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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


COOK, Johann. Translation difficulties posed by the Deuterocanonical Books: Jesus Ben Sira as a case study. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2020, vol.60, n.4-1, pp.983-993. ISSN 2224-7912.

According to Wright (2007:715), this book has three titles. In Hebrew it is known as the Wisdom of Joshua Ben Sira. In the Vulgate it is entitled Ecclesiasticus (the Book of the Church) and in the Jewish Hellenistic writings Sira. Ben Sira (BS) has 51 chapters and as far as contents and form are concerned, it falls into the category of Ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature. Skehan and Di Lella (1987:4) see it as a handbook for moral conduct that a Jew living in the second century BCE had to study. The grandfather of Ben Sira compiled a wisdom tractate in Hebrew in Palestine, apparently before the revolution associated with Antiochus Epiphanes (Cook 2020). Among other things, this Seleucid tried to change Jerusalem into a Greek polis (city) (Tcherikover 1959). Jewish customs were rejected and replaced with Hellenistic cultural practices. Ben Sira does not refer to these developments, an indication that this wisdom writing was done before the Antiochean revolt. A Greek gymnasium started to operate in the Jewish community, which led to great unhappiness in conservative Jewish circles (liberal Jews visited the gymnasium naked!). This version of BS is fragmentary and at times disjointed, which created enormous difficulties for the translators. Fortunately, various Hebrew fragments were discovered later. Passages of chapters 39-44 were discovered at Masada that date from the first century BCE. Ms 2Q18 contains some lines and 11QPsa preserves parts of chapter 51. Six fragments from the Cairo Geniza are also available. It is significant that the Hebrew texts, which contain about two thirds of the book, are not included in the Hebrew canon. These texts are nevertheless important for understanding the Greek texts. This involves text-critical research, an enormous task. The Greek text was created by the grandson of Sirach, who translated his grandfather's document from the Hebrew in Alexandria between 132 and 117 BCE, during the reign of Ptolemy VII Euergetes II. He wrote in the prologue that he had arrived in Egypt in the 38th year of the reign of King Euergetes and that he spent many sleepless nights on the translation. The circumstances differed greatly from those in Palestine. It was now a Hellenistic world, but the significance of this should not be overestimated. Martin Hengel reminds us that all forms of Judaism from the second century BCE should be deemed as Hellenistic Judaism. Skehan and Di Lella (1984) are of the opinion that the Ptolemies adopted the Persian administrative system according to which the High Priest was not just the spiritual leader of the nation, but also a sort of secular prince who had to collect tax for the Ptolemean empire. The BS consists of numerous later additions/proverbs, typified as GKII (GreekII). GKI refers to the oldest Greek text and is found in the uncial manuscrips A, B, C and S, as well as in their cursive manuscripts. The text publication by Ziegler (Septuaginta Graecum Auctoritate Academiae Litteratum Goetingensis editum XII Sapientia Jesu Filii Sirach, 1965) is used as basis for the translation and interpretation. The Deuterocanonical (DC) literature - also known as the Apocrypha - is seen as part of the Septuagint, which is the second problem that confronts the modern translator. The Septuagint is built up of the Old Greek (OG) text, which is the technical term for those texts that were translated from the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts, as well as the so-called de novo compositions, like the Wisdom of Ben Sira, or the Wisdom of Solomon. Concerning Ben Sira there is much uncertainty, since it was translated from a Semitic Vorlage.

Palavras-chave : Septuagint LXX; wisdom; Ben Sirah; grandson; grandfather; Egypt; Palestine; fragments; GI; GII; uncial cursive.

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