THE WISDOM OF SIRACH
It is generally accepted that the author of Sirach was a teacher and scribe in the second century BC. He was well-versed in the Scriptures and wrote to help those who wanted to make progress in both knowing the Scriptures and doing them. References and allusions to other parts of the Old Testament abound. Sirach is also a practical guide, often similar to the style of James in the New Testament. The original time of writing is estimated to be between 190 BC and 180 BC, a time after Malachi of the Old Testament and before the New Testament.
Sirach was originally written in Hebrew. But over time, the Hebrew copies fell into disuse. In modern times, Sirach has generally only been found in Greek, Syriac, and Latin manuscripts. Practically no Hebrew existed. However, from 1896 AD to 1982 AD, significant Hebrew manuscripts of Sirach were identified.
The historical chapter and verse numbering has generally been followed. This allows easier comparison to other versions and use of reference works. The book’s title ‘Wisdom of Sirach’ is sometimes referred to as Sirach, Wisdom of Sirach, Ben-Sira, Wisdom of Ben-Sira, or Ecclesiasticus. The dash is sometimes omitted in Ben-Sira.
This translation of Sirach was not derived from the ASV which was the starting point for the rest of this Bible (except First Maccabees).
For additional information on this subject, comprehensive Bible dictionaries may be consulted. However, dictionaries written before 1900 may not have information on the Hebrew discoveries. Examples of relatively current Bible dictionaries include:
-The article “Wisdom of Ben-Sira” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary; and
-The article “Sirach” in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE).
[An older version of the ISBE can be read online or downloaded from many free Bible software sites.]