Beyond Encomium or Eulogy: The Role of Simon the High Priest in Ben Sira

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The relationship between Simon II (220-c.195 BCE) and Ben Sira bears much upon the context and dating of the Book of Ben Sira. The setting of patronage and reciprocity in the Mediterranean world raises problems with the common interpretation of Sir 50:1-24 as a eulogy for Simon II. The label of encomium for Sir 44-50, and the identification of Simon the Righteous, are likewise considered. This article explores reciprocity in Ben Sira’s text, as well as Greek, Roman, and Second Temple examples of patronage, including Tobias in the Zenon archive, Jewish funerary inscriptions, Herod the Great, Aristeas, and 1 Maccabees 12. It is argued that a more fitting way of understanding Sir 50:1-24 and the importance of reciprocity in Ben Sira’s text is that Simon II might be considered as alive at the time of writing, and a probable patronage relationship can be posited. An earlier dating of around 198 BCE is proposed for Sir 50:1-24, if not the entire book of Ben Sira.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-365
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Ancient Judaism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


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