This book is known by its two names. The first one recalls its author, Jesus, the son of Sirach and the second name refers to its welcome by Christians for centuries. It was considered as the epitome of practical wisdom, more elaborate and more “religious” than the Book of Proverbs.
Written in Hebrew, it was later translated into Greek by the grandson of the author (see the preface of the book). In Jesus’ time, the book existed in the two languages although it was especially used by Greek synagogues and a few years later, Jews did not accept it as “Scripture.” The Church used the book although it only knew the Greek version and it was only in the 19th century that part of the Hebrew text was found. It is slightly different from the Greek translation that sometimes added a few verses and the different numbering of the verses added to the confusion. The Hebrew versions are not necessarily older or more faithful to the original than the Greek text. In that regard, we have made our choices without prejudice or absolute rule.
This book consists of two main parts:
– Chapters 1–42 include seven series of maxims. Each one starts with the praise of wisdom. The poem on wisdom in chapter 24 is particularly interesting.
– Chapters 43–51 begin by praising God whose wisdom shines in the order of the universe and continue with a description of God’s wise activity through the great people of the Old Testament.
This book is one of the deuterocanonical books: see p. 1037.