Aristobulus of Alexandria

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Aristobulus of Alexandria (Greek: Ἀριστόβουλος) also called Aristobulus the Peripatetic (fl.c. 181–124 BC)[1] and once believed to be Aristobulus of Paneas, was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher of the Peripatetic school, though he also used Platonic and Pythagorean concepts. Like his successor, Philo, he attempted to fuse ideas in the Hebrew Scriptures with those in Greek thought.


He lived in the third or 2nd century BC. The period of his life is doubtful : Alfred Gercke places him in the time of Ptolemy Lathyrus (latter part of 2nd century BC); reliable testimony indicates that he was a contemporary of Ptolemy Philometor (middle of 2nd century BC).[2]

Aristobulus was among many philosophers of his day who argued that the essentials of Greek philosophy and metaphysics were derived from Jewish sources. Philosopher Numenius of Apamea (2nd century AD) echoes this position in his well-known statement "What is Plato but Moses speaking Attic Greek?" (1.150.4) Aristobulus maintained, 150 years earlier than Philo, that not only the oldest Grecian poets, Homer, Hesod, Orpheus, etc., but also the most celebrated Greek thinkers, especially Plato, had acquired most of their wisdom from Jewish sages and ancient Hebrew texts (Gfrorer i. p. 308, also ii. 111-118) (Eusebius citing Aristobulus and Numenius Ev ix. 6, xi. 10).

He was among the earliest of the Jewish Alexandrian philosophers whose aim was to reconcile and identify Greek philosophical conceptions with the Jewish religion. Only a few fragments of his work, apparently entitled Commentaries on the Writings of Moses, are quoted by Clement, Eusebius and other theological writers, but they suffice to show its object.[2] Praeparatio Evangelica viii. 10, xiii. 12.</ref> has preserved two fair-sized fragments of it, in which are found all the quotations from Aristobulus made by Clement. In addition, there is extant a small passage concerning the time of the Passover festival, quoted by Anatolius.[3]

Incorrect or heterodox descriptions[edit]

He is incorrectly named "Aristobulus of Paneas" in Rufinus' Latin translation of Eusebius' Historia Ecclesiastica (7, 32, 16). It is a wrong translation of the Greek ὁ πάνυ, "the Great". In addition, the author here quoted by Eusebius, Anatolius of Laodicea (270 AD), was mistaken in believing that Aristobulus was one of the 70 priests who translated the Torah into Greek (the Septuagint) during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (3rd century BC). Anatolius of Laodicea incorrectly said that he lived in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus.[citation needed]

A further mistake in Rufinus' Latin translation of the Anatolius fragment gave rise to the legend that Aristobulus was from Paneas, in the Golan Heights. He is the author of a book the exact title of which is not certain, although there is sufficient evidence to prove that it was an exposition of the Law of Moses.[citation needed]

Aristobulus endeavoured to prove that early Greek philosophers had from Linus, Orpheus, Musaeus and others, passages which strongly resemble the Mosaic writings. It is suggested that the name Aristobulus was taken from 2 Macc 1:10. The hypothesis[4] that it was from Aristobulus that the philosophy of the Wisdom of Sirach was derived is not generally accepted.[2]


  1. ^ McKechnie, P.; Guillaume, P. (2008). Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his World. Mnemosyne, Supplements, History and Archaeology of Classical Antiquity. Brill. ISBN 9789047424208.
  2. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Aristobulus, of Paneas". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 497.
  3. ^ Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, vii. 32, 17.
  4. ^ Schlatter, Das Neugefundene Hebräische Stück des Sirach, 1897.