Ptolemy IIThe Rabbis also preserved a tradition according to which seventy-two elders had translated the Torah into Greek. This Talmudic account, however, stressed the intentional changes introduced unanimously by the translators into the text in order to prevent misunderstandings or embarrassment to the Jewish religion.

It is taught in a baraita- 137 It happened that Ptolemy the king assembled seventy-two Elders and placed them in seventy-two rooms, and did not reveal to them for what purpose he had assembled them. He went into each one and said to them, “Translate for me the Torah of Moses your teacher.” God gave counsel to the heart of each one,and they all agreed as one mind. They all wrote-

“God created in the beginning”; 138

“I will make a man in an image and a form”; 139

‘‘And He completed on the sixth day… and He rested on the seventh day,” 140

“male and female He created him,” and they did not write “he created them”; 141

“Let me descend and I will confuse their language there”; 142

“And Sarah laughed among her relatives”; 143

“for in their wrath they slew anox and at their will they uprooted a manger”; 144

“and Moses took his wife and his sons and he mounted them upon bearers of men”; 145

“and the dwelling of the Israelites which they dwelled in Egypt and in other lands was four hundred [and thirty] years…”; 146

“and he sent the za’atute of Israel”; 147

“and against the za’atute of Israel He did not stretch forth his hand”; 148

“not one valuable item of theirs have I taken”; 149

“which the Lord your God has apportioned to give lightto all the nations”; 150

“And he went and served other gods which I have not commanded to worship them.” 151

Further, they wrote for his (Ptolemy’s) benefit, “the short-legged creature,” and they did not write for him, “and the hare,” 152 since the wife of Ptolemy was named “Hare” so that he would not say, “The Jews mocked me and placed my wife’s name in the Torah (among the unclean animals).” 153

136. Trans. S. Berrin.

137. A tradition of the mishnaic teachers which was not included in the Mishnah.

138. Instead of “in the beginning God created,” Gen. 1-1, which might be taken to mean that another deity named “in the beginning” created God.

139. Gen. 1-26, instead of “Let us make man in our image and in our likeness” which could imply a multiplicity of deities.

140. Gen. 2-2, instead of “And He completed on the seventh day… and He rested on the seventh day” which might seem to indicate work being done on the seventh day.

141. Gen. 5-2, since the plural may be taken to imply that God created two humans, each comprised of male and female, rather than one single hermaphrodite body.

142. Gen. 11-7, instead of “Let us descend and we will confuse their language there.”

143. Gen. 18-12, “among her relatives” (biqroveha) instead of “to herself” (be-qirbah), which describes Sarah as publicly doubting God’s promise of her bearing a child in her old age. The translators would have been prompted to make this alteration to differentiate between Sarah, who was rebuked for laughing, and Abraham, who was not.

144. Gen. 49-6 reads, “in their anger they slew a man and at their will they maimed an ox.” The verse is Jacob’s rebuke of Levi and Simeon for slaying the men of Shechem, an action here mitigated to reckless animal slaughter and vandalism.

145. Ex. 4-20 specifies “donkey,” presumably too undignified an animal to be named. In view of the anti- Semitic claims that Jews worshipped an ass, there may havebeen other reasons to choose this translation.

146. Ex. 12-40. The italicized words were added to the verse, since biblical accounts make clear that the period of slavery in Egypt was less than four hundred thirty years.

147. Ex. 24-5, using an unusual, and perhaps ambiguous, word instead of “youths.” Since the Greek word for youths may also denote “slave” or “servant,” the translators retrained from applying it to these young men chosen to sacrifice at Mount Sinai.

148. Ex. 24-11. Instead of translating “nobles,” the translators repeated the odd word from verse 11 to clarify that the reference was to the same men.

149. Num. 16-15. Instead of “not one donkey;” hmd replaces hmr, presumably to insure the understanding that Moses took nothing at all from the people, lest a reader understand “donkey” literally rather than paradigmatically. Avoidance of the mention of a “donkey” may also be connected with the Hellenistic myth that Jews worshipped an ass.

150. Deut. 4-19. This verse warns the Israelites against worshipping the sun, moon, and stars, “which the Lord your God has apportioned unto all the nations.” The translators stress that these luminaries were given, even to all the other nations, only for light and not for worship.

151. Deut. 17-3. The italicized words are added, as without them the verse may be understood to imply that God did not command the other gods to exist, and their existence would be viewed as proof against God’s omnipotence.

152. Lev. 11-16, Deut. 14-17.

153. Actually, Ptolemy I Soter’s father was named “hare” (Lagos in Greek).