Skip to navigation | Skip to main content | Skip to footer
Search by multiple inventory points or book comparison
Full Inventory point list:
 
45 books found
 
     
Letter of Aristeas (Researcher: Robert Hayward):
Selected Inventory point(s):
1.1 The text refers to itself as verbal entity (with explicit boundaries).

Full profile (Bibliography at the bottom):
1.1 The text refers to itself as verbal entity (with explicit boundaries).

1.1.1 The text refers to itself using a genre term implying verbal constitution: the text is set within a frame which explicitly uses the term diegesis, "narrative", as a self-description of the text, both at the beginning (1) and conclusion (322). This same genre term diegesis is used within the body of the text (296), where it may refer to the text as a whole, and to the account of the philosophical discussions which took place during the symposium arranged for Ptolemy's Jewish guests (187-294).

1.1.2 The text speaks of itself as dealing with an overall theme (subject matter) or purpose, or as consisting of coordinated parts making a whole: The introductory frame (1-8) explicitly states the principal theme of the text, which is described as a narrative account of an embassy led by Aristeas and Andreas from Egypt to the Jewish high priest Eleazar to make arrangements for the translation of the Torah out of Hebrew into Greek. This translation is to be made in Egypt, under the auspices of Ptolemy II Philadelphos and his librarian, Demetrius of Phalerum. A subordinate theme is the status of Jews transported to Egypt in the reign of Ptolemy's father, who at the time of the opening of the narrative are in slavery, a request for their freedom being deemed urgent(4). The text recounts the success of both enterprises, the slaves being released (21-25) and the translation being completed according to the highest expectations (301-321).

1.1.4 The text introduces the governing voice, thereby indirectly marking its own boundedness: The governing voice is identified as one Aristeas, an official at the royal court, this being announced indirectly in quoted speech to King Ptolemy in response to a statement of Aristeas' colleague Andreas, a bodyguard of the King (19), and in quoted speech of the King himself (40, 43).

1.1.4.1 The text has a superscription, "Aristeas to Philocrates", concerning “to whom” it is addressed or for whose use it is, and the one "from whom" it comes. The text's frame announces the addressee as Philocrates, brother of Aristeas, both at beginning (1) and end (322). He is further addressed explicitly as the "brother" of the governing voice at 7, and similarly in the body of the text at 120. It is just possible that the term "brother" may be used in the extended sense of "good friend".

1.1.5 Important text witnesses attest to a heading, "Aristeas to Philocrates", which is not integrated with the body of the text or with any introductory frame, implying one or more of the kinds of information under 1.1.1–4: A MS of the fourth century CE refers to the text explicitly as a "letter": see Alexander, "Epistolary Literature", p. 580. As noted already, the majority of MSS witnesses to Aristeas begin the text with the words "Aristeas to Philocrates" as a heading. These words might be taken to imply that the text is a letter, on which see further 2.6.1.1.

1.6 The approximate word count or other indication of comparative size is: 13,253 words.

1.7 The text’s Inventory profile should be seen in the light of the following further information on completeness, thematic progression, aesthetic effects, etc.: The progress of the narrative is straightforward, and the themes announced in the introductory frame are treated in such a way that they are seen to be brought to a satisfactory conclusion: the slaves are freed, and an accurate translation of the Torah is made. This basic narrative, whose themes are announced at the outset, is greatly enhanced by discrete narrative units, all of them related to the translation of the Jewish Law and the procedures undertaken to achieve this. Thus Ptolemy's overtures to the Jewish authorities are accompanied by rich gifts for presentation to the Temple: these are desccribed in detail (51-83). There is opportunity for a description of the Temple, its service, Jerusalem, and the surrounding countryside and wider geographical situation (83-120); and before the translators set out for Egypt, the high priest offers an explanation of the Jewish Law (128-172). This explanation is remarkable for its defence of the Law against those who might be inclined to criticise it, and for its reasoned interpretations of distinctive Jewish customs in regard to food and ritual behaviour. Thus, for example, the commands about which birds may be used as food: these are clean birds, which eat clean foods, whereas birds acquiring their food through violence are forbidden, this law indicating that Jews must abjure violence and tyranny in their conduct towards others. The explanations of Jewish customs so given are in part rationalizing, in part "allegorical". They also serve to promote the idea that the Law is the constitution of the Jewish people. These narrative units slow the pace somewhat, but provide a good deal of interest, human, geographical, antiquarian, and historical, for the intended addressee. The account of the arrival of the translators in Egypt, however, is not followed immediately by an account of their rendering the Law into Greek. Rather, an extended narrative unit (187-300) describes the seven nights of their symposium with the King, during which he asks them, each in turn, particular philosophical questions, to which they return immediate replies. The sheer length of this narrative section provides the text as a whole with a strong "philosophical" dimension: many of the questions posed and answered are concerned with matters of kingship and rulership, recalling the widespread interest in discussion "Concerning Kingship" in the Graeco-Roman period. The latter part of the text thus emphasises the outstanding ability of the Jews as philosophers with a keen sense of how government should operate; and the translation of their Law, that is, the constitution of their state and their ideas of good governance, into Greek is represented by the text as having a significance wider than the acquisition by Ptolemy of yet another text of interest to the antiquarian.

Top of the Page

2.1 The information conveyed in the text defines the perspective of the governing voice in the following way:

2.1.2 The text thematizes how the governing voice comes to know the text’s contents, and its perspective is restricted to personal limits: The governing voice is that of Aristeas, first identified in the body of the text indirectly at line 19, addressing his brother Philocrates (already identified as the brother of the governing voice at line 7), and presenting an account of his meeting with the Jewish high priest on his mission to Jerusalem and the events which take place as a consequence of this embassy. The governing voice also presents itself as personally aware of the decisions made by Ptolemy II about the future status of the Jews enslaved by his father. The opening section of the text (1-8) makes all this explicit.

2.1.2.3 The governing voice suggests its information is based on his own experiences, or on other knowledge filtered by reflections on personal experience: Personal experience is very much to the fore in the governing voice, which presents conversations as if recorded verbatim, and offers eyewitness accounts of people, places, and events.

2.1.4 The governing voice explicitly acknowledges that something mentioned in the text cannot be adequately expressed or conveyed: The effect on the viewer of the precious gifts of gold and silver bowls presented by Ptolemy to the high priest and Jewish elders is said to be "indescribable" (77); and the appearing of the high priest in his vestments in the course of the Temple service is said to be beyond description, filling anyone who witnesses it with astonishment (99).

2.2 A first-person voice imposes its perspective on almost all knowledge conveyed in the text: Aristeas, the first person governing voice, presents himself as responsible for all the knowledge to be conveyed to Philocrates in his narrative (1-8). This knowledge is presented mainly as an eyewitness account, and, where eyewitness testimony is not possible, the governing voice claims to quote sources available to him. The name Aristeas is Greek, and the governing voice for the most part presents a non-Jewish persona, particularly in the opening section of the narrative where the plans for translation of the Jewish Law are presented (1-9), and especially in 16, where the governing voice allies itself with those who address God as Zeus and Dis. In discussion with the high priest Eleazar, however, the governing voice seems to speak as a Jew (170-171), in regard to the interpretation of the sacrifices ordered by the Jewish Law. Thus both a non-Jewish and a Jewish persona can be discerned in the course of the text as a whole.

2.2.1.3 The introduction of the first-person governing voice of the text has the following characteristics (also applies to self-identification 2.2.2):

2.2.1.3.2 It consists of minimal or merely formal information, in that the text announces itself as a diegesis composed for the governing voice's brother (1, 7), the governing voice eventually being identified within the text as one Aristeas (19, 40, 43).

2.2.1.3.3 It is found at the beginning of the text only: As noted, the introduction of the governing voice is indirect: the beginning of the text consists of a statement explicitly given in the first person singular, but the identity of the first person is not revealed fully until line 19 of the text, where it occurs in a speech of Andreas, and in the mouth of the king at line 40. In line 43, it is mentioned in a letter of Eleazar, the Jewish high priest, to King Ptolemy, a text which is quoted in full (41-46).

2.2.2 The first person voice identifies itself by name only indirectly: While the bulk of the witnesses to the text open with the words "Aristeas to Philocrates", the "diegesis" itself opens with an explicit statement in the first person singular, and the identity of the governing voice as one Aristeas is conveyed only later on, by information given at lines 19, 40, and 43.

2.2.2.1 The voice identifies itself by way of a “signature”, as at the beginning or end of a text projecting itself as letter, or other text with a salutation: The text begins (1) with a salutation to Philocrates, who is greeted as one who has a love of learning, and is eager to acquire knowledge through an account of history and its lessons. The conclusion of the text once more (322) explicitly names Philocrates as the recipient of "the whole story" of the events. The text does not explicitly present itself as a "letter" (examples of which it cites verbatim at 35-40 and 41-46); but the cordial salutations at beginning and end, couched in personal terms, imply that the text might have been construed as a letter.

2.2.4 The number and gender of the first-person governing voice are as follows:

2.2.4.1 The first person singular is used.

2.2.4.4 The first person is marked for gender: The governing voice is indirectly identified as one Aristeas, a Greek name for a person of the male gender.

2.4 The governing voice defines a horizon of knowledge as shared with the projected addressee by taking for granted the following linguistic usages or references (in selection):

2.4.1 Persons or unique objects referred to by proper name or technical expression: King Ptolemy II and his court; that court's protocol and ceremonial; Demetrius of Phalerum and the Library of Alexandria; the Temple at Jerusalem and its furnishings; and the customs associated with a symposium. Moses is referred to as "lawgiver" at 139.

2.4.1.1 for persons mentioned or presented in narrative usage as characters, for example: members of Ptolemy's court are named, especially the bodyguard Andreas, who is often associated with Aristeas (12, 18, 43, 123, 173), the official Dorotheos (182, 183, 186, 304), and the librarian Demetrius (9, 11, 28-29, 301, 308, 312-317); various historians and philosophers (e.g.,) Hecataeus of Abdera (31); Menedemos (201); Theopompos (314); and Theodektes (316). Some figures from Egyptian history are named (e.g.,) Psammetichus (13) and Ptolemy I (13), along with contemporary figures like Queen Arsinoe (41) and the Jewish elders sent to Egypt as translators (47-50). Pre-eminent among the Jewish names mentioned is Moses (144); and the high priest Eleazar, who is not introduced but taken for granted, is named on several occasions (e.g., 123, 172, 320).

2.4.1.3 for Gods/mythical figures/supernatural beings, etc., for example: the gods Zeus and Dis are named (15); but the only other supernatural being mentioned is the God of Israel, sometimes with particular titles such as Lord and Creator of the Universe (15); Lord and Ruler of the Universe (16, 195); Almighty God (18, 19, 45, 145, 168, 185); and the Supreme Deity (19, 37).

2.4.1.4 for locations, for example: Egypt, as one of the settings of the narrative, is often named (e.g., 4, 6, 13, 122) along with places in its territory, like Alexandria (22, 108, 173), the Nile (116), and what must be Pharos (301), although this is not named: Judaea, as the other main setting of the narrative (4, 12, 83, 107), together with a city which is not named, but which must be Jerusalem (35, 52). The towns Askalon, Joppa, and Gaza are named (115), along with Coele-Syria (12), Samaria (107), and the Jordan river (116). We may also note Ptolemais (115, 116) and Arabia (199).

2.4.1.6 for documents, texts, books, etc. (identified through being referred to or quoted), for example: the text displays a keen interest in written documents, and displays knowledge of conventional Greek terminology for referring to them. The Law of the Jews, which represents a central theme in the text, is frequently mentioned (e.g., 3, 5, 38, 45, 176, 308, 310): it may also be referred to as "the Writings" (56, 154). There seems to be an explicit quotation of the Jewish Scriptures at 155, and probably an allusion to the Shema' at 160. The king's written decree is cited (21); memoranda are named and sometimes cited (28, 29, 33) along with letters (sometimes quoted, as at 35, 41) which are mentioned as a commonplace (28, 33, 123, 173, 321), and books (e.g., 312), along with archives (297, 299). The creation of written records of meetings is also mentioned as a regular practice (299). The existence of a library (9, 31, 38) is a key element in the narrative.

2.4.3 The text as a whole routinely employs the following language(s), knowledge of which is taken for granted: Greek. The Greek language is mentioned explicitly at line 38.

2.4.3.1 [Additional language(s) taken for granted in quoted speech or certain parts of the text are: Biblical Hebrew. Although no words or phrases are quoted in Hebrew, the fact that the text has as a theme the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek means that certain remarks are made about the Hebrew alphabet (3, 30, 38, 176) and the nature of the language itself, to the effect that it is not "Syrian" (11). The Egyptian script is also mentioned at line 11.]

2.4.4 Special linguistic usages occur prominently:

2.4.4.1 Technical expressions for a particular subject matter are used, without explanation, to speak (e.g.,) of the high priest's vestments (96-99) and the officials in charge of the symposium (182-186). The text also uses technical terms for the names of officials at the Ptolemaic court and for other Egyptian administrative functionaries. The language used to speak of the Ptolemaic monarch and his qualities as ruler is redolent of the notion that the king represents a nomos empshuchos, and compares with notions of kingship represented in the peri basileias literature.

2.4.4.4 Biblicizing language, such that the text may be assumed to project itself as having a link to texts today known as biblical (see 7.1.4.1): These links are exhibited mainly through an affinity between this text and the LXX, whose influence is apparent at 228, where words from LXX Deut. 13:6 are cited; at 57-58, where the Table of the Bread of the Presence is described in terms close to LXX's account of that object; and at 96-99, where the high priest's vestments are spoken of using technical terminology identical to terms in LXX Exod. 28-29.

2.5 The text contains expressions which refer to the time or place of the projected situation of “speaking” the text, or provide unique indications. The persona of the governing voice explicitly projects a picture of Ptolemaic Egypt as the time and place of the bulk of the action described in the narrative. Some technical expressions reflect the organization of the Ptolemaic court and its customs. In particular, mention of Demetrius and the Alexandrian library indicate that the governing voice wishes the reader to view the narrative as taking place in the early Ptolemaic period; and his references to Ptolemy I and Ptolemy II, the former's son and successor, confirm this perceived time-frame. [Several students of the text have claimed to discern internal evidence which may more precisely date the time and place of the governing voice. There is, however, considerable disagreement amongst such students, to such a degree that their opinions cannot be be taken as possessing any great degree of certainty. The text itself seems to contain historical inaccuracies and dubia: for example, Demetrius of Phalerum's reported presence at the court of Ptolemy II is regarded by many scholars as an historical inaccuracy (though some argue for its being correct); and the allusion (180) to Ptolemy II's victory over Antigonus at sea could most naturally be taken as a reference to the battle of Kos. If the reference is indeed to the battle of Kos, the battle is incorrectly dated, and what Aristeas reports as a victory for Ptolemy was, in fact, a defeat.]

2.5.1 There is a deictic expression referring to the governing voice's time and place given as part of the words of the governing voice at 182, "and it may still be seen to this day", with reference to an officer in charge of Jewish affairs and his duty.

2.6 The text presents itself as speaking to certain persons, groups or entities, thus projecting an addressee of the text. The text is addressed explicitly to Philocrates (1, 322), who is presented as the brother of the governing voice's persona (7). See 1.1.5 for details.

2.6.1 The governing voice uses apostrophe with a proper name and second-person grammatical forms. The addressee is called by name, " O Philocrates" (1, 322), "O my dear brother Philocrates" (120), and is spoken of in the second person singular.

2.6.1.1 An audience is identified as the intended receiver of a text projecting itself as a letter: The text does not explicitly describe itself as a letter; but there is a clearly identified audience in the person of Philocrates, who is named in a heading, and at the start and the conclusion of the text (see 1.1.5.); and the text's form, style and contents are not inconsistent with other letters from the Graeco-Roman period: see Alexander, "Epistolary Literature". Thus the text begins with a salutation to Philocrates, who is greeted as one with a love of learning, and who is eager to acquire knowledge through an account of history and its lessons. The conclusion of the text (322) once again explicitly names Philocrates as the recipient of "the whole story of the events". The cordial salutations at the beginning and end of the text, couched in personal terms, imply that the text could be construed as a letter.

2.6.2 The projected addressee is characterized as having a certain moral or epistemic stance. Philocrates is known to the governing voice, who addresses him: "I am convinced that you, with your disposition towards holiness and your sympathy with men who live according to the Holy Law, will more readily listen to the account I am proposing to set forth..." (4-5); "you have aspirations which are so noble, and since you are not only my brother in character no less than in blood but are one with me as well in the pursuit of goodness" (7).

Top of the Page

4.1 The text narrates events which are strongly emplotted, with interlocking events, characters, motivations, causes, times or locations.

4.1.2 All subordinate events are presented as preparing one crisis and its solution, and as addressing one unified time span and telling the fate of a group of characters: The plans for the translation of the Hebrew Torah into Greek in the reign of Ptolemy II, and the means by which they were brought to a successful conclusion, are narrated; and all other events, including the manumission of Jewish slaves captured by Ptolemy's father, are in subordination to this key event.

4.1.2.1 The narrative builds up one central narrative tension for a set of events as having special intrinsic interest, or unites a number of narrative strands. The central narrative consists of the account of the translation of the Hebrew Torah, while relating events of intrinsic interest (the embassy to Jerusalem, with the description of the city, its Temple, and the country surrounding it), and uniting a number of narrative strands, such as the freeing of the Jewish slaves captured by Ptolemy's father; the accounts of the seven day symposium; and the details of the arrangements made for the work of the translators.

4.1.2.2 The narrative pivots around a small set of inter-connected characters, the principals being King Ptolemy II and his librarian Demetrius of Phalerum; the high priest Eleazar; and the translators.

4.1.3 The narrative provides a clear closure. The translation of the Law into Greek is presented not only as completed, but as having received the approval of the Jewish population (who pronounce a curse on anyone seeking to alter it) and of the King himself (308-312), who orders that the translation be carefully guarded and preserved (317).

4.1.4 The narrative foregrounds apparently exact information on the absolute and relative timing of events: The events are presented as taking place in the reign of Ptolemy II, and they are related in chronological sequence and in great detail.

4.1.5 The narrative foregrounds quantifiable non-temporal information: While not a pervasive element in the narrative, such information is central, inasmuch as six translators are chosen from each tribe of Israel, and their names are given (47-50). The narrative of the symposium is structured around the king's question to each one of these translators in turn.

4.2 The event sequence is projected as related to the sequence of text parts as follows:

4.2.1 The report sequence mirrors the projected chronological sequence of events mostly or wholly: The sequence of events appears simple and uncomplicated, the narrative proceeding from the moment when a question is raised about the Jewish Law and the desirability of procuring a copy of it for the Alexandrian Library, to the eventual completion of a translation of this Law into Greek and its approval by the King.

4.8 The text provides scene-setting information, other than the introduction of an I-narration.

4.8.1 There is an explicit introduction of the chronological and spatial setting of the action: The governing voice presents itself as witness to the action, setting the scene initially in the court of king Ptolemy II, and describing the embassy to Jerusalem, and its return to Egypt. The mention of characters involved in the action, and their time and place, is explicit (e.g., 1-11; 83-172).

4.8.2 There is an explicit introduction of the main characters: The King (4); Demetrius of Phalerum (9), the high priest Eleazar (83) are all explicitly introduced. The tranlsators are listed by name (47-50). Royal officials who play a minor role in the narrative are also introduced, as, for example, at 182 (Nicanor and Dorotheus). See also 201, for introduction of Menedemus of Eretria, the philosopher.

4.9 There is sustained characterization of key figures in the narrative: The governing voice mentions the sympathy of his addressee for "men who are living in accordance with the holy Law" (5), and this stance appears to characterize all the Jewish characters in the narrative (46; 121-127, on the character of the translators; and 130-169, on the character of those who observe the Jewish Law, which inculcates certain values). The non-Jews are characterized as intelligent persons seeking after knowledge (especially the King and Demetrius); as philosophers (Menedemus, 210); historians (Theopompos, 314), or tragic poets, Theodektes, 316). The King's questions to the Jewish translators mark him out as an upright man of philosophical ability.

4.9.1.1 There is self-characterization of a first-person governing voice, or first-person characterization of other characters. The governing voice rather implies his character in speaking of his addressee brother as sharing the same qualities as himself (1-8), and allows his character to be delineated by words put into the mouths of other characters (18-19, 40).

4.9.2 All characterization is achieved only through reporting the actions, speech or thoughts of the characters ("dramatic").

4.9.3 Figures are characterized by her or his moral or religious traits. See 4.9. above; none of the characters in this narrative is presented in a bad light. All are either explicitly or implicitly actively engaged in further a translation of the Jewish Law, whose qualities are acknowledged as excellent and worthy of dissemination.

4.9.3.1 Moral/religious traits are manifestly linked to the ethnicity of the figure. The moral and religious qualities of those who live by observing the Jewish Law are described explicitly by the high priest at 139-169.

4.9.4 Both the high priest Eleazar and the King Ptolemy, along with Demetrius of Phalerum, are characterized by their intellectual gifts and understanding.

4.10 The Jewish characters' relations to the Jewish community are foregrounded: the Jews in Egypt are, in a sense, in a “doubled” social environment, a diaspora setting. See also 2.2., for the position of the governing voice Aristeas, who presents himself, somewhat ambiguously, as belonging in both the non-Jewish and the Jewish world.

4.10.2 The Jews of Egypt are portrayed as being integrated in two different societal environments. This is especially the case after the freeing of the Jews enslaved by Ptoelmy I (21-25). The governing voice presents the Jews of Egypt as thereafter integrated into the Egyptian environment.

4.10.3 A main character is portrayed as being integrated in his single societal environment. This applies particularly to the King and to Demetrius of Phalerum, integrated into Greco-Egyptian society; and to the high priest Eleazar and the 72 translators, integrated into Jewish society.

4.12 The narrative pace is slowed down or changed by the occasional or regular occurrence of extended descriptions.

4.12.1 There is extended description of one or more static objects: For example, the gifts which Ptolemy II sent to Eleazar are carefully described: we hear details of the Table for the Bread of the Presence (52-72) and of gold and silver bowls (73-78) and other vessels (79-80). There is description of the Temple (84-91); the Temple service (91-96); the citadel and its guardians (100-104); and the city of Jerusalem (105-107). The explicit stress on the beauty and aesthetic qualities of many of these objects is quite striking, and is unusual in the corpus of texts profiled in this Inventory.

4.12.2 There is extended description of the outward appearance of persons or other animated beings: Most notable is the extended description of Eleazar the high priest as he conducts the Temple service (96-99). The activities of the ordinary priests are described at 92-96.

4.12.3 There is extended description of the physical or architectural setting/landscape: See 4.13.1, with special reference to description of Temple walls, buildings, and furnishings, including the system for the provision of water (84-91). Note also the description of the countryside surrounding Jerusalem, its cultivation, and its natural resources (107-119). The description of the place where the translators are to carry out their work is full given in great detail (301 ff.).

4.13 The narrative pace is slowed down or changed by frequent or prominent quotation of speech and text: The following documents are quoted verbatim: a copy of the the decree of Ptolemy II freeing slaves (21-25); a memorandum of Demetrius regarding the appropriateness of the decision to translate the Jewish Law (29-32); the letter of Ptolemy II to Eleazar (35-40); and the letter of Eleazar to Ptolemy II (41-46). Quotation of specch dominates the narrative section describing the symposium (187-292), and is prominent also in the account of the embassy to Jerusalem, in the course of which Eleazar speaks at length about the nature of the Jewish Law (130-169).

4.13.1 Quoted wording constitutes a plot-driving event in its own right: This is the case for the account of the symposium; and the quotations of documents and letters serve also to drive the plot and to further the action.

4.13.3 Quoted wording is presented as a written message sent from one character to another: in the case of Demetrius' memorandum, urging that the translation of the Law be made (29-32); and the letters exchanged between Ptolemy II and Eleazar (35-40; 41-46).

Top of the Page

7.1 Narrative or thematic correspondences, or overlap of specific wording, occur between a non-biblical text and one or more biblical texts in a manner that is prominent or pervasive.

7.1.3 There is functionally important employment of quotations of biblical wording, explicitly marked as quotations. This is apparent particularly in the speech of Eleazar in response to the questions posed by Andreas and Aristeas about the character of the Jewish Law (130-169). For example, we hear (at 153, 161) of "animals which are cloven-footed and chew the cud" (compare Lev. 11:3); at 155 there is a quotation of words recalling Deut. 7:18-19, 21 explicitly marked; and at 160 a reference to Deut 6:5 (the Shema').

7.1.4 The text’s language is marked by features or by specific wording also found in the language of the Hebrew Bible as it appears in the LXX translation: examples of this include the technical terms used to describe the vestments of the high priest (96-99), which should be compared with LXX of Exod. 28-29; and the details of the table for the Temple sent to Eleazar by Ptolemy II at 57-58 (compare Exod.25:23-30) For an interpretation which sees far-reaching "typological" parallels between the whole narrative of Aristeas and biblical narrative, see Kovelman, Between Alexandria and Jerusalem, ch. 4.

7.2.5 [There are prominent single allusions to specific wording found in the partner text: This may, occasionally, be the case. Thackeray noted in the expression "to add to his stock of knowledge and acquirements" (line 2) an iambic line which he considered similar to material surviving in fragments of Sophocles. Expressions used in 31 indicate that the governing voice wishes to invoke words written by Hecataeus of Abdera.]

Top of the Page

8.1 Standard forms or contents formulated in set phrases, set sentence formats, or clauses in a standard syntactic connection.

8.1.4 Unit of a biblical quotation together with a hermeneutically dependent formulation; midrashic unit: this is rare, but occurs at 155, 160, and 161.

8.1.4.1 The expressive use of unmarked biblical wording whose function in the text’s discourse is enhanced or achieved by it being recognised as coming from a Scripture: rare, being confined to expressive use of the LXX to describe the Table of the Bread of the Presence (52-72); aspects of the Temple and its service (84-96); and the high priest's vestments (96-99). If the governing voice does not expect the addressee to understand that the words "animals which are cloven-footed and chew the cud" (mentioned at 153, 161) as being a citation of the Bible (see Lev. 11:3), then these words also represent the expressive use of another text.

8.1.10 List sentence enumerating items by words or phrases: This is found occasionally, being used most prominently for the catalogue of names of the translators (47-50), and for the enumeration of precious objects sent to Jerusalem.

8.1.15 Wish sentence: this is rare. See 178, "God save the King", for an example.

8.1.16 Descriptive sentence of a static (ocular) structure or object: see under 4.12.1.

8.1.20 Recommendation of a particular behaviour or statement of an ideal type of person in a “wisdom” or similar formulation: These are very common in the account of the symposium. Most of the answers given to the King's questions by the Jewish scholars fall into this category. The ideal person concerned may be either the "good man", the ideal king, or both together. The behaviour of kings as rulers is especially highlighted in these wisdom sentences, with their heavy emphasis on statecraft. The "wisdom" of these sentences, however, is in many cases applicable to individual human beings as they seek correct conduct in their lives.

Top of the Page

9.6 An extended portion or substantial proportion of the text continuously explicates local thematic transitions, by means of: discourse deixis introducing question-answer units. Of these the following require further comment:

9.6.3 Use of explicit reference to the textual position or sequence of information, articulating the passage as having coordinated parts: The whole of the extended symposium section (187-294) has a clearly marked, repetitive structure. Thus the king asks a single question, and each succeeding single question is asked of a different Jewish scholar, who then immediately returns an answer. Following the answer of the first scholar, the governing voice reports that the king praised the answer, and then "asked the next person" or "asked another" person, until all 72 scholars had been asked one question and had returned an answer. All the scholars are praised, thanked, or congratulated on their answers. The symposium lasted for seven days; thus it was that ten questions were asked of the scholars on each succeeding day, and the overplus of two questions was signified by the governing voice, extra questions being asked on stated days (see, for example, 273 where the matter is explicitly indicated). The first question was put to the most senior scholar, and the rest were then questioned in their order of precedence.

Top of the Page

11.1 The non-narrative text projects its thematic concern as being mainly one or more of the following:

11.1.2 Moral values or value judgments, including practical instructions on proper behaviour or self-preservation: A large section of the text (187-294) is dominated by advice on the behaviour of the king and his self-preservation.

11.2 The text is dominated by the reporting of events of the past: namely, the events leading up to and culminating in the translation of the Torah into Greek; the freeing of Jewish slaves in Egypt, and the grand symposium provided for the Jewish translators of the Torah by the King.

Top of the Page

12.1 Sampling of genre labels applied to the text in secondary literature: Narrative; Apologia; Charter Myth; Written speech; Historical Myth; Letter. From antiquity, we have the descriptions of Josephus, Ant XII.100, who quotes material from this text, speaking of it as "biblion", a book; Eusebius of Caesarea, PE IX.38, who entitles it "Concerning the Translation of the Jewish Law"; and Epiphanius, De Mens. et Ponder. 9, who describes it as "suntagma", literally "something drawn up in order", but a word which may also in certain circumstances refer to the constitution of a state.

Top of the Page

Bibliography:

Text: H. St.J. Thackeray, in H. B. Swete, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek (reprinted Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1989, pp. 533-606; this text is also found online: David M. Miller and Ian W. Scott (eds.), "Letter of Aristeas." Edition 1.0, The Online Critical Pseudepigrapha. Edited by Ken M. Penner, David M. Miller, and Ian W. Scott. (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006. Online: http://www.purl.org/net/ocp/LetAris.html). accessed 06/11/2010. H. Meecham, The Letter of Aristeas: A Linguistic Study with Special Reference to the Greek Bible (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1935); M. Hadas, Aristeas to Philocrates (Letter of Aristeas) (New York: Harper, 1951); A. Pelletier, Lettre d'Aristee a Philocrate, Sources Chretiennes 89 (Paris: Cerf, 1962); this includes a translation of the text into French.

Translations: H. T. Andrews, "The Letter of Aristeas", in (ed.) R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, vol. 1 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), pp. 83-122; H. St.J. Thackeray,The Letter of Aristeas (London: SPCK, 1917); R. J. H. Shutt, "Letter of Aristeas", in (ed.)  J. H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 2 (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1985), pp. 7-34; Erich S. Gruen, "The Letter of Aristeas", in L. H. Feldman, J. L. Kugel and L. H. Schiffman (eds.), Outside the Bible. Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society/University of Nebraska Press, 2013), pp. 2711–2768. German:  P. Riessler, Altjuedisches Schriften ausserhalb der Bibel (Augsburg: Benno Filser, 1928), pp. 193-233; N. Meisner, Aristeasbrief, JSHRZ II.1 (Guetersloh: de Gruyter, 1973), pp. 35-87.

Studies: For important observations on Greek epistolography, see A. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East (New York-London: Harper and Brothers, 1922), pp. 147-227. Studies on Aristeas in particular: O. Murray, "Aristeas and Ptolemaic Kingship", JTS 18 (1967), pp.337-371;  S. Jellicoe, The Septuagint and Modern Study (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), pp. 29-58; P. S. Alexander, "Epistolary Literature", in (ed.)  M. E. Stone, Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period (Assen: van Gorcum, 1984), pp. 579-596; R. Sollamo, "The Letter of Aristeas and the Origin of the Septuagint", in (ed.) B. A. Taylor, X Congress Volume of the IOSCS, 1998 (Chico: SBL, 2201), pp. 329-342;  S. Honigman, The Septuagint and Homeric Scholarship in Alexandria: A Study in the Narrative of the Letter of Aristeas (London: Routledge, 2003); J. M. Dines, The Septuagint (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 2004), pp. 28-33; Tessa Rajak,  Translation and Survival: The Greek Bible of the Ancient Jewish Diaspora (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 24-63. A. Kovelman, Between Alexandria and Jerusalem. The Dynamic of Jewish and Hellenic Culture (Leiden: Brill, 2005), ch. 4.



Top of the Page