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Contemplate the Lord and live justly': Establishing the authorial intent behind The Letter of Aristeas

Maldoni, Liam

Description

Sometime between the middle of the second century and the late first century BCE, an anonymous Jew of Ptolemaic Alexandria authored a fictional letter, containing a remarkable story of Jewish-Greek cooperation. Told through its fictional, Gentile narrator, Aristeas, the letter, known as The Letter of Aristeas, recounts the story of the Hebrew Torah’s translation into Greek, commissioned by King Ptolemy II for the library of Alexandria but carried out by Jewish...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorMaldoni, Liam
dc.date.accessioned2022-06-06T01:42:37Z
dc.date.available2022-06-06T01:42:37Z
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/267136
dc.description.abstractSometime between the middle of the second century and the late first century BCE, an anonymous Jew of Ptolemaic Alexandria authored a fictional letter, containing a remarkable story of Jewish-Greek cooperation. Told through its fictional, Gentile narrator, Aristeas, the letter, known as The Letter of Aristeas, recounts the story of the Hebrew Torah’s translation into Greek, commissioned by King Ptolemy II for the library of Alexandria but carried out by Jewish translators sent by Jerusalem’s High Priest. Culturally, the Letter is a striking text. It frequently asserts the pre-eminence of the Biblical god and its prophet, Moses, alongside its recurrent and unapologetic use of Greek literary conventions and philosophy. In light of this remarkable tension, one might wonder what the author’s intention was for such a text as this. Accordingly, this study will seek to ascertain the Letter’s intended function and the author’s likely impetus or motivation for writing his work. Scholars, such as Tcherikover and, more recently, Wright have made many attempts to ascertain the purpose of the Letter, often involving claims that the author was seeking to persuade hesitant Jews to embrace Greek society and thus wrote the Letter to achieve this purpose. These scholars have often imagined the readership to be conservative Jews, cautious about embracing Greek society and culture. Moreover, even those who reject thistheory and instead consider the Letter propaganda for the Septuagint, often view the text’s readership as consisting of deeply faithful Jews. Therefore, scholarship has sadly tended to overlook the possibility that the Letter’s author (known as Pseudo-Aristeas) might have been writing specifically for Jews with a weaker attachment to Judaism or, indeed, those who had abandoned Judaism altogether. Following this line of thinking, this study, by considering the Letter itself and other Alexandrian sources, shall argue that Pseudo-Aristeas was actually addressing these Jews of limited religious conviction, whose insufficient religiosity, if not apostasy, served as Pseudo-Aristeas’ main impetus in writing the Letter. Moreover, this text’s overarching purpose, as I shall demonstrate, was to restore the Jewish identities of these wavering Jews by persuading them to re-embrace the traditions of their forefathers. Pseudo-Aristeas also sought to safeguard his readers’ newly restored identities (assuming that they re-embraced Judaism) by providing them with ethical instruction that would prevent them from ‘relapsing’ into an insufficiently Jewish lifestyle.
dc.language.isoen_AU
dc.subjectJudaism
dc.subjectJews
dc.subjectJewish
dc.subjectLetter of Aristeas
dc.subjectAristeas
dc.subjectGreek Literature
dc.subjectJewish Literature
dc.subjectPtolemaic Alexandria
dc.subjectReligion
dc.subjectIdentity
dc.titleContemplate the Lord and live justly': Establishing the authorial intent behind The Letter of Aristeas
dc.typeThesis (Honours)
local.contributor.supervisorBurton, Paul
local.contributor.supervisorcontactPaul.Burton@anu.edu.au
dcterms.valid2020
local.description.notesThe author deposited 6 June 2022.
local.type.degreeOther
dc.date.issued2020
local.contributor.affiliationSchool of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, College of Arts and Social Sciences, The Australian National University
local.identifier.doi10.25911/J167-3933
local.mintdoimint
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