Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Tenth of Tebet and the Greek Translation of the Tora

Yesterday we mentioned two of the three events that we remember in the Tenth of Tebet (see here). Once again, it is important to clarify that the main reason for which we fast on this day is the siege of Yerushalaim. The other two events are brought to our memory because they roughly coincide with the same date. 
3. Approximately in the year 300 BCE, on the 8th of Tebet, in Alexandria (Egypt) King Ptolemy forced 70 (some say "72") Jewish scholars to translate the Tora (the five Books of Moshe or Pentateuch) into Greek. King Ptolemy wished to disprove the existence of an unified Jewish tradition on the understanding of the Scripture, so the scholars were placed in separate workrooms. Yet, they all translated the Tora in the same exact way.  

This translation of the Tora is known as the Septuagint. Although it was done by prominent Rabbis, the Septuagint is not considered a translation which follows necessarily rabbinical tradition. As explained in Talmud Yerushalmi (Megila 9) the authors of the Septuagint in many cases deliberately deviated from the traditional Jewish understanding and adapted the Biblical text to the Greek mentality and sensitivities to please the Monarch and avoid a situation of danger for the Jews 

As a whole, translating the Tora to Greek was considered a dark event by Jewish historiography. Why? Because the new Greek Bible advanced the agenda of the Hellenist Jews who sought to incorporate Greek values into Jewish life.  Moreover, eventually the Septuagint paved the way for the advancement of non-Jewish "Biblical" religions. Unlike pagan cults which were clearly antagonistic to the Tora, these new religions were now supposedly grounded on the Jewish Scripture! The Hebrew Bible was now interpreted and reinterpreted to justify whatever ideas or beliefs non-Jewish monarchs or priests wished to say or teach "in the name of the Bible". 

(BTW, the official Jewish translation of the Tora is Targum Onqelos (=Targum Didan) done ca. 100 CE).

Read here more about 
the month of Tebet ,