Friday, October 12, 2018

Examining The Book Of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus)

  • Discussion:
           -Sirach is one of the apocryphal books included in the Roman Catholic Old Testament canon, and is regarded as wisdom literature. It contains a wide variety of sayings, many of which are true. It even echoes themes found in the Book of Proverbs. Other portions of the Book of Sirach, however, teach heterodox doctrine in regards to salvation and atonement. This apocryphal work is not inspired Scripture, as is evidenced by the following quotations found therein:

           "Those who honor their father atone for sins; they store up riches who respect their mother." (Sirach 3:3)

           "Kindness to a father will not be forgotten; it will serve as a sin offering—it will take lasting root. In time of trouble it will be recalled to your advantage, like warmth upon frost it will melt away your sins." (Sirach 3:14-15, New American Bible Revised Edition)

           "As water quenches a flaming fire, so almsgiving atones for sins." (Sirach 3:29)

           To the contrary, Scripture says that justification is attained by the grace of God alone through faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-9). Our good works are the product, not the cause, of justification. Only the Lord Jesus Christ has the power to make atonement for our infinite sin debt (Hebrews 9:26; 28; 10:10-14; 18). Our righteousness is imperfect. We can be saved only through the blood of Jesus. Only the Son can reconcile us to the Father.

           Animal sacrifices in the Old Testament were merely a temporary covering for sin and all pointed to the once for all sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 10:1-2). To claim that we can merit our salvation even in part by our good works is a false gospel. Other problematic passages found in the apocryphal Book of Sirach are presented as follows:

         "No good ever comes to a person who gives comfort to the wicked; it is not a righteous act. Give to religious people, but don't help sinners. Do good to humble people, but don't give anything to those who are not devout. Don't give them food, or they will use your kindness against you. Every good thing you do for such people will bring you twice as much trouble in return. The Most High himself hates sinners, and he will punish them. Give to good people, but do not help sinners." (Sirach 12:3-7, Good News Translation)

           This passage contradicts the very essence of Christ's character and message (Matthew 11:28-30). We ought to love our enemies as ourselves, and pray for those who persecute us. It needs to be recognized that we all have stumbled at some point because of our fallen nature. We are not to be self-righteous and turn away those who may seem unholy to us.

           "If you bring a stranger home with you, it will only cause trouble, even between you and your own family." (Sirach 11:34, Good News Translation)

            In the Old Testament, God commanded that His nation Israel share a portion of crops with the needy (Leviticus 23:22). His chosen people were to treat foreign residents with great respect (Leviticus 19:33-34). Although we should not just allow anybody to enter our homes, one quality of a Christian is willingness to show hospitality to strangers (Matthew 25:41-46).

            "Do not hesitate to visit the sick. You will be loved for things like these." (Sirach 7:35, Good News Translation)

            It sounds as if the author is encouraging readers to do good works to be seen of men, a state of heart that Christ condemned when addressing the scribes and Pharisees.             

           "My child, don't live the life of a beggar; it is better to die than to beg." (Sirach 40:28, Good News Translation)

            These words sound rather lofty and arrogant. What about the example of Lazarus who ended up entering into Abraham's bosom upon death?

            So, it appears that the Roman Catholic Church is in error for including the Book of Sirach in its canon of Scripture. This apocryphal work may contain much spiritually edifying material, as well as having literary value. However, the Book of Sirach also contains doctrinal error. It is not consistent with inspired Scripture. This author was obviously zealous for the Law. He could rightly be characterized as legalistic.


  1. Hey Jesse,

    Yeah, I've read this book before and I, too, noticed some unbiblical teachings in it. Glad you've pointed these out.

  2. Claims that the deuterocanonical books contradict theological truths in the protocanonical books also fall flat. One example is the claim that the teaching that honoring one’s father and almsgiving can atone for sin (Sir 3:3; Tob 4:11) contradicts the New Testament’s teaching that only Christ can atone for our sins. But the book of Proverbs teaches that “by loyalty and faithfulness [or what many Protestants would call ‘works’] iniquity is atoned for” (16:6). First Peter says that “love covers a multitude of sin” (4:8), and Acts records an angel saying to the Gentile Cornelius, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” (10:4)

  3. Anonymous,

    I know that your comment is simply a copy and paste excerpt taken from Trent Horn's book titled "Case for Catholicism."

    Proverbs 16:6 is saying that the sacrificial system is a portrayal of God's faithfulness in atoning for sin.

    1 Peter 4:8 is talking about love not keeping a list of sins. It covers or does not hold wrongdoings against an offender.

    Cornelius's prayer and alms arose like a sweet incense to God, but this is not teaching atonement for sin.

    All of these passages have been misused and taken out of context in order to deny the fact that the Roman Catholic deuterocanonicals contain heresy.

  4. Hey, jesse. Wow, sirach is definitely in line with the catholic doctrine of faith plus works, i can see why they consider it as authoratative as scripture. I really appreciate you pointing this out to me, definitely a good read.