Sunday, January 14, 2024

Cairo Genizah and the Wisdom of Ben Sira

 The book of Ecclesiasiticus (church book) also called Sirach or Wisdom of Ben Sira is part of the Catholic, Orthodox, Syriac Peshitta, Coptic and African canons, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church with 81 books.  It does not appear in the Protestant canon, having been removed during the Reformation.  Although I've enjoyed reading Sirach when it appears as part of the liturgy, I didn't know about its discovery in Hebrew in 1896 until our book club read Sisters of Sinai, How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels by Janet Soskice (2009).   Sisters of Sinai - Janet Soskice on Scottish Twins Agnes Lewis & Margaret Gibson YouTube lecture

18 facts about the Cairo Genizah

"14. The Original Hebrew Ben Sirah Was Discovered There

"Ben Sira is part of what is known as the Apocrypha—works of Jewish wisdom that were not included in the 24 Books of the Hebrew Bible. In fact, it was when two sisters, Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson, found a piece of Hebrew Ben Sirah (which they could not identify) that scholars realized what a treasure the Geniza was. This work—quoted numerous times by the Sages—had only survived in Greek. Thanks to the Geniza (and the Dead Seas Scrolls), at least six sections of Ben Sira in Hebrew have been rediscovered."

The Cairo Genizah - Its History and Importance -

The Book of Sirach - Intro ( Ben Sira

How the wisdom of Ben Sira has impacted the church (Sirach, Ecclesiasticus, Apocrypha) (

Ben Sira (also known as Sirach or Ecclesiasticus) is one of our most important sources of ancient Hebrew literature. It is also one of 7 books that belong to the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical books of the Bible. This great source from second temple Judaism has played an important role to the Christianity since the early church. Our guest, Peter Beckman, is completing his PhD at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario and is a pastor at a Lutheran church. We discuss a number of topics * The placement (or lack thereof) of Ben Sira in the biblical canon * The different names for the book and what they show * The author of Ben Sira * The differences between the Hebrew and Greek versions * The purpose, style, and message of the book of Ben Sira * The unique prologue to the Greek version of Ben Sira * How Ben Sira navigates challenges that people of faith deal with today * How Ben Sira interprets Scripture * The “canon consciousness” of Ben Sira * We have a little debate about literacy and the target audience of Ben Sira * How has the book of Ben Sira been used in the church throughout history up to today in different denominations * How all wisdom should lead to worship and prayer Palestinian Syriac texts : from palimpsest fragments in the Taylor-Schechter collection, Cambridge Digital Library

"Welcome to, the website devoted to the ancient and medieval Hebrew manuscripts of the book of Ben Sira. These documents, which are housed in Cambridge, Oxford, London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, and Jerusalem, are here presented in a single platform, to allow the scholar and the interested layperson to view these precious texts. To learn more about the remarkable recovery of the once-lost Hebrew original of Ben Sira, and its presentation at our website, click on 'Introduction'. To proceed directly to the images of the disparate manuscripts, click on 'View the Manuscripts'. We invite you to explore, peruse the website, and learn more about the book of Ben Sira, its contents, and its textual history."  The book of Ben Sira [website]

"The known and published textual witnesses of Ben Sira in Hebrew are as follows: the five manuscripts discovered in the Cairo Genizah, beginning in 1896; the Ben Sira Scroll from Masada, discovered in 1964; fragments of Ben Sira found in two caves at Qumran (cave 2 and cave 11); quotations from Ben Sira scattered throughout the talmudic and midrashic literature; and the ancient Greek and Syriac translations.

In 1982, another manuscript from the Cairo Genizah was discovered by the Hungarian scholar Alexander Scheiber in the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection (Additional Series) at Cambridge. Scheiber published the manuscript in a Hungarian journal that was not generally accessible to
the scholarly community.4 He identified the new manuscript as belonging to the same source as that of MS D from the Cairo Genizah. . . . Di Lella’s  conclusion is that this is a totally new Genizah manuscript of Ben Sira, which he designates MS F. (Linguistic Innovations in Ben Sira Manuscript F. by Haim Dihi, Hebrew in the Second Temple Period; The Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls and of Other Contemporary Sources, 2013)  Linguistic Innovation in Ben Sira Manuscript F | HAIM DIHI -

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