vo); BenSeeb, חָכְמִת יְהוֹשֻׁעִ,etc. (8vo, Breslau, 1798; Vienna, 1807, 1818, 1828); 5Bretschneider, Lib. Jesu Sirae (Ratisbon, 1806, 8vo); Gaab, Diss. exegetica (Tubing. 1809, 4to); Luther, Das Buch J.S. (Lpz. 1815, 1816, 12mo); Anon. Jes. S. bearbeit. (Lpz. 1826, 8vo); Howard, Ecclus. tr. from the Vulg. (Lond. 1827, 8vo); Anon. Sirach, ein Spiegel (Kreuznach, 1829, 8vo); Van Gilse, Commentatio (Gran. 1832, 4to); Grimm, Commentar (Lpz. 1837, 8vo); Gutmann, Weisheits-Spruch J.S. (Altona, 1841, 8vo); Dulk, סֵפֶר בֶּןאּסַירָא (Warsaw, 1843, 8vo); Stern, Weisheitsspruche J.S. ('Wien, 1844, 8vo); Hill, Translation (in the Monthly Religious Mag. Bost. 185253); *Fritzsche, Weish. J.S. erklaut u. ubers. (as part of the Kurtzg. Exag. Handb. z.d. Apokr. Lpz. 1860, 8vo); Cassel, Uebers. (Berl. 1866, 8vo). See also Rabiger, Ethice Apoc. V.T. (Vratislaw, 1838); Bruch, Weisheits- Lehre der Hebraer (Strasb. 1851); Geiger, in the Zeitschr. d. Morgenl. Gesellsch. 1858, page 536 sq.; Horowitz, Das Buch Sirach (Bresl. 1865). (See APOCRYPHA).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Ecclesiasticus'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​e/ecclesiasticus.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
Ads FreeProfile