New Monkland and Greengairs Parish Church

Wednesday April 21st 2021

So last Sunday a member of the congregation came up to me and said “I was wanting to look up the readings used in Prince Philip’s funeral but, our bible does not have Ecclesiasties 43”. I thought to myself that’s strange. When I got home I fired up my computer and looked it up. What a “rabbit hole” that turned out to be.

The book of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus may be omitted from our Protestant bible but it can be found in the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox bibles. Which is perhaps why a reading from it was included in the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral service.

It turns out that there are dozens of books that are omitted from our bible but are included in other Christian traditions and the inclusion or omission of these books appears almost random and based on decisions made long ago. I found out that the original King James Bible did include the book of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus (that’s different from our Ecclesiastes) so I thought I’d go and have a look.

Sirach chapter 43 vs 11&12 reads …
Look at the rainbow, and praise him who made it;
    it is exceedingly beautiful in its brightness.

  It encircles the sky with its glorious arc;
    the hands of the Most High have stretched it out.

And I especially liked vs 24 to 26 …
Those who sail the sea tell of its dangers,
    and we marvel at what we hear.

  In it are strange and marvellous creatures,
    all kinds of living things, and huge sea-monsters.

The book of Sirach is distinctly old testament in feel, it is somewhere between Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in its style and content.
Chapter 40 vs 19 ticked me too…
Cattle and orchards make one prosperous;
    but a blameless wife is accounted better than either.

Chapter 42 also holds wisdom that I can identify with…
A daughter is a secret anxiety to her father,
    and worry over her robs him of sleep:

All in all I’ve had a great time romping about in Sirach it contains “fresh” material different from our “regular” scripture, who’s familiarity I sometimes feel can take away its edge. You won’t hear readings from Sirach in any Church of Scotland as our version of Scripture doesn’t include it however…

The Book of Sirach can be found here and I recommend you give it a look.

Best regards

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