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The Letter of Aristeas: A New Exodus Story?

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A common opinion views the purpose of the Letter of Aristeas as strengthening the self-identity of Egyptian Diaspora Jewry by sanctifying the Greek translation of the Torah. As Orlinsky has shown, this view is supported by linguistic and thematic parallels between Aristeas and biblical descriptions of the giving of the Torah. The linguistic and thematic associations, however, do not only apply to this specific biblical episode, but also to the entire book of Exodus including the exodus story itself. The author of Aristeas transformed the biblical stories of the exodus and the giving of the Torah into a new foundation story of Egyptian Jewry. In doing so, the new story disregards the biblical hostility to Egypt and instead expresses sympathy for the Ptolemaic king who released the Jews from slavery, settled them in Egypt and initiated the Torah translation into Greek. The aim of Aristeas was to offer a religious justification for the residence of Jews in Egypt.


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