3851Re: [lxx] Letter of Aristeas
- Oct 26, 2012Try not to confuse the dating of actual manuscripts with the estimated
dates of the writings. If Philo knew the Aristeas Letter (as Josephus
seems to have done), Aristeas must be earlier. Even if Philo operated
from a version of the legend independent of Aristeas, the legend must
precede Philo (unless, of course, Philo created the legend). Even though
we have no manuscripts of Philo's writings earlier than the third
century (if I remember correctly), secondary references to him (e.g. in
Josephus) and the contents of some of his writings (e.g. Embassy to
Gaius) place him before about 70 ce. Aristeas is dated by working back
from the accounts in Philo and Josephus and elsewhere, and on those
grounds is clearly prior to Philo, even if the manuscripts of Aristeas
The earliest fragments of Hebrew scriptural writings in Greek are dated
paleographically to the second century bce (Rylands Deuteronomy), so the
translating activities must predate the fragments. If the paleographical
judgments are wrong, of course, datings would be affected. But is is
difficult to imagine that the several surviving pre-Christian Greek
fragments of Pentateuchal scrolls, for example, could be explained as
representing translational efforts that originated as late as 100 bce.
Add to that the use of the Greek Pentateuch by Philo and others in the
first century ce, and dating for the translations much earlier than 100
bce seems necessary.
Similar problems and arguments exist for Greek Sirach and his
grandfather's Hebrew original, but the evidence points to pre 100 bce
there as well. I find it highly improbably that the Hebrew Pentateuch
originated in roughly the textual forms preserved today as late as 150
bce. Both the Hebrew and the Greek of Deuteronomy, at least, appear to
be significantly older.
On 10/26/2012 5:10 AM, frankclancy wrote:
> Dear Bob - why do you place the Letter before Philo? Why not later or
> at the same time period? I have read dates for the Letter from about
> 200 BCE to about 100 CE. I have seen no evidence at all that any
> Hebrew text was translated into Greek before 100 BCE so it would take
> time for such a legend to develop. In other words, it seems more
> realistic to date the Letter in the first century CE - or very late in
> the 1st century BCE.
> It also depends on the dates for the original Hebrew texts. Did Ben
> Sira, for example, know a Hebrew version of texts that we have today?
> And when was Ben Sira writing? And so on. If the Hebrew texts are rom
> the second half of the 2nd century BCE, then it is unlikely that the
> Greek translations occurred before 100 BCE.
> Frnk Clancy
> Kitchener, Ontario
> Aristeas may be "spurious," in the sense that it is not what it claims
> > to be, but it apparently is the oldest surviving version of the legend
> > of the translation of the Pentateuch into Greek, dating probably to the
> > 2nd century bce, and thus basic for your interests. The judgment
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