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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

ARISTEAS ( Letter of).—This interesting piece of fiction may find a place in this Dictionary, because it gives the first account of that work which more than any other paved the way of the gospel in early times, namely, the Greek translation of the OT, the so-called Septuagint. There is no agreement as yet about either the age or the aim of this composition. That it is a fiction is now generally admitted. The author pretends to have been one of the two ambassadors—Andreas, ἀρχισωματοφύλαξ of the king, being the other—sent by king Ptolemaeus Philadelphus to the high priest Eleazar of Jerusalem in order to get for him a copy of the Law, and men to translate it for the Royal Library at Alexandria. The letter gives a long description of the gifts sent by Philadelphus to Jerusalem, of the city, its temple and the religious customs of the Jews, and of the table-talk between the king and each of the 72 interpreters. When the work was finished, a solemn curse was denounced on any one who should change anything in it (cf.  Deuteronomy 4:2,  Revelation 22:18-19). Schürer, I. Abrahams, and others fix the date about b.c. 200; Herriot (on Philo) dates it 170–150; Wellhausen ( Isr . [Note: Israelite.] und Jud. Gesch. 3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] ) 1897, p. 232) in the 1st cent. b.c. (but in 4th ed. 1901, p. 236, he assigns it to the 2nd cent.); Wendland, between 96 and 63,† [Note: In Hastings’ DB iv. 438b, line 7 from bottom of text, read 63 for 93.] nearer to 96; L. Cohn doubts whether it was known to Philo; Graetz placed it in the reign of Tiberius, and Willrich ( Judaica , 1900, pp. 111–130) brings its composition down to ‘later than a.d. 33.’ Lombroso was the first to show that the ‘author was well acquainted with the details of court life in the times of the Ptolemies’; and recent researches have confirmed this; on the other hand, there are interesting connexions with the Greek of the NT; compare καταβολή used absolutely for ‘creation’ ( Matthew 13:35 and Aristeas, § 129 [a usage apparently unknown to Hort ad  1 Peter 1:20, and Swete, Introd. p. 397]); ἀνατάττεσθαι ( Luke 1:1 and Aristeas, § 144;  Matthew 6:31-32 and Aristeas, § 140, etc.).

While Jerome had already called attention to the fact that Aristeas speaks only of the Law as having been translated by the 72 interpreters, in later times it became customary to consider the whole Greek OT as the work of the ‘Septuagint.’ Philo seems to follow a somewhat different tradition, and mentions that in his days the Jews of Alexandria kept an annual festival in honour of the spot where the light of this translation first shone forth, thanking God for an old but ever new benefit. He is sure that God heard the prayer of the translators ‘that the greater part of mankind, or even the whole of it, may profit by their work, when men shall use philosophical and excellent ordinances for regulating their lives.’

On the use made of the Greek OT in the NT see Swete, pp. 381–405, ‘Quotations from the LXX Septuagint in the NT.’ That Jesus Himself was acquainted with it would seem to follow from the quotation in  Matthew 15:9 =  Mark 7:7. For the words δὲ σέβονταί με ye are the Septuagint rendering of the Hebrew יִראָחָםוַחְּהי, which rendering rests on a confusing of the first word with וָחהוּ (noticed already by Grotius). But it is doubtful whether we are entitled to expect in our Greek Gospels such a verbatim report of the words of Jesus.

On the influence of the Septuagint on the spread of the Gospel, cf. (in addition to older works like Grinfield, Oikonomos, etc.) Alfred Deissmann, ‘Die Hellenisierung des semitischen Monotheismus,’ Leipzig, 1903 (reprinted from Neue Jahrbücher für das klassische Altertum 1903).

Literature.—The Letter of Aristeas was first published in Latin (Rome, 1471 fol.) in the famous Latin Bible of Sueynheim and Pannartz; first edition of the Greek text by Simon Schard, Basle, 1561; all subsequent editions superseded by that of (Mendelssohn-) Wendland (Lipsiae, Teubner, 1900), and that of H. St. J. Thackeray in H. B. Swete’s Introduction to the OT in Greek (Cambridge, 1900, 2nd ed. 1902). English translations by J. Done, 1633 and 1685; Lewis, 1715; Whiston ( Authentic Records , i. 423–584), 1727; recently by Thackeray ( JQ R [Note: QR Jewish Quarterly Review.] xv., April 1903). Compare, further, Abrahams, ‘Recent Criticism on the Letter of Aristeas’ ( ib. xiv. 321–342); the works on the Septuagint (Swete, l.c.  ; Nestle in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible iv.); Friedlander, Geschichte der jüdishcen Apologetik (Zurich, 1903).

Eb. Nestle.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [2]

( Ἀριστέας ) or Aristeus ( Ἀρισταῖος ), a Cyprian by nation, was a high officer at the court of Ptolemy Philadelphus, and was distinguished for his military talents. Ptolemy, being anxious to add. to his newly-founded library at Alexandria.(B.C. 273) a copy of the Jewish law, sent Aristeas and Andreas, the commander of his body-guard, to Jerusalem. They carried presents to the Temple, and obtained from the high-priest, Eleazar, a genuine copy of the Pentateuch, and a body of seventy elders, six from each tribe, who could translate it into Greek. On their arrival, they are said to have completed the Alexandrian version of the Old Testament, usually termed the "Septuagint" from the number of translators. The story about the translation rests chiefly on the reputed letter of Aristeas himself, but it is told, with a few differences, by Aristobulus, the Jewish philosopher (Euseb. Praep. Ev. 13:12), by Philo Judaeus (Vit. Mos. 2), and Josephus (Ant. 12, 2); also by Justin Martyr (Cohort. ad Graec. p. 13; Apol. p. 72; Dial. cum Tryph. p. 297), Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 3, 25), Clemens Alexandrinus (Strom. 1, 250), Tertullian (Apolog. 18), Euseb. (Praep. Ev. 8:1), Athanasius (Synsp. S. Scrip. 2, 156), Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech. p. 36, 37), Epiphanius (De Mens. et Pond. 3), Jerome (Praef. in Pentateuch; Qucest. in Gen. Promm.), Augustine (De civ. Dei, 18, 42, 43), Chrysostom (Adv. Jud. 1, 443), Hilary of Poictiers (In Psalms 2), and Theodoret (Proof. in Psalm.). The letter was printed, in Greek and Latin, by Schard (Basil. 1561, 8vo); reprinted at Oxford (1692, 8vo); best ed. in Gallandii Biblioth Patr. 2, 771 (Fabricii Bibl. Graec. 3, 669; in Engl. by Lewis (Lond. 1715, 12mno). Sec First, Bibl. Jud. 1, 51 sq. (See Septuagint).