Although excluded from the Jewish canon, Sirach was read and quoted as authoritative from the beginning of the rabbinic period. There are numerous citations to Sirach in the Talmud and works of rabbinic literature (as “ספר בן סירא”, e.g., Hagigah 13a, Niddah 16b; Ber. 11b). Some of those (Sanhedrin 100b) record an unresolved debate between R’Joseph and Abaye as to whether it is forbidden to read the Sirach, wherein Abaye repeatedly draws parallels between statements in Sirach cited by R’Joseph as objectionable and similar statements appearing in canonical books.
Sirach may have been used as a basis for two important parts of the Jewish liturgy. In the Mahzor (High Holiday prayer book), a medieval Jewish poet may have used Sirach as the basis for a poem, KeOhel HaNimtah, in the Yom Kippur musaf (“additional”) service for the High Holidays. However, some question whether this passage in Sirach is referring at all to Yom Kippur, and thus argue it cannot form the basis of this poem. Some early 20th Century scholars also argued that the vocabulary and framework used by Sirach formed the basis of the most important of all Jewish prayers, the Amidah, but that conclusion is disputed as well.
Current scholarship takes a more conservative approach. On one hand, scholars find that “Ben Sira links Torah and wisdom with prayer in a manner that calls to mind the later views of the Rabbis”, and that the Jewish liturgy echoes Sirach in the “use of hymns of praise, supplicatory prayers and benedictions, as well as the occurrence of [Biblical] words and phrases [that] take on special forms and meanings.” However, they stop short of concluding a direct relationship existed; rather, what “seems likely is that the Rabbis ultimately borrowed extensively from the kinds of circles which produced Ben Sira and the Dead Sea Scrolls ….”
In the New Testament
Some people claim that there are several allusions to the Wisdom of Sirach in the New Testament. These include the Virgin Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1:52 following Sirach 10:14; the description of the seed in Mark 4:5, 16-17 following Sirach 40:15; the statement by Jesus in Matthew 7:16,20 following Sirach 27:6; and James 1:19 quoting Sirach 5:11.
The distinguished patristic scholar Henry Chadwick has claimed that in Matthew 11:28 Jesus was directly quoting Sirach 51:23, as well as comparing Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (KJV) with Sirach 28:2 “Forgive your neighbor a wrong, and then, when you petition, your sins will be pardoned.”
Some Christians regard the catalogue of famous men in Sirach as containing several messianic references. The first occurs during the verses on David. Sir 47:11 reads “The Lord took away his sins, and exalted his power for ever; he gave him the covenant of kings and a throne of glory in Israel.” This references the covenant of 2 Sam 7, which pointed toward the Messiah. “Power” (Heb. qeren) is literally translated as horn. This word is often used in a messianic and Davidic sense (e.g. Ezek 29:21, Ps 132:17, Zech 6:12, Jer 33:15). It is also used in the Benedictus to refer to Jesus (“and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David”).