1 The English translation used in this article is from R.J.H. Shutt, “Letter of Aristeas (A New Translation and Introduction),” which can be found in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 2, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1985). The well-known collection of ancient documents edited by R.H. Charles (The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, 2 vols. [Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1913]) also contains an English translation of the Letter of Aristeas prepared by H.T. Andrews. Shutt’s renderings are more up to date, but Andrews’s introduction and notes are fuller.

Moses Hadas provides an authoritative translation, along with almost 100 pages of introductory discussion, in his study of the letter. (Aristeas to Philocrates [New York: Harper, 1951J). Hadas is a reliable guide to almost everything written about this document up until his time.

For the discussion of issues during the period since Hadas, interested readers can consult with confidence two works by Sidney Jellicoe: The Septuagint and Modern Study (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1968), which he wrote, and Studies in the Septuagint: Origins, Recensions, and Interpretations (New York: KTAV, 1974), which he edited. In his brief introduction and notes, Shutt provides even more recent coverage in a few areas.


See Jellicoe, The Septuagint and Modern Study, p. 30.


Scholars who support royal patronage, for these or other reasons, include Dominique Barthélemy, “Pourquoi la Torah a-t-elle été traduite en grec?” in On Language, Culture and Religion: In Honor of Eugene A. Nida, ed. Matthew Black and William A. Smalley (The Hague: Mouton, 1974) (reprinted in Barthélemy, Etudes d’histoire du text de l’Ancien Testament (Fribourg, Switz.: Editions Universitaires, 1978); and Elias J Bickerman, “The Septuagint as a Translation,” in Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 28 (1959), pp. 1–39.


They include Henry Barclay Swete (An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, rev. Richard R. Ottley (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1914) and Jellicoe, as well as John W. Wevers, “Proto-Septuagint Studies,” in The Seed of Wisdom. Essays in Honour of T. J. Meek, (Toronto: Toronto Univ. Press, 1964); and, most vigorously, Sebastian Brock, “The Phenomenon of Biblical Translation in Antiquity,” Alta II.8 (1969), pp. 96–102; Brock, “The Phenomenon of the Septuagint,” Oudtestamentliche Studien 7 (1972), pp. 11–36.


Philo, De Vita Mosis, transl. F. H. Colson, vol. 6 of Loeb Classical Library edition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1935, reprint 1950).


This was already the conclusion of a few scholars of previous generations. More recent research has strengthened this view. Readers are encouraged to look in particular at the work of Wevers, who has been engaged for some years in reconstructing the earliest Septuagint text for the books of the Pentateuch. These texts and accompanying studies are being published as part of the Göttingen Septuagint Project.


Wevers, Text History of the Greek Numbers (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1982), p. 94.


For same details, see Hadas, Aristeas to Philocrates.


On this, see, most recently, J.A.L. Lee, A Lexical Study of the Septuagint Version of the Pentateuch (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1983). None of this evidence allows for an exact dating of the Septuagint. A date as early as the reign of Ptolemy II does remain possible, however. On the other hand, the environment Lee established is also decidedly Egyptian—and this goes against the numerous statements in the Letter of Aristeas that elders from Jerusalem were responsible for the preparation of the translation itself. Perhaps the crucial point for the author of the letter was that the Hebrew text used by the translators (whatever their origin) had Eleazar’s wholehearted approval.


A number of scholars have made this point, none more effectively than Harry M. Orlinsky in “The Septuagint as Holy Writ and the Philosophy of the Translators,” Hebrew Union College Annual 46 (1975), pp. 89–114.


Robert G. Bratcher in The Word of God: A Guide to English Versions of the Bible, ed. Lloyd R. Bailey (Atlanta: John Knox, 1982), p. 165.


This suggestion is not original with me. I do, however, find it convincing.