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Monday, June 16, 2008

The Letter of Aristeas and it's ussage of the word "LAW"

Some feel that the Septuagint was originally only a translation of the first five books of Moses. This is a recent speculation. Mostly clouded in the theological & Canonical wars between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.

One of the reasons for this speculation is because of what is said in the Letter of Aristeas:

In the letter of Aristeas he says,

or the link to the letter

"It was my devotion to the pursuit of religious knowledge
that led me to undertake the embassy to the man I have mentioned, who was held
in the highest esteem by his own citizens and by others both for his virtue and
his majesty and who had in his possession documents of the highest value to the
Jews in his own country and in foreign lands for the interpretation of the
divine law, for their 4 laws are written on leather parchments in Jewish
. This embassy then I undertook with enthusiasm, having first of all
found an opportunity of pleading with the king on behalf of the Jewish captives
who had been transported from Judea to Egypt by the king's father, when he first
obtained possession of this city and conquered the land of Egypt. It is worth
while that I should tell"


"and he replied, 'More than two hundred thousand, O king, and I shall make endeavour in the immediate future to gather together the remainder also, so that the total of five hundred thousand may be reached. I am told that the laws of the Jews are worth transcribing and deserve a place in. your library.' 'What is to prevent you from doing this?' replied the king. 'Everything that is necessary has been placed at your disposal.' 'They need to be translated,' answered Demetrius, 'for in the country of the Jews they use a peculiar alphabet (just as the Egyptians, too, have a special form of letters) and speak a peculiar dialect. They are supposed to use the Syriac tongue, but this is not the case; their language is quite different.' And the king when he understood all the facts of the case ordered a letter to be written to the Jewish High Priest that his purpose (which has already been described) might be accomplished."


"15 our deeds to give the lie to our words. Since the law which we wish not only to transcribe but also to translate belongs to the whole Jewish race, what justification shall we be able to find for our embassy while such vast numbers of them remain in a state of slavery in your kingdom?....."


"magnificence and technical skill. The following is a copy
of the memorial.

The Memorial of Demetrius to the great king. 'Since you
have given me instructions, O king, that the books which are needed to complete
your library should be collected together, and that those which are defective
should be repaired, I have devoted myself with the utmost care to the fulfilment
of your wishes, 30 and I now have the following proposal to lay before you. The
books of the law of the Jews (with some few others) are absent from the library
They are written in the Hebrew characters and language and have been carelessly
interpreted, and do not represent the original text as I am 31 informed by those
who know; for they have never had a king's care to protect them. It is necessary
that these should be made accurate for your library since the law which they
contain, in as much as it is of divine origin, is full of wisdom and free from
all blemish. For this reason literary men and poets and the mass of historical
writers have held aloof from referring to these books and the men who have lived
and are living in accordance with them, because their 32 conception of life is
so sacred and religious, as Hecataeus of Abdera says. If it please you, O king,
a letter shall be written to the High Priest in Jerusalem, asking him to send
six elders out of every tribe - men who have lived the noblest life and are most
skilled in their law - that we may find out the points in which the majority of
them are in agreement, and so having obtained an accurate translation may place
it in a conspicuous place in a manner worthy of the work itself and your
purpose. May continual prosperity be yours!'"


" When the work was completed, Demetrius collected together
the Jewish population in the place where the translation had been made, and read
it over to all, in the presence of the translators, who met with a great
reception also from the people, because of the great benefits which they had 309
conferred upon them. They bestowed warm praise upon Demetrius, too, and urged
him to have the whole law transcribed and present a copy to their

Some feel that because of his ussage of the word "LAW", the LXX had to be a translation of only the first five books. Others feel that it was originally of the first five books and some time later all the other books were translated. The truth is, all this is modern speculation. It is an anachronistic reading of the past. Yes, it is true that the Jewish ussage of the word "Law" can mean the first five books of Moses. But it can also mean all the other books as well.

An example of this is from Christ himself, as recorded in John's Gospel.

John 10:34
"Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’?

Jesus quoted Pslams 82:6

And even then, he could of been quoting the Septuagint. It is my belief, as well as the belief of some others, that the ussage of the word "Law" found in the Letter of Aristeas is in reference to all of the Jewish books, not just the first five of Moses.

I know that a good portion of western modern scholarship(mostly protestant and protestant secular) views the Letter of Aristeas as a forgery.

The idea of the Letter of Aristeas being a forgery goes back to the english protestant "Humphrey Hody". It is said that "Isaac Vossius" (A dutch) wrote a rebuttal to Hody's theory, but most western critics side with Hody anyway.

I personally don't see a reason to see the letter as a forgery. It's hard to know what really happened, when non of us were there. It's easy to be a cynic some 1,700 hundred years after the fact.......not to mention 2,200 years.

I would rather side with Philo, Josephus, and many of the early church fathers, who were alot closer in time to the actual account. If I error, I error in good company.



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