I have written several posts on Sirach, sections that I have found useful, interesting, and intriguing, and in doing so, I have come to a greater appreciation for the Inspiration of this book. Inspiration – the thought that the author penned it, but it was the Divine Author that actually wrote it. Surely, I am not the only one that has seen a measure of inspiration in the words of Sirach, as we know that the ancient Rabbi’s used it as well as many of the Church Fathers. It heavily influenced the Gospel writers as well as the later Christological debates.
Beginning with this post, I am going to repost my Sirach works, revising them along the way, and hopefully, starting up again where I left off.
Below you will see the addition of several alternate verses which are found in a different Greek recension of Sirach which was used by the KJV and RSV, and noted by the New English Translation of the Septuagint. I include these because they are highly valuable, and unfortunately, the level of Textual Criticism that is often applied to the rest of the Bible has not yet reached a sound scientific basis for many of the books of the Deuterocanon. I will discuss the alternate verse as a stand-alone verse in the passage.
This is not designed as the final word on Sirach, but to open up doorways for thinking by Fundamentals on Sirach, keeping in mind that these ancient writings are generally of better quality than most of what can be found in today’s Christian book stores.
(1) All Wisdom comes from the Lord and is with him for ever.
Ben Sira uses Wisdom not to encompass pure knowledge, but his view is clearly religious in nature, as would be natural for him. By itself, this verse is hardly impressive, however, by undertaking the rest of the passage first, we see that this Wisdom is an emanation from the Lord. (Wisdom 1.26, Hebrews 1.3).
(2) Who can count the sand of the sea, the drops of rain, and the days of eternity?
(3) Who can search them out the height of heaven, the breadth of the earth, the abyss, and wisdom?
(4) Wisdom was created before all things, and prudent understanding from eternity.
The verse is a prologue to John’s Logos passage, when in the beginning was the Word. It also looks back to Proverbs 8, the basis of understanding the Jewish view of Wisdom.
“I, Wisdom, dwell with prudence, And find out knowledge and discretion. The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate. Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding, I have strength. By me kings reign, And rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, All the judges of the earth. I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me. Riches and honor are with me, Enduring riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, yes, than fine gold, And my revenue than choice silver. I traverse the way of righteousness, In the midst of the paths of justice, That I may cause those who love me to inherit wealth, That I may fill their treasuries. “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. (Proverbs 8:12-22 NKJV)
Sirach connects to the Logos of John and the Wisdom of Proverbs as well as the Emanation of Wisdom 7.26. The Divine is not without His Wisdom or His Word, and thus not alone; however, the Wisdom and Word are not seen as divine substances, but attributes and emanations. Wisdom is God Thinking whereas the Word is God Active.
And alternate verse here, which is highly Christological, reads
(4a) Wisdom’s spring is God’s word in the highest, and her journeys are everlasting commandments.
This verse is attested to in the Syriac as well as the Latin,
Fons sapientiae verbum Dei in excelsis, et ingressus illius mandata aeterna. – Nova Vulgata
The Logos is seen here as the spring of Sophia, the source. In ancient times, Wisdom is associated with the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God is seen as emanating from the Son. In John 14 and 16, we read of the spirit of Truth that will come from the Father as well as coming from the Son. This is God speaking His wisdom to dwell among flesh as the gift of the holy Spirit.
These images were important to the early Christian writers, as we cannot fail to be reminded that Paul called Christ the Wisdom of God. (cf Luke 7.35 and 1st Corinthians 1.24), that John used Wisdom language in describing the Logos, and that we can find loud echoes of both Sirach and Wisdom throughout the New Testament and its thought world.
(5) To whom has the root of wisdom been revealed? Who knows her great deeds?
Sophia, Wisdom, is a feminine noun in both Greek and Hebrew, and is only given masculinity in the New Testament when referring to Christ. (See above.)
(6) There is One who is wise, greatly to be feared, sitting upon his throne.
This (6) verse is left out of some ancient MSS. Some speculate that it was removed by the Jews sometime after the Bar Kochba rebellion in 135. The Rabbi’s, seeking to save Judaism, began removing certain passages from the LXX (cf Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho) in hopes of reducing the Christology of the Old Testament.
(7) The Lord himself created wisdom; he saw her and numbered her, he poured her out upon all his works.
(8) She dwells in the midst of all flesh according to his gift, and he supplied her to those who love him.
Again, we hear the echoes of this passage in John’s Prologue in which the Logos is said to tabernacle in flesh (John 1.14 RSV).
And alternate verse here reads,
(8a) Loving the Lord is esteemed wisdom, but to whomever He appears, He apportions her as a vision of Himself.
Again we turn to Paul’s writing, when he calls Christ the Image of God.
NAU 2 Corinthians 4:4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
NLT 2 Corinthians 4:4 Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.
And to John,
If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, `Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves. (John 14:7-11 RSV)
It is not difficult to see then why these books were used to supplement the Christ event in the early Church. While in the synoptic gospels, Jesus is the Wise Sage, Wisdom personified, in John, Jesus becomes Wisdom, albeit in the masculine, and philoite Logos.