The Berean Expositor
Volume 22 - Page 179 of 214
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As may be supposed, with a volume of such remote antiquity, a considerable amount
of legend has become intermingled with historic fact regarding its origin. Until the time
of Alexander the Great, the people of Israel had very little intercourse with the western
world, but after his conquests the word diaspora (the "dispersion" of James 1: 1 and
I Pet. 1: 1) became a "technical Greek term for Jewish communities in foreign lands,
whether planted there by forcible deportation, or by their own free agency".*
Whether or not the statement of Josephus concerning the meeting of Alexander and
the High Priest be true, it is known that Alexander's policy was favourable to the Jews.
And, although he built the city in Egypt that bears his name with the intention that it
should be essentially Greek, he nevertheless included in his plans a section for Jewish
colonists, and, moreover, gave them the rights of full citizenship.
The following edict, recorded by Josephus (Ant. 19: 5: 2) establishes this fact beyond
"Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, High Priest, and Tribune of the
people ordains thus:
"Since I am assured that the Jews of Alexandria, called Alexandrians, have been
joint-inhabitants in the earlier times with the Alexandrians, and have obtained from
their Kings equal privileges with them, as is evident by the public records that are in
their possession, and the edicts themselves: and after that Alexandria had been
subjected to our empire by Augustus, their rights and privileges have been preserved
by those presidents . . . . . not forced to transgress the ancients rules of their own
country's religion . . . . . I will, therefore, that the nation of the Jews be not deprived
of their rights and privileges on account of the madness of Caius, but that those
rights and privileges, which they formerly enjoyed, be preserved to them, and that
they may continue in their own customs."
Not only did synagogues spring up in Alexandria, but the Jews were permitted "to
convert a disused Egyptian temple at Leontopolis into a replica of the temple at
However loyal such Jewish colonists may have been to Jerusalem and the service of
the Lord, the very nature of the case would make it necessary that they should speak
Greek, the ordinary language of their city. In Palestine, since the Babylonian captivity,
Hebrew had given place to Aramaic as the language of common intercourse, and it soon
became imperative that the "dispersion" should have the ancient Scriptures translated into
the Greek tongue. It is evident, however, that the Greek spoken in Egypt by Jewish
settlers would not be "classical"--in fact the Greek spoken by those who were not Jews
was itself already a mixture, incorporating words and modes from Macedonia and
Asia Minor. Added to these deviations from classical Greek would be the idiom and the
colouring of the Hebrew Scriptures still remembered, though imperfectly. This is, in fact,
the kind of Greek in which the Septuagint was written. Our space is too limited to give
the letter of Aristeas, or the statements of Aristobolus, Philo and Josephus--accounts in
which the marvelous is mingled with matters of fact, and in which romance is based upon
historical foundations. We can only summarize the principal facts here, but this summary
will be sufficient for the general reader:--
[NOTE * - Where a sentence is quoted in this series, without further acknowledgement, it is
to be understood that the writings of the late Henry Barclay Swete, D.D. are referred to.]