Sirach: About a Biblical Book Rejected by the Reformation

Nov 19th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

One of the seven Old Testament books rejected by Martin Luther and subsequent Protestants was the book of Ecclesiasticus, alternatively known by its “Old Latin” title Sirach. The other books rejected by Protestantism are Judith, Tobit, Wisdom, Baruch, and 1 & 2 Maccabees.

Ecclesiasticus/Sirach is found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (three copies to be exact). It is also included in the Greek Septuagint, the Old Latin manuscripts, and the Latin Vulgate. The Catholic Church and Churches of the East receive the book as inspired, inerrant, and canonical. Sirach is also included in our oldest biblical manuscripts: Codex Vaticanus (ca. A.D. 350), Codex Sinaiticus (A.D. 360), and Codex Alexandrinus (ca. A.D. 400). In other words, the early Church in both the East and West revered this book and read it in Church…not to mention Jews before the Incarnation of Christ.

There are a number of references to the book of Sirach in the New Testament. James 1:19 seems to quote  Sirach 5:11. The Blessed Virgin Mary alludes to Sirach 10:14 in Luke 1:52.

There are four well known quotes from Christ that relate to Sirach. Most well known is Christ’s statement in Matthew 7:16-20 which draws from Sirach 27:6. Also Matthew 6:12, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” mirrors Sirach 28:2 “Forgive your neighbor a wrong, and then, when you petition, your sins will be pardoned.” Mark 4:5,16-17 also resembles Sirach 40:15.

Moreover, Patristic scholar Henry Chadwick claimed that in Matthew 11:28 Jesus directly quoted Sirach 51:27.

Hence, we see that all the arguments generally made against Ecclesiasticus, namely that it was unknown by Christ and the Apostles, is utterly false. The book’s general reception and circulation in the Patristic era also testifies to its divine origin.

I encourage all of our readers to pick up a copy of Ecclesiasticus/Sirach and give it a read. You will be richly blessed.

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  1. Was it Sirach or Baruch that contains the vivid prophecy of Christ’s death and crucifixion?

  2. I believe its from the book of Wisdom, chapter 2.

    Godspeed,
    taylor

  3. Jewish Talmud considers Sirach as part of Hagiographa

    Raba [again] said to Rabbah b. Mari: whence can be derived the popular saying, ‘A bad palm will usually make its way to a grove of barren trees’? – He replied: This matter was written in the Pentateuch, repeated in the Prophets, mentioned a third time in the Hagiographa, and also learnt in a Mishnah and taught in a baraitha: It is stated in the Pentateuch as written, So Esau went unto Ishmael [Genesis 28:9], repeated in the prophets, as written, And there gathered themselves to Jephthah idle men and they went out with him [Judges 11:3], mentioned a third time in the Hagiographa, as written: Every fowl dwells near its kind and man near his equal [Sirach 13:15];

    Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nazikin, Baba Kamma 92b

    Translated by E.W. Kirzner, Soncino Press (1961)

    …..And R Aha b. Jacob said: There is still another Heaven above the heads of the living creatures, for it is written: And over the heads of the living creature there was a likeness of a firmament, like the colour of the terrible ice, stretched forth over their heads above [Ezekiel 1:22]. Thus far you have permission to speak, thenceforward you have not permission to speak, for so it is written in the Book of Ben Sira: Seek not things that are too hard for thee, and search not out things that are hidden from thee. The things that have been permitted thee, think thereupon; thou hast no business with the things that are secret [Sirach 3:21-22]

    Babylonian Talmud, Seder Mo’ed, Hagigah 13a,

    Translated by Israel Abrahams, Soncino Press (1961)

  4. The book of Wisdom also gives a chilling account of the Final Judgement in Chapter 4-5. The vision of those who consciously oppose God’s will awaiting judgement and being struck with the realization that the time for repentance has come and gone as they witness the rewards of the just, whom they persecuted. They think within themselves about the destruction they have wrought and regret it (not because of the destruction, but because they realize that it did not benefit them in the afterlife… it seems that their regret is even driven by selfishness and envy at the Judgement), though their regret futile and even they know it. I hope I don’t end up being one of them, but when I imagine being in that position, it becomes abundantly clear that the anguish of regret at a moment when it is futile is a Hell all of its own. The wailing and knashing of teeth takes place before and after the judgement, in this life and in the next; this life being a foretaste of the eternal.

    Every time I read Wisdom, it shakes me out of my complacency… for a time. :)

  5. Taylor,

    The hyperlinks to Sirach in your article go to the website Biblegateway.com, but say “No results found”. I assume this is because Biblegateway.com is a Protestant site that does not recognise the canonicity of Sirach. Don’t you need to direct those Sirach hyperlinks to a Catholic site that hosts the Scriptures?

    Regards,
    Desmond

  6. There is a beautiful prayer in Sirach 36:1-17 that has deep spiritual and ecclesiastical meaning when read in an alegorical Christian interpretation. The petition in verse 10, when thus interpreted, is directly related to the purpose of this site:

    “Gather together all the tribes of Jacob, restore them their heritage as at the beginning.”

    can be read as: “Gather together all of the branches of Christianity (that have separated from the Catholic Church), restore them their heritage (of full and correct faith and full sacramental life) as at the beginning.”

  7. This is terrific, Taylor. Do you have other writings on the Deuterocanonical Books? This is a a great overview. Thank you. Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving, Taylor.

  8. Its also possible that Luke 11:41 “But give alms of such things as you possess, and behold, all things are clean unto you” was influenced by Sirach 3:30 “Water will quench a flaming fire; and alms maketh an atonement for sins. ” In any case Protestant attempts to attack Sirach based on its views of alms fall flat when you find Jesus holding the same views.

  9. Your hyperlinks to Gateway won’t find Sirach’s texts. Is there another online Bible you can link to that includes Sirach and the others?

    I found this article very helpful, as a new Catholic, I’m soaking up Sirach’s words. Good stuff!

  10. Lyn,

    Here are a couple of options:

    New Advent Bible (Douay-Rheims). This is a great resource, including Bishop Challoner’s notes and featuring the Greek text and Latin text on either side of the English translation.

    Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition. This text-only edition is easy to navigate, and features one of my favorite English translations.

    Hope that helps.

    Andrew

  11. Actual the bible gateway site does have Sirach if you use the Douay Rhimes translation. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Sirach%2010:14&version=DRA If you’ve got it set to NIV, of course not.

    KJV of Sirach http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/KjvSira.html

  12. Biblegateway does have Sirach on their Douay-Rheims 1899 version, but you have to choose it from the drop down box

  13. Taylor,

    Ecclesiasticus/Sirach is found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (three copies to be exact).

    Any of those copies contain Sirach in Hebrew?

    Peace,
    John D.

  14. JohnD (#13):

    Yes, there are extant portions of Sirach in Hebrew. See here for a summary of the evidence.

    Fred

  15. The Babylonian Talmud in Sanhedrin 100b explicitly refers to Sirach as not being canonical. I would be so quick to state that those other Talmudic references are treating Sirach as Scripture.

    http://www.come-and-hear.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_100.html

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