[b-hebrew] OT Translations

George F. Somsel gfsomsel at juno.com
Sun Jun 6 11:30:43 EDT 2004

I don't know what Book XII, Chapter II, Section 'X' you are referring to,
but this sounds very much like the "Letter of Aristeas."  This letter has
been categorically refuted as regards any historical accuracy.  I would
not recommend reliance on it.  There are other (modern) works in which
scholars who have studied the LXX draw some conclusions regarding its
translation.  A good place to begin would be _Textual Criticism of the
Hebrew Bible_ by Emanuel Tov.  He also deals with the proto-Masoretic and
proto-Samaritan texts.


On Sun, 6 Jun 2004 09:57:15 -0400 Brian Roberts
<formoria at carolina.rr.com> writes:
> Dear Listmembers,
> Thank you for your help with my previous questions. I have another, 
> related line of thought to present to you for consideration and 
> comments.
> The Book of the Acts of Solomon (as well as other “lost books”) was 
> translated into Greek and kept in the Alexandria Library beginning 
> in 
> the reign of Ptolemy I Philadelphus, during the translation of the 
> LXX. 
> To state unequivocally that this record was preserved requires one 
> of 
> two pieces of evidence:
> a Extant physical manuscript or similar haghiographical evidence 
> that 
> fits the biblical description of “the book of the Acts of Solomon”;
> b Undeniable evidence of the existence of this text, based on either 
> the 
> comments and/or actions of others in proceeding years.
> The only reliable method by which these records could have been 
> preserved was through the canonization of the Hebrew Bible.  That 
> process was a two-fold one:
> 1.  Oral traditions were preserved among the Hebrews, describing 
> events 
> from their earliest history , were passed from  father to son, from 
> mother to daughter, as a sign of their heritage, for centuries;
> 2.  While the Israelites dutifully maintained records on the 
> activities 
> of their kings, royal families, and religious leaders, there was not 
> much attention given the knowledge they possessed as a people.  The 
> Babylonian Captivity changed all that.  In 587 BCE, the nobility, 
> priests, and wealthy among Israelite society were shuffled off in 
> multitudes to Babylon for what would be 70 years of slavery.
> With the realization that they could lose their identity in 
> Babylonia 
> came a new desire to prevent that loss at all costs.  The Israelite 
> scholars were spurred into action.  “History was written, poetry was 
> collected, and the words of the great prophets were arranged and 
> preserved” (Tullock 5).
> The process of canonization had begun.  Of course, it took many 
> years 
> for all of the available books and manuscripts to be collected, and 
> it 
> is obvious that the source material used, including the “Book of the 
> Acts of Solomon” was being preserved during the Exilic Period.  
> After 
> much effort and time, there was finally composed a rudimentary 
> Hebrew 
> Bible.
> After the Israelite citizens were allowed to return to their 
> homeland, 
> released by a sympathetic Persian monarch, they took their sacred 
> writings with them.  It is actually superfluous to mention the 
> extreme 
> care that they took in preserving these manuscripts.  It is a 
> historical 
> fact that many texts survived the Exile, or else there would be no 
> Hebrew Bible today. There are multitudinous references by the 
> biblical 
> redactors to other sources in addition to the “Book of the Acts of 
> Solomon”, eg., “The Book of the Kings of Judah”. The offhand manner 
> in 
> which these sources are cited suggest in the strongest manner that 
> they 
> were still available to be read in some form during the 6th 
> century.
> The Septuagint in Alexandria
> During the intervening years, from 515 BCE to the late third century 
> BCE, there was obviously some work done at reorganizing the material 
> in 
> the Hebrew Canon, but it wasn’t until 275 BCE that the first attempt 
> was 
> made at translating the scriptures; that task was performed at the 
> library in Alexandria, Egypt.  The Alexandria Library was the 
> penultimate learning center on the African continent, indeed in the 
> whole Greek empire. Josephus records a significant event in the 
> process 
> of the library’s expansion which took place around 275 BCE:
> The occasion was this: -Demetrius Phalerius, who was library-keeper 
> to 
> the king, was now endeavoring, if it were possible, to gather 
> together 
> all the books that were in the habitable earth, and buying 
> whatsoever 
> was anywhere valuable, or agreeable to the king’s inclination...and 
> when 
> Ptolemy asked him how many ten thousands of books he had collected, 
> he 
> replied, that he had already about twenty times ten thousand; but 
> that, 
> in a little time, he should have fifty times ten thousand.  But he 
> said 
> he had been informed that there were many books of laws among the 
> Jews 
> worthy of inquiring after, and worthy of the king’s library...  
> (Book 
> XII, Chapter II, Section 1).
> It was this occasion and interest that prompted the Librarian to 
> write a 
> letter to Ptolemy, which expressed his own desire to acquire the 
> Jewish 
> books (Book XII, Chapter II, section 4).  After corresponding with 
> other 
> scholars, Demetrius discovered that many of the Jewish writings were 
> written in Hebrew, not Greek, and were considered by the Jews to be 
> “Holy Law”; so, the librarian suggested that the king, Ptolemy, 
> “...mayest write to the high priest of the Jews, to send six of the 
> elders out of every tribe, and those such as are most skillful of 
> the 
> laws, that by their means we may learn the clear and agreeing sense 
> of 
> those books...”  (Book XII, Chapter II, section 4).
> This series of narratives obviously describes the events which 
> preceded 
> the translation of the LXX.  The relevance here is clear:  
> Everything, 
> as far as religious texts, was there in Alexandria - the laws and 
> prophetic writings - all came, en masse and uncontested, from 
> Israel.  
> That is an historical fact, and requires no hypothesizing at all.  
> From 
> these facts, it becomes simple and logical to conclude that the 
> manuscript referred to as “the Book of the Acts of Solomon” in II 
> Kings 
> 11:41 was also conveyed to Egypt.  In fact, it is to be expected, as 
> Greek interest in foreign manuscripts, especially the writings from 
> Israel, was not an idle one, as the king himself, Ptolemy 
> Philadelphus, 
> actively supported both this action and the library’s continued 
> expansion.  The Hebrew texts remained in Egypt for a period of 
> years, 
> long enough to be copied, translated, and studied by Greek scholars; 
> then, they were returned home, along with the 70 translators. That 
> such 
> a large number of unfiltered, unedited manuscripts were removed to 
> Alexandria shows up clearly in  the Alexandrian canon, where we find 
> the 
> dozen-plus extra books not included in the MT. This is good evidence 
> that the MT we have is a later version, prepared after additional 
> canonical considerations were made.
> Any input?
> Brian Roberts
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