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Second Century B.C.

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Martin McNamara writes: "Aristobulus was one of the most renowned and influential Jews in Egypt in the mid-second century B.C. He is probably the Aristobulus to whom the letter in 2 Maccabees was addressed (cf. 2 Mac 1:10), and in that passage he is said to be of the family of anointed priests and teacher of Ptolemy the king—presumably Philometer VI (181-145 B.C.). Fragments of his work called An Explanation of the Mosaic Laws are given by Clement of Alexandria (Stromata 1, 15; 5:14) and Eusebius (Praeparatio Evangelica 8, 9; 13, 12; Historia Ecclesiastica 7:32). The surviving fragments contain expositions of sections of the Books of Genesis and Exodus." (Intertestamental Literature, p. 223)

Emil Schürer writes: "The work which was in the hands of these Fathers is designated as an explanation of the Mosaic laws. According however to the fragments preserved, we must conceive of it not as an actual commentary on the text, but as a free reproduction of the contents of the Pentateuch, in which the latter is philosophically explained. Hence it is not Philo's allegorical commentaries on single passages of the text, but his systematic delineation of the Mosaic legislation, the characteristics of which have been described p. 219 above, which is analogous to it. Like Philo, Aristobulus already seems to have given a connected representation of the contents of the Pentateuch, for the purpose of showing to the cultured heathen world, that the Mosaic law, if only correctly understood, already contained all that the best Greek philosophers subsequently taught. The work was first of all intended for King Ptolemy Philometor himself, who is therefore addressed in the text (Eus. Pr. viii. 10. 1 sqq., xiii. 12. 2). Hence it is self-evident, that it is addressed simply to heathen readers. His chief object was, as Clement says, to show 'that the peripatetic philosophy was dependent upon the law of Moses and the other prophets' (Strom. v. 14. 97). This is substantially confirmed by the fragments preserved, only instead of the peripatetic the Greek philosophy in general should rather be spoken of. For Aristobulus is not contented with exhibiting the intrinsic agreement of the Mosaic law with the philosophy of the Greeks, but roundly assserts that the Greek philosphers, a Pythagoras, a Socrates, a Plato, derived their doctrines from Moses, nay, that even the poets Homer and Hesiod borrowed much from him, for that the essential contents of the Pentateuch had been rendered into Greek long before the Greek translation of the Pentateuch made under Ptolemy Philadelphus. This bold assertion, that Moses was the father of Greek philosophy and culture, was embraced also by later Jewish Hellenists. Especially do we again meet with it in Philo." (The Literature of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus, pp. 239-240)

James Charlesworth writes: "Aristobulus, according to 2 Maccabees 1:10, belonged to a priestly family and was a teacher of Ptolemy in Egypt. He lived around the middle of the second century B.C. (Henel suggests 175-170 B.C.; see no. 610, p. 164). An eclectic Jewish philosopher, he combined Pythagorean, Platonic, and Stoic thought with Jewish ideas, especially those characteristic of Proverbs, Ben Sira, the Wisdom of Solomon, Pseudo-Phocylides, and 4 Maccabees. It is, therefore, inaccurate to follow Clement of Alexandria (Strom. 1.72) and categorize him as a Peripatetic (see N. Walter, Der Thoraausleger Aristobulos: Untersuchungen zu seinen Fragmenten und zu pseudepigraphischen Resten der jüdisch-hellenistischen Literatur [TU 86] Berlin: Akademie, 1964; esp. pp. 10-13)." (The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research, pp. 81-82)

Martin McNamara writes: "His approach to the scriptures is allegorical. In one section of the work he asserts that portions of the Pentateuch were rendered into Greek before the entire work was translated in the days of Ptolemy Philadelphus and that these portions were used by the Greek philosophers Pythagoras, Socrates and Plato and formed the basis of their philosophical teachings. In one of the fragments Aristobulus discusses the Hebrew calendar and establishes that the Passover always falls immediately after the vernal equinox." (Intertestamental Literature, p. 223)

Emil Schürer writes: "It is almost incomprehensible, that many more recent scholars (e.g. Richard Simon, Hody, Eichhorn, Kuenen, Grätz, Joel) should have disputed the genuineness of the whole work of Aristobulus. The picture, which we obtain from the fragments of the work that have come down to us, so entirely coincides with all that we elsewhere learn of the intellectual tendency of Hellenistic Judaism, that there is absolutely no occasion for any kind of doubt. The sole reason agianst the genuineness, which at all deserves mention, is the certainly indisputable fact that Aristobulus cites supposed verses of Orpheus, Hesiod, Homer, and Linus, which are certainly forged by a Jew. It is thought, that such audacity is inconceivable on which the argument starts is, that the verses were forged by Aristobulus himself—an assumption not only incapable of proof, but in the highest degree improbable. The verses were probably derived from an older Jewish work . . . and adopted by Aristobulus in all good faith in their genuineness. Aristobulus only did what later Christian apologists have also done, without thereby affording a ground for doubting the genuineness of their works." (The Literature of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus, pp. 241-242)

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