What Do You Do When a Text is Failing? The Letter of Aristeas and the Need for a New Pentateuch

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
Francis Borchardt Lutheran Theological Seminary Hong Kong 50 Tao Fung Shan Road, Shatin Hong Kong

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This study highlights features of the Letter of Aristeas that reveal how that story conceives of the royal translation project. It will apply the concept of ‘auxiliary texts’ developed by Markus Dubischar based on the conversation theory of Paul Grice in order to show that Aristeas understands the Hebrew Pentateuch as a failing text. It will be shown that because Aristeas both respects the traditions and teachings contained within the Pentateuch, and recognizes the failure of the text outside of a particular context, it sees the translation as necessary for the Pentateuch’s survival. The study will compare the statements related in prologues from Graeco-Roman ‘auxiliary texts’ to statements in the Letter of Aristeas to underline the ways how the Greek translation of the Hebrew text is simultaneously conceived of as a correction of the problems inherent in the Hebrew text tradition, and is not attempting to entirely replace that tradition.

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