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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Date.

The book is exceptional among the wisdom books of the Bible and Apocrypha in disclosing the name of the actual author. The approximate date of composition is also disclosed by the grandson's preface to the Greek translation. The grandson, we are told, arrived in Egypt in the thirty-eighth year of King Euergetes. The reference can only be to Ptolemy VIII (VII) Euergetes II (Physcon), and the date of arrival is 132 BCE. The translation was completed some years later, probably after the death of Euergetes in 117 BCE. If we assume that the grandson was an adult when he moved to Egypt, and that the grandfather's prime was about half a century earlier, we may infer that Ben Sira's book was compiled somewhere in the first quarter of the second century BCE. Since it claims to present accumulated wisdom, it can scarcely be the work of a young man. Consequently, a date towards the end of that period is likely. The glowing praise of the high priest Simon in ch. 50 suggests that he was a contemporary of Ben Sira, although the eulogy was probably written after his death. Simon II was high priest from 219 to 196 BCE. The book shows no awareness of the upheavals of the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164). The prayer in ch. 36 is so alien to the thought world of Ben Sira that it must be regarded as a secondary addition, possibly from the Maccabean period.

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