The Forgotten Books of Eden, by Rutherford H. Platt, Jr., , at sacred-texts.com
Showing how the most careful records were kept of affairs of state. Government Red Tape. A committee of six is appointed to go to the High Priest in Jerusalem and arrange for the exchange. Aristeas is put in charge of the delegation.
WHEN this had been done, he ordered Demetrius to draw up a memorial with regard to the transcription of the Jewish books.
2 For all affairs of state used to be carried out by means of decrees and with the most pains-taking accuracy by these Egyptian kings, and nothing was done in a slipshod or haphazard fashion.
3 And so I have inserted copies of the memorial and the letters, the number of the presents sent and the nature of each, since every one of them excelled in magnificence and technical skill.
4 The following is a copy of the memorial. The Memory of Demetrius to the great king. 'Since you have given me instructions O king, that the books which are needed to complete your library should be collected together, and that those which are defective should be repaired, I have devoted myself with the utmost care to the fulfilment of your wishes, and I now have the following proposal to lay before you.
5 The books of the law of the Jews (with some few others) are absent from the library.
6 They are written in the Hebrew characters and language and have been carelessly interpreted, and do not represent the original text as I am informed by those who know; for they have never had a king's care to protect them.
7 It is necessary that these should be made accurate for your library since the law which they contain, inasmuch as it is of divine origin, is full of wisdom and free from all blemish.
8 For this reason literary men and poets and the mass of historical writers have held aloof from referring to these books and the men who have lived and are living in accordance with them, because their conception of life is so sacred and religious, as Hecataeus of Abdera says.
9 If it please you, O king, a letter shall be written to the High Priest in Jerusalem, asking him to send six elders out of every tribe--men who have lived
the noblest life and are most skilled in their law--that we may find out the points in which the majority of them are in agreement, and so having obtained an accurate translation may place it in a conspicuous place in a manner worthy of the work itself and your purpose.
10 May continual prosperity be yours!'
11 When this memorial had been presented, the king ordered a letter to be written to Eleazar on the matter, giving also an account of the emancipation of the Jewish captives.
12 And he gave fifty talents weight of gold and seventy talents of silver and a large quantity of precious stones to make bowls and vials and a table and libation cups.
13 He also gave orders to those who had the custody of his coffers to allow the artificers to make a selection of any materials they might require for the purpose, and that a hundred talents in money should be sent to provide sacrifices for the temple and for other needs.
14 I shall give you a full account of the workmanship after I have set before you copies of the letters. The letter of the king ran as follows:
15 'King Ptolemy sends greeting and salutation to the High Priest Eleazar.
16 Since there are many Jews settled in our realm who were carried off from Jerusalem by the Persians at the time of their power and many more who came with my father into Egypt as captives--large numbers of these he placed in the army and paid them higher wages than usual, and when he had proved the loyalty of their leaders he built fortresses and placed them in their charge that the native Egyptians might be intimidated by them.
17 And I, when I ascended the throne, adopted a kindly attitude towards all my subjects, and more particularly to those who were citizens of yours--I have set at liberty more than a hundred thousand captives, paying their owners the appropriate market price for them, and if ever evil has been done to your people through the passions of the mob, I have made them reparation.
18 The motive which prompted my action has been the desire to act piously and render unto the supreme God a thank-offering for maintaining my kingdom in peace and great glory in all the world.
19 Moreover those of your people who were in the prime of life I have drafted into my army, and those who were fit to be attached to my person and worthy of the confidence of the court, I have established in official positions.
20 Now since I am anxious to show my gratitude to these men and to the Jews throughout the world and to the generations yet to come, I have determined that your law shall be translated from the Hebrew tongue which is in use amongst you into the Greek language, that these books may be added to the other royal books in my library.
21 It will be a kindness on your part and a reward for my zeal if you will select six elders from each of your tribes, men of noble life and skilled in your law and able to interpret it, that in questions of dispute we may be able to discover the verdict in which the majority agree, for the investigation is of the highest possible importance.
22 I hope to win great renown by the accomplishment of this work.
23 I have sent Andreas, the chief of my bodyguard and Aristeas--men whom I hold in high esteem--to lay the matter
before you and present you with a hundred talents of silver, the first-fruits of my offering for the temple and the sacrifices and other religious rites.
24 If you will write to me concerning your wishes in these matters, you will confer a great favour upon me and afford me a new pledge of friendship, for all your wishes shall be carried out as speedily as possible. Farewell!
25 To this letter Eleazar replied appropriately as follows: 'Eleazar the High Priest sends greetings to King Ptolemy his true friend.
26 My highest wishes are for your welfare and the welfare of Queen Arsinoe, your sister, and your children.
27 I also am well. I have received your letter and am greatly rejoiced by your purpose and your noble counsel.
28 I summoned together the whole people and read it to them that they might know of your devotion to our God.
29 I showed them too the cups which you sent, twenty of gold and thirty of silver, the five bowls and the table of dedication, and the hundred talents of silver for the offering of the sacrifices and providing the things of which the temple stands in need.
30 These gifts were brought to me by Andreas, one of your most honoured servants, and by Aristeas, both good men and true, distinguished by their learning, and worthy in every way to be the representatives of your high principles and righteous purposes.
31 These men imparted to me your message and received from me an answer in agreement with your letter. I will consent to everything which is advantageous to you even though your request is very unusual.
32 For you have bestowed upon our citizens great and never to be forgotten benefits in many ways.
33 Immediately therefore I offered sacrifices on behalf of you, your sister, your children, and your friends, and all the people prayed that your plans might prosper continually, and that Almighty God might preserve your kingdom in peace with honour, and that the translation of the holy law might prove advantageous to you and be carried out successfully.
34 In the presence of all the people I selected six elders from each tribe, good men and true, and I have sent them to you with a copy of our law.
35 It will be a kindness, O righteous king, if you will give instruction that as soon as the translation of the law is completed, the men shall be restored again to us in safety. Farewell!
36 The following are the names of the elders: Of the first tribe, Joseph, Ezekiah, Zachariah, John, Ezekiah, Elisha.
37 Of the second tribe, Judas, Simon, Samuel, Adaeus, Mattathias, Eschlemias.
38 Of the third tribe, Nehemia, Joseph, Theodosius, Baseas, Ornias, Dakis.
39 Of the fourth tribe, Jonathan, Abraeus, Elisha, Ananias, Chabrias. . . .
40 Of the fifth tribe, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus, Sabbataeus, Simon, Levi.
41 Of the sixth tribe, Judas, Joseph, Simon, Zacharias, Samuel, Selemas.
42 Of the seventh tribe, Sabbataeus, Zedekiah, Jacob, Isaac, Jesias, Natthaeus.
43 Of the eighth tribe, Theodosius, Jason, Jesus, Theodotus, John, Jonathan.
44 Of the ninth tribe, Theophilus, Abraham, Arsamos, Jason, Endemias, Daniel.
45 Of the tenth tribe, Jeremiah,
[paragraph continues] Eleazar, Zachariah, Baneas, Elisha, Dathaeus.
46 Of the eleventh tribe, Samuel, Joseph, Judas, Jonathes, Chabu, Dositheus.
47 Of the twelfth tribe, Isaelus, John, Theodosius, Arsamos, Abietes, Ezekiel.
48 They were seventy-two in all. Such was the answer which Eleazar and his friends gave to the king's letter.