Eupolemus and Pseudo-Eupolemus


by Keaton Hyatt

[Keaton Hyatt is a undergraduate at the College of William and Mary and is spending a semester of her junior year at the University of St. Andrews.–JRD]

The study of Eupolemus and Pseudo-Eupolemus is an exercise of discovery–uncovering two of the first Hellenized works on Jewish history. Eupolemus, a Jewish ambassador from Palestine, provides a Graeco-Jewish perspective on the role of Moses and the contributions of King David and Solomon to the Temple cult. Predating Eupolemus is Pseudo-Eupolemus, an author to which two fragments are attributed. Evidence shows this author to be a Samaritan who combined not only Greek tradition but also Babylonian mythology with biblical narrative to produce a historical account of the Hebrew traditions.

Following our usual methodology, the identities of each author can be established from _On the Jews_ by Alexander Polyhistor, a first century pagan historian who preserved ancient historical texts. By comparing his style of presentation in the context of the works of Church Fathers Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius of Caesarea, scholars now maintain with sufficient assurance that the reconstructed fragments are compatible to the original text. The agenda of each author must be considered: Eusebius was a fourth century theologian concerned with validating Christianity by proving its well-established influence; Clement was a third century theologian mindful of the relevance of philosophy to Christianity, and Alexander Polyhistor was a first century BCE pagan interested in recording the histories of various cultures. The histories of these three provide the conditions of transmission: the content of the fragments illuminates the authors themselves. Having established their identities, we can appreciate the significance of the fragments. Their age and cultural background elucidate an interesting, previously mysterious, span of history. Through these fragments the contemporary reader can learn of Hellenism’s influence on both ancient Jewish and Samaritan cultures.

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The School of Divinity
University of St Andrews
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