#21 Book of Sirach

Sirach is also known as Ecclesiasticus
  • Sirach is the wisdom of Yeshua ben Sira.  He was a Hellenistic Jewish scribe living in Alexandria in Egypt under the Ptolemaic kingdom in 180-175 BC. 
  • The book was translated into Greek by Yeshua’s grandson who went to Egypt in 132 BC.  Sira in Greek is Sirach so this is where the book got its name.
  • The name ‘Ecclesiasticus’ means ‘church book’ in Latin because it was frequently read in Catholic churches.  It was also highly esteemed in Orthodox churches.
  • Yeshua’s father Sira lived in Jerusalem.  Sira was the son of Eleazar.
  • Who was Eleazar?  There were two men called Eleazar at the time of the Maccabees.  2 Maccabees mentions an elderly teacher of the Law called Eleazar.  Aged 90 he was forced to eat pork, but preferred to die than break Jewish laws.  He was martyred in front of King Antiochus Epiphanes.  Another Eleazar appears in 1 Maccabees 6:42-45 during the battle at Beth-Zechariah.  The army of King Antiochus V Eupator (172-161 BC) were advancing with armoured elephants towards the Jewish army who were quaking with fear.  Eleazar noted a particularly strong elephant and supposed it to be the king’s elephant.  He charged towards the elephant and got underneath the animal and stabbed it in the belly.  In this way he sacrificed his life as the animal fell on top of him, crushed him and he died.  Judas and the Jewish army retreated before the mulberry-juice maddened elephants and the battles continued.
  • The dates show that the grandfather of Yeshua must have been the old teacher of the Law called Eleazar who was martyred.
  • The first part of Sirach, chapters 1 to 42 offer the advice of wisdom on all aspects of life.  This part could have been written between 180-175 BC by Yeshua (or Jesus son of Sira). 
  • The second part, chapters 42 to 50 of Sirach starts with the wonders of nature, and moves on to an overview of the history of Israel highlighting the contributions of holy  men of renown.  This history culminates with the magnificence of Simon the High Priest.  Simon was murdered in 134 BC so this historical part of Sirach must have been written after this date.  This implies that Yeshua’s grandson who translated the first part of the book into Greek, was the author of this part of the book.  Chapter 51 is the prayer of Yeshua added to the end.
  • The book is called Sirach and not the author’s name Yeshua or Jesus.  If the book had been called ‘Jesus’ there would be a lot of confusion.
  • Genre: Major book of the Apocrypha on wisdom, Jewish history and Simon Maccabeus, high priest.

Published by clarevmerry

Christian - Bible - Catholic belief reassessment website. How does Catholic belief relate to the Bible? An even-handed approach by the author who has been a Catholic as long as she has been an Evangelical.

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