The Bible is incomplete at best: The Dead Sea scrolls, Nag Hammadi scrolls, Septuagint, Peshitta and Ethiopian Orthodox Bible prove this fact. For various political reasons the Christian churches removed many books from the Bible. Origen and St. Augustine accepted the Apocrypha and Septuagint as Bible canon. Apocrypha means “hidden or secret”, not “doubtful authenticity” as the Protestants erroneously claim.
Jesus ben Sira was a Jewish teacher who compiled a book of wise sayings and instructions in Hebrew somewhere around 185 BCE. The author’s grandson later translated this work into Greek and added a preface of his own. The traditional form of the Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sira (also known as Sirach or Ecclesiasticus) is based on the grandson’s Greek translation, which is found in the Septuagint. Sirach is included in the Old Testament of Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians, whereas Protestants and Jews group it among the Apocrypha. The traditional title is Sirach or Ecclesiasticus, while the Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sira, or simply Ben Sira, is increasingly preferred by scholars who recognize the Hebrew origins of the book.
Although scholars have been aware of Sirach for several hundred years in ancient Greek, Latin, and Syriac versions, the quest for the original Hebrew text has proved formidable. Sirach was excluded by the rabbis from their list of scriptural books, but the Hebrew text was known during the early centuries of the common era, since it is discussed in some Jewish writings; the book then fell into disuse and was not recopied for a long time. In the late nineteenth century, substantial Hebrew texts of Sirach, copied in the eleventh and twelfth centuries CE, were discovered in the Cairo Genizah synagogue-storeroom. None of the Cairo copies is complete, but when combined they provide the Hebrew text for approximately two-thirds of the book of Sirach.
Portions of Sirach were discovered at Qumran and Masada. The Qumran evidence is interesting: The Cave 2 scroll (2QSir) apparently contained the Hebrew text of some or all of Sirach as found in later Greek manuscripts.
The most substantial scroll containing text from Sirach was found at Masada, the fortress where, according to Flavius Josephus, over 900 Jewish defenders committed suicide in 73 or 74 CE. The scrolls, discovered by Yigael Yadin’s archaeology team at Masada on April 8, 1964, preserve text from chapters 39-44 and form the oldest of all the Sirach scrolls.
If, as scholars believe, Sirach was composed in the first third of the second century BCE, the Masada scroll is only about a hundred years later than the original. Moreover, this form of the text confirms that the medieval manuscripts of Sirach that were discovered in the Cairo Genizah basically represent the original Hebrew version, but with several corruptions and later changes.
Read The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance for Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity by James VanderKam & Peter Flint for more data. Ecclesiasticus 3:30 (Authorized King James Version)–“Water will quench a flaming fire; and alms maketh an atonement for sins.” THE END