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Demetrius the Chronographer

Third Century B.C.

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James Charlesworth writes: "Fragment one, of one line, contains a short account of Abraham's offering of Isaac. Fragment two, of nineteen lines, is a redundant retelling of Jacob's life with interwoven chronological notes. Fragment three, of three lines, contains a summary of Demetrius in which it is argued that Moses' father-in-law, Iothor, is a descendant of Abraham. Fragment four, of one line, is a short account of the bitter water Moses found at Marah (Ex 15:22-25). Fragment five, of one line, explains that the Israelites' weapons used after the Exodus were obtained from the drowning Egyptians. Fragment six, of two lines, explains that the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi may not have been taken into exile by Sennacherib, and concludes with a chronological summary up to Ptolemy IV. Throughout these fragments we find dependence upon the Septuagint (see esp. Wacholder, no. 321, and no. 819, pp. 99-104) and an apologetical exegesis that moves from difficulties to explanations (aporiai kai luseis)." (The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research, p. 94)

Emil Schürer writes: "In the same century in which Berosus composed the ancient history of the Caldaeans, and Manetho that of the Egyptians, but about sixty years later, Demetrius, a Jewish Hellenist, compiled in a brief chronological form a history of Israel, his works being equally with theirs according to the sacred records. Clem. Alex. Strom. i. 21. 141 states its title to have been περι των εν τη Ιουδαια βασιλεων. And it can be scarcely a reason for doubting the correctness of this title, that the fragments deal almost all with only the most ancient period (so Freudenthal, p. 205 sq.). For Justus of Tiberias e.g. also treated of the time of Moses in his Chronicle of the Jewish kings. The first fragment in Euseb. Praep. evang. ix. 21 concerns the history of Jacob from his emigration to Mesopotamia till his death. At the close the genealogy of the tribe of Levi is carried on to the birth of Moses and Aaron. Chronology is made a special sin. Nay, the whole is far more a settlement of chronology than a history properly so called. The date of every single circumstance in the life of Laban, e.g. the birth of each of his twelve sons and such matters, is precisely determined. Of course many dates have to be assumed for which Scripture offers no support. A large portion of the chronological statements is obtained by combinations, and in some instances very complicated combinations of actual dates of Holy Scripture. A second fragment (Euseb. Praep. evang. ix. 29. 1-3) from the history of Moses is chiefly occupied in proving, that Zipporah the wife of Moses was descended from Abraham and Keturah. This fragment is also used in the Chronicon paschale, ed. Dindorf, i. 117, and is quoted from Eusebius in the Chron. Anon. in Cramer, Anecdota, Paris, ii. 256. In a third (Euseb. Praep. evang. ix. 29. 15) the history of the bitter waters (Ex. xv. 22 sqq.) is related. Lastly, the chronological fragment preserved in Clem. Alex. Strom. i. 21. 141 gives precise statements concerning the length of time from the carrying away into captivity of the ten tribes and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to Ptolemy IV. It is just this fragment which gives us also a key to the date of Demetrius. For it is evident that he chose the time of Ptolemy IV. (222-205 B.C.) as a closing point for his calculations, because he himself lived in the reign of that monarch. Hence we obtain also an important standpoint for determining the date of the LXX. For that Demetrius made use of the Septuagint translation of the Pentateuch is acknowledged even by Hody, although such acknowledgment is unfavourable to his tendency of pointing out the limited diffusion obtained by the LXX. A glance at the contents of the fragment renders it needless to prove that its author was a Jew. It would certainly never have entered the mind of a heathen to take such pains in calculating and completing the Biblical chronology. Nevertheless Josephus took him for one and confounded him with Demetrius Phalereus (Contra Apion, i. 23 = Euseb. Praep. evang. ix. 42; comp. Müller, Fragm. ii. 369a. Freudenthal, p. 170, note). Among moderns too, e.g. Hody, is found the mistaken notion that he was a heathen. The correct one is however already met with in Eusebius, Hist. eccl. vi. 13. 7, and after him in Hieronymus, De vir. illustr. c. 38 (ed. Vallarsi, ii. 879)." (The Literature of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus, pp. 200-201)

Martin McNamara writes: "The writer Demetrius is mentioned by Josephus (Against Apion I, 23, § 218) who apparently believed he was a pagan. Demetrius wrote a work on Jewish chronology from Abraham to the Exodus under the title 'Concerning the Kings of the Jews.' He wrote during the reign of Ptolemy IV (222-205 B.C.). It is generally accepted that he published his work in Alexandria. However, the possibility that he was Palestinian and that he published his work in Palestine cannot be ruled out. All that remains of the work are fragments preserved in the writings of Josephus and Eusebius. The work used the Septuagint Greek translation, the first writing known to do so. Demetrius remains faithful to the Greek biblical text and has few midrashic embellishments." (Intertestamental Literature, pp. 220-221)

James Charlesworth writes: "It is evident from fragment six, which extends the chronological history up to Ptolemy IV Philopator (221-204 B.C.; heos Ptolemaiou tetartou), that this hellenistic-Jewish exegete wrote his history in Alexandria in the last two decades of the third century B.C. B. Z. Wacholder suggests correctly that Demetrius represents an exegetical and chronological school (no. 819, p. 99)." (The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research, p. 94)

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