Sirach: About a Biblical Book Rejected by the Reformation

By Taylor Marshall

One of the seven Old Testament books rejected by Martin Luther and subsequent Protestants was the book of Ecclesiasticus, alternatively known by its “Old Latin” title Sirach. The other books rejected by Protestantism are Judith, Tobit, Wisdom, Baruch, and 1 & 2 Maccabees.

Ecclesiasticus/Sirach is found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (three copies to be exact). It is also included in the Greek Septuagint, the Old Latin manuscripts, and the Latin Vulgate. The Catholic Church and Churches of the East receive the book as inspired, inerrant, and canonical. Sirach is also included in our oldest biblical manuscripts: Codex Vaticanus (ca. A.D. 350), Codex Sinaiticus (A.D. 360), and Codex Alexandrinus (ca. A.D. 400). In other words, the early Church in both the East and West revered this book and read it in Church…not to mention Jews before the Incarnation of Christ.

There are a number of references to the book of Sirach in the New Testament. James 1:19 seems to quote  Sirach 5:11. The Blessed Virgin Mary alludes to Sirach 10:14 in Luke 1:52.

There are four well known quotes from Christ that relate to Sirach. Most well known is Christ’s statement in Matthew 7:16-20 which draws from Sirach 27:6. Also Matthew 6:12, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” mirrors Sirach 28:2 “Forgive your neighbor a wrong, and then, when you petition, your sins will be pardoned.” Mark 4:5,16-17 also resembles Sirach 40:15.

Moreover, Patristic scholar Henry Chadwick claimed that in Matthew 11:28 Jesus directly quoted Sirach 51:27.

Hence, we see that all the arguments generally made against Ecclesiasticus, namely that it was unknown by Christ and the Apostles, is utterly false. The book’s general reception and circulation in the Patristic era also testifies to its divine origin.

I encourage all of our readers to pick up a copy of Ecclesiasticus/Sirach and give it a read. You will be richly blessed.