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object of their hatred, on account of the sufferings
they had endured at her hands, and the indignities
she had offered to their religion ; but they feared, not
unnaturally, that the Law, translated into another
language, might be exposed to disfigurement and
misapprehension. The Hebrew language, in which
God had revealed Himself upon Mount Sinai, alone
appeared to them a worthy medium of the Divine
thought. Presented in a new garb, Judaism itself
appeared to the pious Judaeans estranged and pro-
faned. Consequently the day that was celebrated
as a festival by the Judaeans in Egypt was con-
sidered by their brethren in Judaea as a day of national
calamity, similar to that upon which the golden calf
had been worshipped in the desert, and it is even said
that this day was numbered amongst their fasts.

Different as were the points of view from which
the work was regarded, judged by the results pro-
duced by the Greek translation, there was reason
both for the joy of the Alexandrian and the sorrow
of the Palestinean Judaeans. Thanks to its Grecian
garb, Judaism became known to the Greeks, who
were the civilisers of the world ; and before five
centuries had elapsed, the principal nations had be-
come acquainted with its teachings. The Greek
translation was the first apostle Judaism sent forth to
the heathen world to heal it of its perversity and
godlessness. Through its means the two opposing
systems the Judaean and the Greek were drawn
nearer together. Owing to their subsequent circula-
tion through the world by means of the second
apostle, Christianity, the tenets of Judaism were


fused into the thought and language of the various
nations, and at present there is no civilised language
which has not, by means of this Greek translation,
taken words and ideas from Judaean literature. Thus
Judaism was introduced into the literature of the
world, and its doctrines were popularised.

On the other hand, however, it innocently led to a
mistaken view of the Judaean Law, becoming in a
measure a false prophet, promulgating errors in the
name of God. The difficulty of translating from
Hebrew into Greek, a radically different language,
at no time an easy task, was greatly increased at
that period by the want of exact knowledge of He-
brew, and of the true nature of Judaism, which made
it impossible for the translator always to render cor-
rectly the sense of the original. Moreover, the Greek
text was not so carefully guarded but that, from time
to time, arbitrary emendations might have been intro-
duced. Added to this, the translation was probably
used as a guide for the interpreter on the Sabbaths
and Holy Days, and it depended upon his taste,
learning, and discretion to make what changes he
pleased. And, in fact, the Greek text is full of
additions and so-called emendations, which later on,
in the time of the conflicts between Judaism and
Christianity, became still more numerous, so that
the original form of the translation cannot always be
recognised in its present altered state. Nevertheless
the Alexandrian Judaeans of later generations be-
lieved so firmly in the perfection of this translation,
that by degrees they deemed that the original could
be dispensed with, and depended entirely upon the
translation. Thus they came to look upon the mis-
takes which had crept into the Greek Bible either
through ignorance, inability to cope with grammatical
difficulties, or arbitrary additions, as the word of
God, and things were taught in the name of Judaism
which were entirely foreign or even contrary to it.
In a word, all the victories which Judaism gained


during the lapse of years over civilised heathendom,
as well as all the misconstructions which it suffered,
were the effects of this translation.

The great estimation in which this work was held
by the Greek-speaking Judaeans, and in time also
by the heathens, gave rise to legendary glorifications,
which were finally, about a century later, crystallised
in a story which relates that the origin of the transla-
tion was due to the steps taken by Ptolemy Phila-
delphus, whose attention had been attracted to the
value of the Book of the Law by his librarian Demet-
rius. Demetrius declared it worthy of a place in the
Royal Library, provided it were translated into
Greek. Thereupon the king sent his ambassadors
to the high-priest Eleazar with costly presents,
requesting him to choose several wise men, equally
versed in Hebrew and in Greek, and to bid them
repair to his court. The high-priest selected seventy-
two learned men, taking representatives from the
twelve tribes, six from each, and sent them to Alex-
andria, where they were received with great pomp
by the king. The seventy-two delegates finished
the translation of the Torah in seventy-two days, and
read it aloud before the king and all the assembled
Judaeans. It was from this legend, looked upon till
recently as an historical fact, that the translation
received the name of the Seventy-two, or more
briefly, of the Seventy, Septuagint.

A beginning having been was natural that
a desire should arise to render the other literature of
Judaism accessible to Greek readers, and so, by
degrees, the historical books of the Jews also appeared
in a Grecian garb. On account of the greater diffi-
culties they offered, the poetical and prophetical books
were the last ones to find their way to the Greek
world. These translations gave birth to a new art
in the Egyptian community that of pulpit oratory.
Was it, perhaps, customary in Judaea, when the Law
was read, not only to translate the portion into the


language then in use among the people (the Chaldaean
or Aramaean), but also to explain it for the benefit of
the ignorant, and was this practice also introduced into
the houses of prayer of the Egyptian Judaeans? Or
was it adopted by the latter because the Hebrew
language had become foreign to them ? However,
whether it was an imitation or whether it originated
with the Egyptian Judaeans, this custom of translating
and explaining obscure verses and portions not easily
understood created a new art. The interpreters,
with the fluency of speech derived from their work,
were not satisfied with merely rendering the original
text, but expanded it, adding reflections thereon, and
drawing from it applications to contemporary events,
and notes of admonition and warning. Thus out of
the explanation of Scripture arose the sermon, which,
in the Greek spirit of giving to all things an at-
tractive and beautiful form, carne by degrees artis-
tically to be developed Pulpit oratory is the child of
the Alexandrian-Judaean community. It was born in
its midst, it grew up and was perfected, becoming
later a model for other nations.

The charm which the Hellenistic Judaeans found in
the Biblical writings, now made accessible to them,
awoke among the learned the desire to treat of those
writings themselves, to bring to light the doctrines
contained in them, or to clear up their apparent
crudities and contradictions. Thus arose a Judaeo-
Greek literature, which spread and bore fruit, influ-
encing an ever-widening circle. But little is known
of the infancy of this peculiar literature which held,
as it were, two such repellent nationalities in close
embrace. That literature appears also to verify past
experience, that rhythmic and measured sentences are
more pleasing than simple prose. There are still
some fragments of these writings extant which relate,
in Greek verse, the old Hebrew history. This literary
activity reawakened in Egypt the old anger of the
Samaritans against the Judaeans. These two peoples


agreeing in their adherence to the Law, in their rec-
ognition of one God, and in their condemnation of
idolatry, still retained their old hatred against each
other. Although the Samaritans, like the Jews, were
forced by the officers of Antiochus to renounce the
worship of the God of Israel, yet they did not assist
the Judaeans to fight their common enemy, but rather
sided with the latter against their own co-religionists.
During the religious persecutions many Samari-
tans appear to have emigrated into Egypt, and to
have joined the descendants of their own tribe who
had been established there since the time of Alex-
ander. These Egyptian Samaritans had, like the
Judseans, adopted the customs and the language of
the Greeks which prevailed in Egypt, and now the
enmity which had existed between the adherents of
Jerusalem and of Gerizim was transferred to a foreign
land, where they opposed each other with that furious
zeal which co-religionists in a strange country are wont
to exhibit in support of cherished traditions. The
translation of the Torah into Greek, under the
patronage of the king Philometor, appears to have
cast the firebrand into their midst. How fiercely
must the anger of the Samaritans have been pro-
voked by the omission in the text of the Septuagint
of that verse which they looked upon as a proof of
the sanctity of their Temple, "Thou shalt build an
altar in Gerizim" ! The Samaritans in Alexandria
desired to make a protest against the translation, or
rather against the alleged falsification, of the text,
and as some of their number were in favour at court,
they induced the mild Philometor to appoint a con-
ference between the two religious sects, at which the
question of the superior sanctity of the Samaritan or
of the Judcean Temple should be decided. This was
the first religious dispute held before a temporal
ruler. The two parties chose the most learned men
among them as their advocates. On the side of the
Judseans appeared a certain Andronicus, the son of

CH. xxiv. PHILO THE ELDER. 517

Messalam, whilst the Samaritans had two champions,
Sabbai and Theodosius. In what manner the reli-
gious conference was carried on, and what its conse-
quences were, cannot now be ascertained, the
accounts that have come down to us having assumed
a legendary form ; each party claimed the victory,
and both exaggerated its effects. Religious dis-
putations have never yet achieved any real results.
The Judstan historians pretend that an arrangement
had been made to the effect that it should be the
right and the duty of the king to put to death those
who were defeated in argument a statement for
which there is no foundation. When the Jewish
advocates pointed out the long roll of high-priests
from Aaron down to their own time who had offici-
ated in the Temple at Jerusalem, and how that
Temple had been enriched by holy gifts from the
kings of Asia, advantages and distinctions which
the Temple at Gerizim could not boast, the Samar-
itans were publicly declared to be vanquished, and
according to agreement they were put to death.
The Samaritan accounts, which are of a much later
date and more confused, ascribe the victory to their

This controversy respecting the superior sanctity
of Jerusalem or Shechem was, it appears, carried on
in Greek verse. A Samaritan poet, Theodotus,
praised the fertility of the country round Shechem,
and in order to magnify the importance of that city
he related the story of Jacob, describing how he
rested there ; also the ill-usage which his daughter
Dinah received from the young nobles of She-
chem, and the revenge taken upon them by her
brothers, Simeon and Levi. In opposition to Theo-
dotus, a Judaean poet, Philo the Elder, exalted the
greatness of Jerusalem in a poem. He extolled
the fertility of the Judaean capital, and spoke of its
ever-flowing subterranean waters, which were con-
ducted through channels from the spring of the


High Priest. The poet endeavoured to enhance the
sanctity of the Temple in Jerusalem, which stood on
Mount Moriah, on the summit of which Abraham
had been about to offer up his son Isaac an act
which shed everlasting glory upon all his de-

Meanwhile, the sky which, during the reign of
Philometor, had shone so brightly over the Judseans
in Alexandria, became dark and threatening. It
seemed as if the parent state and its offshoot were
linked together for good or evil. Prosperous and
adverse days appeared to visit the two communities
almost in the same alternation. Through the mis-
fortune of Jonathan, Judaea had fallen into adver-
sity, and a new reign in Egypt had brought trouble
and sorrow to the Judeeans in Alexandria. That
same Ptolemy VII. (Physcon), who had reigned
many years with Philometor and had conspired to
destroy him, sought, after his death, to obtain the
crown in spite of the existence of a rightful heir.
The novelty-loving, fickle and foolish populace of
Alexandria was inclined to recognise as king the
deformed and wicked Physcon. The widowed
queen, Cleopatra, who had governed during her
son's minority, had likewise many adherents, and in
particular Onias was devoted to her cause. When
war broke out between Cleopatra and her hostile
brother, Onias with his Judsean army received as their
share of the spoil one district or province. At last a
compromise was effected, in virtue of which Physcon
was to marry his sister, and both were to reign to-
gether. This doubly incestuous marriage was most
unhappy. No sooner had the inhuman Physcon en-
tered Alexandria than he put to death, not only the fol-
lowers of the rightful heir, but also the youth himself,
who was slain on the very day on which Physcon mar-
ried Cleopatra. Bitter enmity between king and
queen, brother and sister, was the consequence of this
cruel deed. The sensual and barbarous monster vio-


lated his wife's daughter, and filled Alexandria with
terror and bloodshed, causing the greater part of the
inhabitants to flee from the city. Was it likely that he
would spare the Judaeans who, as he well knew, were
the supporters of his hated sister and wife? Having
heard that Onias was bringing an army to her assist-
ance, he ordered his soldiers to seize all the Judaeans
in Alexandria, with their wives and their children,
and to cast them bound and naked upon a public
place, to be trampled to death by elephants. The
animals were intoxicated with wine in order to irritate
and excite them against their helpless victims. But
the latter were rescued from impending death in a
manner which seemed miraculous to the trembling,
unhappy Judaeans. The enraged beasts rushed to
the side where the king's people were seated awaiting
the cruel spectacle, and many of them were killed,
while the Judaeans were unhurt. The Alexandrian
Judaeans kept the day of their heaven-sent deliver-
ance as a perpetual memorial. From this time,
indeed, Physcon appears to have left the Judaeans un-
molested. Indeed, during the remainder of his reign
their literary ardour and their zeal for the acquisition
of knowledge increased greatly, and their writers
appear to have applied themselves undisturbed to
their works. Physcon himself was an author, and
wrote memoirs and memorabilia, dealing with his-
torical events and facts in natural history. A Judaean
called Judah Aristobulus is said to have been his or
his brother's master.

Whilst the Alexandrian-Judaean community was
occupying a high intellectual position, the Judaean
people in their own land attained a lofty political
eminence, from which they could look proudly back
on their former abject state. What progress they
had made during the reign of Jonathan is clearly
shown by the simple comparison of their condition
after his death, with that in which they found them-
selves at the fall of Judas. Judas's successor at first


had been able to draw around him only a handful of
faithful followers ; a leader without right or title, he
possessed neither fortresses, nor means of defence
or attack, and was hard pressed by enemies at home
and abroad. Jonathan's successor, on the contrary,
Simon Tharsi, the last of the heroic sons of Mattathias,
inheriting a recognised title, and being invested with
the dignity of high-priest, became at once the ruler of a
powerful people. He found strong fortresses in the
land, and but one enemy in his path, who had already
been much weakened by his predecessor. Jonathan's
death, therefore, was followed by no disastrous results
to the nation, but served to inflame the whole people
to avenge the noble Hasmonsean high-priest upon
his crafty murderer. Simon had simply to step into
the vacant leadership. Although approaching old age
at the time when he became the leader of his people,
he still possessed the freshness of youth and the fiery
courage which marked him when his dying father
directed him to be the wise counsellor in the then im-
pending war against Syrian despotism. So vigorous
was the Hasmonsean race that few indeed of their
members could be accused of cowardice or weakness,
and the greater number of them evinced till their last
breath the strength and courage of youth. By the
side of Simon stood his four sons, Jonathan, Judah,
Mattathias, and one whose name is unknown, who
had all been moulded into warriors by the constant
fighting in which they had been engaged. Simon,
following the policy of his brothers, took advantage
of the weakness of the enemy to increase the defences
and strength of his country, and to extend the do-
minion of Judaea ; but he achieved even more, for he
delivered his people completely from Syrian rule and
raised Judaea to the rank of an independent nation.
Simon's government, which lasted almost nine years,
was therefore rightly described as glorious. The
aged were allowed to enjoy their closing days in
peace, while the young rejoiced in the exercise of


their activity and strength; "they sat every one under
his vine and fio- tree, with none to make them afraid."


Simon's first step was an act of independence.
Without waiting, as had been the custom hitherto, for
the confirmation of the Syrian princes, he accepted
at once the office of high-priest offered him by the
people. To provide against the war which this step
of his might bring on, he hastened to provision and
place in a state of defence the fortresses of Judaea.
He also opened negotiations with the dethroned king
Demetrius II., although the latter had repaid Jona-
than's assistance with base ingratitude. Simon sent
him, through a solemn embassy, a golden crown as
an acknowledgment of his regal power, and prom-
ised him aid against Tryphon on condition that the
independence of Judaea should be fully recognised
by a complete release from payment of taxes and ser-
vices. The result justified his calculations. Demetrius
willingly accepted Simon's offer, hoping to assure
himself of a faithful ally, who would assist him in a
possible war against Tryphon. He wrote " to the
high-priest and Friend of the King, to the elders and
the people of Judaea," as follows : " We have received
the golden crown which you have sent us, and we
are ready to make a lasting treaty of peace with you,
and to write to our administrators that we remit your
taxes. What we have granted you shall remain
yours. The fortresses that you have erected shall
be yours. We give you absolution for all the
offences, intentional as well as unintentional, that you
have committed against us up to this day ; we release
you from the crown which you owe us, and we remit
the taxes that were laid on Jerusalem. If there be
any among you anxious and fit to enter our army,
they may be enlisted, and let there be peace between
us." The day on which this immunity had been
granted was considered by the Judaeans so important
and valued an era, that its date, the 2yth of lyar
(May), was recorded among the half-holidays com-
memorative of victory.


The people looked upon these concessions of
Demetrius as the inauguration of their independence,
and from that epoch the customary manner of count-
ing time according to the years of the reigning Syrian
king was discontinued. They now reckoned from
the date of Simon's accession to the government.
All legal documents of the year 142 were dated
"In the first year of Simon, the High-Priest, Com-
mander of the Army and Prince of the Nation."
Confident of their strength, the people anticipated
this royal prerogative for their leader, who was not
at that time entitled to it, for he had as yet been rec-
ognised as the legitimate prince neither by Syria nor
by the nation. Simon himself does not appear
to have looked upon the concessions received as
sufficient to bestow complete independence upon his
country, but dated his reign from a later year, when
he obtained the right of coining money. The joy
experienced by the inhabitants of Jerusalem at the
recovery of their freedom, the loss of which they had
bitterly bewailed since the destruction of the Judsean
kingdom under their last king Zedekiah, was so
great that the elders or members of the Great
Council felt impelled to ccmmunicate the all-import-
ant event to the Judaeans in Egypt. In doing so,
however, they had to overcome a serious difficulty:
so to word their communication as not to offend
Onias, the founder of the Onias Temple, the de-
scendant of the family of high-priests which, by the
acts of the Hasmonaeans in Judaea, had been com-
pletely and hopelessly supplanted. Even supposing
that Onias or his sons had entirely relinquished the
prospect of ever possessing the office of high-priest,
it must have been painful to remind them, and their
followers in Egypt, that their family had been thrust
aside by the people in Judaea.

The representatives of the nation managed to pass
lightly over this difficult subject, and descanted upon
the fact that, after their long sufferings and persecu-


tions, God had heard their prayer, and had once more
given them the power of offering sacrifices, of re-
kindling the holy lights, and of placing the shew-
bread in the Temple, which had been spoiled by the
enemy and polluted by the shedding of innocent
blood. This delicate statement, which carefully
avoided giving any offence to the Judseans in Egypt,
appears to have produced a very favourable impres-
sion upon them. They likewise rejoiced at the
recovered independence of Judaea, and ascribed great
importance to the year in which it was obtained.

The second noteworthy act of Simon consisted
in driving out the remaining Hellenists from their
various hiding-places in the Acra at Jerusalem,
and in the fortresses of Gazara and Bethsur, and in
completely destroying any influence they may have
possessed. Gazara surrendered unconditionally.
Simon allowed the Hellenists to leave the place,
and ordered their dwellings to be cleared of their
idolatrous images. The Hellenists in the Acra, how-


ever, had fortified their position so well that Simon
was obliged to lay siege to it, and to reduce its
defenders by famine. At last they were overcome,
and the victors entered the Acra to the sound of
music and with solemn hymns of praise. In com-
memoration of the taking of the Acra, the 23rd lyar
(May 17) was ordered thenceforth to be kept as a
day of rejoicing. The taking of Bethsur appears to
have caused little difficulty. Of the expelled Hel-
lenists, some, it seems, found refuge in Egypt, others
renounced their idolatrous practices, and were again
received into the community, whilst those who re-
mained unchanged fell victims to the religious zeal of
the conquerors. It is related that the 22nd Elul (Sep-
tember) was set apart among the days of victory,
because it saw the death of those idolaters who had
allowed the respite of three days to elapse without
returning to their faith. Thus at length disappeared
the last vestiges of that party which, during nearly


forty years, had shaken the foundations of Judaism,
and which, in its apostate zeal, had called down upon
the people the calamities of civil contests and cruel
religious persecution, and brought a country to the
verge of ruin. The fortresses which Simon had
taken from the Hellenists, Bethsur and Gazara, were
remodelled, so as to serve as places of defence.
Of great importance, likewise, was the capture of
Joppa (Jaffa), by the acquisition of which seaport the
State received a large revenue ; the export and im-
port duties, which the Syrian kings had introduced,
now fell to the share of Judaea.

The Acra underwent a peculiar change at the

Online LibraryHeinrich GraetzHistory of the Jews (Volume 1) → online text (page 42 of 46)