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ischen Litcratiir, vol. i. (4th edit. 1876) pp. 498-577. Volkniann, ait.
" Alexandriuer," in Pauly's Real-Enc. i. 1 (2nd edit.), pp. 743-753 (where
otlier literature is also given). Nicolai, Griech. LileraturgcschUhlc, vol. ii.
(1876) p. 80 sq.



§ 33. THE GRAECO-JEWISH LITERATURE. 157

was also cosmopolitan, for they, who now took pen in hand,
wrote not only for the little nation of the Greeks, but for the
educated classes throughout the world.

In this literary productivity Hellenized Jews also took a
part. And what has just been said applies to them above all
others, viz, that they introduced a new element into Greek
literature. The religious knowledge of Israel, which had
hitherto been the possession of only a small circle, now brought
its influence to bear in the department of Greek literature.
The religious faith of Israel, its history and its great and
sacred past, were depicted in the forms and witli the means
furnished by the literary culture of the Greeks, and thus made
accessible to the whole world. Such J*ews wrote not only
for their compatriots and co-religionists, but for the purpose
of making known to all mankind the illustrious history of
Israel and its pre-eminent religious enlightenment.

The connection hctwec7i their own national culture and that
of the Gh-eeks was of course, in the case of the Jews as well as
of other Orientals, no merely external one, Judaism and
Hellenism now really entered upon a process of mutual internal
amalgamation.^ Judaism, which in its unyielding Pharisaic
phase appears so rigidly exclusive, proved itself uncommonly
pliable and accommodating upon the soil of Hellenism, and
allowed a far-reaching influence to the ascendant Greek spirit.
The Hellenistic Jews were as unwilling as others to let them-
selves be deprived of that common possession of the entire
educated world, the great poets, philosophers and historians
uf Greece. They too derived from the living spring of the
Greek classics that human culture, which seemed to the ancient
world the supreme good. Under its influence however Judaism
imperceptibly underwent a change. It stripped itself of its
particularistic character. It discovered that there were true

^ On Hellenistic Judaism in general, comp. Diihne, Geschichtliche Darstel-
liing, i. 15 sqq. Lutterbeck, Die neutestamcntliclen Lehrhegrijfe, i. 99-120.
llerzfeld, Gesch. des Yolkes Jisrael, iii. 425-579. Ewald, GVvsc/i. des Volkes
Israel, iv. 308 sqq. Sie-fried, J'hilo, etc. pp. 1-27. The same, " Der
judische Ilelleni-mus " {ZtiUschr. fur ivis.se7iiifh. Theol. 1875, pp. 465-489).



158 § 33. THE GRAECO-JEWISH LITERATUEE.

and Divine thoughts in the literature of the heathen world
and ajDpropriated them, it embraced all men as brethren, and
desired to lead all, who were still walking in darkness, to the
knowledge of the truth.

But while the Jews were thus, like other Orientals, becom-
ing Greeks, it was at the same time seen that Judaism was
something very different from the heathen religions. Its
internal jpower of resistance was incomparably greater than
theirs. While the other Oriental religions were merged in
the general religious medley of the times, Judaism maintained
itself essentially inviolate. It adhered strictly and firmly to
the unity of the Godhead and the repudiation of all images
in worship, and maintained the belief that God's dealings
with mankind tend to a blissful end. Judaism by thus firmly
adhering, in presence of the pressure exercised by Hellenism,
to that wliicli formed its essence, proved the pre-eminence of
its religious strength.

The consciousness of this pre-eminence impresses its
character upon the Graeco-Jewish literature. It pursues for
the most part the 2^^^o.ctical aim of not only strengthening its
co-religioniats and making them acquainted with their great
past, but also of convincing its non-Jewish readers of the folly
of heathenism and of persuading them of the greatness of
Israel's history and of the futility of all attacks upon that
nation. Great part of it is therefore in the most compre-
hensive sense apologetic. In the predominance of the practical
aim it is akin to the Palestinian. For as the latter has
chiefly in view the strengthening and reviving of fidelity to
the law, the Graeco-Jewish literature at least for the most
part pursues the object of inspiring the non- Jewish world
with respect for tlie people and the religion of Israel, nay if
possible of bringing them to embrace the latter.

The chief seat of Hellenistic Judaism, and consequently of
Graeco-Jewish literature, was Alexandria, the capital of the
Ptolemies, which through their exertions had been raised to the
first rank as a place of scholarship in the Hellenistic period.



§ 83. THE GRAECO-JEWISH LITERATURE. 159

The means of culture afforded by the age were here at disposal
in a profusion not to be found elsewhere ; while at the same
time Jews were nowhere else found living together in so great
numbers out of Palestine. Hence there was an inward
necessity that Hellenic Judaism should here reach its utmost
prosperity, and its literature be here chiefly cultivated. But
it would be a mistake to suppose that such pursuits were
cultivated only in Alexandria. They were indeed by no
means specifically " Alexandrine," but the common possession
of Hellenistic, that is extra-Palestinian Judaism in general.
Nay even in Palestine they found advocates, although the
Maccabean movement opposed a strong barrier to the encroach-
ments of this tendency.*

The diversity both in literary form and theological stand-
point of the works now to be discussed is chiefly dependent
on their greater adherence, now to scriptural types, now to
Greek models. Between the two extremes here mentioned
however are found a great variety of productions, which it is
difficult to subject to definite classification. The following
groups may perhaps be most fitly distinguished.



I. TRANSLATIONS OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES,

1. The Septuagint.

The foundation of all Judaeo-Hellenistic culture is the
ancient anonymous Greek translation of the Scriptures, known
by the name of the Septuagint (ot i^SofiijKovTa, septuaginta
interpretes), and preserved' entire by the tradition of the
Christian Church ; Hellenistic Judaism is as inconceivable
without it as the evangelical Church of Germany without
Luther's translation of the Bible.*

* Comp. on Hellenistic Judaism in Palestine, especially Freudenthal,
Alexander Polyhistor (1875), pp. 127-129.

* The name "Septuagint" referred in the first place to the translation
of the Pentateuch, but was afterwards transferred to the other books also.



160 § 33. THE GRAECO-JEWISH LITERATURK

The single name must not mislead us to the notion, that
we have here to deal with a single work not only the work of
different authors, hut tJie ivork also of different times being sub-
sequently comprised under this name. The oldest part is the
translation of the Pentateuch, of the origin of which tlie so-
called Epistle of Aristeas gives a detailed narrative. King
Ptolemy II. Philadelphus (283-247 B.C.) was induced by his
librarian Demetrius Phalereus to have the laws of the Jews
also translated into Greek for his library. At his request the
Jewish high priest Eleasar sent him seventy-two able men,
six out of each tribe, by whose labours the whole was finished
in seventy -two days (for particulars, see No. vii.). The historical
nature of this account, embellished as it is by a multitude
of graphic details, is now generally given up. The only
question is whether the foundation of the fictitious embellish-
ment may not perhaps be some historical tradition, the
essence of which was, that the translation of the Jewish law
into Greek was projected by Ptolemy Philadelphus at the
instance of Demetrius Phalereus." This would in itself be
very possible. For the learned and literary zeal of the
Ptolemies and especially of I'tolemy Philadelphus would
certaitdy make it conceivable, that he should wish to incor-
porate the law of the Jews also in his library. In favour
of this view may also be cited the circumstance, that the
Jewish philosopher Aristobulus, in the time of Ptolemy VI.
l*hilometor, relates just what we 'have designated as the
possible essence of the tradition, without betraying any
acquaintance with the fictitious embellishments of the Epistle
of Aristeas, which seems to show that he was following some
tradition quite independent of the said Epistle.^ It is how-

" So e.g. Wellhauscn in his revision of Bleek's Einleituvg in das Alte
Testament (-Ith ed. 1878), p. 571 sqq.

* The passage from Aristobiihis is given in Ktiseb. Praep. evang. xiii. 12,
1-2 (ed. Gaisford). Aristobulus is here spoaking of the fact, that Plato
was already acquainted with the Jewish logislation. To show the possi-
bility of this he asserts, that its virtual contents had been translated into
Cieuk before Demetrius Phalereus. Then he continues : 'II 5' of^r, ipur.vna.



§ 33. THE GRAECO-JEWISH LITERATURE. 161

ever suspicious, that according to a very trustworthy account,
Demetrius Phalereus did not live at the court of Ptolemy at
all, but had already been banished by him from Alexandria
immediately after the death of Ptolemy Lagos/ Thus the
supposed essence of the tradition also falls, and there remains
merely a bare possibility that the Septuagint translation of
the Pentateuch owes its origin to the literary efforts of
Ptolemy Philadephus. It is also as possible, that it was
called forth by the exigencies of the Jews themselves. For
Jews, who had at heart the maintenance of an acquaintance
with the law even among the Dispersion, observing that the
knowledge of the sacred language ^was more and more
decreasing, and that the Jews of the Dispersion were appro-
priating Greek as their mother tongue, might feel themselves
induced to translate the law into Greek for the purpose of
preserving the knowledge of it among Greek Jews also.
This translation, having been in the first place undertaken as
a private labour, gradually obtained official validity also.
But obscure as is the origin of the translation, it may be
safely admitted, on internal grounds, that its locality wa&
Alexandria and its date the third century before Christ, for
the Hellenist Demetrius, who wrote in the time of Ptolemy
IV. (222-205), certainly made use of it (see below, No. iii.).
The preceding remarks apply only to the translation of the
Pentateuch, to which alone the Aristeas legend refers. But
after the sacred Thorah had once been made accessible to
Hellenistic Jews, the need of possessing the rest of the
Scriptures in the Greek tongue was gradually experienced.
Hence translations first of the prophets and afterwards of the
Kagiographa followed. These too chiefly originated in Egypt.

tZv Zioe. Tou uof^ov ttuvtuv iTrt tov ■TrpoffX'yoptvdevTo: Oi^iadsXipow fictaihtui,
ffoD Se -TTpo'/ovov, ■7rpo(Tiv£yx.ct,u£vov jAiii^ovx (PiT^orifiiuv, Ari(Anrpiov tov ^xKri-
piug vpciy/^XTzvoxf/,ii/ou roc Trspl rovruv.

7 Tte authority for this is Hermippus Calliraachus, who lived under
Ptolemy III. and lY. See the passage from Diogenes Laert. v. 78, in
liiiiller, Fragm. hist, grace, iii. 47, and in the same work, p. 48, the dis-
cutsious on the credibility of the information.

DIV. II. VOL. III. li



1G2 § 33. THE GRAECO-JEWISH LITERATUEK

Some of the Hagiographa, such as the Book of Daniel and
some of the psalms, not having been composed till the era of
the Maccabees, the Greek translations of these more recent
Hagiographa cannot have been made earlier than about the
middle of the second century before Christ. It seems how-
ever that in fact the translations into Greek of the bulk of
the Hagiographa together with the prophets were at about
this time already in existence. Sirach the grandson of
Jesus, who came to Egypt in the year 132, excuses the
defects of his translation by the fact, tliat what is said in
Hebrew does not retain the same meaning when translated
into another language, which is, he says, the case not only
in his work, but also in the Law and the Prophets and the
other Scriptures (Wisdom, Prolog. : ov yap laoSvvafiel aura
iv kavTol^ kjSpalcnt Xeyo/xeva kol orav /lera^Ofj et9 krepav
lyXcoaaaV ou fiovov 8e Taura, dWa Kal avrd



Online LibraryEmil SchürerA history of the Jewish people in the time of Jesus Christ .. (Volume 2 pt.3) → online text (page 17 of 51)