It is also the largest wisdom book from antiquity to have survived in its entirety.
Some biblical scholars argue these “reproductions” the grandson of Yeshua Ben Sira found in Egypt might have been some the Septuagint translations of Hebrew wisdom writings into Greek. In fact, the book itself is known by many names: the Codex Sinaiticus refers to it as “Sophia Iesou Yiou Sirax,” that is, “the wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach.” In the Codex Vaticanus it appears simply as “Sophia Sirax,” “the Wisdom of Sirach.” The Greek Fathers often refer to it as “Panáretos Sophia,” the “All-Virtuous Wisdom.” We know it as “the Book of Sirach” or, even more commonly, as “Ecclesiasticus,” the “Book of the Church.” The book got this name, in fact, due to the extensive use which the early Church made of it in presenting moral teaching to catechumens and the already baptized faithful alike. Moreover, the book is still used extensively in the church liturgy.
Unlike all other Old Testament and apocryphal writers, the author of this book signed his work: when Yeshua Ben Sira’s grandson got to Egypt, the book was already referred to by his grandfather’s name. Even more, the prologue Ben Sira’s grandson wrote allows us to date the book as being written between 200 and 175 BC, and translated into Greek after 132 BC (the year in which the prologue itself was most likely written as well).
However, the book of Sirach/Ecclesiasticus was only known in Greek translations until the close of the 19th century. Since 1896, however, several manuscripts were discovered containing almost two thirds of the Hebrew text. Some sources argue St. Jerome kept a Hebrew copy of the text himself, under the name “Parabolae.” However, the book is not included in the canon of the Hebrew Bible, although it is often referred to in Talmudic literature as “the Book of Ben Sira.” To this day, the book is not accepted by Protestants, but has always been recognized by the Catholic Church and by Eastern Orthodox Christians as inspired and canonical.
Ben Sira’s grandson’s foreword, although not considered to be inspired, is included in the Bible because of its antiquity and importance.
Support Aleteia takes a minute
If you’re reading this article, it’s precisely thanks to your generosity and to that of many other people like you that make possible the evangelization project of Aleteia. Here some numbers:
- 20 million of users around the world read Aleteia.org every month.
- Aleteia is published daily in eight languages: French, English, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and Slovenian.
- Each month, our readers view more than 50 million pages.
- Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia’s social media pages.
- Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos.
- All of this work is carried out by 60 people working full-time and approximately 400 other collaborators (writers, journalists, translators, photographers…).
As you can imagine, behind these numbers there is a big effort. We need your support so we can keep offering this service of evangelization to everyone, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.
Support Aleteia from as little as $1 – and only takes a minute. Thank you!