ARISTEAS (Gr. Αριστέας; second or early first century b.c.e.), author of a history On the Jews, of which only one fragment consisting of about 16 lines survives. This summarizes the narrative portions of the book of Job and is inserted in an account of Genesis 36. Aristeas relates that Job was the son of Esau and his Edomite wife Bassarha, a native of Ausis, located between Idumea and Arabia. Formerly Job's name had been Jobab (Gen. 36:33). A just man, rich in cattle, God tried him by causing many misfortunes. Robbers drove away his cattle and later his camels, a fire from heaven burned his sheep together with the shepherds, the house fell down killing all of his children, ulcers covered his body. Eliphas, the king of the Themanites, Baldad, the tyrant of the Saucheans, and Sophar, the king of the Minneans, as well as Elihu, the son of Barachiel, the Zobite (read: Bozite), came to visit him. Job, however, rejected their consolations, saying that even without their help he would remain steadfast in his piety. God was pleased with Job and restored him to his former wealth.
Scholars generally agree that Aristeas is not identical with the author of the so-called Letter of *Aristeas to Philocrates; this opinion is chiefly based on stylistic differences. *Alexander Polyhistor, however, citing sections 88–90 of the Letter of Aristeas, which he names On The Interpretation of Jewish Laws, believed that its author also wrote the fragment on Job. Aristeas is clearly dependent on the Septuagint version of Job, but the postscript in the Septuagint (Job 42:17b–e) is in turn dependent on Aristeas. This postscript was taken from a passage dealing with Genesis 36 and apparently corrects Aristeas. Bassarha is said by Aristeas to have been Jobab's (Job's) mother because of a misunderstanding of Genesis 36:33, an error compounded by a slip which confused Bassarha with Basemath, which made Jobab (Job) the son of Esau. Septuagint, Job 42:17 corrects Aristeas' slip, but repeats his original error. There remains the problem of the meaning of the postscript in the Septuagint which alludes to a "Syriac Book." The allusion may be to a lost apocryphon to Job, echoes of which are possibly still discernible in the Testament of Job, Bava Batra 15b, Targum Job 2:9, and Jerome (on Gen. 22:21). Aristeas, too, may have been dependent on this Palestinian source.
Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, tr. by J. Gifford, 9 (1903), 25; G. Riessler, Altjuedisches Schrifttum ausserhalb der Bibel (1928), 178; Schuerer, Gesch, 3 (19094), 480; Ginzberg, Legends, 5 (1955), 384.
[Ben Zion Wacholder]