Chapter 1 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 3
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE PREPARATION FOR THE GOSPEL:
THE JEWISH WORLD IN THE DAYS OF CHRIST
THE JEWISH DISPERSION IN THE WEST
ORIGIN OF HELLENIST LITERATURE IN THE GREEK
TRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE
CHARACTER OF THE SEPTUAGINT.
When we turn from the Jewish 'dispersion' in the East to that
in the West, we seem to breathe quite a different atmosphere. Despite their
intense nationalism, all unconsciously to themselves, their mental
characteristics and tendencies were in the opposite direction from those of
their brethren. With those of the East rested the future of Judaism; with them
of the West, in a sense, that of the world. The one represented old Israel,
stretching forth its hands to where the dawn of a new day was about to break.
These Jews of the West are known by the term Hellenists - from ellhnizein, to conform to the language
and manners of the Greeks.
1. Indeed, the
word Alnisti (or Alunistin) - 'Greek' - actually occurs, as in
Jer. Sot. 21 b, line 14 from bottom. Böhl (Forsch. n. ein. Volksb. p. 7)
quotes Philo (Leg. ad Caj. p. 1023) in proof that he regarded the Eastern
dispersion as a branch separate from the Palestinians. But the passage does not
convey to me the inference which he draws from it. Dr. Guillemard (Hebraisms in
the Greek Test.) on Acts vi. 1, agreeing with Dr. Roberts, argues that the term
'Hellenist' indicated only principles, and not birthplace, and that there were
Hebrews and Hellenists in and out of Palestine. But this view is untenable.
Whatever their religious and social isolation, it was, in the
nature of thing, impossible that the Jewish communities in the West should
remains unaffected by Grecian culture and modes of thought; just as, on the
other hand, the Greek world, despite popular hatred and the contempt of the
higher classes, could not wholly withdraw itself from Jewish influences.
Witness here the many converts to Judaism among the Gentiles;2
witness also the evident preparedness of the lands of this 'dispersion' for the
new doctrine which was to come from Judea. Many causes contributed to render
the Jews of the West accessible to Greek influences. They had not a long local
history to look back upon, nor did they form a compact body, like their
brethren in the East. They were craftsmen, traders, merchants, settled for a
time here or there - units might combine into communities, but could not form
one people. Then their position was not favourable to the sway of traditionalism.
Their occupations, the very reasons for their being in a 'strange land,' were
purely secular. That lofty absorption of thought and life in the study of the
Law, written and oral, which characterised the East, was to the, something in
the dim distance, sacred, like the soil and the institutions of Palestine, but
unattainable. In Palestine or Babylonia numberless influences from his earliest
years, all that he saw and heard, the very force of circumstances, would tend
to make an earnest Jew a disciple of the Rabbis; in the West it would lead him
to 'hellenise.' It was, so to speak, 'in the air'; and he could no more shut
his mind against Greek thought than he could withdraw his body from atmospheric
influences. That restless, searching, subtle Greek intellect would penetrate
everywhere, and flash its light into the innermost recesses of his home and
2. An account
of this propaganda of Judaism and of its results will be given in another connection.
To be sure, they were intensely Jewish, these communities of
strangers. Like our scattered colonists in distant lands, they would cling with
double affection to the customs of their home, and invest with the halo of
tender memories the sacred traditions of their faith. The Grecian Jew might
well look with contempt, not unmingled with pity, on the idolatrous rites
practised around, from which long ago the pitiless irony of Isaiah had torn the
veil of beauty, to show the hideousness and unreality beneath. The
dissoluteness of public and private life, the frivolity and aimlessness of
their pursuits, political aspirations, popular assemblies, amusements - in
short, the utter decay of society, in all its phases, would lie open to his
gaze. It is in terms of lofty scorn, not unmingled with indignation, which only
occasionally gives way to the softer mood of warning, or even invitation, that
Jewish Hellenistic literature, whether in the Apocrypha or in its Apocalyptic
utterances, address heathenism.
From that spectacle the Grecian Jew would turn with infinite
satisfaction - not to say, pride - to his own community, to think of its
spiritual enlightenment, and to pass in review its exclusive privileges.3
It was with no uncertain steps that he would go past those splendid temples to
his own humbler Synagogue, pleased to find himself there surrounded by those
who shared his descent, his faith, his hopes; and gratified to see their number
swelled by many who, heathens by birth, had learned the error of their ways,
and now, so to speak, humbly stood as suppliant 'strangers of the gate,' to
seek admission into his sanctuary.4
How different were the rites which he practised, hallowed in their Divine
origin, rational in themselves, and at the same time deeply significant, from
the absurd superstitions around. Who could have compared with the voiceless,
meaningless, blasphemous heathen worship, if it deserved the name, that of the
Synagogue, with its pathetic hymns, its sublime liturgy, its Divine Scriptures,
and those 'stated sermons' which 'instructed in virtue and piety,' of which not
only Philo,5 Agrippa,6
and Josephus,7 speak as a
regular institution, but whose antiquity and general prevalence is attested in
Jewish writings,8 and nowhere
more strongly than in the book of the Acts of the Apostles?
3. St. Paul
fully describes these feelings in the Epistle to the Romans.
4. The 'Gerey
haShaar,' proselytes of the gate, a designation which some have derived
from the circumstance that Gentiles were not allowed to advance beyond the
Temple Court, but more likely to be traced to such passages as Ex. xx. 10;
Deut. xiv. 21; xxiv. 14.
5. De Vita
Mosis, p. 685; Leg ad Caj. p. 1014.
6. Leg. ad Caj. p. 1035.
7. Ag. Apion ii. 17.
8. Comp. here
Targ. Jon. on Judg. v. 2, 9. I feel more hesitation in appealing to such
passages as Ber. 19 a, where we read of a Rabbi in Rome, Thodos
(Theudos?), who flourished several generations before Hillel, for reasons which
the passage itself will suggest to the student. At the time of Philo, however,
such instructions in the Synagogues at Rome were a long, established
institution (Ad Caj. p. 1014).
And in these Synagogues, how would 'brotherly love' be called
out, since, if one member suffered, all might soon be affected, and the danger
which threatened one community would, unless averted, ere long overwhelm the
rest. There was little need for the admonition not to 'forget the love of
entertain them was not merely a virtue; in the Hellenist dispersion it was a
religious necessity. And by such means not a few whom they would regard as
'heavenly messengers' might be welcomed. From the Acts of the Apostles we knew
with what eagerness they would receive, and with what readiness they would
invite, the passing Rabbi or teacher, who came from the home of their faith, to
speak, if there were in them a word of comforting exhortation for the people.10
We can scarcely doubt, considering the state of things, that this often bore on
'the consolation of Israel.' But, indeed, all that came from Jerusalem, all
that helped them to realise their living connection with it, or bound it more
closely, was precious. 'Letters out of Judæa,' the tidings which some one might
bring on his return from festive pilgrimage or business journey, especially
about anything connected with that grand expectation - the star which was to
rise on the Eastern sky - would soon spread, till the Jewish pedlar in his
wanderings had carried the news to the most distant and isolated Jewish home,
where he might find a Sabbath, welcome and Sabbath-rest.
9. jilozenia, Hebr. xiii. 2.
10. logoV paraklhsewV proV ton laon, Acts
Such undoubtedly was the case. And yet, when the Jew stepped
out of the narrow circle which he had drawn around him, he was confronted on
every side by Grecianism. It was in the forum, in the market, in the counting
house, in the street; in all that he saw, and in all to whom he spoke. It was
refined; it was elegant; it was profound; it was supremely attractive. He might
resist, but he could not push it aside. Even in resisting, he had already
yielded to it. For, once open the door to the questions which it brought, if it
were only to expel, or repel them, he must give up that principle of simple
authority on which traditionalism as a system rested. Hellenic criticism could
not so be silenced, nor its searching light be extinguished by the breath of a
Rabbi. If he attempted this, the truth would not only be worsted before its
enemies, but suffer detriment in his own eyes. He must meet argument with
argument, and that not only for those who were without, but in order to be
himself quite sure of what he believed. He must be able to hold it, not only in
controversy with others, where pride might bid him stand fast, but in that much
more serious contest within, where a man meets the old adversary alone in the secret
arena of his own mind, and has to sustain that terrible hand-to-hand fight, in
which he is uncheered by outward help. But why should he shrink from the
contest, when he was sure that his was Divine truth, and that therefore victory
must be on his side? As in our modern conflicts against the onesided inferences
from physical investigations we are wont to say that the truths of nature
cannot contradict those of revelation, both being of God, and as we are apt to
regard as truths of nature what sometimes are only deductions from partially
ascertained facts, and as truths of revelation what, after all, may be only our
own inferences, sometimes from imperfectly apprehended premises, so the
Hellenist would seek to conciliate the truths of Divine revelation with those
others which, he thought, he recognized in Hellenism. But what were the truths
of Divine revelation? Was it only the substance of Scripture, or also its form,
the truth itself which was conveyed, or the manner in which it was presented to
the Jews; or, if both, then did the two stand on exactly the same footing? On
the answer to these questions would depend how little or how much he would
One thing at any rate was quite certain. The Old Testament,
leastwise, the Law of Moses, was directly and wholly from God; and if so, then
its form also - its letter - must be authentic and authoritative. Thus much on
the surface, and for all. But the student must search deeper into it, his
senses, as it were, quickened by Greek criticism; he must 'meditate' and
penetrate into the Divine mysteries. The Palestinian also searched into them,
and the result was the Midrash. But, whichever of his methods he had
applied - the Peshat, or simple criticism of the words, the Derush,
or search into the possible applications of the text, what might be 'trodden
out' of it; or the Sod, the hidden, mystical, supranatural bearing of
the words - it was still only the letter of the text that had been
studied. There was, indeed, yet another understanding of the Scriptures, to
which St. Paul directed his disciples: the spiritual bearing of its spiritual
truths. But that needed another qualification, and tended in another direction
from those of which the Jewish student knew. On the other hand, there was the
intellectual view of the Scriptures - their philosophical understanding, the
application to them of the results of Grecian thought and criticism. It was
this which was peculiarly Hellenistic. Apply that method, and the deeper the
explorer proceeded in his search, the more would he feel himself alone, far
from the outside crowd; but the brighter also would that light of criticism,
which he carried, shine in the growing darkness, or, as he held it up, would
the precious ore, which he laid bare, glitter and sparkle with a thousand
varying hues of brilliancy. What was Jewish, Palestinian, individual, concrete
in the Scriptures, was only the outside - true in itself, but not the
truth. There were depths beneath. Strip these stories of their nationalism;
idealise the individual of the persons introduced, and you came upon abstract
ideas and realities, true to all time and to all nations. But this deep
symbolism was Pythagorean; this pre-existence of ideas which were the types of
all outward actuality, was Platonism! Broken rays in them, but the focus of
truth in the Scriptures. Yet these were rays, and could only have come from the
Sun. All truth was of God; hence theirs must have been of that origin. Then
were the sages of the heathen also in a sense God-taught - and God-teaching, or
inspiration, was rather a question of degree than of kind!
One step only remained; and that, as we imagine, if not the
easiest, yet, as we reflect upon it, that which in practice would be most
readily taken. It was simply to advance towards Grecianism; frankly to
recognise truth in the results of Greek thought. There is that within us, name
it mental consciousness, or as you will, which, all unbidden, rises to answer
to the voice of intellectual truth, come whence it may, just as conscience
answers to the cause of moral truth or duty. But in this case there was more.
There was the mighty spell which Greek philosophy exercised on all kindred
minds, and the special adaptation of the Jewish intellect to such subtle, if
not deep, thinking. And, in general, and more powerful than the rest, because
penetrating everywhere, was the charm of Greek literature, with its brilliancy;
of Greek civilisation and culture, with their polish and attractiveness; and of
what, in one word, we may call the 'time-spirit,' that tyrannos, who
rules all in their thinking, speaking, doing, whether they list or not.
Why, his sway extended even to Palestine itself, and was felt
in the innermost circle of the most exclusive Rabbinism. We are not here
referring to the fact that the very language spoken in Palestine came to be
very largely charged with Greek, and even Latin, words Hebraised, since this is
easily accounted for by the new circumstances, and the necessities of
intercourse with the dominant or resident foreigners. Nor is it requisite to
point out how impossible it would have been, in presence of so many from the
Greek and Roman world, and after the long and persistent struggle of their
rulers to Grecianise Palestine, nay, even in view of so many magnificent
heathen temples on the very soil of Palestine, to exclude all knowledge of, or
contact with Grecianism. But not to be able to exclude was to have in sight the
dazzle of that unknown, which as such, and in itself, must have had peculiar
attractions to the Jewish mind. It needed stern principle to repress the
curiosity thus awakened. When a young Rabbi, Ben Dama, asked his uncle
whether he might not study Greek philosophy, since he had mastered the 'Law' in
every aspect of it, the older Rabbi replied by a reference to Josh. i. 8: 'Go
and search what is the hour which is neither of the day nor of the night, and
in it thou mayest study Greek philosophy.'11
Yet even the Jewish patriarch, Gamaliel II., who may have sat with Saul of
Tarsus at the feet of his grandfather, was said to have busied himself with
Greek, as he certainly held liberal views on many points connected with
Grecianism. To be sure, tradition justified him on the ground that his position
brought him into contact with the ruling powers, and, perhaps, to further
vindicate him, ascribed similar pursuits to the elder Gamaliel, although
groundlessly, to judge from the circumstance that he was so impressed even with
the wrong of possessing a Targum on Job in Aramæan, that he had it buried deep
in the ground.
11. Men. 99 b, towards the end.
But all these are indications of a tendency existing. How wide
it must have spread, appears from the fact that the ban had to be pronounced on
all who studied 'Greek wisdom.' One of the greatest Rabbis, Elisha ben Abujah,
seems to have been actually led to apostacy by such studies. True, he appears
as the 'Acher' - the 'other' - in Talmudic writings, whom it was not
proper even to name. But he was not yet an apostate from the Synagogue when
those 'Greek songs' ever flowed from his lips; and it was in the very
Beth-ha-Midrash, or theological academy, that a multitude of Siphrey Minim
(heretical books) flew from his breast, where they had lain concealed.12
It may be so, that the expression 'Siphrey Homeros' (Homeric writings),
which occur not only in the Talmud13
but even in the Mishnah14
referred pre-eminently, if not exclusively, to the religious or semi-religious
Jewish Hellenistic literature, outside even the Apocrypha.15
But its occurrence proves, at any rate, that the Hellenists were credited with
the study of Greek literature, and that through them, if not more directly, the
Palestinians had become acquainted with it.
12. Jer. Chag. ii. 1; comp. Chag. 15.
13. Jer. Sanh. x. 28 a.
14. Yad. iv. 6.
this literature, which as being Jewish might have passed unsuspected, a
dangerous acquaintance might have been introduced with Greek writings - the
more readily, that for example Aristobulus described Homer and Hesiod as having
'drawn from our books' (ap. Euseb. Praepar. Evang. xiii. 12). According
to Hamburger (Real-Encykl. für Bibel u. Talmud, vol. ii. pp. 68, 69),
the expression Siphrey Homeros applies exclusively to the
Judæo-Alexandrian heretical writings; according to Fürst (Kanon d. A.
Test. p. 98), simply to Homeric literature. But see the discussion in Levy,
Neuhebr. u. Chald. Wörterb., vol. i. p. 476 a and b.
This sketch will prepare us for a rapid survey of that
Hellenistic literature which Judæa so much dreaded. Its importance, not only to
the Hellenists but to the world at large, can scarcely be over-estimated. First
and foremost, we have here the Greek translation of the Old Testament,
venerable not only as the oldest, but as that which at the time of Jesus held
the place of our 'Authorized Version,' and as such is so often, although
freely, quoted, in the New Testament. Nor need we wonder that it should have
been the people's Bible, not merely among the Hellenists, but in Galilee, and
even in Judæa. It was not only, as already explained, that Hebrew was no longer
the 'vulgar tongue' in Palestine, and that written Targumim were prohibited.
But most, if not all - at least in towns - would understand the Greek version;
it might be quoted in intercourse with Hellenist brethren or with the Gentiles;
and, what was perhaps equally, if not more important, it was the most readily
procurable. From the extreme labour and care bestowed on them, Hebrew
manuscripts of the Bible were enormously dear, as we infer from a curious
where a common woolen wrap, which of course was very cheap, a copy of the
Psalms, of Job, and torn pieces from Proverbs, are together valued at five maneh
- say, about 19l. Although this notice dates from the third or fourth
century, it is not likely that the cost of Hebrew Biblical MSS. was much lower
at the time of Jesus. This would, of course, put their possession well nigh out
of common reach. On the other hand, we are able to form an idea of the
cheapness of Greek manuscripts from what we know of the price of books in Rome
at the beginning of our era. Hundreds of slaves were there engaged copying what
one dictated. The result was not only the publication of as large editions as
in our days, but their production at only about double the cost of what are now
known as 'cheap' or 'people's editions.' Probably it would be safe to compute,
that as much matter as would cover sixteen pages of small print might, in such
cases, be sold at the rate of about sixpence, and in that ratio.17
Accordingly, manuscripts in Greek or Latin, although often incorrect, must have
been easily attainable, and this would have considerable influence on making
the Greek version of the Old Testament the 'people's Bible.'18
16. Gitt. 35 last line and b.
17. Comp. Friedländer, Sitteng. Roms, vol. iii. p. 315.
these causes there should perhaps be added the attempt to introduce Grecianism
by force into Palestine, the consequences which it may have left, and the
existence of a Grecian party in the land.
The Greek version, like the Targum of the Palestinians,
originated, no doubt, in the first place, in a felt national want on the part
of the Hellenists, who as a body were ignorant of Hebrew. Hence we find notices
of very early Greek versions of at least parts of the Pentateuch.19
But this, of course, could not suffice. On the other hand, there existed, as we
may suppose, a natural curiosity on the part of students, especially in
Alexandria, which had so large a Jewish population, to know the sacred books on
which the religion and history of Israel were founded. Even more than this, we
must take into account the literary tastes of the first three Ptolemies
(successors in Egypt of Alexander the Great), and the exceptional favour which
the Jews for a time enjoyed. Ptolemy I. (Lagi) was a great patron of learning.
He projected the Museum in Alexandria, which was a home for literature and
study, and founded the great library. In these undertakings Demetrius Phalereus
was his chief adviser. The tastes of the first Ptolemy were inherited by his
son, Ptolemy II. (Philadelphus), who had for two years been co-regent.20
In fact, ultimately that monarch became literally book-mad, and the sums spent
on rare MSS., which too often proved spurious, almost pass belief. The same may
be said of the third of these monarchs, Ptolemy III. (Euergetes). It would have
been strange, indeed, if these monarchs had not sought to enrich their library
with an authentic rendering of the Jewish sacred books, or not encouraged such
in Euseb. Præpar. Evang. ix. 6; xiii. 12. The doubts raised by Hody
against this testimony have been generally repudiated by critics since the
treatise by Valkenaer (Diatr. de Aristob. Jud. appended to Gaisford's
ed. of the Præpar. Evang.).
20. 286-284 b.c.
These circumstances will account for the different elements
which we can trace in the Greek version of the Old Testament, and explain the
historical, or rather legendary, notices which we have of its composition. To
begin with the latter. Josephus has preserved what, no doubt in its present
form, is a spurious letter from one Aristeas to his brother Philocrates,21
in which we are told how, by the advice of his librarian (?), Demetrius
Phalereus, Ptolemy II. had sent by him (Aristeas) and another officer, a
letter, with rich presents, to Eleazar, the High-Priest at Jerusalem; who in
turn had selected seventy-two translators (six out of each tribe), and
furnished them with a most valuable manuscript of the Old Testament. The letter
then gives further details of their splendid reception at the Egyptian court,
and of their sojourn in the island of Pharos, where they accomplished their
work in seventy-two days, when they returned to Jerusalem laden with rich
presents, their translation having received the formal approval of the Jewish
Sanhedrin at Alexandria. From this account we may at least derive as historical
these facts: that the Pentateuch - for to it only the testimony refers - was
translated into Greek, at the suggestion of Demetrius Phalareus, in the reign
and under the patronage - if not by direction - of Ptolemy II. (Philadelphus).22
With this the Jewish accounts agree, which describe the translation of the
Pentateuch under Ptolemy - the Jerusalem Talmud23
in a simpler narrative, the Babylonian24
with additions apparently derived from the Alexandrian legends; the former
expressly noting thirteen, the latter marking fifteen, variations from the
Josephi Opera, ed. Havercamp, vol. ii. App. pp. 103-132. The best and most
critical edition of this letter by Prof. M. Schmidt, in Merx'
Archiv. i. pp. 252-310. The story is found in Jos. Ant. xii. 2. 2; Ag.
Ap. ii. 4; Philo, de Vita Mosis, lib. ii. section 5-7. The extracts are
most fully given in Euseb. Præpar. Evang. Some of the Fathers give the
story, with additional embellishments. It was first critically called in
question by Hody (Contra Historiam Aristeæ de L. X. interpret. dissert.
Oxon. 1685), and has since been generally regarded as legendary. But its
foundation in fact has of late been recognized by well nigh all critics, though
the letter itself is pseudonymic, and full of fabulous details.
is also otherwise attested. See Keil, Lehrb. d. hist. kr. Einl. d. A. T., p. 551, note 5.
23. Meg. i.
24. Meg. 9 a.
is scarcely worth while to refute the view of Tychsen, Jost (Gesch. d.
Judenth.), and others, that the Jewish writers only wrote down for Ptolemy the
Hebrew words in Greek letters. But the word btl cannot possibly bear that
meaning in this connection. Comp. also Frankel, Vorstudien, p. 31.
The Pentateuch once translated, whether by one, or more likely by
the other books of the Old Testament would naturally soon receive the same
treatment. They were evidently rendered by a number of persons, who possessed
very different qualifications for their work - the translation of the Book of
Daniel having been so defective, that in its place another by Theodotion was
afterwards substituted. The version, as a whole, bears the name of the LXX. -
as some have supposed from the number of its translators according to Aristeas'
account - only that in that case it should have been seventy-two; or from the
approval of the Alexandrian Sannedrin27
- although in that case it should have been seventy-one; or perhaps because, in
the popular idea, the number of the Gentile nations, of which the Greek
(Japheth) was regarded as typical, was seventy. We have, however, one fixed
date by which to compute the completion of this translation. From the prologue
to the Apocryphal 'Wisdom of Jesus the son of Sirach,' we learn that in his
days the Canon of Scripture was closed; and that on his arrival, in his
In Egypt, which was then under the rule of Euergetes, he found the so-called
LXX. version completed, when he set himself to a similar translation of the
Hebrew work of his grandfather. But in the 50th chapter of that work we have a
description of the High-Priest Simon, which is evidently written by an
eye-witness. We have therefore as one term the pontificate of Simon, during
which the earlier Jesus lived; and as the other, the reign of Euergetes, in
which the grandson was at Alexandria. Now, although there were two High-Priests
who bore the name Simon, and two Egyptian kings with the surname Euergetes, yet
on purely historical grounds, and apart from critical prejudices, we conclude
that the Simon of Ecclus. L. was Simon I., the Just, one of the greatest names
in Jewish traditional history; and similarly, that the Euergetes of the younger
Jesus was the first of that name, Ptolemy III., who reigned from 247 to 221 b.c.29
In his reign, therefore, we must regard the LXX. version as, at least
to Sopher. i. 8, by five persons, but that seems a round number to correspond
to the five books of Moses. Frankel (Ueber d. Einfl. d. paläst. Exeg.)
labours, however, to show in detail the differences between the different
translators. But his criticism is often strained, and the solution of the
question is apparently impossible.
would have it, 'the Jerusalem Sanhedrin!'
28. But the expression has also been referred to the thirty-eighth year of the reign of Euergetes.
my mind, at least, the historical evidence, apart from critical considerations,
seems very strong. Modern writers on the other side have confessedly been
influenced by the consideration that the earlier date of the Book of Sirach
would also involve a much earlier date for the close of the O. T. Canon than
they are disposed to admit. More especially would it bear on the question of
the so-called 'Maccabean Psalms,' and the authorship and date of the Book of
Daniel. But historical questions should be treated independently of critical
prejudices. Winer (Bibl. Realwörterb. i. p. 555), and others after him
admit that the Simon of Ecclus. ch. L. was indeed Simon the Just (i.), but
maintain that the Euergetes of the Prologue was the second of that name,
Ptolemy VII., popularly nicknamed Kakergetes. Comp. the remarks of Fritzsche
on this view in the Kurzgef. Exeg. Handb. z. d. Apokr. 5te Lief. p. xvii.
From this it would, of course, follow that the Canon of the Old
Testament was then practically fixed in Palestine.30
That Canon was accepted by the Alexandrian translators, although the more loose
views of the Hellenists on 'inspiration,' and the absence of that close
watchfulness exercised over the text in Palestine, led to additions and
alterations, and ultimately even to the admission of the Apocrypha into the
Greek Bible. Unlike the Hebrew arrangement of the text into the Law, the
Prophets,31 and the
(sacred) Writings, or Hagiographa, the LXX. arrange them into historical, prophetical,
and poetic books, and count twenty-two, after the Hebrew alphabet, instead of
twenty-four, as the Hebrews. But perhaps both these may have been later
arrangements, since Philo evidently knew the Jewish order of the books.32
What text the translators may have used we can only conjecture. It differs in
almost innumerable instances from our own, though the more important deviations
are comparatively few.33
In the great majority of the lesser variations our Hebrew must be regarded as
the correct text.34
here, besides the passages quoted in the previous note, Baba B. 13 b and
14 b; for the cessation of revelation in the Maccabean period, 1 Macc.
iv. 46; ix. 27; xiv. 41; and, in general, for the Jewish view on the subject at
the time of Christ, Jos. Ag. Ap. i. 8.
Josh., Judg., 1 and 2 Sam. 1 and 2 Kings. Posterior: Major: Is., Jer.,
and Ezek.; and the Minor Prophets.
32. De Vita Contempl. § 3.
33. They occur chiefly in 1 Kings, the books of Esther, Job, Proverbs, Jeremiah,
and Daniel. In the Pentateuch we find them only in four passages in the Book of Exodus.
is also a curious correspondence between the Samaritan version of the
Pentateuch and that of the LXX., which in no less than about 2,000 passages
agree as against our Hebrew, although in other instances the Greek text either
agrees with the Hebrew against the Samaritan, or else is independent of both.
On the connection between Samaritan literature and Hellenism there are some
very interesting notices in Freudenthal, Hell. Stud. pp. 82-103,
130-136, 186, &c.
Putting aside clerical mistakes and misreadings, and making
allowance for errors of translation, ignorance, and haste, we note certain
outstanding facts as characteristic of the Greek version. It bears evident
marks of its origin in Egypt in its use of Egyptian words and references, and
equally evident traces of its Jewish composition. By the side of slavish and
false literalism there is great liberty, if not licence, in handling the
original; gross mistakes occur along with happy renderings of very difficult
passages, suggesting the aid of some able scholars. Distinct Jewish elements
are undeniably there, which can only be explained by reference to Jewish
tradition, although they are much fewer than some critics have supposed.35
This we can easily understand, since only those traditions would find a place
which at that early time were not only received, but in general circulation.
The distinctively Grecian elements, however, are at present of chief interest
to us. They consist of allusions to Greek mythological terms, and adaptations
of Greek philosophical ideas. However few,36
even one well-authenticated instance would lead us to suspect others, and in
general give to the version the character of Jewish Hellenising. In the same
class we reckon what constitutes the prominent characteristic of the LXX.
version, which, for want of better terms, we would designate as rationalistic
and apologetic. Difficulties - or what seemed such - are removed by the most
bold methods, and by free handling of the text; it need scarcely be said, often
very unsatisfactorily. More especially a strenuous effort is made to banish all
anthropomorphisms, as inconsistent with their ideas of the Deity. The
superficial observer might be tempted to regard this as not strictly
Hellenistic, since the same may be noted, and indeed is much more consistently
carried out, in the Targum of Onkelos. Perhaps such alterations had even been
introduced into the Hebrew text itself.37
But there is this vital difference between Palestinianism and Alexandrianism,
that, broadly speaking, the Hebrew avoidance of anthropomorphisms depends on
objective - theological and dogmatic - the Hellenistic on subjective -
philosophical and apologetic - grounds. The Hebrew avoids them as he does what
seems to him inconsistent with the dignity of Biblical heroes and of Israel.
'Great is the power of the prophets,' he writes, 'who liken the Creator to the
creature;' or else38
'a thing is written only to break it to the ear' - to adapt it to our human
modes of speaking and understanding; and again,39
the 'words of the Torah are like the speech of the children of men.' But for
this very purpose the words of Scripture may be presented in another form, if
need be even modified, so as to obviate possible misunderstanding, or dogmatic
error. The Alexandrians arrived at the same conclusion, but from an opposite
direction. They had not theological but philosophical axioms in their minds -
truths which the highest truth could not, and, as they held, did not
contravene. Only dig deeper; get beyond the letter to that to which it pointed;
divest abstract truth of its concrete, national, Judaistic envelope - penetrate
through the dim porch into the temple, and you were surrounded by a blaze of
light, of which, as its portals had been thrown open, single rays had fallen
into the night of heathendom. And so the truth would appear glorious - more
than vindicated in their own sight, triumphant in that of others!
extravagant computations in this respect of Frankel (both in his work,
Ueber d. Einfl. d. Paläst. Exeg., and also in the Vorstud. z. Sept. pp.
189-191) have been rectified by Herzfeld (Gesch. d. Vol. Isr. vol.
iii.), who, perhaps, goes to the other extreme. Herzfeld (pp. 548-550) admits -
and even this with hesitation - of only six distinct references to Halakhoth in
the following passages in the LXX.: Gen. ix. 4; xxxii. 32; Lev. xix. 19; xxiv.
7; Deut. xxv. 5; xxvi. 12. As instances of Haggadah we may mention the
renderings in Gen. v. 24 and Ex. x. 23.
36. Dähne and Gfrörer have in this respect gone to the same extreme
as Frankel on the Jewish side. But even Siegfried (Philo v. Alex.
p. 8) is obliged to admit that the LXX. rendering, h degh hn aoratoV akai kataskeuastoV Gen. i. 2), bears
undeniable mark of Grecian philosophic views. And certainly this is not the
sole instance of the kind.
in the so-called 'Tiqquney Sopherim,' or 'emendations of the scribes.'
Comp. here generally the investigations of Geiger (Urschrift u. Ueberse
z. d. Bibel). But these, however learned and ingenious, require, like so many
of the dicta of modern Jewish criticism, to be taken with the utmost caution,
and in each case subjected to fresh examination, since so large a proportion of
their writings are what is best designated by the German Tendenz-Schriften,
and their inferences Tendenz-Schlüsse. But the critic and the historian
should have no Tendenz - except towards simple fact and historical
38. Mechilta on Ex. xix.
39. Ber. 31 b.
In such manner the LXX. version became really the people's
Bible to that large Jewish world through which Christianity was afterwards to
address itself to mankind. It was part of the case, that this translation
should be regarded by the Hellenists as inspired like the original. Otherwise
it would have been impossible to make final appeal to the very words of the
Greek; still less, to find in them a mystical and allegorical meaning. Only
that we must not regard their views of inspiration - except as applying to
Moses, and even there only partially - as identical with ours. To their minds
inspiration differed quantitatively, not qualitatively, from what the rapt soul
might at any time experience, so that even heathen philosophers might
ultimately be regarded as at times inspired. So far as the version of the Bible
was concerned (and probably on like grounds), similar views obtained at a later
period even in Hebrew circles, where it was laid down that the Chaldee Targum
on the Pentateuch had been originally spoken to Moses on Sinai,40
though afterwards forgotten, till restored and re-introduced.41
40. Ned. 37 b; Kidd. 49 a.
41. Meg. 3 a.
Whether or not the LXX. was read in the
Hellenist Synagogues, and the worship conducted, wholly or partly, in Greek,
must be matter of conjecture. We find, however, a significant notice42
to the effect that among those who spoke a barbarous language (not Hebrew - the
term referring specially to Greek), it was the custom for one person to read
the whole Parashah (or lesson for the day), while among the
Hebrew-speaking Jews this was done by seven persons, successively called up.
This seems to imply that either the Greek text alone was read, or that it
followed a Hebrew reading, like the Targum of the Easterns. More probably,
however, the former would be the case, since both Hebrew manuscripts, and
persons qualified to read them, would be difficult to procure. At any rate, we
know that the Greek Scriptures were authoritatively acknowledged in Palestine,43
and that the ordinary daily prayers might be said in Greek.44
The LXX. deserved this distinction from its general faithfulness - at least, in
regard to the Pentateuch - and from its preservation of ancient doctrine. Thus,
without further referring to its full acknowledgment of the doctrine of Angels
(comp. Deut. xxxii. 8, xxxiii. 2), we specially mark that is preserved the
Messianic interpretation of Gen. xlix. 10, and Numb. xxiv. 7, 17, 23, bringing
us evidence of what had been the generally received view two and a half
centuries before the birth of Jesus. It must have been on the ground of the use
made of the LXX. in argument, that later voices in the Synagogue declared this
version to have been as great calamity to Israel as the making of the golden
calf,45 and that
is completion had been followed by the terrible omen of an eclipse, that lasted
three days.46 For the
Rabbis declared that upon investigation it had been found that the Torah could
be adequately translated only into Greek, and they are most extravagant in
their praise of the Greek version of Akylas, or Aquila, the proselyte,
which was made to counteract the influence of the LXX.47
But in Egypt the anniversary of the completion of the LXX. was celebrated by a
feast in the island of Pharos, in which ultimately even heathens seem to have
42. Jer. Meg. iv. 3, ed. Krot. p. 75a.
i. 8. It is, however, fair to confess strong doubt, on my part, whether this
passage may not refer to the Greek translation of Akylas. At the same time
it simply speaks of a translation into Greek. And before the version of Aquila
the LXX. alone held that place. It is one of the most daring modern Jewish
perversions of history to identify this Akylas, who flourished about 130 after
Christ, with the Aquila of the Book of Acts. It wants even the excuse of a
colourable perversion of the confused story about Akylas, which Epiphanius
who is so generally inaccurate, gives in De Pond. et Mensur. c. xiv.
'Shema' (Jewish creed), with its collects, the eighteen 'benedictions,' and
'the grace at meat.' A later Rabbi vindicated the use of the 'Shema' in Greek
by the argument that the word Shema meant not only 'Hear,' but also
'understand' (Jer. Sotah vii. 1.) Comp. sotah vii. 1, 2. In Ber. 40 b,
it is said that the Parashah connected with the woman suspected of adultery,
the prayer and confession at the bringing of the tithes, and the various
benedictions over food, may be said not only in Hebrew, but in any other
45. Mass. Sopher i. Hal. 7 - at the close of vol. ix. of the Bab. Talmud.
46. Hilch. Ged. Taan.
47. Jer. Meg. i. 11, ed. Krot. p. 71 b and c.
48. Philo, Vita Mos. ii. ed. Francf. p. 660.
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