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Aristeas, Letter of

The Alexandrian Jewish narrative of the making of the Greek translation of the Law (Torah) for the library of Ptolemy (1) II Philadelphus, at the instigation of his librarian, Demetrius (3) of Phaleron. The supposed author, a courtier named Aristeas, in an elaborate letter to his brother Philocrates, describes a mission to Eleazar, the high priest at Jerusalem. Eleazar expounds the philosophical rationale of the Law, and supplies 72 scholars, six from each tribe. At a seven-day banquet, they guide the King on good kingship; he is impressed with their wisdom and piety and with their God. On the island of Pharus (see alexandria (1)), they complete their work in 72 days, in total harmony; they then present the translation to the King and to the Jewish community: it is to remain unchanged. The Letter has historical elements: the ascription of the start of what was to become the Septuagint to Ptolemy Philadelphus is credible; and the description of Jerusalem has realistic elements. But characteristic apologetic motifs and biblical typology are also evident. A date in either the early or the late 2nd cent. bce is likely. Josephus paraphrases the Letter in Antiquities12. See jewish greek literature; septuagint.


M. Hadas, Aristeas to Philocrates (1951).Find this resource:

    S. Honigman, The Septuagint and Homeric Scholarship in Alexandria (2003).Find this resource:

      A. Wasserstein and D. J. Wasserstein, The Legend of the Septuagint (2006).Find this resource:

        T. Rajak, Translation and Survival (2009).Find this resource:

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