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RECENT CRITICISM OF THE LETTER OF ARISTEAS 32 1 



RECENT CRITICISM OF THE LETTER OF ARISTEAS'. 

The newer criticism of the Letter of Aristeas dates from 1869. 
In that year Moritz Schmidt re-edited the Greek text in vol. I of 
Merx' Archiv fur wissensch. Etforschung des AT (Halle). He relied 
on two Paris MSS. (Graec. 129 and 5), and on the citations in Eusebius. 
He cannot be blamed for neglecting Josephus. As Fabricius had 
already remarked, Josephus is of very little value for the textual 
criticism of Aristeas. Though he paraphrases about two-fifths of the 
Letter (omitting the visit to Palestine, the discourse of Eleazar, and 
the seventy-two questions and answers), Josephus re-wrote almost 
every sentence, retaining, however, " many of the characteristic 
words of Aristeas" (but contrast Swete, Introduction, p. 12, with 
Thackeray, ib., p. 517). As moreover Josephus entirely misunderstood 
Aristeas in several passages, it is obvious that we can derive slight 
assistance from him in the difficult task of reconstructing the original. 
Still, sometimes Eusebius is confirmed by Josephus, and when tbe 
two agree their readings are perhaps to be preferred to the MSS. On 
the other hand, Josephus is "often useful to detect the alterations 
which have been introduced into the Text by Eusebius or the B group " 
(Thackeray, Introduction, p. 517 ; cf. Wendland, Preface to his edition 
of Aristeas, p. xxii). Schmidt's edition was based on this very B 
group, and is thus entirely superseded by the later editions of 
Thackeray and Wendland, which, as will be seen, rely on another 
and superior group of MSS. Yet Schmidt deserves credit for 
perceiving that it was no longer possible to regard Aristeas through 
Hody's spectacles (p. 244). He adds a very strong expression of 
belief in the genuineness of Aristeas' description of Jerusalem, and 
of his account of the costly presents bestowed by Philadelphus on the 
Temple, and he even goes so far as to assert that he can see no 
ground why the King of Egypt should not have wished to acquire 
and translate the Hebrew scriptures, nor why the monarch should not 
have entertained the translators at a banquet, even as Aristeas 
describes (p. 252). 

1 Read before the Jews' College Literary Society, London, Dec. 16, 
1 901. 



322 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

In several particulars Schmidt was right. But the strongest 
evidence of his accuracy was unknown to him. Hence, the re- 
habilitation of Aristeas originates not so much with Schmidt as with 
his critic Lumbroso. In the Atti della R. Accademia di Torino, 
vol. IV (1868-9), there is a paper by Lumbroso entitled "Dell' uso 
delle iscrizioni e dei papiri per la critica del testo di Aristea," 
a propos of Schmidt's edition. Here for the first time, Lumbroso 
showed that the papyri threw considerable light on Aristeas, and that 
the text of the Letter cannot be accurately edited without constant 
reference to this source of information. As we now know, the same 
is true of the study of the Septuagint, for as Deissmann has shown 
(Swete, Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, p. 297), "Many 
well-known Septuagintal words find a place in the Greek papyri of 
the Ptolemaic period." Both Wendland and Thackeray have rightly 
availed themselves of Lumbroso's suggestions, and their editions are 
all the better for it. Lumbroso, however, was not content with 
merely asserting the importance of the papyri in establishing true 
readings in Aristeas. In a slightly later work, Reeherehes sur VEconomie 
politique de VEgypte sous les Lagides (Torino, 1870), Lumbroso main- 
tained that the papyri confirm the substantial accuracy of Aristeas in 
many points. Mr. Thackeray cites a part of the Introduction of 
Lumbroso, but no apology is necessary for citing it again at some- 
what greater length. Lumbroso, describing the materials available 
for his Researches into the life of Ptolemaic Egypt, refers to the 
Letter of Aristeas in these terms (p. xii seq.) : — 

Un seul ouvrage eontenant la narrative suivie d'un episode de 1'his- 
toire des Ptolemees nous est parvenu dans son integrity, mais il est 
fort court ; on ne sait precisement quel en est l'auteur, ni l'epoque 
a laquelle il a 6t6 6crit ; on conteste de tous cdtus la sinc6rit(5 du recit ; 
et jusqu'a present quelque savant le retient tout entier pour une pure 
fable. Je veux parler de la lettre d'Aristee a Philocrate sur la version 
de la Bible par les 72 interpretes, demanded a Jerusalem, sous le regne 
de Ptolcmee Philadelphe. Cependant la critique basee uniquement 
sur la collation des manuscrits et l'etude exclusive du texte n'est plus 
suffisante pour cette lettre si m6prisee. Depuis quarante ans un rayon 
de lumiere inattendu a jailli des inscriptions et des papyrus, qui jette 
sur elle un jour nouveau ; chose frappante : il n'est pas un titre de 
cour, une institution, une loi, une magistrature, une charge, un terme 
technique, une formule, un tour do langue remarquablc dans cette lettre, 
il n'est pas un temoignage d'Aristee conccrnant l'histoire civile de 
l'epoque, qui ne so trouve onregistre' dans les papyrus ou les inscriptions 
et confirm^ par eux. 

" A close examination of the larger evidence from the papyri now 
available," adds Mr. Thackeray (p. 502), "will probably corroborate 



RECENT CRITICISM OF THE LETTER OF ARISTEAS 323 

the opinion, to which other evidence seems to point, that the letter 
was written tinder some one of the later Ptolemies." This is to leave 
a wide margin, for the Ptolemaic dynasty does not end till the 
overthrow of Antony at Actium. Graetz placed Aristeas even later 
— in the reign of Tiberius. This, however, is far too late, and I may 
say at once that I entirely agree with Securer that the Letter is 
at least as early as 200 B.C. But Wendland, who holds the Letter 
as post-Maccabean, thinks (Preface, p. xxvii) that the evidence of the 
papyri is in his favour, for in Aristeas we have a reference to 
the king's (fiikoi, and also to the officers described as rmv apxto-aparo- 
(j>vkdKtj>v. Now, according to Strack, the earliest use of the technical 
term "friends" of the king in the papyri dates from 191 B.C. 
(Rhein. Museum, LV, p. 168 seq.). Mahaft'y, however, though thinking 
it "tolerably certain'' that the title tS>v <f>i\a>v is only as old as 
Epiphanes, is constrained to admit that " it is nevertheless possible 
that both Strack's 60, and another from Thera, which H. von 
Gartringen has sent me, attest the origin of the titles in the earlier 
reign [that of Philometor] " {History of Egypt under the Ptolemaic 
Dynasty, p. 161). According to Strabo, the title "Friend of the 
King" was current under Ptolemy II (Lumbroso, Egitto, p. 118 seq.; 
MahafFy, op. cit. 101). At all events, as Philometor succeeded in 
222 B.C., Wendland's argument from the use of the phrase tS>v <pi\o>v 
by Aristeas is ineffective. Equally indecisive is the argument from 
the term t£>v dpx'<ra>p.aTo(pvKdKu>v. Strack (ibid., p. 187) maintains 
(from the evidence of the papyri) that while the singular is found 
as early as 264 or 227 B.C., the plural is a later introduction, and 
does not occur before 145 B.C. But it is surely a curious fact that in 
one of the two passages (Wendland, § 40; Thackeray, p. 527, 1. 1) in 
which Aristeas uses this characteristic Ptolemaic title the text is 
uncertain. The reading in Wendland's LM, Thackeray's BTZ and 
Josephus, is tov apxirraparocpiihaKa, and the variation cannot be forth- 
with rejected (as Thackeray does, p. 515) on the ground that the 
singular removes "an idiomatic use of the genitive, frequently 
attested by the papyri." In the other passage (Wendland, § 12; 
Thackeray, p. 521, 1. 5) the plural tovs dpxio-G>paTO<pC\aKas may easily 
have arisen in error owing to the juxtaposition of two names. Nor is it 
clear that Aristeas means us to infer that Sosibius and Andreas held 
the office simultaneously (cf. noXKaKis). Moreover, the plural, as a mere 
designation, is as old as Alexander the Great (Strack, ibid., p. 169). 

Thus, while the evidence of the papyri adds a strong testimony 
to the familiarity of Aristeas with Ptolemaic life, there is nothing 
so far discovered that militates against a pre-Maccabean date for 
the Letter. As to the other grounds on which a post-Maccabean date 



324 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

is maintained by recent critics more will be said shortly. In the 
meantime, as repeated references have been and must be made to 
the editions of Thackeray and Wendland, it is advisable to postpone 
further considerations as to the date and authenticity of Aristeas, 
and to undertake at once the duty of describing these two editions. 
Thackeray and Wendland worked independently, and the editions 
were published almost simultaneously. The former, however, was 
able to prefix, in a page of Addenda, some " noteworthy emendations 
and readings adopted in the edition of Wendland and Mendelssohn, 
which appeared too late for any use to be made of it in constructing 
the present text." Wendland chronicles emendations far more 
frequently than does Thackeray, and though the former is laudably 
judicious in introducing these into the text, he does so, on the whole, 
the less sparingly of the two. Wendland's edition forms a volume in 
Teubner's well-known series ; it is admirably printed and is convenient 
in size. The exact title is : " Aristeae ad Philocratem Epistula, cum 
ceteris de origine versionis LXX interpretum Testimoniis. Ludovici 
Mendelssohn schedis usus edidit Paulus Wendland" (Leipzig, 
Teubner, 1900). Thus Wendland is the editor of Mendelssohn as well 
as of Aristeas, and in the opening pages of his Preface the former 
offers generous praise to Mendelssohn, whose intention of editing 
Aristeas was only interrupted by death. To Mendelssohn is due the 
collation of the MSS., and from his accumulated notes Wendland 
derived much help. Mendelssohn had designed a commentary as 
well as a critical edition of the text, and his work on about a fifth 
of the letter was printed in Vol. V of the Acta of the University of 
Dorpat in 1897: ("Aristeae quae fertur ad Philocratem epistulae 
initium apparatu critico et commentario instructum edidit L. 
Mendelssohn "). Though, however, Wendland has provided no formal 
commentary, his accessory matter is so helpful and complete that he 
might claim that the commentary is not after all wanting in his 
edition. His "Index Verborum" (pp. 171-220) is more than a 
vocabulary, for its frequent references to the LXX (Hatch and 
Redpath's Concordance), and to many works on the Papyri and 
Inscriptions, when added to the admirable citations in the notes of 
critical essays often scattered in remote periodicals, place the student 
in a very advantageous position for the fullest understanding of the 
text. (Readers will not need reminding that Liddell and Scott is also 
serviceable for the study of Aristeas. Some interesting grammatical 
.notes will also be found in L. Radermacher's Demetrii Phalarei qui 
dicitur de elocutione libellus, Leipzig, Teubner, 1901. See ibid., Index 
Auctorum, s.v. Aristeas.) Rarely has a scholar conveyed so much 
help in so brief a space, and Wendland's splendid reputation 



RECENT CRITICISM OP THE LETTER OF ARISTEAS 325 

will be further enhanced by this work. Another important feature 
of Wendland's edition is the displayed list of " Testimonia," which 
occupy pp. 87-166. All the Greek and Latin texts in which Aristeas 
is directly cited or his narrative alluded to are here printed in full, 
with all requisite critical aids. One can hardly express in adequate 
terms one's giatitude for this valuable collection of Testimonia. 
It is a little strange that Wendland did not complete his list by citing 
the Rabbinic passages bearing on Aristeas. These are given in part 
by Swete (p. 14), and by Schiirer (IIP, 471). Cf. also Friedmann, 
Onkelos und Akylas, p. 5 seq. (esp. pp. 16, 19, 20). These Testimonia 
are of supreme importance, especially notable being the state- 
ment in Tract. Soferim that the translators sent from Palestine 
were only^?»e in number. Again, from Philo (Vit. Mos. ii, 5) we learn 
that an annual festival, in which Greeks and Jews participated, was 
held at the Pharos in memory of the completion of the LXX, and 
this points to a genuine popular tradition which included at all 
events some of the elements of Aristeas' story. If, again, the fragment 
from Aristobulus contained in Eusebius, Praep. Ev. xiii, 12, 2 be 
genuine (Wendland, p. 124, and Cohn do not accept it ; Swete, p. 13, 
though expressing a doubt, seems more inclined to believe in it, 
as does of course Schiirer, IIP, 384), then his words " establish the fact 
that the main features of the story were believed by the literary Jews 
of Alexandria, and even at the Court, more than a century and a half 
before the Christian era, and within a century of the date assigned 
by Aristeas to the translation of the Law" (Swete, ibid.). On the 
other hand the Christian fathers (Irenaeus, III, 21, 2, Wendland, 
p. 123; Clement of Alexandria, Strom. I, § 148, Wend. p. 124; Cyril 
of Jerusalem, Catech. IV, 34, Wend. p. 138; Augustine, De civ. dei, 
XVIII, 42, Wend. p. 163) as well as the Rabbinic Sages (Megilldh, 9 a : 
which goes back as early as any of the Christian references, Soferim, 
i. 6-8) add legends such as that of the separate cells occupied by the 
seventy-two translators which throw undeserved suspicion on Aristeas. 
Jerome (Praef. in Pent., Wendland, p. 162) stands alone in disputing this 
particular legend, as well as in strenuously maintaining that Aristeas 
refers only to the Pentateuch, and to no other part of the Alexandrian 
Bible (Swete, p. 23). Epiphanius (De mensuris et ponderibus, 3, p. 155 
Lag. Wendl. p. 139) places the seventy-two in pairs in thirty-six cells, 
and even "apportions the books of the Hebrew canon among 
thirty-six pairs of translators " (ibid.). Another favourite attack on 
Aristeas seems to me to owe its point to an unauthorized embellish- 
ment of Epiphanius. Scarcely a modern writer but attributes to 
Aristeas the blunder of imagining that the twelve tribes still preserved 
their distinctive identity in the 3rd cent. B.C. Willrich with his 
VOL. XIV. Z 



326 



THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 



usual lack of generosity employs very strong language on this point; 
he calls the writer of Aristeas " erstaunlich gedankenlos," but all 
that Aristeas tells us is that six representatives were chosen from each 
tribe. I see nothing in Aristeas' language to imply that the tribes 
still retained their identity (cf. Whiston, Literal Accomplishment, Sec, 
1724, p. 132), and as de Rossi acutely points out (in the Meor Enaymi), 
Aristeas attributes to Ptolemy and not to Eleazar the suggestion as 
to appointing delegates from the twelve tribes. The case as it really 
stands is well illustrated by placing side by side the original statement 
of Aristeas and the additions of Epiphanius : — 



Aristeas (Wendland, p. 16, 
Thackeray, p. 528). 

irpu>Ti)S (f>vXrjs la><rt)<j>os k.t.X. 

dfvrepas lovbas k.t.X. 

Tpirqs Ncepiar k.t.X. 

TtrdpTrjs '\a>va6as k.t.X. 

irep.7rTt]r"l(TaKos k.t.X. 

(kttjS lovlias K.T.X. 

e@86fit]s 2a/3j3aTaios k.t.X. 

oydorjs 6eo86<rios k.t.X. 

cvdrys &c6<j>iXos K.T.X. 

dtKarrjs Upfpias k.t.X. 

hScKaTtjs SapovtjXos K.T.X. 

8a>8eKUT7;y 'ladtjXos k.t.X. 

Mr. H. St. J. Thackeray's admirable edition of the Letter of Aristeas 
forms an Appendix to Swete's Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek 
(Cambridge University Press, 1900). The inclusion of it in the Intro- 
duction is a notable sign of its continued, or rather revived, importance 
for the history of the LXX. It is a little inconvenient, for the 
purpose of reference, that Mr. Thackeray and Prof. Wendland have 
not divided the text into the same paragraphs. As Prof. Wendland's 
paragraphic division had already been used by him in his excellent 
German translation (Kautzsch, Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen des 
A. T., vol. II, p. 1 seq.), Mr. Thackeray might with advantage have 
placed Wendland's numbers in his margin. Wendland's arbitrary 
division, however, is not without objection. Why should the twelve 
series of names be divided into four distinct paragraphs ? Why 
should the letters that passed between Egypt and Palestine be 
divided up ? No doubt, the shorter the paragraph the easier is the 



Epiphanius (Wendland, p. 142). 
'131 ndv hffl Nn:ne> p • wip 
'wi Klin'' pppgH arms? p • pirn 
'131 trcro Min NnanE> p • mbm 
'131 ]tvv tnvm Nt23^ p • Njmtn 

'131 pflD'N "DCS! KD3B> p * KBW1 

'isi taw p^nn t<m-ie> p * ntibh 

'131 D3DB> TH KM-IS? P * KWBH 

'131 Diwnttfi Ttytn Nmncp p * tnom 

'131 di^sind pn sTunr p • Kjnwn 

'i3i nwk ^nsn Krai® p * n-idjti 

'131 ^kiob> t\orn Nnns' p ' "iDjnm 



RECENT CRITICISM OP THE LETTER OP ARISTEAS 327 

reference, but an excessive subdivision interrupts the reader's atten- 
tion, and this is the more felt as Wendland has a threefold 
numbering ; pages, paragraphs, and lines. Mr. Thackeray of course 
divides the Letter into paragraphs, but without numbering them, 
and much more sparingly (Wendland has 322 paragraphs, Thackeray 
129). The variations in this respect between the two editions are 
frequent, and sometimes startling. Thus Wendland's § 2 begins 
in the middle of one of Thackeray's sentences ; and Thackeray begins 
a new paragraph in the middle of the last sentence of Wendland's 
§ 4. Altogether, the variations between the two texts are chiefly 
variations in punctuation, for except that Wendland, rather more 
often, adopts Eusebius' readings, and other emendations, the two 
texts agree very closely. 

This is not surprising, for both editions are based on the same 
group of MSS. Mr. Thackeray's grouping of the MSS. is more easily 
followed by the student than Prof. Wendland's, but as they cite 
several of the same MSS. with different designations, I have thought 
it useful to make out the following table : — 

A Group (Thackeray), 6 1 and fc 2 Group (Wendland). 
MS. Thackeray. Wendland. 

Vat. 747 H C (6 1 ) 

Paris 128 A (6 2 ) 

Paris 130 D (b 2 ) 

Brit. Mus., Burney 34 F (6 2 ) 

Vat. 746 L [C (¥)] 

Vat. 383 K A (6 2 ) 

BasleO.iv. io(0mont2i) R 

Venice 534 G V (¥) 

Palat. 203 I P (6 l ) 

Ottobon. 32 M 

Paris 950 Q 

B Group (Thackeray), a Group (Wendland). 
MS. Thackebay. Wendland. 

Florence Laur. Acquis. 44 T L 

Paris 129 B L Par. 

Paris 5 C (Included by Wendland 

in his b 1 group.) 

Barberini IV. 56 P B 

Vat. 1668 S Vat. 

Zurich, Bibl. de la Ville Z Turicencis 



C. 11 (Omont 169) 



Z 2 



328 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

The descriptions of the MSS. are very full in both editions ; but 
the account given by Mr. Thackeray is much the clearer and more 
informing. Here I will only indicate the relations between groups 
A and B. Following Mr. Thackeray (p. 504) one may assert that 
" the B group, which was followed by Schmidt, while presenting a 
specious text, is in reality based on a recension, although in a few 
passages it has kept the original readings ; in the A group no 
correction has taken place, and though the text which has here been 
handed down is not altogether free from corruption, yet the true 
reading is in most cases rather to be looked for here than in the 
revised B text." Mr. Thackeray explains subsequently (p. 511) that 
the corrections in B rai'ely have the support of Eusebius, and more- 
over "we find that in places the reading of the HKA and GI groups, 
which the B text has rejected, is corroborated by the usage of 
Alexandrian papyri which are contemporary or nearly contemporary 
with the pseudo-Aristeas." It should be noted that T (=Wendland 
L) is a far older member of the B group than is the MS. on which 
Schmidt relied. While, however, it is safe to assert with Thackeray 
(p. 514) that the "singular" readings of B are in nearly all cases 
due to a correction of the text, it is open in crucial cases to use 
B's "singular" if other grounds support it. B in some cases is 
undoubtedly less corrupt (p. 515). Eusebius, on the other hand, only 
rarely corroborates B, and Eusebius' importance for the text of 
Aristeas is as both Thackeray and Wendland rightly hold very great. 
"On the whole," says Mr. Thackeray, "the Eusebian evidence is 
of the greatest importance ; it tends to show that the GI group, 
especially if supported by any member of the B group, is nearest 
to the primitive text." Among the MSS. referred to, but not collated 
by Thackeray, is Codex Monacensis 9. This is fully described by 
Wendland (p. xiv) ; he terms it M, and shows that his MLB form 
one group, though M has some relations with (Wendland' s) 6 group. 
Wendland identifies M with the particular MS. used by Simon Schard 
for the editio princeps of the Greek in 1561. The MSS. which 
Wendland most frequently cites in his footnotes are M, LB, VPAC. 
Thackeray's collations are thus the fuller, and the omission of M 
is of the less moment, as the printed edition of Schard was available. 

The enormous labour expended by both editors (and more par- 
ticularly by Mr. Thackeray) on the collation of MSS. forms a striking 
contrast to the calm refusal of Hody to take the trouble of 
examining a single MS. "Until 1870," says Mr. Thackeray (p. 501), 
" the latest edition of the text was that which Hody prefixed to his 
work, De Bibliorum Textibus, published at Oxford in 1705. This was 
merely a reprint of Schard, Hody naively confessing in his preface 



RECENT CRITICISM OF THE LETTER OF ARISTEAS 329 

that he did not consider the work of collating MSS. of a work of 
such doubtful authenticity to be worth the trouble. "Non me fugit 
servari in Bibliotheca Regia Parisina, aliisque quibusdam, exemplaria 
istius MSS. Sed de tali opusculo, quod tanquam foetum supposititium 
penitus rejicio, Amicos solicitare, et in Partes longinquas mittere, 
vix operae pretium existimavi. Eas curas relinquo illis, quibus tanti 
esse res videbitur." 

After two centuries, the collation which Hody thought worthless 
has been undertaken by two scholars, one of Cambridge, and 
the other of Wilmersdorf, and the result is before us in the two 
editions of which the foregoing remarks are meant as a grateful 
recognition. It is interesting to note the exceptional interest 
that has at various times been taken by Englishmen in Aristeas. 
Hody takes a front rank in the history of Aristeas, and his 
Oxford edition contains many of the Testimonia. His attack on the 
authenticity of the Letter, which held the field until the present 
generation, was answered by Whiston in The Literal Accomplishment 
of Scripture Prophecies (1724, p. 121 seq.). Many of Whiston's argu- 
ments are thoroughly sound. So, too, there are good points in Hayes' 
Vindication of the History of the Septuagint (1736). Of English trans- 
lators (not over accurate) there were several; Done, 1633 and 1685 ; 
Lewis, 171 5, Whiston (Authentic Records, I, 423-584), 1727. A new 
English translation is now a desideratum. 

It now remains to approach a little closer to the subject-matter of 
the Letter of Aristeas, and to exhibit, in the light of recent research, 
the case as it stands for and against its credibility. I trust that my 
own position will not be misunderstood. I think that the accuracy 
of Aristeas may now be vindicated in so many points, that it is unjust 
to reject his statements where no positive evidence against them is 
forthcoming. Because the work is pseudepigraphic, it is not therefore 
just to regard its assertions with suspicion. On the face of it, the 
Letter is undoubtedly a "forgery." It emanates not from a heathen, 
but from a Jew, for its easily detected motive, the glorification of 
Israel and of Israel's Law, betrays the Jewish hand. Where I think 
the newer facts, as well as the newer psychology, entitle us to reverse 
the old verdict, appears just in this : a work written with a tendency, 
with a romantic colouring, may nevertheless be thoroughly trust- 
worthy, not only .in its details but in its main outlines. The tendency 
lies on the surface ; the truth rests deep in the body of the work. 
To me it seems that the Letter is the work of a Jew who lived about 
half a century after the events recited, but who relied almost 
exclusively on heathen and contemporary sources of information, 
the authenticity of which is coming more and more to be probable 



330 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

or even demonstrable. Even the pseudepigraphic theory must be 
based on general rather than specific grounds. Wendland cites two 
specific cases in which he thinks that Aristeas momentarily forgets 
his r61e and discriminates his own later age from the age of Phila- 
delphus (§§ 28, 182 Wendland ; Thackeray, p. 524, 1. 18 seq., and 
p. 550, 1. 16). These passages are inconclusive. The phrase A fiev eVi 
icai vvv Spas (like the Hebrew ntn DVH 1JJ) does not necessarily imply 
any long interval, while in the earlier passage Josephus is supported 
by a small amount of MS. authority in using the present tense. 

At all events, the compiler of the Letter, though a Jew, relies 
entirely on non-Jewish sources of information. This is clearly shown 
by two large incidental sections of the Letter, the Table-discourses 
and the description of Palestine. As Wendland himself points out 
{Pseudep. II, p. 3) in the Table incident the writer utilizes only Greek 
materials, and the "Jewish Gnomic wisdom seems scarcely used at 
all." So, too, with regard to the description of Palestine ; the Jewish 
Scriptures are not used at all, and the heathen standpoint is so well 
mentioned that " Aristeas " if a forger was a most artistic one. 
Sir Charles Wilson's remark on the description of Palestine is worth 
citing (see Preface to vol. XI of Publications of the Palestine Pilgrims' 
Text Society) : — 

Aristeas and Hecataous visited the Holy City before any change had 
been made in the walls and other fortifications erected by Nehemiah. 
Tho truthfulness of the description of Jerusalem attributed to Aristeas 
is not affected by the question of its authorship. There is evidence, 
internal and external, that it was written by some one who actually 
visited the Jewish capital during the time of the Ptolemies (circa 
b. c. 250). Special interest attaches to the description of the citadel, 
which is said to have stood high, and to have protected the precincts 
of the templo. It apparently occupied the ground upon which the 
Macedonian Akra and the Herodian Antonia were afterwards built. 

Yet the reference in Aristeas to the Akra is one of the chief grounds 
on which Wendland, Willrich, and Wellhausen in his third edition 
(Isr. u.jiid. Geschichte, ed. 3, 1897, p. 232) base their theory that the 
Letter cannot be earlier than the first century B.C. In his fourth 
edition (1901, p. 236) Wellhausen, while retaining his theory as to 
the date, omits the argument from the Akra. That a citadel existed 
in pre-Maccabean times is strongly and I think successfully argued 
by Schurer (III s , 469), who is convinced that Aristeas belongs to the 
period c. 200 b. c. One may say in general that the whole letter 
makes the impression that it was written before the Syrian domination 
over Judea (198 B.C.). There are certainly no indications of post- 
Maccabean conditions. 



EECENT CRITICISM OF THE LETTER OF ARISTEAS 331 

It is incredible that an Alexandrian should have introduced 
a Ptolemy so prominently into the story, if, when he wrote, Judaea 
had been wrested from Egyptian rule. So, too, Aristeas's conceptions 
of the position of the High Priest is completely pre-Maccabean. 
A strong point made by those who discredit the pre-Maccabean origin 
of Aristeas, viz. the reference to the harbours, is again a confirmation 
of the pre-Maccabean date. This argument originates, in its modern 
form, with Mendelssohn, but Schflrer (IIP, p. 470) effectively disposes 
of it. The argument that the Judean possession of the harbours of 
Ascalon, Joppa, Gaza and Ptolemais (Aristeas, W., §§ 107, 115, Th., 
PP- 538, 9) points to the time of Alexander Jannaus is untenable, for 
Ascalon and Ptolemais never belonged to the Judaean government. 
The writer of Aristeas makes no claim that those harbours belonged 
politically to Judaea, but had he written when certain of these were 
politically in Jewish hands, he would hardly have added those which 
were not. Schlatter, who also holds with a post-Maccabean date, 
nevertheless admits that the geographical data are pre-Maccabean 
(Zur Topographie u. s. w. Pal&stina's, p. 332). The other considerations 
on which a late date are defended are equally insecure. The most 
important of these, the date of the Hekataeus cited by Aristeas, 
(W., § 31, Th., p. 525 ), is certainly feeble. Willrich (Juden und Griechen, 
p. 21) maintains that this Hekataeus is a pseudo-Hekataeus who 
wrote "fruhestens um 100 vor Christ." Here again, Wellhausen 
apparently withdraws the argument, for while it is present in the third 
edition it is absent in the fourth. Schflrer (IIP, 461 seq.) has a brilliant 
vindication of both Aristeas and Josephus in this matter, and there is 
no reasonable ground for doubting that the Hekataeus quoted is the 
Greek writer of the third century B.C. Willrich argues that this 
pseudo-Hekataeus (as cited by Josephus, Agst. Apion, I, 22) must have 
written after the Maccabean age because he (Hekataeus) asserts that 
the Jews bravely bore torment and death rather than renounce their 
ancestral religion. Prof. Schflrer replies : " We know too little of 
the history to be able to say that such circumstances never arose 
before the Maccabean times." But surely we can go further, for 
Josephus proceeds to cite, from Hekataeus, similar martyrdoms and 
acts of Jewish fidelity in the age of Alexander the Great ! How critics 
argue in a circle is well illustrated in this connexion. Willrich places 
Aristeas late because he cites Hekataeus; Schflrer places Hekataeus 
early because he is cited by Aristeas. Prof. Buchler (who treats the 
Letter as composite, and attributes, Oniaden und Tobiaden, p. 225, 
the passages referring to the freeing of the Egyptian Jewish slaves 
to the Roman period after 63 B.C.) maintains (p. 228) with Schflrer 
that Aristeas cites the genuine Hekataeus; so also does Wendland 



332 THE JEWISH QUARTEKLY REVIEW 

(Apokryphen und Pseudepigr., II, i), whose remarks on the relations 
between Aristeas and Hekataeus must be given in full : — 

Aber abgesehen von dem Hauptinhalte der Legende, bietet der 
Verfasser eine Reihe zum Teil wertvoller thatsachlicher Angaben, 
nach deren Quellen gefragt werden muss. Hier zeigt zunachst eine 
Fahrte die Berufung auf des Abderiten Hekataios Zeugnis fiber die 
Heiligkeit des jiidischen Gesetzes (§31). Diesem Hekataios, der wohl 
nicht in einem besonderen Buche, sondern im Zusammenhange 
seiner zu Ptolemaios' I. Zeiten verfassten ftgyptischen Geschichte die 
jiidische Geschichte und die jiidischen Verhaltnisse, namentlich der 
letzten Zeit, behandelte, verdankt Aristeas wohl einen Teil seines 
historischen Materials. Denn er zeigt sowohl mit dem in Josephus' Schrift 
gegen Apion I, 22, § 183 ff. erhaltenen, ganz mit Unrecht als Falschung 
angesehenen Bruchstucke des Hekataios, als auch mit dem ersten Buche 
des Diodor, dessen Hauptquelle Hekataios ist, auffallende Beriihrungen. 
Auf ihn gehen nachweislich zurfick die Nachrichten uber die Entstehung 
der jiidischen Diaspora in Agypten (§ 12. 13, vgl. 22. 35, 36). Ganz in 
seinem Sinne (Diodor. I, 12, 2) ist die Gleichsetzung des Zeus mit dem 
jiidischen Gott (§ 16). Aristeas betont den Wert des Ackerbaues 
(§ 107 ff.), ahnlich wie Hekataios bei Diod. XL, 3, 7 (in dem Absehnitt 
fiber jiidische Geschichte) und Diod. I, 74, 1. Aber man darf wohl noch 
weiter gehen. Hekataios hat nach dem knappen Auszuge bei Josephus 
GrOsse, Fruchtbarkeit, Umfang, BevOlkerung Judaas, Jerusalem, den 
Tempel und den Priesterdienst besprochen. Was Josephus kurz rubri- 
ziert, findet sich alles ausfiihrlich bei Aristeas behandelt. Fur die 
Schilderung des weitgereisten Hekataios wurde die Anschaulichkeit und 
der heidnische Standpunkt des Beschauers, die man bei Aristeas bemerkt 
hat, sehr gut passen. Dass Hekataios hier aus eigener Beobachtung 
schilderte, ist um so wahrscheinlicher, als er sich nur fur die in seinem 
Berichte bei Diodor sich deutlich zeigende Bekanntschaft mit dem 
jiidischen Gesetz auf Belehrung durch einen Hohenpriester Hiskia 
beruft. 

All the other arguments for a post-Maccabean date are insignificant 
compared to the foregoing. The papyri attest that Egyptian Jews 
Hellenized their names in the third century, and further, that an 
important Jewish diaspora was established there under the early 
Ptolemies. "In the time of Philadelphus," says Willrich (p. 36), 
"there was possibly no Diaspora at all in Egypt, anyhow, it was 
very unimportant." This assertion is untenable in face of the 
evidence which has accumulated of recent years. It is very pleasing 
to note that English scholars have been well to the fore in providing 
and utilizing this evidence. Prof. Swete (Introduction, p. 3 seq.) 
proves the antiquity of the Jewish settlement in Egypt. " Long 
before the time of Alexander, Egypt possessed the nucleus of a 



RECENT CRITICISM OF THE LETTER OF ARISTEAS 333 

Jewish colony." And further : " "When Alexandria was founded in 
332 B.C., although the design of the conqueror (Alexander) was to 
erect a monument to himself which should be essentially Greek, 
he not only assigned a place in his new city to Jewish colonists, 
but admitted them to full citizenship. Mommsen indeed expresses 
a doubt whether the grant of citizenship was made before the time of 
Ptolemy I, but in the absence of any direct evidence to the contrary the 
repeated statement ofJosephus justifies the belief that it originated with 
Alexander." This is an attitude which does honour to English 
scholarship, and Prof. Driver's position (Daniel, Cambridge Bible for 
Schools, p. xxxiv seq.) is identical. It is, however, to Prof. Mahaffy that 
we owe our latest knowledge regarding Ptolemaic Egypt, and hence 
I cite his most recent utterances on the Diaspora as against Willrich 
(whose Juden und Griechen Mahaffy rightly terms a "very unconvincing 
tract"). "The existence at this time of settlements of Jews in Egypt, 
and even in Upper Egypt, is quite proven by the existence of the 
village in the nome called Samareia (its Egyptian name was Kerke- 
sephis, at least in later days), which is mentioned more than once 
in the Petrie Papyri. We even know of two inhabitants who were 
retailers of oil— Pyrrias and Theophilos, which are probably Greek 
translations of Esau and Eldad." Prof. Mahaffy adds in a footnote : 
"This evidence is by no means solitary. There was a Jewish section 
of the people of Psenuris, concerning whom I found the following 
(P.P., I, 43) : (voikovv iv^fwpfi iravro' | (is ra atro8o^ftaTt]g Ka>prjg | napa 
Ttav lovbaiav Kat ra>v \ EWr/vcov oohttov ffaiparos \ Kai tovto Xoyevtrcu 
dta I At[. . .]tov tov ejrio-rarou. I commend," continues Prof. Mahaffy, 
" this fragment to Willrich, who has only quoted the evidence of 
the P.P. at second hand, and has missed this passage (Juden und 
Griechen, -p. 151). Here is a tax of half a drachma set upon every 
slave belonging to any Jew or Greek in Psenuris. In one of the wills, 
dated 237 B.C., a man, whose name is Svpicnt 'lavadas, appears as 
owing the testator 150 (silver) drachmae. We have also on the back 
of a \oyos xvpw with assessments of value, dated in the thirty-seventh 
year of Philadelphus, tijs jrapo 2ipa>vos ovv (rot av(rtypa<pov) eirioroXijff 
a7re<TTaX(ca (P.P., II, p. 1 8). Hence Simon was an official in the 
Fayyum in 248-7 B.C. These sporadic, but perfectly unsuspicious, 
bits of evidence are quite conclusive" (.4 History of Egypt under the 
Ptolemaic Dynasty, pp. 92-3). 

Wendland makes an ingenious and acute point when he tries 
to show that Aristeas was acquainted with the Prologue of the Greek 
translation of Sirach (" written about 130 "). Here are his parallels 
(Preface to his Greek Aristeas, p. xxvii) : — 



334 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

Prologue to Sirach. Aristeas, § 7, Th. p. 520; § 121, 

Th. p. 540. 

ov p6vov avrovs tovs avaytva- § J. <j>{\opa6S>s yap tyovri t5>v 

(TKovras Mov fcrrir iirurr^fiovat that, 8wap(V<ov ^Xijcrai Btavoiav fie'oj/ 

dXXd K(il row Iktos bvm<T0ai tovs f '„i ^TahMvai pAXurra piv naci 

qyikopaSovvras ypyo-lpovs ttvai /cat T0 ' lf Spoiois. 

\tyovras Kal ypdqbovras . . . . iv §121. ov povov rr\v t&v 'lovbaiKmv 

tovtok iKavrjV (£iv ntptiroitjordptvos. ypapparoav t£iv Tr(pi€iroirj(rav (avrois. 

But is not the inference just the reverse of Wendland's? The 
kind of literature referred to by the translator of Sirach is precisely 
of the Aristeas type. Of the verbal identities, two out of three are 
common usages of Aristeas. It is also argued that had the Siracid 
known of the glories attaching to the suggested initiation of the 
LXX he must have alluded to them. On the contrary, he can hardly 
be expected to so depreciate his own private work as to draw a 
contrast between it and the public fame of the LXX. He particularly 
brings into prominence the fact that his translation was made on 
his own personal initiative. On the other side, not only is Aristeas 
illustrated (Thackeray, p. 502) by 3 Mace, (which I hold to be con- 
temporary, see J. Q. R., X, 39), but I think that there are some slight 
confirmations of Aristeas's story in 1 and 2 Mace. 

In 2 Mace. v. 16, among the spoils taken by Antiochus IV are 
tci vno TToWiau ftao-iKtaiv avaoradevra npbs atifcrjoiv Kal 86£av tov tottov 
Kal ripfjv. This is illustrated by the gifts of Ptolemy II described by 
Aristeas. Cf. his phrase : airavra (piKoTtpr]6(VTes els iiirepoxqv 8d^i;r tov 
/SdcrtXeay 7roiij<rcu (W., § 79, Th., p. 533). Even more clear seems to me 
to be the reference in 1 Mace. i. 22, a passage which has given very 
much trouble to commentators, but seems to me explained by Aristeas. 
Cf. in the former Kal ras <ptd\as . . . rar xpverfir . . . k<h tow? or((f>dvovs 
with Aristeas (ibid, and often) rds St xp vo ~" s <ptd\at . . . o-T(<pdi>ots. The 
whole description of the table in Aristeas is important. Prof. Buchler 
holds its triangular design and its emblems as Dionysian (Oniaden, &c, 
p. 198) and thus appropriate to Ptolemy II. Prof. Mahaffy has a very 
interesting note on another aspect of this splendid work of art : 
" While the ornaments (of the shew-bread table), all worked in gold 
and precious stones, contained both Greek and Egyptian patterns — 
the egg and dart along the edge, the lily or lotus for the legs— there 
was a careful avoidance of any human or animal forms in all the 
design. This, which Josephus (= Aristeas) does not specially note, 
seems to imply that the design was really intended for its peculiar 
place in the Jewish temple" (Greek Life and Thought, p. 509). 
Side-lights of this kind, in favour of Aristeas, are numerous. Willrich 
audaciously says (p. 35) : " Von einem Raffinement in der Reproduction 



RECENT CRITICISM OF THE LETTER OF ARISTEAS 335 

ptolem&ischer Zustande ist also nichts vorhanden, dagegen fehlt es 
nicht an groben Schnitzern." Contrast with this Nestle's remark: 
" Dass der Aristeasbrief in vielen Einzelheiten genaueste Kenntniss der 
Verhaltnisse der Ptolemaerzeit beweist, bestatigen die Papyrusfunde 
mehr und mehr" (Hauck-Herzog, s. v. Bibelubersetzungen, pp. 3-4). 
Even more emphatic is Ulrich Wilcken, who produces the minutest con- 
firmation of the reference in Aristeas (§ 298, Th., p. 570) to the daily- 
records kept by Ptolemy's officials ; a cross between the business gazette 
and the Court Journal. Wilcken conceives that the narrative of 
Aristeas is a fiction, but that the writer placed it in an accurate setting. 
But is this true of an ancient writer ? Rather, the genuineness of the 
frame proves the genuineness of the picture. But here are Wilcken's 
own words, worthy of being specially brought into contrast with 
Willrich's error : " Ich erinnere daran, dass wenn auch der Haupt- 
gedanke dieser Schrift auf einer Fiction beruht, doch die Einzelheiten, 
die der Verfasser ttber die aegyptischen Verhaltnisse nebenbei 
einfliessen lasst, durch die Urkunden in erstaunlicher Weise ihre 
BestStigung finden (wie Lumbroso zuerst nachwies) und uberhaupt so 
vortrefflich sind, dass man ihnen mit dem allergrdssten Vertrauen 
begegnen muss" (Philologus, LIII, 1894, p. in). The complete 
confirmation respecting the written Journals (navra avaypafaoGai) also 
removes suspicion from another incident mentioned by Aristeas. 
It is, to my mind, no longer improbable that the king would 
communicate in writing with his librarian as Aristeas asserts, though 
Hody directs his satire against this very point. 

So many of Aristeas' allusions have now been confirmed, that where 
there is no direct evidence against him his assertions can no longer be 
treated with contempt. But Aristeas is not to be relied on with regard 
to the names of his dramatis personae. Thus, there is no sufficient ground 
for accepting the existence of a high priest Eleazar, but though the 
correspondence between Jerusalem and Alexandria in Aristeas bears 
all the marks of artistic elaboration, such an embassy may well have 
taken place. There is no point in Jewish history more obscure than 
the order of the High Priests, and it is inevitable rather than 
disappointing that Schiirer in his new edition (I, 182) has little if 
anything to add. Willrich's remarks (Juden und Griechen, p. 107 sq.) 
certainly indicate some of the difficulties, but the author, as Schiirer 
rightly says: "zwar iiber das Ziel hinaus schiesst." (The Simon of 
3 Mace, is certainly not Simon the Just as Willrich assumes, p. ill.) 
Cheyne in 1891 {Origin of Psalter) held (p. 144) that under Ptolemy 
Philadelphus " it is in a high degree credible that the captives were 
released [as Aristeas asserts], and that on hearing of the glad news 
and receiving the rich presents intended for the temple, the Jews at. 



336 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

once offered sacrifices and public prayer for the gracious monarch." 
Hitzig sees in Ps. lxxii a reference to this, and Cheyne (though he 
does not adopt this view) thinks the theory plausible enough. 

May he give doom to thy people in righteousness, 

And to thine afflicted ones according to right. 

Before him let foemen bow, 

And let his enemies lick the dust . . . 

Because he delivers the needy when he cries, 

The afflicted also who has no helper. — Psalm lxxii. 4, 12. 

So, too, Mahaffy (Greek Life and Thought, p. 508) says of the release 
of the captives : " There seems to be some basis for this story." It is 
not easy to speak confidently, but the view of Dr. Biichler (p. 225) 
that the release points to the Eoman period does not seem probable. 
It is clearly not unlikely that Philadelphus desired to make Judaea 
his basis for an attack on Syria. Hence he would use every means 
to win the affection of the Jews. As to Eleazar, Cheyne conjectures 
(ibid. p. 170) that this High Priest was the author of Psalm xlv, 
written upon the marriage of Philadelphus to Arsinoe daughter of 
the Thracian king Lysimachus. The Arsinoe, however, of the letter 
of Eleazar in Aristeas is the second Arsinoe, the king's sister. Aristeas 
has been accused of ignorance regarding Arsinoe on very inadequate 
grounds. Wendland (in Pseudepigr. p. 1) says that while the author 
of Aristeas knew that the second Arsinoe was Philadelphus' sister-wife, 
he did not know that she was childless. Is this so ? 

Aristeas simply makes Eleazar refer to r) fSacrikto-o-a 'Apo-ivorj, 
% a&(X<j>{i, (tat ra rUva (§§ 41 and 185 ; Thackeray, pp. 527, 551). Now 
Ptolemy had children by the first Arsinoe, and when the second 
Arsinoe found herself childless, she "advised or acquiesced in the 
adoption of her step-children, of whom the eldest was therefore 
declared crown prince " (Mahaffy, History of Egypt, p. 76). The 
phrase xal ra reKva. seems specially chosen in Aristeas as avoiding the 
suggestion that the children are Arsinoe's own offspring. Again, 
Wendland thinks that Aristeas (§ 180, Th., p. 550) transforms 
Philadelphus' defeat at Cos into a brilliant victory. But (a) would 
Philadelphus admit himself defeated at Cos ? True, Antigonus won 
a victory, but not over the Egyptian fleet. It is by no means certain 
that Theocritus wrote his Idyll xvii before Antigonus' victory. 
(6) Cos is not named, why may not Aristeas refer to Philadelphus' 
sea-victory at Andros in 247 ? (Mahaffy, Empire of the Ptolemies, 
p. 490). True this brings us very near Philadelphus' death, but if the 
compiler of the Letter of Aristeas lived under the fourth Ptolemy, 
this would still leave ample time for the reference. With regard 



RECENT CRITICISM OF THE LETTER OF ARISTEAS 337 

to Aristeas's references to Theopompos (§ 314, Th., p. 572), Theodektes 
(§ 315, Th., p. 573), and Menedemos (§ 201, Th., p. 554), Wendland 
seems right in accusing Aristeas of inaccuracy. The case with regard 
to Menedemos is not so certain, for even Willrich (p. 35) admits that 
"die Einfiihrung des Philosophen Menedemos nach dem Seesieg des 
Philadelphos iiber Antigonos mag noch hingehen." Wendland rightly 
suspects the list of names of the seventy-two given by Aristeas, but 
he quite fails to make out his case that the Letter was written 
between 96 and 63 B.C. Every requirement is met by assuming 
a date about 200 b. C. at latest. And, as regards the authenticity and 
credibility of the story, the evidence that has accumulated is all so 
favourable to Aristeas, that the attempt to discredit him by criticism 
of details can no longer be made with effect. Aristeas must stand 
or fall by our verdict as to his general and central statements. 

We may now proceed to face the main question, and to consider the 
credibility of Aristeas in regard to the principal outlines of his story 
(cf. on this Swete, Introduction, pp. 16-22, a work which places 
all students of the LXX under the deepest obligations). These outlines 
are (1) that the translation of the Pentateuch was made in the time 
of Ptolemy Philadelphus ; (2) that the version was instigated by 
Demetrius of Phalerum and the king ; (3) that the Hebrew Scrolls 
and the translators were imported from Jerusalem ; and (4) that the 
translation, when finished, was welcomed alike by Jews and Greeks. 
The full consideration of (1) would carry us too deep into the history 
of the LXX, but it is now very generally held that Aristeas' assertion 
as to the date or the Greek version of the Pentateuch is absolutely 
accurate. Graetz stands almost alone in placing this part of the 
LXX so late as Philometor, but Swete's reply that the rendering 
of rnKTl rnilDD (Lev. xxiii. 11) by rrj inavpiov ttjs Trpo>rr]s betrays the 
hand, not of a Pharisaic translator, but of a Pharisaic corrector, 
is perhaps met by Graetz's note in the Jewish Quarterly Review, 
III, p. 1 54. As regards (2) Aristeas cannot be so easily justified. It is 
now held that the LXX grew out of the needs of the Alexandrian Jews 
themselves, and that Aristeas is romancing when he ascribes the work 
to royal initiative. Many moderns go so far as to modify this 
condemnation by admitting that " it is not improbable that the king 
encouraged the work of translation with the view of promoting the 
use of the Greek language by the settlers (cf. Mommsen, Provinces, II, 
p. 164), as well for the purpose of gratifying his own curiosity" 
(Swete, p. 20). It would serve little to cite the numerous writers 
who see no improbability in the part assigned by Aristeas to 
Ptolemy II (cf. Mahaffy, Greek Life and Thought, p. 508, and Empire 
of Ptolemies, p. 180, but contrast his later view in Hist, of Egypt, 



338 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

p. 86 ; Streane, Age of the Maccabees ; Ottley, Short History 
of the Hebrews, p. 253 ; Conybeare, in Hastings's Dictionary of the 
Bible, s.v. Greece, p. 262). The real ground for disbelieving 
Aristeas's statement is his introduction of Demetrius of Phalerum, 
though it must be remembered that Aristobulus (if Eusebius' citation 
be genuine), not only names Philadelphus and Demetrius, but also 
does this in an address to Philometor. Hence this part of the story 
was current at the Ptolemaic court in the middle of the second 
century b. c. Now Aristeas seems to make Demetrius royal librarian 
(Karao-radels iiii rrjs tov ficurikeas $i|3\io0ij(C7/y), which he never was. 
Zenodotus and Eratosthenes were Philadelphus' librarians. But 
K. Kuiper (who almost stands alone in making the fair and obvious 
suggestion that Aristeas, if he erred, may have done so from error 
and not from fraud), suggests that Aristeas does not call Demetrius 
Trpoorarriv rijr fiifl\w8r]Kr)s, and that the Letter might be true if 
Demetrius was librarian of the private royal collection (Mnemosyne, 
XX, 1892, pp. 250-272). This suggestion is not plausible, for Aristeas 
conveys the clear impression that he is referring to the museum and 
its annexes. Again, a fragment of Hermippus Callimachius (Muller. 
Frag. Hist. Graec, III, p. 47, frag. 50) informs us that Demetrius 
stood in ill favour with Philadelphus, and was banished by him. 
Hermippus is not to be quite so readily accepted against Aristeas as 
many critics do (e. g. Susemihl, II, p. 606 ; I, p. 138). As Muller 
says of him, and is quite certain (p. 36) : "Multa enim in fragmentis 
occurrunt, quae aperte falsa sunt." Still the facts about Demetrius 
are, in our present state of knowledge, a serious difficulty in the way 
of believing Aristeas. Dr. Swete, to a certain extent, saves the 
situation by his clever suggestion (p. 19) that "if Demetrius took 
part in the inception of the LXX, he must have done so during 
the reign of Soter. This is not in itself improbable. He had taken 
refuge in Egypt as early as B.C. 307, and for many years had been 
a trusted adviser of the first Ptolemy ; and it is not unlikely that the 
project of translating the Jewish law was discussed between him and 
the royal founder of the Alexandrian library, and that the work was 
really due to his suggestion, though his words did not bear fruit till 
after his death." Cf. Plutarch, Apophthegm, viii Arj/uijTptor <5 4>a\r)peis 
riToXf/Mu'w r<a jiao-ikei irapyvei ra nepl fiaaikdas Kai 7/ye/iovias j3t/3At'a 
KTaa-6ai Kal dvayiyvmuKeiv. Hence Aristeas may have followed a genuine 
tradition in associating Demetrius with the work, though his exact 
statements cannot be reconciled with the counter -statement of 
Hermippus. Before leaving this point, it must be said that several 
Jewish critics refuse to believe that the Alexandrian Jews themselves 
took the initiative in the matter of the Greek version. Friedmann 



RECENT CRITICISM OF THE LETTER OF ARISTEAS 339 

(Onkelos und Akylas, 1896, p. 5 seq.) stoutly maintains the theory of 
a royal intervention in the matter. Graetz (in the article apparently 
overlooked by Swete, but cited above) thinks that "positive proof 
exists that the translator avoided the plain rendering, and substituted 
another less likely to excite prejudice— out of deference to a Greek 
ruler" \J. Q. R., Ill, p. 152). In Deut. xvii. 14-19, which deals 
•with the election of a ruler, the word pD occurs three times, and 
in each case the LXX renders, not j3a<ri\ftir, but apxa>v (Aq., Theod., 
and Symm. all have PacriKcvs). Now let us look at the passage in 
Deuteronomy : " When thou . . . shalt say, I will set over me a king, 
thou shalt set a king over thee : one from amongst thy brethren shalt 
thou set king over thee. Thou mayest not put a foreigner over thee 
who is not thy brother." Graetz argues on this as follows : "A delicacy 
of feeling prevented him rendering the sentence, Thou shalt not 
appoint a stranger king over thee, literally, or mentioning the throne 
of his fatherland. How shall we account for this variation if we 
do not assume that the translator's respect for the foreign ruler to 
whose government the Jews were at the time subject, restrained him 
from letting the king read that, according to their Scriptures, the 
Jews were to select their ruler [rather king] from their own body ? 
And this is equivalent to the admission that the translation was 
prepared with special reference to a sovereign of Alexandria. It was 
assumed that he would glance at the version of Deuteronomy, as of 
the rest of the Pentateuch, and care was therefore taken to omit 
phrases that might give umbrage. The pith of Aristeas's letter would 
thus be confirmed, viz. that an Alexandrian king gave his countenance 
to a translation of the Pentateuch." As an interesting curiosity one 
may here refer to Prof. D. S. Margoliouth's suggestion (Lines of 
Defence, ch. I) that the Greek version of the Song of Solomon was 
much liked by Ptolemy Philadelphus because the royal lover and his 
bride frequently call each other brother and sister. 

Closely connected, though certainly not identical with the strong 
doubts as to the royal initiative, there arise serious difficulties against 
accepting Aristeas's statements with regard to the nationality of the 
translators. Prof. Swete is very emphatic on this point, and leaves no 
loophole for escape from the conviction that Aristeas conveyed a 
falsehood when he reported that the translators of the Pentateuch 
were Palestinians. "The Greek of the Alexandrian Pentateuch is 
Egyptian, and, as far as we can judge, not such as Palestinian 
translators would have written " (p. 20). He contrasts the Greek of 
the Palestinian translator of Sirach, the clumsy Greek of the prologue, 
the stiff artificiality of the book, with the simple style of the Penta- 
teuch. (Yet Wendland, as we have seen above, thinks the style 



340 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

of Aristeas, undoubtedly an Alexandrian, similar to the prologue of 
the Palestinian Siracid.) 

That the latter [the LXX Pentateuch] is mainly the work of Alex- 
andrian Jews appears from more than one consideration. An older 
generation of Biblical scholars pointed to the occurrence in the LXX, 
and especially in the Pentateuch, of such words of Egyptian origin 
as dx« (Gen. xli. 2), kovSv (Gen. xliv. 2), f/3is (Lev. xi. 17 ; Deut. xiv. 16), 
fivaaos (Exod. xxv-xxxix passim), and such characteristically Egyptian 
terms as SiSpaxfiov, iKr/Saa (^COB), upxin&yfipos, apxiotvox"<>h and the 
like. The argument is not conclusive, since after the time of Alexander 
the Kotvf) contained elements drawn from different localities. But recent 
discoveries in Egypt have yielded a criterion of Egyptian Greek which 
has been applied to the LXX with definite results. In 1892 Professor 
Mahaffy was able to write : " in the vocabulary of the papyri we find 
a closer likeness to the Greek of the LXX than to any other book I could 
name." This statement has been abundantly justified by the pub- 
lication of Deissmann's Bibelstudim (Marburg, 1895), and Neue Bibel- 
siudien (1897), where a number of the peculiar or characteristic words 
and forms of the LXX are shown to have been in common use among 
Egyptian Greeks of the third and second centuries b. 0. The vocabulary 
and style of the LXX will be treated in a later chapter ; for the present 
it is enough to say that they are such as to discredit the attribution of 
the Greek Pentateuch to a company consisting exclusively or chiefly of 
Palestinian Jews. The LXX as a whole, at any rate the earlier part 
of the collection, is a monument of Alexandrian Greek as it was spoken 
by the Jewish colony in the Delta under the rule of the Ptolemies. 

The force of this contention is almost irresistible : almost, but not 
quite. Aristeas tells a story of rolls written in letters of gold and 
sent to the king by the High Priest. " This story," says Dr. Swete, 
"may be dismissed at once, it belongs to the picturesque setting 
of the romance." But there is some Rabbinic confirmation that the 
Xpvaoypa(f)iti (Ar., § 176, Th., p. 549) was associated with scrolls of the 
law used in Alexandria. The statement in Aristeas confuses the whole 
MS. with the divine name. The name of God (according to Tract. 
Soferim, I, 10) was so written in an Alexandrian codex, and from 
Josephus' remark as to the "name of God inscribed in sacred 
characters" on the High Priest's forehead (Antiq., Ill, vii, 6), 
added to Aquila's custom of writing the Tetragrammaton in the 
ancient Hebrew script, we may infer that the name of God was often 
specially distinguished. Evidently Josephus found nothing incre- 
dible in the story, and L. LSw (Graphische Requisiten lei den Juden, 
1870, p. 162) holds the incident as accurate, "Sie ist ein glaub- 
wurdiges Zeugniss, dass man sich gegen Ende der Periode des zweiten 



RECENT CRITICISM OP THE LETTER OP ARI8TEAS 341 

Tempels der Goldschrift bediente." He even thinks that the use of 
gold-illumination was an original Jewish invention (p. 161). The 
passage in Tract. Soferim runs thus : bv imim nPJJD 3nt3 P3TTD fK 

nujro mnnatK So w (Mss. d^tud^k bv jrroro) omjData 

TMn nDNI tfKOn *%b WO N31 lama. Mtiller (in his edition, 
note 54) thinks that this is a direct reference to Aristeas, but 
Friedmann (Onkelos und Ahylas, p. 24) thinks that the phrase N31 
ffMn 'OB? iVttyO implies an accidental case and not an historical 
instance. It may be hazardous to suggest that there is in 1 Mace. iii. 
48 an underlying attack on such illumination of Bible scrolls, but the 
passage seems to me to bear that meaning. 

Though, however, Dr. Swete dismisses the gold-written scroll as 
a romantic invention, he thinks that " there is nothing improbable 
in the statement that the Hebrew rolls were freshly brought from 
Jerusalem, for communication between Jerusalem and Alexandria was 
frequent during the reigns of the earlier Ptolemies.'" If this be so, and 
we know that it was, why should not the Greek of Palestinian Jews 
be strongly Alexandrian in vocabulary? The contrast with the 
Siracid does not weaken this supposition. He translated a full 
century after the LXX Pentateuch, and in the meantime Judaea had 
passed from Egyptian into Syrian hands, and a temporary reaction had 
occurred against the familiar use of Greek in Jerusalem. Lumbroso, 
who also holds with Swete that the translators of the Pentateuch were 
Alexandrians, nevertheless thinks (Recherches, p. xxi) that it is to 
the last immigrants rather than to the old settlers that the trans- 
lation was due. The LXX is Alexandrian in vocabulary, but Hebraic 
in syntax. " The manner of the LXX," says Dr. Swete (p. 299), " is 
not Greek, and does not even aim at being so. It is that of a book 
written by men of Semitic descent, who have carried their habits 
of thought into their adopted tongue. The translators write Greek 
largely as they doubtless spoke it ; they possess a plentiful vocabulary 
and are at no loss for a word, but they are almost indifferent to 
idiom, and seem to have no sense of rhythm. Hebrew constructions 
and Semitic arrangements of the words are at times employed, even 
when not directly suggested by the original." If we suppose a body 
of Palestinian translators at work in Alexandria, with local Alexandrian 
Jews to help them, is not this precisely what would result? The 
vocabulary of the translation would be Alexandrian, the style 
and idioms Palestinian ; and this is what the LXX is. If it be true 
that (as the final note to the LXX Esther asserts) the Greek trans- 
lation of Esther was the work of a Palestinian, then the case for a 
Palestinian influence on the LXX Pentateuch is much strengthened. 
For the LXX Esther is thoroughly Alexandrian in vocabulary, and 

VOL. XIV. A a 



342 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

in its use of technical terms (Jacob, ZATW, 1890, p. 280), but, adds 
Jacob, p. 290 (and most must agree with him) : " Die Uebersetzung 
(of Esther) ist in Aegypten verfasst." Still the fact remains, as 
Cornill, Einleitung in das AT, p. 297 (ed. 1891), points out, that "an 
alien Stellen, wo von den Uebersetzern etwas N&heres angegeben wird, 
Palastinenser als solche erscheinen," and he cites with apparent 
approval Buhl's conclusion (Kanon und Text des AT, p. 124) : " Wirk- 
lich werden wohl in den meisten Fallen die Palastinenser besser 
Griechisch verstanden haben, als die eingeborenen agyptischen Juden 
Hebraisch." The evidence of the papyri must clearly weaken our 
belief in Palestinian influence on the LXX Pentateuch, but it does 
not seem to me to justify us in pronouncing this part of the story 
of Aristeas a fiction. He wrote a full half century after the event, 
and his information may have been defective. He does not emphasize 
sufficiently perhaps the part played in the LXX version by local 
Jews, though his remark (§ 302, Th., p. 571) to Si «<c rrjs o-vpcfxovias 
yivopitvov npenoVToas avaypafyrj? ovtids iTvy\ave napa tov Arnirjrpiov hints 
at local intervention in producing the final result. As to (4), the 
welcome given to the rendering by Greeks and Jews, Dr. Swete sees 
no ground for doubting Aristeas. "The welcome accorded to the 
Greek version by the Jews of Alexandria," he says (p. 22), "was 
doubtless as Aristeas represents, both cordial and permanent ; nor 
need we doubt that Philadelphus and his scholars approved what 
had been done." The subsequent feelings in Jewish circles regarding 
the LXX have no bearing on the Letter of Aristeas. 

I. Abrahams.