"Better is the wickedness of a man than a woman who does good; and it is a woman who brings shame and disgrace." - Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) 42:14, RSV.

  • 1
    That's a pretty crude translation. The GNT is a paraphrase. Probably a valid question, but you should cite a better translation.
    – guest37
    Jan 9 '18 at 4:13
  • 4
    There is rarely a 'the' Catholic interpretation of any particular verse (only a handful are 'authoritatively' interpreted). There are only really interpretations harmonious with the Faith. Keep this in mind when accepting answers. Jan 9 '18 at 13:15
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  • The trouble with Sirach is that we don't have the original Hebrew. I think fragments were found in the Dead Scrolls but not a complete version. Any word play in the original might be lost in translation and if you compare the translations, they differ quite a bit.
    – Simon H
    Jan 9 '18 at 15:15
  • This is another translation (CPDV) to illustrate the point: Yet iniquity over a man is better for her than if a married woman, seeking to benefit her, instead leads her into confusion and disgrace.
    – Simon H
    Jan 9 '18 at 15:23

The Douay Challoner version renders Ecclesiasticus 42:14 as:

For better is the iniquity of a man, than a woman doing a good turn, and a woman bringing shame and reproach.

The Catholic Haydock Commentary says regarding this verse:

Better, &c. That is, there is, commonly speaking, less danger to be apprehended to the soul from the churlishness, or injuries we receive from men, than from the flattering favours and familiarity of women. (Challoner) --- Josephus (contra Apion ii.) attributes this sentence to Moses, and prefers the worst man to the best woman, as Euripides does in Clement. (Strom. iv.) (Calmet) --- But this is ridiculous. --- Reproach. This explains what sort of good the woman aforesaid has done; she had fostered the passions of men, and brought them to shame, which all the malevolence of an enemy could not have done. (Haydock) --- The company of women is therefore more dangerous, chap. ix. (Worthington)


The NABRE comments on the section are:

The concluding statements (vv. 13–14) show the limitations of Ben Sira’s perspective in the male-oriented society of his day.


That's the perspective I've heard in Mass with other readings where there's some perceived chauvinism. As a father myself, I think there's a lot of good advice in Sirach, and even the quote from the Good News translation you provided makes it sound worse than it is. I certain don't want my daughters around gossips and learning more about sex and marriage than God has provided their current state of maturity makes them capable of understanding (or wanting to understand)

Anyway, the New American Bible (which is not the worlds greatest, but it is the "Official Catholic" translation in English) says "Woman's indulgence" instead of "woman who does good" and the whole passage is talking about unmarried daughters still living with their Fathers. Combined with the following verse:

a frightened daughter than any disgrace.

which is not even attempted to be paraphrased by the GNT, I think this means, the well-meaning advice of other women whom your daughter may associate with is worse than a Father putting the fear of God into his daughter by prohibiting her from associating with older gossips.

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