Aristeas, Letter of

Tessa Rajak

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics

Published online December 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780199381135 | DOI:

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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.

Article.  250 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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