Scribal Culture in Ben Sira


Winner of the 2020 BAJS Book Prize! The book prize initiative was launched by BAJS in 2018 to recognise and promote outstanding scholarship in the field of Jewish Studies.

In Scribal Culture in Ben Sira Lindsey A. Askin examines scribal culture as a framework for analysing features of textual referencing throughout the Book of Ben Sira (c.198-175 BCE), revealing new insights into how Ben Sira wrote his book of wisdom. Although the title of “scribe” is regularly applied to Ben Sira, this designation presents certain interpretive challenges. Through comparative analysis, Askin contextualizes the sage’s compositional style across historical, literary, and socio-cultural spheres of operation. New light is shed on Ben Sira’s text and early Jewish textual reuse. Drawing upon physical and material evidence of reading and writing, Askin reveals the dexterity and complexity of Ben Sira’s sustained textual reuse. Ben Sira’s achievement thus demonstrates exemplary, “excellent” writing to a receptive audience.

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Lindsey A. Askin, PhD (2016), University of Cambridge, is a Lecturer in Jewish Studies at the University of Bristol. She has published on Ben Sira, Jubilees, scribal culture, and ancient Jewish medicine.
"This useful study sets Ben Sira in the context of recent scholarship on scribalism and offers a rich description of the complexity of his reuse of earlier sources." - George J. Brooke, in: SOTS Book List, 2019


1 Tools and Techniques of Scribal Culture: Materiality and Physicality of Reading and Writing

2 Noah and Phinehas: Originality and Textual Reuse

3 Hezekiah-Isaiah and Josiah: Multiple Source Handling and Harmonization

4 On Weather: Nature-Lists and Ben Sira’s Use of Psalms and Job

5 Death and the Body: Echoes of Job, Qohelet, and Ancient Perspectives

6 The Physician and Piety: Textual Reuse and Perspectives on Medicine


Editions and Translations Used
Those interested in the history and literature of early Judaism, Ben Sira, biblical interpretation, ancient compositional techniques, especially quotation, and physical and material aspects of reading and writing in antiquity.
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