by StuartJanuary 17th, 2011 Be First to Comment
The importance of the book of Ben Sira, composed shortly before the Maccabean revolt, for the study of early post-biblical language and literature cannot be overestimated. It provides evidence of the transition from Biblical Hebrew to the Hebrew of the Rabbinic sages. Furthermore, it constitutes a link in the chain of development leading from the poetics of biblical verse to those of the Hebrew liturgical poetry (piyyuṭ) that emerged in Palestine in the Byzantine period.
With the great progress made in the systematic investigation of the Genizah materials in the latter part of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first centuries, the prospects of finding further Ben Sira fragments in the various collections have dwindled significantly. It is against the background of this fact that we must judge the excitement of the discovery of a new fragment in the Additional Series of the Taylor-Schechter Collection: T-S AS 118.78. Here one is reminded of a judgment offered over a decade ago by Stefan Reif: ‘There may be other Ben Sira items lurking among the smaller and less legible contents of some of the Additional Series binders’ (Reif 1997). It is, furthermore, particularly gratifying that this latest fragment bears the name of Schechter, whose life-work is so intimately connected with the discovery of the Genizah in general and the Hebrew Ben Sira in particular.Stuart James