Believe it or not, the fact that the prophet Jeremiah is both Ben Sira’s father and grandfather is not the weirdest thing about him. Yup–according to apocrypha, evil men forced Jeremiah to act onanistically into bathhouse waters in which his daughter later goes for a dip.
But that’s not the point. The point is that from 200 to 175 BCE, Ben Sira wrote a famous book of ethical teachings called the Book of the All-Virtuous Wisdom, or “Sirach.”
Though not part of the Jewish canon—one theory suggests that because Ben Sira identified himself as the author, it couldn’t be considered prophetical, and therefore couldn’t be scripture—Sirach is widely regarded as a special book—not to mention the largest wisdom book to have been preserved from antiquity.
Lacking any identifiable structure, Sirach isn’t an easy read. It’s filled with elaborate illustrations and poems that seem systematic but fail to organize the book into thematically-based chapters.
Recurring topics include: creation, death, friendship, sin, speech, money matters, and women (spoiler: he hates them). Elsewhere, he lauds slavery and advocates harsh treatment for slaves (spoiler: he hates them, too).
So what, according to Ben Sira, is wisdom? Actually, that’s easy: wisdom is the fear of God. Simple, no?