Ben Sira

This article is about the Hellenistic Jewish sage. For the Deuterocanonical book of the Bible, see Sirach.

Ben Sira (fl. 2nd century BCE) was a Hellenistic Jewish scribe, sage, and allegorist from Jerusalem. He is the author of the Book of Sirach, also known as the Book of Ecclesiasticus.

Ben Sira is also known as Shimon ben Yeshua ben Eliezer ben Sira, or Jesus Ben Sira. He wrote his work in Hebrew, possibly in Alexandria, Egypt ca. 180–175 BCE, where he is thought to have established a school.[1]

Some commentators claim Ben Sira was a contemporary of Simon the Just (Shim`on HaTzadik),[2] although it is more likely that his contemporary was High Priest Simon II (219–199 BCE).

A medieval text, the Alphabet of Sirach, has been attributed to Ben Sira.


The surname Sira may mean "thorn" [Hebrew (Ecclesiastes 7:6, Hosea 2:6)], "white of the eye" (Mishnaic Hebrew), or "boat" [Hebrew, according to one reading of Amos 4:2]. Sira could also be an Aramaicized form of a family name ha-qots "the thorn" (Ezra 2:51).

In the Greek text, the author's father is called "Jesus the son of Sirach of Jerusalem".[3] Jesus is the Anglicized form of the Greek name Ἰησοῦς, the equivalent of the Aramaic borrowed from Late Biblical Hebrew "Yeshua`", derived from the older Masoretic Hebrew "Yehoshua`".

The copy owned by Saadia Gaon, the prominent rabbi, Jewish philosopher, and exegete of the 10th century CE, had the reading "Shim`on, son of Yeshua`, son of El`azar ben Sira"; and a similar reading occurs in the Hebrew manuscript B.

M.Z. Segal, in his commentary on Ben Sira, concluded that the long form with "Shim`on" should be accepted as original and suggested that the common naming of the book "Ben Sira" is because so many people were named Shim`on at the end of the Second Temple period that people often used the family name without Shim`on.

Sirach is the Greek form of the family name Sira. It adds the letter Chi similar to Hakel-dama-ch in Acts 1:19.


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 chapter 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 Ptolemaic dynasty, are mentioned only in the Greek version, being ignored both in the Syriac and in the Hebrew text. The only fact known with certainty, drawn from the text itself, is that Ben Sira was a scholar, and a scribe thoroughly versed in the Law, and especially in the "Books of Wisdom."


Very little is known about his grandson, who claims in the text to be the translator of Sirach into Greek. He probably did the translation many years later after the original was written.

The Prologue in the Greek text, attributed to him, is generally considered the earliest witness to a canon of the books of the prophets.

The grandson states that he came to Egypt in the thirty-eighth year of the reign of Euergetes. Ptolemy VIII Euergetes must be intended; he ascended the throne in the year 170 BCE, together with his brother Philometor, but he soon became sole ruler of Cyrene, and from 146 to 117 BCE held sway over all Egypt. He dated his reign from the year in which he received the crown (i.e., from 170 BCE). The translator must therefore have gone to Egypt in 132 BCE.[4]

See also


  1. See Guillaume, Philippe, New Light on the Nebiim from Alexandria: A Chronography to Replace the Deuteronomistic History. PDF Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 5.9 (2004): sections 3-5: full notes and bibliography
  2. אנציקלופדיה יהודית דעת - בן סירא. Jewish Encyclopedia Daat (in Hebrew). Herzog College. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  3. "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Ecclesiasticus (Sirach)". 1909-05-01. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  4. Baxter, J. Sidlow (1968). The Strategic Grasp of the Bible. Zondervan. p. 46.

External links

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