An Hypothesis about the Hebrew Fragments of Sirach

W. Bacher
1899 Jewish Quarterly Review  
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more » ... out Early Journal Content at http://about.jstor.org/participate--jstor/individuals/early-journal--content. JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not--for--profit organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. THE JEWISI QUARTERLY REVIEW AN HYPOTHESIS ABOUT THE HEBREW FRAGMENTS OF SIRACH. IT was a dream. The great discovery which so pleasurably excited all Biblical and Hebrew scholars, and which has exercised their learning and acumen for the last two years, proves to be an illusion. The fragments of Ben-Sira, published from the Geniza in Cairo, by Dr. Schechter and Dr. Neubauer, and more sheets of which are in Cambridge and the British Museum awaiting publication, are not portions of the Hebrew original of Sirach, and do not belong to the third century B.C., but are remnants of a re-translation of the Greek and Syriac Sirach into Hebrew. That translation was made in the eleventh century C. E. by a Persian Jew. This "Ben-Zew" of the eleventh century had become aware of the existence of the complete Sirach. He conceived the wish to recapture the work for "the dear Hebrew language," and in "honour of his race." He gets one teacher, who reads with him the Syriac Sirach, and another, who -for good "reward "-translates for him the Greek Sirach into Persian. The zealous Jew is intent next upon collecting " parallels from the Old Testament," in order to make use of them in his translation. Equipped in this way, he composes a Hebrew Ben-Sira, adapting himself at one time to the Syriac, and at another time to the Greco-Persian Sirach. During the process he becomes the victim of many misunderstandings and errors, but he occasionally succeeds in surpassing in correctness the two other versions, which constitute the only basis of his labour. "He restores the original felicitously once or twice where both versions are misleading." He records on the margin 92 THE HEBREW FRAGMENTS OF SIRACH other attempted translations of single words or of whole verses. Death prevents the completion of his work. His MS. falls into the hands of a pedant, who knows more Hebrew than the master; and who supplements the marginal notes of the translator with some poor and worthless emendations. This MS. was the basis of the fragments of the Hebrew Ben-Sira of the Geniza. This is the romance pictured to himself by Prof. D. S. Margoliouth of Oxford, which is to take the place of the assumption that the fragments reproduce the Hebrew original of the Wisdom of Ben-Sira . It is evident that a grave scholar could only be induced by grave reasons to put himself into opposition to all those who hitherto have considered and discussed the Hebrew fragments of Sirach as the newly discovered original text of Ecclesiasticus, to assert the modern origin of this Hebrew text, and to deny it the alleged great importance for the understanding of Sirach, and for the history of Hebrew language and literature. As one of those who have given close attention to the fragments of Ben-Sira, I intend, in the following remarks, to examine the grounds which led Prof. Margoliouth to his astounding assumption, and to test their value. As Prof. Margoliouth says himself (p. 4), the point of issue for his hypothesis was offered him by the Persian marginal note on fol. i, right side, of the Oxford MS.
doi:10.2307/1450572 fatcat:a4ximj4cojfizayapbwr7rt54u