Nativity of the BVM: Words from the “Apocrypha”

The traditional Epistle for today for well over a thousand years was one of those cases when the Epistle is not an epistle. Instead, the first, non-Gospel, reading at mass was from the multi-named Ecclessiasticus, Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach, Sirach, etc. This is one of those texts that Bible-reading Christians are not familiar with. Even if you’ve read the Apocrypha, you’ll not find this section as it appears in the Vulgate. Here it is in full from the Douay-Rheims English translation of the Vulgate:

Sirach 24:23-31  23 As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odour: and my flowers are the fruit of honour and riches. 24 I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope.  25 In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue.  26 Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits.  27 For my spirit is sweet above honey, and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb.  28 My memory is unto everlasting generations.  29 They that eat me, shall yet hunger: and they that drink me, shall yet thirst.  30 He that hearkeneth to me, shall not be confounded: and they that work by me, shall not sin.  31 They that explain me shall have life everlasting.

Update:

For those playing along with the footnotes…

Here’s the KJV 1611 Apocrypha:

Sirach 24:17-22  17 As the vine brought I forth pleasant savour, and my flowers are the fruit of honour and riches.  18 I am the mother of fair love, and fear, and knowledge, and holy hope: I therefore, being eternal, am given to all my children which are named of him.  19 Come unto me, all ye that be desirous of me, and fill yourselves with my fruits.  20 For my memorial is sweeter than honey, and mine inheritance than the honeycomb.  21 They that eat me shall yet be hungry, and they that drink me shall yet be thirsty.  22 He that obeyeth me shall never be confounded, and they that work by me shall not do amiss. 

Here’s Brenton’s version:

Sirach 24:17-22  17 As the vine brought I forth pleasant savour, and my flowers are the fruit of honour and riches.   19 Come unto me, all ye that be desirous of me, and fill yourselves with my fruits.  20 For my memorial is sweeter than honey, and mine inheritance than the honeycomb.  21 They that eat me shall yet be hungry, and they that drink me shall yet be thirsty.  22 He that obeyeth me shall never be confounded, and they that work by me shall not do amiss. 

So Breton follows the KJV’s translation, but omits v. 18 in keeping with his base text. So, it appears that the Translators were working with one of those “pauci” texts that Rahlfs mentions which makes me wonder just what they got a hold of… It’s moments like this when I wish I had a Complutensian Polyglot in my library. That would really give us some clues…

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4 Responses to Nativity of the BVM: Words from the “Apocrypha”

  1. rick allen says:

    It appears that the passage does appear, with some significant omissions, in chapter 24, vv. 18-22 of the 1611 Authorized Version. Strangely, though, it seems to correspond neither to the Latin Vulgate nor the Greek LXX.

  2. That’s what I found too… I’m quite intrigued by those omissions!

    Ok–I just looked at the venerable Brenton translation of the LXX. IIRC, Brenton uses primarily Vaticanus (B) with some Alexandrinus (A) variants. Brenton’s Greek and English is substantially (if not exactly) what’s in the KJV.I note, however, that verse numbers 18 and 24 are omitted (!) and there is a break after 22.

    Now I’m pulling out Rahlfs’ critical edition of the LXX (again–he prefers a primarily Vaticanus base text)… There you go: Rahlfs mentions the addition of vv. 18 [which corresponds to the Vg 24 above]and 24 [which does not appear in the Vg]. Both of these bear only the sigla “vel sim. pau.” indicating that those words or something very similar appears in only a few (paucis) manuscripts.

    Too, Vg 31 does not appear (LXX 22b?) in any form.

    Regrettably, Rahlfs and Brenton are the closest I have to a Textus Receptus of the OT. Thus, I think the safest course would be to postulate that St Jerome was translating from an expansive textual tradition that was not received into the Majority text used continuously by the Eastern Church, nor by Erasmus and the Reformers when they began their return to the biblical languages…

  3. rick allen says:

    “I think the safest course would be to postulate that St Jerome was translating from an expansive textual tradition that was not received into the Majority text used continuously by the Eastern Church”

    That’s probably correct, since it’s hard to see the additional verses in the Vulgate as glosses that crept into the text, at least not the first one.

    But I still wonder, what was the source of the 1611 AV’s translation of the books there called Apocrypha, since here it follows neither our Greek Septuagint nor any variation I know of of the Latin?

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