Ecclesiasticus or the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach - Introduction
Ecclesiasticus, literally meaning a “church book,” is so called either because it was used extensively in church worship or because the early Christian church rather than the synagogue received it into the canon. It is the work of a Jewish Wisdom teacher of about 180 B.C.E. The book, also called the Wisdom of Sirach, or ben Sirach, or simply Sirach, after its author, Jesus the son of Sirach (see 50.27 ), stands in the Wisdom tradition of Proverbs, which, attempting to discover the patterns at work in the circumstances of human life, concludes that wisdom is God's gift. But unlike the sages of Proverbs, the author is also a close student of the Jewish Scriptures, especially the Torah (the Law). His work represents a fusion of wisdom and scribal piety.
Written in Hebrew, the original text was lost in the early centuries C.E. About two-thirds of the book in Hebrew was rediscovered in Cairo around 1896. Since then other partial Hebrew manuscripts have been found, among them short fragments in the Judean desert at Qumran and Masada; these discoveries seem to indicate that the Hebrew text of Cairo, though not identical with the original, does derive from the original text, not from a retranslation from the Greek, as was once supposed. The present English translation is made from the Greek version prepared by the author's grandson (see Preface and notes) but is influenced by the recent Hebrew finds. At many points the books had been expanded by later additions, and the omission of these additions from this translation explains why the verse numbers are not always in consecutive order.