Last modified on May 30, 2019, at 10:28

Book of Sirach

The Book of Sirach, otherwise called The Wisdom of Jesus the son of Sirach, or, Ecclesiasticus, originally written in Hebrew, is found in the books of the Septuagint, the Old Testament accepted as inspired and canonical by the Orthodox Church in the Greek Orthodox Bible, and found in the books of the Old Testament of the Vulgate and included in the canon of inspired scripture by the Third Council of Carthage (397). It is included in the canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Bible. Since the Council of Trent it is dogmatically accepted as inspired and canonical by the Catholic Church in the Catholic Bible—books of the Bible accepted as divinely inspired by the majority of Christian believers in the United States and throughout the world.[1][2]
"I arrived in Egypt in the 38th year of the reign of King Euergetes, and while there, I found a reproduction of our valuable teaching. I therefore considered myself in duty bound to devote some diligence and industry to the translation of this book." Sirach Foreword (Sirach 1:1)
Sirach/Ecclesiasticus was first removed from the Old Testament and placed in the Apocrypha by Martin Luther in the 16th century. The Book of Sirach is regarded as an apocryphal book of the Old Testament by less than one-third of Christian believers.[2]

See Apocrypha.


The earliest title of the book seems to be The Wisdom of Ben Sira, a title derived from the name of the author, "Yeshua [Jesus], son of Eleazar. son of Sira" (50:27). the later Latin designation "Liber Ecclesiasticus", literally "Book of the Church" (more simply, "Church Book") appended to some Greek and Latin manuscripts, is perhaps due to the traditionally extensive use the church made of this book as the standard text in presenting the basics of Christian moral teaching to the faithful, to children, young adults and catechumens. It has traditionally been called simply, Ecclesiasticus. It is often confused with Ecclesiastes. The title "Sirach" comes from the Greek form of the author's name, and is the listing of its name in more recent translations and versions of the Bible, for example, The New American Bible, Revised Edition (2000) NABRE.

In the Protestant Apocrypha the Book of Sirach is called:

The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach, or, Ecclesiasticus.


The Prologue

The author's Prologue is included with the first verse of the first chapter of the book in the Douay-Rheims Bible:

Ecclesiasticus 1:1

In the 1881 edition of the King James Bible which included the Revised Version (RV) of the New Testament, an ancient Prologue by an uncertain author is included before the Prologue of the book:

A Prologue made by an uncertain Author
THIS Jesus was the son of Sirach, and grandchild to Jesus of the same name with him; this man therefore lived in the latter times, after the people had been led away captive, and called home again, and after almost all the prophets. Now his grandfather Jesus, as he himself witnesseth, was a man of great diligence and wisdom among the Hebrews, who did not only gather the grave and short sentences of wise men, that had been before him, but himself also uttered some of his own, full of much understanding and wisdom. When as therefore the first Jesus died, leaving this book almost || perfected,[3] Sirach his son receiving it after him, left it to his own son Jesus, who having gotten it into his hands, compiled it all orderly into one volume, and called it Wisdom, entitling it both by his name, and his father's name, and his grandfather's; alluring the hearer by the very name of Wisdom, to have a greater love to the study of this book. It containeth therefore wise sayings, dark sentences, and parables; and certain particular ancient godly stories of men that pleased God; also his prayer and song; moreover, what benefits God had vouchsafed his people, and the plagues he had heaped upon their enemies. This Jesus did imitate Solomon, and was no less famous for wisdom and learning, both being a man of great learning, and so reputed also.
(A sidenote provided by the editors says: "Some refer this prologue to Athanasius because it is found in his Synopsis.) [4]
The Prologue of the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach.
Whereas many and great things have been delivered unto us by the law and the prophets, and by others that have followed their steps, for the which things Israel ought to be commended for learning and wisdom; and whereof not only the readers must needs become skilful themselves, but also they that desire to learn be able to profit them which are without, both by speaking and writing: my grandfather Jesus, when he had much given himself to the reading of the law, and the prophets, and other books of our fathers, and had gotten therein good judgment, was drawn on also himself to write something pertaining to learning and wisdom; to the intent that those which are desirous to learn, and are addicted to these things, might profit much more in living according to the law. Wherefore let me intreat you to read it with favour and attention, and to pardon us, wherein we may seem to come short of some words, which we have laboured to interpret. For the same things uttered in Hebrew, and translated into another tongue, have not the same force in them: and not only these things, but the law itself, and the prophets, and the rest of the books, have no small difference, when they are spoken in their own language. For in the eight and thirtieth year coming into Egypt, when Euergetes was king, and continuing there some time, I found a book of no small learning: therefore I thought it most necessary for me to bestow some diligence and travail to interpret it; using great watchfulness and skill in that space to bring the book to an end, and set it forth for them also, which in a strange country are willing to learn, being prepared before in manners to live after the law. All wisdom cometh from the Lord, and is with him for ever.[4]
The text of the Authorized King James Version Apocrypha is in the public domain.

Chapter summary headings

The Book of Sirach contains 51 chapters. The chapter summary headings in the Douay-Rheims Bible are as follows:

1 All wisdom is from God, and is given to them that fear and love God.
2 God's servants must look for temptations: and must arm themselves with patience and confidence in God.
3 Lessons concerning the honour of parents, and humility, and avoiding curiosity.
4 An exhortation to works of mercy, and to the love of wisdom.
5 We must not presume of our wealth or strength: nor of the mercy of God, to go on in sin: we must be steadfast in virtue and truth.
6 Of true and false friends: and of the fruits of wisdom.
7 Religious and moral duties.
8 Other lessons of wisdom and virtue.
9 Cautions with regard to women, and dangerous conversations.
10 The virtues and vices of men in power: the great evil of pride.
11 Lessons of humility and moderation in all things.
12 We are to be liberal to the just: and not to trust the wicked.
13 Cautions in the choice of company.
14 The evil of avarice: works of mercy are recommended, and the love of wisdom.
15 Wisdom embraceth them that fear God. God is not the author of sin.
16 It is better to have none than many wicked children. Of the justice and mercy of God. His ways are unsearchable.
17 The creation and favour of God to man. An exhortation to turn to God.
18 God's works are wonderful: we must serve him, and not our lusts.
19 Admonitions against sundry vices.
20 Rules with regard to correction, discretion, and avoiding lies.
21 Cautions against sin in general, and some sins in particular.
22 Wise sayings on divers subjects.
23 A prayer for grace to flee sin: cautions against profane swearing and other vices.
24 Wisdom praiseth herself: her origin, her dwelling, her dignity, and her fruits. (Includes the prophet's testimony regarding his mission.)
25 Documents of wisdom on several subjects.
26 Of good and bad women.
27 Dangers of sin from several heads: the fear of God is the best preservative. He that diggeth a pit, shall fall into it.
28 Lessons against revenge and quarrels. the evils of the tongue.
29 Of charity in lending money, and justice in repaying. Of alms, and of being surety.
30 Of correction of children. Health is better than wealth. Excessive grief is hurtful.
31 Of the desire of riches, and of moderation in eating and drinking.
32 Lessons for superiors and inferiors. Advantages of fearing God, and doing nothing without counsel.
33 The fear of God is the best security. Times and men are in the hands of God. Take care of thyself as long as thou livest, and look to thy servants.
34 The vanity of dreams. The advantage of experience, and of the fear of God.
35 What sacrifices are pleasing to God.
36 A prayer for the church of God. Of a good heart, and a good wife.
37 Of the choice of friends and counsellors.
38 Of physicians and medicines: what is to be done in sickness, and how we are to mourn for the dead. Of the employments of labourers and artificers.
39 The exercises of the wise man. The Lord is to be glorified for his works.
40 The miseries of the life of man are relieved by the grace of God and his fear.
41 Of the remembrance of death: of an evil and of a good name: of what things we ought to be ashamed.
42 Of what things we ought not to be ashamed. Cautions with regard to women. The works and greatness of God.
43 The works of God are exceedingly glorious and wonderful: no man is able sufficiently able to praise him.
44 The praises of the holy fathers, in particular of Enoch, Noe, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
45 The praises of Moses, of Aaron, and of Phinees. ("Phineas" KJV)
46 The praise of Josue, of Caleb, and of Samuel.
47 The praise of Nathan, of David, and of Solomon: of his fall and punishment.
48 The praise of Elias, of Eliseus, of Ezechias, and of Isaias.
49 The praise of Josias, of Jeremias, Ezechiel, and the twelve prophets. Also of Zorobabel, Jesus the son of Josedech, Nehemias, Enoch, Joseph, Seth, Sem, and Adam.
50 The praises of Simon the high priest. The conclusion.
51 A prayer of praise and thanksgiving.

The author as prophet

See Sirach 24:28-33 NABRE

Ben Sira unequivocally speaks about himself as a prophet. Having first drawn a small portion of the water of wisdom for his own private benefit, he found it so useful, he let others share in this boon by teaching them the lessons of wisdom. His explicit and direct comparison of his teaching to prophecy is bold and unique. Ben Sira’s teaching, like the words of the prophets, is proven to be of enduring value for all generations (v. 33).

See King James Bible Apocrypha: Ecclesiasticus 24 scroll down to verses 23-34.

Original language, Date

Between 1896 and 1900, again in 1931, and several times since 1956, incomplete manuscripts were discovered, so that more than two thirds of the book in Hebrew is available; these Hebrew texts agree substantially with the Greek. One such text, from Masada, is pre-Christian in date. Evidence shows that the book was in fact written in Hebrew in the early years of the second century B.C., and finished by ca. 175 B.C.. The text was translated into Greek by the author’s grandson after 117 B.C. He wrote a foreword which contains valuable information about the book, its author, and himself as translator. Until the close of the nineteenth century the Wisdom of Ben Sira was known to Christians in multiple translations, of which the Greek rendering was the most important. From it the Latin version was made. The most recent Catholic and Orthodox and Ecumenical translations and editions of the Bible provide critical translations based on the evidence of all the ancient texts, many of them containing copious notes.

See Bible: External links

Martin Luther's judgment of the Book of Sirach

"The author of the book of Ecclesiasticus preaches the law well, but he is no prophet."[5]


  1. The Catholic Church is the world's largest Christian body comprised of several distinct "Rites". The Catholic Church (Latin Rite) is the largest religious body in the United States, with over 60 million adherents (4 times as large as the second largest church, the Orthodox).
    “The Global Catholic Population,” © 2011, Pew Research Center.
    The Largest Catholic Communities
    The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church, and also referred to as the Orthodox Church and Orthodoxy, is the second largest Christian church in the world, with an estimated 225–300 million adherents, most of whom live in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Russia.
    The Greek (Eastern) Orthodox Church. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Of America (1983). Retrieved on 7 May 2014.
    Christianity:Basics:Eastern Orthodox Church Denomination. Retrieved on 22 May 2014.
    Christianity. Major Branches of Religions Ranked by Number of Adherents. Retrieved on 22 May 2014.
  2. 2.0 2.1 See Percentage of Christians in Protestant Denominations (29.5%).
  3. The editor's footnote || found in the margin says: "or collected", that is, the phrase translated, "almost perfected", can be alternatively translated, "almost collected".
  4. 4.0 4.1 A. D. 1611 King James Version and Revised Version of A. D. 1881 arranged in parallel columns, O. A. Browning & Co., Toledo, Ohio, Potter, Chase & Co., Kansas City, MO, J. H. Buckmaster, Toledo, Ohio, 1881, intercolumnar notes.
  5. Martin Luther's Table Talk (1599). page 11
    The Truth About Martin Luther (

External links