« Aribo Aristeas Aristides, Marcianus »

Aristeas

ARISTEAS, ar´´is-tî´ɑs: The name assumed by the author of a letter professing to give the history of the translation into Greek of the Hebrew Pentateuch for Ptolemy II. Philadelphus. The letter stated that, at the suggestion of Demetrius Phalereus, Ptolemy sent Aristeas to the high priest Eleazar to obtain experienced men to render the Hebrew Law into Greek for the library at Alexandria. Eleazar chose seventy-two men, six from each of the tribes, who went to Egypt, were received with great honor, completed their task, and were sent back with presents for themselves and the high priest. There is a legend that five were Samaritans and that their copies were preserved.

This narrative was for centuries the account accepted by Jews and Christians of the origin of the Septuagint. It appears in Aristobulus (as quoted by Eusebius, Præparatio evangelica, xiii. 12), Philo (Vita Mosis, ii.), Josephus (Ant., XII. ii. 2 sqq.), Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and so on down to Whiston. The letter has been shown to be unhistorical, e.g., Demetrius Phalereus was banished from Alexandria at the beginning of the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus. Its purpose was the glorification of the Hebrew race, religion, and literature. Its statements are entirely discredited by modern criticism, and its author is entirely unknown.

Bibliography: The letter was printed with a number of editions of the Bible, e.g., that of J. Andreas, 1471; was translated into English by J. Done, London, 1633, was edited in Greek with English translation, London, 1715; it in appended to Swete’s Introduction to the Septuagint, London, 1902; and was translated with notes by H. St. J. Thackeray, London, 1904. H. Hody wrote in 1685, Contra Historiam Aristeæ de LXX Interpretibus Dissertatio, and followed it in 1705 with his great De bibliorum textibus originalibus, which completely demolished the letter as a foundation for history. C. Hayes vainly attempted a defense in 1736. Consult also: E. Nestle, Septuagintastudien, vol. ii., Ulm, 1896; J. E. H. Thomson, in PEF, Quarterly Statement, p. 82. Jan., 1902 (on the legend which includes Samaritans among the Seventy).

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