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Ben Sira and Demotic Wisdom
Jack T. Sanders
Publication Date
January 1997


“The Hellenistic Age was the ancient world’s first truly international period. With the promotion and adoption not only of the Greek language, but also of Greek learning, Greek architecture, and even Greek lifestyles throughout the vast area originally conquered by Alexander, people lived in “one world” to a greater degree than had been the case even during the period of the “pax persiana.” …

Because of this recognized Hellenistic internationalism in learning, the modern scholar seeking to understand a writer of that period will wish perforce to identify strands of traditional ideas and themes continued, employed, or reinterpreted by the ancient writer, as well as intrusions of foreign elements, as an aid to understanding his work and his thinking. This is not to suggest that the student should indulge in what Samuel Sandmel so aptly called “parallelomania”, but rather to propose that, in the identification of the traditions utilized by a particular writer and in the analysis of the way in which he used them, one may gain a richer appreciation of the unique contribution of that writer. Such a task is here to be undertaken. It is the purpose of this study to shed further light on one identifiable strand of tradition in Ben Sira that has not received adequate clarification heretofore—namely, Egyptian wisdom of the Ptolemaic period—and, in so doing, to reach a more adequate definition of the thinking of this erudite and thoughtful ancient sage.”
—from the introduction