This article takes stock of works published over the last twenty years on the book of Sirach. In it the textual, literary and theological problems dealt with these days are discussed in succession. The footnotes provide an ample bibliography on the subject. The conclusion is that research on this book is making great strides, but also that it is far from having solved all these problems.
Si 38,1-15 illustrates how Sirach understands the initially disputed institution of the Hellenistic physician. Against the background of traditional Old Testament beliefs and some Stoic concepts of world order, medicine is seen as part of God’s work of salvation. Rejecting it would even amount to a sin. The Hebrew text of Sirach is astonishingly universalistic. There, the physician’s work is similar to that of Moses, and the physician’s prayer, either Hebrew of Hellenistic, is addressed to the one God. By contrast, the Greek text is more traditional, and presents a more negative view of the physician.
This article examines the references to slips of the tongue in the speech ethics of Ben Sira. Against the background of Proverbs, this characterization of accidental speech errors represents a new development. Its origin can be traced to the confluence between sapiential metaphors for mistakes in life and the idea of a slip of the tongue in the Hellenistic world. Ben Sira’s references to slips of the tongue are generally coordinated with a lack of discipline, though at least two verses seem to suggest that slips are not always sinful and that they represent a universal phenomenon, found even among the wisest sages.
The Greek terms rendered 'hold together' in Col 1,17 (sunistemi), Wis 1,7 (suneko), and Sir 43,26 (sugkeimai) do not derive from Septuagint renderings of the Hebrew Bible; instead they are terms that Second Temple Jewish and Greek Christian apologists co-opted from Hellenistic philosophy to commend 'biblical' concepts to the Graeco-Roman world. From these texts we can infer the semantic relationships of these verbs. The 'liturgical composition' in Col 1,15-20 displays a combination of biblical wisdom and co-opted philosophy.
The addition in SirVL-VG 24,6a (“I [Wisdom personified] made the light arise that does not set”) has been understood by C. Kearns as the light that illuminates the righteous in the afterworld. In this short note, we propose to see in this “light” that of the Torah, which arose before the creation of the universe.