Alphabet of Sirach

Usually called The Alphabet of Ben Sira. The compilation so designated consists of two lists of proverbs, 22 in Aramaic and 22 in Hebrew, arranged in each case as alphabet acrostics. Each of these proverbs is followed by a haggadic comm., with legends and tales, many of them indecent. Some of the proverbs in the Alphabets are probably genuine compositions by Ben Sira and are quoted as such in the Talmud, but in their present form the Alphabets are at least as late as the 11th century AD.


The only complete copy of the text known is in the British Museum, the copy in the Bodleian being defective. Steinschneider has published a reprint of this last with critical notes (Alphabeticum Syracidis, Berlin, 1854). Cowley and Neubauer (The Original Hebrew of a Portion of Ecclesiasticus), besides giving a general account of this work, add a translation into English of the Aramaic proverbs. In his brief but excellent articles in the Jewish Encyclopedia (Ben Sira, The Alphabet of), Dr. Louis Ginzberg (New York) also gives a translation of the 22 Aramaic proverbs with useful remarks after each. The work has been translated into Latin, Yiddish (often), Judeo-Spanish, French and German, but never, so far, completely into English.

T. Witton Davies