The Letter of Aristeas
In Response To: Imaginary Septuagint ()


Scholarly (critical) consensus is that The Letter of Aristeas is "unhistorical". It only seems to be taken at face value (more or less) by those who are predisposed to the idea of the Bible being inspired by God.

The Letter of Aristeas strikes me as being yet another fine work of propaganda, but one that provides valuable insight into the Ptolemaic takeover of the Jerusalem cult. An major element of that change of command would have been gaining control over (and an understanding of) the essential writings of the cult, which entailed a concerted translation and teaching effort. The release of 100,000 Jewish captives appears to have been a part of the payment for that effort.

The nobility of Jerusalem (families associated with the priesthood) really had no choice but to cooperate with their new Ptolemaic
"patrons", but The Letter of Aristeas indicates that they did negotiate certain "gifts" for that cooperation. With that in mind, I think the letter takes on a very important historical nature.

Rather than being depicted as a traumatic event, the takeover is celebrated as something miraculous. Quite ingenious! And quite reminiscent of the Zadokites' own earlier takeover of Jerusalem. To wit, they were a group of dispossessed royals faced with starting over in an unimportant backwater of the Persian Empire. Instead of bemoaning that fate, it is described in Ezra and Nehemiah as a wonder of God's mercy and goodness - a fathomless honor and mandate to "rebuild" THE temple of Jehovah in "Jerusalem"! Although this Jerusalem did possess an ancient cult site associated with Geb and Osiris, it could still be said that the Zadokites created a holy mountain out of a mole hill.