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300 B.C.E. Theophrastus


Theophrastus, the disciple of Aristotle, describes the Jews in a fragment of his work De Pietate. He traces the development of sacrifice, which, according to him, only slowly won its way into divine worship. The Jewish cult is a case in point. The Jewish practice of animal sacrifice contrasts glaringly with that of the Greeks. They do not eat the meat, and they sacrifice only holocausts; even these they sacrifice only in haste and in the darkness of the night, and they pour out much honey and wine. Although they are, as a matter of fact, the people who started to sacrifice living creatures, they did so reluctantly.

This emphasis on the Jewish reluctance to initiate such a custom is in keeping with the tone of the whole passage, which is favourable to the Jews and which declares them to be philosophers (ἅτԑ ȹɩλόσοȹοɩ), who converse about God during the sacrifice, and observe the stars. The last feature is a rather important constituent of a philosophical religion, according to the schools of Plato and Aristotle.


De Legibus, apud: Josephus Contra Apionem, I, 166167

In ancient times various cities were acquainted with the existence of our nation, and to some of these many of our customs have now found their way, and here and there been thought worthy of imitation. This is apparent from a passage in the work of Theophrastus on Laws, where he says that the laws of the Tyrians prohibit the use of foreign oaths, in enumerating which he includes among others the oath called “Corban”. Now this oath will be found in no other nation except the Jews, and, translated from the Hebrew, one may interpret it as meaning “God’s gift”.

Source: Stern, Menahem. Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism (p. 8, 10) III Theophrastus. De Pietate, apud: Porphyrius, De Abstinentia, II, 26. (Stern # 5)

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