Ecclesiasticus by Jesus ben Sirach

As the Early Church faced the daunting task of deciding which books of sacred writings should be accepted as truly inspired and worthy to be included in the canon of Holy Scripture, there was inevitably some doubt and disagreement over certain books and their acceptability.

By about the close of the first century AD the "canon" was probably closed but there was inevitably some doubt about certain books which were on the "fringes" of the canon.

Among those books, venerated but not as part of the canon in various areas of Christendom, is a number of books (The Apocrypha) in which we find valuable teaching on wisdom. One of those, which has close affinities with the Biblical book "The Wisdom of Solomon" and the stock of wise sayings scattered among the Old Testament and New Testament books as guides to "Godly living" is the book "Ecclesiasticus" or "The Wisdom of Ben Sirach".

This formidable title may well strike fear into the hearts of those who are not familiar with this particular book and even those who understand the language of the Apocrypha, (the "hidden books"), feel daunted by the mass of alternative textual readings the book contains.

Since only very few English versions of the Holy Bible contain the Apocryphal Book: "Ecclesiasticus", we now consider the modern translation of that book, lest we fail to take account of the interesting and valuable material that it contains. Fortunately, we have today a "Revised English Bible" from which to study the book of Wisdom.

Jesus ben Sirach, the author, avails himself of ancient teaching and practice based upon the vast and impressive store of Jewish material to which he was heir. But he also adds to the concept of Wisdom many new insights and much that, by study of scripture and intuitive psychology, has enriched our understanding of God's world and mankind's response to his Maker.

Whereas there were many ancient proverbs, saws, sayings and facets of wisdom current in ancient and modern days, it is clear that the writer postulates that God Himself is the sole source of Wisdom as the prime-mover and Lord of the Universe. All depends upon and coheres in Him.

This insight and conviction is one that it was not difficult to impress upon the Jewish people, for by instruction and practice from early days in their history, God's rule and reign were more readily accepted among them than in a modern and largely secular society like ours in "The West" and the teaching of such Wisdom is enduring and of perennial relevance.

  1. The book "Ecclesiasticus" begins with a clear and forthright statement that "All Wisdom is from the Lord, and with Him it remains for ever".
    Nowhere in wisdom literature is it more succinctly stated that such is the origin and role of Wisdom in the Jewish faith.
  2. Wisdom was created before all other things and the Lord lavished "her" upon those who loved Him. Wisdom, because of her nature as the giver of love and gifts, is understandably personified as female, (Sophia in Greek).
  3. The fear of the Lord is glory and exultation, gladness and rejoicing, bringing blessing and a happy end to personal life on the earth.
  4. To fear the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom. She is created with the faithful in the womb and she will abide faithful among their descendants.

"The fear of the Lord is the Crown of Wisdom".

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