[b-hebrew] OT Translations

Brian Roberts formoria at carolina.rr.com
Sun Jun 6 11:35:15 EDT 2004


Yes I was referring to the "Letter of Aristeas". I thought that was 
understood, considering the source. Refuted on what grounds?


On Sunday, June 6, 2004, at 11:30  AM, George F. Somsel wrote:

> 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.
> gfsomsel
> _________
> 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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