but there are friends who are friends in name only.
when your other self becomes your enemy?
to fill the earth with deceit?”
but in time of trouble he stands aloof.
and against your enemies he will hold up your shield.
and do not neglect him when you distribute your spoils.
but some counsel ways of their own.
find out first of all what he wants.
For he also may be thinking of himself—
Why should the opportunity fall to him?
and then stand by to see you impoverished.
and from one who is envious of you, keep your intentions hidden.
from a coward about war,
from a merchant about business,
from a buyer about value,
from a miser about generosity,
from a cruel person about well-being,
from a worthless worker about his work,
from a seasonal laborer about the harvest,
from an idle slave about a great task—
pay no attention to any advice they give.
who you know keeps the commandments;
Who is like-minded with yourself
and will grieve for you if you fall.
for there is nothing you can depend on more.
better than seven sentinels on a tower.
to make your steps firm in the true path.
Wisdom and Temperance
a thought, of every act.b
Good and evil, death and life,
and their absolute mistress is the tongue.c
yet appear foolish to himself.
he will be deprived of all enjoyment.*
the fruits of knowledge are seen in his own person.
the fruits of knowledge are lasting.d
and all who see him praise him.
but the life of Israel, days without number.
and his name lives on and on.e
and see that you do not allow it what is bad for you.
nor is everything suited to every taste.f
neither become a glutton for choice foods;
and gluttony brings on nausea.
but the abstemious one prolongs life.
THE WISDOM OF BEN SIRA
The Wisdom of Ben Sira derives its title from the author, “Yeshua [Jesus], son of Eleazar, son of Sira” (50:27). This seems to be the earliest title of the book. The designation “Liber Ecclesiasticus,” meaning “Church Book,” appended to some Greek and Latin manuscripts, is perhaps due to the extensive use the church made of this book in presenting moral teaching to catechumens and to the faithful. The title “Sirach” comes from the Greek form of the author’s name.
The author, a sage who lived in Jerusalem, was thoroughly imbued with love for the wisdom tradition, and also for the law, priesthood, Temple, and divine worship. As a wise and experienced observer of life he addressed himself to his contemporaries with the motive of helping them to maintain religious faith and integrity through study of the books sacred to the Jewish tradition.
The book contains numerous well-crafted maxims, grouped by affinity, and dealing with a variety of subjects such as the individual, the family, and the community in their relations with one another and with God. It treats of friendship, education, poverty and wealth, laws, religious worship, and many other matters that reflect the religious and social customs of the time.
Written in Hebrew in the early years of the second century B.C., the book was finished by ca. 175. The text was translated into Greek by the author’s grandson after 117 B.C. He also wrote a foreword which contains valuable information about the book, its author, and himself as translator. Until the close of the nineteenth century the Wisdom of Ben Sira was known to Christians in translations, of which the Greek rendering was the most important. From it the Latin version was made. Between 1896 and 1900, again in 1931, and several times since 1956, incomplete manuscripts were discovered, so that more than two thirds of the book in Hebrew is available; these Hebrew texts agree substantially with the Greek. One such text, from Masada, is pre-Christian in date. The New American Bible provides a critical translation based on the evidence of all the ancient texts.
Though not included in the Jewish Bible after the first century A.D., nor, therefore, accepted by Protestants, the Wisdom of Ben Sira has been recognized by the Catholic Church as inspired and canonical. The Foreword, though not properly part of the book, is always included with it because of its antiquity and importance.
The contents of the Wisdom of Ben Sira are of a discursive nature, not easily divided into separate parts. Chapters 1–43 deal largely with moral instruction; 44:1–50:24 contain a eulogy of the heroes of Israel. There are two appendixes in which the author expresses his gratitude to God (51:1–12), and invites the unschooled to acquire true wisdom (51:13–30).