« Sylvia, sister of Flavius Rufinus Symmachus, author O.T. in Greek Symmachus Q. Aurelius »

Symmachus, author O.T. in Greek

Symmachus (2), author of the Greek version of O.T., which in Origen's Hexapla and Tetrapla occupied the column next after that of Aquila and before those of the LXX and Theodotion. Eusebius speaks of Symmachus as a heretical Christian, while Epiphanius represents him merely as passing from the Samaritan sect to Judaism. The account of Eusebius is confirmed (1) by the name "Symmachians," which, as we know from the Ambrosiaster (Prol. in Ep. ad Galat.) and from Augustine (cont. Cresc. i. 31; cont. Faust. xix. 4), was applied even in the 4th cent. to the Pharisaic or "Nazarean" Ebionites; (2) by the fact that Eusebius could refer to a work of Symmachus as extant, in which he maintained the Ebionite heresy in the shape of an attack on St. Matthew's Gospel. This work, according to Eusebius (H. E. vi. 17; Demonstr. Esang. vii. 1), was stated by Origen to have been obtained by him, together with 918other interpretations on the Scriptures, from one Juliana, who had received them from Symmachus himself. A later writer, Palladius (c. 420), adds that this Juliana was a virgin who lived in Caesarea of Cappadocia, and gave refuge to Origen for two years during a persecution, adducing as his authority an entry which he found in Origen's own hand "This book I found in the house of Juliana the virgin in Caesarea, when I was hiding there; who said that she had received it from Symmachus himself, the interpreter of the Jews" (Hist. Laus. 147). Heut (Origeniana, libb. I. iii. 2; III. iv. 2) is probably right in assigning the sojourn of Origen in this lady's house to the time of Maximin's persecutions (a.d. 238–241). Eusebius speaks of the version of Symmachus (vi. 16) as being, like those of Aquila and Theodotion, in common use in Origen's day, in contrast with the obscure "Fifth" and "Sixth" versions, which Origen brought to light; and Origen's extant remains shew that he knew and used Symmachus's version long before the time of Maximin (236–239).

Palladius, by his incidental statement, coming almost direct from Origen himself and resting on the testimony of a lady who had known Symmachus personally, powerfully confirms Eusebius, and makes it clear that Symmachus was a Christian (or "semi-Christian" as Jerome expresses it) of the Nazareo-Ebionite sect. Epiphanius's account is therefore to be rejected; and with it the theory of Geiger, who seeks to identify him with the Jew Symmachus, son of Joseph. The authority of Epiphanius has, however, been commonly accepted for placing the date of Symmachus under the reign of Severus (193–211)—e.g. by the compiler of the Chronicon Paschale (s.a. 202), Cave (Hist. Lit. s.a. 201), etc. The extract from Palladius roughly fixes limits for the possible date of Symmachus, by shewing that he was an elder contemporary of Juliana, who was contemporary with Origen, but that he had died before Origen's sojourn in her house.

Symmachus's object in his version seems to have been to imitate Aquila in following the Hebrew exclusively, but to avoid his barbarous diction and to commend his work to Greek readers by purity of style. Thus, his renderings are externally dissimilar to Aquila's, but (frequently) internally akin. Remarkable cases of identity of translation between these two versions occur, e.g. Dan. ix. 26, 27, which appears to have been borrowed by Symmachus verbally from Aquila. Of his other writings nothing is known.


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