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or ARISTAEUS, a Cyprian by nation, was a high officer at the court of Ptolemy Philadelphus, and was distinguished for his military talents.


Letter about the Septuagint

Ptolemy being anxious to add to his newly founded library at Alexandria (B. C. 273) a copy of the Jewish law, sent Aristeas and Andreas, the commander of his body-guard, to Jerusalem. They carried presents to the temple, and obtained from the high-priest, Eleazar, a genuine copy of the Pentateuch, and a body of seventy elders, six from each tribe, who could translate it into Greek. On their arrival in Egypt, the elders were received with great distinction by Ptolemy, and were lodged in a house in the island of Pharos, where, in the space of seventy-two days, they completed a Greek version of the Pentateuch, which was called, from the number of the translators, κατά τούς ἑβδομήκοντα (the Septuagint), and the same name was extended to the Greek version of the whole of the Old Testament, when it had been completed under the auspices of the Ptolemies. The above account is given in a Greek work which professes to be a letter from Aristeas to his brother Philocrates, but which is generally admitted by the best critics to be spurious. It is probably the fabrication of an Alexandrian Jew shortly before the Christian aera. The fact seems to be, that the version of the Pentateuch was made in the reign of Ptolemy Soter, between the years 298 and 285 B. C. for the Jews who had been brought into Egypt by that king in 320 B. C. It may have obtained its name from its being adopted by the Sanhedrim (or council of seventy) of the Alexandrian Jews. The other books of the Septuagint version were translated by different persons and at various times.


The letter ascribed to Aristeas was first printed in Greek and Latin, by Simon Schard, Basil. 1561, 8vo., and reprinted at Oxford, 1692, 8vo.; the best edition is in Gallandi Biblioth. Patr. ii. p. 771. (Fabric. Bib. Graec. 3.660.)

Further Information

The story about Aristeas and the seventy interpreters is told, chiefly on the authority of the letter but differing from it in some points, by Aristobulus, a Jewish philosopher (apud Euseb. Praep. Evan. 13.12), Philo Judaeus (Vit. Mos. 2), Josephus (J. AJ 12.2), Justin Martyr (Cohort. ad Graec. p. 13, Apol. p. 72, Dial. cum Tryph. p. 297), Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 3.25), Clemens Alexandrinus (Strom. i. p. 250), Tertullian (Apolog. 18), Eusebius (Praep. Evan. 8.1), Athanasius (Synop. S. Scrip. ii. p. 156), Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech. pp. 36, 37), Epiphanius (De Mens. et Pond. 3), Jerome (Praef: in Pentateuch ; Quaest. in Genes. Prooem.), Augustine (De Civ. Dei, 18.42, 43), Chrysostom (Adv. Jud. i. p. 443), Hilary of Poitiers (In Psalm. 2), and Theodoret. (Praef in Psalm.)


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273 BC (1)
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    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 12.2
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