Sirach and Its Contexts

The Pursuit of Wisdom and Human Flourishing


In Sirach and Its Contexts an international cohort of experts on the book of Sirach locate this second-century BCE Jewish wisdom text in its various contexts: literary, historical, philosophical, textual, cultural, and political. First compiled by a Jewish sage around 185 BCE, this instruction enjoyed a vibrant ongoing reception history through the middle ages up to the present, resulting in a multiform textual tradition as it has been written, rewritten, transmitted, and studied. Sirach was not composed as a book in the modern sense but rather as an ongoing stream of tradition. Heretofore studied largely in confessional settings as part of the Deuterocanonical literature, this volume brings together essays that take a broadly humanistic approach, in order to understand what an ancient wisdom text can teach us about the pursuit of wisdom and human flourishing.

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Samuel L. Adams, Ph.D. (2006), Yale University, is the McNair Chair in Biblical Studies at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. He has published monographs on ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature and economics in the biblical world. He is currently writing a commentary on Ben Sira for the Anchor Yale Bible series. He edits the journal Interpretation.

Greg Schmidt Goering, Th.D. (2006), Harvard Divinity School, is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. He researches ancient Jewish wisdom literature and is the author of Wisdom’s Root Revealed: Ben Sira and the Election of Israel (Brill, 2009).

Matthew Goff, Ph.D. (2003), University of Chicago, is a Professor of Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism at Florida State University. His most recent publication is a volume co-edited with Samuel Adams, the Wiley Blackwell Companion to Wisdom Literature (2020).
List of Illustrations, Figures and Tables

1 Introduction: Sirach and Its Contexts
Greg Schmidt Goering

Part 1: The Wisdom of Ben Sira: Contexts, Categories, and Approaches

2 Wisdom as Genre and as Tradition in the Book of Sirach
John J. Collins

3 Wisdom in Transmission: Rethinking Sirach and Proverbs
Jacqueline Vayntrub

4 Appearance versus Reality and the Personification of Wisdom: Sirach’s Place in the Early Jewish Sapiential Tradition
Bradley C. Gregory

5 Ben Sira’s Tour of the Cosmos: Sir 42:15–43:33 as Ekphrastic Wisdom
A. Jordan Schmidt

Part 2: The Hebrew Manuscripts of Sirach: Diversity, Continuity, and Transmission

6 Sirach MS C Revisited
Frank Ueberschaer

7 Vav and Yod in the Hebrew Manuscripts A and B of Sirach
Eric D. Reymond

8 Doublets in the Hebrew Manuscript B of Sirach
Jean-Sébastien Rey

Part 3: Sages and Their Contexts: Hellenism, Hymns, and Pedagogy

9 Where Is Ezra? Ben Sira’s Surprising Omission and the Selective Presentation in the Praise of the Ancestors
Samuel L. Adams

10 Sages as Singers in Sirach and the Second Temple Period
David A. Skelton

11 Sirach and Imperial History: A Reassessment
James K. Aitken

Part 4: The Reception of the Book and Figure of Ben Sira in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

12 Ben Sira’s Pseudo-Pseudepigraphy: Idealizations from Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages
Benjamin G. Wright III and Eva Mroczek

13 The Act of Reading Ben Sira as a Generative Context for Jewish Liturgical Poetry and the Book of Ben Sira Itself
Matthew Goff

14 Ben Sira in Ethiopia: The Andǝmta Commentary on Sirach 1 and 24
Yonatan Binyam

Index of Ancient Sources
Index of Modern Authors
All interested in the book of Sirach, ancient Jewish wisdom literature, Second Temple Judaism, and scholarly approaches to the study of these subjects.
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