Ben Sira, Apocrypha, Ben Sira, New York 1850 (48481)

חכמת יהושע בן סירא - First non-Liturgical or Biblical Hebrew Book Printed in USA

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Listing Details

Lot Number: 48481
Title (English): Ben Sira, Apocrypha
Title (Hebrew): חכמת יהושע בן סירא
Note: First non-Liturgical, non-Biblical Hebrew Book Printed in America
Author: Ben Sira
City: New York
Publisher: Henry Frank
Publication Date: 1850
Estimated Price: $3,000.00 USD - $6,000.00 USD
Content/listingImages/20191101/400b6742-faa4-483a-95eb-7ca52ddca871_fullsize.jpg Content/listingImages/20191101/adf6eb49-c35a-4763-b712-2c568a91f125_fullsize.jpg


Physical Description

1-116, 122; 137 (of 142) leaves, lacking three leaves, (= pp. 137-141); divisional titles for 2nd, 3rd parts; a separate divisional title for parts 4 and 5 [mis]bound at front. 12mo. Some soiling and staining, losses to corners expertly repaired, ex-library. Modern gilt ruled red morocco; gilt dentelles; title and imprint gilt-stamped on spine. Housed in modern buckram clamshell case.

The First non-Liturgical, non-Biblical Hebrew Book Printed in America. Prior to this Ben Sira, the only earlier non-liturgical, non-Biblical Hebrew book printed in America, was published by missionaries, and not a Jewish publication.


Detail Description

Hebrew and German of the Wisdom of Ben Sira, (also called Ecclesiasticus) is a work of the Apocrypha, which, though usually known by this name, may have been called by its author, "The Words of Simeon b. Jeshua," the title found on the Hebrew fragments. In Greek the book is called, "Wisdom of (Jesus son of) Sirach," and hence in Latin it was known as Siracides (i.e., Sira's son). Its common name in modern times, Ecclesiasticus (abbr. Ecclus.) dates from the 4th-century custom of naming certain homiletical books libri ecclesiastici (i.e., books for (reading in) the church). The book is divided into eight sections, each introduced by a poem in praise of wisdom or of the wise man. The last section (Hebrew version 44–50), called "The Praise of the Fathers," eulogizes the great figures of the Bible, with the exception of the final chapter which is devoted to praise of Simeon b. Johanan the priest, i.e., Simeon the Just. The greater part of the work consists of maxims, poetic in form, like those in the book of Proverbs. It also contains psalms of supplication and of thanksgiving (36:1–17 (33:1–13; 36:16–22); 42:21–35 (15–25), 43, et al.), these latter being characterized by a lofty poetic style and by elevated thought (cf. 42:21 (15); 43:33 (58). (References are given to two editions: the first to the Hebrew edition by M.H. Segal (19582), the second to the standard edition in the Greek text of the Apocrypha). The work also includes didactic poems on subjects of daily life and on historical events, after the manner of certain psalms (13; 15; 16; 18; 34:19–35; 40:41; et al.), and concludes with an epilogue comprising two poems of praise and thanksgiving, and an alphabetic poem on the importance of acquiring wisdom.

The Wisdom of Ben Sira directs man to the love of wisdom and ethical conduct, teaches him virtue and good deeds, and proper behavior in eating and drinking, speech and silence, work and commerce, studying and teaching, poverty and wealth, health and sickness. It also seeks to instruct man to perform all his actions with intelligence and understanding, moderation, care and wisdom, so that his deeds may bring to him and others the appropriate benefit. It teaches man how to behave within his family circle: toward his father and mother, his wife, his sons, and his daughters. It guides him in his conduct toward all men. It stresses, as does the book of Proverbs, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning and the end of all wisdom. The work, though written in the spirit of the Bible and in the language of the later biblical books, bears a contemporary impress of the second century B.C.E., and its faith, in general, is that of subsequent Pharisaic Judaism (everything is foreseen but man has freedom of choice: 15:15–17; cf. Avot 3:15). It also reveals some influence of Greek literature and idiom: men grow and fall like leaves on a tree (14:19; cf. Iliad 6:146–9); he becomes wise who is unfettered by affairs, corresponding to the Greek man of leisure. The work also contains a trace of the Greek gnosis and perhaps also of its philosophical thought (cf. 42:29–33 (20–23)). Unlike other books of proverbs, in which the authors address themselves to youth, the Wisdom of Ben Sira attaches prime importance to the well-ordered family, the effective basis of which is the father. It is primarily to him that the author addresses himself, advising and instructing him. A man should marry a suitable wife, beautiful and kindly-spoken, who, assisting him, will bring him supreme happiness. He should rear his sons in the Torah, marry off his daughters while they are young, and deal faithfully with his fellow man.

There were controversies concerning the admission of various books into the biblical cannon. For example, the Book of Ezekiel, Solomon's three books (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon), and Esther. But no controversy arose concerning the Apocrypha: all were agreed that they were non-canonical. The opposition to Ezekiel was only temporary; owing to its contradictions of the Pentateuch, many wished to hide it away (that is, to prevent its use); but "Hananiah ben Hezekiah ben Garon spent three hundred jars of oil to release it." Others wished to prohibit its use because a child in school, having read the first chapter, made a picture of the "ḥashmal" (A. V., "color of amber") which then emitted flames; nevertheless, Hananiah championed it (Ḥag. 13a; Shab. 13b; Men. 45a). The opposition to Proverbs, because they contained contradictions, was very slight. For the same reason, it was contended that Ecclesiastes ought not to be read (Shab. 30b). Apparently the opponents belonged to the strict school of the Shammaites (Bacher, "Ag. Tan." i. 21). Others wished to prohibit the reading of Ecclesiastes on the ground that it expressed heretical ideas (Lev. R. xxviii., beginning, and elsewhere).

Among the works eliminated by the canonical process were, undoubtedly, on the one hand, many of the writings that maintained their place in the Alexandrian canon, having been brought to Egypt and translated from the original Hebrew or Aramaic, such as Baruch, Ecclus (Sirach), I Maccabees, Tobit and Judith; and, on the other hand, books like Jubilees, Psalms of Solomon, Assumption of Moses, and the Apocalypses of Enoch, Noah, Baruch, Ezra, and others. In some cases the critical tendency may have led only to the removal of what was rightly deemed to be later accretions, such as the additions to Daniel and Esther, while in regard to disputed writings, such as Canticles, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Ezekiel (and probably Daniel), the more liberal policy finally prevailed.

Seckel Isaac Fraenkel (1765–1835), Hebrew translator and banker. Fraenkel, who was born in Parchim, Germany, was self-educated. He acquired extensive knowledge of religious and secular subjects and of ancient and modern languages. In 1798 he moved to Hamburg where he engaged in banking and became one of the community leaders, particularly in its Reform congregation. Together with M.I. Bresselau , Fraenkel edited a prayer book for the Hamburg Reform Temple (1818), which he defended in a German tract (Schutzschrift des zu Hamburg erschienenen Israelitischen Gebetbuches, 1819) when strong opposition against the new liturgy emerged among the traditionalists. Fraenkel's main literary project was the translation of the Apocrypha from Greek into Hebrew, entitled Ketuvim Aḥaronim. This work has frequently been reprinted since its first appearance in Leipzig (1830), its most recent edition appearing in Jerusalem in 1966. A bibliophile edition of the Books of the Maccabees, Sefer ha-Ḥashmona'im, appeared in Fraenkel's translation in 1964.

This volume contains Yehudah Leib Ben Ze’ev’s Hebrew translation of Ecclesiasticus (Ben Sira) together with Isaac Mayer’s German version. Ben-Ze’ev (1764-1811) was the first Jewish scholar to apply Western research methods to the study of Hebrew (see Waxman, History of Jewish Literature, Vol. III p. 127).


Hebrew Description



JE; EJ; CD-NLI 0155137