into Greek. The foundation legend ascribes the work to scholars from Judaea. This was followed by the production of Greek versions of the otherbooksofthe Hebrew Bible, using variants of the same carefully forged and highly individual 'translation language' and spreading over several centuries and probably to locations outside Alexandria. Translation was an important branch of literary activity, as emerges from the preface to the Greek Ben Sira, where the author's grandson explains how and why, on arrival in Egypt, he laboured to translate his learned grandfather's book of wisdom and instruction. This demonstrates that esteem for Hebrew as holy tongue and national language persisted, and it presupposes a functioning bilingualism at least within a scholarly element of the diaspora population.
Yet this activity also demonstrates a high level of acculturation. The surviving evidence offers the rarest of glimpses as to how this expressed itself in terms of Jewish participation in the educational and cultural institutions of the polis. But from the literary legacy it emerges that Philo's immersion in Greek philosophy and literature had its counterpart among writers of lesser stature, such as the (anonymous) authors of the third and fourth books of Maccabees and of the Wisdom of Solomon (included within the Apocrypha), or the lost source summarised in 2 Maccabees and named there as Jason of Cyrene, or again, the pseudepigraphic writer known as pseudo-Hecataeus. Also revealing are the genres and style adopted by writers such as Demetrius the Chronographer, Aristobulus the philosopher (known as 'the peripatetic'), Philo the epic poet and Ezekiel the author of an Aeschylean tragedy on the Exodus. These are preserved in fragmentary form by Clement and Eusebius.33
Eschewing a picture of two world-views in opposition, expressed by those time-honoured abstractions, 'Hellenism' and 'Judaism', we do better to conceive of the culture of this diaspora as a complex interweaving of traditions, to produce, in the distinctive culture of Greek-speaking Judaism, a fabric in which the threads are no longer separable. At the same time, it is now widely accepted that a process of Hellenisation was integral to the development of Judaean society too, even if the extent, depth and significance of its impact continue to be contested.34
In the sphere of material culture, burial practices and funerary epigraphy shed light upon on the Jews' adaptation to their varied diaspora environments.
33 For this literature, see Schiirer, History, vol. 111. 2, 470-704; Collins, Between Athens and Jerusalem; Holladay, Fragments, vols. i-iv; Doran, 'Jewish Hellenistic historians'; Bar-Kochva, Pseudo-Hecataeus.
34 Hengel's Judaism and Hellenism continues to be debated; see, e.g. Collins and Sterling, Hellenism in the land of Israel.
Was this article helpful?