Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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This book is so called from the Greek word that signifies a preacher: because, like an excellent preacher, it gives admirable lessons of all virtues. The author was Jesus, the son of Sirach, of Jerusalem, who flourished about two hundred years before Christ. As it was written after the time of Esdras, it is not in the Jewish canon; but is received as canonical and divine by the Catholic Church, instructed by apostolical tradition, and directed by the Spirit of God. It was first written in Hebrew, but afterwards translated into Greek by another Jesus, the grandson of the author, whose prologue to this book is the following: (Challoner)


The knowledge of many and great things hath been shewn us by the law, and the prophets, and others that have followed them: for which things Israel is to be commended for doctrine and wisdom: because not only they that speak must needs be skilful, but strangers also both speaking and writing, may by their means become most learned.  My grandfather, Jesus, after he had much given himself to a diligent reading of the law, and the prophets, and other books, that were delivered to us from our fathers, had a mind also to write something himself, pertaining to doctrine and wisdom; that such as are desirous to learn, and are made knowing in these things, may be more and more attentive in mind, and be strengthened to live according to the law.  I entreat you, therefore, to come with benevolence, and to read with attention, and to pardon us for those things wherein we may seem, while we follow the image of wisdom, to come short in the composition of words; for the Hebrew words have not the same force in them, when translated into another tongue.  And not only these, but the law also itself, and the prophets, and the rest of the books, have no small difference, when they are spoken in their own language.  For in the eight and thirtieth year coming into Egypt, when Ptolemy Evergetes was king, and continuing there a long time, I found there books left, of no small nor comtemptible learning.  Therefore I thought it good, and necessary for me to bestow some diligence and labour to interpret this book: and with much watching and study, in some space of time, I brought the book to an end, and set it forth for the service of them that are willing to apply their mind, and to learn how they ought to conduct themselves, who purpose to lead their life according to the law of the Lord.

--- If some forbear to urge the authority of this book, in disputes with the Jews, we need not be surprised, as there were other proofs against them. We often act with Protestants in the same manner, even using their versions, &c. (Haydock) --- It was alleged in the controversies about baptism and grace, and no one thought of rejecting its testimony, chap. xxxiv. 30. (St. Cyprian, ep. 65.; St. Augustine, Bap. vi. 34., and Grat. ii. 11., &c.) --- The Councils of Ephesus, 3d Carthage, (c. 47.) Francfort, 8th Toledo, and Trent, ought to settle all doubts on this head. The Jews themselves have a great regard for the book, (though the Thalmud condemns it for admitting more persons than one in God) and seem to have copied many sentences from it into the two Syriac alphabets of Ben Sira. This may be the work which St. Jerome (Pref. in Sal.) testifies he saw in Hebrew, as that text cannot at present be found. (Calmet) --- See ep. 115. (Du Hamel) --- But this is no proof that it was not extant in St. Jerome's time, and the many variations between the Greek copies themselves and the Vulgate, may owe their rise to the different translators omitting some parts of it. (Haydock) --- The same person seems to have translated this and the former book [Wisdom] into Latin in the earliest ages, though the present work is more obscure, because the Greek is less beautiful, of which the Roman edition is deemed the most correct; though the Complutensian agrees with the Vulgate. He appears to have given frequently a double version, for fear of not having expressed the full sense in the first, unless the additions be his, or some other person's glosses, which have crept into the text. (Calmet) --- If this be the case, near one hundred verses ought to be cut off, yet as they are published without any distinction by the Church, perhaps it would be as well to adhere to the former sentiment, or to suspend our judgment, chap. ix. 12. (Haydock) --- Many of the Fathers quote this book as the production of Solomon, because it contains many of his sentences preserved by tradition, (Menochius) and resembles his works. (St. Augustine, City of God xvii. 20.) --- The Greek styles it "The Wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach." He has imitated (Haydock) the Proverbs to chap. xxiv., Ecclesiastes to chap. xlii. 15., where wisdom ends her exhortation, and the Canticle [of Canticles] in the remainder of the work, praising God and the great men of the nation, down to Simon II. (Vales in Eusebius iv. 22.) (Calmet) --- The last chapter contains a prayer, which may be in imitation of the book of Wisdom. This work is often styled Panaretos, a collection of pious maxims, (Haydock) or a "receptacle of all virtues." (Worthington) --- Many think it was composed between the year of the world 3711 and 3783; (Torniel.) but it seem rather to have appeared in times of persecution, (chap. 36.) after Philopator had been incensed against Simon II for opposing his entrance into the sanctuary, (chap. l. 4., &c.) for which he ordered the Jews in Egypt to be cruelly butchered, (2 Machabees) and after Epiphanes, the Syrian monarch, had commenced his most cruel persecution of that people, and of Onias III, twenty-two years after the death of Simon II, (chap. xxxv., and l.) the year of the world 3828, the year before Christ 176. (Eusebius; Grotius; Usher) (Calmet)