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Looking at different translations of Sirach 50:27, some read

Jesus son of Eleazar son of Sirach

While others read

Jesus, Sirach’s son and grandson of Eleazar

The former suggests that Jesus is son of Eleazar while the latter suggest Sirach is the father of Jesus. Do we know who is really the father?

I'm also interested in why there are differences between translations on this.

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  • I have edited the main question heading for the sake of clarification.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 7 '18 at 7:07
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Older translations of Ben Sira were based on the Greek translation. Later translations could use Cairo Genizah/Qumran manuscripts found in the end of the 19th and in the 20th century. For instance, compare RSV and NRSV:

RSV: Jesus the son of Sirach, son of Elea′zar, of Jerusalem
NRSV: Jesus son of Eleazar son of Sirach of Jerusalem

The RSV is from 1901, whereas the NRSV is from 1989. The RSV did not apply knowledge from the Genizah manuscripts (although the first were published in 1896) and could not use knowledge from Qumran which was discovered later. The NRSV did use both sources.

If we look at the Greek, the sole basis of the RSV, we have:

ιησυïοσ σειρακ ελεαζαρ ο ïερευσοσολυμειτησ
Jesus [of] Sirach [of] Eleazar the [one of] Jereususalem

The third word is corrupt, to resolve this we could adapt the text to:

ιησυïοσ σειρακ ελεαζαρ ο ïεροσολυμειτησ
Jesus [of] Sirach [of] Eleazar the [one of] Jerusalem

Because of this, the RSV adds a note that "the text of this line is uncertain".

The manuscripts found at Cairo/Qumran (easily accessible at bensira.org) contain this verse in Hebrew on folio B XX recto. These manuscripts were (indirectly) consulted by the NRSV translators. The text is primarily a translation of the Greek, with help from Hebrew only when necessary.

לשׁמעון בן ישׁוע בן אלעזר בן סירא
‬of/to Simeon son of/to Yeshua son of/to El`azar son of Sira

Note that "of Jerusalem" is absent. The NRSV, being primarily a translation of the Greek, has "of Jerusalem" from the Greek. It however also adds "son of Sira" from the Hebrew, with the idea that the corrupt ïερευσοσολυμειτησ somehow results from "son of Sira of Jerusalem". In the Greek it's difficult to see how this corruption occurred; though on the other hand "Sira" and "Jerusalem" are somewhat close in pronunciation. The NRSV furthermore removes σειρακ, presuming the word was erroneously inserted at that position. The translators indicate the choice they made with a footnote to "Sirach": "Heb: Meaning of Gk uncertain" (by which they mean: this is a translation of the Hebrew, since the meaning of the Greek is uncertain).

About the "Simeon" which is present in the Qumran manuscript but not in the Hebrew: the NRSV still is a translation of the Greek text, only using the Hebrew to resolve issues when needed. The Hebrew differs on many more points; for instance, Simeon is also mentioned in 50:24. Because of these many conflicts one may wonder wether the NRSV's removal of σειρακ is really appropriate. Another option is to take "Jesus Sirach" as one name, i.e. "Jesus Sirach, son of Eleazar, son of Sira of Jerusalem" which has the same genealogical relations as the Hebrew. Or, comparable to the GNT, "Jesus, son of Sirach Eleazar, son of Sira of Jerusalem."

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  • So this is great info on where and why there is a difference, but I'm still not sure which one is the father. Are experts not sure on that point? Mar 7 '18 at 14:23
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    @DavidStarkey I'm not aware of any claims on that point. The Hebrew and the Greek obviously have a common source, but they disagree on this point. On the one hand, since the Greek is intended to be a translation it can be expected to be faithful to the original. On the other hand, the Greek is corrupt and the Hebrew is not. The only way to unify that I see would be to take Jesus Sirach or Sirach Eleazar as one name, included in the Greek but not the Hebrew. Then Jesus is the son of Eleazar and Eleazar the son of Sira. But this requires modifications in both Greek and Hebrew...
    – user2672
    Mar 7 '18 at 14:46
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If Jesus Christ was a concept that was defined by the Greek and the two other names are clear in the Hebrew. That will mean that the word Jerusalem be expunged. And Sira and Eleazar not be translated in an unmatched language. Sira also called Eleazar the father of Jesus. There should be a place of origin according to the translated name of the father only not the son or. Defined the incorruptible language Sira also called Eleazar translated in the Hebrew incorruptible. Since the son was called christ which is not his name. Ignore the Greek Jesus Christ in the translation. By dating back the two other names of origin and location. Ben Sira also called Eleazar of Jerusalem. Father of ? Called christ.

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    – Lesley
    Jul 14 at 7:07
  • The Jesus/Joshua Sirach of the book of Sirach is not Jesus Christ. Nothing in this question is talking about Jesus Christ.
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 14 at 13:12

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