2016 | 6(63/1) | 107-126
Article title

The (Apparent) Absence of Women in the Praise of the Ancestors (Sir 44–49)

Title variants
(Widoczna) nieobecność kobiet w pochwale przodków (Syr 44-49)
Languages of publication
The Praise of the Ancestors (Sir 44–49) offers an interpretation of the story of Biblical Israel as seen through the eyes of Ben Sira. His telling of this story, permeated with God’s working, contains the names of male protagonists only. Still, analysis of textual versions of the Praise of the Ancestors (Hebrew, Greek and Syriac) enables us to detect some anonymous allusions to women (Sir 46:13; 47: 6.19; 48:19, 49:7). The present article attempts to investigate the reasons why there are no named references to Biblical heroines from Israel’s history, individuals who are mentioned in other books of the Bible. One answer might be found in the particular focus and educational purpose of the Praise, which was to provide a life model for young boys. Another reason might lie in the genre of the Praise, which was used in reference to women in Greek texts, but not in the Bible, where the name lists of praised heroes contained male names only. However, the most convincing reason for the absence of female names in the Praise of the Ancestors is found in its association with the priesthood of Biblical Israel. For the writer of the book, true high priests of the Jerusalem Temple constituted the ultimate keystone of the covenant between God and his people. Women, being absent from the official priesthood of Israel, are consequently absent from Sir 44–49.
  • Pontifical Faculty of Theology, Warsaw
  • Bailey K.E., “Women in Ben Sirach and in the New Testament”, For Me to Live. Essays in Honor of James Leon Kelso (ed. R.A. Coughenour) (Cleveland 1972) 56-73.
  • Beentjes P.C., “The Countries Marvelled at You. King Salomon in Ben Sira 47:12-22”, Bijdragen, tijdschrift voor filosofie en theologie 45 (1984) 6-14.
  • Beentjes P.C., „The ‘Praise of the Famous’ and its Prologue. Some Observations on Ben Sira 44:1-15 and the Question on Enoch in 44:16”, Bijdragen, tijdschrift voor filosofie en theologie 45 (1984) 374-383.
  • Beentjes P.C.. (ed.), The Book of Ben Sira in Hebrew. Text Edition of All Extant Hebrew Manuscripts and a Synopsis of All Parallel Hebrew Ben Sira Texts (VT.S 68; Leiden – New York – Köln 1997).
  • Box G.H. – Oesterley W.O.E., “The Book of Sirach”, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament with Introductions and Critical and Explanatory Notes to the Several Books (ed. R.H. Charles) (Oxford 1913) 268-517.
  • Calduch-Benages N. – Ferrer J. – Liesen J. (ed.), La Sabiduría del Escriba. Edición diplomática de la version siriaca del libro de Ben Sira segúnel Códice Ambrosiano, con tracucción española e inglesa / Wisdom of the Scribe. Diplomatic Edition of the Syriac Version of the Book of Ben Sira according to Codex Ambrosianus, with Translations in Spanish and English (Biblioteca Midrásica 26; Estella 2003).
  • Calduch-Benages N., “The Absence of Named Women from Ben Sira’s Praise of Ancestors”, Rewriting Biblical History. Essays on Chronicles and Ben Sira in Honor of Pancratius C. Beentjes (eds. J. Corley – H. van Grol) (Berlin – New York, NY 2011) 301-317.
  • Camp C.V., “Understanding a Patriarchy”, Women Like This. New Perspectives on Jewish Women in the Greco-Roman World (ed. A.J. Levine) (Atlanta, GA 1991) 1-39.
  • Ciecieląg J., Żydzi w okresie drugiej świątyni 538 przed Chr. – 70 po Chr. (Kraków 2011).
  • Demitrów A., Quattro oranti nell’Elogio dei Padri (Sir 44–49). Studio dei testi e delle tradizioni (Opolska Biblioteka Teologiczna 124; Opole 2011).
  • Drawnel H., “Władza arcykapłana w Izraelu we wczesnym okresie hellenistycznym: pomiędzy historią a kapłańską ideologią dydaktyczną”, Polityka a religia (eds. P. Jaroszyński et al.) (Lublin 2007) 297-319. Gilbert M., „Ben Sira et la femme”, RTL 7 (1976) 426-442.
  • Gorgias de Léontini, “GORGIOU ELENHS EGKWMION. GORGIÆ HELENÆ LAUDATIO”, Oratores attici, (Vol. II. Fragmenta oratorum atticorum en grec/latin) (Paris 1888) 206-209.
  • Gorgias, “Encomium of Helen”, The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (eds. V.B. Leitch et al.) (New York 2001) 30-33.
  • Hamp V., Sirach (Die Heilige Schrift in deutscher Übersetzung, Echter – Bibel 13; Würzburg 1952).
  • Harvey J.D., „Toward a Degree of Order in Ben Sira’s Book”, ZAW 105 (1993) 52-62.
  • Ilan T., “Dance and Gender in Ancient Jewish Sources”, Near Eastern Archaeology 66/3 (2003) 135-136.
  • Isocrates, “ELENH. Helen”, Isocrates. In Three Volumes with an English Translation (red. L. Van Hook) (LCL 373; Cambridge, MA 1945) III, 54-97.
  • Jüngling H.W., “Der Bauplan des Buches Jesus Sirach“, Den Armen eine frohe Botschaft. FS für Bischof Franz Kamphaus zum 65. Geburtstag (eds. J. Hainz – H.W. Jüngling – R. Sebott) (Frankfurt a/M 1997) 89-106.
  • Lee T.R., Studies in the Form of Sirach 44–50 (SBL Dissertation Series 75; Atlanta 1986).
  • Mack B.L., Wisdom and the Hebrew Epic. Ben Sira’s Hymn in Praise of the Fathers (Chicago Studies in the Story of Judaism; Chicago – London 1985).
  • Marböck J.,“Structure and Redaction History in the Book of Ben Sira. Review and Prospects”, The Book of Ben Sira in Modern Research. Proceedings of the First International Ben Sira Conference 28-31 July 1996, Soesterberg, Netherlands (ed. P.C. Beentjes) (Berlin – New York, NY 1997) 61-79.
  • Marko M., “David in the Wisdom of Ben Sira” SJOT 25/1 (2011) 29-48.
  • Marsman H.J., Women in Ugarit and Israel. Their social and religious position in the context of the ancient Near East (OTS 49; Leiden – Boston 2003).
  • Minissale A., Siracide (Ecclesiastico). Versione – Introduzione – Note (Roma 1980).
  • Minissale A., La versione greca del Siracide. Confronto con il testo ebraico alla luce dell’attività midrascica e del metodo targumico (AnBib 133; Roma 1995).
  • Moore C.A., Judith. A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 40B; New Haven – London 2008) 76-77.
  • Murray M.A., “Ancient and Modern Ritual Dances in the near East”, Folklore 66/4 (1955) 401-409.
  • Nerczuk Z., „Pochwała Heleny Gorgiasza z Leontinoi”, Studia Antyczne i Mediewistyczne 45 (2012) 17-36.
  • Nowaszczuk J., “Kompozycja wypowiedzi w ujęciu greckiej szkoły retorycznej”, Roczniki Humanistyczne 54-55/3 (2006-2007) 241-262.
  • Peters N., Das Buch Jesus Sirach oder Ecclesiasticus. Übersetzt und erklärt (Exegetisches Handbuch zum Alten Testament 25; Münster 1913).
  • Piwowar A., “Syrach – obrońca prawowitego arcykapłana”, Od Melchizedeka do Jezusa Arcykapłana. Biblia o kapłaństwie (ed. D. Dziadosz) (Analecta Biblica Lublinensia 5; Lublin 2010) 93-107.
  • Pudełko J.J., “Powołanie Kobiety według Syracydesa”, Verbum Vitae 19 (2011) 89-109.
  • Roth W., “On the Gnomic-Discursive Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach”, Semeia 17 (1980) 59-79.
  • Sauer G., Jesus Sirach / Ben Sira (ATD Apokryphen 1; Göttingen 2000).
  • Skehan P.W. – Di Lella A.A., The Wisdom of Ben Sira. A New Translation with Notes (AB 39; New York, NY 1987).
  • Smend R., Die Weisheit des Jesus Sirach erklärt (Berlin 1906).
  • Spicq C., L’Ecclésiastique (SB[PC]; Paris 1951).
  • Trenchard W.C., Ben Sira’s View of Women (Chico, CA 1982).
  • Tuszyńska-Maciejewska K., „Pochwała Heleny w wykonaniu ateńskiego mówcy Izokratesa”, Symbole Philologorum Posnaniensium Graecae et Latinae 8 (1991) 57-70.
  • VanderKam J.C., From Joshua to Caiaphas. High Priest after the Exile (Minneapolis – Assen 2014). de
  • Vaux R., Instytucje Starego Testamentu (Vol. II: Instytucje Wojskowe. Instytucje Kultyczne) (trans. T. Brzegowy) (Poznań 2004).
  • Winston D., The Wisdom of Solomon. A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New Haven – London 2008).
  • Wright B.G., “Wisdom of Iesous Son of Sirach”, A New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) and the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included under that Title (eds. A. Pietersma – B. G. Wright) (New York – Oxford 2007) 715-762.
  • Yadin Y., The Ben Sira Scroll from Masada (Masada VI. Yigael Yadin Excavations 1963-1965. Final Reports; Jerusalem 1999).
  • Zapff B.M., Jesus Sirach 25–51 (Kommentar zum AT mit der Einheitsübersetzung. Die Neue Echter Bibel 39; Würzburg 2010).
  • Ziegler J. (ed.), Sapientia Iesu Filii Sirach (Septuagint: Vetus Testamentum graece auctoritate Societatis Göttingensis editium 12/2; Göttingen 1965, 1980).
Document Type
Publication order reference
YADDA identifier
JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.