Retirado da enciclopédia católica de 1907
AJUDE-NOS A TRADUZIR
(Abrev. Eclo .; também conhecido como o Livro do Siraque)
O mais longo dos livros deuterocanônicos da Bíblia, e o último dos escritos sapientiais do Antigo Testamento na Vulgata.
O título habitual do livro nos manuscritos gregos e Padres é Sophia Iesou uiou Seirach, “a Sabedoria de Jesus, filho de Sirach”, ou simplesmente Sophia Seirach “a Sabedoria de Sirach”. É manifestamente ligado e possivelmente derivado da seguinte assinatura que aparece no final de fragmentos hebreus recém-descobertos de Eclesiástico: “A sabedoria [Hó khmâ] de Simeão, filho de Yeshua, filho de Eleazar, filho de Sira”. De fato, sua forma plena naturalmente levaria a considerá-la como uma representação direta do título hebraico: Hokhmath Yeshua Ben Sira, se não fosse por São Jerônimo, em seu prólogo ao escritos de Salomão, afirmar que o título hebraico da Ecclesiastico era “Mishle” (Parabolæ) de Jesus de Sirac. Talvez no original hebraico do livro suportasse títulos diferentes em momentos diferentes: na verdade, o nome simples Hokhma, “Sabedoria”, é aplicado a ele no Talmude, enquanto escritores rabínicos comumente citam Eclesiástico como Ben Sira. Entre os outros nomes gregos que são dados a Eclesiástico na literatura patrística, pode ser mencionado o simples título de Sophia, “sabedoria”, e a designação honoraria de he panaretos Sophia”, Virtuosíssima Sabedoria”.
Como poderia muito bem ser esperado, os escritores latinos aplicaram títulos a Eclesiástico que são derivados de seus nomes gregos, tais como “Sapientia Sirach” (Rufino); “Jesu, filii Sirach” (Junilius), “Sapienta Jesu” (Codex Claromontanus); “Liber Sapientiae” (Missal Romano). Dificilmente se pode duvidar, no entanto, que a rubrica "Parabolæ Salomonis", que é prefixada às vezes no Breviário Romano para as citações de Eclesiástico, deva ser rastreada até seu título hebraico falado por São Jerônimo, em seu prólogo aos escritos de Salomão. Seja como for, o livro é mais vulgarmente designado na Igreja latina como “Ecclesiasticus”, ele próprio uma palavra grega com um final Latino. Este último título - não deve ser confundido com “Eclesiastes” (Ecl.) - É o utilizado no concílio de Trento em seu solente decreto relativo ao livro para ser considerado como sagrado e canônico. Teve uma estima muito especial, esta obra didática foi feita com a finalidade da leitura geral e de ensino em reuniões da igreja: só este livro, de todos os escritos deuterocanonicos, que também são chamados pelos rufinus Eclesiásticos, foi preservado por meio de preeminência com o nome de Eclesiástico (Liber), que é “um livro de leitura da Igreja”.
O Livro do Eclesiástico é precedido por um prólogo que professa ser o trabalho do tradutor grego a partir do hebraico original e da veracidade do que é inquestionável. Neste prefácio à sua tradução, o escritor descreve, entre outras coisas seu estado de espírito na dura tarefa de traduzir o texto hebraico para o grego. Ele estava profundamente impressionado com a sabedoria dos provérbios contidos no livro, e, portanto, desejava, por meio de uma tradução, colocar esses ensinamentos valiosos ao alcance de qualquer pessoa que desejasse servir-se deles para viver no mais perfeito acordo com a lei de Deus. Este foi um objeto mais digno, e não há dúvida de que, ao coloca-lo diante de si, o tradutor do Eclesiástico percebeu bem o caráter geral do conteúdo desse sagrado escrito. A idéia fundamental do autor do Eclesiástico é a da sabedoria como compreendida e incutida na literatura hebraica inspirada; para os conteúdos deste livro, no entanto variavelmente eles podem aparecer em outros aspectos, admitindo como sendo naturalmente agrupados sob o título geral de “sabedoria”. Visto deste ponto de vista, o que é de fato universalmente considerado como o próprio ponto de vista do autor, os conteúdos do Esclesiásticos podem ser divididos em duas grandes partes: Capítulos I a XLII, 14; e XLII, 15-1, 26. Os provérbios que essencialmente compõem a primeira parte, diretamente tendem a inculcar temor a Deus e do cumprimento dos Seus mandamentos, no que consiste a verdadeira sabedoria.Isso eles fazem ao apontar, de forma concreta, como o verdadeiro homem sábio deve agir nas múltiplas relações da vida prática. Eles oferecem um fundo mais variado de normas reflexivas de auto-orientação na alegria e na tristeza, na prosperidade e na adversidade, na doença e na saúde, na luta e tentação, na vida social, nas relações com os amigos e inimigos, com altos e baixos, ricos e pobres, com o bom e o mau, o sábio e o insensato, no comércio, negócios, na vocação comum, acima de tudo, na própria casa e família em conexão com a formação de crianças, o tratamento de servos e servas, e a maneira em que um homem deve se comportar em relação a sua própria mulher e as mulheres em geral.
Juntamente com estas máximas, que lembram de perto, tanto em questão e forma os Provérbios de Salomão, a primeira parte do Eclesiástico inclui várias descrições mais ou menos longas da origem e da excelência da sabedoria (cf. i; iv, 12-22; vi, 18-37; xiv, 22 xv, 11; xxiv). O conteúdo da segunda parte do livro é de um caráter decididamente mais homogéneo, mas não contribui menos eficazmente para a fixação diante do tema geral do Eclesiástico. Eles primeiro descrevem em pormenores a Divina sabedoria tão maravilhosamente exibida no reino da natureza (xlii, 15 xliii), e no próximo ilustra a prática de sabedoria nas várias esferas da vida, como se fez conhecida pela história de pessoas ilustres de Israel, de Enoque até o sumo sacerdote Simão, do escritor sagrado contemporâneo (xliv-1, 26). No final do livro (1, 27-29), há em primeiro lugar, uma breve conclusão contendo a assinatura do autor e declaração expressa de seu uso geral; e no próximo, um apêndice (li), no qual o escritor agradece a Deus por seus benefícios, e especialmente pelo dom da sabedoria o qual está anexada ao texto hebraico recentemente descoberto, uma segunda inscrição e a seguinte piedosa ejaculação: “Bem-aventurado seja o nome do Senhor, desde agora e para sempre”.
Até há pouco tempo a língua original do Livro de Ecclesiastico era um assunto de grande dúvida entre os estudiosos. Eles, é claro, sabiam que o prólogo do tradutor grego afirmava que o trabalho foi escrito originalmente em “hebraico”, hebraisti, mas eles estavam em dúvida quanto ao significado preciso do termo, o que pode significar tanto bom hebraico ou aramaico. Elas estavam igualmente conscientes de que São Jerônimo, em seu prefácio aos escritos de Salomão, fala de um original hebraico como existênte, em seus disa, mas ainda pode ser duvidavo se ele era realmente um texto hebraico, ou uma tradução siríaca ou aramaiaca em caracteres hebraicos. Mais uma vez, a seus olhos, a citação do livro por escritores rabínicos, às vezes em hebraico, por vezes, em aramaico, não pareceu decisiva, uma vez que não tinha certeza de que elas vieram de um original hebraico.E esta era a sua visão também no que diz respeito as citações, desta vez em hebraico clássico, por Bagdad gaon Saadia do décimo século de nossa era, que é do período após o qual todos os vestígios documentais de um texto hebraico da Eclesiástico praticamente desapareceu do mundo cristão. Ainda assim, a maioria dos críticos eram da opinião que a linguagem primitiva do livro era hebraico, aramaico não. Seu principal argumento para isso foi que a versão grega contém alguns erros: por exemplo, xxiv, 37 (. Em Gr, versículo 27), “luz” para “Nilo” (xx); xxv, 22 (Gr. verso 15), “cabeça” por “veneno” (xx); xlvi. 21 (Gr, versículo 18.), "Tirianos" por "inimigos" (xxx); etc .; estas são melhores dpuvidas contabilizada supondo que o tradutor não compreenjdeu o original hebraico anterior a ele. E assim o assunto ficou até o ano de 1896, que marca o início de um período inteiramente novo na história do texto original do Eclesiástico. Desde essa altura, muitas provs documentais tem vindo a lume, e mostram que o livro foi escrito originalmente em hebraico. Os primeiros fragmentos de um texto hebraico da Ecclesiastico (xxxix, 15-xl, 6) foram trazidos do Oriente para Cambridge, Inglaterra, pela Sra A.S. Lewis; eles foram identificados em maio de 1896, e publicado em “O Expositor” (julho de 1896) por S. Schechter, em Talmudic na Universidade de Cambridge. Por volta da mesma época, em uma caixa de fragmentos adquiridos do Cairo genizzah através do Professor Sayce para a biblioteca Bodleian, de Oxford, nove folhas aparentemente, do mesmo manuscrito (agora denominado B) e contendo xl, 9-XLIX, 11, foram encontrados por A.E. Cowley e Ad. Neubauer, que também publicaram-os (Oxford, 1897) Em seguida seguiu a identificação do professor Schechter, primeiro, de sete folhas do mesmo Codex (B) contendo, XXX, XXXI-11, 11; XXXII, XXXIII 1b-3; XXXV, XXXVI-11, 21; XXXVII, 30; XXXVIII, 28b; XLIX, 14c-LI, 30; e em seguida, de quatro folhas de um manuscrito diferente (chamados de A), e apresentando III, 6e-vii, 31a; XI, 36d-XVI, 26.
Estas onze folhas haviam sido descobertas pelo Dr. Schechtler nos fragmentos trazidos por ele do Cairo genizzah; e é assunto entre os obtidos a partir da mesma fonte do Museu Britânico, que G. Margoliouth encontrou e publicou, em 1899, quatro páginas do manuscrito B contendo XXXI, 12-XXXII, 1-A.; XXXVI, XXXVII-21, 29. No início de 1900, I. Lé vi publicou duas páginas de um terceiro manuscrito (C), XXXVI, 29a-XXXVIII, la, isto é, uma passagem já contida no Códice Bl e dois de quarto manuscrito (D), apresentando de forma defeituosa, VI, 18-VII, 27B, isto é, uma seção já encontrada em códigos A. No início de 1900, também, E.N. Adler publicou quatro páginas do manuscrito A, Vix. VII, 29-XII, 1; e S. Schechter, quatro páginas do manuscrito C, que consistem em meros excertos de IV, 28B-V, 15C; XXV, 11B-XXVI, 2a. Por fim, duas páginas de manuscrito D foram descobertos por Dr. M.S. Gaster, e contém alguns versos dos capítulos. XVIII, XIX, XX, XXVII, alguns dos quais já aparecem nos manuscritos B e C. Assim foi até a metade do ano de 1900, mais de metade de um texto hebraico da Eccleiástico tinha sido identificado e publicado por estudiosos. (Nas indicações precedentes dos fragmentos recém-descobertos do hebraico, os capítulos e versículos são dados de acordo com a numeração da Vulgata Latina).
As might naturally be anticipated, and indeed it was desirable that it should so happen, the publication of these various fragments gave rise to a controversy as to the originality of the text therein exhibited. At a very early stage in that publication, scholars easily noticed that although the Hebrew language of the fragments was apparently classical, it nevertheless contained readings which might lead one to suspect its actual dependence on the Greek and Syriac versions of Ecclesiasticus. Whence it manifestly imported to determine whether, and if so, to what extent, the Hebrew fragments reproduced an original text of the book, or on the contrary, simply presented a late retranslation of Ecclesiasticus into Hebrew by means of the versions just named. Both Dr. G. Bickell and Professor D.S. Margoliouth, that is, the two men who but shortly before the discovery of the Hebrew fragments of Ecclesiasticus had attempted to retranslate small parts of the book into Hebrew, declared themselves openly against the originality of the newly found Hebrew text. It may indeed be admitted that the efforts naturally entailed by their own work of retranslation had especially fitted Margoliouth and Bickell for noticing and appreciating those features which even now appear to many scholars to tell in favour of a certain connection of the Hebrew text with the Greek and Syriac versions. It remains true, however, that, with the exception of Israel Lé vi and perhaps a few others, the most prominent Biblical and Talmudic scholars of the day are of the mind that the Hebrew fragments present an original text. They think that the arguments and inferences most vigorously urged by Professor D.S. Margoliouth in favour of his view have been disposed of through a comparison of the fragments published in 1899 and 1900 with those that had appeared at an earlier date, and through a close study of nearly all the facts now available. They readily admit in the manuscripts thus far recovered, scribal faults, doublets, Arabisms, apparent traces of dependence on extant versions, etc. But to their minds all such defects do not disprove the originality of the Hebrew text, inasmuch as they can, and indeed in a large number of cases must, be accounted for by the very late character of the copies now in our possession. The Hebrew fragments of Ecclesiasticus belong, at the earliest, to the tenth, or even the eleventh, century of our era, and by that late date all kinds of errors could naturally be expected to have crept into the origional language of the book, because the Jewish copyists of the work did not regard it as canonical. At the same time these defects do not disfigure altogether the manner of Hebrew in which Ecclesiasticus was primitively written. The language of the fragments is manifestly not rabbinic, but classical Hebrew; and this conclusion is decidely borne out by a comparison of their text with that of the quotations from Ecclesiasticus, both in the Talmud and in the Saadia, which have already been referred to. Again, the Hebrew of the newly found fragments, although classical, is yet one of a distinctly late type, and it supplies considerable material for lexicographic research. Finally, the comparatively large number of the Hebrew manuscripts recently discovered in only one place (Cairo) points to the fact that the work in its primitive form was often transcribed in ancient times, and thus affords hope that other copies, more or less complete, of the original text may be discovered at some future date. To render their study convenient, all the extant fragments have been brought together in a splendid edition. "Facsimiles of the Fragments hitherto recovered of the Book of Ecclesiasticus in Hebrew" (Oxford and Cambridge, 1901). The metrical and strophic structure of parts of the newly discovered text has been particularly investigated by H. Grimme and N. Schlogl, whose success in the matter is, to say the least, indifferent; and by Jos. Knabenbauer, S.J. in a less venturesome way, and hence with more satisfactory results.
It was, of course, from a Hebrew text incomparably better than the one we now possess that the grandson of the author of Ecclesiasticus rendered, the book into Greek. This translator was a Palestinian Jew, who came to Egypt at a certain time, and desired to make the work accessible in a Greek dress to the Jews of the Dispersion, and no doubt also to all lovers of wisdom. His name is unknown, although an ancient, but little reliable, tradition ("Synopsis Scripurae Sacrae" in St. Athanasius's works) calls him Jesus, the son of Sirach. His literary qualifications for the task he undertook and carried out cannot be fully ascertained at the present day. He is commonly regarded, however, from the general character of his work, as a man of good general culture, with a fair command of both Hebrew and Greek. He was distinctly aware of the great difference which exists between the respective genius of these two languages, and of the consequent difficulty attending the efforts of one who aimed at giving a satisfactory Greek version of a Hebrew writing, and therefore begs expressly, in his prologue to the work, his readers' indulgence for whatever shortcomings they may notice in his translation. He claims to have spent much time and labour on his version of Ecclesiasticus, and it is only fair to suppose that his work was not only a conscientious, but also, on the whole, a successful, rendering of the original Hebrew. One can but speak in this guarded manner of the exact value of the Greek translation in its primitive form for the simple reason that a comparison of its extant manuscripts — all apparently derived from a single Greek exemplar — shows that the primitive translation has been very often, and in many cases seriously, tampered with. The great uncial codices, the Vatican, the Sinaitic, the Ephraemitic, and partly the Alexandrian, though comparatively free from glosses, contain an inferior text; the better form of the text seems to be preserved in the Venetus Codex and in certain cursive manuscripts, though these have many glosses. Undoubtedly, a fair number of these glosses may be referred safely to the translator himself, who, at times added one word, or even a few words to the original before him, to make the meaning clearer or to guard the text against possible misunderstanding. But the great bulk of the glosses resemble the Greek additions in the Book of Proverbs; they are expansions of the thought, or hellenizing interpretations, or additions from current collections of gnomic sayings. The following are the best-ascertained results which flow from a comparison of the Greek version with the text of our Hebrew fragments. Oftentimes, the corruptions of the Hebrew may be discovered by means of the Greek; and, conversely, the Greek text is proved to be defective, in the line of additions or omissions, by references to parallel places in the Hebrew. At times, the Hebrew discloses considerable freedom of rendering on the part of the Greek translator; or enables one to perceive how the author of the version mistook one Hebrew letter for another; or again, affords us a means to make sense out of an unintelligible expressions in the Greek text. Lastly, the Hebrew text confirms the order of the contents in xxx-xxxvi which is presented by the Syriac, Latin, and Armenian versions, over against the unnatural order found in all existing Greek manuscripts. Like the Greek, the Syriac version of Ecclesiasticus was made directly from the original Hebrew. This is wellnigh universally admitted; and a comparison of its text with that of the newly found Hebrew fragments should settle the point forever; as just stated, the Syriac version gives the same order as the Hebrew text for the contents of xxx-xxxvi; in particular, it presents mistaken renderings, the origin of which, while inexplicable by supposing a Greek original as its basis, is easily accounted for by reference to the text from which it was made must have been very defective, as is proved by the numerous and important lacunae in the Syriac translation. It seems, likewise, that the Hebrew has been rendered by the translator himself in a careless, and at times even arbitrary manner. The Syriac version has all the less critical value at the present day, because it was considerably revised at an unknown date, by means of the Greek translation.
Of the other ancient versions of Ecclesiasticus, the Old Latin is the most important. It was made before St. Jerome's time, although the precise date of its origin cannot now be ascertained; and the holy doctor apparently revised its text but little, previously to its adoption into the Latin Vulgate. The unity of the Old Latin version, which was formerly undoubted, has been of late seriously questioned, and Ph. Thielmann, the most recent investigator of its text in this respect, thinks that chs. xliv-1 are due to a translator other than that of the rest of the book, the former part being of European, the latter and chief part of African, origin. Conversely, the view formerly doubted by Cornelius a Lapide, P. Sabatier, E.G. Bengel, etc., namely that the Latin version was made directly from the Greek, is now considered as altogether certain. The version has retained many Greek words in a latinized form: eremus (vi, 3); eucharis (vi, 5); basis (vi, 30); acharis (xx, 21), xenia (xx, 31); dioryx (xxiv, 41); poderes (xxvii, 9); etc., etc., together with certain Graecisms of construction; so that the text rendered into Latin was unquestionably Greek, not the original Hebrew. It is indeed true that other features of the Old Latin — notably its order for xxx-xxxvi, which disagrees with the Greek translation, and agrees with the Hebrew text — seem to point to the conclusion that the Latin version was based immediately on the original Hebrew. But a very recent and critical examination of all such features in i-xliii has let H. Herkenne to a different conclusion; all things taken into consideration, he is of the mind that: "Nititur Vetus Latina textu vulgari graeco ad textum hebraicum alterius recensionis graece castigato." (See also Jos. Knabenbauer, S.J., "In Ecclesiaticum", p. 34 sq.) Together with graecized forms, the Old Latin translation of Ecclesiasticus presents many barbarisms and solecisms (such as defunctio, i, 13; religiositas, i, 17, 18, 26; compartior, i, 24; receptibilis, ii, 5; peries, periet, viii, 18; xxxiii, 7; obductio, ii, 2; v, 1, 10; etc.), which, to the extent in which they can be actually traced back to the original form of the version, go to show that the translator had but a poor command of the Latin language. Again, from a fair number of expressions which are certainly due to the translator, it may be inferred that at times, he did not catch the sense of the Greek, and that at other times he was too free in rendering the text before him. The Old Latin version abounds in additional lines or even verses foreign not only to the Greek, but also to the Hebrew text. Such important additions — which often appear clearly so from the fact that they interfere with the poetical parallelisms of the book — are either repetitions of preceding statements under a slightly different form, or glosses inserted by the translator or the copyists. Owing to the early origin of the Latin version (probably the second century of our era), and to its intimate connection with both the Greek and Hebrew texts, a good edition of its primitive form, as far as this form can be ascertained, is one of the chief things to be desired for the textual criticism of Ecclesiasticus. Among the other ancient versions of the Book of Ecclesiasticus which are derived from the Greek, the Ethiopic, Arabic, and Coptic are worthy of special mention.
AUTOR E DATA
The author of the Book of Ecclesiasticus is not King Solomon, to whom, as St. Augustine bears witness, the work was oftentimes ascribed "on account of some resemblance of style" with that of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Canticle of Canticles, but to whom, as the same holy doctor says, "the more learned" (apparently among the church writers of the time) "know full well that it should not be referred" (On the City of God, Bk. XVII, ch xx). At the present day, the authorship of the book is universally and rightly assigned to a certain "Jesus", concerning whose person and character a great deal has indeed been surmised but very little is actually known. In the Greek prologue to the work, the author's proper name is given as Iesous, and this information is corroborated by the subscriptions found in the original Hebrew: 1, 27 (Vulgate, 1, 29); li, 30. His familiar surname was Ben Sira, as the Hebrew text and the ancient versions agree to attest. He is described in the Greek and Latin versions as "a man of Jerusalem" (1, 29), and internal evidence (cf. xxiv, 13 sqq.; 1) tends to confirm the statement, although it is not found in the Hebrew. His close acquaintance with "the Law, the Prophets, and the other books delivered from the fathers", that is, with the three classes of writings which make up the Hebrew Bible, is distinctly borne witness to by the prologue to the work; and the 367 idioms or phrases, which the study of the Hebrew fragments has shown to be derived from the sacred books of the Jews, are an ample proof that Jesus, the son of Sirach, was thoroughly acquainted with the Biblical text. He was a philosophical observer of life, as can be easily inferred from the nature of his thought, and he himself speaks of the wider knowledge which he acquired by traveling much, and of which he, of course, availed himself in writing his work (xxxiv, 12). The particular period in the author's life to which the composition of the book should be referred cannot be defined, whatever conjectures may have been put forth in that regard by some recent scholars. The data to which others have appealed (xxxi, 22, sqq.; xxxviii, 1-15; etc.) to prove that he was a physician are insufficient evidence; while the similarity of the names (Jason-Jesus) is no excuse for those who have identified Jesus, the son of Sirach, a man of manifestly pious and honourable character with the ungodly and hellenizing high priest Jason (175-172 B.C. — concerning Jason's wicked deeds, see 2 Maccabees 4:7-26).
The time at which Jesus, the author of Ecclesiasticus, lived has been the matter of much discussion in the past. But at the present day, it admits of being given with tolerable precision. Two data are particularly helpful for this purpose. The first is supplied by the Greek prologue, where he came into Egypt en to ogdoo kai triakosto etei epi tou Euergetou Basileos, not long after which he rendered into Greek his grandfather's work. The "thirty-eighth year" here spoken of by the translator does not mean that of his own age, for such a specification would be manifestly irrelevant. It naturally denotes the date of his arrival in Egypt with a reference to the years of rule of the then monarch, the Egyptian Ptolemy Euergetes; and in point of fact, the Greek grammatical construction of the passage in the prologue is that usually employed into the Septuagint version to give the year of rule of a prince (cf. Haggai 1:1, 10; Zechariah 1:1, 7; 7:1; 1 Maccabees 12:42; 14:27; etc.). There were indeed two Ptolemys of the surname Euergetes (Benefactor): Ptolemy III and Ptolemy VII (Physcon). But to decide which is the one actually meant by the author of the prologue is an easy matter. As the first, Ptolemy III, reigned only twenty-five years (247-222 B.C.) it must be the second, Ptolemy VII, who in intended. This latter prince shared the throne along with his brother (from 170 B.C. onwards), and afterwards ruled alone (from 145 B.C. onwards). But he was wont to reckon the years of his reign from the earlier date. Hence "the thirty-eighth year of Ptolemy Euergetes", in which the grandson of Jesus, the son of Sirach, came to Egypt, is the year 132 B.C. This being the case, the translator's grandfather, the author of Ecclesiasticus, may be regarded as having lived and written his work between forty and sixty years before (between 190 and 170 B.C.), for there can be no doubt that in referring to Jesus by means of the term pappos and of the definite phrase ho pappos mou Iesous, the writer of the prologue designated his grandfather, and not a more remote ancestor. The second datum that is particularly available for determining the time at which the writer of Ecclesiasticus lived is supplied by the book itself. It has long been felt that since the son of Sirach celebrated with such a genuine glow of enthusiam the deeds of "the high priest Simon, son of Onias", whom he praises as the last in the long line of Jewish worthies, he must himself have been an eyewitness of the glory which he depicts (cf. 1, 1-16, 22, 23). This was, of course, but an inference and so long as it was based only on a more or less subjective appreciation of the passage, one can easily understand why many scholars questioned, or even rejected, its correctness. But with the recent discovery of the original Hebrew of the passage, there has come in a new, and distinctly objective, element, which places practically beyond doubt the correctness of the inference. In the Hebrew text, immediately after his eulogism of the high priest Simon, the writer subjoins the following fervent prayer:
Obviously, Simon was yet alive when this prayer was thus formulated; and its actual wording in the Hebrew implies this so manifestly, that when the author's grandson rendered it into Greek, at a date when Simon had been dead for some time, he felt it necessary to modify the text before him, and hence rendered it in the following general manner:
May His mercy be continually with us, and may He redeem us in His days.
Besides thus allowing us to realize the fact that Jesus, the son of Sirach, was a contemporary of the high priest Simon, chap. 1 of Ecclesiasticus affords us certain details which enable us to decide which of the two Simons, both high priests and sons of Onias and known in Jewish history, is the one described by the writer of the book. On the one hand, the only known title of Simon I (who held the pontificate under Ptolemy Soter, about 300 B.C.) which would furnish a reason for the great encomium passed upon Simon in Ecclesiasticus 1 is the surname "the Just" (cf. Josephus, Antiq. of the Jews, Bk. XII, chap. ii, 5), whence it is inferred that he was a renowned high priest worthy of being celebrated among the Jewish heroes praised by the son of Dirach. On the other hand, such details given in Simon's panegyric, as the facts that he repaired and strengthened the Temple, fortified the city against siege, and protected the city against robbers (cf. Sirach 1:1-4), are in close agreement with what is known of the times of Simon II (about 200 B.C.). While in the days of Simon I, and immediately after, the people were undisturbed by foreign aggression, in those of Simon II the Jews were sorely harrassed by hostile armies, and their territory was invaded by Antiochus, as we are informed by Josephus (Antiq. of the Jews, Bk. XII, chap. iii, 3). It was also in the later time of Simon II that Ptolemy Philopator was prevented only by the high priest's prayer to God, from desecrating the Most Holy Place; he then started a fearful persecution of the Jews at home and abroad (cf. III Mach., ii, iii). It appears from these facts — to which others, pointing in the same direction, could easily be added — that the author of Ecclesiasticus lived about the beginning of the second century B.C. As a matter of fact, recent Catholic scholars, in increasing number, prefer this position that which identifies the high priest Simon, spoken of in Sirach 50, with Simon I, and which, in consequence, refers the composition of the book to about a century earlier (about 280 B.C.)
MÉTODO E COMPOSIÇÃO
At the present day, there are two principal views concerning the manner in which the writer of Ecclesiasticus composed his work, and it is difficult to say which is the more probable. The first, held by many scholars, maintains that an impartial study of the topics treated and of their actual arrangement leads to the conclusion that the whole book is the work of a single mind. Its advocates claim that, throughout the book, one and the same general purpose can be easily made out, to wit: the purpose of teaching the practical value of Hebrew wisdom, and that one and the same method in handling the materials can be readily noticed, the writer always showing wide acquaintance with men and things, and never citing any exterior authority for what he says. They affirm that a careful examination of the contents disclosed a distinct unity of mental attitude on the author's part towards the same leading topics, towards God, life, the Law, wisdom, etc. They do not deny the existence of differences of tone in the book, but think that they are found in various paragraphs relating to minor topics; that the diversities thus noticed do not go beyond the range of one man's experience; that the author very likely wrote at different intervals and under a variety of circumstances, so that it is not to be wondered at if pieces thus composed bear the manifest impress of a somewhat different frame of mind. Some of them actually go so far as to admit that the writer of Ecclesiasticus may at times have collected thoughts and maxims that were already in current and popular use, may even have drawn material from collections of wise sayings no longer extant or from unpublished discourses of sages; but they, each and all, are positive that the author of the book "was not a mere collector or compiler; his characteristic personality stands out too distinctly and prominently for that, and notwithstanding the diversified character of the apophthegms, they are all the outcome of one connected view of life and of the world" (Schürer).
The second view maintains that the Book of Ecclesiasticus was composed by a process of compilation. According to the defenders of this position, the compilatory character of the book does not necessarily conflict with a real unity of general purpose pervading and connecting the elements of the work; such a purpose proves, indeed, that one mind has bound those elements together for a common end, but it really leaves untouched the question at issue, viz. whether that one mind must be considered as the original author of the contents of the book, or, rather, as the combiner of pre-existing materials. Granting, then, the existence of one and the same general purpose in the work of the son of Sirach, and admitting likewise the fact that certain portions of Ecclesiasticus belong to him as the original author, they think that, on the whole, the book is a compilation. Briefly stated, the following are their grounds for their position. In the first place, from the very nature of his work, the author was like "a gleaner after the grape-gatherers"; and in thus speaking of himself (xxxiii, 16) he gives us to understand that he was a collector or compiler. In the second place, the structure of the work still betrays a compilatory process. The concluding chapter (li) is a real appendix to the book, and was added to it after the completion of the work, as is proved by the colophon in 1, 29 sqq. The opening chapter reads like a general introduction to the book, and indeed as one different in tone from the chapters by which its immediately followed, while it resembles some distinct sections which are embodied in further chapters of the work. In the body of the book, ch. xxxvi, 1-19, is a prayer for the Jews of the Dispersion, altogether unconnected with the sayings in verses 20 sqq. of the same chapter; ch. xliii, 15-1, 26, is a discourse clearly separate from the prudential maxims by which it is immediately preceded; chs. xvi, 24; xxiv, 1; xxxix, 16, are new starting-points, which, no less than the numerous passages marked by the address my son (ii, 1; iii, 19; iv, 1, 23; vi, 18, 24, 33; etc.). and the peculiar addition in 1, 27, 28, tell against the literary unity of the work. Other marks of a compilatory process have also been appealed to. They consist in the significant repetition of several sayings in different places of the book (cf. xx, 32, 33, which is repeated in xli, 17b, 18; etc.); in apparent discrepancies of thought and doctrine (cf. the differences of tone in chs. xvi; xxv; xxix, 21-41; xl, 1-11; etc); in certain topical headings at the beginning of special sections (cf. xxxi, 12; 41:16; 44:1 in the Hebrew); and in an additional psalm or canticle found in the newly discovered Hebrew text, between li, 12, and li, 13; all of which are best accounted for by the use of several smaller collections containing each the same saying, or differing considerably in their general tenor, or supplies with their respective titles. Finally, there seems to be an historical trace of the compilatory character of Ecclesiasticus in a second, but unauthentic, prologue to the book, which is found in the "Synopsis Sacrae Scripturae". In this document, which is printed in the works of St. Athanasius and also at the beginning of Ecclesiasticus in the Complutensian Polyglot, the actual redaction of the book is ascribed to the Greek translator as a regular process of compilation detached hymns, sayings, prayers, etc., which had been left him by his grandfather, Jesus, the son of Sirach.
ENSINAMENTO ÉTICO E DOUTRINAL
Before setting forth in a summary way the principal teachings, doctrinal and ethical, contained in the Book of Ecclesiasticus, it will not be amiss to premise two remarks which, however elementary, should be distinctly borne in mind by anyone who wished to view the doctrines of the son of Sirach in their proper light. First, it would be obviously unfair to require that the contents of this Sapiential book should come full up to the high moral standards of Christian ethics, or should equal in clearness and precision the dogmatic teachings embodied in the sacred writings of the New Testament or in the living tradition of the Church; all that can be reasonably expected of a book composed some time before the Christian Dispensation, is that it shall set forth substantially good, not perfect, doctrinal and ethical teaching. In the second place, both good logic and sound common sense demand that the silence of Ecclesiasticus concerning certain points of doctrine be not regarded as a positive denial of them, unless it can be clearly and conclusively shown that such a silence must be so construed. The work is mostly made up of unconnected sayings which bear on all kinds of topics, and on that account, hardly ever, if ever at all, will a sober critic be able to pronounce on the actual motive which prompted the author of the book either to mention or to omit a particular point of doctrine. Nay more, in presence of a writer manifestly wedded to the national and religious traditions of the Jewish race as the general tone of his book proves the author of Ecclesiasticus to have been, every scholar worthy of the name will readily see that silence on Jesus' part regarding some important doctrine, such for instance as that of the Messias, is no proof whatever that the son of Sirach did not abide by the belief of the Jews concerning that doctrine, and, in reference to the special point just mentioned, did not share the Messianic expectations of his time. As can readily be seen, the two general remarks just made simply set forth the elementary canons of historical criticism; and they would not have been dwelt on here were it not that they have been very often lost sight of by Protestant scholars, who, biased by their desire to disprove the Catholic doctrine of the inspired character of Ecclesiasticus, have done their utmost to depreciate the doctrinal and ethical teaching of this deuterocanonical book.
The following are the principal dogmatic doctrines of Jesus, the son of Sirach. According to him, as according to all the other inspired writers of the Old Testament, God is one and there is no God beside Him (xxxvi, 5). He is a living and eternal God (xviii, 1), and although His greatness and mercy exceed all human comprehension, yet He makes Himself known to man through His wonderful works (xvi, 18, 23 xviii, 4). He is the creator of all things (xviii, 1; xxiv, 12), which He produced by His word of command, stamping them all with the marks of greatness and goodness (xlii, 15-xliii ; etc.). Man is the choice handiwork of God, who made him for His glory, set him as king over all other creatures (xvii, 1-8), bestowed upon him the power of choosing between good and evil (xv, 14-22), and will hold him accountable for his own personal deeds (xvii, 9-16), for while tolerating, moral evil He reproves it and enables man to avoid it (xv, 11-21). In dealing with man, God is no less merciful than righteous: "He is mighty to forgive" (xvi, 12), and: "How great is the mercy of the Lord, and His forgiveness to them that turn to Him" (xvii, 28); yet no one should presume on the Divine mercy and hence delay his conversion, "for His wrath shall come on a sudden, and in the time of vengeance He will destroy thee" (v, 6-9). From among the children of men, God selected for Himself a special nation, Israel, in the midst of which He wills that wisdom should reside (xxiv, 13-16), and in behalf of which the son of Sirach offers up a fervent prayer, replete with touching remembrances of God's mercies to the patriarchs and prophets of old, and with ardent wishes for the reunion and exaltation of the chosen people (xxxvi, 1-19). It is quite clear that the Jewish patriot who put forth this petition to God for future national quiet and prosperity, and who furthermore confidently expected that Elias's return would contribute to the glorious restoration of all Israel (cf. xlviii, 10), looked forward to the introduction of Messianic times. It remains true, however, that in whatever way his silence be accounted for, he does not speak anywhere of a special interposition of God in behalf of the Jewish people, or of the future coming of a personal Messias. He manifestly alludes to the narrative of the Fall, when he says: "From the woman came the beginning of sin, and by her we all die" (xxv, 33), and apparently connects with this original deviation from righteousness the miseries and passions that weigh so heavily on the children of Adam (xl, 1-11). He says very little concerning the next life. Earthly rewards occupy the most prominent, or perhaps even the sole, place, in the author's mind, as a sanction for present good or evil deeds (xiv, 22-xv, 6; xvi, 1-14); but this will not appear strange to anyone who is acquainted with the limitations of Jewish eschatology in the more ancient parts of the Old Testament. He depicts death in the light of a reward or of a punishment, only in so far as it is either a quiet demise for the just or a final deliverance from earthly ills (xli, 3, 4), or, on the contrary, a terrible end that overtakes the sinner when he least expects it (ix, 16, 17). As regards the underworld or Sheol, it appears to the writer nothing but a mournful place where the dead do not praise God (xvii, 26, 27)
The central, dogmatic, and moral idea of the book is that of wisdom. Ben Sira describes it under several important aspects. When he speaks of it in relation to God, he almost invariable invests it with personal attributes. It is eternal (i, 1), unsearchable (i, 6, 7), universal (xxiv, 6 sqq.). It is the formative, creative power of the world (xxiv, 3 sqq.), yet is itself created (i, 9; also in Greek: xxiv, 9), and is nowhere treated as a distinct, subsisting Divine Person, in the Hebrew text. In relation to man, wisdom is depicted as a quality which comes form the Almighty and works most excellent effects in those who love Him (i, 10-13). It is identified with the "fear of God" (i, 16), which should of course prevail in a special manner in Israel, and promote among the Hebrews the perfect fulfilment of the Mosaic Law, which the author of Ecclesiasticus regards as the living embodiment of God d wisdom (xxiv, 11-20, 32, 33). It is a priceless treasure, to the acquistion of which one must devote all his efforts, and the imparting of which to others one should never grudge (vi, 18-20; xx, 32, 33). It is a disposition of the heart which prompts man to practise the virtues of faith, hope, and love of God (ii, 8-10), of trust and submission, etc. (ii, 18-23; x, 23-27; etc.); which also secures for him happiness and glory in this life (xxxiv, 14-20; xxxiii, 37, 38; etc.). It is a frame of mind which prevents the discharge of the ritual law, especially the offering of sacrifices, from becoming a heartless compliance with mere outward observances, and it causes man to place inward righteousness far above the offering of rich gifts to God (xxxv). As can readily be seen, the author of Ecclesiasticus inculcated in all this a teaching far superior to that of the Pharisees of a somewhat later date, and in no way inferior to that of the prophets and of the commendable, too, are the numerous pithy sayings which the son of Sirach gives for the avoidance of sin, wherein the negative part of practical wisdom may be said to consist. His maxims against pride (iii, 30; vi, 2-4; x, 14-30; etc.), covetousness (iv, 36; v, 1; xi, 18-21), envy, (xxx, 22-27; xxxvi, 22), impurity (ix, 1-13; xix, 1-3; etc.).anger (xviii, 1-14; x, 6), intemperance (xxxvii, 30-34). sloth (vii, 16; xxii, 1, 2), the sins of the tongue (iv, 30; vli, 13, 14; xi, 2, 3; i, 36-40; v, 16, 17; xxviii, 15-27; etc.), evil company, (xi, 31-36; xxii, 14-18; etc.), display a close observation of human nature, stigmatize vice in a forcible manner, and at times point out the remedy against the spiritual distemper. Indeed, it is probably no less because of the success which Ben Sira attained to in branding vice than because of that which he obtained in directly inculcating virtue, that his work was so willingly used in the early days of Christianity for public reading at church, and bears, down to the present day, the pre-eminent title of "Ecclesiasticus".
Together with these maxims, which nearly all bear on what may be called individual morality, the Book of Ecclesiasticus contains valuable lessons relative to the various classes which make up human society. The natural basis of society is the family, and the son of Sirach supplies a number of pieces of advice especially appropriate to the domestic circles as it was then constituted. He would have the man who wishes to become the head of a family determined in the choice of a wife by her moral worth (xxxvi, 23-26; xl, 19-23). He repeatedly describes the precious advantages resulting from the possession of a good wife, and contrasts with them the misery entailed by the choice of an unworthy one (xxvi, 1-24; xxv, 17-36). The man, as the head of the family, he represents indeed as vested with more power than would be granted to him among us, but he does not neglect to point out his numerous responsibilities towards those under him: to his children, especially his daughter, whose welfare he might more particularly be tempted to neglect (vii, 25 sqq.), and his slaves, concerning whom he writes: "Let a wise servant be dear to thee as they own soul" (vii, 23; xxxiii, 31), not meaning thereby, however, to encourage the servant's idleness or other vices (xxxiii, 25-30). The duties of children towards their parents are often and beautifully insisted upon (vii, 29, 30, etc.). The son of Sirach devoted a variety of sayings to the choice and the worth of a real friend (vi, 6-17; ix, 14, 15; xii, 8, 9), to the care with which such a one should be preserved (xxii, 25-32), and also to the worthlessness and dangers of the unfaithful friend (xxvii, 1-6, 17-24; xxxiii, 6). The author has no brief against those in power but on the contrary considers it an expression of God's will that some should be in exalted, and others in humble, stations in life (xxxiii, 7-15). He conceives of the various classes of society, of the poor and the rich, the learned and the ignorant, as able to become endowed with wisdom (xxxvii, 21-29). He would have a prince bear in mind that he is in God's hand, and owes equal justice to all, rich and poor (v, 18; x, 1-13). He bids the rich give alms, and visit the poor and the afflicted (iv, 1-11; vii, 38, 39; xii, 1-7; etc.), for almsgiving is a means to obtain forgiveness of sin (iii, 33, 34; vii, 10, 36) whereas hardheartedness is in every way hurtful 9xxxiv, 25-29). On the other hand, he directs the lower classes, as we might call them, to show themselves submissive to those in higher condition and to bear patiently with those who cannot be safely and directly resisted (viii, 1-13; ix, 18-21; xiii, 1-8). Nor is the author of Ecclesiasticus anything like a misanthrope that would set himself up resolutely against the legitmate pleasures and the received customs of social life (xxxi, 12-42; xxxii, 1 sqq.); while he directs severe but just rebukes against the parasite (xxix, 28-35; xi, 29-32). Finally, he has favourable sayings about the physician (xxviii, 1-15(, and about the dead (vii, 37; xxxviii, 16-24); and strong words of caution against the dangers which one incurs in the pursuit of business (xxvi, 28; xxvii, 1-4; viii, 15, 16).
Catholic authors are marked with an asterik (*)
Commentaries: CALMET* (Venice, 1751): FRITZSCHE, (Leipzig, 1859); BISSELL (New York, 1880); LESETRE* (Paris, 1880); EDERSHEIM (London-1888); ZOCKLER, (Munich, 1891); RYSSEL (Tübingen, 1900-1901); KNABENBAUER* (Paris, 1902).
Introductions to the Old Testament: RAULT* (Paris, 1882); VIGOUROUX* (Paris, 1886); CORNELY* (Paris, 1886); TRONCHON-LESETRE* (Paris, 1890); KONIG (Bonn, 1893); CORNILL, (Freiburg, 1899); GIGOT* (New York, 1906)
Monographs on Ancient Versions: PETERS* (Freiburg, 1898); HERKENNE* (Leipzig, 1899).
Literature on Hebrew Fragments: TOUZARD* (Paris, 1901); KNABENBAUER* (Paris, 1902).
MLA citation. Gigot, Francis. "Ecclesiasticus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 17 Aug. 2014 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05263a.htm>.
- Font Size
- Reading Mode